Grey’s Glacier

14 02 2010

It absolutely tipped it down overnight and the tent sounded like it was going to be ripped away any minute by the wind but our tents had been well pitched and we had no problems. Given the weather conditions I couldn’t really face going for a shower so I just had a French shower (a generous spraying of Axe deodorant). I then looked for my waterproof pants and discovered that I’d lost them somewhere. Luckily by the time I managed to get out of the tent the rain had already stopped and it held off for the rest of the morning.

At breakfast Per mentioned that the rented walking poles that he’d left on the main porch of the refugio were surprisingly gone. Ana couldn’t believe that he’d left them there all night and not put them in his tent but she asked various people around the campsite: all to no avail. Zoran and Gordana decided to stay back at the campsite (God only knows what they found to do there) whilst the rest of us hiked up to first viewpoint of Grey’s Glacier. It was quite a short trek – just as well since we hoped to get the midday ferry back across the lake.

View of the glacier (if you look hard enough it's there!)

On the way back down we came across some geese with their goslings. Here I was able to snap one of my favourite shots of the whole trip. Whilst on the catamaran, Ana suddenly turned up clutching Per’s poles. Apparently one of the other guides had found them and put them somewhere safe.

The gander looking after his brood

We then headed back to the Southwind Hostal in Puerto Natales and got there in the late afternoon. There was a lot of confusion with the rooms after Gordana and Zoran both took a different room key each. This was because there were apparently two matrimonial rooms. Per and I ended up in one of these – luckily it also had a single bed in it too; which I took. It was only the next day that I realised that the single bed was in the shape of a toy car! After a much needed shower I wandered around the town; but being a Sunday there was not a lot open.

At around seven, Per, myself, Jola and Kaśke decided to go to dinner. Jola had picked a restaurant from her Footprint guide which she fancied trying but (like most of the restaurants in town) it didn’t open for dinner until half seven; so Kaśke bulldozed us into going to a restaurant she’d been to a few days earlier. It was quite a nice restaurant with a homely atmosphere. I had king crab and avocado to start (it was only on my return from Patagonia that I discovered that the king crab is overfished there) and I think a Milanese escalope for my main. We walked around town a bit after dinner and finally found the seafront and then headed back to the hotel for some shuteye

The French Valley

13 02 2010

After what turned out to be quite a warm shower, we went to the lodge again for breakfast (our tents were dismantled whilst we ate) and then we set off in the bus. We drove for a little bit to Lago Pehoé where we then took a catamaran across to the next campsite. From the boat I managed to see a red fox on the far bank but it was a long way away and the photo I took from inside showed some steamed-up glass covered in raindrops; by the time I got to the upper deck to snap some pics the fox was long gone.

The scenery across the lake though was spectacular; with waterfalls cascading into it and craggy peaks dominating the skyline. Once we got to the new campsite we headed off almost immediately on our second trek: this time to the French Valley. Gordana joined us that day and we all walked together for a couple of hours up to the Italian camp. At this point Zoran and Gordana headed back towards the camp as planned and, to my utter astonishment, Per (who had been the fittest the day before) also decided that he was too tired to continue and went back with them.

Horns of Paine

Ana, myself and the two Poles carried on towards the viewpoint another three hours or so away. It was a nice walk; perhaps even more vertical than the previous day – we seemed to have to clamber over a lot of rocks and watch our footing around some streams. At the viewpoint, we saw quite a few chunks of ice falling down off the nearby glacier; accompanied by a staccato crack and a slide of crumbling ice. After the viewpoint we turned around and headed back.

Ana and Jola at the mirador

Once we finally reached camp (the walk seemed to take forever) I headed straight to the bar to get some much-needed beers. I was chatting to an American there (mostly about the strange workings of the female brain) for quite a while and when we ordered a new round in he said, “Cheers, I’ve never met an Australian I couldn’t get drunk with”. To which I of course had to disappoint him and say, “Erm, but I’m British”.

Since it was almost the time that Ana had told us to meet, I was just thinking of heading downstairs to find the others when Ana turned up and gave me a voucher for dinner. Somehow her psychic powers had determined that of all the places on the campsite I would be found in the one place selling alcoholic beverages: apparently I’m easy to read.

The dinner was a cafeteria system, you loaded your tray up as you went along. There was no choice as such – although you could choose not to have one of the courses. I of course went for the lot. We actually had our own private room just off the main dining hall which was nice to begin with but I started to get cabin fever after a while in there (hearing the same stories again and again was starting to grind) and was glad when we’d all finished and I could get back to the bar.

Per, Jola and I sat on some comfy couches in the corner of the bar and supped a few pale ales. The others stayed downstairs complaining that the bar was too smoky for them. After a bit it was time to retire once more for a last night under canvas.

Torres del Paine

12 02 2010

We left the majority of our luggage behind in Puerto Natales and stuffed 3 days clothes into a duffel bag and then we headed off towards the Torres del Paine national park. On the bus ride there we saw loads of guanacos (they’re an undomesticated sort of llama) and a rhea.

After a brief stop to pay the park entrance fees we stopped off at the campsite and headed off trekking almost immediately. Gordana decided after her previous experience to stay behind so the five of us set out for a full day’s trekking with Ana as the guide. It was a nice trek through some spectacular scenery but I found it a bit harder than the previous trek at Fitz Roy. The last push seemed particularly tough.

The Torres del Paine

After four and a half hours or so, we got to the viewpoint to see the towers – three dramatic spears of granite – although they were quite obscured by clouds; and then headed back towards camp. Per found the hike quite easy and he practically sprinted back. At least the weather was pretty good and, although I did the usual multiple changes of clothing in succession, I never needed to put my waterproof pants on.

Me goofing around at the mirador

In the evening we all picked our tents – at first Per and I thought that ours had no outside bit (sorry my camping vernacular is not really very broad, maybe you can call it a porch) to put our boots and stuff in. It was only when we got into it that we realised we were going in through the back of the tent (amateurs!). Since everyone was complaining that the showers were cold I decided to chance it in the morning instead and continue with the musky trekking smell!

We all had dinner at the Hosteria Las Torres next to the campsite. This involved crossing an extremely rickety bridge across a stream; which was bound to lead to trouble if we got too drunk that evening. Ana gave us the briefing for the next day (which as usual went in one ear and out of the other) and then we tucked into our lasagna; washed down with a few local beers in my case.

After dinner we grabbed some more beers to go and headed back to the campsite. Unlike most campsites in the park this one allowed lit fires so we decided to give it a go. Per had already chopped some wood (being Norwegian he was very handy with the axe) although someone had nicked it in our absence so he had to cut some more. Most of the wood was a bit damp so it was a major struggle getting it going but after borrowing some lit wood from another fire and a huge amount of blowing on my part I managed to create a nice fire.

After managing to spill one of beers over Jola’s hat (it smelt great for days!) and thus diminishing our meagre stocks it was time to call it a night and head to our sleeping bags ready for the next day.