A Day Trip to Torres del Paine, Chile

London, January 2014

Pumpkin: “Would you fancy doing a day trip to Torres del Paine from Argentina on our South America trip?”

Me: “You what? Of course I would but is that even an option?”

El Calafate, Argentina, March 2014

Pumpkin: “Straight to bed after dinner for me. I’m knackered. Weren’t we lucky the clouds lifted eventually? Are you going to blog about this?”

Me: “Yeh, it was amazing. Definitely going to share this on the blog. Might even pinch some of your photos, they’ve come out really well…”

most beautiful South America destinations

London, November 2015

Pumpkin: “Are you ever going to write about Torres del Paine? I’d love it if you did a blog post on it and I reckon people would be interested in hearing about the day trip option. I’d definitely have read a blog post like that when we were planning our South America trip.”

Me (hastily:) “I will, I will, I just haven’t got around to it yet.”

Pumpkin: “But surely if you don’t do it soon, you won’t remember any of it? You do write them in a strange order. That afternoon tea you’ve just blogged about was long after Chile…”

London, June 2016

Pumpkin: “Such a pity you never wrote about Chile.”

Me ( hanging my head in shame: )

No inverted commas, as no speech.

Out of excuses.

London, January 2018

Me: “Are the Torres del Paine photos on your laptop or mine?”

Pumpkin: “Dunno, why? Wait – are you actually writing about it finally?”

Me: “Yeh, I thought I might. This month’s travel link up theme is ‘once-in-a-lifetime experiences’ and this was what sprung to mind.

Pumpkin: “What’s a link up?”

best places to visit South America

I sometimes wonder if it was my overly competitive high school that was responsible. You were never good enough unless you were the best and even then, you merely blurred into a crowd. It turned me into someone with perfectionist traits, who never felt satisfied when she couldn’t do things perfectly and berated herself when that happened (no matter how insignificant or trivial said things were.) With the blog, those insecurities are more prevalent than ever. I got into this to write and when I can’t write well, I shy away from writing at all. The more an experience moves me, a destination speaks to me and a view reduces me to tears, the harder I find it to pay homage with lexicon. So I don’t – it is easier to give up on a story than tell it badly.

8th wonder of the world

For years, I shied away from writing about our day trip to Torres del Paine in Chile, crippled by an inward fear of being unable to find adjectives that would suitably paint a Patagonian portrait for you all; defeated by the belief that I could never draw you in to my Chilean journey the way a National Geographic or Lonely Planet writer could.

This year however, that changes. High school was an aeon ago and put plainly, this girl is getting over it. I need to grasp, finally, that it’s alright to not always be the best, to not always write blog posts in prize-worthy prose or even prose-worthy prose for that matter; that it’s okay to share my stories in whichever raw, flawed and unvarnished ways they emerge from my mind.

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Visiting Torres del Paine National Park

Chile is a long way to go for a day trip (from London) but if you happen to be across the border in Argentina, it suddenly becomes far more plausible. It took a 3-4 hour flight from Buenos Aires to reach El Calafate in Patagonia, which perhaps gives an indication as to the spectra of climate, fauna, wildlife and cultures concealed within the landscape treasure chest that is the length of Argentina. The visit to Patagonia was a detour and a half, especially since we were ending our trip in Rio de Janeiro but that detour was possibly the best travel decision we have ever made.

animals Torres del Paine

Chile was never on the cards but when we spotted the option to do a long day trip from El Calafate to Torres del Paine National Park, the opportunity to see the recently voted 8th Wonder of the World was too tempting to pass up. If your legs were built to walk in the wilderness and your heart beats at its fastest when exploring remote, rugged landscapes, it is time to lose yourself (proverbially only please) in this enchanting oasis in South America.

Towers at Torres del Paine
The Trio of Torres – Torres del Paine National Park

One day, we hope to return, to brave the hikes, to stay for days and even to camp (or perhaps glamp) under the stars. Until then, I feel blessed and forever grateful to have had the chance to see it at all; to see them rather, for the elusive Torres (towers) comprise a trio of granite formations that were in no mood at all to make a cameo when we arrived at the national park after an early morning start. Much like the time we tried to catch glimpse of Mount Fuji, here too, we were at the mercy of the elements.

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The Journey to Torres del Paine

I hear that it’s about the journey not the destination and whilst I don’t entirely agree, the voyage on board a truck of such magnitude was certainly a first for me. It was also a journey during which we became grateful to our Mums for always teaching us to carry snacks after the tour company forgot to account for our no-beef dietary preferences. The packed lunch proved to be an interesting affair given that it contained a beef empanada and…err… a beef sandwich. #OnlyinArgentina

day trip Argentina to Chile

Still, there was a coffee shop pit-stop for us to grab provisions and good thing we did, since the apples we had carried from the hotel breakfast buffet got confiscated by immigration at the Argentina/Chilean border. After seeing one too many episodes of Nothing to Declare, I volunteered the apples in my possession with the guilt of a rumbled dealer. You might think that border control on land may be more lax than at airports but it is the one and only time my fruit has been taken off me and I am a habitual apple carrier (the plant variety I mean – it’s Samsung all the way otherwise!) Take home message for the El Calafate to Torres del Paine journey? Don’t forget your passport but you could quite legitimately forget your five-a-day.

Torres Del Paine Chile

The roads progressed further along the serenity scale, as we ventured into Chilean Patagonia. It is worth competing for the window seat for the uplifting, mesmerising views that reward you, views that left even a seven-month-old baby silenced (or maybe the motion sent him to sleep.) Much to our surprise (and admiration,) a single Mum had booked onto the same tour, joining the 7am start and 14 hour round trip with her tiny but shiny son in tow and not a single other adult accompanying her for support. She changed his nappies surrounded by mountains and fed him between barren branches, tidying up after herself throughout the day, gathering priceless memories behind her and oodles of respect from the remainder of our group, proving that these soils will embrace anyone curious enough to delve into them.

day trip to Torres del Paine

We disembarked the vehicle with the eager anticipation of a bride to be exiting the wedding car for the very first time – only there were no dresses here. In the midst of my early start, I had thrown on beige cargo pants, hiking boots and sensible, warm, waterproof clothing. Nothing about it was glamorous but you’d have to be beyond vain to come to a place like this and worry about how you look, when the world immediately ahead is so supremely dazzling. Stare at your own reflection if you wish but the rest of us will be staring at Mother Nature’s reflections in crystalline glacial lakes that possess a purity unparalleled by the human race.

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Geology had drawn us to this region of the world but the unanticipated impromptu quasi-safari experience was a delightful bonus. A group of majestic, proud Guanacos stood tall to greet us on our arrival, roaming freely and fearlessly among the peculiar humans that had invaded their patch. Their poise was endearing and we envied their all-encasing fluffy coats of armour, as we shivered in our synthetic fabrics, as we stood to photograph them.

Guanaco Chile

Our guide led us on the first walking trail. We were tiny figments marching like ants in endless acres of sweeping, mountainous terrain. There is so much talk of mindfulness these days but in a city like London, it can remain a challenge. Where sirens beep throughout the night in the quick-paced, never-ending hubbub of a capital city, how easy is it to switch off and liberate your mind of worry? Rhetorical questions, for which I lack answers but if New York City will forever be my happy place, then I can confirm Patagonia will forever be my peaceful place. Never have I had a moment more tranquil than I did sitting by the banks of the lake, the sun glistening above it, the flawless image ahead of me framed by soaring, snow-capped mountain tops.

blog review Torres del Paine National Park

But not every region of the Torres del Paine National Park tells a tale of vitality and life. Amongst the horseback riders and South Andean deer, behind billowing river water and pristine glaciers are scenes of destruction, devastation and death; stretches of park where branches are charred to the bone, swaying lifelessly in the wind, where blossoms and habitat are longed but lost. Natural disasters are responsible, in some instances, for the toxic fumes that flattened these plains. But in others, painfully, tourism itself is culpable with bonfires and campfires wrecking vast expanses of land, one more addition to the tragic list of examples of man-induced destruction to some of our planet’s most precious corners.

fire damage Torres del Paine Chile

Throughout the day, we looked over our shoulders, not in fear of what we would see but rather, in fear of what we would not see – the Torres, the symbolic epicentre of the national park stubbornly hiding behind curtains of mist. The lions had been shy during our first safari holiday in Africa and the whales joined in on this rebellious revolt during our time in Ponta Delgada, Azores. But as late afternoon approached and just as we were about to turn our backs on Chile to commence the journey to Argentina, the elements made a U-turn, cooperating the way the aforementioned mammals had refused to.

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One final time, we looked ahead, we looked behind and took a 360 degree visual sweep to absorb this magnificent destination, the southern most destination we have ever travelled to. And it was then, rather like the predictable final scenes of a high school chick flick, that a happy ending was bestowed upon us, as the Torres emerged , our faces lighting up in tandem at the crisp clarity of the mountain peaks that finally greeted us.

They do always say that good things come to those who wait.

Part of a this month’s travel blog link up with Emma, Angie, Polly & Tanja

33 thoughts on “A Day Trip to Torres del Paine, Chile

  1. Nice writing and photos! I get what you mean about perfectionism. Bloggkng has actually helped me overcome that, though I still try to challenge myself to not post anything too sloppy and unfinished. Practise makes perfect!
    We hiked around Mt FitzRoy from the Argentinean side, never went all the way to Chile. Looks lovely! Maybe next time!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:47 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment & reassurance – like you, I think I’m slowly getting better with going with the flow & not putting so much pressure on myself but still find it hard to post things that are sloppy or sound a bit lazy! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who has found this to be an issue though!

  2. Ooh I’ve booked to go to Torres Del Paine! We have four nights there though.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:49 pm

      Oooh that sounds lovely Angie & if you’re going for as long as that, then you’ll have no excuses at all to miss out on doing all the long beautiful hikes that we didn’t have time for when we went – they’re a must if you’re staying that long!

  3. stunning nature!I’m glad you chose to finally write about this trip

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:50 pm

      Thanks so much Tanja – I was worried that I’d left it so long that I’ll have forgotten about it but actually, when I started looking back at the photos, it filled me with so much of the excitement I felt when I went in real life ☺

  4. Thank you writing about this! It sounds (and looks) like such a fabulous experience, magnificent scenery! I am fairly new to the blogging world and have found myself procrastinating over posts in a similar fashion. I’m learning to hit that publish button even if I’m a bit unsure about it!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:52 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment – it feels quite reassuring to know that there are others who can relate to this – I feel like I’d probably get blog posts out a whole lot more frequently if I wasn’t my own harshest critic so much of the time! It really was such a stunning place that I’m glad I finally got to give it a little corner on my blog 😊

  5. Beautiful writing and stunning photos. Lucky you!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:53 pm

      Thank you ☺

  6. I completely understand where you’re coming from with your the-more-amazing-it-is-the-harder-it-is-to-write-a-post-that’ll-do-it-justice thing! But I’m glad you did, because you wrote beautifully 🙂 and thanks for introducing me to another place I never knew about!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:57 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind comment & the reassurance Jess & I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! That’s exactly it – it’s as if I feel like I won’t be doing it justice or won’t be able to portray its real magic so I just end up giving up on writing about it before even trying. But I do want to try & put a bit less pressure on myself with these things, as it’s meant to be a personal log not a submission to a publisher so I should be ok with publishing posts even if they aren’t perfect right?!☺

      1. Isn’t it funny how we put so much pressure on ourselves to write something that is just a personal account?! Keep doing what you do – you write beautifully 🙂

        1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 7:13 pm

          Thanks Jess 😚

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:57 pm

      Such a beautiful destination!

  7. So glad you wrote about one of my favourite places, ever! I wasn’t aware of the day trip option, so that’s great to hear. I went for three nights and loved it! It really is a place I’ll never forget.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 4:59 pm

      Me too Marcella – I think it was even more magical an experience because I’d virtually known nothing about it till we went & then to see somewhere so gobsmackingly gorgeous just took my breath away! If I’m ever back in Chile one day, I’d love to return & stay there for longer like you did ☺

  8. I can very much relate to obsessing over writing, wondering whether it’ll ever be good enough. But you’ve no need to worry at all, Skikha – I absolutely love your posts, and this one really brings this spectacular region to life. Now I’m starting to regret not popping over to Patagonia when we were in Argentina!.. x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 5:01 pm

      I hadn’t realised you’d been to Argentina too Aaron – I loved it there so would love to hear about your experiences there too next time we catch up ☺Thanks so much for your lovely comments – means so much to hear that you enjoy my posts especially this one, which seemingly took me 4 years to write!! x

      1. Yes, went about 10 years ago. But mainly Buenos Aires where my sis-in-law did a university year. Really glad you managed to get your post completed – it’s been worth the wait!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 5:03 pm

      Just one of the most magnificent regions of the world I’ve ever come across Andy 😍

  9. Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi February 14, 2018 — 11:26 pm

    That was the best, most honest intro to a travel post EVER! Poor pumpkin…

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 18, 2018 — 5:05 pm

      Haha, thanks Ems.☺ I know, poor him right?! He rarely asks me specifically to write about anything but he loved the place so much that he asked time and again over a period of several years before eventually giving up & if you hadn’t had this particular link up theme, goodness if and when I ever would have gotten round to writing it!

  10. Whether you think you’re writing is ‘good enough’ or not, I love reading your posts Shikha, they’re always great stories and a delight to read!

    I’ve wanted to visit here ever since my early 20s when I saw a photo in a magazine (I ripped it out and it’s still blu-tak’d to my world map to remind me that it’s still on the bucket list. One day! x

    1. and I just re-read that and my awful your/you’re error. Embarrassing…

      1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 15, 2018 — 6:07 pm

        Haha, that often happens to me on here due to auto correct! I might not even have noticed till you said it!😂

    2. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 15, 2018 — 6:06 pm

      That’s so lovely that you cut out a clipping & pinned it to your wishlist Keri! Keep this place on it for sure as it’s well worth the wait, promise! Thanks so much for your lovely, supportive comments – I am so glad you enjoy reading along & you have no idea how much a comment like that means to me 😚

  11. What a good article. Great pictures too. We feel like going back !

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 22, 2018 — 6:21 pm

      Oh I would LOVE to go back too! Such a beautiful region of the world isn’t it?!

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