Disclaimer: I am author of this text, but most of the trip ideas and ways to get around the reservation system are not mine. Credit goes to my friends, who have more balls than i do 🙂
So, turns out that going to Torres del Paine is not possible without a reservation. So of course, we found out only when we were in South America already. To our defense, I must say that this is a recent think, so your Lonely Planet from 2013, or even a friend who went there a year ago won’ t be too much of help. Unfortunately nor would be the lady at information desk at local bus station.
Well, better have a coffee and cake and go to El Chalten.
And a week later we attempted gain. You just can’t be in South America and not see the freaking Torres Del Paine, right?
So here is how we did it for 3 days.
Night one: we stayed in a town Puerto Natales in Josmar Hostel + camp.
For 10 000clp per person we got a bed, warm living room and a breakfast at 6:30! (we cold arrage the time when we wanted the breakfast which was super convenient as our bus was leaving at 7:30 in the morning).
Prices of the buses to Torres del Paine are pretty similar, as well as the departure time. We went with Juan Ojeda, which was alright. Booking in advance is highly recomended.
All buses take you to Laguna Amarga, which is the entrance.
Here is …ehm…a queue, which kind of temporarily spoils your sense of adventure. But don’ t worry, these crowds will eventually spread across the area.
Nearly with your own blood you have to sign a contract that you are not going to cuddle animals, set Torres del Paine on fire, throw rubbish or you will go to prison.
Well, fair enough, there was a huge fires in 2005 and then 2001/2012 and and one of them was started by a Czech guy (more: http://www.thetravelword.com/2012/02/06/irresponsible-tourism-and-the-forest-fire-in-torres-del-paine-national-park-chile-2/), so I guess we were even lucky to be able to go 😀
And after paying the entrance fee of 21 000 clp per person you are ready to hike.
Good idea is to keep the ticket as the fee is valid for more days.
We then took a quick 3000 pesos ride to Las Torres Hotel Lodge and camping zone (yes, booking required, no, no free spaces). You can also go horse riding here and there is a coffee shop.
And for another 5000 clp the horse riding center store our bags for the day.
Oh and there is this amazing looking eco camp. However their website doesn’t even have prices, so I figured out that if you have to ask for price, you can’ t afford it. Looks amazing tho. Check it out: http://www.ecocamp.travel/en#
We then hiked up, up up to Base de las Torres lookout. The it the famous photo you see everywhere and yes, it is impressive. It is slightly crowded up there, but well, it is the most famous tourist site.
and of course I had to dance here 🙂
We then run down as Pierre had to catch a shuttle bus back to Laguna Amarga as he was leaving earlier from Pataonia. We didn’ t quite get the return times of the red shuttle bus. It seemed the driver is either really late for his schedule or we don’t understand Spanish numbers, both is equally possible. However and never the less, the buses seemed to be waiting for each other. So the departing buses at the bottom will wait for the last shuttle. At least i February 2017 they did.
The rest of us wanted to stay and see if we can somehow stay in the area.
Apparently at border of the park there is a camp where you don’t need a reservation. Information about this place were mysterious. Some of the tourist information centers said it was a place, other said they didn’t know and others said this place didn’t exist. We also couldn’t find the camp online. But guess what!
No more than 2 km down on the dusty road (just follow the river) IS a camp where you don’t need a reservation. Price is 6 000 clp per person. It is a bit windy, but who cares! This is Torres and literally the first think I saw when I opened my tent in the morning. This is the proper hidden germ of Torres.
DAY 2 GOMEZ DRAMA
In the morning we took a bus from Laguna Amarga. We had the ticket from yesterday and a smily driver from Buses Gomez company promised to take us with the bus to the pier, the boat station. A kilometer later he stopped and asked additional payment 5 000 clp per person to take us there, but in my amazing (non existing Spanish) I argued with him that he should have asked us at the start of the bus journey, not one kilometer later when we don’ t really have much of an option.
We refused to pay and I was loud enough to maintain status quo even at the arrival to the Pudeto Cafeteria, a departure station of the boat. Like sorry Gomez, but we have already payed our bus ticket!
A catamaran arrived and after paying another ….we were taken to the Paine Grande Lodge and camping station.
…to be continued. HOW WE DIDN’ T GET PAST THE RANGERS