Friday, December 4, 2015

W-trek Patagonia

Chile (South America)

2015 turned out to be awesome year, one that started with just finishing climbing Kilimanjaro then climbing Costa Rica's Cerro Chirripo and actually the initial thinking was different but last one turned out to be W-trek Patagonia in Chile.

Well as mentioned initially my other half was suggesting to go to Antarctica. I was like ok!! let me dig into it a bit [seriously that was the kind of excitement I had shown :) ] Later on happened to see some weird pictures of Drake passage and enthu went one step down. Besides my basic funda was till the time other body parts are properly functional let's do some trek kind of things, other things can be pushed for later. Knew we had to go to Chile in any case for whatever we decide. Hence just started looking into things to do there and what came across was W-trek Patagonia. Looked very interesting and somewhere we both got convinced to do it .

Going to Chile felt like way long journey to finally land in Santiago. The country itself is so elongated and there is no direct flight from north to south end. One has to take a hop in between in Santiago and pray that your flight will not be cancelled and / or delayed. Met family of four stranded for two days at the airport due delays and cancellations. If we were flying that far out we wanted to cover Atacama as well do W- trek in Patagonia means both the ends.

Santiago beautifully laid out city, kudos to the street designers, the sidewalks, middle garden paths, roads, all so huge and broad and clean too. We walked around 11/ 13 miles everyday for two days we were in the city. The old city market and things are also beautiful.  Various museums, some hills around city, gardens,Valparaiso neighborhood, Vina Del mar is different at the same time beautiful area to explore. Bidding good bye to Santiago next was North side, Atacama desert.

As with any adventure its best to know some locals or have some friends who like doing these kind of adventures or have some friends who know locals or see if guides are required or available.

Atacama:- the highest elevation desert, in order to reach there on has to land in San Pedro De Atacama situated at 8000 plus feet elevation, anything one does here is high altitude.
The year we landed surprisingly the valley was filled with wildflowers due rare rainfall. This desert hosts number of Salt flats, Lagunas, Some ruins, Flamingos of different kinds, Foxes, Guanacos, Llamas and they all live at such a high elevation and survive. At Valley of moon, Valley of death one can see different formations, rock types, salt caves, ancient carvings in caves, the path or route taken by people to travel around and the list goes on. Although one has lots of sunshine the place is very cold and windy. Among all things done hiking at 15000 feet elevation, visiting Salt flats and traveling to high elevation Lagunas while crossing  at 16000 feet elevation in heavy winds (one literally has to hold hard other individual after landing at actual site), walking inside Cactus Canyon, Watching night sky (night hiking), stargazing and seeing Southern Hemisphere’s unique constellations can be highlights.

W-trek Patagonia ( Chile - South America)
Torres Del Paine National Park
Traveling to Patagonia is a long journey but once you come to the park all travel woes are gone. Weather can be different at different elevation and places, its famous for heavy wind gusts. Rainy, may be snow, very cold at a times, damp, sunny. The lakes, mountains, glaciers, burnt forests, marsh lands all is vast and awe-striking. Beauty untouched. One can see wildlife in abundance here: Guanacos in herds with newborns, Pumas, variety birds, wild donkeys, foxes etc.
The lodges for trek need booking in advance and are nice place to crash into after long day instead of staying in tents.  Setting up tent in high winds is a nightmare.

Different legs of trek offer very different things for example: sounds of avalanches in Valle De Frances are amazing and if fog is covering the glaciers, its an experience not seeing but hearing the avalanche. The edible mushrooms growing on trees look like small oranges. Hiking to Torres Del Paine's is nice windy experience when one goes through windy pass, narrow walkway with horses and people going in both directions. Greys glacier, spongy texture and so blue and accessible walk down is simply amazing. Roughly it can be 50/60 miles of  trek, not significant altitude gain (though some individuals may feel it) and nothing is flat for sure.

It is a beautiful place. Some highlights of the trek can be found here:

Well after covering almost 90 plus miles on feet we headed back home with lots memories. Met many interesting people locals / foreigners who came for travel, some became friends for lifetime. Teaching chef how to make chole / cumin rice was fun and he literally made them and everyone else also wanted to have same dish, that was so cool.

A trip to remember and year to end with sweet note. Bye bye 2015 welcome 2016!!