As a wake up, Tom Lalanne witnesses the burning towers of the famous National Park. But the day is from for over.
6:45 am in the national parc « Torres del Paine », in the heart of Chile’s Patagonia. Despite my feather sleeping bag, it was cold in the tent last night, the temperature was below zero and the incessant raid of mice didn’t give me much time to rest. The only water available being in the river, I cannot count on a hot shower either, I need to get dressed and start walking to warm up.
And so I begin the hour ascent to reach the world-renowned « Torres » (tower) in time for the sunrise. I slowly revive, the darkness doesn’t help me move forward but my excitment is too great to retrace my steps.
The summit ressembles an open air cinema, the few people that joined the expedition are sitting in clusters facing the three rocks which will ablaze in an instant. When finally the first rays of sunshine ignite peaks’ extremities, all I can hear is the wind scraping my face and my hands. The expanding sun burns the rocks from top to bottom, to eventually illuminate the lagoon below, reflecting the whole spectacle. It’s magnificent!
The movie is about to end, it’s time to turn back, Thomas and Amina must be waiting. Since they are travelling around South America and I am living in Buenos Aires, we had decided to meet in the south of Argentina and Chile for a couple of days.
Back at the camp, my friends are barely awake, we have to pack up our gear and clear off. A cup of coffee and a piece of toast covered in « dulce de leche » (milk jam) later, we’re back on track and ready for the long walk we have ahead of us.
It’s noon when we get to the «Laguna azul » (blue lagoon) which we are going to follow until the end of the trek. The sun at it’s zenith, we enjoy a bit of heat, jumpers and coats in the bag. To make the most of it, we have lunch on the water side.
Lack of hygiene, the cold and sleep deficiency are giving a liturgical aspect to our refuelling breaks. Sitting in a circle, bread slices are passed around carefully to avoid any wastage, tuna is tentatively spread as if it were the last ration, and finally, the mayonnaise, spread with grace and precision in order to taste the full flavour of every bite.
In the midst of our dietary orgasm, Patagonia’s steppes take shape in front of us with the Andes cordillera in the background. I have seldom seen such a perfect landscape.
In spite of exhaustion, we have to get back on the road, the campsite « Italiano » we want to reach is 7 hour away.
The path shaving the blue water of the lagoon is winding and covered with stones, at times we need to cross rivers, dancing on the rocks to dodge the water. Wooden bridges, similar to those you see in Indiana Jones are erected when nature takes over and acts as an obstacle for pursuing your journey.
It’s 7 pm when we arrive at our first camp. For the most fortunate, the place also serves as a refuge, small sheds are scattered on the moutain’s slope, the sight must be amazing in the morning. The idea of making the most of a hot shower is more than tempting, tiredness and physical pain are taking their toll. « If you weren’t with us I would be having a fit with Thomas so we can stay » I can still hear Amina saying that to me without loosing her smile, but meaning to say « I can’t take it anymore, we have to stop ». The next meeting point is 5 hour away and we have to be there before noon. Amina gives in, we decide to keep going to reduce the distance on our last day.
So we hit the road again under the sunset through the Andes to attain the much anticipated Camp « Italiano ». We have, however, one last impediment and by no means a small feet after all we’ve been through, a 100 metres height climb. Amina, dying, tells us half way there that she won’t succeed, Thomas comforting her as much as he can, manages to motivate her for one final effort. At this very moment, Thomas and I, keeping quiet and low profile, had reached the end of our teather.
At last we arrive at 9:30 pm at the bivouac, in pitch black. The bottle of Fernet (famous italian alcohol in Argentina) and coca cola that had weighed down our bags all day are now helping us fight the cold. Shivering with a glass in our hands and a plate of pasta in front of us, we think back to the journey which despite everything remains one of the most memorable days of the trip.