Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Patagonia 2017: Salto Grande - Día Trece

Patagonia 2017:  A Little Salto Grande on the Way to Punta Arenas - Día Trece – 2/20/17

Maximizing our commitment of money and time for traveling in South America, and to ward off the post-trek blues after hiking the “W,” more adventures awaited our merry band.  Today was our last day as a foursome because Carol was heading off to join her hubby for a fantastic two-week cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago.  Rick had plans for a ten-day excursion to Antarctica (!) and we were all jealous of that. Prior to his departure, Rick was sticking with Cathy and me for two days and nights in Punta Arenas.  What’s there, you say?  Wait and see!

But today was all about getting from Point A to Point D via Points B & C.  The first leg was the morning ferry from Refugio Paine Grande to Pudeto. 

Goodbye Los Cuernos

With a couple of hours to kill at Pudeto before our bus departure, we got a bite to eat and took the half-hour walk to see Lago Nordenskjöld's outfall to the Paine River and then to Lago Pehoé.  The river is short but mighty as it narrows to rapids and plunges over Salto Grande, an impressive waterfall.  The noise, the volume, the spray, and the glacier blue water made this an unexpected and delightful ending to our visit to Torres del Paine National Park.

Los Cuernos as a backdrop, water flows from Lago Nordenskjöld...

...through Salto Grande...

...into Lago Pehoé

The rest of the day was buses, retrieving our belongings from the apartment building in Puerto Natales (yay, still on the high shelf in the laundry room!), saying goodbye to Carol.  Next stop for Rick, Cathy and me was Punta Arenas, the largest city in Patagonia.  [Relatively speaking, it’s a small city, and I wish we’d had an extra day to explore thoroughly, but we gave it our best effort in our time there.]

Rick, Cathy and I arrived in Punta Arenas after dark, a bit of a challenge finding Hostel Keoken.  We knocked on the locked front door until another guest let us in (the owner was not to be found) and the housekeeper gave us our room key.  Three beds with a bath – luxurious after the refugio circuit – but little floor space for our exploding backpacks.  Supper was just the second half of our lunch sandwiches. Did we share an evening toast, maybe on the rooftop patio?  After the long day, all we really cared about was charging phones. And wifi.  And sleep.

Tomorrow – penguins!

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~Martin Buber

From Lago Nordenskjöld

Friday, February 9, 2018

Patagonia 2017: Return to Refugio Paine Grande - Día Once

Patagonia 2017:  Bird Day: Return to Refugio Paine Grande - Día Doce – 2/19/17 – 13 km

So our “W” hike is officially completed. Now what’s the best way back civilization?
In our planning we weighed options: hike from Refugio Grey back to Refugo Paine Grande, spend a final night, and take the morning half-hour ferry on Lake Pehoe to a bus pickup OR take a 3-hour ferry from Refugio Grey on Lago Grey to a bus pickup.  Because of our travel plans beyond Patagonia, we chose the first option.  So…hiking back to Paine Grande via the same route, you see the world from a different direction, different lighting, all things made new.

The resident caracaras made an appearance during breakfast

Back on the trail

Oh, yeah, I forgot about the foxgloves!  Excitement all over again!

I’m pretty sure I didn’t see this one yesterday

Every morning of our trek my weary feet have been bouncing back ready for the challenge, but my legs still start out tired and need coaxing up the climbs.  Going slowly, my sore quads eventually got the rhythm and warmed up. 

Cerro Paine Grande peeking out under an intimidating cloud

Looking back over my shoulder at La Isla O Nunatak and… the apocalypse?

Let’s crop that to make it look a little friendlier

Lago Grey

Back into the trees, we heard loud chattering, not exactly bird calls, more like squirrels arguing. Are there squirrels in Patagonia?  Rounding a bend, we were graced with an appearance by rock star Magellanic woodpeckers, obviously not disturbed by a dozen hikers frantically snapping photos.  These are two males, father and son.  Dad has red coloring from the neck up and the fledgling male has the red crest. [The red will progress over the next 2-3 months until he looks like his dad.]

We retraced the path alongside Laguna Los Patos, looking grayer and more intimidating than yesterday.  Like back home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, though, threatening clouds gather and dissipate quickly. We put on rain gear and pack covers just in case.  Got a little wet but nothing major.

Almost there

As we approached Refugio Paine Grande we noticed a hawk flying above the meadow, looking for its next meal.  After a few passes over, it pointed its head into the brisk wind and hung, nearly stationary, peering to the ground for any movement.  Amazing.

 Hike is done, Cathy is ready to kick back

Pisco sour toasts to leaving our last footprints in Torres del Paine National Park

“We need the tonic of wilderness.  We can never have enough of nature.”  ~Henry David Thoreau