Visiting the Perito Moreno Glaciar

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A mere hour or so from El Calafate, inside the southern part of Parque Nacional de los Glaciares, lies the icy giant Glacier Perito Moreno. An easy and outstanding day trip brings you face to face with one of the worlds few stable or advancing glaciers. With a round trip bus ticket you can spend hours gazing at the vividly aquamarine blue crevices and frosty white towers with the occasional gun cracking crash of ice sheets calving into the surrounding lake. The bus drops you off at the beginning of a network of catwalks that allow you to view the glacier from all angles with stress free ease. You can either spend your approximate 3 hours hiking as much of the ‘trail’ as you can, or post up on one of the many benches while you eat your sandwich. Because there are so many catwalks and viewing opportunities, the crowds do not detract from the once in a lifetime chance to see one of the worlds disappearing wonders. We’ll never forget the vast beauty of this stoic giant and the thrill we got watching an entire ice tower detach and crash into the water with a thunderous explosion. Pictures could never do this sight justice.

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We visited the park in February 2014.

The Details:

What: Perito Moreno Glacier, Parque Nacional de los Glaciares.

How to get there:
Bus from El Calafate, Argentina (approx 2 hours).
Bus Company: Interlagos, TAQSA
You can purchase tickets from almost any hostel or directly at the bus station (same price).

When to go:
The bus company has a morning and an afternoon option. Best to take the afternoon option as more ice crashes from the glacier after getting warmed by the sun all day.

Costs (February 2014):
Bus Ticket (RT): 190 pesos (incl. a 5 peso bus station tax)
Entrance to Parque Nacional de los Glaciares: 130 pesos (non-argentinian price)

Where to stay in El Calafate:
As a budget traveler, El Ovejero offers affordable campsites about 10 minutes walk from the bus station. Each site has an Argentinian parilla (grill) so you can cook up your own steak or lamb dinner. Beware of the many stray dogs here though. (50 pesos pp per night)

personal grills for each campsite!

personal grills for each campsite!

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Additional Information:

  • Bring a bagged lunch, you’ll want to stay on the catwalks while you eat and there is only one overpriced restaurant as an alternative.
  • On the way to the viewing areas the bus will give you an additional drop off/pick up option to take a 1.5 hour boat cruise around the glacier. I believe this cost around 120 pesos. The bus will then pick you up and bring you to the catwalks with the rest of your group for the remaining time. We got many mixed reviews of this boating experience (gets you close but boats can be very crowded thus impairing the view) and decided to save our money and just go to the viewing area.
  • There is also the opportunity to walk on the glacier, which allows you to view the ice up close. Travelers we met loved this experience. The one drawback is that you don’t get a chance to view the glacier from afar for too long, which is how you see the ice walls crashing down. Might be worth a two day trip if you do the Big Ice glacier walk.

 

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Food Truck in Ancud: Delicias de Abril

I love a good food truck. The efficiency, the convenience, the lack of pretension. Nobody likes to wait in lines but that’s most often what’s going to dictate whose truck is dishing out the best product.

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Street food in Chiloé consisted of a lot of Milcaos and Pan de papa. There were always completos as well, which is a hot dog done wrong in several different ways.

Then, we come across Delicias de Abril. There is a line of about ten people and it’s moving slowly. I crane my neck around to see what he’s got going on and I see him meticulously crafting sandwiches – two at a time. I didn’t even have to read the menu to know that whatever he was making was worth a try. He had 7 different homemade sauces in front and while making the sandwiches not a single shred of food or movement on his part was wasted. As a line cook, you can spot the others who have spent thousands of hours going through the motions – this guys was smooth. After speaking with him, I learned that he used to cook for a hotel in town but eventually felt stifled by the lack of creativity. He was now his own boss and could clearly sell as many sandwiches as he felt like making.

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How was it? Killer. It was neither the most gourmet or gut-busting thing I’ve ever eaten, but you could just taste that every element was done right. The bread was toasted on both sides, the pork was tender, the homemade salsa verde, garlic aioli and aji all together had a well balanced herbal-richness and spicy acidity. He even introduced me to a texture I hadn’t had in a sandwich before. He replaced lettuce with blanched and chopped up green beans. Throw a thick cut, perfectly ripe tomato in the middle and that was the sandwich. We each ate one, felt great, and immediately got back in line to get another.

Definitely check out his food truck if you are exploring Ancud. It is called Delicias de Abril, located in the main plaza next to the tourist office and you can find them on facebook! Here is a youtube video we found of him as well: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f9Hqh7oDEK0

Everything You Need to Know About the Torres Del Paine Circuit Trek

Torres Del Paine, Chile’s premier national park and one of the gems of Patagonia, is located near the tip of South America, about 2 hours from Puerto Natales. TDP is a huge reserve of patagonian wilderness containing mountains, glaciars and gorgeous lakes. Climbers, trekkers and heck even cruise passengers make their way to the park to see the epic scenery during the peak months of December-March. With something for nature lovers of all levels and abilities, the park can provide any number of experiences depending on what you are looking for.

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Even the park entrance has beautiful views.

Even the park entrance has beautiful views.

Intrigued? Perhaps now you want to go to Torres Del Paine (TDP) and everyone keeps talking about the infamous ‘W’ – a 4-5 day trek through a portion of the park. If you are already brave enough to embark on a multi day trek and you have the time to get all the way down to the southern tip of South America, why not push yourself a bit further and go for the entire circuit aka the ‘O.’ For a few extra bags of pasta and a stronger degree of body odor emanating from your hiking shirt, you will gain so much. This is a trek doable for those at different experience levels, as was the case with us. In this post we will share tips based on our experience on the circuit trek in February 2014 to help you plan and enjoy your own trek through the beautiful TDP.

Meet the trekkers:

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Jordan – Nature lover, fearless guerilla camper, biked across the USA using only a tent, comfortable without showering for extended periods of time.

Emma – Nature lover, trekking experience limited to college trip and 3 day Chiloé trek, fearful of passing out by the smell of her own sweat after a few days on the trail.

What to Know Before you Go:

Crowds: First of all, temper your expectations to be alone in the vast Patagonian wilderness. Just because this place appears to be in such a remote locale on the map, it’s a popular destination amongst Chileans and travelers the world over aiming to take advantage of a four month window of reasonable weather. Instead of letting the crowd get you down, enjoy the fact that you are surrounded by some truly interesting, international people who can make a campsite dinner that much more fun (especially if sharing a box of wine or two)! Having done the circuit, we can also assure you that the four days on the back end (ie. not the ‘W’ portion) will contain much fewer people.

Weather and Gear: The weather can be very unpredictable in TDP. We are still pinching ourselves for having had 8 out of 9 beautiful, windless, sunny days during our circuit. However, friends of ours completed the circuit in January 2014 and they encountered rain, insane winds, and snow. Make sure your rain pants and jackets are functioning properly. Also, this would be a good time to refresh the waterproofing on your tent. We had rain proof pack covers which were great for us at night since our small tent didn’t have much room for gear storage or protection. However, we heard from many that pack covers often acted like small parachutes in the strong winds. Thus, it is recommended that you use a garbage bag liner inside your pack to protect your gear and abandon the fancy cover on the windy days. Gaiters and hiking poles are highly recommended! Great for navigating muddy trails and steep inclines. Be kind to your knees and use poles!

Go with the weather! Push yourself on days when the weather is nice because when the weather turns (as it often, unexpectedly does) you’ll find the trekking more difficult and less enjoyable. See below for tips on which days might be good to combine on the trek.

Necessities: a warm hat, sun hat and sun screen are essentials!

Puerto Natales (the hub you must pass through to enter and exit TDP):

Gear Storage: If your travels are taking you beyond TDP, you will most likely have some extra stuff in your backpack that you don’t want with you on the trek. In Puerto Natales, try to find a hostel for the day before and day after your trek that offers free storage for extra luggage. Many of them do! Also, check with your hostel before renting equipment. They might have a bunch of gear left by other travelers that they can give to you.

Bus Tickets: Also, it is best to buy your bus tickets in and out of the park from your hostel because they tend to be a bit cheaper. Buses into the park leave either early in the morning (~7:30am) or at 2:00pm. It takes about 2.5 hours to get to the Laguna Amarga entrance. We recommend catching the early bus if possible, though we were able to hike to Campamento Seron even after entering the park with the 2:00 pm bus. Note that when you arrive at the park, you will be asked to leave the bus to buy your entrance ticket and watch a safety video before going back to the bus to retrieve your backpack.

Two Hostel Options in Puerto Natales:
Yagan House (O’Higgins 584) – for a bit of luxury after your trek. This tiny hostel is beautiful and cozy inside, has a fantastic kitchen, gear storage and free breakfast with eggs, cereal and yogurt! It is about a 15-20 minute walk from the bus station. The dorms were clean and bright and Jordan and I were even able to rent the single room (which had a bed big enough for 2) for a rate of $17.000 pesos a night.

Josmar 2 (Esmerelda 517) – for a more budget stay, with dorms, private rooms and campsites. It is also about a 20 minute walk from the bus station. In addition to offering grills and an outdoor kitchenette with gas, Josmar 2 has wifi and a cheap restaurant. Camping is $4,000 pesos pp. The info booth at the bus station is quite helpful  – ask for a map and directions there!

Food and Water:

Water: Once you go glaciar, you never go back. The water from all streams and rivers inside TDP flows directly from the many glaciars throughout the park. It was incredible to be able to dip our Kleen Kanteen in a river and drink pristine glacial runoff. On the trail, there isn’t a need to carry more than 1/2 a liter of water at a time as you have ample opportunity to refill from the many streams along the way. As indicated by the park rangers, all the water is safe to drink.

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Sprim – Despite the fact that the water tasted incredible, we were glad to have purchased several packets of Sprim/Tang (think South American gatorade). On really tough days, it was nice to have an extra dose of sugar to help get the ‘sprim’ back in our step. Or, sometimes you just feel like big sprimpin’, ya know?

Food – You can find affordable food in Puerto Natales, go for the Uni-Marc as opposed for the boutique grocers. We carried all our own food for the trek and made some good decisions and bad decisions on our grocery run. We were incredibly inspired by an experienced Swedish trekker we met who packed so efficiently that his food weighed almost nothing. He portioned out pasta and scoops of various flavor powders to make a soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There we were, sitting next to him holding our weighty cheese brick, nutella jar and pound of butter, feeling a bit embarrassed. I’ll admit that some of the ridiculous items in our larder were there from my own insistence. Like the containers of jam and honey which I ‘needed’ for our oatmeal. We also realized that many of the campsites sell relatively cheap bags of pasta (~$1.000 pesos) and boxed wine (~$5.000 pesos) which are highly recommended if you want to save space and weight. However, do your best to not give into the temptation to purchase ANY preparared food items at the refugios. You may think that a $25 hamburger is worth it on day 5 when wafts of grilled beef welcome you to camp, but don’t be fooled! (The one exception is the $2 hot dog/beer combo offered at the kiosko near the hotel towards the park exit, that’s worth going for twice.) See the campsite descriptions below for those with a kiosko for provisions.

This is how the pasta and boxed wine gets transported to the campsites. Many thanks to the strong horses and hard working Gauchos!

This is how the pasta and boxed wine gets transported to the campsites. Many thanks to the strong horses and hard working Gauchos!

There are many edible berries growing in TDP. Here is a picture of one kind. I don't know the name of it, but it is a pinkish, fat little berry. We saw a ranger eating them and he told us they were ok! Apparently the same berries grow in Russia, according to some Russian hikers we met.

There are many edible berries growing in TDP. Here is a picture of one kind. I don’t know the name of it, but it is a pinkish, fat little berry. We saw a ranger eating them and he told us they were ok! Apparently the same berries grow in Russia, according to some Russian hikers we met.

Good groceries:
Pasta- cooks faster than rice, small, light
Powdered flavor packets – a week hopped up on MSG won’t detract from your commune with nature, but may cause flashbacks later on.
Oatmeal
Peanut Butter
Salami

Questionable Groceries:
Glass Jars of Nutella: you are better off with a sleeve of chocolate cookies or a bar of chocolate. That jar is heavy! And glass? What were we thinking.
Block of cheese: A little cheese won’t hurt but its definitely heavy. Eat it first if you need your cheese fix and definitely get a nice firm cheese that wont get funky on you!
Packaging – Be wary of food containers. Dispose of all unnecessary packaging prior to leaving, perhaps utilizing ziplock bags to get rid of multiple plastics ones (ie. all your pasta could go in one). Remember, leave no trace, pack out trash!

Hikes and Campsites:

The trail map provided at the park entrance is detailed and informative. It provides distances, detailed elevation info and guidelines for how many hours each section should take. Note that the hour estimates don’t give a lot of buffer for extended breaks. We hiked at a good pace with few breaks and usually finished about 30 minutes faster than the map indicated, this was in good weather. Plan accordingly if you like to take longer breaks or keep a slower pace.

The map also tells you what time the trails ‘close’ each day. This means that after the designated closing time you are advised not to leave the campsite you are currently at because you wouldn’t reach the next site before dark.

We recommend doing the circuit counter-clockwise which is how we have listed the campsites below. Also, note that we didn’t stay at the Hotel Las Torres campsite (which we heard was free) and instead headed straight for Seron upon arriving at the park.

Porteria Laguna Amarga (park entrance) – Campamento Seron ($4.000 pesos pp)
Distance: Approx 13 KM
Hours: 4.5
Kiosko with provisions
Flush toilets and showers
Special Notes: Beware of mosquitos! Bring bug repellent.

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This hike was relatively flat and unchallenging. You mostly walk through meadows and get your first glimpse of the beautiful turquoise color of the glacial rivers. Not filled with the most stunning scenery. Can be combined with the Seron – Dickson leg for a long but (altitude-wise) not very challenging day.

Campemento Seron – Campamento Dickson ($4.000 pesos pp)
Distance: 18 km
Hours: 6
Kiosko with provisions
Flush Toilets and showers

This is the extremely windy stretch of the hike.

This is the extremely windy stretch of the hike.

Here you can see Campsite Dickson, mountains and glaciar in the background!

Here you can see Campsite Dickson, mountains and glaciar in the background!

The hike to Dickson takes you through meadows, provides the first glimpse of the many mountain top glaciars in the park, and offers stunning views along an incredibly windy stretch next to Lago Paine. Campamento Dickson is situated right next to Laguna Dickson with a glaciar capped mountain backdrop that rumbles throughout the night. Although a long day, you might consider combining the Seron and Dickson stretch as there is relatively little altitude change.

Campamento Dickson – Campamento Los Perros (not free site, probably around $4.000 pesos pp)
Distance: 11km
Hours: 4.5
Kiosko (not sure)
Flush Toilets, not sure about showers

The hike from Dickson to Los Perros was a pleasantly short hike. You spend much of this hike walking though the forest. Mirador Valle de los Perros offers incredible views as you traverse along a mountain crest. As you get very close to Los Perros you’ll see a glaciar dipping off a mountain into a lake that sits right next to a fresh water lake. You’ve got to scramble up some rocks to see the glaciar lake, so be sure not to miss it! We didn’t end up sleeping at Los Perros and instead combined this hike with the John Gardiner pass because we were told the weather was ideal for the difficult climb. I will say that the bathrooms did feel the dirtiest at Los Perros compared to the others we encountered.

Campamento Los Perros – Campamento Paso (FREE campsite!)
Distance: 8 km
Hours: 6
No provisions
Pit toilet, no showers
Special Note: Extremely difficult elevation on this section!

Get out the gaiters because the beginning of this section was extremely muddy! After you get out of the muddy forest you find yourself scrambling up the rocky and exposed John Gardiner Pass. This hike takes you up 600m and was the most difficult part of the trek for us by far. We were lucky to do it in perfect weather conditions. If the weather is bad or there is a lot of snow the rangers might close the pass which means an extra night at Los Perros or possibly not getting through. Our badass friends from Boston who came in January were told that the pass was closed but they went for it anyway in the snow! The toughest climb is rewarded with a life changing view at the top of the pass when you get your first glimpse of Glaciar Grey in all it’s entirety. Leave yourself a nice chunk of time to hang out up there because its a view you’ll want to soak in for a while (if the weather permits anyway!). Also its good to rest your legs for the incredibly steep descent in which you drop 800m in approximately 3-4 km. I may or may not have fallen several times on my butt and/or face.

Once you get out of the muddy forest, the hike is very exposed through the John Gardiner Pass.

Once you get out of the muddy forest, the hike is very exposed through the John Gardiner Pass.

Our first glimpse of the beautiful Glaciar Grey!

Our first glimpse of the beautiful Glaciar Grey!


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Once you hit this little waterfall, you know you are very close to Campamento Paso!

Once you hit this little waterfall, you know you are very close to Campamento Paso!

Campamento Paso – Campamento Grey (~4.000 pesos pp)
Distance: 6km
Hours: 5
Kiosko
Flush toilets and showers
Special note: First encounter with the ‘W’ – be prepared for a much bigger and more crowded campsite. I took the coldest shower of my life here only to realize hot water came on at 7pm…be sure to ask the ranger when the hot water comes on!  Beware: hot water comes with long lines!

The hike from Paso to Grey was probably our favorite day due to the uninterrupted vistas of Glaciar Grey. While navigating a few wire bridges and ladders bolted into the rocks, you mostly walk along a mountain crest with the beautiful glaciar glimmering to your right. This day was not super challenging and we recommend taking your time and really enjoying the views. Campamento Grey was a bit crowded and some spots can be pretty exposed to the wind. Try to get a spot within or near the trees for a bit of wind protection.

There was a major fire in the park several years back caused by a careless visitor. You can see signs of the damage throughout most of the circuit trek.

There was a major fire in the park several years back caused by a careless visitor. You can see signs of the damage throughout most of the circuit trek.

While this section of the trek is relatively easy, there are a few intimidating ladders and drawstring bridges to get through!

While this section of the trek is relatively easy, there are a few intimidating ladders and drawstring bridges to get through!

Don't look down, Jordan!

Don’t look down, Jordan!

Can you find me? What a pleasure to walk next to this glaciar all day.

Can you find me? What a pleasure to walk next to this glaciar all day.

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Don't miss the 10 minute Mirador detour marked on the trail! It gives you a great view of the edge of the glaciar meeting the lake.

Don’t miss the 10 minute Mirador detour marked on the trail! It gives you a great view of the edge of the glaciar meeting the lake.

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Campamento Grey – Campamento Paine Grande (Not free, 4-6.000 pesos pp)
Distance: 10km
Hours: 3.5
Kiosko
Flush toilets and showers (nice facilities)
Special Note: There is a boat launch here where you can take a ferry to one of the park entrances.

The hike from Grey to Paine Grande starts off walking through hills filled with lupins and foxglove flowers. You slowly say farewell to Glaciar Grey while making your way to Lago Pehoe. Campamento Paine Grande looked refinished with tiled bathrooms and catwalks leading around the campsite. We didn’t stay here however, and can’t comment on the wind etc. Since this is such a short leg, many combined it with the next hike to Campamento Italiano.

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Campamento Paine Grand – Campamento Italiano (FREE!)
Distance: 7.5 km
Hours: 2.5
No Provisions
Flush toilets, no showers
Special Note: Option for pack storage during Mirador Británico hike, use it!

Though probably the easiest section of the trek, we had kind of a difficult time since the sun was so strong and hot with minimal shade. Beautiful lake views. Campamento Italiano is a free site and gets very crowded. It is next to a gorgeous rushing river, but otherwise not the best environment. Since the site is free, you are only supposed to stay there one night, not that the ranger would be able to tell. The hike to Mirador Britanico begins and ends with Campamento Italiano so it is common practice to leave your pack outside the ranger station during the climb and then pick it up before moving on to the next site. After several days with your pack this climb doesn’t feel bad at all without that added weight!

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Resting our feet next to the river at Campamento Italiano.

Resting our feet next to the river at Campamento Italiano.

Campamento Italiano – Campamento Cuernos ($6.000 pesos pp)
Distance: 5km
Hours: 2.5
Kiosko
Flush toilets and showers, questionably clean hot tub (yes I said hot tub)

Typically combined with the Mirador Britanico hike, the Italiano-Cuernos hike is pretty short. Cuernos offers great views of Lago Nordernskjöld, if you can find a good campsite that is. In addition to the refugio dormitory there are also small cabins available for rent here. In front of the cabins, we were amused to find a wood stove heated hot tub. Only two of our hiking companions were brave enough to get into the ‘confusingly slimy’ wooden tub which they found lukewarm but enjoyable.

View from Valle Frances (on the way up to Mirador Brittanico)

View from Valle Frances (on the way up to Mirador Brittanico)

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Campamento Cuernos – Campamento Chileno ($6.000 pesos pp)
Distance: ~15km (Cuernos to Hotel is 12, Hotel to Chileno is 5 but you can take a shortcut to bypass hotel)
Hours: ~5
Kiosko
Flush toilets and showers

Lago Nordernskjöld is so vast and beautiful, that the trek along side it turned into one of our favorite trail sections. Campamento Chileno was a bit crowded and the bathrooms pretty gross. We had to squeeze our tent on the edge of a small cliff above the river that runs through the campsite. I would recommend pushing through and getting to the free campsite, Campamenrto Torres, if possible as this sets you up well for a sunrise viewing of the geological wonders and namesake of the park, Los Torres. Unfortunately for us this site was closed for camping due to a bathroom explosion of some kind.

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Photos will never do this lake justice.

Photos will never do this lake justice.

You can see the trail leading to Chileno on the left.

You can see the trail leading to Chileno on the left.

You can see the trail leading to Chileno on the left.

You can see the trail leading to Chileno on the left.

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Our precarious campsite at Chileno. It was overcrowded due to the temporary closing of Campamento Torres.

Our precarious campsite at Chileno. It was overcrowded due to the temporary closing of Campamento Torres.

Campamento Chileno – The climb to see Los Torres!
Distance: 4km
Hours: 2.5

Everyone tells you to brave the cold and wake up early to see Los Torres at sunrise during which they glow a beautiful red color. Since Campamento Torres was closed that meant waking up at 3:30AM to hike to the Base de Los Torres in the dark. We received good advice to wear all our warm layers, rain gear and also bring our sleeping bag to the top as it is incredibly cold. Unfortunately, the weather for us did not cooperate and we spent hours sitting in the rain and snow hoping to catch a glimpse of Los Torres through the clouds. Definitely worth the attempt, but be prepared for inclement conditions! Once you are back at Chileno, the trek out of the park is a leisurely downhill stroll to the exit with the buses.

We found a ledge which provided some 'shelter' from the elements as we froze for two hours waiting for the cloud cover to clear.

We found a ledge which provided some ‘shelter’ from the elements as we froze for two hours waiting for the cloud cover to clear.

The infamous Torres of Torres Del Paine!

The infamous Torres of Torres Del Paine!

Base Expenses (per person in pesos):

Bus RT in/out of TDP: 11.000
Campsites for 8 nights: ~24.000 give or take
Park entrance (non chilean): 18.000

***add food costs and hostel/camping in Puerto Natales pre and post TDP and this can cost you over $150 – be prepared!***

 

 

Navigating the Sendero de Chile on Chiloé: Pictures and Pitfalls

After a month on the island of Chiloé, Jordan and I realized that, other than a quick trip to Castro, we had only explored the northern part of the island. We decided to plan a mini trek on the Sendero de Chile and hike from Guabun to the sunken forrest of Chepu. The Sendero de Chile is a trail that will eventually connect all of Chile, north to south. We figured that embarking on this short section would be fun and also a great chance to test out our trekking gear before entering the wilds of Patagonia. We had just purchased the food we would be taking on our Chiloé trek, as well as food for Torres Del Paine since we were told it would be extremely expensive to purchase down south (not the case, FYI!). Thus, our backpacks were stuffed to the brim and seriously heavy. We figured, a little extra weight wouldn’t be that bad for just three days, and we’ll get stronger for the big trek in Torres (silly us). We had a free tourist map of the island, which also displayed the trail. Although this map didn’t have as many details as we would have hoped for, we were told that the trail just hugs the coast and should be easy to follow…

Day 1:

Flash forward to the end of our first day and color us surprised to find ourselves face to face with a sign we had painted just weeks before indicating that Al Norte Del Sur was only 800 meters away. That’s right, in 4 hours of hiking with our over stuffed backpacks we had walked in a big circle around the Guabun penninsula! Thank god it was freakin’ beautiful scenery, or I might have cried. We dragged our slightly deflated spirits to the nearby beach, Playa Rosauro. There was no campsite there, but we set up shop, unable to go any further. It was my first night of ‘guerilla camping’ as Jordan called it. We ate ramen, enjoyed the beautiful view of the ocean and passed out asleep.

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Day 2:

The next day we set out again, this time heading for Punihuil via Playa Mar Brava. We were pleased to note the large “Bienvenido al Sendero de Chile” sign at the entrance to the beach. That wave of confidence subsided quickly however after being faced with the choice of continuing to walk along the beach or taking a path into the adjacent meadow. We decided to stick with the beach, it was low tide after all, since we figured it was best to hug the coast. We walked and walked, surrounded by interesting beach birds and gulls, until we reached the end of the beach (marked by an impassible rocky cliff!). We took a path up out of the sand and onto the main road (W-216) where we were most grateful to stop at a small restaurant for a soda. We anxiously watched a stormy rain cloud encroach the coastal path we had just traveled. Thankfully, it blew inland away from us.

Just outside the restaurant were the remains of a large, once informative, “SENDERO DE CHILE” sign which, in pieces lying on the ground, provided no directional guidance. We knew walking the beach was no longer an option so we started down route W-220, following a road sign that read “Chepu this way.” We walked for about an hour when we came upon a small family farm/guest house, Hospedaje Monserrat. It was getting late and the fee for camping was minimal so we parked for the night. The woman who greeted us showed us around their cozy home and took us on a small tour to see the new set of piglets that had recently joined the farm. We were able to conserve our fuel and cook in their wonderfully warm kitchen, and she even gave us a plate of fresh, homemade bread and cheese to try on the house! It was such a pleasant place to stay and we highly recommend it to anyone needing a room while going to see the penguins at Punihuil.

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Day 3:

It rained throughout the night, which made packing up in the morning especially fun. Although a sunny day would have been more enjoyable, we were actually kind of excited to put all our brand new Columbia and REI rain products to the test. We got on the road early and, hiking poles in hand, started to trudge our way through the rain. With no trail signs in sight and a map we had since deemed utterly useless, we continued on W-220 until we hit the beach again. We figured we were on the trail again when we encountered a system of ropes fixed to a cliff, which they were indicating we needed to repel down…in the muddy, slippery rain. Jordan went first.

A mere 30 minutes later we had both feet on the ground and a nice thick spread of mud on our butts and rain equipment. We looked far more hardcore than I felt. To my annoyance, we only walked on that beach for another 15 minutes before climbing back up to the level we started from. We ended up emerging back onto W-220 on which we continued for the rest of the day. In addition to the challenge of the pouring, windy, chilly rain, day 3’s hike was filled with constant rolling hills. With a heavy pack on, this really started to take its toll on us. We finally crossed a wooden bridge, on which a weather beaten wooden sign hinted that we were still on the Sendero de Chile. We knew we must be close to that evening’s destination, a campsite at Dohatau. In fact just around the next bend in the path was Playa Dohatau, and just beyond that lay the campsite. Fate was in our favor because the rain also stopped for a few hours giving us enough time to dry off a bit and set up our tent. No one was at the campground, but we set up our stuff and built a fire in the lean-to. The caretaker came by eventually and we paid him the ~$10 for staying the night. For that 2-3 hour window, the weather turned absolutely beautiful. We took a sunset stroll and an easy going family with a perfectly manicured country home even let us walk along their private trail to view some more of the craggy cliffs and caves along the coast. Those few hours of breathtaking views were the highlight of our trek and in retrospect we wish we had just stayed there for several days. Instead, we decided to take our weather beaten, aching bodies back to Ancud with the caretaker the next day. Our packs were just too unnecesarily heavy and I was starting to fear injury. The next morning he picked us up in his truck, shoved our backpacks in and around the living lamb tied up in the back and we were off. We never made it to Chepu, but seeing Dohatau made the entire endeavor well worth the effort.

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What we learned:

There is never a good reason to hike with an overstuffed, overweight backpack. We should have stored most of our unnecessary belongings and extra food prior to starting the journey at a hostel in Ancud.

We were very happy with the success of our Columbia and REI rain jackets, pants and pack covers that kept us dry despite a full day of intense rain. Those looking to trek on Chiloé, or do anything really, should always be prepared with solid rain gear.

Perhaps the Sendero de Chile is better marked within the National Park on Chiloé, but certainly the northern section is barely marked at all. Definitely find yourself a good map or be prepared to take a lot of guesses!

I’m happy to say that the rest of our Patagonian trekking went far smoother, excellent in fact (see our future posts). We unnecessarily put ourselves through the ringer on this 3 day trek, but we were not discouraged! We got through it and were even more excited for our next challenge, the circuit trek in Torres Del Paine!

anyone else do any hiking on Chiloé? Where did you go and how was it?!