Torres del Paine, Day 5: Grey to The End
We were up and at ‘em at 6 AM in order to head back to the midpoint between Grey and Italiano for the 10 AM ferry. Again, the hike back was never ending and was a lot of uphill and climbing up rocks. I think I blacked out most of yesterday’s hike because none of it seemed familiar. I was on complete auto pilot and just ready to be done. It took about three hours, but we made it back in time for the ferry. Thankfully it was more of a boat than a ferry, so we weren’t out in the wind. I did go on the deck for a bit though. The scenery was too beautiful not too. We were in the teal lagoon that we had walked along a couple days earlier, and it was the most beautiful sight. I really can’t get over how drastically different all the areas were where we hiked.
The ferry took about half an hour and we arrived expected to find our bus, only to find out it didn’t come for another 2.5 hours. So we sat down in a little café, ate a little and chatted until it was time. Thankfully the bus wasn’t too crowded so we were able to have our own rows and spread out to sleep. Taking my shoes off was the best and worst thing ever; I have never had such painful blisters.
We made it back to Puerto Natales, swung by our old hostel to pick up our luggage, then trekked to the one where we were spending the night. We got all of our equipment turned in and paid for, showered up, and went to a brewery for dinner. It was literally AMAZING to have a real meal, especially hot, greasy French fries with bacon, chicken and cheese. We were even seated on couches for the meal, which I can’t say I have ever experienced. It was a fantastic end to a couple of exhausting days.
Torres del Paine, Day 4: Campamento Italiano to Grey
After a restless night, I woke up in the early morning and was slightly wet. I ignored it and went back to bed, but woke up a couple of hours later and all of our things (tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bags, backpacks, one of my shoes) were drenched. Michael and I had apparently set up at the lowest point and our tent ended up flooding while it poured all night. We hung everything on trees around camp and went to cook breakfast and make a game plan. We all decided that we were up for heading home a day early since Grey was supposed to be really cold (this is the camp by the glacier) and our things were wet.
After packing up, we set out on the two hour hike to the midpoint between Italiano and Grey. The weather cleared up quite a bit on the way and we all began to change our minds about heading home. Most of the hike was relatively easy, but then we hit an open area and lost all control to the wind. It knocked me over at least four times, and I fell into a thorn bush and twisted an ankle. It was pretty brutal and I was struggling between my ankle and the blisters that were starting to form (I had to wear Lizeths’ boots because one of mine was SOAKED).
We made it to the midpoint and actually ran into the other group who had started a day later from the other side (the glacier). We chatted with them and they said it wasn’t too bad of a hike and wasn’t all that cold there, so that solidified our decision to continue. We parted ways and they headed into the hellish winds while we went to cook. The little cooking area was enclosed, thank god, and even had outlets so I was able to recharge my camera a bit.
After eating we hit the trail again for the 3 hour hike to Grey. The first half was tolerable – through a valley and woods and pretty flat. But then it turned into more of an uphill climb and the boys got way ahead of us. I swear, the hike never ended. Every time I thought we had to be close, the trail just kept on going. It wasn’t even hiking at some points, it was straight up rock climbing. I was pretty close to tears by the time we finally arrived to the refugio. We pretty much decided not to hike to the actual lookout point for the glacier since it was farther.
Thankfully the refugio had a pretty nice restaurant area. We were all very protein deprived and dehydrated, so eating a real meal did wonders. We set up camp and ended up talking to a couple who told us the lookout was less than 15 minutes away, so with renewed energy we decided what the hell. So we set out to the glacier, which was unreal. I wish we could have gotten closer to it, because the pictures didn’t really capture the enormity of it. I’m from MN, so I’ve seen ice and snow, but this was just chilling in a lake under some mountains. It was pretty neat. We spent some time there taking pictures and whatnot, then headed back to sleep.
My sleeping bag was still wet, so Michael and I had to get creative. His was pretty dry, so we unzipped it and bundled up in all our warm clothes and spooned for warmth. This worked alright for a bit, but eventually it was just not comfortable. I hate sleeping close to people and I was the big spoon, so I felt like I was suffocated. I managed to squeeze out of the sleeping bag and fall asleep with no blankets for a bit, but then woke up freezing. I went outside to go the bathroom and rammed my nose right into a tree branch, then grabbed my sleeping bag not even caring if it was damp. It was warmer than nothing. It wasn’t the best night of sleep, but all things considered, it worked out.
Torres del Paine, Day 3: Los Cuernos to Campamento Italiano
We woke up around 9 AM to a snow/rain combination along with a lot of fog and wind. It looked neat up in the mountains, but didn’t feel quite so neat. Thankfully after we packed up and got going it didn’t seem quite as miserable.
We made the two hours trek to the free campsite and arrived around two then ended up napping for a couple hours. Julianna, Michael and Austin decided to brave the 70 mph winds and hike Valle Frances (which was apparently closed due to wind conditions), while Lizeth, Joe and I stayed back in the warmth and napped. I’m glad I decided not to go because they said it wasn’t a very clear view.
The cooking shelter at this campsite wasn’t much of a shelter, and had an open side so that the insane winds were still blowing. We were sitting and about to start eating when all of a sudden someone’s entire gas can caught on fire. I have never seen a place empty so quickly – everyone literally dropped what they were doing and booked it out, myself included. Thankfully someone stayed and managed to throw the can and smother it. It was honestly terrifying though. I have never seen something go up in flames so quickly and I honestly thought the shelter was going to burn down.
After that excitement we returned to eating and ended up talking to another group who had been studying in Santiago. Turns out one of the girls was actually from Minnesota, so we chatted for a while. She actually reminded me a lot of someone I went to high school with.
After eating, we went back to our tents and eventually the other three made it back (after 4-5 hours in the nasty weather). Michael had run into a tree and had a pretty nasty headache, so the other two cooked dinner for him and he ate, then we all fell asleep – for a few hours at least. The wind was howling and I was convinced a tree was going to fall and kill us.
Torres del Paine, Day 2: Campamento Torres to Los Cuernos
We woke up bright and early today, at 4 AM, in order to hike up to the torres for the sunrise. It was nice not to have to bring along our backpacks, but a hike straight up a mountain at 4 AM without coffee, in the dark, was still not an easy task. I could have really used my inhaler, which I did not have. I lagged behind quite a bit because of that, but managed to make it up in time. The sunrise cast a pink glow over the whole area, which the pictures didn’t really capture…it was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen – definitely worth waking up at such an ungodly hour to see such a godly sight. There was a neat lake at the base of the torres which would have been awesome to swim in…if the water didn’t come from glaciers. We spent some time up there and then hiked back down to pack up and get going.
As we were heading out, we saw a big fox but I didn’t have my camera on me. Surprisingly it was the only wildlife we saw the whole time apart from birds – and of course then “What Does The Fox Say” was stuck in my head. We backtracked part of the way we hiked yesterday, but not as much as we thought we would have to because we came to a sign for a shortcut to where we were headed. It was a beautiful day and most of the hike was through a meadow and along a lagoon which was literally teal – I felt like I was in Hawaii for a good chunk of the day.
We had to cross a lot of streams – some little and some not so little. At one point I managed to strand myself in the middle of one with no dry rocks to step on, so I just tromped through the water which meant wet feet the rest of the day, but why should I expect anything else from myself?
We had planned to hike to a free campsite, but found out we could only stay one night there and not two, so we ended up staying at Los Cuernos which was a paid site, but that meant it had showers and an indoor cooking space. We still had to use our teeny little camping stoves but at least there wasn’t wind. And the shower was incredible. I think I would have been crying by the last day if not for the shower.
Torres del Paine, Day 1: Beginning to Campamento Torres
Today is Wednesday, December 4 (holy crap, what?) and I head back to the states in 12 days. Five others and myself spent the last five days backpacking across Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, obviously with no WiFi access, so I’m just going to blog for each day as if I had done it that day (I did write in a notebook each day, if that counts).
So. Day one. Lizeth, Michael and I stayed at one hostel and the other three were at another, so we met up at 7 AM and walked to the bus station, about a 15 minute walk. We encountered two problems in this short time. 1) We were all way too bundled up and sweating buckets just on the walk to the bus and 2) Michael thought he forgot his ticket and had to run all the way back to the hostel, only to find it in his pocket. Thankfully we made it to the bus in time, loaded our things, and settled in for the three hour ride – which actually only took two hours. The drive there was beautiful and there were a lot of guanacos (the deer type animals) including little babies.
We paid the entrance fee and watched a short video about not setting fire to the whole forest, then caught a shuttle to where we would begin our hike (we could have walked the road but it was another two hours tacked on to our additional 4-5 hours that day). We started out with lots of energy and motivation, which was good because a lot of the hike was uphill. It eventually flattened out, but then we were slapped with some crazy winds and a little bit of rain. After about two hours we reached the first campsite of the trek, where we stopped to almorzar (eat lunch). At one point I made the mistake of sitting on the same side of the table as the boys with no one on the other side, and pretty much flipped it into the side of the building. So that was neat. One of the nice things about hiking in TDP is that all of the stream/river water is safe to drink since it flows from the glaciers, so we could fill up whenever we pleased since the trails cross water often.
After lunch we set out for another 2-3 hours, but this was mostly through woods, which kind of reminded me of Minnesota hiking. One of the neatest things about TDP is how quickly the terrain can change, which unfortunately means the weather can as well. We had pretty good weather this first day though, minus the wind/rain.
We arrived to Campamento Torres at about 4 PM and set up camp, which was entertaining considering Julianna was the only one who had really ever camped. We managed though. We also made some yummy camp food – soup and ramen, which I never, ever want again. I washed the dishes in the stream, which included metal scraping metal, my least favorite sound in the world. I also attempted to wash my hair in the stream, but got yelled at. I was already done though…oh well.
After that debacle, we settled in for the night and managed to sleep for a while.
Year 3, Day 157: Happy Thanksgiving from Chile
This is my first ever Thanksgiving I’ve spent away from home. I remember when I started college my mom told me, “Whatever you do, you just aren’t allowed to go anywhere else for Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday.” I guess being in another country is an exception.
I have to admit, I am really, really bummed about missing the food. Spaghetti didn’t quite measure up. I was able to Skype with the whole gang around dinner time though, so that’s better than nothing. Made me miss them a whole lot though. I’m excited to see everyone at Christmas time.
Since it’s pretty much mandatory now (I’ve blogged the past two Thanksgivings), here is my list of blessings this year.
I could name more, but those four are the most important to me. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
This is what the rest of my time in Patagonia looks like and I am definitely stressing. For whatever reason I didn’t think I would have to spend a lot since I would be “camping” and “hiking.” Ha. Ha. Ha.
Option 1 (better if weather cooperates) East to West:
Day 1, Saturday, November 30:
Afternoon bus from PN ($20 round trip, 2:30 PM),
Catamaran to Paine Grande ($5, leaves 6 PM)
Entry fee to park ($38)
Sleep at Camping Las Torres ($13, not sure if per person)
Day 2, Sunday, December 1:
Hike to Mirador Los Torres, day hike, leave heavy things behind = MAJOR BENEFIT as it is the toughest day
Sleep at Camping Las Torres again ($13, not sure if per person)
Day 3, Monday, December 2:
Hike to Los Cuernos ($46 bed only)
OR camp Los Cuernos ($18, not sure if per person)
Day 4, Tuesday, December 3:
Hike Valle Frances (out and return)
Sleep at Campamento Italiano (FREE, no services except cooking área and bathroom)
Day 5, Wednesday, December 4:
Hike to Refugio Grey
Hike to Refugio Grey ($35 for bed only)
OR Grey camp ($8 per night, $8 per person)
Day 6, Thursday, December 5:
Hike to Paine Grande
Bus to PN
Sleep at hostel Backpackers Kaweskar Hostel, Blanco Encalada 754
Day 7, Friday, December 6:
Bus to Punta Arenas
Sleep at hostel Hospedaje Costanera
Day 8: Saturday, December 7:
Taxi to airport
Fly home 1 PM
Bus to Vina (NEED TO BOOK)
Day 8 - If you could go back in time (before your addiction/disorder) what would you tell yourself?
Don’t do anything differently. Sure, I had some terrible times because of it. But I also had some of the best and most memorable times of my life. Plus it made me the better person I am now after kicking its ass.
Day 7 - What are 2 things you want? What are 2 things you need?
Want: Peace of mind. Starbucks.
Need: Self-confidence. Faith.
Day 6 - Write a letter to someone who has harmed you or has made you feel bad.
Well that’s kind of awkward. I think I will just do this one mentally.
Day 5 - How do you want to be remembered?
Tough question. I prefer not to think about being in a place where it’s necessary for people to “remember” me. But I guess I want to be remembered in a positive light, as would most people. I don’t really know what to say beyond that; I’m not in a very deep mood.
Year 3, Day 154: THE PENGUINS
I can’t claim to have done much today up until 4 PM, when I got picked up to go see the penguins. Apart from that, I just wrestled with the WiFi some more and spent time working on the final video I am putting together from the semester here.
At 4, a tour van picked me up outside my hostel. I hopped on, to be greeted by 15 unfamiliar faces. There was only one seat left, between a middle-aged woman and a couple, so I plopped down there. Once I realized they spoke English, we started chatting. Their names were Niki and Rew, and they were from England. The ride to the penguin area was about an hour, and we talked nonstop the whole way. Turns out they are on a 6 month honeymoon around South America and Asia, and they were nice enough to let me crash it for the day. At one point we were talking about sports and they said something about cricket, to which I replied, “That’s the one on the horse, right?” Wrong. That’s polo, which I swear I knew, just had a momentary brain fart. They found it absolutely adorable though and got a kick out of it.
We finally got to the penguin place after winding through a random dirt road for 40 minutes. It wasn’t cold outside per say, but my god, the wind was terrible. I can only pray it won’t be that bad when we are hiking in Torres del Paine, or I might curl up in a ball and cry. The path around the site was about 1.5 miles, and we saw some flamingoes on the way. I was over the flamingoes though, seeing as I’ve already seen them. I was all about the penguins. We walked a bit farther and caught our first glimpse of some of the little guys, and then made our way to the beach, where there were about 50 of them hanging out. The babies were more fluffy and grey, and looked like little kittens – I just wanted to cuddle one. Some of the adult ones were play fighting (maybe real fighting, I can’t claim to know) in the water, or just swimming around. They actually resemble ducks when they swim, which I didn’t expect. We spent some time there taking pictures and watching their little penguins waddles (which are ADORABLE, I took some videos). Some of them definitely knew they were being watched and were showing off. We eventually made our way back to the bus and headed back to Punta Arenas area.
Niki and Rew and another couple from the states invited me to join them for dinner, so I did. Me and two married couples. It was quite entertaining. We went to a really cute little restaurant and I ordered a dish called corn tart, which was good but not enough food to fill me up. Niki and Rew treated me to dessert (such sweethearts) and I ordered a chocolate pyramid which was filled with mousse made from a tree called Nirre. I was shocked to find that I actually liked it, since I am normally extremely picky. We had a lot of great conversations about the differences between the states and England, and even the differences within the states. At one point Niki said, “Should I give him a bell?” meaning should she call someone, which I got a huge kick out of. I have heard people say “give him a ring” but never “a bell.” It was lovely (see my English use of the word lovely there?). Honestly, they were some of the nicest people I have ever met and made my day 100 times better. After dinner they made sure I knew how to get home and we parted ways. I added Niki on Facebook though, so hopefully we will stay in touch. J
Year 3, Day 153: No Sleep, No Food, and No Cares Given :)
Wow, it has been a long day/night. Before leaving for the airport, I saw the new Hunger Games movie. It was alright, I think the first one and the books are definitely better. A lot of us were there but were spread out over the theater because they make you choose seats when buying tickets; therefore, I was in a pair of seats with a random old guy. It was okay though. After the movie, I was saying bye to everyone and it hit me that I might not see some of these people again…I’ve been seeing them on an almost daily basis for 4 months, so that was a hard realization. Christine and Amber made me the saddest with their emotional hugs. I was actually thinking about it later and teared up. I know I will see a couple of them in about a week when they get to Patagonia, but we won’t be together as a group again. I really don’t know how I am actually going to get on a bus to the airport in 3 weeks, knowing I won’t be back in the foreseeable future. Whether or not I expected it, this country has become a home for me. I could live here and be happy. Okay, enough with the sappy stuff. There will be time for that when I am sobbing at the airport in three short weeks.
I left Vina at 10 PM last night on the bus to Santiago. While on the bus, I met two women from California who were traveling for work. They let me get a taxi to the airport with them, which was great because that was the part I was worried about. We got to the airport at about midnight and my flight wasn’t until 6, so I couldn’t go through security until 3. We ended up going to a restaurant and eating at like 2 AM and just chatted for a bit. Thankfully that made my night go by a bit more quickly. Security was a breeze; I literally could have just walked in and no one would have noticed which is a bit unsettling. I brought both food and liquids in, and they didn’t say anything. I think there were literally two other people on that side of security – I have never seen an airport so dead. I ended up sleeping (sort of) for about 45 minutes, then found my gate for my flight. Everything went smoothly and we arrived in Punta Arenas at 9 AM. I then got my luggage and grabbed a collectivo to the actual town. There were a lot of other college students who were also traveling solo, so that made me feel a lot better. The trip was only 6 dollars, which was a lot cheaper than I was counting on.
After arriving at my hostel, I wrestled with the WiFi for a bit and then just gave up. It connects when it wants to. I’m only here for two days so it’s not a big deal. This place is really cozy, and for whatever reason the whole place just reminds me of the holidays. It’s not even decorated, it just has that warm feeling with heaters inside and freezing cold outside, plus there is a cute little commons area where I’ve met some really cool people. The people I am sharing a room with are a couple from Switzerland, who are traveling around the world for nine months. They are my age, and I am so jealous. They speak English, so we’ve been able to chat. They are only in week 6, so they have a long time to go. The other woman is from Brazil and is pretty quiet. The girl who was leaving when I arrived was from Hong Kong and was also here alone – she spoke great English and Spanish and seemed like a total sweetheart. She was heading to Puerto Natales, so maybe we will cross paths again. I also met two guys from Australia and chatted with them for quite a while over coffee, giving them tips and whatnot for Vina and Valpo (which I had to refer to as Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, so that was weird). It’s definitely odd knowing more about these places than other people do.
I ended up napping a bit because I was beat from the long night. Then I mapped out where I wanted to walk in the “city.” To clarify: I was expecting an actual city which is why I decided to spend two nights here. Instead, this is kind of a janky town spread over a lot of space. So that was a bit disappointing, but I did find a neat graveyard to walk through called Cementario Municipal. I probably walked for a half an hour and didn’t even see near all of it. It was odd because I was a little uneasy walking around a place I don’t know, but once I got inside the graveyard walls I calmed down. You would think being surrounded by literally hundreds of dead bodies would be unsettling as well, but it was really just peaceful. I came across an area of small graves which I didn’t think much of until reading the headstones; many of them were children under four years old, which really got to me. The graves looked like little cribs and it was just hard to see. I left shortly after that because it was freaking COLD (as in 45 degrees and windy. I am screwed when I get back to MN). I made two puppy friends and we walked to another hostel because I had read that they do penguin tours for cheaper than my hostel (I want to see penguins, but not for $110 and a long bus ride). These ones are closer and only cost $40. There are fewer penguins, but I would be happy seeing one, so that’s fine by me. I am doing that tomorrow (technically today) at 4 PM. I trekked back to my own hostel, hoping to pass a grocery store, but the city was literally dead since it was Sunday. That being said, I had crackers for dinner. I probably should have thought ahead.
I fell asleep at 7 PM, so the rest of the night was rather uneventful. More tomorrow about THE PENGUINS!