Monday, 16 February 2015

0208 Pehoe back to Las Torres

16th Feb 2015 

Last night I was sitting over at the camp office with several other people using the wifi, and a fox trots up, not 20 metres from us, does a No 2 right in front of us on the grass, then sits down and looks at us for about 5 minutes as if to say “What are you lot looking at ?”, before wandering off nonchalantly into the scrub behind us.  Naturally I had no camera, so you will just have to take my word for it, but none of us could believe it.

When I got up at 7.30 am the sun was just appearing over the hills to the east, and slowly lighting up the Cuernos del Paine and the big Cerro Paine Grande to the west – Just a beautiful start to the day.

I had planned to meet a couple  had met last night for a half hour or so before they left, but when I got down to their car, they were obviously still asleep and had changed their travel plans, so I left them in peace and set off to climb the hill behind my campsite, up to the Mirador Condor. This is only a short walk, but as so often down here, it held its share of surprises !

Initially you walk through the long grasses at the base of the hill, weaving in and out of the many burnt trees.  These
remain from a massive fire in the park in 2011 which burned over 40,000 acres, started by an international tourist lighting an illegal camp fire.  Pehoe, where I was walking this morning, was about where the fire started before spreading west to Lago Grey.  Then the climb started – and it was quite steep, but I stopped to rest frequently, allowing me to turn around to look at the increasingly brilliant view as I climbed higher.  The turquoise blue of Lago Pehoe today was just amazing. I then got up between two out crops of rocks, which I had to walk between, and the wind through the gap was so strong that I just put my arms out and the wind almost carried me up the hill !!  I sheltered for a while behind
a large outcrop to rest, because in wind this strong you cannot just stand still to rest while in it – It just blows you over !  Luckily the climb from there to the mirador or (view point) at the top was round the back, so it was mostly out of the strongest wind – But once I got to the top, it was all I could do to stand, and holding the camera still enough to take a photo was another fun problem !  There is a large finger of rock about human size on the top, and most of the time I just hung on to that while I took in the spectacular 360 degree views. You can also clearly see the Hotel Explora at Salto Chico – Interesting because from the road it is impossible to see the hotel it is so well hidden, and if you drive up to it all you see is the back of the hotel.  It certainly has a great view across Lago Pehoe and up to the Cuernos del Paine peaks.

Once I had enjoyed the view for a bit, I started down again before I got blown down.  The wind was too strong even for the condors to come out, but from their white guano trails down the rock face from below you can clearly see where they nest and stay during the day. The only flower I could find at the top was one of the bright red local Patagonian Fire flower, or whatever it is called – Hanging on grimly in the wind. When I was nearly back at the bottom there was one that looked a bit like cow parsley in England, but was a very delicate shade of pink – Quite stunning.

From there it was back to the campsite where I found the couple I had met the night before starting to move – It turned out they had decided to catch a later ferry. Israel and Tamar are from Israel, but they drive a right hand drive, German registered 80 series (mine is 70 series) Landcruiser, with one of the fancy German van conversions done to it.  Turns out they bought the car in Japan, had the conversion done in Germany, but live in Israel !  Fun couple, and I hope I meet up with them again somewhere.  These German conversions to Troopies are amazing – I shall have to investigate them more thoroughly when in Europe – Apparently there is a big Overlander show and gathering in Germany somewhere in about September ?  Might have to try to find it !

When getting in my car, a couple and their little boy were “reading” my car – Turns out they are from Switzerland, Roger, Barbara  and little Levy, and we had a really good chat and swapped addresses.  They have just “hiked the W”, the 7-10 day trail that takes one right through the heart of the park, and is the “thing to do” for all the hard core hikers. They leave to return to Switzerland shortly, but Roger hikes in the Himalayas as well, although he has been here several times before.  I caught up with them again later at the Torres camp site.

I was just leaving the Pehoe campsite when I saw yet another Troopie pull in – This time a French one – And no fancy conversion on the back – Just an honest Troopie.  So I went and chatted with them for a while – Very nice couple, Catherine and Pierre – They invited me to visit them in France next summer.  And they want my V8 too !!

From there I decided to go round to the waterfall I had visited 2 days ago in the rain, and see it in the sunshine this time.  There was also a walk from the waterfall for about an hour, up to a mirador / view of the Cuernos – The “Horns of Paine”.

I have slowly worked out what all the “Paine” is.  The Torres are the Towers, then there are the Cuernos, which are the Horns of Paine because they rise up side by side like two horns on a bull. Then there is the Cerro Paine Grande, which are the Big Peaks of Paine, and in fact have the highest peak in the park at 3050 metres, although you don’t often see it due to cloud.  And what is “Paine” ?  It means “blue”, because of their indigo hue in certain lights, and was so named by the original ancient aboriginal inhabitants, the Aonikenk who lived around Pehoe Lake where I was camping last night. 

The Torres del Paine are granite, but the Cuernos del Paine are unique in the world due to their varied colouring composed of contrasting igneous, sedimentary, and etamorphic rocks. The dark top of the Cuernos is a sedimentary mudstone, sometimes also called siltstone.  

So after having another look at the falls, I set off on the walk to the Mirador Los Cuernos – Supposedly an easy one – And it was – Flat most of the way.  But it takes you along the side of the southern end of turquoise Lago Nordernskjold until the end and mirador itself has you looking across the lake straight up at the peaks.  Well worth the walk, and the differing colours of the Cuernos peaks really stood out in the afternoon sunshine. There are just so many excellent hikes and views here that even without going off into the wilds one could spend a couple of weeks here just exploring and enjoying it.

Saw an incredible cloud formation on the way back to the car – There are so many weird formations down here, but this one truly was remarkable, in a shape almost like a futuristic airplane, and then with two very distinct lines trailing back from its “wings”.  I took a photo of some little bushes that are everywhere here – When climbing to the Mirador Condors this morning I had to be careful not to put my hands on them. At a glance they look soft and cushy, but they are actually the opposite – Incredible hard and VERY prickly.  They are so stiff that they don’t even move in the highest winds, and when I put my foot on them, you could almost stand on them.  Just don’t touch them or sit on them though !

A last look at the waterfall, and the mountains behind it, then I headed back to the Las Torres campsite for the night, passing Lago Sarmiento which today was a deep royal blue.  Then it was back under the Torres del Paine for the night – Not too windy and I am sheltered under a bank, so should be OK.  Tomorrow I will head back into Puerto Natales where I might even stay a couple of nights as I really need to do some laundry ! I also need to stock up on some fresh food (nothing available in the park), as after 5 nights in the park all my supplies are gone – Just canned stuff left after tomorrow !  I have really enjoyed the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, hiking and exploring, and would happily come back here again for another visit some other time.  But for now it is time to move on south in the direction of Punta Arenas.

Pics here :-

1 comment:

  1. You're sounding more like David Attenborough each posting....not that's necessarily a bad thing. What beautiful scenery. Can I windsurf there? J&S