Friday, 22 January 2016

In Patagonia - Part 2

Team 'Looking for Luke' at Grey Glacier on Day 1.
The Chilean and the Patagonia flag.
The 'Great Wall of Backpacks,' on the ferry.

So continuing on from the last entry, but before I go on, I want to talk about something I didn't mention in the previous blog - a guy called Luke. He was a very special guy we met on that epic bus trip to Punta Arenas, so special in fact that we still talk about him. He was a 20 year old guy from Adelaide (bless!), and he was over here doing a bit of travelling in South America. He'd never really done much travelling, and not alone, so he was kind of new to the game. You could tell this without having to talk to him in fact - the blow up U-shaped head cushion for starters (bought in airports by 'greenies' on their first trips), and the fact that he had no cash and thought could pay by card at the tiny and very much not on the map place we stopped for dinner. He was also doing the 'W' trek, but alone, and the only reason he didn't come with us was that he was in a hurry and couldn't take the extra day to prepare. Poor Lucas also hadn't booked a hostel - but there was no room at ours. He didn't speak a word of Spanish (we taught him 'hola' and 'gracias'), so we wandered Puerto Natales helping him find a place to rest his little head. The next day he headed out to do his food shopping and renting of sleeping bag and tent, but quickly as he was catching the afternoon bus. Just before he left, the hostel owner eyed his backpack up and down and simply said 'you're hiking with that?' We worried about Luke. He left, and we wished him luck, shaking our heads as he trudged off to the bus station (after asking for directions) with that dead weight on his bag, which was also wrapped in garbage bags to waterproof it. Would we ever see him again? It was then that 'Team Looking For Luke' formed, and we set off on the trail asking people about him, and always hoping to find him.

All quiet at Camp Grey.
Team "LFL" is formed!
The weather cleared on Day 3.
Back to the 'Day After Italiano' on Day 3. I mentioned that nobody was prepared, and it was true. Spoke to someone after this and they said further up north on the track at camp Britannia, the ranger made everyone get into his cabin, which had a wood fire, as it was snowing and he said they wouldn't last the night... our ranger didn't offer shit. Thanks dude. We had steaming hot polenta in the morning, and it was the best meal I've ever had. It tasted like nothing, consistency of mush, had lumps in it, but it was oh so warm! We gobbled it all down, laughing to each other at how crap it actually was, before putting on our soaked-through boots, packing up camp and heading out. At this point, there was talk of leaving the park and regrouping before hitting it again. I had such defeatist talk, but there it was. We got back to the ferry port, and at which time the sun came out and things started to look up. A beer while waiting for the ferry wasn't bad either. On the other side of the lake, we discovered that the bus wasn't due for 5 hours, which turned out to be the best thing for us. We set up 'Camp Gypsy' just outside the coffee shop. We spread out all of our clothes, smalls included, hanging them up in the trees, sleeping bags, tents were put up to dry, bread with Nutella and peanut butter (together!) was served, and we just enjoyed the warmth and dryness of it all. The weather had cleared and we were granted the best views of the Torres. What could be better? A few beers in the cafe later (that's what could be better!), the bus pulled up and we went to our next campsite - Camping Hotel Torres.

Lunch at 'The Gyspy Camp.'
The hard hike to Camp Torres.
Camp Chileno.
We drank the last of our wine here, which we were saving for sunset at the Torres, but as we had learnt the previous night, you are never sure if you'll survive the night! We cooked and ate and went to bed pretty early - it had been an emotional day. The other reason was that I knew that Day 4 would probably be the toughest - it would be an uphill walk all day to Camp Chileno and then onto Camp del Torres where we were due to sleep. Uphill it was. Heavy was my backpack. Tired were my feet. Up I went, but as Team Looking for Luke (we hadn't heard from him at all sadly) worked so well together, nobody left anyone behind. I was always with someone, and someone with me, we stopped to drink, to look around and appreciate, to take photos and to have a breather sometimes too. Camp Chileno was busy and not a great place to camp - tents right next to the over-trodden muddy path and loads of people. We stopped for a snack of peanut better and jelly sandwiches and a re-fill of much needed liquids. Already we could just see the Torres peaking out, and we were getting more and more excited.

Hiking the "W" with all the gear.
The 'artistic' shot.
The 'group' shot.
We pressed on and continued to climb till we reached camp - set up the tents and grabbed some food and headed straight for the viewpoint, the reason we had come so far. It was a fairly tough 45 minute hike to the top, the trail littered with day trekkers (those horrible people that carry a handbag and an umbrella for the sun and get in your way and break your strike as you climb with 15kgs of gear), but it was all worth it - the view we got was 'precioso!' This is what people come here for, and it's usually covered in clouds, or raining, but today was the day to be here. We got all the normal photos in, groups, individual, funny ones, took some of other people, washed out feet (dont drink downstream for a while!), then sat back and chilled in the sun with our food and good company. We also met some people that we had bumped into all along the track, which happens more often that you think it would, and so enjoyed our food and conversation with them, and they in turn shared their wine!

What we had come to see... the Torres peaking out into the sky.
A fox slinking around the Torres.
A large condor soaring in the wind.
Truly blessed with the weather and the trip in general. I still think about it and smile to myself. We saw a few condors flying overhead too - Condors are the symbol of Chile, and extremely large birds, with a wingspan of over 3m. We also saw a fox (zorro) creeping around the Torres too after most of the noisy tourists had gone. Day 5 was very relaxing, but the most exhausting. The trek was nearly over, and all we had to do was walk back down the hill and catch a bus back to town, but my body knew it was nearly done so it was hard going pushing yourself just that little bit more. On the way down, we saw people riding up on horses (bastards!) and more day trekkers, but the weather wasn't great today (wasn't worth getting up for sunrise either), and we just looked at each other and smiled and knew we'd had our day yesterday. Reaching Hotel Torres and the bus stop, we bought some cold (and expensive!) beers and a big bar of chocolate, slumped down and didn't move till the bus arrived. It's hard to put all the feeling, thoughts and emotions into this - it's just something that you can't do. You have to come and experience the Torres del Paine yourself, walk it, camp it, do it with friends (old or new), take a camera and just open your eyes to what the Torres is. It would take a lot of convincing for me to do it again, even just the 'W' trek, but there is no regret this time, only one of the best 5 days of my life. I am also so happy to have spent it with 3 great people!

The Torres del Pain(e) at sunset on Day 4.
On arriving back in town, the first order of business was, apart from peeling of the filthy rags we called socks and underwear, was to ask about our little Luke. We had already come back to the hostel to collect his stuff and headed out of town. He'd actually done it! He'd survived! He had come back to town, grabbed his stuff, and continued on his way. I hear he is now in northern Argentina somewhere - go Luke! We had placed bets along the trail - I thought he'd leave after a night camping and being unable to cook his pasta and nearly die of cold. To be honest, it was a joke, and we knew he would make it, and we were so proud of him! Now that business had been attended to, we went out to eat (Guanaco steak) and drink (loads of beer and Terimottos) and to celebrate our victory over the Torres of Pain(e)! Well done Team Looking For Luke!

Team 'Looking for Luke' - we made it (and so did Luke!).

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MyUncleTravellingMatt. December 2015.

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