Torres del Paine W Trek: Day 1

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I had SUCH an amazing experience on my 5 day W trek in Torres del Paine National Park, arguably the most popular multi-day trek on the continent. Every day continued to surpass the previous, and I couldn't believe how beautiful and REAL my surroundings were. These kind of places usually exist in my dreams and imagination! I'll share some of my favorite pictures, but in my opinion, they don't nearly capture how surreal, breathtaking and engulfing every moment was. 

My first day began early with a 7:30 am bus ride from Puerto Natales into the park. I sat next to Thibault, a French solo traveller whom I had met at my hostel. After a quick safety talk at the park entrance, where they repeatedly emphasized fire safety rules (due to the rampant fires started by backpackers in 2005 and 2011), we continued driving to Pudeto, where we would catch a catamaran to the beginning of the trek. We saw quite a few guanacos, the local llama-like animals.

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We arrived an hour before the catamaran departed, so Thibault and I did a quick hike to a waterfall, Salto Grande, where we first experienced the notoriously strong Patagonian winds. From one angle of the waterfall, we were able to see a rainbow!

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Thibault had just finished a French science fiction novel, Windwalkers, ("La Horde du Contrevent"), which tells the story of a group attempting to reach the place where the winds that overwhelm their world originate. He felt like he was living out the movie.

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We then took the 30 minte catamaran ride across Lago Pehoe, gliding across water of the same aquamarine blue that woos me so. I luckily boarded the boat last, so I quickly retrieved my backpack from the massive pile when we arrived at the start.

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I found another solo American trekker, whom I was eyeing on the catamaran, to walk with my first day. Emily, from Michigan but studying abroad in Argentina,  had a bit more strenuous of a hike ahead of her, completing an extended version of the W trek, and in 4 days instead of 5. It was nice to have company the first day and we both had similar paces.

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The weather, as many had told me, changed quickly. As soon as I stripped layers, I wanted to put them back on. The wind was so strong, especially in the exposed miradors (viewpoints) that lacked tree cover, and at timesfelt like someone shoved me over.

We continued to trudge through trees and often mucky paths, seeing lots of people going in both directions. At one point, we were going down what seemed less like a path and more like a steep muddy stream. It had rained the previous day, making some parts of the trail a bit wet, but we only experienced the faintest amount of mist and sprinkles for at most 20 minutes.

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There was a huge forest fire, started accidentally by a backpacker, in 2011. The chance to actually see the damage and aftermath of the fire on our hike was a reminder to minimize our impact. It was great to see the greenery growing amongst the dead black trees.

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At about halfway through the hike, we began to see glimpses of Glacier Grey.  

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After 3.5 hours, we arrived at Refugio Grey, right near the glacier, and my first stop. Emily continued onto her campsite, which was another 5 hours away! Man that girl was dedicated!

I got settled in, and walked to a nearby mirador, meeting another solo female American trekker, Gillian, with whom I would hang out with for the next 4 days.

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Gillian and I cooked our food together in the camping kitchen at the refugio, where we met our other friends for the next 4 days, Paul and Christophe from France.

Overall, I had a great first day. My shoulders were not as tired as I had expected them to be from my pack, and I was happy to find companions for my trek!