National Park Torres del Paine - No.1 in S.America
Trip Start Apr 02, 2009
123Trip End Sep 09, 2010
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And what a sound decision that turned out to be. The weather can change suddenly and without warning: we arrived in wall to wall rain, falling from the sky as if from a power shower but, after lunch, out came the sun and a pleasant, dry afternoon was enjoyed by all
The hotel in which we are residing is perfectly situated in the heart of the park close to all the main walks. There are two big hikes: one that circumvents the massive mountains and takes 8 days and the second that is known as the W circuit that delved into the three valleys within the mountains and takes 4/5 days. We went for the second option because it allowed us to return each night to the sanctuary of the hotel where Debbie could massage my sore limbs and sooth my furrowed brow (another one of those unfulfilled male fantasies).
To warm up on arrival we took the easy route to Los Cuernos (& the shortest on the W circuit) alongside a small laguna & Lago Nordenskjold
Next up was the Valle Frances that involved a car journey and a boat trip to get to the start of the hike that follows the shoreline of Lago Pehoe before turning into the valley that cuts into the mountains alongside Los Cuernos, behind yesterday’s Torres del Paine. This time we made sure that we carried our lunch with us and we were in a guided group. This was a slow walk with the guide stopping frequently to lecture on the flora along the way; especially the edible dark berries of Calafate that we were made to eat as if they were some kind of delicacy. But the walk was excellent, taking in azure lakes, emerald forests and roaring rivers that we crossed on rickety bridges before being confronted with a glacial slab of ice. We sat down and took lunch, donning all our clothing against the strong cold wind and enjoyed the spectacle of Glacier Frances. After eating, the rest of the group turned back but, with time in hand, we pressed on up the valley. This turned out to be not such a good idea as the rain began to lash down and the trail became a streaming torrent of water. We found ourselves scrambling over wet rock and jumping over newly formed rivers that use to be trails and progress was slow. So after 45 minutes we turned back and made the last ferry with 20 minutes to spare.
The final leg of the W was the longest trek; around 24 km up largo Grey to the base of the Grey Glacier
As usual, I find the best medication for oiling creaking body parts is a good stiff drink. We start with Pisco Sours but when I see the barman making them with powder instead of liquor from a bottle a swift change of plan becomes imperative
On our last morning, Debbie wrangles a horseride out of the hotel. Horses in this part of the world are dirt cheap and it’s possible to buy two horses here for the price of one cat back home (not that any sane person would buy a cat anyway). Consequently, they are not treated particularly well and get very jumpy when one of the gauchos starts whistling or hollering. They took one look at me and assigned me the largest carthorse- like beast. Together, we struggled up the slippery slopes and I was glad that she always had three feet on the ground at any one time. Some of the trail along ridges with sheer drops to one side were particularly alarming, one slip and we would be dead meat heading for the glue factory, but I consoled myself with the thought that no horse had been known, as yet, to have committed suicide. However, from the top of the hills, the views over the parkland were magnificent and worth every ounce of horse sweat. The sun was out, the rain had gone, the wind had stopped and we could believe that summer truly had come to Patagonia for a day and all was well with the world. A glorious way to finish our time in the park.