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Gourmet: Jo amuses Amanda, Annie and Tone with her not-so travel savvy saucepan

The next morning, after a fitful sleep, we’re ready to retrace our steps. Our limbs are scratched and bleeding, our weary calves screaming in agony. I have a hunch I know the way, but Michael is understandably sceptical – after all, I find shopping malls a navigational challenge. Incredibly, after trudging over yellow, orange and rust-coloured tundra for an hour, we spot a post. “We’re saved!” we cheer, hugging each other joyously. 

It’s a strenuous uphill slog to Paso Virginia. At times we’re knee-deep in gloopy, foul-smelling mud. Finally we reach the summit and the highest point of the trek.

Nearly a thousand feet below us, Laguna los Guanacos nestles in a basin of cliffs. The barren landscape looks like the surface of the moon. ”Er, where’s the path?” I ask uncertainly. Michael points straight down.

Every instinct is telling me no. The mountainside is a mass of loose rock debris, and every step triggers another landslide. I take a few deep breaths. Then I clock other trekkers sliding down on their boot heels.

It’s surprisingly fun, like skiing. Afterwards, we trudge through endless boggy meadows and cow pastures and, exhausted, I keep tripping over. At one point my pack gets wedged under a fallen tree trunk, my legs in the air. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I do both.Finally, it’s an 8km schlep along the coastal road back to Puerto Williams and after 10 hours of walking, we’ve finally completed the 53km circuit. First stop, the police station.

“Sus amigos,” an officer says, handing us a note from Amanda and Tone. After sluicing off the mud in a hot shower, we join them at one of the few local restaurants, El Resto Del Sur. 

“You’re alive!” Amanda whoops, wrapping us in a hug. “The police were going to send out a search party if you weren’t back by morning,” Tone tells us.

Thankfully it hasn’t come to that and we celebrate with more pisco sours. Michael and I agree – Dientes has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of our lives. But next time we should probably borrow a couple of wise words from the Girl Guides and Scouts – “be prepared”. 

Trek independently for free or take 5-6 day guided tours with Swoop Patagonia from £785pp   

Getting there Fly from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires from £644 return with KLM, via Amsterdam and Sao Paulo. A one-way flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia costs from £214 with LAN.  


When to go: December to February is the best time to tackle the Dientes de Navarino on foot, when the weather isn’t as cold and unpredictable.

Currency: £1 = 8.38 Argentine Peso (AGP) and 780 Chilean Peso (CLP)

Accommodation: Budgeters should try the cheap, basic and sociable Hostal Paso McKinlay in Puerto Williams, Chile. Single rooms start from £12pppn (Piloto Pardo 213; tel. 0056 612 621 124). 

See: welcomepatagonia.com

 

 

Photos: Jo Rhodes; Michael Edey


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Hiking in Patagonia: TNT treks to the rugged, wild and remote Dientes de Navarino - the world's most southern trail
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