The place did not disappoint us. We saw probably the most beautiful and accessible glacier so far, the Glacier Grey. We camped next to a lake with icebergs floating in it--just scoop some ice out of the lake and let it melt and you can drink the water later. Sunrises come with moments of spectacular surprises of pink, then yellow skies or mountains --then in seconds they are gone in a sudden turn of dark clouds
. The wind--it is hard to describe how a routine 80 kmh wind can almost knock you off your feet. Many times we have had to kneel down to avoid being blown off a steep trail, or hunkered down behind a rock hoping that the gust would abate. The wind sounds like a train or a jet plane as it roars over a pass, or over the trees above you, if you´re lucky to be in a sheltered place. This is one of many types of previously unknown sounds. Like the sound of falling ice off a glacier, or an avalanche off a steep mountain crest, so loud that it wakes you from sleep and you realize what it is and you are astounded. At home if you hear this sound, you´re probably in deep trouble, literally. In the Valle de Frances, it is one of the natural noises, night and day.
We walked comparitively little for 7 days in the park, only 76 kilometers. This was because once we camped next to the Glacier Gray and the lake with the icebergs, we did not want to leave. This and our unusually heavy packs and over 40 year-old knees convinced us that day treks with no backpack would be a good plan. So we lived next to the glacier and the lake for 3 days, and walked up to a place where as far as your eyes could see was a "campo de hielo", or field of ice. This is the 3rd largest ice field on the planet (someone thinks its the second, but I think that greenland and the arctic may have it beat). Its huge in the hugest sense of the word
. Shit, everything here is huge...the fields are big, the mountain ranges are vast --though not so tall really, the plains, pampas and horizon is enormous, the sky is the biggest you´ll ever see, and filled with clouds that move so fast you think you´re watching time-elapsed photography. The winds down here are 80 kmh, up above they´re 120...weather changes fast here. Rain comes down sideways and the rainbows....the rainbows are full semi-circles, where you can see and almost touch the beginning and the end of them as they form above a lake or anywhere where the sun and rain mix, which is a regular occurrence. We don´t hardly ever have these rainbows at home, do we? Do you remember the last one you saw where it was a full 180 degree shape? We couldn´t either.
I´m sure there´s more to tell, but for now I´ll let the pictures tell the story. Credit for these photos goes to our new friend Natasha, who actually has a cable for her camera and has a wonderful eye for a great photo.
At the end of March, at the end of the Carreterra Austral, practically at the end of the Americas, is the national park called Torres del Paine. It is the prime destination for millions of tourists from all over the world--to come and do multi-day trekking trips. Amazingly we find the place swarmed with trekkers from the United States. It is a destination for sure, and at the beginning of our trip, we thought it would be our prime goal. But after the scenery and experiences of this whole journey southward, it has now actually become the final stop of many on a tour of unbelievable places.