Me, my tent and I take on Torres del Paine

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Hola again!

I'm not going to say much about Torres del Paine, as essentially I just walked a lot and theres only so much to say! But whenever I say that I normally manage to ramble for ages anyway...

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is in Chile, not far from the border with Argentina. I had to get the bus from El Calafate at 5.40am, eep, which having not got back from Chalten til 10.30 felt very early! The day didn't start that well as I went to have a shower and realised that my towel and shampoo were all in my big rucksac that had been locked away in the luggage storage, grr. As I really needed a shower having already hiked for 2 days I did my best with a hand towel i pinched off the wall and the free squirty hand soap at the sinks. Was quite hard though trying to get it in to my hand and then run back to the shower, all the time trying to cover myself with a very small towel! luckily no-one else was up at that time :o)

Got on the bus and put the time to good use by having a nap. As it was a tour bus as well as a transfer bus we stopped regularly for photos/snacks/random wandering but we eventually got there! Quite late though, by the time we got to the national park and paid our extortionate US$30 entry fee, and then I waited for a shuttle bus to the start of the trail it was 2.30pm. The shuttle driver, once it arrived, was called Ricardo and he was very sweet, again I got to sit in the front and we chatted during the drive :o) the weather was amazing on the first day, clear but not too hot and the view was amazing. As we drove up we could see the famous Torres really clearly as well as the surrounding range. So I finally started walking about 3.30pm, rather later than anticipated!

The first stretch of the walk was a fairly steep climb and after half an hour I was seriously doubting whether I was going to be capable of carrying a tent for 3 days plus all of my food, sleeping bag and other essentials. I though I was going to die on the steepest bits! But I plodded on feeling rather like a pack horse and eventually made the top. It was only about 600m vertical climb but with all the weight on my back it was tough going! However once I got to the top i found that it had only taken one hour to do a 1.5 hour stretch of trail so I guess everyone else is even slower :o) good to know, and that revived me somewhat! After that it got much easier and was pretty flat, or at least inca flat (lots of ups and downs that average out). the trail followed a river up the valley, through forests, over streams etc, it was really pretty. Made it to my campsite in really good time, around 2 hours 15 mins compared to the 3.5 hour prediction :o) just as well the times were generous as I started walking so late! I put my tent up, had a snack to keep me going, and then set off with just a bottle of water for the final climb up the side of the valley to Mirador Torres. It was a 35min scramble over rocks and boulders, playing join the dots following the red dots that marked the trail. pretty steep but fun. I was feeling quite energetic by this point and bounced up. Was quite amusing watching a couple of Israeli guys who I chatted to on the way up as one of them was seriously struggling and having to rest every few metres. Hehe, you wonder why some people choose to go trekking... Anyway, I got to the penultimate rise and came over it to see the Torres stretch up before me :o) and then a final climb and the whole scene opened out - a glacial lake backed by a steep rock face, and the three torres del paine rising up from that, it wsa stunning. All around were snow capped peaks and it wsa so peaceful. There were a few people there but all sitting quietly just watching. When I got there it was quite late and I was in perfect time to see the sun go down behind them. Photos when I get back... I chatted to one of the Israelis for a bit and then once I got cold headed back down the hill. It was hard work going down that slope, think I prefered the up! Got to my tent to discover I was right next to a couple I shared a dorm with in El Calafate, small world. Had some more of my thoroughly unexciting food and went to bed while it was still light at around 9pm. Doesnt get dark tiil past 10pm here!

Got up at sunrise, had some brekkie and got the tent down pretty quick to set off at 6.30am. On the first section of the trail I had to retrace my steps down the valley so i passed a few people on the way up to the mirador. But once I turned off that trail to head around the side of the mountain (the trail is like a "w" with 3 valleys to go up connected by trails) I didnt see anyone for about 2 hours, it was bliss :o) the scenery was stunning and all I could hear was birds and running water. All the water in the park is drinkable and tasted so good, really fresh and cold as it was straight from the glaciar! I have lots of photos from my walk on the second day as it was so pretty. I didnt make quite such good time as the first day but got to the next refugio after 4.5 hours in time for lunch. After that pushed on for another 2 hours to my campsite and got there about 3pm. The last hour I was getting really tired carrying the bag adn it was a steep uphill scramble so i was relieved to get there! I had been considering going for a walk up the second valley once I had pitched my tent but it was at least 2 hours each way and I was exhausted! So i had a quick nap, and ended up sleeping for 3 hours, oops! By that time obviously it was too late to set out so i chilled out and read a book. Im reading The Jungle Books, the original by Rudyard Kipling, and its really good! You should read it if u havent yet :o) Anyway, so it was a good days walking, i covered about 26km which isnt bad for my first hike with kit. Had another very early night and planned to get up at sunrise to squeeze in some final walking before the bus back.

Unfortunately when I woke up at 4.30 the weather had changed - the rain was howling around the tent and the rain battering down. Yuk. So I didnt really fancy walking in it! i only actually had to walk for 2 hours to the ferry but I had been thinking of either walking part way up the second valley or up the 3rd valley for a bit to see a bit more before leaving. However with the weather like this I wasnt gonna see much anyway! So i went back to sleep and even though I woke up every hour to check, it was still yucky so i stayed in bed until 7.30. It wasnt too bad by this point so I braved it! Had some food, took down the tent and set off a bit before 9. The walk was really easy but the wind was soo strong that sometimes I had to stop and brace myself to avoid being blown over! Luckily it wasn't raining too much. I got to the ferry dock by 10.30 so had to wait for 2 hours for the boat. I was really cold by that point so didnt fancy walking to kill time! I went inside the refugio there and had tea and chocolate, and read my book :o) at 12 I splashed out and bought a ridiculously pricey lunch - 7 pounds for soup, some pasta and meat balls and a bit of salad! the food was rubbish but after crackers and biscuits for 3 days at least it was warm and soft. The ferry was also overpriced (as is everything in Chile and particularly this national park - if id wanted to sleep in a dorm it would be over 20 pounds a night!) at 11 pounds but I got back to the bus stop fine :o)

Had to wait 2 hours for the bus, yuk, so tried to find a place out of the wind to wait! Luckily after 1 hour the bus arrived as they stop there for a walk and lunchbreak. i got on the bus and heard someone call "Laura" from the back. Looked up and saw Jenna sitting there! Thats the girl I was travelling with in Peru and Bolivia, I knew she was in this vague area but didnt expect to see her on the bus! Was really good to catch up, and so we chatted all the way abck to Calafate. In fact I shouldnt have seen her at all cos she was planning on getting off at the first stop and going trekking, but she wasnt feeling too great so had stayed on the bus and ended up coming straight back instead of staying in the park.

We ended up getting back 2 hours later than we should of due to various problems and stupid tourists, so finally made it to the hostel at midnight to pick up my bag. luckily the staff were still there so i could get my bag as I was getting the bus out at 3am to Ushuaia! had a few dramas then - Jenna had nowhere to sleep as she was planning on staying in Chile, so the nice guy at my hostel phoned round a few otehrs to find they were all full :oS eventually we found a hotel with a room so we set off there. the other prob was that we were so late back that I couldnt return my tent and stuff to the hire shop. So just as well I met jenna as she kindly agreed to take it back for me!

After all the hassle I walked jenna to her hotel and then made it to the bus station, for the mega trip down south...

So only 2 days left in Patagonia :o( but its nearly christmas, yay!

Miss you all, see you soon! lots of love xxx
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