After dropping Ford and Casey off at the airport Andy and I hightailed it for Puerto Natales. Puerto Natales is a city located on the Last Hope Sound. It’s the closest town to Torres del Paine so it’s filled with backpackers, pizza restaurants, and microbreweries. I really like Puerto Natales! Torres del Paine is the main draw (and worthy) but Natales has a lot to offer as well. The fjords are awesome for kayaking, there’s great mountain biking, and there’s many picturesque hikes in the area. Over by Laguna Sofia there is even some pretty fun cobblestone sport climbing to be had! If there was a place to be based for a while, this is a good one.
We had the good luck to be hosted by Remota for the week we were in Natales. Remota is a beautiful hotel with views of the sound and awesome excursions ranging from biking to rock climbing. We settled in and I got to work. The week we spent in Natales was really fun – I would work during the day and then when 5pm hit Andy and I would venture out to explore the area. We did some fun hikes such as Dorotea and Cerro Queso plus we also got to go rock climbing at Laguna Sofia and mountain biking at an estancia called Los Rabanos.
We had some hopes that the weather would clear enough for us to climb in Torres del Paine but this part of the world gets hit first by the winds of the roaring 40s so the weather is even worse than in Chalten. Nothing even resembling a window opened for us to climb while we were there.
We did have a chance to frequent the local bouldering gym a few times which was quite fun! They even had a bouldering comp while we were there. There is a great community of climbers and more than one gym in town too! It felt good to climb again as it had been a few weeks… We also frequented the local microbrewery Baguales, a couple pizza joints called La Guanaca and La Mesita Grande, as well as a panaderia that made some super tasty postres.
When the weekend hit we had the chance to head into the park and stay at a lodge called Awasi. Awasi is in a private reserve with epic views of the Towers which were shrouded in clouds when we arrived. We had a wonderful night at Awasi and woke up the next day to incredible views of the Towers. We headed towards the park to climb Cerro Paine, a hike with really cool views of the towers but due to unseasonably warm weather the road to the towers had flooded and not even Cielito Lindo was allowed across. ☹ We wandered back the way we came and went on a little jaunt up to a condor lookout at the top of a cliff (no condors) and scrabbled around on some boulders.
We spent the night in Natales before heading across the border to El Calafate. We had high hopes of a weather window opening in El Chalten in the coming days and wanted to be within striking distance. We made a quick pit stop at an enterprising coffee shop in the Natales bus station that used a chemex to make delicious brews. Our first attempt at crossing the border with our new vehicle was a success and we were on our way. We settled into a nice air b&b called Salamandra and resumed our Calafate life of empanadas, beer from La Zorra, and morning runs. The weather window kept getting better so we packed everything up and took off for El Chalten. Funny to think that we’ve been in Patagonia for almost a month and this was our first foray to the promised land