Day 4, and our last day in the park…
Due to the fact that various campsites were closed due to damage from the fire, we decided to skip the middle part of the traditional W hike, which takes you up the French Valley. Honest, I promise it was only because of the fire, not because we were exhausted or anything like that!!!
Instead we boarded the catamaran back to Pudeto and then on the advice of Ricardo, did a short one hour hike to a viewpoint for the Cuernos. Strangely enough, los Cuernos (Horns) are actually more iconic than the Towers after which the park is named. Many businesses associated with Torres del Paine, use Los Cuernos as their logo and not Los Torres. I can`t decide which of the two amazing landscapes I like most. I think it`s a tie…
A brief geology lesson – the massif that makes up the central and most famous part of Torres del Paine consists predominantly of resistant granite. Above this layer of granite was a softer layer of sedimentary rock. Due to erosion (mostly from glaciation in the last 10 000 years), the softer sedimentary layer was eroded away faster than the harder granite. This left behind spires such as Los Cuernos with smaller remnants of the black sedimentary rock as tips.
Despite having two days of hiking through areas destroyed by the fire, the impact was even more acute on this short trail. Walking along the trail which wound its way through the rolling hills towards Lago Njordenskjold, it felt like we were in a tree cemetery. Not a blade of grass or green leaf was left…just dry soil being blown away by the wind. So so tragic…
A guanaco looking for a little bit of greenery amidst the black
I suppose the only silver lining was that dead trees can make pretty cool subjects for photos. Problem was that with the gale force wind, I was not in the mood to stand around trying to be artistic with my camera…
By the time we arrived at the viewpoint, my sense of humour had run out and the wind was making me want to scream.
I wasn`t the only one feeling that way. Upon arriving at the viewpoint, Juan Carlos and Rodrigo both let loose their frustration with the wind…
I am not bent over from tiredness in this photo…I am trying to stay upright during a particularly fierce gust of wind.
But as with all experiences in Torres, the end result was worth the effort…the view across Lake Nordenskjold to the Cuernos was breathtaking.
Lago Nordenskjold and the Cuernos
Look closely…can you see the huaso (cowboy) on his horse…
Sadly after admiring the view for a while, we had to make our way back to Lago Pehoe to catch a bus out of the park and back to Puerto Natales. Despite the fact that every possible part of my body was aching with tiredness and the fact that I was totally over the wind, I was very very sad to leave the park. I hope that I have given you a small insight through these four posts into Torres del Paine, but to be honest when it comes to trying to describe the landscapes, the atmosphere, the feeling of Patagonia, I find I lack the words and the means to really get my feelings across. I think it is very difficult to capture the true essence of this wild place…way down south at the end of the Americas.
I saw this poem on the wall of the refugio at Paine Grande and in some way it makes up for my lack of words…
is a vast territory: wild and virgin.
A land that has never recognized frontiers
nor human limits,
only those chosen by its own free spirit,
not those imposed by the politics
of two republics.
Its dominion stretches
from the estuary of the River Santa Cruz in the east
to the Golfo de Penas in the west,
both linked by an imaginary line,
to a shared south on the rocks of Cape Horn.
It is a land of extremes,
lashed by merciless winds ever since the ice cracked
open many years ago allowing the vegetation,
clinging to the rocks, to emerge.
A magical land, contradictory,
whose physical dangers are nothing
to the biggest threat of them all:
the challenge to the spirit.
with the game played by the clouds being chased
by the great, high currents,
with its iridescent skies and eternal ice,
with the vastness of its pampas and
the murmur of the streams,
with the lament of the forests and
the sighs of the relentless wind.
It is a land to be discovered,
with the explorer embarking, banner in hand,
ready to take possession,
only and if Patagonia itself is willing.
It has seen an era of adventurers,
who came in search of a better destiny,
as well as born witness to the disappearance
of the first inhabitants
who fell in the face of modernity.
The short, winter days,
contrasting with the short, summer nights
have not forgotten the blood spilled.
The same blood
that has watered the great valleys and
united both dreamers and the first inhabitants.
But in spite of everything,
in the heart of this vast land…
The last hope…