Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Out of the Ordinary

So I went to Patagonia last week to go backpacking in the Torres del Paine National Park. The whole week I was thinking, what did I get myself into? First of all, I have never been backpacking. And then also, I don't like hiking, I am very out of shape, and camping isn't my favorite activity. However it turned out to be a good experience. I really wanted to travel to this part of the country so I sacrificed my comfort to see some amazing views. Here is what six girls and I did day by day...

It took 7 buses, 4 minibuses (vans), 2 airplanes, 1 ferry and 27 miles of hiking to cover all the ground we did.

Tuesday April 1: Flew out of Santiago to Punta Arenas. Did grocery shopping there, got lunch, took 3 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales. Stayed in a hostel and rented our camping gear.

Wednesday April 2:
Took a 2 1/2 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine National Park entrance. Then we had to wait for the ferry. We had about an hour to wait and that is when I met a NC State graduate and 2 people from Cary, NC. What a coincidence! We even later met them on the trail the next day. The ferry cost about $25 for a 45 min bus ride. I thought that was outrageous after already paying a park entrance fee. When we got to the other side of the lake we set up camp. Then we started on our first hike of the week. Less than 30 minutes of hiking and I already felt out of breath and did not want to continue. But then the thought of seeing a glacier kept me going. The hills were really hard for me, I could not catch my breath a lot and felt like I was having a slight panic attack when I approached a hill. About 4 hours later we finally arrived at the lookout for Glacier Grey. It was a great view, something we all describe as National Geographic like. We followed tradition and had whiskey and glacier ice. I had 2 sips because whiskey is just gross. After enjoying the glacier's view we knew we had to get going because it was going to get dark soon. Luckily we got through the hard part of the trail before dark but then we had to hike for a couple of hours in the dark. All I could think about was this lady who had gotten killed my a puma. I kept my thoughts to myself so I wouldn't scare the other girls. Finally we arrived back to the campsite right after the "kitchen" closed. Peanut butter crackers fulfilled as dinner and then to bed we went. It was hard to sleep, I actually was really hot and even slept on top of my sleeping bag. I also had a fear of rats because I could hear them getting into our bags but I was too scared to look.

Thursday April 2: We woke up to find some ramen eaten by the rats. Oh well, we had like 15 more bags of it. We started on another hike, this time actually backpacking with our stuff. The weather also too a big change and it was windy and rainy. No fun! We had to walk through a river that had flooded. It was the coldest water I have ever had to step in. There were also lots of rocks on the bottom so it was extra painful. We took our shoes and socks off so we could have dry feet for the rest of the day. It took us about 3 hours to get to the other campsite but when I got there I just wanted to be warm and dry. I decided to stay behind at camp instead of going on another hike. It was a good decision, I must say.

Friday April 3: We had all day to get to the next campsite but it took 7 hours plus stopping for lunch and breaks (which i need very often). It wasn't too hard but just a really long day. Luckily my friend Kelin and I have the same pace so I never found myself alone while hiking which was a wonderful motivation. The campsite we stayed at Friday night was really nice because it was the only one where we could have a fire. The past two days had been pretty cold so this was a nice feature.

Saturday April 4: Three girls left at 4:30 am to go on a hike before our bus left in the afternoon. I was not about to go on an optional hike at 4:30 in the morning. Instead the other 4 of us had a nice time around the campfire; the part of camping I enjoy. We left the park, returned our equipment in Puerto Natales and then went to Punta Arenas to stay for the night. The hostel in Punta Arenas was a very authentic hostel but it did have the NCAA tournament on which was very exciting for me because I have missed March Madness this year.

Sunday April 5:
We checked out of the hostel and explore Punta Arenas until our flight at 3:00. There were vendors all set up in the plaza and I went a little crazy with buying things and presents for people at home. I just love those hand craft markets, they have things I won't be able to find anywhere else in the world. We arrived in Santiago and then got a bus to Vina del Mar which was easier to say than do. Finally I arrived in my "warm" and homey apt at 11:30 at night. It was a long week and trip but definitely worth the experiences and sites I saw.

So thats just me rambling and not proofreading. I just wanted to get my thoughts out before I forget.

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