Torres del Paine cookbook aka “Tuna forever”!

What to eat in Torres del Paine during a 5 day “W trek”? This was one of our
(I traveled with two Irish girls that time) biggest concerns. Amanda, Kate and myself spent hours of shopping the most necessary things to consume and cook under the limited conditions of camping “kitchens”. Personally, I think that we did pretty well, but I was also inspired by an Australian couple – Sam and Luke, who had all kinds of condiments, e.g. olive oil, Tabasco and they even did a sea food paella! That is stylish. After this experience, I decided to share a little “cook book” to save a bit of your planning time and share some tips on how to eat well and cook in Torres del Paine.

Be careful with making fire in Torres del Paine!

The most important thing that you have to consider when you’re going to trek in a national park is:
Number of days staying in the park. (we stayed 5 days) and from there derivate the number of breakfast, lunch, dinners and snacks
Your budget. Can you afford to buy some meals in the “refugios/cottages” (be prepared for restaurant prices of at least middle priced restaurant in Chile). Or, can you “only” permit bringing your own food?
Weight of the meals that you are going to carry. (for your own sake, say bye to heavy stuff, you will regret it big time, if you bring it with you)
Nutrition quantities of meals. (you don’t want to eat just carbs and sugar, protein is the way to go!)

If you are convinced to cook your own meal, you can rent all cooking gear and buy gas in Punta Arenas, so you won’t have problems to bring your mini kitchen with you 🙂

Basic groceries:
– Tuna cans
– Pasta
– Rice (don’t bring 1kg, you will hardy eat it and it’s heavy)
– Tomato sauce
– Some boiled eggs (for the first days)
– Dried fruit
– Coffee or tea
– Salt and sugar (if needed)
– Some bread or crackers
– Cereals or oat meal for breakfast, energy bar for snacks

This is how your “kitchen” can look like while trekking

A Little upgrade:
– Powder cheese for pasta
– Dried mushrooms (it has proteins and it is light)
– Onion, curry or oregano
– Peanut butter (lots of energy!)
– Instant soup
– Some fruit (e.g., apple per day) and vegetable (e.g., tomato per day)
– For meat lovers: Dried salami

For gourmands:
For real “trekking gourmands”, who want to eat healthy and quality food, I suggest to create different recipes for each day, bring extra condiments and put more effort into cooking. The result is overwhelming, especially after two days of cooking with tuna ☺ My tip is to pack your meals into plastic bags and divide them per days as Sam and Luke did. For example lentils, beans, mushrooms, different condiments, powder chocolate, olive oil, alioli – packed in small bottles, etc. Everything is just a matter of your lifestyle, and the will to be a bit more creative. Remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll carry more, because the tuna cans are heavy too.

For “just add water” cooks:
– Instant pasta
– Instant rice
– Dried freeze meals (they are actually tasty)

For very tired trekkers who don’t want to cook:
There exists an option of eating in “refugios”, so I provide some prices for reference. Please note, that it depends on the refugio, but from my little research, I found out that the Refugio “Lago Grey” served:
– Breakfast menu for cca 5000 CLP
– Lunch menu for cca 7000 CLP
– Dinner menu for cca 9000 CLP
This was the cheapest that I have seen, the refugio “Los Cuernos” had dinner for 11 000 CLP, which I found really expensive.

An example how to pack your meals in plastic bags

As I mentioned before, we were a group of three and shared different groceries among us. The main emphasis was put on tuna, pasta and rice. Our menu was as follows:

– Individual/and shared breakfast: First days hard eggs with bread and cheese, later cereals with peanut butter, biscuits with marmalade and Amanda had some extra tuna for breakfast too!
Frist snack: Fruit (apple, orange – be careful, because it is heavy), lot of dried fruit (e.g. peanuts, raisins, almonds, pineapple)
– Individual lunch: Sardines, tomato, tuna, bread, cheese, eggs
Second snack: Dried fruit, energy bar, chocolate
– Shared dinner:
1st Day: Curry rice with mushrooms and tuna
2nd Day: Pasta with tomato sauce tuna, oregano and parmesan cheese on top
3rd Day: Spagetti with onion upgrade (thank you Steve!), tomato sauce and tuna, oregano and parmesan cheese on top
4th Day: Curry rice with mushrooms and tuna!

If someone had shown me this menu before, I wouldn’t believe that I would eat tuna for 4 days in a row. And that was only the “W” trek that takes apx. 5 days. Poor guys that are doing the whole circle and spending 8 days eating tuna. Of course that not everyone has to eat tuna… it is just the most easiest and rich in proteins meal that you can get.

Rice with mushrooms and tuna a side

My official Torres del Paine recipe: Pasta with tuna (estimated for 3 persons):

– Cook the whole package of pasta (apx. 400 grams. It might be a lot, but you will be hungry after all day trekking and if you have left overs there will be always someone willing to finish it).
– When the pasta is cooked, leave it in another plate for a while. (Usually you’ll have just one cooking pot, so you have to use it again.)
– Fry chopped onion on a bit of oil (if you don’t have an onion ask someone and try to offer something, like those extra grams of pasta)
– If you are super fancy, bring some clove of garlic for more healthy taste ☺
– Add a big tuna can (apx. 350 grams for 3 people)
– When it’s divided into little chunks, add tomato sauce (1-2 packages, depends how juicy you like it)
– Cook everything together for some minutes, add oregano and salt if necessary (sometimes the tomato sauce in Chile is salty enough)
– Mix everything together (pasta and sauce) before serving
– Serve with parmesan cheese on top
– Bon appetit!!!

Can you believe that we were soooo hungry that I didn’t manage to take any picture of the pasta that I cooked? ☺ But, I really enjoyed to be a “trekking cook”! The beauty is to share, taste and be curious about what the others are cooking. Enjoy the treks, eat well and share food and a good mood 🙂

Happy people eating tuna! 🙂

NOTE 1. DON’T LEAVE THE GARBAGE ALL AROUND (some “refugios” have garbage bins or you have to bring it with you back to Puerto Natales).

NOTE 2. DON’T MAKE FIRE OUT OF CAMPING KITCHENS. The park was burned down several times and it is really sad to see that.

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