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March 2nd 2006
Published: March 5th 2006
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These are my boysThese are my boysThese are my boys

Scott, Sean, and the ever-present cattle driving Cody.
After a bit on yet another bus, the four of us (Scott, Cody, Sean and I) arrived in Puerto Natales. We were harrassed immediately upon disembarking from the bus by several individuals with flyers for hostals trying to sell us on staying with them. We ended up going home with Patty, a woman with an open fly and high heels that bowed her legs out when she walked. Wouldn´t you?

Patty´s house was a real dive; thin, barely held together walls, water leaking from the ceiling, cold water only in a town that was cold in and of itself. Would you have stayed there? No, of course not. Did we? Of course we did. It was only $4. We debated in her living room for 10 minutes, mostly about the safety of our things that we would leave in her care while we spent the next five days hiking the national park. In the end we were tired and lazy and she had a nice cat so we stayed. She also lived several blocks away from everything else and we would have had to bring all out things with us again and start over. Even more unappealing. And I did

So hard to capture any of the scenery, but here is a bit of glacier.
get my own room, so how bad could it be?

We spent the rest of that day walking around, working out bus schedules out of Puerto Natales for when we came back from the park, stocking up on some more food items and a tent to rent for the trek, getting some dinner, and so on. Patty said her aunt owned one of the bus companies and that she would get us cheaper tickets for the bus to the park the next day, so that was convenient. I got to bed late after repacking all my things for the trek and we had to get up early for the bus at 7:45. I had a terrible sleep - the house was freezing and I froze all night long. My bed was also extremely uncomfortable. It looked like a king but was actually two twins next to each other and still both covered in plastic. Every time I moved the plastic made noise and I kept slipping down in between the two beds. Add to this the fact that I was getting sick with a cold, and you get the picture.

In the morning Patty had some breakfast for us - breads, jams, yogurt - and then we were off. Turns out Patty´s connection was bogus and we paid the same fo rthe rise as everyone else. It was a couple hours to the park, and then we had to decide which of three stops to get off at within the park. We chose the last stop and did the "W" hike, one of the most popular treks, in reverse this way. The first day was mostly just a flat trail, which was a good way for me to start out. I can hike reasonably quickly when it´s flat; as soon as there is an uphill component I go much, much slower. It was reasonably cloudy that day and the winds, for which the park is famous, were strong and blowing against us. We hiked for about four hours, with another hour thrown in for lunch. We stayed that night in a pay camp that was $7 per person as opposed to $38 for staying in the refuge itself. It had a cooking facility where we chatted with bunches of people, and also hot water showers. I didn´t bother with the shower since it was so cold outside, but the hot water sink was a luxury. The wind was harsh that night and kept shaking the tent and our rain fly started to come off twice. Luckily Scott got up and fixed it both times (it was cold) and luckily for him it wasn´t raining either of these times. It was loud though, and cold, and I found it really hard to sleep.

The second day in the park we got up and made breakfast and then headed out around 10am to the next site, which was only two hours away. It was a free camping site, which was great, and it was protected by trees, so the winds didn´t really affect us there. It was also the base from where we could hike up to a lookout to see another glacier on the mountain. The weather though, was uncooperative, and we ended up having some lunch and taking naps to wait it out. In the late afternoon we decided to attempt the walk a bit, mostly because we had been hearing avalanches all day from that glacier we could see, and we wanted to actually get a chance to see them. I walked much less than the
Torres  del PaineTorres  del PaineTorres del Paine

These are the torres, or towers, themselves. You get this site as a reward to your 40 minute boulder scramble.
boys because I thought the view was good from where I was but they walked on a bit. After about 45 min I was cold and it was starting to rain again, so I headed back to camp. The boys came back, no one having seen an avalanche, and we made dinner and got to sleep.

The next morning we had a cold breakfast to save time, as we had a long walk to do, and we heard some more avalanches. One of them lasted several minutes instead of seconds, and we finally went out to see just the remaining bits of snow pouring down like a waterfall. We later found out that it was an enormous avalanche with maybe several acres of ice coming down and people having to get out of the way as ice bits came rumbling down. We even saw the video one guy had taken on his camera - it was impressive. And we missed it!! Oh well. The weather was much better and we decided to use it to get on our way.

This third day was to become my own personal hell. We had a "long way" to go, and in
And we made itAnd we made itAnd we made it

This was just before getting on the bus back to Puerto Natales.
the end, this ended up being about 22 km, or 14 miles. I did it, and it was awful. My advice to you is not to hike with people who are out of your fitness level. That´s all I´m saying. It usually ended up being three boys off who knows where (we had picked up an extra boy that day) and me with Cody at my back like a deranged cattle prod. And I was the cattle. He was there soley to intimidate me into finishing the day. Don´t get me wrong, the boys are great, it was just an ungreat situation. A great deal of it was uphill as well, which is where all my problems begin. And since we had very little breakfast and lunch, and I was sick, I was much weaker than I could have been at different points throughout the day. They let me do the very last hour alone - it took me an hour and a half, all cursing uphill at 7pm. We started at 10:30am and I finished at 7:40pm. And my pack felt so heavy by the end, not to mention the terrible blisters on my heels. It was a beautiful walk, and a beautiful day, with Andean condors circling above us at points. But I was unable to appreciate it like I should have. What can you do?

We stayed in another free camp that night, this one with only one toilet and no running water otherwise. I thought one toilet for a camp would be a problem, but there was rarely even a line. It was a pretty camp at least, and Scott had set up our tent by the time I had gotten there, which was nice. We were right on a stream, which was pretty. That night we made some dinner in the little shack they had there and then I went to bed. I thought I would sleep easy, but it turned out that the ground was sloped enough so that my sleeping bag kept sliding off my sleeping mat into Scott. So I spent most of the night trying to prevent this from happening.

The main attraction of this camp was that it was less than an hour from here up to the lookout of the torres, or "towers" for which the park was named. The boys decided to go up for sunrise the next morning - I slept until 10am or so. Just as I was getting up they came back and we had some lunch. Slept some more, waiting for the clouds to clear up, and then decided to hike it up there at 4pm. Cody came with me. We got up there in less than an hour and although it was cloudy, the clouds were high and the towers were clear. Very cool formations and very pretty. There is a glaciery type thing there as well and at the base is a lake, where the melting waters collect. Very pretty. We stayed up there a while, walked to the lake, and had some snacks and then went back down to camp. Pretty much a boulder scramble all the way up and down, which was fun.

The other boys had dinner started when we got there, so that was great. For these meals we ate a lot of ramen noodles and pasta and polenta, which is like a corn meal product that we ended up putting in the ramen for more substance. It was all surprisingly tasty. Got to bed and got up on day 5 prepared for the trek back to where we would pick up the bus. Of course this day was all sun and warm - why not the day before?- and a great deal was downhill, which was great. I walked the whole time alone and it only took a couple of hours. We had to wait for the micro bus that would take us to the real bus back to Puerto Natales for a bit, but it was a relaxing wait.

When we got back to town we decided not to stay at Patty´s again for sure. We all needed showers and hot water. The bus dropped up at her door where her, her dog, and her cat were all waiting for us with grins and waves. She said she had hot water and we stayed. We dropped our things and went for dinner - Sean was hungry - and cruised around town a little to get snacks for the 12 hour bus ride the next day. Eventually got back and showered (the water was warm in the beginning at least), repacked and got ready for bed about midnight. I had to keep physically removing Patty´s daughter from the room as she would mess with all my things like it was a game as I repacked. I changed rooms and had a slightly better bed.

The next day we were off on the 7:30am bus for Ushuaia, Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego.


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