Friday, 26 November 2010

... Patagonia: Towers Of Pain

I reckon that there is a chiropractic/massage therapy group somewhere around here that has shares in the road from Puerto Natales to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Initially the 112km road is pretty decent but then it turns into a bumpy gravel road. The kind of road where you can get air time and are convinced that you are on only two out of four wheels going around corners. Trust me, I know.

This was also quite possibly a warm up for my body as to what was to come over the next 3 days.

A set of spectacular granite pillars soar almost 3000m above the Patagonian steppe. However, I learned that to see the Torres del Paine in all their glory was going to require an 18km hike. Easy peasy! Right? I am now a firm believer that a "moderate" hike by Chilean standards is somewhat misleading. Add to that the typical windy conditions. Oh and did I mention the incline? I was under the wrong impression that surely when you've been walking uphill for hours at some point there must be a downhill. My body certainly hoped there was. Alas it never seemed to come except when it was time to walk back and by then everything was just an exhausted blur.

This "starter" hike through Ascencio Valley certainly got the blood pumping - even more so when you're A-type like me and you hoof your way up that sucker. The views were already spectacular and I knew that the best was still to come. There are a couple of campsites dotted along the way but aside from a brief stop for lunch in the forest it was onwards and upwards. The last hour of this hike to the mirador is a knee-popping, quad burning uphill march over boulder after boulder.

And then you reach the top......

I wasn't prepared for the sight that has inspired countless hiking pilgrimages. I don't think anyone was. Such desolate landscape yet so amazingly beautiful.  The reward was the peaks in all their glory and a lake glistening in front of it. It was like something out of a Tolkien book. And it had started to snow. It just seemed right somehow.

A night in a tent seemed like a night at the Burj Al Arab when base camp was finally reached.

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