25 days     February 1999

Kind of travel: me in an independent travel

When: febbraury 1999

How I moved: flying, rollerblading, hitch hiking (on pick ups), minibus and buses

Where I slept: in cheap hotels, in Patagonia in tent and hostel

What I liked: the easy of travelling, the vastity of Patagonia, Santiago with his wonderful dry weather and the last but not the least the variety of Chile: from the desert in the north to the vulcanoes in the middle till the glaciers of Patagonia

What I dislike: frankly I don't know... if I've to say something I would say the traffic in Santiago

What you do need: if you go in Patagonia follow my tips

My travel in few lines

“This semester exams at the university are over, now it’s time to travel, where could I go?”.

“Why not to visit my grandmother in Chile, it’s years I don’t see her, grabbing the chance to travel through the country and in the coming back dropping by Buenos Aires?” That was what I did. Moreover in Italy it was wintertime so no better period to go in Patagonia when there is summer. I took my rollerlblades, my back bag, my camera, the lonely planet and I left alone for a low budget travel.

I arrived in Santiago, spent here some days, went to Patagonia, travelled with a just known friend (Nicolas) in the Torres del Paine National Park, came back in Santiago, visited the coast (Valparaiso), flew to Buenos Aires, went to Montevideo (Uruguay) and flew back Italy.



In 25 days travelling I’ve had no problems; people have been nice and I particularly liked Chile (read about the chilean travelmate I met). It’s so charming: a 7000 km long strip running from the desert area in the north (Atacama desert) to the glacier area in the south (Patagonia), covering all the climatic belts. What I saw was just a small part of all the country. Patagonia is Patagonia:   it’s the end of the world and there’s no way to describe it, while Santiago strikes for its exotic dash.

I found Chile different compared to Argentina and Uruguay that, in my opinion, are quite similar to a south European country (especially to Italy), and for such reason I didn’t got particularly impressed by Buenos Aires and Montevideo. However I’ve just visited the capital, hence I cannot generalize to all the country. Anyway in this website I have decided to not tell anything about Argentina and Uruguay.



Funny stories






I was eating a sandwich in the main square of Punta Arenas when a Chilean guy (Nico) walked up to me and asked me where I bought it. I was taking him there while he began explaining he was a photographer who needed a help to bring his stuff trekking through the Punta Arenas National Park, in return I could have slept in his tend since I didn’t have it. I thought few minutes and I accepted. I bought a sleeping bag and some food, then we began hitch-hiking to reach the National Park entry. It took two days to do a 300 km of unpaved road by jeep in the middle of nowhere, with most of the lifts staying in the back part of the jeeps. I liked it despite of the vibrations. It was wonderful when, from an endless flat country, I began seeing the huge mountains raising up. We commenced walking in the park. It was wonderful, the mountains, the lakes and the situation. We walked for a week together and we got perfectly along, we enjoyed and we met other travellers. Then we had to split since I had to come back while he carried on travelling northward. I was sad because he had been the best travel mate I’ve ever had. Life is strange, in fact we kept in touch by e-mail, and two years later we met in Swiss.  Then he decided to leave for a 9 month travel from Swiss to India and dropped by my house in Milan for some days.

This friendship is the richest memory of my travel in Chile.



On the way to the Torres del Paine National Park I slept in Puerto Natales at a military barrack where my just met travelmate had some friends. Given I knew I'd have come back from the Park passing through the same way, I dumped most of my stuffs there, so that I'd have trekked lighter. My chilean friend spoke with the military to store my stuffs, but when I came back I was alone since he went on trekking looking for a friend of him. Obviously none at the barracks reminded about me and, overall, about the fact I had left my luggage there same days before; moreover nobody spoke english and I didn't manage to express in spanish. These men hadn't even understood what I wanted. So I had to mime all the story, but I had to do it very well if I wanted to have my stuffs back. It took 20 minutes to mime me and my friend coming at the barrack, sleeping, leaving the back bag, trekking, separating and just me coming back. It turned out tough to mime that we separate because he was looking for another friend of him in the Park and then I prosecute with an american couple till there. I was sweating while ten people (chief included) where observing me seriously trying to figure out what hell an italian wanted from a military barrack in the middle of nowhere in Patagonia. At the end one of them understood, disappeared and popped up later with my stuffs. 

It had been tough but, as usual :-), I managed!








Santiago is a big city under the Andes mountains and 100 km far from the sea cost. Hence the mountains are his beautiful background and from every corner  you can enjoy their view. The clima is hot but dry, unlike Buones Aires, consequently you can visit it in the summer without being soaked by your sweat. To me Santiago looked quite exotic, with his long boulevard ("Avenidas") and his palm trees. My main memory of Santiago are the countless yellow buses driving crazily with the people hung and leaning out from the opened doors. But also the polished metro stations where, while you're walking,  there's always somebody who is cleaning your footprints behind you. You'll surprise by the difference between the rich part, the northern one, characterised by brand new shining skyscrapers and the popular part (the southern one) definitely poorer. Anyway in both of them I've had no problems, on the opposite, I found locals very nice and helpful.





  3. TIPS



I flew from Santiago to Punta Arenas and when I got there I immediately knew a chilean traveler, Nicolas (read the funny story about how it happened). We decided to reach hitch hiking the entry of the Parco National Torres dal Paine. We got it in two days. I found it really funny but tiring too; most of the lifts were on the backside of the pick up and the road was unpaved, thus it was a very trembling experience. The first night we stopped in Puerto Natales and we slept in a military barracks. I liked this small town: my main memory are the kids playing everywhere who greeted me passing, and the suggestive raimbow I saw waking up after the rainy night. The day after we reached the entry of the National Park where we began trekking. It was quite tough since the heavy backbag, but in one day I get used. Me and Nicolas got perfectly along: he cooked and I prepared the tent. A kind of couple :-) We trekked several days in the park reaching also the amazing glaciar Grey and meeting some others travelers (see the map above). Then my time was over and I come back with an american couple while he went on.
I met Nicolas two years later in Swiss (read)


What impressed me of Patagonia were his contrasts. I saw more than 200 Km of flat dry earth swept by a strong wind where there was absolute nothing. I remember when I was waiting for a lift I could see the endless road running to the horizon, and I could see a car coming so long before it reached me. Suddenly the Andes appears. There's no a gradual change of the country, you see high rocky mountains with the world vastest glaciars towering from this flat dry land. It's wonderfull



What you need depends strictly by where you'll go in Patagonia; if you are going to trek in the Parks in the north part or simply travel in the Tierra del Fuego, and overall it depends by the period you're going there.

Anyway the GENERAL RULES are :
in the summertime (january-february) the daytime temperature is 12-18 C, but the sun rays burn and it's very windy. Moreover Patagonia is famous for the changeble weather due to the strong winds. It can start and stop raining getting clear severals time in one day.
The best is to be ready to wear and take off clothes according to the moments ("wear like an onion": I mean using layers of thin clothes you can remove gradually if you feel hot, more than one thick one)

EQUIPMENT. Don't forget:

- sunglasses

-a good cap


-sun cream

-waterproof outfit (it's rainy)


-a good pair of trekking shoes (a lot of muddy path, in some part can be 50 cm (20 inches) deep)

-a solid tent (it's very windy!!!)

-a zoom to take pictures of animals like the condor and a long exposition camera for night pictures of the sky (Patagonia is a unique place in the world to admire the stars)


REMEMBER about Torres del Paine National Park:

-to enter the national park you have to pay a cheap taxes and you are suppose to be at least two people (at least this was the rule I don't know if they were strict with it)

-the tracks I did (see the map above) didn't need any particular climbing skill and they were quite easy. Anyway from the other travellers I've met I've not heard about tracks needing a climbing equipment (harness)

-The ferry in lake Grey that let you to nearer the glaciar  didn't run because of  the icebergs, despite it was  summer.

-There are not so many food store in the park, you need to be food independent for at least two- three days.

- The entry of the park is connected to Punta Arenas by daily cheap buses

-If you need some trekking equipment in Punta Arenas you can find everything you want