...and the search for pumas
30.11.2006 - 03.12.2006
At around 9am, the bus had reached the entrance of the park, dropping off its load of eager hardcore hikers...and also us. Off they raced towards the first ascent, armed with trekking poles and space material gear. And off we went to the nearby hotel bar to have a couple beers and hang out with our friends who worked there. Only about 2.5 hours later, we finally willed ourselves towards the trail, thinking we had given everyone else a fair enough headstart. After an hour, we were gasping for air and sweating perfusely. How we made it across, up, and down the 76km in 4 days, I dunno. But I think it went something like this:
Camp was somewhere up there.
Sometimes the trail consisted of nice flat stretches through the valley...
...although more often than we´d like, we struggled mightily climbing up rocks and mini-boulders.
The goal was worth it however. These are the famous granite towers of the park. I swear everything was much more impressive in person. It also lightly snowed just in this little corridor.
Despite our 5-star accomodation, sleep was hard to come by that night. And there was no puma to be seen.
...gave way to a glorious sunny day as we completed an 11km hike beside one of the brightest lakes I´ve ever seen.
Along the way, we´d stop to admire the view...
... and to also eat one of our many delicious meals. Truth be told, we gained a notorious reputation around the campsites for having the worst food around. But we earned some respect back for lugging around a 1 litre bottle of pisco sour (alcohol of choice in Chile).
The next campsite was further than we originally thought but we powered on.
And as night fell, we slept marginally better with dreams that we might see a puma the next day.
Back uphill alongside this glacier peak...
as well as a raging stream...
that occasionally required a small leap of faith.
The trees at this height were bare yet beautiful...
which is more than I can say for this chump at the mirador.
Speaking of chumps, we were getting a bit delirious at this point. That can be attributed to aching bodies, lack of nutrition, sleep deprivation, the inhumane scent of Andrew´s feet, but mostly...
...due to the fact that there were still no pumas in sight.
The final day was all about glaciers...viewing them...
...holding trophies of them...
...and stupidly climbing aboard pieces of them.
We were running on fumes to the finish line, thinking of burgers and beds but still in awe of all the amazing scenery we were priviledged to see over the past 4 days.
Along the way, we also got acquainted with some pretty cool people.
Team Denmark (he got really sick along the way)
Team South Africa...
And their grandparents! Ages 78 and 79. How inspiring! They even took the wrong route one day and hiked an extra 2 hours. The grandfather also once got lost in the Himalayas for 7 days without food and was too scared to go to the village for fear they might kill him! Nuts!
We even ran into our buddy Christian. He´s the 16 year old son of a famous Chilean gaucho whose house we´re staying at. This kid is amazing. He works in the park in the summer as a horse guide and can zip around the circuit with his eyes closed. He´s also super connected with everyone around here...bus drivers, boat drivers, porters...can you say Chilean Mafia? Between him and Carlos, we´re set for the next 50 years in Chile!
So that´s that. One of the highlights of this entire journey lived up to its billing and more. Except for the fact that we never did see a puma. Unless this counts...