Day 26: 13 days of… hiking

¡Hola chicos y chicas!

As promised, a more extensive report on our hiking adventures in both Parque nacional Torre del Paines and Los Glaciares. The experiences we had were amazing. It is very hard to describe the beauty of the landscapes and experience of the walk, but the least we can do is try. So here we go.

As we were both without any relevant hiking experience, we quite tested our bodies during our hike in Torres del Paine. After having an explanation session in the Erratic Rock hostel, where we were staying, we decided to add another daytrip to “el circuito”, which resulted in a trajectory described as “el Q”. Under good conditions (bodily as well as weatherly) this trip takes you 9 days/8 nights of hiking and covers approximately 140km through the hilly Patagonian landscape. We are the weather gods very grateful for the good conditions we had, which allowed us to finish the parcours in time and to add some additional trips, resulting in 160km of intense walking. For those interested: on the picture below (click for a better view) you can visualize our walk.

We can read your minds. “160” km in 9 days??”. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, you have to take into consideration that we were camping during the whole trip. This means… stuffing everything in a way too heavy backpack. We both were carrying more or less 15 kg at the start of the hike (mainly food, sleeping bag and mat, minimal clothing, tent and cooking gear).

To give a real impression of a typical day of hiking we got some inspiration from Jack Bauer, since we can easily compare the action level of our days with his:

06-07 am: getting up way to early trying to see the sunrise
07-08 am: climbing up a steep hill, witnessing the most astonishing sunrise ever
08-09 am: breakfast time: a “delicious” gooeyness consisting out of 60 grams of oatmeal “pimped” with the quarter of a pack of chocolate, 50 grams of raisins/nuts, one cereal bar and some sugar
09-10 am: breaking up the tent, both still hungry and dreaming about steak, french fries, fresh fruits and vegetables
10-11 am: taking a break, photo session in an amazing scenery
11-12 am: good weather so taking a break to take off some clothes and rub in some sunscreen
12-1 pm: heavy wind and sudden raindrops so taking a break to put on the clothes again
1 -2 pm: break for a luxurious 4 course meal: one more cereal bar, another quarter of an of chocolate, raisins and nuts
2 – 3 pm: praying the current good weather will last till we get to our camping spot
3 – 4 pm: drinking some extremely fresh water right out of the creek, if we’re lucky we can “tang it up”
4 – 5 pm: hurting feet and growing hunger makes us wonder why the last kilometres seem to last forever
5 – 6 pm: arrival at the camp site: pitching our tent
6-7 pm: luxurious 3 course diner: minute soup, pasta with tomato sauce and some rice with whatever is left of the chocolate
7 – 8 pm: freezing our hands off while doing the dishes with chilling river water
8 – 9 pm: going to bed because of the falling darkness, extreme cold and boredom
9 – 10 pm: waking up again because of mosquito in the tent
10 – 11 pm: David wakes up because Tom has to go for a pee
11 – 12 pm: both waking up because of the fierce wind and the rain pouring down on the tent
12 – 1 am: David wakes up because of mice attacking the backpacks, but decides not to bother
1 – 2 am: Tom wakes up because of the mice attacking the backpacks, steps out of the tent to hang the backpacks in a tree, wishing death to all mice on planet earth
2 – 3 am: the typical Patagonian winds, blowing through our tent, inspire us for some crazy dreams
3 – 4 am: almost 4 am, the coldest moment of the night, we both wake up with a frozen nose and plan to invent a sleeping bag that covers up your complete face
4 – 5 am: David wakes up because Tom has to go for a pee again
5 – 6 am: Final hour of some semi-decent sleep

As you can read, each day came with a pretty impressive schedule. Some of the sights we encountered will be stuck in our brains for quite a while: hiking on the unofficial track past the mirador of campamente Brittanico, seeing sunrise in the French Valley and on the slightly cloudy Torres, swimming in the glacial lakes, crossing the Paso Gardner and be completely surprised by the gigantic Glaciar Grey in front of us, having a bonfire at campamente Serron, …

Upon our return in Puerto Natales we realised that we both had lost quite a few kilo’s and managed to drastically approve our physical condition (who needs Zumba when you can go hiking instead and still eat all the chocolate you want). After all those days of living on campers food, we felt like dining with the gods on Mount Olympus when we met up with some fellow travellers later that night for a wonderful steak. All credits to Joss for the guacamole , to Aussie Tom for the steak, Ellen for the wonderful Welsh brownies/pancakes and to Jason for his delicious euh… company!)

What have we learned out of this great experience:

1. We met some great people along the way, especially a great four-some that were doing the same trajectory as us: Ellen from Wales, Joss from England, Tom from Australia and Jason from the USA. We were meeting up each night at the camping sites, sharing stories about our battered knees and the superb views we had encountered, as well as getting some food when we needed it the most and repaying them with an exquisite carton of wine.

2. We tried to describe you the “grandeur” of Torres del Paine in this first part of the post, but it’s just not possible. This place truly is a paradise on earth for anyone who’s slightly interested in nature and has been one of the most impressive locations we’ve ever been to. Just go and see it for yourselves and be amazed. If doing so, go for the long effort of tackling the circuit, the extra effort doesn’t weigh up to the advantage of being all by yourself in the middle of nature and not encountering another soul before you hit the next camping spot.

3. We definitely set our standards very low for the rest of the trip, which is a good thing: accommodation (sleeping in a tent for 8 nights in a row in pretty frisky conditions), clothing (same Icebreaker t-shirt for 9 consecutive days, impressive quality since it still smelled pretty nice at the end), weather (we were mostly lucky to have excellent conditions, but we also encountered snow, rain, hail and howling winds), food (you can pretty much make that up out of the section above), bodily hygiene (limited to one hot shower and two dips in glacial lakes). The standard for amazing scenery however has been set at an all-time high (we might be repeating this a lot, but that’s just how good it was).

4. All things put together, we loved hiking and it definitely made us long for more.

More hiking came pretty soon. During our trip in Torres, we found out that Joss and Tom were heading towards Calafate, like we had planned as well. This is the jumping board to get to El Chalten and Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We met up with these guys in El Calafate where we had a taste of the wonderful Patagonian lamb before taking a bus to El Chalten the next day. The town is considered as the “Argentina’s national capital for trekking”, so we planned out another 4-day hike in the surroundings of the impressive Mt. Fitz Roy.

This time we were better prepared and opted to buy some more luxurious food for the trek, the memory of having fried bacon and eggs during sunrise at Lago Torre will be around for a while. Although it was not as intensive as the 9 day hike in Torres, we still had a great time: early rises for sunrise, more swimming in glacial lakes and continuous breathtaking scenery. Moreover, it pretty much seems like our travelmates adapted quite easily to our weird Belgian habits.

Before we leave our faithful fans and hords of crazy followers again, a quick view on schedule. This afternoon we will try to hitchhike to the little village of Perito Moreno, before our beloved mothers start to fear for our lives, we can reassure you that this is quite common in this region. Also over the last couple of weeks we’ve been growing pretty impressive beards, so we’ve grown a look of fierce Vikings these days. From here on we can easily get back in to Chile and connect to the Carretera Austral, finally heading up more North.

Since we’ll be travelling a bit more of the beaten track in the coming days, we might not have the possibility to update this blog soon again. Hopefully we have the chance to further gather other wonderful experiences. It leaves us nothing more than wishing all the best to all of you!

David y Tom

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3 thoughts on “Day 26: 13 days of… hiking

  1. God damn it guys!!! I have no words to express how jealous I am… Even the stories about the freezing weather and the lack of food were killing me!! I think I’m gonna go to my dear canteen now just to eat chocolate and some cereals in order to feel somehow the way you are living right now… 😦

    Enjoy my second nation boys! Chile is great. And if you want another cool adventure which will prove your physical capacities once again, don’t forget to climb up the “Volcán Villarrica”. I did it when I was 15 and almost died before I reached the top of it, but I’ll never forget the experience!

    I’ll write David at some point to ask you some more details of your wild trip:) Don’t stop enjoying the great continent where you are guys. I wish I was there with you!

    Un fuerte abrazo para los dos!!

  2. Machtig om te volgen.

    Was compleet niet op de hoogte van jullie plan, maar via het linkedin update mailtje zag ik plots Twobelgians verschijnen als werkgever bij Tom.

    Jullie zullen sowieso een leuk avontuur hebben! De blog is zeer leuk om volgen, ik heb hem alvast in mijn reader opgeslagen, bij de updates zie ik alles verschijnen.

    Sinds 22 februari zijn Leen en ik terug van een reis in Australië, Nieuw Zeeland. Zeker de moeite.

    Keep on travelling!

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