Back in "civilization" now…after eight days and seven nights out in Torres del Paine.
Our original plans were to complete a modified version of what is called "the Circuit": an eight day trek starting at the Torres, cutting across Valle del Silencio to John Gardner Pass to Glacier Grey, and then on down and around to Campamento Britanico, ending at Laguna Amarga. Unfortunately, weather was not on our side for the first two days and we couldn't see the pass through Valle del Silencio, so we were resigned to do the infamous "W" instead. (for a reasonable map if you're interested... http://www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/secciones/02/a/mapas.asp#)
What initially seemed a misfortune, was quickly superceded by the beautiful scenery around us and the relative peace and solitude afforded to us due to the fact that the weather deterred at least a few groups. Once the clouds lifted on the afternoon of the third day, we were wowed by all that we had merely hiked past due to the cloud cover the previous days. Rushing rivers, literal rock towers, waterfalls on every turn, boulder fields to cross, and glaciated mountainsides were just a taste of the views we had every minute of every day.
Early on we had decided to take advantage of the extra time afforded to us by the change in plans, and spend more time at some of the less visited sites. This proved to unveil some of the most precious parts of our trip. On day five, instead of pressing on to Refugio Pehoe, we chose to spend an extra day at Campamento Britanico (north of the very busy Campamento Italiano) since the spot was so beautiful: rushing river, waterfalls, hidden by trees, and surrounded by unmatched views of the Cuernos...plus, only two other tents! With our "free day" we took the advice of a couple of hikers we met at camp, and set off for the "Cerro La Hoja and Cerra La Espada" pass.With a little bit a trail-blazing of our own, including a lot of boulder-hopping (or more accurately for me, boulder-crawling) and a little bit of pretty serious wind-dodging, we had a priceless view of a glacier. Aaron took the extra 15 minutes to walk all the way to glacier's edge, while I chose to admire the blazing sun rays bouncing off it's surface from afar. Either way, it was well worth the hike out...this is without even mentioning our personal "mirador" complete with a panoramic view of the Cuernos.
As a little comic relief/sidenote...we became well acquainted with Fievel from An American Tale here at Campamento Britanico.We had heard all of the rumors of mice in the campsites and consequently hung our food and anything plastic every night before bed.Well, one night after finishing up our snack of popcorn, decided, what could happen if we just hung the empty plastic bag from the inside of our tent... Jolted awake by a very familiar, by this stage in the trip, rustling sound, I bolted upright, turned on the flashlight and scanned the entire bottom area of our tent.Discovering nothing, I switched the light off, and laid back down. Within moments, Aaron too was snapping up the flashlight, to find a cute little pair of beady-black eyes staring at him...the little guy didn´t even move! Aaron unzipped the door to the tent, and it just scurried out the door, ask if to say, "Thanks, I was wondering how I would get out!The little guy had smelled the popcorn residue, climbed up the dome of our tent, nibbled through the netting, fell through the hole onto Aaron's bandana that was strung between two loops in the roof, and then dropped to the floor of the tent. The way we imagined it, Fievel was swinging in the bandana hammock, hands behind his head lounging, nibbling on popcorn remains, until, opps!, his weight made the hammock fall, leaving him tumbling to the ground without an exit plan...
By day six, we finally had our hiking legs under us and so the trip from Campamento Britanico to Refugio Gray was a pleasant long day trek. Like an oasis in the distance, Lago Pehoe appears after a long stretch of forest, with its turquoise glowing waters. Along the way, I also found my future home (and seeing as how they seem to allow private enterprise in their national parks, this shouldn't rock too many boats...): Lago Los Patos...a sweet little lake that seems to have just been placed there, the edge of which looks like a no more than a small lip with a couple of whispy trees, that just drops off into a glacial valley. The final leg of the journey was three hours along Lago Grey, the pinnacle of which was Glacier Grey - the first glimpse truly yielding a gasp response.
At dusk we arrived at Refugio Grey, just in time to pull together our combined pocket change (quite literally...), and make last "seating" at the refuge's restaurant for my birthday dinner and bottle of wine. From there, it was back to the tent, set on the beach of Lago Grey, for a sunset and Aaron's birthday surprise for me: he'd been carrying around real brownies, candles, and a balloon for the past six days!Brownies have never tasted so good!
Next morning we got up for our relatively lazy day - just a quick hour uphill to Campamento Las Guardas where Aaron scoped out a pretty unbelieveable lunch-and-lounge spot overlooking Glacier Grey. There over Arroz Primavera-turned curry and Snickers, we spent the entire afternoon reading with our priceless vista. Once the wind got to be a little more than we could bear, we retreated to our campsite for our final night on the trail. That night we didn't sleep much because I was convinced that I heard apes (Aaron and the other guy camping there heard it too!) and because I had to remain vigilant all night since I thought I heard a thief outside of our tent complete with snorting pack animals ready to ride off into the moonlight with all of our stuff - I may have been out in the bush a little too long...
Tired and dreaming of steaks and showers, we set off on the eighth day to retrace our steps back to Refugio Pehoe where we would catch the ferry.From here we took the Hielos Patagonia ferry back from Lago Pehoe, hopped on the three and a half hour bus ride back, and finally arrived in Puerto Natales at 11pm...a very long day, but still dreaming of those breathtaking views.