What the heck?! I don't think my second part of Torres del Paine ever published itself, so here it is, in all its late glory. Africa really is coming up - promise!
The journey in Torres del Paine continues…
Today we awoke safe in the knowledge that the hard pass was over, though we were still aiming for 21km in total. Our cereal was now gone; we began the process of eating as much porridge as humanly possible, and achieved our aim over the next few days with great aplomb. Our hike today took us alongside the ice sheet up to Glaciar Grey and beyond, through forest and dirt paths, to viewpoints and a campsite complete with sofas and a log fire in their social room. Sadly, though, we only had time to stop for a poo, but we were at least blessed with clean toilets and toilet roll, a rare commodity in the national park if you don’t carry your own (toilet paper that is; carrying a toilet would be ridiculous, not to mention unsanitary). After moving on from there, we hiked along the side of the valley and were again treated to some quite
amazing views from high viewpoints along the trail. As we wound our way towards Campamento Paine Grande, we glimpsed the deep blue of the lake and knew we had done it. Chocolate biscuits, sunshine and a cheeky beer or two were enjoyed and late in the evening we chatted to other campers and tried not to think of the 28km we wanted to cover the next day.
Rain in the morning led Erik to push on early while Ilia and I were lazy arses and had a bit more of a lie in than usual. When we did start out, the rain still present but light, we set a quick pace and made our way to Campamento Italiano where we left our packs and began to hike up the Western point of the W circuit. The number of people had increased at Paine Grande due to this being the more popular and easier portion of the hiking circuit, but we met others that Ilia already knew and hiked some of the glorious Valle del Frances with them. Today was a definite contender for scenery of the hike so far, and looking back now, it was probably
the winner in the sheer amazement category. The pictures don’t do it justice, but hopefully will give you a good idea of how awesome a place it was.
After hiking until around four o’clock we made our way back and picked up our packs, hiking a further 8km or so to Campamento Los Cuernos. A warren of a campsite, we tried to pick a sheltered spot after seeing one tent on its side and others being nailed to boards to keep them from blowing away. After another bloody lovely dinner, we sat inside the seating area and watched the sun set, reading our books and wondering what had become of Erik, who was now missing after our differing start times that morning…
With my legs protesting and pleading, and Ilia’s insistance that he march faster than Superman can fly, we set our own paces and separately headed onto Campamento Torres. There was little we could do about looking for Erik at this stage, and we presumed that he must have hiked onward the previous day. Either that or his bloody and shattered body lay somewhere down a cliff face, but we hoped it was the
former, not least of all because it would mean that we had to eat even more porridge and rice ourselves. Today was the hottest day of the hike that we had experienced and I spent most of the day feeling more moist than Marty Pellow. It was also a grand day though, lunching in front of a gorgeous lake, and then meeting Ilia for the final few kilometers. Once we arrived, we pitched the tent for what would be the very last time – bliss! This was it, the final stop before seeing the towers of pain, which is the lovely translation of Torres del Paine. Perhaps I should have taken note of that fact before agreeing to all this…
We had intended to hike to the towers the next morning for sunset, but having made good time, we decided that we would pay them a quick visit that evening. The way up was steep and took a good forty minutes. As we reached the top, the towers came into view above a glacial lake of grey, the three peaks high above us, a condor flying to one side of them. I had myself a moment and sat for
a while looking up at them, thinking about the great mysteries of life, the universe, and why it is that Mick Hucknall gets more girls than me, even if he is famous. I mean really, then man looks like the bastard child of a cabbage patch doll and the cookie monster from Sesame Street on a good day, and yes, he can sing, and yes, I sound like a crow that’s being stamped on, but it doesn’t make it fair, right or proper.
My ponderings on life done, I realised that I had achieved what I had set out to do all that time ago and felt very content and happy with myself. I had wanted to come here to see if I could do it, and I had. It was these moments that were the point of me travelling and I knew that seeing the towers once was enough. With agreement from Ilia, we headed down and decided that a lie in the next morning was way better for our health than a 4am sunrise start.
We cooked our final meal of pasta, sauce and tuna, and who should walk into camp at just the moment we
were preparing the food, but our fellow companion, Erik. We were pretty elated to see him alive and discovered that we had been within a kilometer or so of seeing each other the day before. All’s well that ends well, as they say, and we ate together amid torchlight and headed to bed, ready to end our hike the next morning.
Today we finished the porridge. Like a lead weight it sat in my belly, my body ready to expel it from my bottom in much the same consistency as it had entered my mouth (sorry, mum). I was quite sick of eating the same food, and was delighted when, after several hours of hiking down from our campsite, we came across a shop selling hotdogs. Oh boy oh boy oh boy! My senses tingled like I’d been slapped with a big wet fish, and I devoured three of the buggers in record time. We took the bus back around two or so and arrived back at our hostel, my body aching and smelling in equal measures. I showered, I shaved (to find my face well and truly destroyed with mosquito bites) and I dropped the
kids off at the pool in glorious form. That evening the three of us visited a restaurant named Carlito’s, and had one of the best meals of our lives. I opted for the old faithful burger and chips, and lit up when I saw the burger was the same size as a dinner plate – and that is no exaggeration…
Our journey complete, we grinned like children and drank beer, we chatted about our future plans, we swapped emails and wished each other well. I was close to the end of my time in South America...
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