It’s a Long Drive, to Torres del Paine (Almost works!)

View from the Osteria Pehoe
Camera: Panasonic DC-G9 | Date: 18-02-2023 19:41 | Resolution: 10015 x 3709 | ISO: 400 | Exp. bias: 0 EV | Exp. Time: 1/200s | Aperture: 8.0 | Focal Length: 12.0mm

After a very quick dawn shoot we assembled for the long drive from El Chalten to Torres del Paine in Chile. This involves driving about 100 miles East, the a couple of hundred South, past El Calafate where we started, then West over the border and into the Torres del Paine National Park.

Canyon of the Las Vueltas River (Show Details)

What you rapidly realise is that vast swathes of Patagonia are very empty, very flat and, let’s be frankm very boring near desert, with the odd fox or guanaco, maybe occasionally a few cattle. Our drive from El Chalten rapidly left behind the drama of the Mt. Fitzroy massif and turned into a steady plod. The first available stop was after 1.5 hours, the next more than a further 2. That’s not a choice – you can often see 5 or 10 miles in each direction and the only evidence of mankind is the road itself.

I’d be asleep at the wheel in minutes, hats off to our excellent driver Gustavo who seems to be happy doing this hour after hour.

About 4pm, after 7 hours on the (good) road we turned onto a gravel track towards the border, with the Torres del Paine just appearing in the distance. Rattling along at 20mph seemed at odds with the "main road" marking on my map, but I suppose it’s no different to southern Namibia.

We’ve been terrorised with stories of the border crossing taking multiple hours, but it wasn’t too bad – processed both sides, a coffee purchased and on our way in not much more than an hour. The main challenge is that after standing in various queues Chilean customs insist on scanning every item of luggage. It’s just sobering to remember that it used to be that way going from France to Belgium.

The road is nicely surfaced from the exact border point to a few miles from the Chilean customs, when we diverted onto a ghastly washboard which runs for a vast distance alongside what is obviously going to be a very nice new road when completed. Occasionally we were teased by crossing the new carriageway, then we were back on the washboard.

Distant views of Torres del Paine from the bus (Show Details)

The roads in the Park are much the same, and it took almost two hours to get to the hotel. Richard had been actively managing down expectations, and it is true that the Osteria Pahoe has seen better days. There is one compensation. The view.

Apparently tomorrow most of our shooting will be within walking distance. This could work…

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