Patagonia series | To the end of the world and back | episode 10

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Day 8 | Full day tour to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales

We used Bus Sur (http://bussur.com) to take us from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. Do you know Bus Sur makes a stop at the airport? Some people would skip Punta Arenas and go straight from Punta Arenas airport to Puerto Natales.

The bus journey was approximately 3 hours, cost 6,000 pesos per person. The ride was comfortable enough. As soon as we arrived in the bus terminal we had to buy the bus ticket for crossing the border to El Calafate Argentinian side.

A quick tip on Bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate: I would recommend you to purchase your bus ticket from Puerto Natales to El Calafate as early as possible, as the tickets do get sold out fast especially if you prefer to pay less money with cheaper bus companies. In the bus terminal, there are several bus companies selling tickets and they offer cheaper rates than what you can find online. The bus companies running this route are: Bus Sur, Turismozaahj (I don’t remember other bus companies’s name). Cost for this route is between 15,000 pesos to 18,000 pesos. Most depart around similar times of 7am – 8am or 1pm – 2pm. Journey time can take up to 6 hours depending on the bus company.

Where to stay in Puerto Natales … ?

We stayed at Pier Mapu Cottage which is 3 minutes walk from the bus terminal in Puerto Natales (or a couple of blocks away). We had a great time staying here and it has turned out to be the best place to stay in our entire trip in Chile. Pier Mapu Cottage is ran by an English guy Bren and his wife Fabiana. Bren moved to Puerto Natales with his wife and settled in Puerto Natales, where he built the cottage and is continuing developing their place. Upon our arrival, Bren gave us so much useful information about the town, where to go buy stuff, where to eat, what to do and what to see. He may have to repeat the same information to every other guests who stayed but the comprehensive information was much appreciated, unlike other hostels we stayed in various locations. The only downside of staying here is it’s located a little far from everything else. But 10 minutes walk into the town isn’t a big deal and to be honest it was worth it.

We went out for a walk and purchased our Full Day Tour to Torres del Paine with Turismo Comapa. Tour price was 30,000 pesos per person excluding  lunch and entry fee to the park. The entry fee to Torres del Paine costs 21,000 pesos per person if you are a foreign adult.

The tour was due to start at 7am with a pick up from everybody’s lodging place. We were fed a delicious breakfast prepared by Bren. When it’s almost quarter to 8am, the tour guide knocked on our door and we are on the way!

General itinerary of the day:

  • 07:30-08:00 Departure from Puerto Natales
  • 08:30 Milodon Cave
  • 11:30 Laguna Amarga Gate
  • 12:45 Nordenskjold Lake + “Salto Grande” waterfall
  • 14:30 Pehoé Lake + Paine river
  • 16:00 Grey Lake shore
  • 19:30 Arrival to Puerto Natales

Our first stop – Milodon’s Cave – this place was found in 1895 with the remains of an unknown animal. We followed the walking path which led us to the entrance to the cave where you can see a massive standing bear-like statue. I can’t really tell what exactly this animal is, but our guide mentioned it was one type of dinosaurs found in this area.

Milodon’s Cave is relative small, you can see more or less the entire cave from the opening entrance. On the way we bumped into a couple who stayed at the same place as us who we sat with to share the breakfast. They hired a car to go around the park, which seemed to me a great idea, and I regret that we didn’t do it that way. It would be so much easier to go around yourself  in a hire car see this park.

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The weather was grey and wet when we left our cottage, when we walked back towards the car park, the sky colour changed, a colourful rainbow stretched out across the mountain peaks. Good weather conditions can really change your mood. I was instantly brightened up when I saw a patch of blue sky and the colourful rainbow.

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Soon after Milodon’s Cave we stopped at Cerro Castillo to take a short break. The tour bus pulled beside a souvenir store where people can take a coffee or buy some snacks, of course plenty souvenirs to browse and use the restroom. The stop was as short as just 15 minutes.

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The heavy grey cloud has became lighter and lighter, more and more patches of blue sky started  to be revealed. We are moving through the first natural scenery of the Torres del Paine park. Our guide was excited to point for us places to look out. Occasionally we drove passed a herd of cows with some dogs barking around them to ensure they follow the exact path where they need to go.

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When we got to the visitor centre of the park everybody got off the bus and paid our fee at the administration office. 21,000 pesos if you are a foreign adult.

Tips: The entry ticket of Torres del Paine can last 3 days, but you need to tell them if you are leaving the park same day and need to return next day as they will mark it on your ticket.

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Inside the park we first stopped at the sight Salto Grande (waterfall),  wher we had to walk approx 15 minutes until we reached the waterfall itself. The view from the car park was great too, you will see Pehoé and Nordenskjold lakes. Along the way, we were taking our time snapping plenty of pictures of this beautiful scenery but our guide reminded me of the cowboy we just saw from the bus, chasing us and ensuring all the tourists from his bus are moving and going towards the direction where we needed to be.

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Salto Grande is quite impressive especially the water’s colour, we wandered around quickly just to ensure we can get back to the bus on time. Sometimes it makes me think, if you are so rushed in one place, how are you going to enjoy this spectacular scenery?

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After Salto Grande we stopped at Pehoé Hotel where we had our lunch. Most people on the tour bus has lunch included so they were there for the 3 course meals. There are a few other travellers had brought their packed lunch. We ate quickly in the lobby, then we are off around just to explore the area. Again, at this point I truly think if we have hired a car the trip would have been much easier. The area is not very big so having to wait for those travellers taking their 3 course meals is a little pain. We spent most of the time on one of the viewing point near the hotel which is located around 500 metres away from the hotel up on the hill, and then the tour bus stopped again once we had boarded to leave the hotel in the same place for another 10 minutes…

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The view point up on the hill
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There are always clouds around the summit, we’ve never saw the towers! 🙁

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Soon after lunch, we approached our last stop at Grey Lake, I was very much looking forward to seeing large icebergs floating on the lake, which was one of the main reasons which pulled me here in Patagonia. I was inspired by a work friend’s pictures taken back in 2009. So as we are approaching I was so excited.

3km walk from the main car park to the start of the shore of the Grey Lake, and … Where are the icebergs? There was one tiny iceberg that you can see very far away. The view of the Grey glacier was almost impossible to see. The glacier is way too far from the shore. The walk by the shore was very challenging as it was super windy. We walked approx 45 minutes to the far end of the Grey beach. I would love to continue exploring the area but we didn’t have much choice since the tour bus only gave us 1 hour and half to visit this site.

Tips: Grey Lake has great and impressive scenery but it’s ridiculously windy. Make sure you have a wind resistant jacket.

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Main entrance to the Grey Lake, another 2.9km to walk!

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Can you see the tiny iceberg?

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A tiny iceberg!
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Look! The Grey Glacier is very far!

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Before the tour bus took us back to each hotel, we made another quick viewing stop to take some pictures. Unfortunately, I don’t record the name of the place.

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Some people (wealthy) were dropped off at some hotels inside the park. The hotels in the park are very expensive, and they do get booked out very fast so if you consider staying in the park, ensure you get a room early enough.

By the time we returned to Puerto Natales, we were dropped off at the main square. We walked to the same restaurant Raices de Chiloé for the 2nd time which was recommended by the host from our cottage and now I am making this recommendation, they do really good and authentic Chilean food and they are much cheaper than other places.

To continue read: Patagonia series | To the end of the world and back | episode 11 — Day 9 | Horseback Riding to Cerro Doterra, Puerto Natales

Or to read previous post: Patagonia series | To the end of the world and back | episode 9 — Day 6 – 7 | Say hello to the penguins, Punta Arenas

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