End of the World

Trip Start Jul 06, 2005
Trip End Mar 10, 2006

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

WOW - when we last chatted our little troupe was just headed off to do the famed 4/5 day "W" trek in Parque Torres del Paine, Chile. Not sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into! For starters Matt and I were randomly accosted by two lovely Israeli girls in a souvenir shop and volun-told that they'd be joining our group once it was established we were leaving the same day. Fair enough, we had a little pre-trip family dinner and with new recruits Tali and Rachel on board and our wayward Alaskan Alan back in the fold things looked promising!

Day 1 - Rude Awakening

Mark: It's snowing!

Me: Hahahaha, yah, the weather looks nasty (snow, come on now lets not get silly).

Me 5 seconds later after looking outside: Holy S%$&! Its freaking snowing!

So, day one begins in an entirely unexpected blizzard - I mean, we all expected highly variable weather but I don't think anyone was mentally steeled to comtemplate a blizzard for the whole ride out to the park! At any rate, things did clear up before arrival, and we completed the major part of day one in the sunshine. This is the first trek I`ve done where we are TOTALLY self sufficient - we carry the tents, all gear and clothes, and all food. And there's plenty of stuff as its so cold we all need heavy duty sleeping bags and our warmest clothes.

That said, day one was ok, and after setting up camp we made a break for the mirador to see the famous "Torres del Paine". Timing, unfortunately, is everything however, and despite the construction of rock man homages to the gods and waiting for a long time our blizzard had returned and we were't to see anything. We all crowded into the boys' 4 man tent for warmth to eat dinner and wait for bed, and only after we all hit the sack did the cold really start to creep in.

Day 2 - I have to carry this HOW far??

It got COLD at night and most of us froze a bit to some extent - most impressively my socks, which had been hung to dry after an unfortunate run-in with last nights soup had frozen at 90 degree angles! Built the girls a snowman to greet them on awakening as neither have seen much in the way of snow. After breakfast, Buli (sp?) the snowman mounted on his travelling stick, we set off to complete the 23 K to the next free camp site (ALL about the free sites, although for the monied there are pay sites and refugios along the way, all outrageously priced). The boys powered ahead a bit set up camp and only on running back on a mission to find our missing girls did we learn Tali had taken a fall and cracked her head on a rock - I felt sooo bad to have left them behind, but no long term harm done (we think). Another dinner and the construction of a new tent duplex to keep everyone closer and warmer and we were done for the day. Day three promised the jewel of the trip, the French Valley.

Day 3 - Easy Peasy

Day three was just a few hours hiking up the valley to the snow line to catch some magnificient views of the surrounding valleys and the beautiful crystal blue lakes at the foot of the mountains below us. Despite Matt and Alan taking our lunch on an extra hike leaving us to nearly starve to death in the snow, it was an easy enough day. Built a very quality rock man, looks like ET if I do say so myself!

Day 4 - How far will you walk for a free camp?

37 Kilometres. Apparently. Day 4 we decided to hike the nearly 20 K to Glaciar Grey, and back, and leave all our gear at the free site - 1) Lightening the load for walking, 2) Shortening the next days walk, and of course 3) It was FREE!. Amazing walk, capped by the very impressive glaciar and some fun on mini ice flows. Got nailed by a freezing rain storm in the last two hours and we were NOT a happy camp site as everyone peeled out of wet cold clothes and shoes in the freezing weather. Oh well, nothing our new favourite camping drink: warm milk, dulce de leche (kinda caramely), and rum, won't fix!

At the beginning of the hike Alan found this ridiculous red snow suit in the trash, but perfectly good by all appearances. Of course, he wore it all day, despite its being several sizes too small! Other bonus of the day, we discovered some people have way too much money and leave all SORTS of tasty food behind when they take the ferry home available from this camp. FEASTED for two days by showing up at the free food area right after the ferry left. No pride, but lots of tasty treats!

Day 5

Last day also saw us save a few bucks and walk an extra 17 K or so in order to avoid the $20 boat ride back to the bus pick up. Got nailed again at the VERY end of our 5 hour walk in a freezing rain storm and SPRINTED the last kilometre or so with all our heavy gear. Too funny, nearly killed me! And that was that, an epic, epic 5 days of hiking and 6 incredibly tired kiddies. After the trek we had a celebratory dinner at the hostel with the girls and then said our good byes, heading in seperate directions for the next leg. They turned out to be great company and Tali and I in particular really clicked. Already missing them!

Onwards and...Downwards?

In the interests of insanity and money saving, we decided to try to hitch the next leg! We split into teams of two, Amazing Race style, to increase the chance of pick up for each, and Mark and I proceeded to stand for 5 hours in the freezing wind to FINALLY get a very posh ride from Puerto Natales in an empty Mercedes tour bus. 5 hours waiting with no food (nice one boys), saved $6 and gained some serious travelling style points. The other boys also made it, although via bus just because they thought we'd already caved for a bus as well (which we had NOT). After an overnight in possibly the most expensive city in South America, Punta Arenas, Chile we caught the morning bus and crossed back into Argentina, 10 hours later finding ourselves in Ushuaia, "THE WORLD'S MOST SOUTHERLY CITY."

Ushuaia is the jumping off point for those with the cash ($2500-infinity) to head to Antarctica, and otherwise its biggest claim to fame is simply being really, really south. We sprang for an expensive 6 hour boat cruise to get up close and personal with a penguin colony (PENGUINS ROCK!!!!!) and see some sea lions on day 1, then rented a car again between four of us on day 2. How do we justify this extravagance, well, because we count it as transportation AND accomodation! That's right, we slept in the rental car, nothing but class.

Actually drove out to a picture perfect free, and deserted, riverside camp site in the valley outside town, and were joined by a couple of (girl)friends of Matt's for a little chorizo and wine fest - good free fun! Did a so so day hike today resulting in some seriously wet feet and here we are. Where is here you ask? Well, we're sitting in an internet cafe in Ushuaia, its 3 AM and it closes, well, now. At this point we sling on the bags and, sans sleep, wander off towards the highway to take a shot at hitch hiking out of this place. Should be an adventure at any rate and if anyone has read this far I hold my breath for the "You`re doing what?!?!" e-mails.



Oh, bonus note, Matt has a ridiculous knack for chatting people up. In the last two weeks we've seen him secure free pizza rom our hostel mom, free beer at a rental car agency, free cake at a bus ticket booth, and funniest yet, free entry for us all into three or four clubs simply on an insistance he knows "Jose". Too funny. Between that and breaking into clubs in Ushuaia through the window when they refuse to let us in for free, going to miss the craziness around here when he takes off.
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