Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Torres del Paine, Fire and The Eco Camp

Eco Camp and the Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine is the main National Park in Chile and covers an area of around 935 square miles.  It takes its name from its most famous mountain peaks, the Torres, or Towers, of Paine.  In addition to the four peaks that make up the Towers, the park has at least a further thirty peaks of over one thousand metres high. It has eleven large lakes and many smaller ones, with connecting rivers and waterfalls.  It also has glaciers and Magellanic forests.

Tourists come here in their thousands to see these sights and trek around the park, in particular to do the famous W circuit.  Whilst most of these tourists are welcomed with open arms, there is sadly the odd one that the park wishes had never crossed its path.  In December, an Israeli tourist was rather foolishly burning his toilet paper in very windy conditions, and managed to start a forest fire that, driven by winds of over 60 miles per hour, burned for weeks, destroying 18,000 hectares of Magellanic forest and other parkland.  The park had to be evacuated and it was thought that it may not reopen for the whole of January.  Luckily for us it did reopen early and we have been able to take the trip we had booked.

During our trip we saw some of the burned areas and it was quite shocking how much damage one careless person can do.

Our Eco camp dome
Rather than doing a multi day hike and camping, we have decided to stay in one place and do day hikes.  Our home for the six nights that we are spending in Torres del Paine is the Eco Camp.  The camp, like most of the lodge accommodation in the park, is in a privately owned area near to the start of the main hikes.  Whilst most of the accommodation is on the flat, the Eco Camp is on top of a hill, which makes for excellent views over the surrounding area and up to the Torres themselves.

The rooms here are individual domes.  They are metal frameworks covered in insulation and plastic, on a wooden base.  They are based on a combination of safari lodges and the nomadic constructions that the indigenous people of the area used to build.  They are apparently built to withstand winds of over 130km/hour, so they clearly could cope with the comparatively low winds we had, but it still did sound like the wind was going to tear right through them a couple of times.  Still, with our experiences so far I had made sure I knew what we were supposed to do should we need to evacuate due to strong winds or fire.

Eco camp bathroom

The camp has dome suites which have a stove to heat them and an ensuite bathroom, but we just had a standard dome and used the shared bathrooms.  But our dome was quite warm enough and the bathrooms were nicer than many of the hostels we have stayed in, so we were very happy.  The entrance is hobbit size, but once inside it is nice and roomy and you have a proper double bed and bedside tables.  And the window in our dome looked directly onto the Torres, so we had a fabulous view even without leaving the room.  This is a kind of camping that I could get used to.

Eco camp dining room
As well as the dormitory domes, they had three core domes for communal use.  There was a dining room, a small lounge, and a bigger lounge with a bar in it.  All of these areas were great and as I decided that I was not going to kill myself walking when Nic had plenty of other people that he could go with instead, I made this a very nice home for myself.  It was fabulous just being able to lounge around in the warm and dry, have a few cups of tea or beer, and read or draft a few blogs, knowing that everyone else was struggling up some hill or other in the wind and occasionally the rain.  And I didn't get any blisters either!

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