Chile – Day 12 – Torres Del Paine National Park

Today I woke up at 7:00am. Catherine was still sleeping so I made us some coffee as well as some cheese and eggs on toast for us. Once I had made breakfast I woke Catherine up and we had breakfast together. After breakfast I made us some salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches for our lunch later on. We quickly got ready and hopped into the truck for a 2 hour drive to Torres Del Paine National Park. During our drive the scenery just kept getting more beautiful.

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Torres Del Paine National Park encompasses mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in the southern Chilean Patagonia and is known for its three massive granite peaks, which are actually an eastern spur of the Andes mountains. The park receives about 250,000 visitors each year and is a very popular hiking destination in Chile. I would absolutely come back here to hike more than the one hike that I did here, and would easily spend a week or two here just hiking.

The entrance to Torres Del Paine is setup similar to a passport office but has multiple steps. “Step 1” has a booth where you fill out a double sided piece of paper with a lot of your personal information, including your address as well as your passport number. After you fill out the paper you take it to “step 2” which stamps the paper and takes your money; in this case 21000 Chilean Pesos ($42.30 CDN) for 3 days of entry. “Step 3” involves taking your stamped piece of paper over to a different desk where they will stamp it again with a different stamp and provide you with instructions and a very detailed map.

After checking into the park we slowly drove to Mirador Condor Trail (a hike I wanted to do), while taking multiple stops for photos. We arrived at the Mirador Condor Trailhead at about 10:30am. The hike takes about 1.5 to 2 hours return and has an elevation gain of roughly 200 metres over 4km (2km each way) and has a beautiful view from the top overlooking Pehoe Lake. When we started the hike the sky was fairly clear except around the three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range but the temperature was a cool 15 degrees Celsius. We were both wearing jackets when we started the hike, but I quickly took my jacket off because I was starting to get hot. Catherine kept hers on the entire time because she is usually always too cold.

Half way up to the viewpoint we noticed the wind started picking up, but we had no idea what we were in for until we actually got to the top. At the top we could barely stand up and we later learned in the day the top regularly sees 160 kph winds, which is very substantial. At the top I took the opportunity to make some hilarious faces with the wind morphing my mouth into all sorts of ungodly positions. The viewpoint is absolutley breathtaking. On one side you see the beautiful shimmering turquoise coloured Pehoe Lake and on the other side you see the remains of a 2011-2012 fire that an Israeli backpacker deliberately set by lighting up some paper rolls. The fire burned 176 square kilometers of the reserve, destroying 36 square kilometers of native forest, which you can see in my photographs. The Israeli government sent in reforestation experts to the park and has committed to donate trees to replant the affected areas.

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While on our way down from the top we ran into an older couple named Martin and Sophie who were visiting from the Netherlands. We talked for a bit and then realized that we were going to be on the same Lago Grey glacier tour tomorrow. After talking for a bit I was really starting to deteriorate because of my cold and being out in the cold wind so we head back towards the truck. The return only took about 30 minutes and we even saw some condor birds on the way down; they’re huge!

Once we arrived at the truck we were both quite hungry so we ate the salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches that I made for lunch. We continued on driving throughout the park stopping at multiple lookouts and doing short hikes. Another one of my favorite stops was the Salto Grande waterfall. It’s not a very large waterfall but the colours were absolutely stunning.

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We ended up leaving the park at around 5:30pm and arrived back at our loft around 7:30pm. On the way back we passed Puerto Natales airport where I saw a BAE-146 (Avro RJ-100) taking off. These old workhorses are a dying bread and most have come to South America to spend their last years before they get turned into scrap metal. Many work for the airline DAP which flies to Antarctica.

Catherine made us some pasta with chicken and some red sauce for dinner. I wasn’t feeling too good so we laid in bed and watched “The Impossibles” movie. I’m surprised that I had never seen the 2movie before but it was actually pretty good and is based on a true story on a family that was affected by the 2004 Thailand floods.

Japan – Kyoto

The next stop on my Japan trip was Kyoto. I took a high speed train from Nagoya to Kyoto, which took only a few hours. I was overwhelmed by the amount of things I wanted to see in Kyoto, since I only had a few days there, so I started viewing immediately after leaving the train station. I went to Toji, where there was hundreds of golden buddha statues. The view was beyond spectacular, but out of respect for the culture I didn’t take any photos as it is considered to suck the soul from the statue, or something like that.

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After visiting Toji I took the local metro, and walked to the place I was staying at, called the Uraraka Guest House. I thought it would be ready by 3pm, but it wasn’t, so I dropped off most of my stuff, and walked over to Nijo Castle in the Nakagyo ward. This castle was really neat and was completely surrounded by a moat! The castle was built in 1679, and was actually used all the way until 1939! Some of the buildings have suffered from multiple fires and typhoons.

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After visiting the castle I went back to the guest house to relax for a bit before heading out for the evening, where I spent my time in Gion district, which was phenomenal. There was so many amazing beautiful sights, geisha’s, amazing ramen, beautiful gardens, and a tiny little back street called Kiya-machi Dori. Picture’s don’t even do this place justice!

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The next day I visited the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, which was actually just a 30 minute train ride from the city, but technically still part of the city. This place was breathtaking, I’ve never seen this many bamboo trees before, and certainly none this tall. I experimented with my camera a bit to get the shot I was looking for. After walking through the forest (which is actually quite small), I stumbled on this beautiful riverfront, where I saw locals doing Cormorant fishing. Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method where trained cormorants are used to fish in the rivers. This tradition dates back to 960 AD!!!

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Later on in the evening I met up with two friends who also happened to be visiting from Calgary, Haley and her boyfriend. We spent the evening walking the Gion district and had some delicious ramen!

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The next day was a very special one for me. I got to see so many beautiful shrines, beautiful architecture, and eat delicious food during the day, but my highlight was going to the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine to watch the sunset from the top of Mt. Inari. This site has over 10,000 Torrii gates, all painted orange. This place is beyond breathtaking. I felt very spiritual to be there.

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Stay tuned for my next post, where I travel onwards to Osaka!

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