We left El Calafate in the morning and headed south, towards the Chilean border. The ride was again a very boring one most of the time, in the wind, and to top it off, with some showers. It looked like we left the nice weather behind us.
The border crossing was a pretty fast and straight forward one, with no problems this time. Once we crossed the border, we were debating whether to go straight to the national park, or to go to Puerto Natales and get some food first, as in the park we were told that everything was extremely expensive. Puerto Natales was about 50 km south of where we were, so we would’ve had to do a bit of a detour. We realized that the money we would have saved on food we would’ve spent on gas to go there, so we decided to go straight to the park. But one minute into our ride Vasile had a thought: what if there is no gas in the park? no one builds gas stations in national parks, so chances are there is none, and we did not have enough gas left. We asked some bikers that were just returning from the park, and they confirmed for us: no gas station anywhere except Puerto Natales. So we had to go there after all. As it was afternoon already, we decided to go and stay there for the night, and go to the park the next day.
We got to Puerto Natales and now the challenge was to find a hostel. They were all full. We finally found one that still had rooms, and that was because the girl in charge was not there all day long, so people had to wait for her if they wanted to check in. But the hostel was very nice and the room very clean and cozy. At the hostel we met another two fellow riders from Australia, on two BMW F 800 GS. They were coming back from Ushuaia and taking the ferry north.
The next day we woke up in a crisp but sunny weather and we headed to Torres del Paine. We basically had to go back to the border we crossed the day before, and from there towards the park. Most road was paved, just as we got closer to the park the gravel started. As we got to the park, the entrance fee was $40 USD per person! Just to enter the park. But that was, of course, as for everything else, just for foreigners. Locals pay only $8. Maybe we should do the same in Canada, have different prices for tourists, and see how they feel about it when they visit our country. I could understand the different prices for tourists in the very poor countries, but it’s not the case for Chile and Argentina.
Anyway, once we entered the park we forgot about the money, as the view was magnificent.
Lots of wildlife on the way
The only downside was the wind, that started blowing really strong; and on gravel, very loose at times, strong wind is no fun at all, believe me! It was blowing me from one side of the road to the other making it impossible for me to stay on the tracks. At some point I thought of stopping, but that would’ve meant falling, as I wouldn’t have been able to hold the bike up in that wind if stopped. So the only option was to carry on.
We managed to get to the campsite beautifully located on a green patch of the park.
Again, the only problem was the wind. And to give you an idea of how strong the winds were, hear this: we pitched the tent, put all our stuff in it and Vasile was in it too; a wind gust flipped the tent over with Vasile and everything in it. And Vasile is not a small guy. He came out of the tent all shocked “What the heck was that?”. Therefore we were afraid to leave the tent for one minute, as we would’ve been left without it. Not to mention that we had some clothes out in the sun to dry out; we looked for them for half hour:) The good part was that is was just wind gusts, so we had moments of peace in between.
At night it got so cold I could not sleep all night long. The next day I was like a zombie. We were planning to do a hike, but in the morning it was all overcast, so we wouldn’t have seen much. The other thing was that if we did the hike, we would’ve had to camp one more night, and that was not an option for me. I was already tired after one night with no sleep, it was even colder now, one more night would’ve been too much, and then we had to ride on gravel and wind to get out of the park. So we decided to just ride all across the park and see as much as the clouds allowed, and then go back to Puerto Natales.
The ride through the park, even though very tiring from the riding point of view (very strong winds again and loose stretches of gravel at times) was incredibly beautiful. This park is just amazing, it has so much to offer! And we were lucky and the sky cleared out too.