Thursday, December 26, 2013

Our Honeymoon - Day 8 - El Calafate to Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine

Today was mostly a travel day from El Calafate, through Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine for more Trekking.  We had time  for a quick lunch after dropping off our stuff with Dittmar and the rental car before we had to catch the afternoon bus up to the park.  It was a beautiful bus ride as it had just recently snowed on all the surrounding peaks.  Click the title to read on.....

Today was an easy travel day for us.  We had to get up at 6am, with breakfast at 6:30am, to get on the road by 7am and beat the tour buses to the border for faster crossing.  We said goodbye to Hannah and the Casa de Grillos and hit the road, tentatively driving past the police checkpoint at the edge of town again.  Emily quickly fell asleep in the car as we drove 85mph again across the high Patagonian desert.  I saw herds of guanaco, more of the ostrich bird and I even pulled over and got some great shots of a fox that ran across in front of me, briefly waking Emily up.  We also saw some more flamingos which still baffled me as to why they were in Patagonia to begin with…  

Other than that, it was 4+ uneventful hours of driving in rainy, cloudy conditions back towards the Chilean border.  The border crossing on the way back into Chile was super easy and they only quickly checked our car, not scanning our bags at all, perhaps because we had driven to the crossing that few people use... whoops.  Perhaps this was because once again we had taken the uncommon border crossing, having missed the popular route about 30 miles back.  At first we were on a gravel road for a bit and a little sketched out that there was nobody with us but the border was easy and safe and we found our way back into Chile without incident.

From there it was a quick drive into town and to Laura's office which we found without too much trouble.  It was noon and we had a couple hours to kill before dropping off the rental and getting a bus to Torres del Paine.  We ended up eating at a place called eLiving downtown.  I walked in because it looked like a cool place to eat with couches, but to my horror discovered it was a vegetarian joint... Emily wanted to stay so I ordered a "super vegan burger" which at least had a fried egg on it while Em ordered pasta.  She liked hers but I refuse to believe that any bean patty should be allowed to be called a "burger".  

When we got back to Laura's we quickly packed up all the gear we would need in our backpacks at a B&B next door called the "tin roof" and left the remainder of our bags with her at Dittmar headquarters to pick up after our kayaking trip.  We then drove over to drop off the rental car only to find no one there!  Laura had called us a taxi there so we just drove by her place again and left the car key with her to return later in the day before being dropped off by the cab at the bus station.  

It was a 2-3 hour bus ride with the “Via Paine” bus company past the border crossing we had used days before to get into Argentina.  We stopped there for 10 minutes so Emily and I bought some drinks and snickers for the trail to supplement the freeze dried meals and shot-blocs we had brought.  We followed a dirt road into the park in a line of tour busses.  When we got to the park headquarters we could barely see the towers of the Paine massif in the clouds as we were herded like cattle into the building to pay the park fee, pick up our trail passes and watch an informational movie about the rules of the park.  On the way in we had seen fresh snow on the hills and during the film, to my dismay we heard that the two major viewpoints of the park were closed!  

We were planning on starting our trek so that we could go visit the best viewpoint the next day but were concerned that it was closed when we arrived.  I looked at the weather forecast on the bulletin board and it said the best day for weather was tomorrow so we rolled the dice and continued with our original plan despite the park employee telling everyone to start their trip at the point we were planning to end it.... We were then ushered out of the building and rushed back to the bus where the driver was hurriedly unloading gear for those like us that needed to take the park shuttle to another location.  I got our bags out... and totally forgot to grab my trekking poles which were thrown in the back separate.  This really sucked as I really depend on the poles and there was no way to get a hold of the driver once he had left sight.....

The shuttle vans showed up for the Hotel Torres and loaded us in.  We were dropped off just a short ways up the road from where we would start our hike into Valley Ascencio.  We split up the gear a bit more evenly between the two of us and headed off down the trail which soon towards sharply towards the valley and climbed steeply up into it.  Our legs were fresh so we made good time.  We had left the road at about 6:45 and after passing Refugeo Torres along the way we soon found ourselves at Campamento Torres around 9:30pm with just enough time to find a great spot up on a hill away from the many other campers and cook dinner.  We didn't have many views on the way in and as we go to bed it is blowing rain and snow on us hard and is pretty chilly out.  We are really hoping the Mirador will be open tomorrow with good weather. 

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