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Fratagonia

Fratagonia

As I boarded my plane for the 44-hour trip down to Patagonia (Helena to Seattle to SF to San Salvador to Lima to Santiago to Punta Arenas), I realized I was the guy who wears the band’s t-shirt to the concerts. I was decked out in Patagonia, a walking catalogue: socks, pants, sweatshirt, vest, jacket, and to top it all off, my hat. If someone didn’t know where I was traveling to, all they had to do was look at the mountain range tag framed in blues and oranges located sporadically across my person.

Chilean Patagonia was calling me. For those of you who’ve kept pace with our posts, Collin and his girlfriend, Erin, moved down to Chile and have been working remotely down there for the past year. Seeing as how I’ve never been to South America, and the fact that hiking Patagonia was on my bucket list, I endeavored to plan a trip down there. Collin took care of the logistics, from booking the camp sites to mapping out the route in Torres Del Paine, to ensuring that we had bus and plane tickets to get there in the first place; I was the pack mule who brought down all of the food. Well, most of it, but I’ll get to that.

I can go into detail about what route we took and what everyday life on the trail of The W was like. But Collin already posted an amazing rundown of what to expect, so I’ll let him cover that. For now I’m just going to share some lessons learned from my trip down to the land of penguins, lamas, and dabbing.  

Cuernos del Paine, as seen from the ferry.

Cuernos del Paine, as seen from the ferry.

1.  Flying for 44 hours honestly isn’t too bad when you have a heavy book to keep you company. However, if you somehow finish it halfway through that long route, insanity is quick to set in and makes watching BFG look like a decent option.

View from the suspension bridge, aka the one from Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. 

View from the suspension bridge, aka the one from Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. 

2. Airport baggage workers, the guys and gals who load the planes, in either San Francisco or El Salvador are very hungry, as they decided to pilfer all of the Cliff and Balance bars that were in my pack. I worry that they aren’t being adequately fed and hope that the massive amounts of fiber wrecks havoc on their systems.  

Glacier Grey

Glacier Grey

3.  Chile loves using receipts for everything and you’re not allowed to decline them. Arrive in the country. Receipt. Exchange your money. Receipt. Buy a bottle of water. Receipt. Buy a mini lama figurine for your girlfriend. Receipt.

Paine Grande, at the entrance of the Valle Frances. 

Paine Grande, at the entrance of the Valle Frances. 

4.  Don’t take French in high school. Just take Spanish, it’ll make travel a lot easier when your vocabulary isn’t limited to “gracias”, “de nada”, and “hola.”

The forest in Valle Frances, aka Mirkwood (Collin didn't understand any of my LOTR references during the trip, and there were many). 

The forest in Valle Frances, aka Mirkwood (Collin didn't understand any of my LOTR references during the trip, and there were many). 

5.  Always get on the trail early. You’ll avoid the crowds and feel incredibly accomplished as you and your fellow long-legged friend pass everyone. But keep in mind that the sun will really mess with your internal clock: sunrise was around 5:30am, and sunset around 9:30pm

Valle Frances in all of its glory. 

Valle Frances in all of its glory. 

6. A five-pound tent can feel quadruple the weight when hiking up steep inclines in 80-degree weather and an empty water bottle. Just put your head down and plow ahead, counting roots and rocks to keep sane.

The rolling hills were a great break from the rock scrambles. 

The rolling hills were a great break from the rock scrambles. 

7. Collin eats a lot on the trail. A. Lot. I’m pretty sure he consumed a whole orchard of almonds during our hike, while casting looks of confusion at me when I didn’t do the same. Speaking of food, I’m taking a prolonged break from eating peanuts and oatmeal for a bit. And don’t trust Chilean electrolyte packets; they’ll make your water taste like salty bubblegum.

Sunrise at Camping Central, right before hiking to Las Torres with an upset stomach thanks to the tap water

Sunrise at Camping Central, right before hiking to Las Torres with an upset stomach thanks to the tap water

8. Conversations with fellow Americans will always circle back to the two things we think we know best: politics and football. We will also always be the loudest hikers on the trail.

Happy belated Planksgiving.

Happy belated Planksgiving.

9. Contrary to many assumptions, it’s better to trust the water that comes from glaciers, unfiltered, than the tap. Let’s just say that Collin and I found that out the hard way during our final day in the park, right before our big hike up to Los Torres.

Las Torres, aka The Towers. 

Las Torres, aka The Towers. 

10. Chile is a beautifully stunning country that has an amazing national park system, respected police force, and welcoming people. I was absolutely stunned at how robust their park system is and the emphasis they place on protecting wild places and wild lands while making them accessible to visitors. Hiking Torres Del Paine was an incredibly unique experience and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in testing their mettle on The W.

Beer I drank - Patagonia Pale Ale by Cervecería Austral

Song I heard - Fools by Wild Child

Book I read - The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

Portland: From City to Coast and Every Beer in Between

Portland: From City to Coast and Every Beer in Between

How to Hike the W - Torres Del Paine National Park (UPDATED March 2017)