The Chile Adventure – Part 1
By Emily Meyer
In July 2017, Sep7imo Dia was transferring from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile which meant that Cris and I had a short tour break. We had 8 days between the last day of load out and the first day of load in so we decided to rent a camper and drive from Punta Arenas to Santiago. This was a crazy idea from the beginning, the distance between Punta Arenas and Santiago is approximately 4500 km (2800 miles), and we were going to drive it in a week! In addition to the distance, it was winter in the southern hemisphere. The southern sections of Chile and Argentina aren’t exactly the most hospitable during the winter, average temperatures are between -6 and 4℃ (20-40℉), and many of the businesses are closed because there are no tourists. More on that later…..
After a week or so of research, we decided to go with Holiday Rent RV to book our vehicle. We had our heart and our budget set on a small Suzuki with a pop-up roof tent. Sidenote: I’m not sure what the hell we were thinking, there is no chance we would have survived in a tent on top of a car in those temperatures. Thankfully, when we called to book our car the people at Holiday Rent RV told us that they had a better camper for the job, and since it was the low season they would let us have it for the lower cost. Honestly, I think they just didn’t want the negative press of two dead tourists found in Southern Patagonia frozen to death during the night. Either way, I am eternally grateful to them, if you are ever looking for an RV or camper in South America check them out!
We flew into Punta Arenas at about 6 am on July 5th, a driver from the rental company picked us up and took us to a small house next to the water where our truck was waiting. It seemed so huge compared to what we had planned for but it was amazing. After about an hour of going over the features of the truck and the camper, we were ready to get on the road.
Our plan was to make it to Torres Del Paines before nightfall, only about 350km (220 miles) so we didn’t have to rush. We found a hotel at the base of the mountains that had a big parking lot so we figured we could pay for parking and sleep there for the night. On the way, we stopped at a small grocery store to stock up on supplies, and that is when we learned exactly how big our truck and camper combination was, the small parking lot was a bit of an adventure to navigate but we figured it out. (Check out Cris’s face in the photo below 😂 ) After the grocery parking adventure, we headed to our first stop on the list, Puerto Natales.
Puerto Natales is a former fishing town that has become the base camp for many tourists exploring The Torres Del Paines National Park. It has a bit of a city feel with many shops, restaurants, and gear stores. We parked the truck and went for a quick walk through the town to stretch our legs. This is when we realized that we were definitely traveling during the offseason. The streets were empty and the town was basically shut. Needless to say, our walk was pretty quick since everything was closed, so I made a coffee in the truck and we headed on.
We finally arrived in the national park a couple of hours before sunset, and it was breathtaking. The cold temperatures and lack of people made the mountains seem even more imposing. We went to the tourism office to pay for our park fees but when we arrived it too was closed. On the building, there were signs saying which sections of trails were closed and a warning that most services were also closed. As I mentioned before we had found a hotel, The Laguna Amarga Refuge, on Google Maps that said it was open so we weren’t too concerned at this point. We decided to head to the hotel where we could chat with the staff about the fees and make camp.
When we arrived at The Laguna Amarga Refuge it was apparent that no one had been there in months. Everything was boarded up, there were no lights on anywhere and the gates were all locked. At this point, it was about to be dark and we didn’t think it was a good idea to keep going so we found a spot to park beside the fence of the hotel. We parked the truck so that we could see Torres Del Paine from the window of the camper, we were so excited and a bit clueless.
Once we were set up for the evening, we decided to go for a walk before it was completely dark to see what was around. We were looking for a good spot to hang out and watch the stars for a bit. We found a cool patch of grass and decided to sit, this lasted approximately 20 seconds. As soon as we sat down we heard a rustling in the bushes near us, panicked we shined our torches towards the noise and that’s when we saw the fox. Not wanting to be the only dinner this fox would have for months we decided to go back to the truck in a rather quick manner! I learned two things that day, Cris is way more scared of foxes than I am, and if you want to watch the stars, the top of the camper is the best place!
Safe and sound back in the truck, it was time to make some dinner. The next day was Cris’s Birthday, and we have this tradition that I make Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwiches for his birthday, so this would not be the exception, our first meal in the truck was cup-soup and sandwiches, with a nice Malbec in red solo cups. So classy!!
After the adrenaline from the fox adventure and a bit of wine we were both exhausted, we made the bed and headed off to sleep, only to be woken up a few hours later by gale-force winds hitting the side of the camper. As I mentioned early we were clueless when we parked the truck, we didn’t notice the way the wind was blowing off the mountains, so it was hitting full force on the broad side of the camper. I thought we were going to flip over and then be eaten by foxes. Cris, my hero, jumped out of bed and repositioned the truck facing the wind. After that, we managed to go back to sleep for a few hours. When we woke up in the morning the view was beautiful, having a cup of coffee watching the sunrise on Torres Del Paines was an amazing experience. If Day one was such an adventure, this 7-day drive was bound to be nothing short of amazing!
Since the Chile Adventure is such a long trip I will break it up into multiple posts. If you want to see what happens next check out The Chile Adventure Part 2!
Published in Collaboration with Next Stop Awesome