Anyone who has been to Torres del Paine knows it is not an easy place to get to – and that’s especially true if you are coming from Futaleufu. Since we had three months to work with, we decided Torres was worth the trip. Here’s how we made the trek from one remote part of Patagonia to another:
Day 1: 6am bus from Futaleufu to Chaiten. The bus ride was supposed to take three hours, but ended up taking over four on 90% dirt roads. Also to note, the ‘bus station’ in Futa is in a living room in a small house, and our reservation was written in pencil on a notepad. We were relieved to get a seat as the bus was packed and there was a line (make that crowd, no lines around here) down the street starting at 5:30am.
We were told the bus would drop us off at a small airport for our 10am flight, but that the pilot would wait for the bus if it was late. We were a little skeptical, and then totally panicked when we realized it was 10:30am and there were no airports in sight. We finally reached a small landing strip with a few trailers around it. Dan and I rushed into a trailer but they had no record of our flight reservation. All of a sudden out of nowhere a tiny little plane landed (Dan called it a Toyota Corolla with wings) and six loud Americans spilled out. We ran over to the pilot and on his notebook, in pencil, were our names. Whew! We hopped on the plane and were off to Puerto Mont.
This was the smallest and tiniest plane I’ve ever been on, but the views of Chile’s lake district out the window were amazing. I was relieved after our safe landing and hope I never have to fly on a plane that small again.
At this point, we faced our next obstacle. Dan and I weren’t able to get a single Chilean peso in futa – the banks were closed and the currency exchange offices were out of cash. We needed a taxi from the mini Puerto Mont airport to the big Puerto Mont airport – and not only did we have not a single Chilean peso to our names, but there was not a single taxi in sight. Are we well prepared or what?
Luckily two very friendly Americans on the mini plane offered to let us join them in their chartered van to the airport. David and Paul live in DC and had just spent a week fly fishing in Patagonia with their dads at Martin Pescador lodge which I’m sure my uncle Sam would love. We ended up spending about three hours talking with them through flight, van and airport transit, and treated them to gourmet airport lunch to thank them for letting us tag along in their van.
From Puerto Mont it was a two hour flight to Punta Arenas, one of the most southern cities in the world. We checked into our hostel, went out to dinner, and finally slept after the sun set around 11pm.
Day 2: Three hour bus ride from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. Piece of cake after day one. Puerto Natales is like a giant REI, with all the camping gear imaginable to rent or buy. We rented hiking poles, bought dry bags, and snuck into the coolest hotel we’ve ever seen – the singular – for some fast WiFi.
Day 3: 2 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales to Torres, then a transfer bus to our first refugio, Torres Central.
Whew! After two flights and three bus rides over three days, we were glad we made it to Torres. The funny thing was that long travel days, layovers, and crazy bus schedules didn’t bother us. We were much more patient than usual (a four hour layover in Puerto Mont meant we could catch up on Scandal – hallelujah), we read a ton (The Innocents was an amazing page turner that I’m now making Dan read), looked out the windows, and snoozed. And now we are way more confident that we can make it around South America – and hopefully the other countries we visit, too.
All right, it’s 10:48PM, the sun has finally set, and it’s bed time as our seven hour bus to Calafate leaves at 7AM!