The Israeli fire aftermath
15.01.2012 - 18.01.2012
The plan for the highlight of this leg, Torres Del Paine, was slightly changed owing to the fact that two weeks previous some Israelis accidentally set fire to the park and it spread taking out most of the park.
Under normal circumstances we would have had the option to do the W walk which is a four day trek through the beautiful park. As some of the park was still burning, and most of the rest was either unsafe or the campsites and refuges had been burned. Fortunately they opened some areas of the park just in time for our stay so we were able to do some walking, although we did have to be accompanied by a local guide, who turned out to be a complete waste of space as he couldn't speak a word of English.
When we arrived at the park he announced that we'd have to walk for 20 minutes. There was uproar on truck as our tents are really heavy and theres no way you could carry them and a backpack for twenty minutes. After all refusing to go he finally managed to explain that this was just a walk and afterwards we'd drive to camp. I think he was a bit confused by the fact that we'd gone the one of the most famous hiking places and didn't want to do a 20 minute walk!
When we finally understood, we all got off the truck and went for the walk, this was our first experience of or guides inability to judge timings as we were walking for over an hour. It was very beautiful though. And we got our first glimpses of the towers, a strange three peak rock formation that overshadows the whole park. We also saw some of the lakes and wildlife of the park. It's so beautiful, you really could stay here and explore for a a very long time.
The next morning we headed out on the truck for a drive around the park to get a glimpse of as
Much as we could in the short time we were staying there. We stopped several times along the way for some hiking but the most amazing was a stop we made on the edge of a huge glacier lake. The lake itself was stunning, the strange murky blue water you get in glacier lakes. We walked around it and then through the middle on the natural pebble walkway that had formed. On the other side we climbed over a hill and at the tip there was the most beautiful view of the glacier and several pieces of the glacier that had broken off. It was such a lovely walk.
We then walked up to a waterfall and several other lakes before heading back to camp. We were all absolutely shattered, some took the roof seats back to enjoy the ride but the rest of us flakes out. As we were approaching camp we were told we were going for another walk back to camp. Most people declined but three of us were persuaded to go and we were told it was only an hour anyway. Everyone else headed back to camp and off we went in our little hike.
The hike was lovely across hills that were home to many guanacas, which look a little like a large deer. We were surrounded by them. We saw the little watchouts they had set up to look out for pumas who come
Out at night to kill. The whole area was surrounded by bones some of which were freshly killed. A bit spooky but fascinating at the same time.
Claire and I had let Dan ad the guides go on ahead as we were enjoying taking pictures and the next thing we know Dan is running back looking very excited. When he reached us he tells us we may not want to move ahead as there was something horrible ahead. Obviously we did carry on and we saw a guanaca who had got completed tied up in the barbed wire fence. Her legs were all tangled and it looked like she'd been there a while. Despite that she was still alive and very alert so we started on a mission to free her from the fence. The guides were trying to cut the wire and sent us off for rocks to help. Dan picked up a perfect sized rock for the job but immediately dropped it as there was a large spider on it. He took a picture of it and when we showed the guides they told us it was a black widow. There is no anti venom for a black widow spider bite. Dan had been very lucky.
After a long time we eventually freed the guanaca, but then we discovered that her legs were broken and she had been pecked at quite badly by birds. There was nothing we could do to save her. It was a very sad ending, we all thought we'd be able to rescue her.
We carried on our walk seeing more of the killer spiders and mire beautiful walks. We saw some paintings done by the locals thousands of years ago on some rocks. All pretty cool stuff. The guides were clearly getting very excited and ignored there own advice and started taking us off the tracks and freestyling.
Three hours in to our one hour walk, with no food or drink we started to wander how much longer this was going on for and when we'd reach camp. We were told 35 minutes. An hour later we returned to the start point of our walk and we still hadnt started the trek to camp.
It was at this point that we saw our truck driving towards us. We genuinely thought that Noone would have noticed we'd been gone so long but it turns out they'd all been really worried and were majorly panicking about us. After lots of hugging and relief, we headed back to camp for a good feed and a massive glass of vino.
The next day was big hike day. It was an 8 hour hike over very steep and very rocky terrain. It was an amazing day though, following the trail of a river with waterfalls and beautiful scenery. It felt like the walk would never end but when we finally reached to base of the towers we were awestruck. It was amazing. The area opened up into a big lake with the towers as backdrop. A beautiful
Place to stop and relax and made the whole walk worthwhile.
After the long trek back down we had to pack up ready for an early departure the next day.
Torres del paine is stunning. It was a real shame that the fires happened as we saw
Miles and miles of burnt out trees. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in all it's glory, considering how amazing it was in it's current state. A wicked few days :-)