Jonah and The X Files
Torres Del Paine Travel Blog› entry 35 of 115 › view all entries
March 27th, 2008 – by: Saladin79
It's not always this way. As we arrived in Puerto Natales, the principal gateway to the park, the poor buggers who had just returned to the hostel from Torres were full of tales of snow, rain, hail and high winds. For them, it had obviously turned what can be a sublime experience into a soggy slog with conditions that made camping a miserable chore.
I managed to complete the majority of the standard W, the route meant to take in all the principal highlights of the park. This took 3 nights and 4 days and I walked with a bloke called Max whom I met on the bus from Calafate. Max is one of the seemingly ubiquitous Dutch folk that cover the traveling routes of South America. I dunno what it is about the Dutch, but I've only ever met one I didn't like (this wasn't Max by the way). The vast majority of Dutchies I've encountered speak impeccable English and come across as level-headed and obscenely contented with their lot. This makes them good traveling companions.
The first day was, literally, an uphill struggle.
Due to strong advice from other campers about cheeky mice gnawing their way through tents and bags to get at any food on the ground, we stowed our food for the four days in bags.
I sat for a good five minutes in a weird state of shock and self-pity. Only once before have I lost so much money in such a short space of time, that being the theft of my daypack in Ecuador. It took the rest of the evening for me to cheer up a little and consider that at least I still had all the photos on the memory card.
The second day was bloody hard work, pure and simple. We laboured through 22 KM of paths winding up and down and up again to Camp Italiano, ensconsed in woodland at the foot of Valle del France. We pitched old Nano-Tent near the toilets, only then realising that the wind was wafting Calvin Klein's: "Eau de Stinking Bog" all around the area. After cooking with this oh-so-appetizing pong in my nostrils, I decided to escape down to the river and lay on a rock as darkness fell.
It was then that, whilst gazing up at the stars in the clear night sky, I saw what I was convinced was a UFO. At first it seemed just a star like all the others, only a little brighter.
It took me another half an hour to figure it out. The sky above was not so clear after all. There was actually a very thin layer of cloud that was being blown hither and thither by the swirling, conflicting winds that dominate the air systems of the park. It was the movement of this cloud layer, not the star, that was presenting me with an optical illusion of a UFO. I went to sleep disappointed, but not surprised.
Days 3 and 4 saw somewhat less physical excursions up the Valley del Frances, in first drizzly then wonderfully sunny conditions and then a short trip up to a lookout to see Glacier Grey, impressive, but no match for Perito Mereno. I went solo on these trips, Max having strained something in the top of his leg that was causing him considerable pain on uphill stretches. He wasn't the only casualty we met with torn or twisted muscles. Mine were sore, but in a way which made me content that, despite the arduous work of the first two days in particular, they were happy with the exercise.
After the short but pricey catamaran journey to connect with a bus out of the park, I finally took in the full scale of the Torres del Paine massif, around the feet of which we had been tramping for the last four days.
Walking Torres del Paine is expensive. You pay plenty for equipment hire, return buses, park entrance fee and the catamaran trip. It was all worth it though, similar to Fitzroy, the park contains quite simply some of the best walking country I've ever had the pleasure to experience. Patagonia is a big place, packed with emptiness. But once you have finally emerged from the seemingly endless flatlands, it really does harbour some truly special scenery, aliens or no aliens.
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