Torres del Paine, blog 7
I did not have a great night sleep due to sinus pressure, (something I have problems with quite often), and my sore throat that had me grabbing for the foul-tasting lozenges a couple of times during the night. My optimism for how I would manage our outing today isn’t very high. As we are getting up this morning, I glance out the plastic window to see a spectacular red light bathing the towers and I run out on the patio in my pajamas to take a photo. It doesn’t last long and even in the time it takes me to get my camera and get outside the light is fading. Wow was that something to see. After breakfast I am pleasantly surprised to find that I feel much better so maybe I will do fine today after all. Speaking of breakfast, there was quite a spread laid out in the buffet which included breads, cakes, muffins, cereals, fruits, and scrambled eggs. I enjoyed a sampling of several items but the muffin was my favorite.
The weather took a turn for the worse since we walked up to breakfast as it is spitting rain and the wind has picked up when we go back to our dome. Paul and I put on our rain coats and pants, grab our packs and head up to the communal area where three vans are waiting for all of us that chose the easy excursion called Laguna Azur. Everyone else has their walking sticks so I tell Paul maybe he should get ours too. Hey, he can walk a lot faster than I can and he is carrying the key. It turns out another couple arrives just as Paul gets back with our trekking poles so they didn’t have to wait on us. Once everyone is settled in a van the drivers set off to deliver us to the head of the trail.
The weather is improving as some blue sky can be seen although we drive in and out of rain sprinkles. There is a large herd of guanacos with several young ones grazing and lounging close to the road so we stop to observe them and take photos. Thirty minutes after leaving the guanacos the vans come to a halt and we gather ourselves and our stuff and exit the vans. Our drivers head on down the road and will be waiting for us at the end of the trail.
Our guides for the trek are Claire, she is French, and unfortunately, Paul and I can’t remember the other guides name. I am going to call her Marie. Both of them are full of life and I marvel at the full packs the young women carry. The packs are half as tall as they are and look to be heavy. Paul and I have daypacks as do most of our fellow tourists and yet these fit women with their hefty loads could leave most of us in the dust if they wanted too. Gee I feel old.
Shortly after starting our hike we stop at a fenced off area where the skeleton of a guanaco is hanging from the fence. The poor thing got a back foot twisted in the wire when it attempted to jump the obstacle. Well, let us hope the sights get better from here!
We string out on the trail behind Marie with Claire falling in behind us. As can be expected with a large group everyone walks at different speeds and I am towards the end with Paul ahead of me a few paces. The trail passes through a small copse of trees and one of the guides talks about the trees and the other flora in the vicinity. So far, the weather is very comfortable, even the wind isn’t too bad but we are walking in the valley. We hike near some Black-faced Ibis which I think are the prettiest Ibis that I have ever seen and most of us take photos of the birds. There are also Southern Lapwing striding around with the Ibis and swimming on a small pond in the distance are a flock of Coscoroba Swans.
As we begin to climb a rather substantial hill the wind picks up and a few sprinkles of rain are coming down. Another herd of guanaco are on the hillside across from us and we stop to watch them. The young ones are running around and engaging in mock battles, all but one of them that is. This youngster is limping badly on one leg and with puma roaming the park an injured baby guanaco probably won’t last long.
As we trudge higher up the steep hill the wind grows stronger and it begins to lightly shower. Claire says we should think of the strong wind as a hairdryer that will quickly dry us off especially since the rain is so light. Claire wasn’t teasing us as when the rain showers disappear as quickly as they appeared, we do indeed dry off quickly. Well truthfully, most everyone has rain gear on anyway so it is just our faces and hands that have to dry off. Once we reach the peak of the hill, we take time to enjoy the wonderful view before preparing to tackle the steep decline. I much prefer going downhill to uphill but there are sections of the trail where the dirt and gravel is very loose. Thank goodness Paul went and got our poles as the hiking sticks are a great help in keeping us from slipping and falling at times. In fact, one member of our group fell and scratched up his arm unbeknownst to us until he told us about his spill later.
The white vans are waiting for us at the bottom of the hill and once we have all loaded up, we head for the ranchero where we will enjoy a traditional Chilean barbecue. When we arrive at the ranchero everyone makes a beeline for the bathrooms, thank goodness there are two of them!
The sun is shining brightly now and the hosts have set up tables for us in the yard. There is a buggy sitting to one side and a lot of tack hanging next to a horse pen but no horses are to be seen. The aroma from the various meats that are grilling smell wonderful. Most of the tables are filled by the time I get to the eating area but Paul and I find one table with room for two. We introduce ourselves to the other three people sitting there and they do the same to us. The couple is from the Netherlands and the other man is from Oregon.
We are the last to go through the dinner line, I always end up at that table for some reason, but there is plenty of food left. I take a piece of chicken and beef but forego the chorizo(sausage). There is also boiled potatoes which seems to be the most common way to serve potatoes here, lettuce salad, rice/vegetable salad and a chocolate parfait for dessert. It is all tasty and I eat too much but what else is new. Oh yes, we have a choice of wine or beer too. We really enjoy the people at our table. Everyone has a sense of humor and along with visiting we do a lot of laughing. The only downside is that the man from Oregon was stung by a small wasp that got caught under his shirt sleeve. Ouch. There were several of the tiny wasps buzzing around the tables, one falling into the Dutchman’s’ wine. Guess they were after the sugar.
It is time to load back into the vans and return to Eco camp. We do make two stops on the drive home. The first is at the Laguna Azure, Blue Lagoon, hence the name of our excursion. Most of us walk down to the water’s edge of the picturesque lagoon and take photos. Claire and Marie decide to do a yoga position together except they perform this tough yoga maneuver on the tops of some old posts that are left from what was once a boat pier. Oh, did I mention that these posts are in the lagoon! Also, the wind is strong and the water has some good wave action going. The athletic women pull it off but at the end Claire loses her balance and ends up with wet feet which sends her into peals of laughter causing us all to laugh.
Our last stop is at the Paine River where there is a beautiful waterfall for us to admire. I take several photos but the wind is really whipping here so am glad to get back into the shelter of the van. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and with my energy level running low, the length of the hike and day was just right for me.
When we get ready to go to the commons area for the briefing this evening, (this is where they tell you about the three choices you have for tomorrow), I tell Paul I am not going to take my camera. Big mistake, there is a young fox not far from the parking area playing with a dead rodent. He will toss it in the air then chase after it like he is hunting the critter. We watch for a bit then Paul, at my request, goes back to get my camera. It was a wasted effort as almost the moment he leaves, someone drives up and scares the young fox away. That will teach me to carry my darn camera.
The three tours for tomorrow are explained to us by a couple of the lively guides and again we choose to go the easy route which is the Grey Lake excursion. The main part of the outing is a boat ride that takes you very close to the glacier that stands at one end of the lake. The women do warn us that due to the forecast of excessively high winds the odds are the boat ride will be canceled. If that is the case, they will try to find us another hike to take or we will just ride the bus to various viewpoints.
We move into the dining dome and find the tables reserved for the Blue lagoon group. Eco Camp seats the people who have been on the same excursion that day together for dinner so you can discuss the outing. We end up at the same table as the Dutch couple and the Oregon man that we sat with at the barbecue. Again, we have a great time exchanging stories and laughing while enjoying the excellent food.
I think it is Marcella who comes and tells us that there are so many people signed up for the Grey Lake outing that they didn’t have enough reservations for the early boat sailing. The only way to accommodate so many people for the Gray Lake tour was to change our departure time to the last sailing which is at four o’clock. That means another late breakfast, 8:30, which is fine by me.
It is time to call it a night so we say goodbye to our table companions who are leaving Eco camp tomorrow. We wish each other well and say how much we enjoyed spending the day with one another. Nancy