Monday, March 26, 2012

Torres Del Paine and Laguna Amarga

Wednesday, with the radiator fixed again we were back on the road to – where else – Torres Del Paine National Park. We still want to get views of the Torres (towers). Like the cuernos (horns), there are three of them, the North, South and Central. They are gigantic, granite monoliths rising out of the mountain and shaped by the glacial ice. The South Tower is now thought to be the highest at 2,500 meters (8,250 feet), although surprisingly that has not been definitively established and was first climbed by Armando Aste. The Central Tower is 2,460 meters (8,100 feet) and was the first of the three to be climbed back in 1963 by Chris Bonnington and Don Whillans and the North Tower which is 2,260 meters was first climbed by Guido Monzino, who back in 1977 donated around 12,000 hectacres (30,000 acres) to the Chilean government which established the definitive limits of the park. Our goal is to camp at Hotel Del Torres and then hike from there. We are now accustomed to picking up hitchhikers and just leaving Puerto Natales, there were two ladies waiting for rides. They were going to EL Calafate so we told them we could give them a ride to Cerro Castillo, which is the turn off for the park and also the border entrance to Argentina. After crossing the border they should be able to pick up another ride to El Calafate. The two girls were from Santiago and one spoke good English so we were able to chat with them as we drove. After leaving them at the border, Tom checked the motorhome. So far, so good – no leaks. We are now on the familiar gravel trails which lead into the park and just as we are approaching Laguna Amarga, a beautiful ice blue glacial lake, Tom announced, with a certain degree of dread in his voice, that he smelled “something”. We pull off at the turnout to the lake and sure enough we are leaking once again. Frustrated and depressed doesn’t begin to express our feelings. We take stock of our situation, yet again. It is about 3 in the afternoon and we are by a gorgeous lake with some fabulous views of the mountains including the Torres. We will spend the night and once again go back to Puerto Natales. I’m beginning to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day! But, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. At least we have some great views of the towers and so as Tom checks out the motorhome and prepares it for the night, I walk Winston. There are guanaco grazing by the lake so I keep Winston on his lead until they have moved off. Then he is free. He runs to the water, stops for a moment, runs in and….he is up to his belly in ice. He is shocked. He tears out of the water shaking himself and looking at me reproachfully. “Not my fault” I tell him, laughing and taking his photograph. He runs around but does not go into the water again. Once bitten, twice shy. I check out the landscape. The towers are amazing and as I walk further to study them, I shout to Tom. Coming from the North Tower is a natural ice bridge crossing a glacier, connecting it to the adjacent mountain. In the reflecting sunlight, it looks phenomenal. We take a ton of photos as this may be the closest we get. I make beef soup for dinner and as we eat we watch the sun setting over the towers and decide it is a great camping location. It was never our original destination and if the motorhome had not developed a problem we would probably have not stopped. And yet, here we are with near perfect views of the towers. Tomorrow is another day and we will again, limp back to Puerto Natales and if we can’t find someone capable of helping us, we will go to Punta Arenas. For right now, we are by Laguna Amarga, it is quiet with not another soul in sight and those Torres in the setting sun are spectacular.

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