Monday, May 25, 2009

Chile: Puerto Natales

We had about 12 hours in the small port town of Puerto Natales before we were to leave for the Torres del Paine National Park. We chose to stay at the Erratic Rock and the place is full of hostels and hospedajes so you should have trouble making reservations, even at the last minute.

Now if you want to stay at Erratic Rock (ER) then I suggest you follow their reservation policy of only taking reservations one week in advance because this place is always full. ER is truly a full-service hostel for those heading to and from Torres del Paine. They can rent you all kinds of camping equipment, lead a tour for you, and arrange for your bus tickets. In fact the daily bus to the park stops at Erratic Rock making the 7 am pick-up just a little bit easier.

The owner of ER is also the publisher of Black Sheep newspaper and blog. He has a very useful info session on backpacking The W (and the circuit) at 3pm next door to his hostel - anyone can attend. You could do no planning and bring NO equipment, then show up in Puerto Natales at ER for the 3pm info session and be set to leave the next morning for the park with everything you need. If you want to tent your route this system works just fine.

On the other hand, if you want to experience the refugios along the trail then you need to do some planning and request those reservations a few months in advance. We made our reservations about 1.5 months in advance of when we were going to need them. Reservations for Refugio Grey and Paine Grande Lodge can made through Vertice Patagonia and for Albergue Los Cuernos, Refugio Albergue El Chileno, and Refugio Las Torres see the Fantastico Sur website.

If you have questions regarding planning a trip to Patagonia please comment. The next several posts will detail the W route we took and give you a little glimpse of the refugios. You don't need a guide to hike the W and the trip is appropriate for a wide range of age groups. I recommend the book Trekking in the Patagonian Andes, a Lonely Planet publication.

{recap: I traveled to Chile during the month of February. I was distracted these past few months and am only now getting to post about my experience in South America. Click here to see all my posts about this fantastic Ph.D. Trip}

photo credit: Cayenne 02.12.09

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