Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chile - Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine "W" trek

We completed the Torres del Paine "W" circuit in 4 days and have now renamed the national park Torres del PAIN. After over 100km of hiking with backpacks weighing around 18kg Markus, Erez and myself are completely exhausted. Leaving early on Wednesday morning we take the bus to the park and we hike up to the first camp. On Thursday we get up at 04.30h and trek up to the Torres viewpoint in the dark using head torches to find the way. This proved fairly difficult and the ground is very steep, firstly through the forest and then scrambling over large boulders. We arrive what we think is the viewpoint and it is still pitch black. The sun comes up slowly and the wind was blowing so fiercely we were freezing. Daylight reveals that we have missed our target and are actually 200m above the lake and the viewpoint. No matter, as this proves to be an even better vantage point than below. The sun shines on the Torres and turns them bright orange in the early morning. This was really spectacular and worth the effort of getting up so early. After hanging around for an hour we head back down to the campsite and pack up and move on. Following the trail down through the vally and contouring around lakes, we reach the next campsite at about 20h. A very long day and about 30km hiked in total. The evening meal is cooked on the small gas stove and we go straight to bed afterwards and sleep for about 12 hours. On Friday we awake and it is raining quite heavily, so we cut out a few km due to the bad weather and missed the Valle de Frances. We hike on to the next camp and it is a well established one and we even manage to get a hot shower. There is a feeling of being reborn after scrubbing off the dirt, dust, sweat, suncream and insect repellant. On Saturday we have another early start and trek even further up to the Grey Glacier to complete the "W" shaped trail. We hiked back to the camp and realise that we just about have enough time to hike the extra 18km to the administration to catch the bus to Puerto Natales. There is also the option to pay $22 and take a catamaran to meet the bus on the other side of the lake. Markus and I head off in a rush and leave Erez behind as he is in a lot of pain with an injured knee. He wisely decides to take the boat back. Moving quickly down the trail we arrive at our destination in 3.5 hours and everything hurts. We ask for a beer at the park administration, but are told we have to walk another 1km to the closest shop. In our weary and ragged state we couldn't even muster up the motivation to go there. We get the bus and luckily it stops at a shop on the way back so we get our well deserved cerveza there. We return to Puerto Natales and it is Saturday we head out for a meal and a few drinks. The end to a really fantastic time in Torres del Pain national park.