After an extensive series of plane rides, Missy and I touched down in the deserted land of Patagonia on December 21st. Patagonia, I discovered comes from the Greek route word “Patyon” (ΠΑΤΑΥΟΝ) which is translated to ¨the gnashing of teeth,¨ an image later adopted by the Christian tradition to describe suffering in the infernos of hell. Now, I would not say Patagonia was akin to hell– it was rather chilly and windy but the landscape had the feeling of eternity. A rugged drawn out eternity spread out upon an dusty desolate landscape. For every live tree there was one deceased one laying in the ground- creating a a type of beauty suggestive of persistence after lifelessness.
The next day we took a 5am bus to Torres del Paine, a five hour ride to Chile. The border crossing was quite an asinine practice in bureaucracy. We had to get a passport stamped in Argentina and then return to to the bus to drive literally 15 feet to go over the border crossing to Chilean customs. No one is allowed to walk between this precious piece of land or the ubiquitous drug sniffing dogs would attack.
Finally we arrived in the park and viewed upon the towering spires of mountains that make up the Torres (Towers) del Paine imposing over a minty colored lake- a site wholly wonderful and unique. We discovered that the park was not an extension of the Andean mountain range but its own geological phenomenon formed by the uprising of a volcano. After the bus ride tour, we began our hike of what intended to be a four day three night adventure through the “W” where I would carry close to 50 pounds on my back and Missy would carry the equal weight of “moral support.”
We arreat our campsite at 9:45pm on what was supposed to be the easiest day, battling 45mph winds and some steep climbs, I quickly realized that this would not be as easy as the Inca trail the previous year. The next day reconfirmed this notion quite quickly. Early in the morning we intended to take a quick 4 mile hike, leaving our bag in the tent, to get a close view of the Towers, considered a highlight of the W. The rain began quickly into the walk and later the wind picked up. This was all tolerable under the coverage of the trees, but when we reached the final stretch, a perilous four limb climb up unstable rocks to reach the vista point, Missy reached a breaking point. Fearing for her life and exacerbated by the wet and cold, she began a spirited, snot dripping from her nose protest. As I pushed her up the trail, the uncontrollable fearful shaking in her arms made me think, “if Fred and Carol had a crystal ball and could peer into what I was subjecting their daughter to, I think their opinion of me might dwindle.” Nevertheless, we made it to the top and with the rain, we could not see anything. Defeated, we waddled back down the trail and eventually to our tent to find our sleeping bags soaking wet. I looked at Missy and it became quickly apparent that our trip was over. Our misery was not finished yet, as the retracing of yesterday’s steps in a bag made heavier by wet items, in the cold and wind with Missy slipping and tweaking her knee and the wind threatening to topple us over seemed like it would never end. But it did. The last 3 miles we were able to hitch hike in the back of a truck to the bus stop to luckily meet the last bus heading to El Calafate (the next bus, four hours later would take us to Puerto Navales, Chile here we would need to find a hostel and take a long bus ride back to Argentina the next day).
This mishap we later found would be a blessing rather than a curse. We were able to calmly see the touristic marvel of the Perrito Moreno glacier (simply outstanding), celebrate Navidad in the hostel America del Sur with great people and then change our flight to Buenos Aires two days earlier.
-Stay at the Hostel America del Sur!!! It they are super nice there, it is cozy, and there is just simply great energy there. We stayed there only one night and after our excursion it was fully booked. We stayed in a terrible hotel town the road but the people at America del Sur invited us over to hang out whenever we wanted- adn we did.
-El Calafate is a jumping point to the Patagonia adventures. It is touristy and expensive so try to stay here as little time as possible.
-Dress for the weather in the Torres Del Paine. It is rainy and windy and if you do not have a water-proof tent and appropriate weatherized clothing you will be in for disaster.
-Do not try to carry fruit (let alone drugs) over the border into Chile. There are extensive border checks.