The park has a number of Refuges that are strategically positioned, so if you choose, every night you can rent tents and buy food. This option is much more costly, some places charge $10 for a 500g bag of pasta. We chose to carry all of our own food and equipment. In our packs we carried our tent Zephyr, a sleeping bag each, cooking gas, camping stove, a pot, mugs, plates, cutlery, and clothes - we kept this to a minimum, lightweight waterproof pants were definitely a good investment. Our food generally consisted of porridge for breakfast, salami on bread or noodles for lunch and Pasta for dinner. We also packed snacks of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate, to give us that extra energy boost in between meals.
There are two routes that people take through the park; the ‘W’ Trek, of 80km over five days, and the ‘Circuit’ trek, of 110 KM over seven Days. Unfortunately we had limited time due to our Argentine bus passes which were going to expire soon after the New Year, forcing us to choose the ‘W’ Trek – still an extremely tough challenge, especially when carrying all of our food and gear. We had a couple of choices to make on our route; which direction to walk, east to west or west to east, and where to start and finish. Our decision was to go west to east across the park, simply because we wanted to end the hike with the Towers of Torres, and more technically, the wind direction looked likely to be behind us for the second half of the hike, making walking less difficult. This decision also gave us the option to start the hike further south and avoid the costly ferry across Lake Pehoe, this was very ambitious, as we were adding a further 17km to the hike.
If we were to pick our favourite hike in Patagonia, we definitely enjoyed Nahuel Huapi National Park the most. In hindsight, our decision to start the trek from the Administration centre was our downfall by adding the extra distance and then taking off the extra time to complete it finishing a day earlier than expected due to the weather. Most people we spoke to were averaging 15km to 20km a day, we were doing 30km, constantly hiking an extra few km’s everyday to get to where we wanted to be. We were glad to finally reach the end. This park is a challenge in so many ways, but it is what you make it. We met a couple who were doing it a leisurely pace over a week, carrying only tiny day packs. Talk about a walk in the park! The physical and mental challenge we endured was tough. We survived it, doing it quickly, and carrying a lot of gear. This park is a must see in Patagonia, for its beauty and the personal challenge, but we suggest taking it slowly.
Check out our photos of Torres Del Paine here.
Next stop we do the Tango in the capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires…