And Pingo Was Its Name-o

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January 16th 2019
Published: January 18th 2019
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After a pleasant dinner we headed back to the yurt and dad quickly went off to sleep. I was less sleepy so decided to spend some time reading. By 11:30pm I thought I would be fine to get to sleep, and I did. Until about 2am when I was wide awake thanks to jetlag. On the plus side, I realised that the skylight at the top of the yurt was giving a fantastic view of the clear night sky. It looked great and I even caught site of a satellite going overhead. Eventually, with the help of a sleeping pill, I managed to get back to sleep. Dad apparently woke up at 3am but was not so fortunate to get back to sleep.

I awoke to my alarm going off at 6am and after a quick shower we headed to the main room of the camp for breakfast. With that out of the way, we joined our excursion group to the Pingo trail. Despite what I wrote in the last blog, there was no lake. It is a river and there were waterfalls at the end of the hike.

We were joined by a lady named Cathy who was in the arrival briefing with us yesterday, and a young American couple on their honeymoon, April and Robert. Our tour guide was Nico, who gave the briefing yesterday. There were also 2 ladies who were not on our tour but were heading to the Gray Glacier boat ride which departed from near where our hike began. We hopped in a van and were on our way.

I didn’t take notice of how long the drive was, to be honest, just happy to look out the window at the impressive vistas as they unfolded before us. The mountains that form the centre of the park, the Paine Massif, were definitely the highlights.

Once we arrived at the starting off point, we said “see you later” to the ladies heading off on the boat trip and began the hike. From the get-go, Nico and the honeymooners were steaming ahead which I found a bit surprising. Sure, it was a hike, but I thought they would give some consideration to my 77-year-old father and Cathy, who was no spring chicken either.

For myself, I could have kept up, but I didn’t really want to. For one, I was here with

Near Patagonia Camp
my dad, so I wasn’t exactly going to charge off and leave him to catch up. But secondly, to me a hike (or a bushwalk as I’d call it back home) is about enjoying time amongst nature. To keep pace with the guide, I would have had to keep my head down and watch every footstep because it was an uneven path. I would not have seen or experienced a thing, let alone been able to take any photographs which is one of the primary things I like to do on holidays.

Eventually we caught up to them as they stopped to wait for us. But during the whole time, Nico was explaining things to them and as soon as we caught up, they headed off. I have no idea if we missed any valuable information, or even just interesting tidbits! As the hike continued, this happened more often than not, when they decided to wait for us.

Too bad, I figured. I was here to experience Patagonia not race with strangers, so I purposefully kept at the back of the pack. This also allowed me to make sure the two older members of the group didn’t encounter any difficulties, as well as stop to take photographs of whatever took my interest.

I did get lucky at one stop. I had seen April head up a hill for a better shot of the mountains that appeared in the gap between two nearby hills. So I headed up to take a similar shot. However, I apparently walked just a little further up the hill than she had because as I raised my camera, I saw four white horses standing in front of me. I must confess a part of me wondered if I should keep the shot to myself, but of course I didn’t, and I called everyone up to see them.

The walk was fairly easy-going for the most part and we soon reached the waterfalls at the end of the track. Of course, I arrived later than everyone else and was still exploring and trying to take photos as everyone wandered off to see what else there was to see. I took the opportunity to ask Nico if this was the pace of all the hikes and he said yes, but it only matters for the hard treks as they tend to have time limits when things close or it gets dark. This meant that for me to do a hard trek, I would pretty much have to forget taking photos, so I decided I wouldn’t bother. While it seems many come here and photograph their hike, I hike to take photographs. Fortunately, Nico suggested a very scenic trek that was just 15km and it sounded like exactly what I was after.

As I was having a drink Nico came back after looking around, very excited. It seems he had spotted a mating pair of Torrent Ducks. Of course, this meant nothing to me, but his excitement was infectious. I started snapping away at the male duck while Nico headed around to try and flush the female out into the open. During all of this, the others wondered back, and we all tried to get photos of these ducks. As it turns out, while the duck is not stunningly beautiful or anything, apparently it is rare. In fact, Nico said he has seen far less of them than he has pumas, which was why he was excited.

Once the ducks had headed downstream and out of view, we turned around and headed back down the trail. The journey back was pretty non-eventful, but I know dad and Cathy were feeling pretty tired by the end. I was keen for a sit-down myself, as I hadn’t had a chance up at the falls.

We arrived back before the ladies on the boat ride returned, which made me wonder why there was such a hurry for the hike. Lunch was pretty good though! We were expecting just to get the sandwiches we had ordered the night before, but there was also beer and wine for those who wanted it and a couple of delicious desserts. I very much enjoyed the chocolate brownie I had. The wind was up, though, and it was cold now that we had stopped walking, so we were pretty keen to get back into the bus.

After a quick photo stop at a great lookout over Toro Lake with the Paine Massif in the background, we were back at camp at 3:30. Dad, Cathy and I decided we would do the self-guided walk to a waterfall near the camp. They headed off first while I mucked around with some photos and would catch up. I caught them just as they arrived at the falls and after taking a couple of photos they headed back while I was still setting up my tripod and other gear for some long exposures. Again, I said I would catch up and I did before they got back to camp.

So all in all, it was a pleasant day and I was looking forward to tomorrow. Nico had said he would try to see if the trek he had suggested would run tomorrow and if not (always possible with the Patagonian weather!), something similar should be possible. I was hopeful as I returned to our yurt and started processing the day’s photos.

After getting a problem with our yurt’s toilet fixed, we headed down to the bar for a drink and dinner. While there, I followed up about tomorrow’s excursions as I had not heard whether Nico had been able to get the trek he had suggested. It was 8pm when all excursions are supposed to be finalised but when I asked, they said they still didn’t know. I kept following up and it wasn’t until after 9 that they finally told me it wasn’t. Not only that, but the other options were the driving tour, the hard hike or heading back to where we had gone today. I thought I’d see if I could get a ticket for the boat ride to the Gray Glacier, but as it turns out it was too late and there were no tickets available.

This put me in a bad mood. I understand that the excursions you want are not always available, but it would have been good to know this well before 9pm so I could have arranged something like the boat ride. Anyway, the only viable option is to join Dad and Cathy on the Fauna tour which, if nothing else, should provide some good photography opportunities. We shall see.

Additional photos below
Photos: 39, Displayed: 28


Wild HorsesWild Horses
Wild Horses

On the Pingo Track

On the Pingo Track
A rest stopA rest stop
A rest stop

On the Pingo Track

20th January 2019

Patagonia Yurt Camp
Having driven over all the roads of the Torres del Paine area I was familiar with all the accomodation options available within the park when we were there. However, having looked on the internet, were you staying at Patagonia Camp on the banks of Lake Toro just outside the park? If so, looks very nice indeed.
21st January 2019

That's the one!
Being outside the park added an extra 15 minutes each way for driving, but no big deal as the landscape is still stunning outside the park!
3rd February 2019

An impressive drive
Enjoy the hike, stop to smell the flowers. This is not a hike to be rushed. I'm glad you called everyone to see the horses. Sorry you missed the boat ride.

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