The first portion of the circuit is a 32 km (20 mi) walk through a mix of plains and forests. Brujo told us about the “Patagonian flat” that is so famous in this National Park it’s not really flat, but a succession of easy ups and downs. The difficulty of the day was the long distance and time spent hiking - 10 to 12 hours is long enough to get your first blisters. Hikers who have more time can spend this second night in Ceron Campsite, four hours away from Las Torres sector.
We made our way through the woods with the soothing sound of the Paine River, the main river of the National Park that connects almost all of the lakes in the area. Its waters come from Dickson glacier, located in the back side (North) of the mountain range. After five hours we reached the Paine Lake, which is home to many condors. We could see our destination in the distance.
We were lucky with the weather. It was dry, which is a big deal when you’re hiking for more than 10 hours. There were a lot of mosquitos however, something I did not expect because of the low temperatures. The last two hours seemed long (not to say eternal), but the challenge was more mental than physical. The spectacular hanging glaciers inspired us and motivated us to cover the last kilometers while we marveled at the landscape.
Dickson campsite is a piece of heaven, with just a few tents at the foot of dramatic hills covered by lush green forests. Few people do the Paine Circuit and CONAF (the local National Park authority) limits the amount of hikers on these trails, hence the quietness of these campsites. It also means that you must book your space months in advance to make sure that you have somewhere to put your tent for the night.
The food was simple but seemed delicious after the calories we had burnt hiking. We slept by the shore of the Dickson Lake. This was it: we were far from the craziness of the outside world, and into Patagonia’s wilderness.