Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Patagonia: The Sequel: The Wind, Mud and Glaciers Galore

Friday morning we woke up bright DARK and early. In the southern most part of the globe the sun ceases to rise until approximately 8:00am- talk about having a problem getting out of bed- I couldn't even find my way to the bathroom! (serious Carly problems here). After convincing myself that I could not hike in the same clothes that I would be wearing to bed that night (and all the nights after that....gotta keep them dry and cleanish!) I painfully removed all of my clothes in the freezing cold and put on 4 new layers of protection. Secondly Sophie and I had to reason with ourselves that the monkey-esque noises coming from outside our tent could in no way actually be monkeys- right? It had to be a bird or something because the instructional video we watched did not mention this potential danger....and therefore we must be safe...
We proceeded to chow down on cold oats, peanut butter and pita. SO MUCH PEANUT BUTTER. We packed up our tent, did some jumping jacks and breathed hot air on our numb fingers and then got the heck out of that snowy campsite and onto the next. The atmosphere rapidly changed from an eerie snow covered forrest to a cloudy (but slowly becoming clear) blue sky that began to reveal the mountains we had just camped in. It was an incredible sight to see and furthermore- the weather started to warm up!

First day- pre-snow
Everything looked like a winter wonderland after the snow! So beautiful(:
On this day in particular we hiked 14.9 miles from the snowcapped mountains, past two lakes, a valley and many streams. It took us about 6 hours total and the elephant in the room for that day was whether or not we should carry on and hike another 2.5 hours after our 6 hour endeavor. Oye. My feet and shoulders said no, but the prospect of free camping vs. paid (a mere 12 dollars per person!) seemed to create some debate about whether or not we should march on...Thank goodness I was in the majority because I don't think I could have taken another step.(our peak mileage) When we finally reached the Refugio of Los Cuernos I chowed down on my tuna, pita, peanut butter and then proceeded to buy a snickers bar. Mmmm...sweet nostalgia. That night we were fortunate enough to camp on platforms- that's where the 12 dollars was worth it!- we also had the opportunity to take a hot shower and use indoor bathrooms our entire stay- I opted out of the shower experience- not because I wanted to smell, but more because I couldn't imagine myself getting wet in this windy and cold climate- it just wasn't worth it to me. This night we were also able to cook in a building instead of a shelter so it was much warmer and we even had a table where we got to play cards.
I resisted the urge to buy a glass of wine (it was so easy to get a beer or bottle of wine at the refugios!) and I stuck to our delicious feast of pasta (approximately 15 servings were devoured by the 7 of us). I actually kept a wee bit of my pasta and had some for lunch the next day- as to not tire myself of peanut butter and bread all day everyday. I added some tuna to it the next day and mmmm. so good. 
On that note- the note of food that is- let me tell you a little something about the prevalence of rats in this national park. Apparently on our first night- when it was snowing and sub-zero (maybe- that's what it felt like but don't quote me on that!)- our ignorance to the possibility of rats eating our food didn't harm us one bit. However- on this night- we actually made the revelation that the rats in the park would chew through our tents if we had food in our backpacks. The suggestion was to put all your food in a bag and then tie it to a try. Now this maybe seem simple enough- but- when you add the wind factor to this equation- there is no way in heck that those bags would have stayed in the trees because we could barely keep our tents on the ground with that fierce wind, let alone a wimpy bag of crackers and canned tuna. 
Our tent!!
Alas- nice people exist in Chile too and a girl that was staying inside the refugio offered to let us store our food in her room. Yay for friends! I cannot even imagine what would have happened if A) the rats had chewed a hole in our tent and then we had to pay the rental place... and B) if they had ruined all our food supplies and then we STARVED. An irrational conclusion I know- but let's just say there was a constant thought process on my mind about food and when my next meal was due to the intense amount of effort I was exerting all day EREDAY. 
Side note- check out this trash bag swag :D
Thats me in the purple(:
Alas we set off the next morning to our third and final campsite. Although it was quite brisk in the morning, the day turned out to be nice, clear and sunny. We got to go out to the coast line of one of the lakes, Lago Nordenskjold (no I did not make that name up...) and take some really pretty pictures of the sunrise- these pics will be on facebook shortly I swear! The only remarkable things I can remember about this hike were the extreme winds, serious mud and my face-to-earth incident. Yeah- that's Carly speak for- I got blown off a 'bridge' type thing and fell into the marsh. All was good though- when I saw bridge I really just mean a handrail-less collection of wood planks that keep you from sinking into the swamp land. The wind was so strong that when I was walking along these wooden planks I just blew right over! It was probably the best time to get blown over though because previously we had endured strong winds along the coastline as we were treading carefully on some gravel trails that were exposed to the mountainside. Ow- ain't nobody got time to get blown over in those parts. Additionally I remember passing through a large valley filled with burnt tree trunks from a forest fire that apparently went down in January. The trees almost looked as if they had been spray painted with silver, but we determined as a group that their weird coloration and appearance must have been the result of the fire damage. Anywho- After we had fully encircled an entire mountain and walked so far that we were now facing an entirely different lake, 15. 2 miles later, we were at Campamento Torres Grande (I'm pretty sure that's the name). And you would not even believe what made this refugio/campsite so special....not the 4.000 peso camping charge (so cheap!) and not the fact that they sold Almond snickers...but the fact that they had a bar, a TV and a satellite dish that was streaming the Final Four game against Wisconsin and Kentucky. Let me tell you something- I thought Jack was going to cry tears of joy when he heard that one. Who would have thought- in the middle of complete isolation- that we would be watching the NCAA Basketball tournament. Unreal. 
The next morning- our final day in the park!- we woke up as early as possible (granted it was only around 7am due to the time the sunrises), packed up all of our stuff for the catamaran ride (kind of like a ferry) and headed towards the glacier lookout as fast as we could. The map estimated it would take approximately an hour and a half to reach the lookout and we barely had just that amount of time. We half job-half speed walked our way to the glacier and were met with sweet success! It was totally worth it- even if we were only able to marvel in it's beauty for 5 minutes before we sprinted back...
So this is the famous Lago Grey and then behind it you can see the glacier. A glacier is really just when the lake becomes frozen and starts to cover the mountain with a blanket of ice. I actually saw my first glacier in India- but in my opinion this one was much cooler because the real beauty of the scenery was due to the reflection of the mountain on the lake. ¡Que Linda! 
So the last mileage statistic was 12.6 miles (not too shabby!) and that was bulk of our trip in the national park.
We boarded an overpriced catamarran- 30 USD for a 30 minute ride across the lake!- and arrived at a bus stop where we then took a 2 hour bus to Puerto Natales- where we once again stayed in the lovely hostel of Erratic Rock. 
The first thing I did was take a hot shower, and then of course I texted my mother to tell her I was alive- priorities though(;
That night we FEASTED. Hamburgers- what typical Americans we are right? Actually now that I saw that I think that Chileans may actually consume more hotdogs and hamburgers than Americans. I don't know why I haven't seen more obese Chileans but I was told it may have something to do with the quality of their bread...seriously though! Someone told me that since they don't put preservatives in their bread and they buy it fresh (it goes bad after like 3 days but they sell it everywhere so it's not really a problem) their bread is actually better for you than the white bread we have in the states. Granted I would LOVE some 12 grain bread up in here, I'm also happy that I don't have to eat Wonder bread. Back to the story...
So we all ordered a hamburger and then everyone except me ordered a local beer (that tastes like a BLUEBERRY!- I actually probably could have finished that beer in particular) but since you all know how much I adore my dear wine- I went with a classy glass of red grape juice(: 
Funny story about the burgers though- when we all got ours and realized that they were approximately the size of our brains and then some (lovely reference point eh?)- my one friend turned to me and said- "I dare you to finish it"- oh girl. You didn't even have to dare me. I demolished that thing. Granted I didn't order an appetizer (what noobs my friends are for ruining their appetite before the big prize!) but nevertheless i took that burger down like a house of cards. Maybe I didn't eat all of the bread (the burger was about 2/3 the size of the bun) but I did eat every morsel of beef, tomato, avocado and lettuce. and it was GLORIOUS (sorry I keep screaming at you people- I'm just excited). Let's just say the challenger of my bet barely finished 1/2 of her burger...mmhmm. Only the boys and I finished our burgers(; so take that! For your viewing pleasure- (I am holding a quarter of the burger in my hand, this is real life I promise). 

So what did we do after we had our sweet victory dinner? Pass out in a food coma? Nope- we had our sweet victory dessert. All I wanted was ice cream while others pursued some Easter candy (it was Easter Sunday after all!). When I asked several Chileans where I could some ice cream on this night I was received with quizzical looks (what else is new) and responses like "it's winter." lol. I finally encountered some ice cream cones in one of those small freezers they have at the minimarkets here. So after a night of hamburgers, dessert, wine and a movie- we went with the Goonies- what a classic (it sounded right to say that, but in reality I've actually never seen it...don't judge)- I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. After the first day of trekking I became a pro at sleeping in any and all conditions (the car alarms and dogs were nothing new and the cold, hard ground proved to be only a small hurdle in my struggle to achieve a beautiful slumber). The next morning we did that bus thing again, arrived in Puntas Arenas- walked on the Strait of Magellan (once again- so close to Antartica!), called ourselves tourists and checked out the number one recommended food stop in Puntas Arenas- it was definitely a local favorite but I would say it was mostly overrated- it was just a sandwich with chorizo and cheese. But in retrospect- they were less than a dollar and made a good snack! It was packed with people so we shouted our orders (picture a diner with only one bar and maybe 9 bar stools) and then ate outside in the beautiful sunshine. In case you were wondering- it was called Kiosko Roca and this is what the sandwiches looked like (they are little, maybe a little bigger than a deck of cards):
That is totally someone else's photo, but you get the drift. After lunch we headed over to a free museum, checked out the local cemetery and then took a cab to the airport. I had my first female cabbie! Other than that I have nothing else remarkable to report- okay I lied- I will mention that the Puntas Arenas airport was less than secure. The security checkpoint consisted of a single x-ray machine, one lady who was 'monitoring' the screen and no need to take off your jacket, shoes or jewelry. Luckily there were no bombs on my plane :D

That is all. xoxo. 

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