Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
26Trip End May 05, 2012
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Where I stayed
What I did
the bottom part of one of the towers...
Luckily someone responded, so we headed out on Monday to Puerto Natales where Gaby picked us up in her truck. She showed us around the small town a bit in the car and then we went to her house. She had to leave in about an hour, so she basically just dropped us off, gave us the key, and we hoped to see each other soon! We wanted to go up to the ranch where she works, so we would have to figure out dates later since we would first to the W trail in Torres del Paine.
She had told us Pablo would be back the next day, so we made some food and just sort of thought about what we'd be doing the next couple of days when he showed up
He's a porter for Cascada Travel, so he basically carries bags and walks really quickly to get to places before the tourists do! He said he'd be going up again on Wednesday so tomorrow he'd go to the office to get all the details.
So Tuesday we walked around and bought things! We bought a pot to take up, gas for the stove, food, good hiking socks, and Ronald bought a polo. That night Pablo basically packed my bag for me! :) He was a huge help and I would definitely have taken too much stuff had it not been for him.
We bought bus tickets Wednesday morning with him and we all took the same bus to get to the park. I paid 4,000 to get into the park because I still had my foreign ID card that said I was living in Chile, even though it had expired in 2009...Otherwise, all foreigners pay 15,000!
We had been told that once we arrived we would have to wait 1 hour for the catamaran to leave, so we decided to go see a nearby waterfall. We didn't have quite a full hour so we went very quickly and saw the falls for about 1 minute
Once there I changed into my hiking clothes and we ate tuna sandwiches before starting the 3.5 hour hike to Lago Grey. It wasn't too difficult, and we made it in 3.5 hours as we were told was normal, so we pitched our tent in a special spot Pablo had told us about, changed into our non-hiking clothes and relaxed. We explored a bit and went to see the glaciar before cooking dinner. All of the water in that region of Chile is safe to drink and it all tastes great because it's so pure and clean. Our dinner that night was soup and then rice with a bit of tuna left over from lunch.
During the night I woke up and realized my eye was swollen and asked Ronald to feel it, but he didn't think it was anything...until morning. Some random mosquito had bitten me beside my eye and both my cheek and my eye had swollen up -- my eye so much that I couldn't even open it! This made walking rather hard, so we went to the little store and to the "lodge" to ask if they had anything to treat it, but they didn't and only suggested ice.
So Ronald went down to the lake a picked up some ice that was floating and I held it on there for about an hour
We walked back to Pehoe (3.5 hours) and had lunch inside a little building they had for the campers to cook in. We didn't know this beforehand, but it had a gas stove and hot water...we should have cooked something there, but ate our tuna sandwiches instead as we had planned out every meal so we wouldn't be carrying excess weight.
By this time the weather was not so great -- it was drizzling and sort of windy and rather cold. I wasn't really looking forward to the 2-hour walk we had to get to the next camping spot, but we headed out and it turned out to be a pretty easy walk there and the weather wasn't too bad. However, when we arrived to Campamento Italiano, the winds had picked up and it was drizzling. We pitched our tent, changed, and then went to a nearby covering where we would be protected from the wind so we could cook. That night we had soup and then mac and cheese. It was way too much food for me and I couldn't finish it, but luckily I had Ronald to pick up the slack!
The next morning I didn't want to move because it was cold and rainy and windy and just gross. But we headed up to walk up the Valle Frances, which, according to Pablo, was the most beautiful part of the trail. After about 5 minutes we ran into some guys that were completely soaked, even though they had on water/rainproof clothing. They said it was pretty bad up there and they even lost the trail because of the wind and rain
We packed up our now muddy tent and headed towards Cuernos where we planned to cook lunch. It took us a little longer than normal because of the bad weather, but once again the trail was an easy one with only a couple of climbs. Once we got to Cuernos they told us the only place to cook would be outside the bathrooms where there's a little shelter provided from the overhang. I was ridiculously cold and changed in the bathroom and tried to warm up inside a stall while Ronald bravely cooked lunch -- rice! He is my hero!
We decided to just get a move on so we could keep warm and started the 4-hour hike to Hosteria las Torres. The first part was quite a climb but after that it was pretty mild except for the occasional winds that stopped you in your tracks and other random climbs, though really going down was worse for me since my knee was killing me! There were some pretty lakes but by this time I just wanted to get there!
When we arrived we selected a flat spot and attempted to put up the tent, but there was so much wind it bent two of the bars! We did finally get it staked down and Ronald went to shower and, after changing, I went to find wine!
That campground was really great and had very clean bathrooms and showers, as well as a place to wash dishes that had both hot and cold water! So we cooked tortellini and spaghetti sauce to accompany our wine and had a nice, relaxing night by the dwindling fire
When we woke up we started our hike up to las torres! The weather wasn't great -- overcast and a bit drizzly -- but after 2 hours and 40 minutes we were at the top and gazing upon the lake below the towers and the base of one of them. The sky was entirely white so we couldn't see anything!
So we walked down and all the way back to the camping area, taking our time and chatting along the way -- there wasn't any rush because we'd already missed the bus that leaves at 14:30 and the next one was at 19:30. So we hung out for a bit in the lodge across the river and ate a pichanga since we hadn't planned on lunch that day! It was delicious and only cost 5,000. It was labeled as an individual portion, but it was fine for the two of us!
So we packed our bags and waited for the transfer van to take us to the buses and waited only for about 5 minutes before they came and then left, heading back down to Natales. We were alone on the bus apart from a Chilean couple, so we chatted with them basically the whole way and made plans to meet them the next day
My priority the next morning was to get some antihistimines! I'd woken up with my eye swollen, just like every morning since, so got some pills and hoped for the best!
Ronald had been in contact with Gaby's mom about when we could go up and see her (they speak on the radio around 9 pm every night since phones don't work up there) and she said we could go the next day.
Today she had planned for us to meet Gaby's sister, Kati, at 14:30 to go to a "ginetea". They have three large posts inside the corrale (square, not round, with a wooden fence where you could peer between the planks) and they were only using numbers 1 and 2. They have about 3 men at each post who get a horse and tie him to it while the future rider gets ready. They had three categories and started with barebacked with just a strap around his belly behind his front legs to hold on to. This usually took them a long time because the horses would fall over or lie down or do whatever they could to not have a man jump on their back. The second category was the same strap but with a little pillow to sit behind, and the third with stirrups, but not the normal kind -- these were thin and light and looked like plastic from where I was, but they most likely were not :) .
I stood by the cooking fire most of the time -- the line for papas fritas was ridiculous and they literally had buckets and buckets of raw fries and would bring them over to dump into the (rather dirty) oil. They were also selling hot dogs but we didn't get one, so I don't know what they were really like..
We went to dinner with the couple at a pizza place on the plaza that had a wood-fired oven. It was great pizza and I was happy not to be eating crust that was just like bread! This crust was thin and crunchy, and all the ingredients were fresh. We tried their Pizza Strudel for dessert, also very yummy.
The next day we went with Kati up to the ranch (estancia). Gaby picked us up and our first obstacle was the river! We all got out to move big rocks from the bank so she could have a nicer path to drive over to then cross the river. Once we crossed we went up the hill and I rode a horse back with Jorge. It was weird to be back in the saddle, especially without boots!
Jorge was 18 and is a true gaucho, just like all the others working there. The other one we met was Juan Jose, 23, who was from a little bit north but came there because there were more jobs available. The three of them live up there for months at a time, and it seems to suit them well. Gaby is a bit more social than the other two, but when they found out there would be a big group (around 40) for the quincho (BBQ) the next day, Juan Jose was not pleased -- he doesn't like to be around so many people
Our time on the estancia was short, but so great. The boys cooked meals that were absolutely delicious and fresh (Jorge went to kill the lamb and cleaned it there before putting it in the metal, wood-fired oven). We had lamb with garlic and salt, accompanied with potatoes and pumpkin, we had rice and more meat with potatoes and oregano and other spices -- basically hearty meals that had a starch and meat. We were in heaven!
The first morning we went out to the corrale and they were tagging cattle, so I help wrestle some to the ground and keep them from moving their back legs while they were tagged, though I am absolutely pitiful with the lasso. I'll have to practice more....
We also went on a horseride with Gaby. Ronald got on his horse and even tried trotting and cantering! After that we rode "a pelo" (barebacked) to put them in the pasture. Looks like Ronald has cowboy in his blood...
Since they were busy the next day with the tourists, sadly, we had to go. So we went to the quincho to say goodbye to the boys (lamb was already being roasted) and then Gaby and Kati took us to where the buses leave. We gave thanks and said our goodbyes, and waited there until the 14:30 bus. We'd gotten there at 11:40 but no one was available for hitchhiking, so we had to wait and paid 5,000 each for the bus instead of 7,000, so that was nice.
So we got to spend the evening with Pablo and wanted to treat him to dinner and drinks, so we went to a local microbrewery called Baguales and ate and drank there
The next day we went to run errands: use internet, buy a mate and bombilla, buy hierba mate, and buy alpargatas for me. Unfortunately we weren't successful in the last endeavor. Boo. I don't remember what we did the rest of the day, but the next morning we took the 7:30 bus to Punta Arenas.
From there we went to a nearby hostal, Barefoot Hostal, and got two beds in a room with 4 although no one else was there, so it was basically private. We wanted to do 3 things there: visit the Austral brewery, go on a tour to the pinguineras, and buy lots of stuff in the zona franca (basically like duty free prices).
So we called for the tour to see the penguins and were told that the tours that went to the island were starting on Monday! Sad! So we had to settle for the cheaper one and the man told us he would come pick us up at 16:30.
This gave us a few hours to kill so we walked to the Austral brewery and it was under construction
At 16:30 a man picked us up in a small van and drove us about an hour to the penguin park where we had to first pay 1,300 each to get into the reserve and then 5,500 each to get into the park! So the 10,000 each we were paying him was just for the drive there -- what a ripoff!!!
In the park you had to stay within a roped pathway, but we saw lots of penguins walking to and from the beach after their night's hunt, as well as a few going in and out of their nests. The best one was one that was underneath the wooden pathway and was peering out through the space between the planks.
That night we cooked dinner (instant mashed potatoes and ground beef with fixins) before taking a short nap and then going out with Brujo and his friend, Chico Ruiz (I don't know his real name, but this was his nickname) at 11:30. Parties and everything start really late there because it stays light out until about 10 pm! We ended up going to a really smokey bar, but it was better after most people left because then we could sit down at a table and talk. We left at about 3:30 am and went to a place to have some late-night sandwiches before hitting the hay.
The next day we headed to the zona franca to buy some whisky! I had written down the prices in both Lima and Santiago so we could compare, and we ended up buying a couple of bottles of Johnny Walker, Jack, and Jim
Monday evening I went to get Sao and Soju from the vet and had to pay a buttload of money (by Peruvian standards) to get back in a private taxi since there were no colectivos left that late at night and I didn't want to put their kennel on top of the van!
Tuesday morning Ronald got back and that evening Miguel picked us up in his car and we moved! I'm so much happier in this new place, and so is Sao! He can run outside all day and even gets to play with the weiner dog they have -- Chiquita. Soju is, little by little, venturing out of the window and into the world! Next week we're going to have them spayed and neutered so then Soju can be outside whenever we're not supervising. I say no thank you to 10 little Sojus!
Pictures coming soon!