Argentina and Chile
19.1.12 - 27.1.12 19 °C
Finally I have found the time to write, an internet connection that is fast and a computer that is free..three commodities quite difficult to come by, especially all at once! It feels like weve been away for months, maybe due to what we somehow manage to pack into each day. We are usually up by 7am and not in bed before 11 or 12. Sometimes we are not eating dinner until 10 or 11pm but this seems the norm in South America as the restaurants are totally packed. Its quite good for us actually because if we arrive late to a place by the time we've organised ourselves to the hostel etc, its that late anyway!
So back to where I left off, our second day trekking in El Chalten was even more spectacular than the first. We did an 8 hour hike to a mountain peak, so four hours was UP, gradual at first with the last 45 mins to an hour being very steep. But when we made it to the top the pain was worth it (I imagine much like child birth!). Words can not describe the magnificence of the view , we were surrounded by snow capped mountains, glaciers, and forrest. 360 degrees. Had lunch up there to recover our bodies and our appetites before starting back down. The other thing that made it so ´fantastico´ (getting into the local language) was that the day was crystal clear blue sky, not a cloud to be seen. This is extremely rare for these parts so we were very very lucky. Actually the Lonely Planet book says about El Chalten something like: You need to pack for wind, cold and rain even in the summer, however if you happen to get a sunny day, El Chalten is paradise on earth. I couldn´t put it better myself.
The following day we went rock climbing. Me for the very first time, Terry for the 2nd or 3rd time (but he only did indoor climbing before). I absolutely loved it!! It was very challenging but such a good feeling to get to the top! WE had the best guide ever who told us what we had to do and would go up first with a rope to mark the path and then we´d go up and see if we could make it to the top. It took him about 2 mins to get up, secure the rope and the hooks and get back down for us to start. It took us around half an hour for each climb! We did four or five climbs in total, ranging from easy to more difficult (tho lets face it, the easy for us was difficult). My new claim to fame is that I managed a climb and Terry didn´t!! He got stuck half way up and just could not find a foothold or handgrip so after about 20 minutes not moving, he finally gave up and came back down. I assumed I'd have no hope after that but I managed to make it. Pure elation! THat may well be the first time in 7.5 years Ive been better than Terry at something physical! Tell you what though, it is SO much harder than indoor climbing where the grips are there for you. It was crazy, the guide would realise we were stuck so he´d yell up 'up your foot' or 'try to the left' or 'try to the right' and we´d look and still couldn´t find anything! One time he yelled up to Terry 'Follow the line in the rock' and Terry yelled back 'can you give me a pencil then'!! (so he could draw a line to follow). The guide was so cool, we bought him lunch and a beer afterwards.
Next day was travelling and nursing sore muscles. And then finally we got to Torres Del Paine. Very lucky we only had to camp out once, the other 3 nights we got dorms in what they call Refugios. Once again more trekking and more splendid views. I think I accomplised the hardest thing I've ever done there by doing an 11km walk with full pack! The next day we set out for a trek just with our day packs and I felt as light as a feather. This hike was probably my favourite one yet as it was always either by an aqua blue glacial lake, or a waterfall or forrest or high mountain peak.
We did have a couple of problems on this hike though, one being that we somehow managed to lose each other. How is this possible you may well ask. Well somehow we found a way. There was a particularly steep part so Terry went ahead of me (he walks faster than me uphill and then I usually catch up to him on the flat). I got to the top and didn´t see him so kept on going. I walked for ages, expecting to see him around a corner but after ages I started to get a bit mad at him for not waiting for me. Anyway I finally reached the first look out point maybe an hour or more later, all ready to yell at him but he was not there! I sat down for a couple of minutes and then I saw him coming up behind me. Before I had a chance to yell at him, he starts yelling at me! Turns out right back at the first steep hill, he had waited and had just stopped to get the camera out to take a photo of me struggling up the hill. I must have walked past at that moment, head down. He then waited for ages for me to come up but of course I was gone. Finally he runs back down the hill, asking everyone if they had seen me, then back up the hill again, then ran for ages to this rangers station, not knowing if Id fallen or god knows what. Luckily he found someone who spoke english who said he had seen me and that I was ahead of him. So there we were, on the top of this serene beautiful lookout, screaming at each other, him for me not waiting and me saying, why would I wait when I thought you were ahead. After about 5 minutes this french woman who was sitting up there, turned to us and said SSSHHHHHH really crossly. Then she said 'You should just be grateful you have found each other'. That put us in our place, though at that exact minute I don´t think either of us agreed!!
Another funny story is Terry's shoes. Every day after the long hikes our feet just stink but this one particular night his were really bad. We couldn´t figure out whether it was his socks, his shoes or his feet so by process of elimination we figured out it was his shoes. Even if he stuck them right under the bed they were still so bad that the whole room would have had to be fumigated if we left them there. So he goes outside and puts them up a tree and that is where they remained all night! Funny. We were just glad to see the tree was still standing the following morning.
The other problem we had on the abovementioned walk was that all of a sudden I had an extreme sharp pain in one of my calfs. Thought it was a bad cramp at first. Nothing much we could do about it as we were in the middle of the hike so we walked back to the refugio at an extremely slow pace arriving there after 9pm, 3 hours later than expected and after 7 straight hours walking. Following morning I couldn´t walk and leg was swollen so we thought I´d torn a muscle. Problem was, this was the day we had to walk the 11kms back with our packs and it became apparent that I could walk nowhere, pack or no pack. So we booked a horse to get me and my pack back. While we were waiting for this horse, this guy comes and asks me if I want to go back by boat instead. Sure! Turns out it is a cargo boat that carries supplies an porters with heavy packs between the points. So off I go in this dinghy along with 10 guys and masses of equipment. It was fun and much better than the walk, almost worth the pain! Terry set off on foot as soon as he saw me off on the boat so with the hours I had to kill before he got back, I found that a nearby hotel had a spa service so I ended up getting the full works, massage, sauna and jaccouzi, It was expensive but worth every last pasos I can tell you. And second best option to a Doctor which they didn´t have. I thought it would free up my calf muscle.
Got back to El Calafate the next day and did a 7 hour boat trip to a very large glacier here, spectacular, icebergs along the way. I imagine it similar to what Alaska would be like. Then went to Doctor after that to be told I didn´t have muscle problems after all, I had deep vein thrombosis (DVT). I guess that would explain the size of my leg from ankle to knee. Now I have pills and must lie still for 2 days. This is the first day of that while Terry is off doing this brilliant Ice Walk tour on Perito Merino glacier. Very frustrating. Tomorrow we are meant to be flying out but may have to postpone flight, will see what happens.
So that´s about it I think. Oh, have to say the weather this entire trip has been unbeleivable! We wake up to blue skies and no wind or rain and just can´t believe our luck, esp in these parts. It is unprecedented the locals say. Of course we all know what Terry says....global warming of course! He´s having a great time talking to everyone about it and to his surprise mostly everyone here is very aware of it. Maybe because they are surrounded by all the retreating glaciers so they see it with their own eyes.
One thing I forgot about travelling is all the fascinating people you meet on the way as well as the beauty of the scenery. We have met some brilliant people, everyone is so friendly and since my leg problem, people have been so helpful and lovely and kind.
We also have some great videos as well as still photos to show you all (well, those of you at home). Some great ones of the rock climbing!
ciao for now,