One of the areas I really wanted to visit when I went to South America was Patagonia. I didn’t know too much about it, but from speaking to other travellers I heard about a five day camping trip in the Torres del Paine National Park. This sounded like a great idea. However, after getting distracted by random places on the way it was already mid-April as I entered Northern Patagonia, meaning further South was pretty cold and I wasn’t even sure if the campsites and trails would still be open.
Regardless, I continued travelling South and decided to see what the situation was when I got there. The advantage of going South was that I met a lot of people heading in the opposite direction who had already completed the trip and could give me plenty of helpful advice. The downside was I seemed to be the only person travelling South so I was still a little bit worried.
First, the town I needed to head to was Puerto Natales, Chile. This is the best place to base yourself from before tackling Torres del Paine, and if you’re looking for the best places to stay in Puerto Natales then you’ll find this guide very helpful. I’d heard from various other travellers that there was an information talk at the Erratic Rock hostel every day at 3pm. My plan was to go to the talk then get everything I needed, ready to visit the park the day after. However, after listening to all the information I decided it would be better to spend two nights in Puerto Natales and give myself an extra day to sort all of my supplies.
The talk was incredibly helpful, something I would definitely recommend if you plan on doing this excursion. They gave advice about what to take and not take, which routes were open and what food we’d need to survive five days in the national park. With this in mind I stopped by the supermarket to stock up on everything I’d need. Whilst there I bumped into a guy I’d met on the bus to Puerto Natales and also at the talk. We decided to swap a few things between us so that we didn’t need to buy so much. Apparently half a bag of rice is equal to 3 toilet rolls. That’s not an exchange rate you’ll find on any website.
The day after was spent renting the most important equipment, such as stove, tent, sleeping bag and mattress. I visited several places in order to get the best price and quality. Luckily there were plenty of options in town.
Back in my hostel I was left facing the most difficult task so far; trying to fit everything I’d need for five days of camping into my backpack. This included the tent and sleeping bag plus food and clothes. In order to save space and weight I’d rented a small sleeping bag and the mattress was incredibly thin. But I still I couldn’t get everything into my backpack.
This process of adjusting things, taking things out and putting them back in again lasted over an hour. Much to the amusement of my roommate, who wasn’t due to go through the same experience for at least another day or so. With the game of backpack Tetris complete I got an early night ready for the 6am wake up call the next morning.
It was still dark as I made my way to the bus station and I spotted a familiar figure similarly burdened with a large backpack. It was Nicky, the guy I’d exchanged goods with the day before. We seemed to be the only two people with backpacks rammed to the seams as everyone else had minimal stuff. After my organisational nightmare the day before I had no idea how that was possible. What kind of witchcraft was this?
We boarded the bus and made our way towards the Torres del Paine National Park for five days exploring and camping, unsure what awaited us.
Erratic Rock food tips:
- Muesli for breakfast
- Pre-prepared wraps with jam/peanut butter, etc. for lunch
- Dry soup to act as a sauce (or even soup)
- Snickers, nuts, etc. for snacks/energy