Our Last Day in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

At 3:30 am, the stars twinkled overhead. We dressed in pants and long sleeves and packed our jackets, hats, gloves, and snacks up to Torres del Paine under of the guidance of our headlamps along with a trail of lights from other campers. The ranger suggested we arrive by 4:45am to see the sunrise. I think we got there sooner.

Once again, we climbed up the rocky hillside for a perfect view only we weren’t sure exactly where the sun would rise. We broke a sweat as we ascended and piled on extra layers of clothes. It’s amazing how warm both our sleeping bag and the sun is, as the darkness in Patagonia is cold! I put on all my clothes and had to dance around occasionally to keep my feet and hands from going numb.

The thin wisps of clouds behind the torres turned pink around 5 am. I think we may have waited an additional 1.5 hours to see the sun light up all the torres on the diagonal. It was breath taking to watch the grey granite torres turn more and more orange with every minute as the color moved down the rocks. As we waited we saw an avalanche. The morning couldn’t have been any better! It was spectacular to end 2015 and begin 2016 at the Torres del Paine…and with perfect weather to boot!

Photos every 15 minutes starting at 5am. Watch the light change!:

IMG_7977 sunrise 1

IMG_8034 sunrise 5

Other photos from New Year’s morning:

With our legs on the tired side, we strolled down to camp, heated some water for oatmeal and coffee, and packed up our gear. I read it took 3.5 to 4 hours to get down to the hotel for the shuttle ride. We had tickets for the 2:30 Bus Gomez who really has their act together. We had to get the 2 pm shuttle from the hotel to Laguna Amarga for 2,800 pesos and wanted enough time to eat lunch by the hotel that is $500/night and requires a two night minimum stay. As such, we hiked down at a slow pace around 8:45am. I think it only took us 2.5 hours so we chilled out with some other campers while we waited for our transportation. One girl quipped, “This is going to be a stinky bus ride.” No doubt!

The shuttles ran at 9, 2, 4, 7:30, according to the chalk board at the ranch style hotel, but one came early around 1, so we hopped on and paid our fare. Sadly, we both fell asleep on the slow, 20 minute bus ride to the administration office where we waited in the shade of a shelter with several others for our 2 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales. We learned to dress according to the weather for the bus rides as A/C and heat were lacking. In shorts and T-shirts, we were hot!

From the bus station, we meandered through the quiet town as most everything was closed for New Year’s Day to Kau Lodge. This time at least we got twin beds that weren’t bunk beds. With nothing clean to wear, the shower became our washer and later in the evening we celebrated New Year’s dinner at Afrigonia which received spectacular reviews on Trip Advisor. I suppose we should have stuck with the regular menu as the king crab special was expensive, over cooked, and somewhat flavorless, especially with out warm butter. Having said that, with as much crab as I have shelled and eaten in my lifetime, I’ve never had a giant king crab placed in front of me. It was a fun experience, and David liked the curried shrimp and scallops he ordered. Not being a curry fan, I skipped that.

The coffee shop at our hotel has happy hour and makes tangerine sours. Apparently happy hour wasn’t over even though it was 9pm, so we ended the night with a sour and dessert. I think I passed out before 10, but who knows. We were up before 6 getting breakfast and a taxi to the bus station for the 7:15 am Bus Fernandez to Punta Arenas. This may have been the nicest bus with assigned seats, a bathroom, and temperature controlled.

We enjoyed our last view of the countryside…wind blown trees, lamb, guanacos, bus stops in the middle of nowhere, flowers that looked like blue bonnets, estancias and more. Three hours later we arrived at the airport, very early for our flight, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The airport was small, but nice with two restaurants and three shops or so. The cash machine was out of order, so glad we didn’t need any money! We were trying to get rid of the rest of ours, and I have to say the restaurant upstairs was really good! I got a chicken sandwich that had about two avocados of guacamole…not the thin spread that barely covers the bread that restaurants in the States serve! We had an awesome trip, though I’m looking forward to home. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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