Torres del Paine “W Trek” Day 5: Return to Puerto Natales

We had hiked for 4 days on the W Trek and now it was time to get home.  There are a couple ways out of the park, and I believe you have to go back through Laguna Amarga (our entry point) to get back to the main road.  We were glad Dittmar set this up for us and provided vouchers and bus passes to use at each point since there were a number of transfers to make. 

Our journey back would have us catch the Lago Grey Ferry at Refugio Grey, and then take it back to Hosteria Lago Grey (a short hike from the beach).  From there we caught a transfer to “Administration” where we’d get a bus that would take us Laguna Amarga (entry to the park).  At Laguna Amarga, we’d board a coach bus that would take us back to Puerto Natales. 

The alternate route for bad weather (the Lago Grey Ferry may not run in high winds) was to hike back to Refugio Paine Grande, where there is a catamaran that always runs and arrives frequently to Lodge Paine Grande and transverses Lago Pehoe.  From the other side of Lake Pehoe (Pudeto) we could catch a bus back to Laguna Amarga. 

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{ I know I’ve shown this map a lot but it’s confusing! map source }

The Lago Grey Ferry wouldn’t arrive at Refugio Grey until 1 PM, so we had breakfast then hung around the refugio for a long time just reading and staying warm.  There is sometimes an option to kayak near the icebergs that morning, but it was cancelled due to strong winds and rain, so we couldn’t do that.  This was probably my only complaint – it seemed like quite a bit of wasted time and I’m not sure if we could have just caught this ferry the day prior if we’d hiked early enough. 

After our breakfast with small portions, we became hungry mid-morning and had run out of food, so our last resort was the mini-mart which carried pretty much only junk food.  If you know me, you know I really dislike junk food, but I did resort to pringles and chocolate once my tummy started growling.

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At noon we decided to eat lunch at the refugio since we had little other option.  The sit-down lunch was very pricey (I think it came out to $15/person) and we weren’t exactly sure what would be served.  It ended up being a very small bowl of soup and a couple slices of bread for $15!!  Refugio Grey was pretty stingy with their food, be warned.

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Around noon we hiked down to the kayak beach where we’d catch a small boat to take us to the ferry.  You know the water is cold when large icebergs are nearby!

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I wasn’t so sure about this (I get seasick easily) and really didn’t want to fall in!  But it turns out the smaller boat and ferry weren’t too bad and the guys really helped us in and out of the boat so we felt stable.

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Once on the ferry, it goes around to get a close-up of the glaciers.  While viewing the glacier, a HUGE part of it fell off – the dark blue ice in the water below all came off the glacier while we watched it!  The ice went below the water then popped back up and made a really large swell/wave – it was unreal to see.

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That bright blue piece is a new iceberg!

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A work of art.  Ok enough glaciers.  The ferry ride back to the Hotel Grey was about 1.5 hours (3 hour round-trip if you did the full tour) and we stayed inside the boat for the remainder.

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David was out cold.  I don’t even know how a person’s neck does this. 

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We stayed a short time (<1hr) at Hotel Grey before our transfer.  I ordered some tea and David got nachos since some tortilla chips and melted cheese sounded amazing at the time.  We couldn’t stop laughing that their nachos were just plain Doritos!  I think we paid $12 doritos and some guac.  Oh Patagonia…

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The return bus trip out of the park was long (1-2 hours?), and I just slept on and off; there were a couple stops too.  We then transferred to our larger bus and had another two hours back to Puerto Natales.  It was raining and I was nodding off the whole trip – the kind of sleep where your head snaps down and wakes you, but you fall asleep again just as quickly.  Halfway through the ride the bus wheels had a bad noise and the bus driver stopped and talked to another bus.  It sounds like there may have been a flat but it must not have been bad since the bus just continued on.  Thank goodness – I was so tired and not prepared to wait hours in the cold for a fix! 

We got to the bus station after 10 PM and it continued to pour cold rain – it was one of those times where you wished you had someone to pick you up and carry you to your bed while you were still sleeping (that was the best in childhood when your parents picked you up from the car and got you to your warm bed!).  Well there was no such thing, and we had to groggily walk back to our hotel before we could snuggle into our small bed!

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As you can see the weather changes instantly in Patagonia; the locals never even bother with the forecast.  Just be prepared with lots of layers and definitely a windbreaker/rain jacket!

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4 thoughts on “Torres del Paine “W Trek” Day 5: Return to Puerto Natales

  1. Hi Brittany! It sounds like you had a great trip!! I love the pictures. My husband and I are planning our trip to Torres del Paine and your post is extremely helpful. Quick question – the bus from Hotel Lago Grey to Administration, did you have to book it? How often do they run? We have been trying to find information on it and cannot. Any help would be appreciate it!

    1. Hi Kanu! Thanks and glad it is helpful. You are going to have a great trip! On the transfer, this was arranged by our travel company (Dittmar Adventures) and they basically just had us check-in with the receptionist at Hotel Lago Gray, then we took a small van/bus to administration. I don’t think we had tickets from what I recall. The transfer was at 17:30. Hope this helps!

  2. Hello! I just wanted to let you know that my girlfriend and I hiked the W Circuit last week, and we were able to set everything up by using your extremely helpful, detailed blog posts about your hike. Thanks so much for providing such great info – we had an amazing time that we will never forget!

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