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Posts Tagged ‘Landscapes’

The Honeymoon Capital of Vietnam

Swiss Mountain Town

The City of Eternal Spring

Of all the monikers coined for the city of Dalat, Vietnam, it was the last one that really caught our attention–we’ve been roasting in the Southeast Asian heat since early May, so the opportunity to visit an area that promised a respite from the sauna sounded just perfect.  What we found upon arrival in Dalat was so much better than a simple break from the heat.

Dalat is an oddball little place.  Initially founded as a hill station by the French colonialists, modern Dalat could be called the world capital of kitsch.  The big lake in the center of town is filled with swan-shaped paddle boats, the shops are filled with all manner of knicknacks and Dalat themed tchotchkes, and if you travel a little further afield, we hear you can ride a pony and get your picture taken with a Vietnamese cowboy (sadly, we didn’t make it to that attraction).

The parting gift we were given by the woman at our hotel--typical Dalat kitsch :-)

The parting gift we were given by the woman at our hotel--typical Dalat kitsch 🙂

While this town could never be called non-touristy, it had a different feel than most places we’ve been.  With the exception of one street in town, we could walk around and rarely see another western tourist.  The locals were warm and friendly, with owners of restaurants passing their babies off to us over breakfast and the ladies who rented us bicycles waving from across the street whenever we wandered by.   I also could not help but be charmed by the attire of the locals–we were so releived to be in 70-degree weather, but everyone around us was prepared for a snowstorm–kids in head-to-toe cable knit, ladies in woolen sweaters and stocking caps, men in big puffy coats or jackets with fuzzy hoods!

It was about 70 degrees!

It was about 70 degrees!

Despite the fuzzy collared jacket and puffy coats, the temperature was between 65 and 70 this morning!

Despite the fuzzy collared jacket and puffy coats, the temperature was between 65 and 70 this morning!

We stayed in Dalat for five nights and ultimately had to tear ourselves away.  One of the best days was also the hardest–we rented bikes and rode 35 kilometers through the hills of the central highlands to a smaller village and then on to a small but pretty waterfall.  While the sights were nice, my favorite part was how excited people were to greet us as we rode by.  They occassionally looked at us like we were crazy as they whizzed by us on their motorbikes but almost always shouted out a greeting and waved hello.  Whenever we stopped people came up to chat, and in one case, asked us to pose for a photo with them.

Adam navigating his way through some curious cows

Adam navigating his way through some curious cows

That's ingenuity--there were obviously no bike paths in the middle of the forest, so Adam locked our bikes up to an exposed tree root.

That's ingenuity--there were obviously no bike racks in the middle of the forest, so Adam locked our bikes up to an exposed tree root.

Closeup of Tiger Falls

Closeup of Tiger Falls

Tiger Falls

Tiger Falls

Roads, shmoads.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, stops the motorbikes in Vietnam.

Roads, shmoads. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, stops the motorbikes in Vietnam.

Detail of Linh Phuoc Pagoda

Detail of Linh Phuoc Pagoda

More Linh Phuoc Pagoda

More Linh Phuoc Pagoda

Besides our day biking, another highlight was the Crazy House.  It’s a guesthouse (although we didn’t see anyone actually staying there) designed by a local architect who also happens to be the daughter of the third successor to Ho Chi Minh.  While it seems that most really off-the-wall locations are no match for The Party, apparently the Crazy House’s owner is in the clear because of her political connections.  Whatever the reason, it’s a quirky place that is often described as one part Gaudi, one part Wonderland, or, if you’re from St. Louis, is a whole lot like the City Museum.

Adam climbing around the bridges of Crazy House

Adam climbing around the bridges of Crazy House

Bridgess over Crazy house

Bridges over Crazy house

Where's Adam?

Where's Adam?

More Crazy House

More Crazy House

Dalat City from Crazy House

Dalat City from Crazy House

This creepy kangaroo with glowing red eyes was actually inside one of the guest rooms.

This creepy kangaroo with glowing red eyes was actually inside one of the guest rooms.

Hallway of the Crazy House

Hallway of the Crazy House

Crazy House

Crazy House

Views of Crazy House from behind

Views of Crazy House from behind

The Crazy House was a fun way to spend a morning, but the final highlight of Dalat that can’t be missed is the Dalat Market.  It sits smack in the middle of town and is filled with all of Dalat’s local specialties–produce, jams, candies, wine and of course, wool sweaters and hats for those unprepared visitors.  The produce alone made it one of the best markets I’ve seen, anywhere.

Strawberry vendors

Strawberry vendors

Any kind of dried fish you desire

Any kind of dried fish you desire

Artichokes and beans

Artichokes and beans

Somehow, I didn’t manage to  get photos of the countless varieties of avocados on offer.  Adam was in heaven.

All in all, Dalat was just a welcome break from the heat of Southeast Asia and a taste of a different Vietnam.  I couldn’t be happier that we were able to work in a visit.  After Dalat, we were off to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and we’ll have lots of photos from our time there soon!

~Meg

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Adam exploring Craters of the Moon

There’s a story in my family that my parents really enjoy telling when it’s time to demonstrate how adorably nerdy I was as a child.  I was eight or ten, we were on summer vacation in Michigan visiting the Great Lakes.  The beaches were very rocky, but all of the rocks were round and smooth, sparkling with quartz and polished from being tossed by the waves.  When we arrived back in St. Louis, my dad was unloading the bags and nearly fell over when he tried to lift mine.  My parents promptly discovered that I had filled my bag with stones from the beach, the ones I had deemed the prettiest, some as big as grapefruits, the smallest the size of golf balls.  Some kids collect seashells, I had gathered heaps of rocks.

My fascination with all things geology related didn’t exactly fade with time.  When Adam and I visited Cafayate, Argentina earlier on the trip, I enjoyed visiting the wineries, pedaling our bicycles through the vineyards, but I was really fascinated by the strange layered rock formations and canyons outside the city.  When we climbed Volcan Villarica in Chile, I had a wonderful time climbing and sliding back down the volcano, but after the fact, I had one regret–that we didn’t manage to get any pictures of the solidified lava floes at the peak of the volcano.  When we went ice climbing in Franz Joseph glacier here in New Zealand, Adam could only laugh when he reached into our daypack after the hike and found a small rock (pumice on one side, shiny metallic rock on the other–very cool).  Yes, I’m still at it.

Hi, I’m Megan and I’m a nerd.

Knowing all this, it should come as no surprise that our visit to Rotorua, a town in the heart of New Zealand’s geothermal activity, was a real highlight for me.  Wandering through the strange landscapes created in these geothermal zones, I really felt like I had been transported to the far distant past, when the earth was still forming.  Steaming waterfalls; pools of bubbling mud, spurting and tossing globs of soupy clay in all directions; steam vents escaping from the ground everywhere you look, reeking with the acrid smell of sulfur from the volcanic gases in the steam; huge silica terraces formed by mineral-rich water pouring out of the ground–all of this set amongst gigantic fern trees and thick native bush left me wondering what prehistoric creature  I might meet around the corner.

Happily for budget travelers, my favorite geothermal experience was free.  Outside of the Wai-o-Tapu geothermal park, there are mud pools on Department of Conservation land.  They don’t show up in the guidebooks, but are well signposted.  They were the largest mud pools we saw in New Zealand, and certainly the most active.  The still photos above of the pools are cool for capturing the flying mud, but video can’t be beat for listening to the sounds of the constantly bubbling pools.  Luckily for us, Adam was on the job.

Overall, New Zealand was a great place to visit and a nice respite from the chaos we sometime experienced on the first part of the trip.  That said, I am ecstatic to be here in Southeast Asia, smack in the middle of the chaos, the energy, the smells, sights, sounds and flavors.  It’s amazing here and you’ll probably be hearing more from me (as opposed to the all-Adam-all-the-time show that was New Zealand) now that we’re  back in backpack mode.

~Meg

*When we arrived in New Zealand, we were surprised to be met with recognition when we mentioned that we were from St. Louis.  Turns out that Kiwis are aware of our fair city, thanks to none other than Nelly.  We even got a “St. Louis?  Do you know Nelly?”  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to give a little hat tip  to Nelly for getting St. Louis on the map with the Kiwis.  I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

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One of the best things about having Asteroid the Spaceship is being on a month-long road trip.  The fact that the views everywhere  in New Zealand are absolutely breathtaking also makes it that much sweeter. There are no Kansases or Illinois’ getting in the way.  With the whole country of New Zealand (both north and south islands) being about the size of the state of Colorado, the drives are pretty short.

The only downfall is that these really short drives take a really long time because we are constantly stopping to take pictures and check out the views.  Also, since New Zealanders love their camper vans and tramping and road trips, there are little picnic areas constantly off the roads, all with stunning views.  Since we have the Spaceship with a stove and all our food, we like to take advantage of these beautiful places to have a bite to eat if we are on the road around lunchtime, plus it saves us a few extra bucks to spend on all the activities that are available here.

Instead of tallking about all the different drives and doing several different posts about it, I just decided to compile our favorite pictures of all our drives thus far (that haven’t been parts of other posts) and post a gallery here.  Like always with the galleries, you can click on each little thumbnail to enlarge them.

Inexplicably, since we have been in smaller towns lately, we have had much better internet access, so this post will almost catch us up.  We do have a few pictures from my bungee adventure, which was absolutely insane and awesome.  I’ll get those up soon.

We are currently in Franz Josef, home to the famous Franz Josef Glacier.  Since we didn’t get a chance to actually walk on a glacier when we were in Patagonia, we decided to do that here, and then some.  We are making our first sorray into climbing, which was something we were hoping  to do in Queenstown, but the weather didn’t cooperate, so we are stepping it up a notch and doing an all day glacier trek complete with ice climbing.

We will take plenty of pictures of course and get back at everyone soon.

Until next time…

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When we last left you, it was Easter, and we spent a wonderful day on the mystical Doubtful Sound. We left the next day and headed to Queenstown for a few days, just enjoying being in a city again, both of us taking an adrenaline fueled “swing” over a canyon and river, and me taking a plunge off the third highest bungee jump in the world, at 440 feet high.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself though. On our first night in Queenstown, we stumbled upon an Irish pub and decided to go in for a much needed Guinness, as I had only had a few since we left the US in October. Well, one drink turned into about six hours at the pub, but luckily for us some good came out of it, other than the nice buzz we had when leaving.

We met a good amount of people there, including a college student from St. Louis of all places, who was there with her parents who came to New Zealand to visit her while she is studying abroad. It was nice to be in a bar talking Cardinal baseball and home in general.  But we were also lucky enough to chat with several locals, who told us that we HAD to take a drive to the nearby town of Glenorchy the following day.

Since we had already booked our Nevis Swing and my bungee jump for two days after, we had a day to burn, and the forecast was for warm weather and sunny skies. After taking a trip to the information office the following morning, (side note: there are these things called Isites that are dotted everywhere in New Zealand; basically they are information centers that have people working in them, free pamphlets, and just a wealth of information about whatever area they are in, absolutely fantastic and completely free) the workers stressed what a beautiful drive Glenorchy was and strongly urged us to go.

With all the local advice, we figured we better take advantage of the beautiful day and take the short 45 kilometer drive along Lake Wakatipu to the small town of Glenorchy. Luckily it did not disappoint. The drive was through windy and narrow-laned roads along the lake, and although it was only about 27 miles, it took us close to two hours because we stopped constantly to take in the views and snap photos. The guys we met the previous night spoke of the “Million dollar view”, saying it was unsigned, on the left, and we would know it when we saw it. They spoke the truth.

After arriving in Glenorchy, we took a short hike around the lake on boardwalks, taking us to small, mirror-like ponds with gorgeous snow-capped mountains in the background. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and was quite relaxing before the following day of swinging over canyons and jumping off a gondola with a giant rubber band attached to my ankles.

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Doubtful Sound

Had we been at home this past Sunday, we surely would have spent the day with family, watching the kiddos search for easter eggs, gobble chocolate bunnies and run around like lunatics from the sugar buzz.  Since we were missing out on that bit of entertainment, we decided to take a cruise on Doubtful Sound in the Fiordlands National Park.

The Fiordlands, an area of deep bays carved thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers, has been so well-protected by the people of New Zealand that a visit to the area can feel like you’ve stepped back in time.  The area we visited gets an astounding ten to fifteen meters of rain per year, so the lush green hillsides are often covered in roaring waterfalls or completely shrouded in mist.  It has such a mysterious feel to it that we wouldn’t have been surprised at all to see a loch ness-type monster rise out of the water at any moment.  While there were no Nessie sightings, we were lucky enough to spot some other wild things.  The resident pod of bottle-nosed dolphins, which we were told only makes an appearance once a month or so, decided to put on a show for us, swimming and playing alongside our boat.   And just when I thought that I was out of luck on seeing seals up close, the boat captain pointed to some rocky outcrops in the distance and said, “See all those dark spots on those rocks?  That’s a colony of fur seals.”  As we drew closer to their colony, we could see the pups running and playing,  with a few watching our approach curiously.

The area had such a magical feel, and the light was constantly changing, so we took gobs of photos.  We did our best to choose our favorites, but this is still a pretty big gallery.  Enjoy!

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Zona Cafetera

We are currently in Los Angeles, back in the US for a few days visiting with Meg’s parents before heading off to the other side of the world on Saturday evening.

We are having a blast and are so thankful to see and spend time with our family. It’s going to be difficult to leave again this weekend, especially with all this American bacon and good beer I have been consuming. But we do still have a few more stories to tell from our remaining time in S. America and what has become our favorite country, Colombia.

After spending time in the bustling and vibrant capital of Bogota, heading to paradise in Taganga and Tayrona on the Caribbean coast, spending time in the walled colonial city of Cartagena and surrounding beaches, we headed to Medellin, the former haven of cocaine dealer and billionaire Pablo Escobar.

Medellin was the only disappointment of our trip to Colombia, so we decided to move on quickly to Zona Cafetera, otherwise known as coffee country. The combination of weather, moisture, and altitude make this part of Colombia the perfect place to grow coffee beans. Fortunately for us, this unique and perfect combination make this lush green area yet another highlight in a country full of spectacular natural beauty.

Tired and weary of all the bus travel from the last 5+ months, we were fortunate to hook up with two German girls who had bought an Austrian camper van in Venezuela that they were driving around the continent. They were heading to the same place we were, so they offered us a ride if we would pitch in on gas and tolls. It didn’t take us long to jump on their offer while thinking about all the suicidal Colombian bus drivers.

So after two short nights in Medellin, we were picked up by Sandra, Yvonne, and their car they named Sissy.

Sissy, the 26-year-old transportation for this leg of the trip

Sissy, the 26-year-old transportation for this leg of the trip

We had really come to enjoy overland travel on this trip. The 18 hour, all night bus trips have been a bit tiresome lately, but the advantages of traveling overland have been great. It’s lovely being able to take in the scenery of the countries we’ve been in, and this particular journey made it that much better since we were able to stop whenever we wanted, get out and take pictures, and just enjoy ourselves in the comforts of a vehicle that wasn’t a bus filled with 30+ people.

It also didn’t hurt that the Colombian countryside we were driving in was so spectacular. The amount of green everywhere was stunningly beautiful, which was evident in the fact that our 6 hour trip turned into a 10 hour trip because of all the stopping and gawking we did.

Views from the drive

Views from the drive

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drive-to-pereira

After a long day in the car enjoying the beauty that surrounded us, we arrived in Pereira. Shortly outside of town lie several different fincas, or coffee farms. Many of these fincas have rooms available for people to stay in. We stayed in Finca Villa Maria, which was owned by a wonderful couple, and it was easily the most luxurious place we have stayed.

Since it is the low season in Colombia and girls we came with had to move on because of car troubles, Megan and I ended up being the only ones staying at the Finca. This particular coffee plantation was surrounded by nothing but different shades of green. Coffee plants, banana trees, flowers, birds, a huge wrap-around deck with hammocks to rest in and couches to chill on, and a gorgeous pool surrounded by spectacular scenery made a for a great few days at the end of our South American journey.

The deck at Finca Villa Maria

The deck at Finca Villa Maria

View from the deck

View from the deck

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View from the pool area

View from the pool area

Pool

Pool

pool-21

Megan living the life

Megan living the life

Adam living the life

Adam living the life

Moss covered tree

Moss covered tree

Different flowers of Zona Cafetera

Different flowers of Zona Cafetera

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Coffee Blossoms

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flowers-of-zona-cafetera

We were only able to stay a few days because of time constraints, but it was a fabulous and relaxing time.  We were lucky enough on the last day to be able to hike around the grounds of the plantation, getting breathtaking views of the surroundings.  We also had Matteo, the owner’s dog, as a guide on our morning hike.  We saw the coffee plants up close and enjoyed the views of the finca from above and the surrounding valley.  It was a great end to our stay in coffee country before heading back to Bogota for a few days before our departure to LA.

Adam and Matteo, our guide

Adam and Matteo, our guide

Coffee plants

Coffee plants

Coffee beans up close

Coffee beans up close

View from our hike

View from our hike

view-of-the-valley-from-our-hike-around-the-plantation-2

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view-of-the-valley-from-our-hike-around-the-plantation

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Torres del Paine. Although pronounced Tor-ez del Pie-nay, the fact that the name of the park is strikingly similar to “Tour of Pain” was not lost on me. We’ve already posted a description of the trek by the numbers, but have been sitting on the photos for weeks. (And for anyone who is wondering, the toenail count currently stands at 2 gone, 4 on life support, and two intact. Yes, this five day trek is going to cost me 60% of my toenails. ew.)

I found that when we were preparing for our trip into Torres del Paine, there was a fair amount of information online about the park and lots of different options on ways to hike the park, but not much in the way of personal accounts of how people did it. So that’s what you’re going to see here. It may be a little dry for people who aren’t planning on heading to southern Chile anytime soon. If you’re one of those people, feel free to skip ahead to the pictures. Go on, it’s ok, you won’t hurt my feelings. I’ll even close my eyes. 🙂

As background, there are two main ways that hikers tackle Torres del Paine–the full circuit and the “W” (so named because the trail is shaped like a W). You can also do day hikes, but that option makes it impossible to see the interior portion of the park. We decided on the W because we wanted to make the most of our time in the park, but we know our limits–the circuit is a 7-10 hike. We did the W in five days, but it can be done in 3 or 4 if you are more ambitious than we were.

The main trails of Torres del Paine, with the W highlighted in yellow

The main trails of Torres del Paine, with the W highlighted in yellow

One of the great aspects, but also one of the aspects that increases the difficulty of trekking in Torres del Paine, is that it is completely independent. The previous overnight treks we have done have been with tours (Inca Trail and Colca Canyon), so all the hard work was done for us. With the W, you can do the trek completely on your own. There are, of course, expensive guided tours, but you are free to (and encouraged to) get out in the park and hike on your own.

Once you’ve decided to go it on your own, you need to decide whether you want to camp or stay in the refugios. The refugios are dorm-style accomodations located along the W which also serve food and drinks. They are expensive–like US$40 for a dorm bed (and you still have to provide or rent your own sleeping bag, pillow, etc.). However, they allow you to hike the trail without needing to carry a tent, sleeping bag, food or cooking equipment.

After considering our options, we decided that we wanted to do some camping but didn’t want to have to shlep a tent on a five-day hike. We settled on sleeping in the refugios two nights, renting tents from the refugios two nights and carrying our own sleeping bags, cooking equipment and food. This ended up being a good compromise for us. We booked in advance through Fantastico Sur and Vertice (the refugios are run by two different companies). As an aside–for anyone thinking of hiking it, if you are up to the task of carrying your own tent, I would recommend doing that because that gives you the freedom to camp in any of the free campsites, not just those that are attached to refugios.

Once you make your decision on accomodations, you’re still not done planning–you need to decide in which direction you are going to hike. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but there are benefits to each option. The traditional way is east to west, starting at the main lodge, Refugio Las Torres. You take the bus from Puerto Natales (it leaves at ~7 am, picking you up at your accomodations), then take a minibus up to the lodge from the park entrance. The opposite route is becoming more popular, however, hiking from west to east. On this route, you take the same bus from Puerto Natales, but take it further into the park, all the way to the catamaran launch across Lago Pehoe. Then you load onto the Catamaran and arrive at Campamento Pehoe/Lodge Paine Grande in the early afternoon.

We chose the west to east route with our primary reason being that we wanted to flexibility to stay at the actual Torres del Paine for another night if the views were obscured by clouds. While we ended up being happy with our route, it is important to note our opinion that the towers are by no means the most spectacular part of the park. As such, it’s not really necessary to schedule extra time for them or to plan your hike to culminate with a visit to them. As always, your mileage may vary.

We arrived at Lodge Paine Grande at mid-day on the first day, dropped some of our gear at the luggage storage at the lodge (soo nice not to have to carry all of our food on those first two days), and headed off to Campamento Grey. It was about a half day’s hike with views of lakes, mountains, icebergs and finally, Glacier Grey.

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Patagonian clouds, looking ominous...

This intensely blue iceberg was the size of a schoolbus!

This intensely blue iceberg was the size of a schoolbus!

Glacier Grey

Glacier Grey

Yup, Puma tracks.

Yup, Puma tracks.

Lago Pehoe

Lago Pehoe

Los Cuernos at dusk

Los Cuernos at dusk

The following day we doubled back to Lodge Paine Grande and spent the night in the refugio. This refugio is pretty posh, and although you are in dorm-style bedrooms, it reminded me more of a ski lodge than of the “rustic accomodations” we were warned it would be. We were also pleased to discover that our chosen route allowed us to start out with two relatively easy days and to ease into the trek.

The third day was the longest and, in our opinion, the most spectacular. Regardless of which direction you are heading, the Valle del Frances is a beautiful hike, taking you through forests, along glacial rivers and providing breathtaking views of the Torres del Paine, the Cuernos mountains and the major lakes of that area of the park. Well worth the fourteen hours we spent hiking that day.

Lago Nordenskjold (say that ten times fast!)

Lago Nordenskjold

View from Valle del Frances

View from Valle del Frances

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

Cerro Paine Grande

Cerro Paine Grande

Beach of Lago Nordenskjold

Beach of Lago Nordenskjold

Rio del Frances

Rio del Frances

Torres del Paine and Los Cuernos

Torres del Paine and Los Cuernos

Hikers in Valle del Frances

Hikers in Valle del Frances

More beach

More beach

After sleeping in Refugio Cuernos on night three, we were off to Refugio Chileno, where we camped for our final night. It took us about six hours to get to Chileno, and it was another beautiful hike, along still lakes reflecting the clouds and the surrounding rolling green hills.

Reflecting lake

Reflecting lake

The lakes were perfectly still that day--none of the typical patagonian wind

The small lakes were perfectly still that day--none of the typical patagonian wind

Loved these views

Loved these views

The shadows of the clouds on the foothills were just gorgeous

The shadows of the clouds on the foothills were just gorgeous

The soft morning light took my breath away

The soft morning light took my breath away

More landscapes (sorry, it's so hard to choose!)

More landscapes (sorry, it's so hard to choose!)

From Refugio Chileno, it is about a 1 hour hike to the base camp for the Torres, and then another hour or so on loose rocks up to the Torres (although my rockstar husband did the whole thing in an hour and five minutes).

The famous Torres del Paine

The famous Torres del Paine

More Torres!

More Torres!

Close up of the Torres

Close up of the Torres

The final day was simply a few hours’ walk from Chileno back down to Refugio Las Torres where you catch a minibus back to the entrance of the park where the bus back to Puerto Natales is waiting for you. That last day was not a technically challenging hike in any way, but it was oh-so-painful for me. My feet were so wrecked; I was thrilled to only have a couple of hours walk down to catch the bus.

I nearly wept for joy when the final lodge came in to view.  Instead, I hopped one of those horses in the foreground and galloped off into the sunset.  Perfect ending for a perfect hike :-)

I nearly wept for joy when the final lodge came in to view. Instead, I hopped one of those horses and galloped off into the sunset. Yeah, that's just how I roll.

After completing the trek, we came up with a handful of things that we wish we’d known beforehand or had done differently, so I present to you the Torres del Paine Hindsight is 20/20 Short List

1. As I mentioned, if you can handle hiking with all of your own gear, I would recommend it. If we could have done that, we would have (a) camped at Campamento Italiano (at the entrance to the Valle del Frances) rather than going on to Refugio Cuernos, cutting two or three hours off of our 14 hour day and allowing us to enjoy the lovely Valled del Frances more; and (b) camped at the base camp for the Torres del Paine rather than Refugio Chileno. Our initial plan was to pick up a tent at Chileno and head up to camp at the base camp for the Torres so we could hike up to the Torres pre-dawn to see the sunrise. Since we were stuck camping three hours from the Torres, there was no way we were making it up there by sunrise.

2. Don’t stress about being able to get perfect views of the Torres del Paine. Unlike some other treks, you are not building up to the ultimate view by hiking toward the Torres. They are dramatic and beautiful, but certainly don’t overshadow the rest of the park. The Valle del Frances was much nicer, overall, in my opinion.

3. Keep your food lightweight!!! This is such an obvious tip, but we ended up bringing a boatload of trail mix, intending to eat it thoughout the day, every day, in place of lunch. It weighed a TON and we were so sick of it by the end that I swore I’d never eat another peanut or piece of dried fruit as long as I lived. A corollary of this is to be sure to vary your food. It can be hard to keep your energy up if you can hardly force yourself to eat the food you’ve brought.

4. Finally, and most importantly, for real expert information, check out the websites of the Erratic Rock, a trekker-centric hostel in Puerto Natales, and the Black Sheep, an english-language newspaper on Patagonia. Better yet, stop by the daily (free!) talk at the Erratic Rock to get the scoop directly from experienced guides.

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