23 April 2008

Patagonia: Torres del Paine part dos

Day 3:

I arose in the morning to significantly smaller ankles and with a renewed spirit. Our camp was just darn so beautiful! Lets say we had a room with a view.

By the third day we were ready for a rest! We got up late and enjoyed a nice breakfast of pancakes! Adam is such a fine backpacking chef!

On the way out we stopped by a lake near our campsite and Adam decided to go for a little swim. Apparently he didn't mind that the water was just above freezing. Here he is thinking about it.... And now...just making sure everything is okay! Our map indicated that we would have a short day, but looking back we were definitely poorly mistaken. As you saw from the distance sign picture I posted already, the Chileans judged distances by time it would take to get from point A to B. I don't know where these crazy Chilean map makers got their distance/time skills, but in general they were GROSSLY inaccurate. I know we're "fat Americans" and all, but our trip was supposed to take 90 minutes....it took over 3 hours. I swear, even if I wasn't wearing a forty pound pack and I had been RUNNING, I wouldn't have made it in 90 minutes...crazy Chileans....

We got a late start but eventually made it to camp....

where we found ourselves nestled nicely below this mountain full of calving glaciers.

After setting up, the boys set out to do more hiking further up into the mountain. Being girls, we decided to do laundry and sun ourselves (here's a picture from our sunning spot, you can see a shirt sleeve drying on the rock).

Here are shots from the boys' hike:
Here's a video of what they saw - pretty amazing 360 degree view! You can see all the "light pollution" from the lack of ozone over Patagonia. It takes the camera some time to adjust to the ever changing lighting conditions!

When they got back, we prepared food for the next day and quickly fell asleep into dreamland.

Day 4: Christmas!!!

Our own little Christmas tree This, our fourth day in the park, was by far the hardest day of the whole trip. We packed up camp and left by 9:15 (early for us!) and started on our 7.6km traverse across the French Valley toward Lago Pehoe. Once again, the hiking proved to be very difficult. Kristi was still struggling with her bum knee, and the rest of us had developed ailments of our own. My feet had been blistering up, and to prevent this I turned to the age old solution of Duct Tape. It was NOT a good idea. We'll come back to that later....

But once again, the scenery didn't disappoint - it was breathtaking! It's hard to even notice me standing on that bridge.

We made some stir fry the night before - here we are eating it out of a bag. That's right, we're classy!

We came upon Lago Pehoe (a lake, for you non-Spanish speakers) after 4 hours of hiking (suggested map/sign travel time - 2.5 hours) which was just an unbelievable shade of turquoise. Along the water, there is a "yuppie" camp complete with souvenirs and rich people riding horses and drinking cocktails in their fancy hotel rooms. Our systems were somewhat shocked to see so much civilization out in the middle of nowhere. We didn't linger long...but it was definitely tempting to stay. I'm going to preface the following rant by saying that the next 7km took us about 6 hours. Part of this is our fault - we just didn't bring enough food and were suffering from lack of energy in our systems. But the poor trail maintenance and "time suggestions" led us to believe that our trip would be much shorter than it actually was.

This hike was just that - a hike. We climbed for 3 hours to the top of a mini-mountain. Upon arriving at the crest, you looked down up Lago Grey and it's enormous ice glaciers. What a sight! We had been walking along this lake, and saw many floating icebergs, and now their origin was explained!
Then we began our descent. Oh how long it was. It felt like we were walking forever. Just when you thought you were there....you'd walk for another twenty minutes and STILL not be there! And the trails were just SO BAD! It was unbelievable. Here's a grassy meadow where I seriously considered setting up camp.
This is Kristi at a deep ravine, carved out by the glaciers 1,000's of years ago. And me...making the "I'm miserable" face. Finally, we saw a sign! Walking into camp brought tears to my eyes. I'm not a really religious person, but it was definitely a spiritual day, having to dig deep just to put one foot in front of the other. My feet were burning so unbelievably bad, I must have looked like a hobbit with a bad foot splinter. Even with all the suffering, I'd still say it's my best Christmas to date.

Ryan and I celebrated our arrival by splitting a Peanut Butter and Chocolate energy bar. It was the best thing I've ever eaten in my whole life. Ever.

Later Kristi and Adam arrived, and after hugs all around we made a big pasta dinner and celebrated with the wine Ryan had now been carrying for four days. We were exhausted, but pasta has never tasted so good. Before going to bed, I had a chance to examine my feet. Prognosis: not good. The duct tape had created a section of skin that got squished between the tape and my heel, and the resulting heat rash was not pretty. Then there were the blisters. I think the photos speak for themselves (warning - the pictures you are about to see may cause queasiness!).

At least the belly full of pasta and wine put me right to sleep!

Day 5:

Early to bed - early to rise. Having done our requisite research, we knew we had to get up and moving early in the morning to make a boat out of the park by 2pm. Because of our varying degrees of physical agility, we left on a graduated timeline. Kristi left first, we me following about 30 minutes later. Ryan left 30 minutes later, followed finally by Adam, who took a short side hike to check out the mouth of the glacier. He thought about going for a swim...but I think these ice burgs were a bit of a deterrent. Our return trip to Lago Pehoe was much easier than the day before. Maybe it was because we were mentally prepared for the hiking or we knew what to expect, but the going was definitely better.

Although, walking alone for almost two hours I realized something - I am just no good without an audience! I'd go so far as to say I'm boring in fact! There's only so much to think about...the scenery was pretty, my feet still hurt, I can't believe how poorly maintained the trail is, man I'm hungry....Yep, that's pretty much it. Those same four things in no particular order. I was glad when I finally caught up with Kristi! To entertain myself in the meantime...I made sure to document our GREAT trails!

Oh Look! A rock outcropping! Oh no wait....that's trail....
Great! A dry riverbed! Nope...trail. Look at the pretty little stream....ahh, no. Trail again. Almost fooled me on that one! Finally we made it back to the palatial camp and were completely relieved. I bought some Jugo (best juice ever!) in celebration! And little donut cookies. Mmm...chocolate! After stuffing ourselves, it was time to say goodbye and load the boat. We retired "stick" - kristi's walking stick - and left it in the pile with all the others.

Man we were happy to be on that boat!!!! View from the boat - in 20 minutes on a boat and a bus we covered what had taken us 5 days to walk! Awwe...how cute! Reflecting back - I really enjoyed our time in Torres del Paine. If i were to do it over, I'd want to take AT LEAST ten days to cover the span that we did. The grueling pace took a lot of enjoyment out of the scenery. We were poorly prepared for the trail conditions and also grossely underestimated the amount of food needed to feed 4 of us four 5 days. But in all, this was a fantastic way to kick off our visit to Patagonia!