While my wife, Carol, and I love to travel for leisure, adventure, education, and relaxation, this time was different. We were on a mission. That mission was to run the Patagonia Marathon in Torres del Paine National Park. For us, it was a dream to run 26.2 miles in what may be the most beautiful National Park in the world! We realize that running a marathon like this is not for everyone. However, Chile, Patagonia, and Torre del Paine National Park CAN be for everyone. That is if you gravitate to wild, raw untamed places, majestic mountains, and abundant wildlife
Our adventure began in Peru, and after ten days exploring there, it was time to head south to Chile and Patagonia. We flew from Cuzco, Peru to Santiago, Chile, overnighted, and caught an early morning flight to Porto Natales, Chile.
As any traveler knows, it’s often the luck of the draw on which side of the plane you get. We happened to get the left side, the proper side in this case. During a 3.5-hour flight, I had my face pressed into the window, marveling at the magnificence of the Andes Mountains. I have seen a lot of mountain ranges, but nothing compares to the Andes.
Neither of us had visited Chile before, and halfway through the flight (having yet to set foot on Chilean soil), I told Carol we’d be coming back. And as fate would have it, we will be returning in March of 2024 to cruise Chilean fjords and the coast of Argentina.
I'm thrilled to share a bit of this grand and challenging adventure, starting with Porto Natales, which is the jump off point to Torres del Panie National Park. Not unlike our mountain towns in Colorado, it is a combination of grungy and upscale boutique. The food was spectacular everywhere. Porto Natales fronts the Señoret Channel, (more like a lake, than a channel), then as you look up, the imposing front range of Torres del Paine/Andes Mountains.
From there, we headed to the Eco-Lodge, which was our home for the next week. This is "glamping" at its finest. Nestled snugly at the foot of the Paine Massif are cabins taking the form of geodesic domes that are warm and cozy. Each footstep outside created a gawking moment, and even more so a humbling moment, with the Massif rising like a skyscraper looming overhead.
When we booked the Eco Lodge, we didn’t know what to expect. We found it through a referral from another running friend. It looked interesting, but interesting can swing both ways. What we found was five-star guest service, a chef that could whip a five-star meal in minutes, and exceptional staff — genuinely helpful with great attitudes that loved their jobs.
The Eco-Camp provided numerous adventure activities, mostly hikes geared toward finding wildlife, majestic scenery, and car safaris. Discovering more moments of awe and grandeur was easy! I was taken by the variety of birds and was thrilled to be high enough on a mountain during a hike to look out directly upon an Andean Condor, with a massive wingspan of eight to ten feet! On this same hike we saw them nesting… fabulous!
As I mentioned at the beginning, we were on a mission, and I'm happy to share that we completed this once-in-a-lifetime marathon. It was as grueling as it was beautiful. That said, the reward for each hill climbed was a new vista of Torre del Paine. Snow Capped peaks, mountain lions and numerous guanacos, (a camelid indigenous to South America, that look like llamas, only wild), all watching a parade of runners trudging along.
I’ll close with some practical advice for those that may be interested in a journey such as this: because of the race, we visited in September, which is early spring in this part of the world. The upside is that it’s not as crowded, room availability is better and the wild things are blooming. The downside is that it can be rainy, colder and one thing infamous about Torre del Paine is the wind. It’s the first time I’ve seen a wind warning gauge on the hiking trail. Just be prepared. During one particular stretch, I have no doubt that I could have opened my jacket and easily taken a one-way flight to Antarctica.
All said, Torres del Paine is one of the most beautiful places on earth. This is where I often cite the greatest traveler of all time, “Travel, it makes you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”! ~ Ibn Batuta.
This is a place that left me speechless, and if you lean to the adventurous, go!
I am Steve Sorensen, a Colorado Native, international award-winning professional photographer and serial traveler. I love exploring the world for the sake of my art and how it fills up my soul. My wife, Carol, happens to be my best friend and accomplice… we love asking the question; “Where to, next”?