Torres del Paine – starting out

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As mentioned in the previous post the strike by the Chilean border guards did have some impact on my travels, but in the end it was merely an additional four hours waiting on the bus at a windswept border outpost until they would open the border again at 5pm. It still got me into Puerto Natales on time to check in and attend the gear check at Erratic Rock at 7pm. Met my co-walkers Colleen, Amanda, Alex and our guide Mauricio. The next morning we met again at 7am to catch the bus to the park.

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The bus takes you to Laguna Amarga from where you either take a shuttle bus to Hosteria Las Torres or you can start walking straightaway, which is what we did. It was a pretty easy walk, fairly flat, meandering through the fields and along guanacos, those camelids of Patagonia. Part of the way was through areas affected by the 2006 fires and it was terrible to see the devastation that has wrought on the trees. It takes a lot of time to regenerate, much longer than anywhere else and it will take decades before any of them look reasonable again. We stretched out our walking legs, our packs a bit heavy with the food we were carrying, and got to know each other a bit better. We went at a good pace, much to Mauricio’s delight and got to the Puesto Seron camping area in good time. A pleasant grassy spot and with nice weather , so we could enjoy setting up our tents and settling in. There were even showers, even if a bit unpredictable in temperature, so I made use of that while the opportunity was there. Meanwhile Mauricio had started dinner preparations and before too long we were eating a very tasty dinner of meat stew. First day over and after our briefing for the second day we all retired to our sleeping bags.

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The second day dawned bright and sunny, although that did develop in some light rain at lunchtime, but nothing too dramatic or that required too many clothes. The trail was long, 19Ks, and offered a varied landscape. First more grassland until we got to a lake from where we started climbing steeply to a windy pass where you had to brace yourself in the wind as it gusted at you. We then descended along mountain slopes having magnificent views of lakes, rivers braiding through the landscape and some fairly impressive looking mountains. We reached the Dickson campground in good time and set up our tents! promptly to be attacked by mosquitoes that literally bit through every piece of clothing. One decided it would kiss me on the cheek creating a nice bit red welt. At least the bites didn’t itch, which was one bonus. In any case the wind soon came up and blew the mozzies away. Through Mauricio’s connections and the kindness of the guys who run the Refugio (more on that in another post), we got to indulge in hot showers, which were pure bliss. Still can’t get over these luxuries on the trail; so different from bushwalking in Australia. Another great dinner awaited (meat ravioli with tomato sauce) and then it was bedtime. During the night the tent rattled and shook in the wind and rain and at times almost flattened, but it held up, which was not something you could say about every tent as I saw the next morning.

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Day three dawned sunny though, despite the rain overnight, and we now started heading uphill to the last campsite before the John Garner pass. It wasn’t a long hike, so we started late and it took us through pretty forest, with spectacular views of the mountains around. Walking wise it wasn’t my best day; my left foot was very painful, but ultimately got to camp and followed Mauricio’s advice to soak my feet in the river. Given the river comes straight off the glacier one can barely hold them in there for ten seconds before it becomes too painful, but three dips and they did feel a lot better, even better the next day, although that was of no use as I will share in the next post. Dinner consisted of an awesome lentil stew with rice and chorizo. So much for trying to lose weight on this walk. I can’t stop eating! Camp is cold, so we all go to bed early, also given that we have to start early tomorrow to go over the infamous pass. Or so we thought… To be continued.

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