With my head resting on the wall of the airplane, I gazed down at the foreign wasteland below me. I couldn’t put a name to the biome. Desert? No. The brilliant, blue river cutting right through the foreground suggested otherwise.
Grassland? No, the soil appeared sandy and rocky, and vegetation was far too sporadic. Tundra? Taiga? No, there was neither snow nor coniferous trees or shrubs. It was just pure desolation.
The mountains emerged off in the distance, their snow-covered peaks shining brightly. They appeared imaginary, growing larger and larger as we drew closer. The Andes. It was surreal.
With the backpacks tightly packed into the trunk, we squeezed into a cab for the twenty-minute ride to El Calafate, Argentina 🇦🇷. We refers to myself plus Elliot and Mo, two Wingers who have been among my closest friends for as long as I can remember.
Sandwiched three-deep in the backseat of the taxi, we were in the midst of the two-week South America trip we had planned for and dreamed about for over a year. One of the world’s most precious destinations was right at our fingertips and we would get to take it on together. Just another experience for us to share really… preschool, prom, and now Patagonia.
Yet despite having so much to catch up on, our ride through the barren landscape was quite silent. The immensity of the mountains and stunning turquoise waters of Lago Argentina demanded our fullest attention.
As it would turn out we would have plenty of time to chat – and solve the world’s problems – during our long hikes through Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, our evening meals at the cabin-like Refugios, and late into the night, as the three of us shared a tent for four nights.
In fact, volatile winds – gusting as high as 130 km/hr (85 mph) – and one particularly brisk night – the temperature reached 1º C (30º F) – brought us very close together. And after five days in the wilderness we certainly didn’t smell good. Some dude actually winced and scoffed at us upon our arrival at the hostel. Sorry, guy. 😐
Nonetheless it was truly amazing. It was equal parts serenity and adventure, with two of the most fun and outgoing friends I know, in what is now considered the 8th Wonder of the World.
It’s just impossible to describe Torres del Paine with words… the mountains, the glaciers, the lakes and streams, the forest, the flowers, the trademark granite towers (torres), etc. Hopefully the pictures will be able to give you at least a fraction of an idea of what we took in.
The park‘s latitude (51º S) provided us nearly 17 hours of daylight, with the sun rising around 5:30 am and setting around 10:30 pm. And while the gale-force winds were dangerous and proved strong enough to send my Twins hat flying into a canyon, we were pretty fortunate in terms of weather.
Although, we were determined not to let rain ruin our plans. The three of us had biked for five hours through pelting rain in Buenos Aires, plus Elliot and I had ventured out onto a glacier during a rainstorm.
A few sprinkles of rain? A couple flakes of snow? Pleeeeease… We’re from Minnesota! We were far and away among the least-dressed travelers in Patagonia, wearing our Midwestern pride on our (short) sleeves. We even taught one fellow traveler how to play euchre!
Per usual, we met many kind and interesting people from every continent, but this experience has been notably different because we get to share it together. The memories won’t stay in Chile.
Sure we will always reminisce upon the breathtaking views we enjoyed, but I’d be willing to bet our best memories of Patagonia will be of laughs we shared along the way. There are too many stories to tell, and for now we’re quiet… there are more mountains to see. Next stop: Santiago.
A las órdenes.
Algo bueno: I received high praise for bringing Canarías brand yerba into Argentina and Chile. Uruguay nomá!
Algo malo: A busted motor on the catamaran in Torres Del Paine kept us from seeing Glacier Gray. All things considered, it was still a solid experience in the park.
Algo curioso: We visited and sampled from the world’s most southernmost brewery, Austral, in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Algo sabroso: My guanaco burger at Wanaco Resto-pub in El Calafate. The guanaco is a relative of the llama found in Southern Patagonia.