Gary Finnerty, our Sales Manager, spent 6 months travelling in Latin America before finding himself on Llama Travel's doorstep. This is his account of his time in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
“I will never forget it.” Those were the words uttered by a friend which convinced me that I should visit Torres Del Paine National Park, a natural wonder at the bottom of the earth. Coming from a seasoned traveller, I trusted her word - all I knew was that I wanted to visit Patagonia, I knew very little about the geography or what it had to offer. The more I learnt about it the more excited I became.
The journey from Ushuaia was a long but fascinating one, the landscape changing dramatically along the way and with a river and border crossing to keep things interesting. I arrived into Puerto Natales late at night and travelled to the park the next day.
At the entrance to Torres del Paine, you are briefed on the flora and fauna, weather conditions and terrain and most importantly they share an anecdote about the most recent, devastating fire caused by a clumsy tourist, which destroyed over 35 square kilometres of native forest. A timely warning to be careful and not become an infamous footnote in the park’s history.
On a sunnier note, they proudly advise that you can never go thirsty here and that all you need is an empty water bottle and maybe none at all as the water in the streams coming off the mountains is so pure you can drink directly from them.
My first day’s walk to the French Valley started with a spectacular catamaran ride on Pehoe Lake. Blessed with fine weather, the sun sparkled off the turquoise waters, and waterfalls cascaded down mountains with snow-capped peaks. It was hard to imagine the scenery getting any better than this and I hoped the park hadn’t revealed too much too early, but I wasn’t to be disappointed.
To try and adequately describe the scenery of the park would do it a disservice. It really does take your breath away. Each day brought stunning new vistas. Grey Lake with its immensely impressive glacier and icebergs of magical blues. The French Valley with its forests, mountains and rivers and the show-stopping hanging glacier where you can sit and listen to it creaking and crackling, slowly throwing itself over the edge, ice chunks the size of houses crashing to the valley floor below. But the icing on this magnificent cake is Las Torres, the majestic towers that watch over the park.
To get there I rose before dawn on my last day, dragging my weary bones up through forest by flashlight. When the treeline ended, slowly climbing through rock and scree, following a trail of flashlights which looked like fireflies in the night sky, my fellow trekkers lighting the way. I finally reached my destination at the base of the Towers and waited with bated breath for the sun to rise and clear the peaks, slowly changing colour the higher the sun rose in the sky, from grey to purple to pink.
The big reveal was worth the physical strain of the previous few days. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze and has outdone herself here. It will linger long in my memory, in fact, as my friend put it, I will never forget it.
Llama Travel offers visits to Torres del Paine as part of our Natural Wonders of Chile and Best of Argentina and Chile holidays. We offer day treks to the French Valley and to the Las Torres, returning to a comfortable hotel in the evening. Alternatively, if you want something less active, you can explore the park by vehicle and boat.