Q & A With Jessica Daniel: Our “5 Days & 4 Nights In Torres Del Paine” Contest Winner.
We are always trying to bring people closer to Torres Del Paine National Park – the best place on earth (in our opinion). Through our social media engagement, we try and make people feel as though they are in the park with us, by sharing traveller stories, pictures and experiences. This lead us to thinking, why not actually give someone the opportunity to stay in the park! Enable them to step into the world we love so much – trek the W, sample the food, experience the entire culture and rich history in Torres Del Paine.
Thus, the “5 days/4 nights In Torres Del Paine” (with the awesome folks at World Nomads providing travel insurance.) contest was born! With over 600 entries in 4 weeks, we randomly selected 1 lucky winner who would spend 5 days and 4 nights in the park, specifically on the W Circuit. Jessica Daniel from Fairfax California was our winner, who coincidentally was already in Chile travelling with her best friend.
We asked Jessica to answer a few questions and send us photos from her travels. She was more than happy to oblige. Here are her responses!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 24 years old and grew up in Fairfax, CA. I have since lived in New York, Oregon, and Santa Barbara. I studied Human Physiology and Art History in college and will be starting Graduate School in the Spring to become a Physician Assistant. I just completed a three week long trip through Chile and Argentina with my best and oldest friend who I have known since Grade school. I have always loved the outdoors and camping, but have never experienced a backpacking trip as beautiful, rugged, and raw as Patagonia.
What was the most memorable part of your experience?
The most memorable part of my trip without doubt was hiking up to Mirador Los Torres at sunrise. We left camp at 3am with our sleeping bags,sleeping mats, and food for breakfast and headed up the trail with our headlamps. After a day of non-stop rain and wind, we were so excited to wake up to a clear sky of stars and few clouds. After climbing to the top in the pitch-black and getting into our sleeping bags to warmup, the sunrise was like nothing I have ever seen before. The mountains, clouds, and snow beamed with pink/orange hues in a cinematic 360 degree is a panoramic view. We watched in amazement as the sky changed to daylight and had breakfast before hiking back down to camp El Chileno. This is a view I will never forget
In addition to seeing the towers at sunrise, the most memorable part of the trekking experience in Torres Del Paine is having the ability to drink directly from the streams. The water is perfectly crystal clear, chilled, and so delicious.
What was the most challenging moment you had during your trek on the “W”?
On our third day of hiking from Camp Frances to Refuggio El Chileno, we experienced the most dramatic change in weather in one day. The day began with beautiful blue sunny skies and temperatures around 80 degrees F. We hiked in T-shifts enjoying a long lunch by a stream. As we finished our lunch, the sky suddenly turned gray, the wind picked up and it began to pour. It had rained a few other times during out first few days, but only lasting minutes. That day it rained late into the night. As the rain grew stronger and the wind picked up, we missed the short-cut to camp El Chileno. We accidentally hiked to Hotel Los Torres and were soaked from head to toe. Even our Goretex rain coats and rain pants were saturated. We looked at our map and realized we had several more hours to hike straight uphill. After arriving at camp El Chileno, we took the most gratifying hot shower and warmed up by the fire inside the Refuggio with a glass of red wine. Turned out to be a great end of a trying day.
Did you sample any specific food/drink during your stay in the park that stands out in your mind?
One of the best ways to end a long day of hiking was to share a local Austral beer or Chilean red wine with new friends around the wood burning fireplaces in the Refugio’s.
What should everyone pack before entering the park?
Dry bags (or trash bags). Due to the wind, pack covers and ponchos are not reliable as most get blown off. When I arrived in Chile I planned to use both. After attending a “Base Camp” meeting at Erratic Rock Hostel (Highly recommend), they recommended lining the inside of your bag with trash bags and wrapping up sleeping back, clothes, etc in separate trash bags inside. We met many people whose sleeping bags and dry clothes got wet during the rain storm. We were so relieved after that wet day to open our bags and find that everything remained dry!
If travellers heading into the park aren’t able to experience everything, what 3 things are a must do?
1) Drink from the streams.
2) Hike to Mirador Los Torres at Sunrise.
3) Go to each summit/ lookout spot if physically able.
For those people out there on the fence about taking an adventure travel vacation, what advice would you give them?
I wouldn’t say the trip went as far as changing my life, but it was transformative. I started the trek soon after applying to, and interviewing at graduate schools, finishing a job, and preparing to move to a new city. Each day that I hiked I felt more and more freed from my habitual thoughts about plans, school and my future. In hein sight, while hiking, I was often not thinking about much. I became wrapped up in all the beauty I was seeing that my thoughts became further and further away. I felt childlike and full of joy and excitement. Now that I am back in the States, and returning to my normal routine, I feel a bit lighter and more optimistic. Natural beauty has a way of reminding you how wonderful the world we live in truly is, independent of what is happening on a global, political, or personal level.
If you have the time, or if you can set aside a date to make this trip happen, I can’t recommend it enough. It doesn’t need to be perfectly planned (although camping in the National Park does now require reservations in advance) or expensive. This trip truly felt like a vacation, one that energized me and has allowed me to enter back into the chaos of everyday life with a feeling of excitement.
Regardless of how transformative this trip may or may not have been to others, it’s an incredible opportunity to experience sublime and awe-inspiring views at the bottom of the globe!
Thanks Jessica, and we hope to see you again soon!