Posts Tagged ‘Torres del Paine’

Torres del Paine National Park is in the southern Chilean part of Patagonia. The Cordiella del Paine is the most impressive part of the park with the hugely impressive ‘towers’ or ‘Torres’. These three needles which you will see in my pictures are around 2,500m altitude. It’s possible to spend a lot of time hiking and climbing in the park but I really went to see the three towers.

I arrived from the south because I was staying in Puerto Natales which is about 1h30 or 112km from the park. Unlike most of the tourists I wasn’t staying in the park, I found it rather expensive for basic cabins, this was why I did an extremely fast ascent to get the view of the three towers. My bus to return to Puerto Natales didn’t give me much time to hike so I ran as often as I could and made a scramble over the last thirty minutes to get to the viewing point.

All experience is subjective and it was an extraordinary sequence of events that coloured my experience. I hadn’t read too much about the place before arriving in Southern Chile, it didn’t seem to be on a par with the other bucket list places in South America. I was pretty tired after jogging or at least marching to the lake from where you can see the towers. When I eventually got to the top it was…awesome.

People (mostly Americans and Australians) use the word awesome to describe many things. After seeing the Torres del Paine I don’t think I can use the word any longer. I was literally struck with awe and wonder. When I saw the view of the impossibly large granite monoliths I reeled off so many swearwords I felt like I had got a kind of condensed turrets syndrome. My feet were rooted to the ground and I felt paralysed. As I got my senses together I realised there were three people behind me who were taking some food whilst leaning against a rock. There was no confusion, they weren’t fazed and I wasn’t embarrassed by my outburst. They simply looked and listened and basically said ‘we had the same ideas’. A scene like this couldn’t even be imagined, the most impressive lands of Tolkien’s Middle Earth couldn’t compare with this site. By this stage in my ye ar long trip I had seen many things and many places. I will maintain that New Zealand is the most scenic place I have visited. However, as a single site and a single experience, the three Torres of Torres del Paine have remained the benchmark for all my experiences before and since.

I regret to describe this in such superlative language because I fear it may raise expectations before others visit, but I have to be honest, it’s the best thing I have done whilst wandering. I was also very lucky to have a clear crisp day, I have been told that the weather in Patagonia is pretty fickle. I leave you to look at the pictures, I hope they give a sense of how impressive this place really is. I don’t like having my picture taken in front of places but I include one on this occasion because I felt a real sense of achievement and I hope you can tell by my expression the wonder I felt. The picture was taken by the people on the rock shortly after my turrets outburst.

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I just completed a monster bus journey breaking my previous record of 23 hours, my new record is 33 hours but actually it took 34 and a bit due to some complications at one of the stations. I would have extended this journey to at least 40 hours but the bus schedule prevented this task so I now find myself back in El Bariloche. My original intention was to go down the Atlantic side of the continent and come back up the Chilean coast on the Pacific side. Unfortunately this was made impossible by cost and seasonal variations in transport. So I have just revisited many of the places I have already seen, I thought I would be more annoyed but instead I just think that there is a certain symmetry to the entire journey. Sometimes its nice to return to places you have already seen, it gives you a sense of the passing of time and what you have seen and done in the intervening period. I think between my first visit to El Bariloche and my current one, it has been the most intense period of travel for all the time I have been away from home. It has been the most difficult due to the sheer distance between places and the inaccessibility of places I had intended to see. I am always trying to calculate the value of any journey or destination, ‘worth’ or ‘value’ is difficult to calculate. This isn’t an obsessive need to categorize experience, sometimes it can be simple economics. It is worth travelling so far on a bus and using up so much time to see..a rock, or a building, or a town? A lot of the time it’s very subjective and based on who you are travelling with and even the weather. If you trying to come up with an equation it would be something like:

 p / t + m = value

p =  number of photographs taken

t =  time

m = money

Actually that’s complete bollocks. I really hate maths. The idea of working out an equation for how good a place is or how worthwhile an experience is… is total crap!! Being in horizontal snow with Antarctic winds on the Beagle channel is beyond the realms of calculation. Looking at 1000m plus granite pillars after a half hour scramble is impossible to compare with anything. Watching a 50m ice tower collapse into a lake off one of the most impressive glaciers in the world… you just cannot describe in words, pictures or anything else

 Tomorrow I´m going back into Chile and visiting the Lakes region; Pucon. I feel this is a halfway stage in South America before I head up to the Atacama Desert and eventually into Peru. The thing I cannot believe is that the best is yet to come, I´m really glad to have finished up in South America as everywhere else would have been slightly disappointing after here. It might be premature to say it, as I have much to see, but Argentina is still the best place. This is especially true of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Travel is often just A to B, a bus taking you to a town then minibus to a hostel. Travelling in Patagonia is totally different, you can stare out of the window for hours and see nothing, I actually thought I could see the curve of the Earth because there was such emptiness. I think of all the photos I have taken the ones from Tierra del Fuego will be the best. I sometimes took a photo, and immediately after looked at it on the view screen and just stared in wonder. For some reason photographs can make something more real, I don’t think video cameras have the same effect. I have really been heavy on the editing, this saves money for development and forces me to take higher quality, or more pertinent pictures, the Brazilian girls I travelled with take millions, half of them with themselves doing catalogue style posing. They asked me why I don´t have myself in the photo and I said there are 3 main reasons:

1. I don´t actually want to see my face next to some of the most beautiful scenery in the World, it detracts from how Impressive something is.

2. I am usually the one taking the picture, I don’t trust other people to take a picture, even if they say ‘Is it ok, do you want another?´ I never have the heart to say..actually you cut my feet off and it’s lob sided, your visual sense is questionable and reflects your poor choice of clothes, haircut and general way of life.

(where was I ?) oh yes, number 3

3. The most important reason why I don´t like to be on photos is vanity. Vanity is one of the most common modern sins and one of the most difficult to detect. Pictures of people next to famous monuments and mountains inevitably get blown up and framed then left on the mantlepiece or in the office. I and most others don´t really need to remind ourselves that we have been somewhere which means that in general these type of pictures are done for the benefit of other people, as if to prove you have been somewhere. The people pictures I have taken are generally from meals or just to remember faces and faces in places. Having said this I do usually take a picture when I have just got up a mountain or something, this is some human weakness to show man´s power over nature, I’m sure Freud had a name for it.

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                      As for the moment I’m staying in a homestay type place again, no English in sight. It´s veryt nice and tasteful and the owner looks like the comedy actor Luke Wilson (brother of Owen). I´ve got a mere 9 hours on the bus tomorrow, so I´ll get some token sleep……………….hasta la vista y buenos noches (manana para ustedes!!)