The Tehuelche Indians, Patagonia’s original inhabitants, called the wind Shamej Gooshe, translated as “The Wind Which Goes Round”. Shamej Gooshe was a mythical being who would drag animals and people into his underground liar and kill them. I thought we had met Shamej Gooshe in El Chalten the night the wind kept us up until sunrise. But it must have been a distant cousin, because at Torres del Paine we got to feel his wrath and experience the full, raw intensity of Patagonia’s unpredictable weather. The week we spent at Torres del Paine we had rain, freezing hail, wind so powerful it blew me off my feet and perfect, warm sunshine. Basically a typical week in southern Patagonia.
To get to Torres del Paine we had to cross over into Chile again, which would be our third time crossing into Chile. Every time it is was a pain because we had to get rid of all our food. This was not that big a deal in Northern Chile, but when we are crossing rural, remote borders it means we would have to find a town somewhere to stock up again, because there are only so many days I can eat dry and can goods. We chose a very small, remote border where the guard did not even bother to look inside our camper for food (even though we had nothing left to confiscate anyway) which was the only time this happened in our six border crossings into Chile. Because we had no food we had to head away from Torres del Paine south to the pretty town of Puerto Natales to stock up on supplies.
We decided to enter the park from a more remote back entrance near Laguna Azul where we heard from a French overlander there was a free campground with beautiful views of the granite towers.
Torres del Paine is the crown jewel of Chilean Patagonia, and one of the busiest national parks in the country. Most people come here to trek, and the most popular hike is the W. This W hike is basically a 3-4 day trek that goes down the three main canyons of the park (forming a sort of W). Since we did not have overnight hiking gear, we decided to do parts of the W in day hikes, which actually worked out great for us given the weather during our time here. Camping would have been miserable. It was challenging a few of the days we were here, even in our plush XP camper.
One of the things that bothered me a bit about Torres del Paine on the trails was how busy they were. We were here during peak season, but I have never seen so many people hiking in one place. Going up to the mirador, I felt like an ant in a line. The amount of people hiking the trails made them less appealing to me. We were constantly stuck behind large, slow hiking groups, and the areas where the tents were set up looked like refugee camps. There were just too many people and not enough services such as bathrooms or space to pitch tents. However, all the people are here for a reason, the valleys are stunning and the granite peaks are breathtaking.
On our way down from the mirador the wind began to get so intense that it blew me off my feet. I have never felt wind like that before, it just crumpled me in a pile near the rocks like a toppled tree. Then the hail started and the wind made it feel like little bullets against my face. The crazy thing was that by the end of the hike it was sunny again. The weather here was intense and unpredictable. It felt like I had imagined Patagonia weather would be.
As the weather came and went we did a few hikes multiple times. One we did three times because each day the weather got better and it was so beautiful that we kept wanting to see it in different conditions.
Here is the hike to Mirador Cuernos that we did three different times:
At the far part of the park is Lago Grey and the Glacier Grey which basically runs down from the Southern ice field. The drive to it basically took us through the entire park and the scenery just blew us away. While the park is full of trekkers, the roads are empty. So driving around was a really enjoyable experience. We loved the drive so much we drove the length of the park twice, something that our large gas tank allows us to do.
We tried to camp near Lago Grey after our hike but the wind was relentless. So we started exploring the park to find a camping spot hidden from the wind. We found this gem where we had one of the most dramatic sunsets of the trip.
Overall, even with the crazy weather and the crowds on the trails, the week we spent here was one of our favorites for the drives around the park alone. The landscape here pulled at my heart and will bring me back one day.