Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Promised Paines

Ok, so clearly we did reach the Promised Paines but not in the way we originally intended to. As impressive as they are in grey, the best time to see them is at dawn when the sun rises over them draping them in a deep red light. In order to do this, we needed to get up at some ungodly hour and head out in the dark. By the time we would have reached the Paines the sun would just be rising.
Full of enthusiasm the JeTZ planned to see Torres del Paine at its crimson best. They were however quite unprepared, with only a penlight and a vague notion of the 2 hour route. The manager of the refugio took pity and lent us an additional head lamp, but the JeTZ began to feel discouraged when they learnt that they were the only fools prepared to take on this mission. Everybody else, from their compatriots in the cushy refugio to the hard core hikers who carried their own tents planned to embark after breakfast. Even "Cactus" as we affectionately referred to the grizzled Scandinavian power walker who for days had been tormenting us with her stopwatch, her John Mcenroe sweat band, and her little black book of Personal Best, had decided to give the sunrise a miss. Apparently it was too dark, too cold, and too slippery to attempt. Bah ... the JeTZ live for a challenge.
Our alarm went of at 3:30am. Cactus stirred in her bed and sneered disapprovingly. We tiptoed outside into the pitch black night. The penlight and head lamp combined gave us barely a meter of visibility. Now where? We had hardly made it past the veranda and did not know where to go. TZ had some vague recollection about turning left after a river. After successfully crossing the river bridge and turning left, the penlight died. It started to rain. The path was turning into mud puddles. We were lost and wanted our mums. With our tails between our legs we returned to the refugio. Cactus's sneer became a snigger.
At breakfast we discovered two things. Firstly, we were actually on the correct track. Apparently there were markings on the trees and rocks to confirm this, but without sufficient light we hadn't known. Secondly, it would have been ludicrous to continue as the Paines had been covered by cloud all night, which was only now beginning to clear (dah ... why didnt we think of that when we were scrambling in the rain?)
On reaching the Paine, TZ was overcome by a sense of elation.
Torres del Paines
Jez was overcome by his desire to strip off and show the world his own towering phallus.
After five days in the national park, and the climax (figuratively, not literally) of our photo shoot at the Torres del Paine, our hike was almost over. A few hours later we had reached the edge of the park from where we would catch a bus back to the city of Puerto Natales. Here we were able to see this 5 star hotel from where less active travellers take short forays on horseback into the park before making a hasty retreat to their modern conveniences, such as showers and flushable toilets. Waiting for the bus in our accumulated filth we felt a certain sense of satisfaction. We had visited one of the most beautiful and remote parts of the world, and for 5 days we had been closer to nature than we could have anticipated.

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