Saturday, 27 November 2010

... Patagonia: Is There A Dr. In The Tent?

I awoke in Tent Burj Al Arab feeling pretty good for having just spent the night in the wilderness ...admittedly having worn 2 long sleeved tops, 1 tshirt, a sports bra, a jacket, a ski jacket, 3 pairs of pants, two hats, two pairs of hiking socks and a pair of fingerless gloves. I also turned my Sigg bottle into a hot water bottle which started at my feet but I'd somehow ended up hugging during the night. I could still move my limbs and nothing had dropped off. That's a good start me thinks. Even better was the sun I could feel coming through the tent wall.

Of course it's a sobering thought when in the next field you spy a slaughtered guanaco. Probably a puma being the culprit.

Hielos Patagonicos Catamaran was the mode of transport across the Carribean-blue Lago Pehoe. That is after a quick hike, nay meander by my recent standards up to the windy Salto Grande waterfall. The catamaran takes hikers to the Mountain Lodge Paine Grande and most come here to start the "W" circuit, which takes 4-5 days.

Today's hike was to be a measley 19km through the Valle Frances affording views of Los Cuernos (The "Horns") and Glaciar Frances, which often has avalanches. It is said to be one of the most spectacular cirques in the Paine range.

The hike was going well through the beautiful plush green valley, that is until my foot decided to pick a fight with a tree root. All I remember seeing was the tree trunk that my face decided to plant itself into. Then it went dark.  I don't really remember anything else until hearing someone calling my name, c-spine being applied and then looking up into the leaves of the trees above. "Do you know where you are?" Yes, I might not know who I am right now but I've still got an hour of this hike to go! I picked the best group to hike with - it consisted of not one but two medics. I make an awful patient but they took excellent care of me. Not sure how I managed it but aside from a bit of dirt, a grazed finger and a bruised ego I was fine. The liquid coming out of my nose wasn't cerebral fluid, it wasn't even blood, it was good ol' fashioned snot. After some pick me up sugar in various delectable forms and another check over I was up, on my feet and surrounded by my newly appointed body guards, protecting me from the evil that is Mother Nature. I suspect there was a collective sigh of relief from all present, it would've taken the park rangers about 4 hours to reach us and then the thought of being stretchered all the way back?!? Not high on my list of things I particularly want to do on this trip. Funny that.

Reaching the lookout point for a spectacular view of the Horns whilst listening to the roar of the avalanches on Glaciar Frances and the waterfall of Rio Frances was a bit more fist-pump worthy, in view of how I decided to spice up the hike there. It’s hard to imagine just how deep the snow banks on the glacier are. Needless to say I watched my step far more closely on the long trek back. They do say that hiking the national park is memorable.....

It was good to finally get back to base camp and some well earned food.... ok, ok it was good to finally be able to sit down. I would have probably done better eating my food by use of a straw - less effort. A 24 hour watch meant my celebratory post-hike pisco sour was"taken away for medical reasons". To be honest I suspect one of the crafty medics drank it.

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