Monday 17 April 2006

Episode 2. Torres del Paine Day 2

It seems a long time since I got on the coach from Puerto Natales. I woke up this morning, calm and refreshed. The rain had come and gone intermittently throughout the night... one of my favourite sounds. The occasional burst of strong wind woke me but I stopped thinking the tent was going to blow away.

I quickly brewed some (nasty powdered instant) coffee and had a little breakfast. I had the tent down and everything packed away by 8.00am. I left my pack at the campsite and headed on with camera to the mirador Zapata, looking up Zapata glacier and mountain. The autumnal colours of the beechwood in the early sunlight were beautiful.

I had to make it back down to Lago Grey for 2pm to catch the boat across the lake, so I then hurried back to the campsite, picked up the pack... and some water... and moved quickly. The weather was mostly sunny with occasional showers that left numerous complete rainbows: the kind where you can see the entire bow against a backdrop of blue sky. I put my waterproof jacket on during one more persistent shower and succeeded in tearing a gash into the arm on a tree as I tried to find a crossing over a flooded brook.

At 11.00am, I scared the life out of a girl walking alone in the opposite direction. I later found a solitary 1-person tent at Campamento Pingo at the start/end of the track. Assuming it was hers, she probably hadn't seen anyone since about the same time as me the day before, 4pm. That's 19 hours, if I can still add up.

I made good time, pushing it hard and stopping for a few photo opportunities. Gazing at a pink cliff, with a curious rockface of curved layers, I stepped on a solitary rock protruding quietly on to the track. The weight of my pack, with 8 days' provisions, caused me to slip and I ended up with my arm buried in a thornbush, unable to stand up with the pack on my back.

Walking into HosterĂ­a Lago Grey, a US$275 dollar per night place from which I had to catch the boat, I got some very strange looks. I made use of the bathroom, then seeing myself in the mirror, it became clear why they were looking at me like that.

On the way across the lake, I was lucky to be able to see a condor feeding its offspring. It seems that the young bird had fallen while learning to fly, so now the adult was having to feed it on a ledge off a cliff in full view of us on the boat.

Across the lake to Campamento Lago Grey, my initial plan was to head up to Campamento el Paso, so that I could climb the pass the next morning. But it was much later than I'd expected. The temptation of a hot shower at Camp LG won the day and I decided to stay there 2 nights, making the climb of the pass tomorrow and moving on the day after.

The feeling of a hot shower was just amazing.

The camping experience here was totally different. Yes, it was by water surrounded by mountains but there were several people there and it was all more civilised, though not necessarily itself a good thing. It was also warmer and more sheltered.

Through the night, I could hear the sound of Glaciar Grey dropping huge chunks of ice into the water. It sounded like thunder but it was curiously soporific.