I remember the day I decided on doing this trek. It wasn’t a special day, just one of those dark rainy days in January, but I remember telling a co-worker I wanted to go to Patagonia. That was the point when it all became real and I promised myself that a year later I would be trekking one of the greatest landscapes on earth.
I have to admit, the trek was the best thing to happen to me before the pandemic stopped the world from spinning. I was really struggling with anxiety that year, but doing the research, booking places and actually committing to go was something that kept me focused, motivated and helped with my confidence. Even if it has been a while since this trek, I still feel proud for doing it. The positive energy of this trek recharged my battery and kept the spirits up when the world closed its doors and made everyone to rediscover their lives and appreciate their freedom.
Day 1 – Puerto Natales to Seron
The day I started O circuit was magnificent. It was warm, sunny and Torres del Paine met me with a cloud hanging on its famous towers. The cloud was like a metaphor for not knowing what laid ahead. I started the trek in high spirits and with far too many layers, which I had to shed quickly. I was heading to Seron campsite, which was marked as 4 hours away on the official map. I considered it a short day, so didn’t even bother putting any sunscreen on my arms. It was a huge mistake. The sunburn I got that day was probably the worst I have ever seen in my life and I managed to scare a few people with it. I won’t post the photo, but since then I never go outside without wearing sunscreen. However, the entire day I was feeling happy and free and that’s what mattered. The wind was strong and made it hard to walk with a huge backpack, but the scenery was beautiful (somehow it reminded me of Scotland) and I arrived at Seron early afternoon.
The campsite was basic and I learned that we were only allowed to cook inside the dedicated area, which seemed busy. I saw loads of people and was slightly hesitant to go in, but quickly found a spot and loads of friendly faces. It was amazing because there was no wifi/ phone signal in the park, so nobody used their phones and instead, they chose to interact with each other. There were plenty solo travelers like me and everyone was keen to get to know each other.
It was extremely windy that evening, so several pegs were lost and a few tents broken across the campsite (never underestimate the wind in Patagonia…). Seeing people trying to pitch their tents was entertaining until I tried pitching mine and lost the fight against the wind in which two of my tent pegs became victims. One of them I found 10m away from the tent, but I’ll never know what happened to the second one. I’ll blame one of the Caracara birds wandering around the campsite looking for things to steal.
Day 2 – Seron to Dickson
I started my second day pretty early, still stunned by a memory of the night sky seen when leaving my tent to look for a toilet a few hours earlier. I don’t remember ever seeing so many stars – I was directly under the Milky Way and I couldn’t feel any smaller. The morning was quiet and enjoyed the scenery which was getting more and more dramatic. The views of Lago Paine were stunning and I let my mind wander over the snowy peaks. I spent most of the day walking alone, chatting only with the guards at Guarderia Coiron, where they had to check all my campsite bookings to make sure I wasn’t wild camping along the route. I arrived at Dickson pretty early, pitched my tent and had a very luxurious shower, which turned out to be even more lush since the water tower collapsed at the campsite shortly after. They forgot to switch off the pump which filled the water tower and soon the whole thing came crashing down. There was a huge splash which luckily didn’t hit anyone’s tent. Needless to say, there was no water for the rest of the day, so the toilets couldn’t be flushed and were absolutely disgusting the next morning. Otherwise, it was a lovely campsite by the river with mountain views and loads of horses.
Day 3 – Dickson to Los Perros
There isn’t much to say about Day 3 apart from that it was full of “oh wow” moments. It was so freeing to walk all day exploring, not knowing what else was happening in the world (and not caring), watching the wildlife which was new to me, chatting to people I met in the campsites and even eating the same boring meals every day was pretty exciting. I remember I spent some time going through the woods that day, expecting to arrive at the campsite at any moment. Suddenly, there was a steep section and then the view opened up. It was an absolute jaw dropping moment when I saw a bit of Glaciar Los Perros and heard thunder like noise of parts of the glacier breaking and falling into the lake underneath. It was magnificent. The campsite was just around the corner, so I pitched my tent and spent most of the evening chilling at the view point, enjoying life. That evening, I didn’t feel like I needed anything else in my life.
Day 4 – Los Perros to Paso
This was my favourite day ever. I had to wake up early – it was still dark and very wet when I got out of my tent. It started raining at night and in the morning the campsite closely resembled a mudslide. I had a quick breakfast, packed and thankfully it stopped raining soon after I left. I started a relatively steep and muddy climb and soon discovered a bit of snow on the path. I wasn’t surprised, it was the coldest night that week for sure and I really felt it in my tent. I had to tackle Paso John Garner that morning. People kept telling me scary stories they read about it and I was imagining something very steep and tricky, but it very much reminded me of walking up the munros in Scotland. I soon arrived at the highest point of the pass and an absolutely breath taking view of Glaciar Grey opened up. Guy I was walking with and I stopped for lunch and admired the magnificent view, not even caring it was couscous for lunch fourth day in a row. My campsite was just a stone’s throw away and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to stay in Paso. There were no real facilities, apart from an open shed for cooking and a toilet. There were spaces for only a handful of tents, which probably made the campsite even more unique. That and the fact that the campsite itself was located next to an amazing viewpoint of Glaciar Grey, where I spent most of the evening taking in the views. I couldn’t believe when one moment I looked up and there were three condors flying over my head towards to glacier. After I regained the gift of speech, I spent some time chatting to the people in the campsite as we all cooked together and it really felt like spending time with a family.
This was my last day on the trail unique to O circuit and the next day I joined the crowds on W route. The atmosphere changed significantly, but I will tell you all about it in the next post.