I’m going to skip the customary “sorry it’s been so long since I posted a blog post” and just post twice! 🙂
As you may already know, I’m in Patagonia! Patagonia is my second dream (after Galapagos, which I did already). I arrived 5 days ago in Punta Arenas and spent a couple days there relaxing and traveling all over the town (more on that later).
But yesterday afternoon, me and my new trekking partner, a cool Israeli guy named Yoav, arrived in Puerto Natales, the town that serves as a base for the famous W trek of the Torres del Paine national park. It’s the most famous hike in Patagonia, which is the southern part of Chile (and maybe Argentina too?), and is one of the most famous hikes in the world. Right now, it’s their summer – which is the best time to go. At least, it’s the warmest time to be here. Winds are heavy, sometimes getting to 60mph/100kmh. I’m sure it can get higher but I think normal “high” winds are about there. As long as you have a good coat, though, you should be fine. It’s just the neck and my ears that might get cold.
What you probably don’t know (unless you just read my previous blog post) is that I don’t have any camping equipment. Or even cold weather equipment. I did have a wool pea coat, which is perhaps the dumbest thing that I brought on this trip. Hint: it’s a fashion coat. It’s not waterproof, it’s not compressible, it’s not multi-layered (where I can take off the outer wind/water layer and keep the fleece lining inside, for instance), and it’s heavy to carry. I am still kicking myself for bringing it! Basically, I sent it back, and my parents got it a day or two ago. $50 wasted shipping it back – and I never used it in Ecuador or Colombia!
But after I arrived, I realized that I am woefully unprepared for my time here. I now don’t have any heavy coat, certainly nothing waterproof or windproof. I don’t have gloves. I don’t have a tent or sleeping bag or mat. I don’t have a cooking stove or pots or pans to cook in. I don’t have a bag that could even fit any of that stuff, as mine is full to the brim with 35L. (it probably has 40L stuffed into a 35L bag…)
As I saw it, I had a couple options. I could buy everything, including buying a new bigger bag. I mean, I already had to buy a coat and gloves and a light. I could rent everything, at about $30/day (for whatever treks I do, not just Torres del Paine which is the main one). Or I could just not go camping.
For various reasons, I decided to buy everything. This is my dream destination after all! I felt more weird spending $200 to rent equipment for a week when I could buy everything for $500, so that’s what I did. I feel like I got fair deals on everything, but when you start from scratch and are only willing to buy nice quality stuff (that I can use over and over again, including the very cold/high winds of Patagonia), it’s not cheap.
Mostly I feel two things: free to camp and go wherever I want (including hitchhiking or doing random treks without adding up the cost of renting stuff and deciding if it’s worth it) and obligated to camp (to make my expenditures worthwhile, as compared to doing hostels).
Also, right when I needed my shaver to work, it broke (it had already been 4 days and I was needing to shave). So now, I haven’t shaved in … 6 days? And I’ve already looked in stores. They don’t have shavers, so I’ll have to buy a razor. Now you may laugh, but I have never actually used a razor. I always use electric shavers! Also, I haven’t had a haircut in 3 months? My hair’s wild and long compared to what I’m used to, but I like it. I think I’m going to keep my longer hair. I want to cut it to get rid of that annoying neck hair and my sides, but I figured for the harsh winds and temperatures here, it’s better to have too-long hair than shorter hair, even if it means I’m ugly. So I’m ugly and cheap – like any partner’s worst nightmare!
I set up my tent last night for the first time and it’s great. It’s orange, my favorite color. It’s great for the wind because it’s higher at one end and lowers itself down toward your feet. That means there’s less area for the wind to rush by. It’s a 2-person tent also, though that comes with a few caveats. Yes, 2 people fit inside the tent, but good luck getting your stuff inside the tent. (You won’t.) Now there’s a little porch (it’s tiny) which is supposed to be used for cooking and putting your bags, but if you have 2 bags, you’ll have to stack them on top of each other, and then where are you supposed to cook???
But for one person heavy camping, or two people easy-camping, I think it’s a perfect tent!! It has good insulation, is 5000mm so pretty good for water and wind (10k is maybe the max but most tents are 1-3k), and my tent was only $170. It’s a fairly heavy (at 2.7kg) tent, as far as high-quality tents go, but everything else is fine. I was given a yoga mat as a sleeping mat (which was sufficient, as last night can attest), my sleeping bag is supposed to be comfortable down to -2 Celsius and it was. I didn’t wake up cold in the night, though it would take me about 5 minutes to warm the bag up from when I entered.
We have two nights at one of the campground sites for about $18 (camping, no food provided), and I think we’re going to “figure something out” for one or two more nights in the park. If you get food included, it’s $80/night – and that’s camping with food included!! I don’t even want to ask about getting a dorm bed in one of the refugios in the park with food! Actually, I probably would feel better about it because then it would make me feel better for having spent $500 on camping equipment hahaha.
OK last few things. Our reservations could only be booked on the Feb 3 and 4 nights. So we are stuck here until then. I think they have some day hikes we can do (hopefully tomorrow) and then Feb 1, I have some budget/invoice work to do for my friend’s company (hey a job!), and then Feb 2 we can hopefully find a hike to do. But Feb 3 and 4 are inside the Torres del Paine park and then afterwards, we’ll see what we can figure out! We hope to have 5 days, 4 nights inside the park. Then I think we are going to go to Puerto Williams, on the Tierra del Fuego island (or very close to there). I think it’s the farthest south, most-accessible place to camp. You don’t need a guide, but you need to have everything with you when you go. Hahaha! We are planning on doing that for about 8 days, which includes a day or two for weather being so bad that we can’t trek (it’s a 5 day hike). After that, I think we will split up – I’ll go to Ushuaia for trekking another 8 days or so, and he’ll leave. Eventually, I’m going to come back to here, do some hitchhiking up the rest of Chile until I hit the end of the Patagonia area where I plan on doing some HelpX or workaway volunteering for the remainder of my time here.
The landscape here is really beautiful. Trees are short and stubby and beautiful in a kind of ugly way lol. Not much grass, certainly nothing like the soft grass of Oregon! It kind of reminds me of Oregon actually. Anyway, I’ll post pictures when I’m walking around instead of riding on a bus. I haven’t done anything here except arrive yesterday and relax today, so sorry there aren’t more pictures. But don’t worry, you’ll get a lot soon.
That’s all, folks! Wish me luck and hope that I stay warm!! 🙂 Love to all of you, and to those in the USA…may you find healing and hope amidst all the resistance.