Wednesday, February 24, 2010

stinky socks and sore ankles. my story of torres del paine.

in puerto natales i stayed with a couchsurfing family. it was quite different from any other couchsurfing experience i had had up until that point. honestly it was more like a hostel than a couchsurfing experience. a hostel with a very dysfunctional family inside.

as pierre the french couchsurfer said, "you could film a soap opera about this family" and you could and i'm sure it would be wildly successful.

i could go on and on about this family, but honestly it would put me in a bad mood so i wont.

here are some pics from the city.

the aforementioned pierre and i decided to team up and hike the "W" in torres del paine. after a day of prep and armed with gear and food for a 4 night trek, we woke up the morning of february 9 to rain. torrential rain. and wild patagonian wind.

february 9th included many mugs of hot powdered milk with sugar, blogging, and staring out the window as the rain monster teamed up with the wind monster and wreaked havoc.

february 10. more rain. more wind. but pierre and i were determined to leave the unhealthy, claustrophobic, unhappy house with skeletons behind every closet door. we waited for a lull in the sheet of rain and then made our move.

out of the house and along the costanera. two blonde sweedish girls who spoke a million languages fluently picked us up almost immediately. we stopped at the cuevas de miladon. besides the giant sloth statue, there's really not much to write about. so i wont.

we snuck into the park and started walking. wind rain and knee-high-pale grass all around us. the impermeable gray sky wouldn't reveal anything of the skyline, even though I asked nicely.

walk. wind. rain. walk. rain. wind. rinse. repeat.

suddenly the most awesome blue green mint toothpaste pastel colored lake appeared out of nowhere. and the thick legs of tall mountains started peaking out from below the clouds. everything was greener. i liked it.

arrived to refugio pehue soaking wet and exhausted. marcelo from santiago awkwardly served up some mate and gave us some advice on places to set up the tent for free. with the wind and rain raging outside, everyone came into the quincho to cook, clean, chat, and congregate. it was packed. rice and lentils and BOXED WINE! we dodged camping security on the way to the tent.

that night, a chilean family whose tent was adjacent to ours decided to start a quilombo at 11pm, 1am and 7am, respectively. i heard them through my ear plugs. i didn't get a lot of sleep.

the morning of february 11th, i was grouchy due to the aforementioned chilean family. that is until i saw the mountain in the sunrise morning. spectacularly beautiful.

after a breakfast of oatmeal, powdered milk, canela and dried fruit, we dodged security again, adjusted straps on our packs and set off under brilliant blue skies. mountains! forests! lakes! glaciers! i'm not sure if i'd ever seen a glacier before, but this one was absolutely gorgeous. the views just kept getting better. lots of hiking meant lots of thinking time.

on february 12 i felt good. i felt strong. i led the limping frenchman from campamento las guardas past campamento grey to campamento pehue. sandwiches and hot hot hot tea. i took the opportunity to brush my teeth and comb my hair. onward! to campamento italiano.

i did a lot of thinking. as i tend to do on these treks. usually i think about people, situations, dynamics, and energy.

on this particular occasion i thought about weather and power struggle. humans tend to like control things. we like to control situations and people. we build comfortable habitats and hide in them. we fight against things we want to control. we use force. the more force we use, the more things usually bend to our will. but, when you're in the middle of nature, you have no control of the weather conditions you will find. you are completely vulnerable and have no other choice but to surrender completely to the wind, sun, clouds, rain, snow... and there are people who try to fight the weather. one woman on the trail was cursing and struggling against the wind. she was visibly upset and the more she fought, the more upset she got. it got me thinking. if you accept things that are thrown at you and work with them and not against them. there will be things in life that you cant control, instead of pouting and getting all worked up, why not turn them into positive experiences. for example, wind can be a pain... it may cause you to spend double the effort just to put one foot in front of the other. but if you take that same wind and harness it using your backpack as a sail, you can use it to your advantage. wind is wind. it's all how you view/use it.

pasta and tomato sauce and boxed wine! and chocolate. yum!

february 13 was a tranqui day. only 15 km, but without mochilas, up the valle frances. i felt good and strong again, but poor pierre was limping a lot due to a very swollen tobillo. views were incredible. absolutely stunning. i think torres del paine is home to the most spectacular views i've ever seen. mountains and glaciers!! constant avalanches kept our necks craned and our eyes scanning the white slopes. and the best water i've ever tasted.

Here's a video blog.

And another video.

february 14. a lot of walking. we did 9 hours of walking in only 6 hours. hiked super fast. the gears in my head churned. another beautiful day. pitched the tent in campamento torres.

february 15. summited in time to watch the three torres del paine sneak out from behind the clouds. stunning.

packed up and began the descent. no more bread or cheese for sandwiches. we had stayed one night more than had originally planned. we cooked up some quick rice and lentils before hitching to the park limits. we walked a bit before being picked up by some in-park transit. we hadn't showered in 6 days.

at the park border, we got national park stamps for our passports and sat by the side of the road waiting for a friendly car. i smiled at a tourist van and surprisingly they pulled over. they dropped us at cerro castillo, a border crossing to chile. from there we got some construction workers to drop us off at our beloved couchsurfing house. walking in the door was complete culture shock. from the tranquility in nature to the chaos of too much sugar and questionable parenting techniques.

mate, shower and i quickly washed my stinky clothes! my plan was to leave the next morning.

16 of february. escaped the house and had lunch with pierre before sticking out my thumb.

one last photo.

i had a decision to make. there were two border crossings. cerro castillo or rio turbio. puerto natales has a terrible layout for hitchhiking. i had to pick one.

at the end i chose cerro castillo. a polish couple living in brooklyn picked me up. the woman talked my head into a spin. they dropped me off at the border. it turns out that i chose the more inconvenient of the two border crossings. cerro castillo saw almost no traffic. i waited. and waited.

i had also gotten quite a late start to my hitchhiking day. i was worried that i would have to spend the night at the border. i would not return to puerto natales, under any circumstances. no matter how dire. so i waited.


Ed Gragert said...

wow, stunning photos, awesome peaks and very loud wind noises in the videos! Ed

N8 said...

Thanks for the video dedication, Alisa. Though you really must know that it's not that I always wanted to be there; it's that I always wanted to be there with you.

Love you.