Torres del Paine: A fairy tale ending to two years in Chile

As my last hurrah in Chile, I took a trip down South to Patagonia because you just can’t live in Chile for two years and NOT visit Patagonia. Am I right? I trekked 71 kilometers (45 miles) and albeit far, I only saw a small part of the huge region that spans two countries. As in nearly all of my South American ventures, Nora was by my side. For 5 days, we hiked the popular W-shaped trail in Torres del Paine in what felt like a beautiful fairy tale ending to this chapter of my life. 

We hiked the W "backwards," starting in the east in the bottom right corner.

We hiked the W “backwards,” starting in the southeastern corner.

A snapshot of Torres del Paine: Where do you turn when every step puts you in the frame of a new postcard? When every angle uncovers remarkable beauty of a whole different dimension? Seventy-one kilometers wind up then back and across, up then back and across, up then back. It’s a W-shaped piece of bliss where wild horses drink from shimmering lagoons and the thunder of glaciers cracking on the highest peak is the only sound to break the silence of introspection.

A full moon lights the way to the park’s namesake towers where the sun rises to tint them pink first, then gold. In the lake below, matching hues dance in tiny ripples. Hikers fall silent in awe of the massive condors that soar above.

By midday, the sun radiates in a nearly cloudless sky; the tales of bitter cold and fierce Patagonian rain and wind seem to be merely myths. A swift river cuts up the valley alongside a steep pile of stones and boulders but the scramble is more than worth the view. A montage of mountain peaks overtake the sky.

After days of trekking through lush forest, the trail eerily turns to emptiness, a swath of charred remains. Barkless, leafless trees jut up in black and white as tombs in a hallow graveyard. Daisies dot the field in yellow. Are they a sign of new life? Or are the bouquets just a token of respect for the dead, a decoration for their headstones?

The wind sets in, rain too, but neither are here to stay. Further still, there’s more to see. A cyan glacier covers another lake, filling in every crevice between more mountainsides. Boots are dragging now; up, up, up and over the hill. As wonder wanes to exhaustion, nature has another trick.

The clouds fade to reveal this journey’s end: a rainbow, the symbol of luck for new beginnings.

–JDF