Well, it's my last time in Chile. I think.
But before we get to that, Natali & I took a bus from El Chalten to El Calafate, a mere 3 hours away. The night that we got there I met, by chance, one of my best friends from my platoon, Dima. The next day, Natali & I, went to the Perito Moreno glacier. On our third night there we had nothing to do, because we already saw the glacier and other than that there's not much to do here. Dima went that afternoon to Chile, by bus. So we decided we want to see the city a bit. We walked around for a while, and discovered that there's a small lagoon, just outside of town, that has a flamingo reserve in it. As we've never seen a real flamingo before (I think) we went to have a look. The lagoon was very small, it had dozens of flamingo it, that were just standing there and not doing much. DO SOMETHING! That didn't help. We saw some nice ducks as well, and beautiful eagels and hawks just floating on air currents above our heads. Around the lagoon, there was a big field, covered with white flowers. Very relaxing and pretty. Unfortunately I didn't bring my own camera there, so only Natali has pictures of the place.
The next morning we left El Calafate, crossed the border into Chile, and arrived in an old town called Puerto Natales and met Dima there. In Puerto Natales, there is only one thing to do, and that is the Torres del Paine trek. The Torres del Paine is a big national park with a big trek in it. The Torres itself is a big mountain, that it's top is three giant pillars. If the weather is right, the view is clear and you get there early enough, the sun's rays reflect on the stone of the mountain, and the pillars seem red. You can either walk a W shaped course for about 3 or 4 days. Or a longer, much harder (and apparently, more dangerous) trek, of 7 to 8 days long. I decided I want to push myself as hard as I could, and so I went alone, because no one was willing to try it, on the long, hard trek.
The first day of the trek, was the short one. From the begining, the walk was quite easy, but very heavy. Because I was alone, I had to take provisions for eight days, and also carry them myself, without the option to devide the weight with someone else.
The view of the valley was very relaxing. At some point there were also Llama's (I think they were Llama's, they looked like them).
It was very easy to traverse the path, as it was laid and very clear. You can't go wrong there (even you, Axe). I walked for a few hours, about 12 km. On the way I met a few people that were also going my way, mostly duos, or more, and were walking alot faster than I was (they were lighter than me, I tell you!), none that I saw on the first day were from Israel, all foreign, most were European. I arrived at an organized camping site along the way that afternoon, decided that to go on today was a bit too much, for the rest of the way, until the next camping site, was a long walk of another 19 km, about 6-7 hours. I fought off valiantly hundreds of foes, although some caused me great pain and suffering, I came out victorious. Finaly, I set up camp underneath a tree, rested and saved up my strengeth for the days ahead.
On the second day of the trek, I woke up quite late. I packed up my things, drank some coffee and at 10 AM started my way to the next waypoint. The route, again, was very clear and easy to spot. I walked a total of 19 km, that took me 5 hours.
The walk, this time, was very hard. Because of my weight, I walked very slow. At some point, after the first hour of walk, there was a very steep climb. The rest of the way was more or less the same hight. But after many hours of walking, also of the day before, the weight of the muchilla started to get to me. My waistbones were red and raw by the times I reached the end. My shoulder's hurt, my thighs hurt and my feet smelled like I walked for two day's. I immediatly took off my shoes, to let my feet breath and set up camp as quickly as possible, because again, the man-eating mosquito's were there to greet me.
Just before I went to sleep on the second night, it started to rain. On the third day it still hasn't stopped enough for me to be on my way, so I stayed in my tent, read my book and tried to pass the time as best I could. At least it gave me another day to recover from the day before. When I look at the mountains in the distance, I see, that during the night, when it rained here, it snowed there. All the mountains around me that were brown yesterday, are now dipped in white.
On my fourth day, I had some ground to cover. And let me ad, that what goes up, has to go down. Somehow. I brought with me food and gas for only eight days. I missed one day of walking because of the rain, but I still had to eat when I was there. The begining of the day was quite easy. I left camp at 10:15. Just after leaving camp, I entered a forest. I walked in the forest for a while, refilled my water supply when I came across a fresh water source. Then I noticed that I wasn't leaving the forest. The trail was upward for most of the way, and because of the rain from the previous day, it was muddy. Very, very muddy. I sank a couple of times ankle-deep. As I neared the camping site, it got colder, and windier. Aparently I was nearing a glacier as well, and the camping site was just around the corner from it. You can imagine how cold snow is. You can't believe how cold a glacier is. When I reached the glacier, there were a few people admiring the view, some I already knew from past days, and one of them offered me a cup of whiskey with some ice from the glacier. Very appropriate, I must say. At the glacier, I finally realized that it was realy, truly getting colder, and my summer clothing weren't fit for the occasion. So I put on my rain cover and some gloves and froze. I went on to the camping site, and rested, after about four hours of walking. There, I made my final decision about moving on to the next stop, which was supposed to take another day's walk. I consider myself as very tough. I keep on going where most people want to rest, or stop. But what I did today, was beyond difficult. I can tell you now, that today, was one of the most difficult days of my life. I walked a total of 21 KM today. The camping site itself was inside the woods, and as soon as I left the camping site, the route took me higher, and higher, all the time, inside the woods. As I went higher in the mountain, again, it got even colder than before, because now, I was nearing the top of snow-capped mountains, and according to the map, that's exactly what I had to do; to go over the snowy mountains. I walked for two and half hours after leaving the campsite, and finally left the forest as well. But the trade-off wasn't that pleasant either. Again, high winds. I started my ascent, and in the distance, I could see a group of four people heading my direction, only they were very far ahead of me. They stopped to rest at some high point, and I caught up with them very quickly. They were three guys and one girl. As soon as I came up to them, one asked me if I know how far the next campsite is. They have been walking since 12 PM, one of them told me later. I looked at my watch, and if the map was correct, that meant that we still had about four hours to walk. We stuck together on this one, and for some reason, I led the way up. The wind was insane, as we finally got to the crossover, between the mountains. When we got to the crossover though, there was this small landmark, where people who pass there, leave their belongings, as a token to the route. I'm talking about small things, like ribbons, and hats and whatnot. I decided to leave a ribbon of my own. One that I had since June, when I was at the Gilad Shalit march. I left the glowing ribbon they gave away there. From that spot, you can see a giant glacier from above. I thought it was a fitting place in his honor.
Anyway, it was so cold there, and the Chillians wanted to take pictures. I lost feeling in my fingers, and couldn't wait to make like a tree. We went down, and quickly, I noticed that the only one keeping up with me, was the girl. We went on without her friends, until she couldn't go any longer, and insisted that I go on without her, while she waited for her friends. I went on, and in less that 20 minutes, I arrived at the campsite. Someone there asked me why I look so nackered, so I told him where I started today. He was quite shocked. Anyway, I left my stuff at the campsite, and went back for the Chillians. After exactly eight minutes walk, I found the girl and one more of them, and took them to the campsite. When we arrived, I quickly set up my tent, and made myself some hot chocolate.
Today, what kept me going most of the time, was dinner. Today on the menu: White Rice with onions. On top, meat-souce. From a can.
Showers are great. On my fifth day, I took my first shower, after nearly a week. But we'll get to that. I woke up the next morning at 11, letting myself rest from the previous day. When I woke up I spoke to the girl from the day before, and she told me about some interesting things to do in Chile. Things that I can't remember now, because I didn't write anything down. Useless.
Anyway, I started to walk at 1 PM and reached the first waypoint in less than two hours. All the way, to the west of me, the glacier was there. I still don't know how to describe it, but it's simply majestic. At some point, along the way, I had to cross a stream coming from above me. It flowed from the mountain, to the lake below. The way to cross it was by grabing a rope, connected from one end to the next, and then climb a shitty ladder. I rested after two hours walk, and continued on to my last stop of the day. As the road went on, it became easier, and easier to walk. No more uphill and downhill, but more level this time. When I finally arrived at the campsite, I realized it was a very organized spot. It's right on the lake bed, not far from where the glacier ends, so after finding myself a good spot to set up camp, I walked to the beach of the lake, where you can see little pieces of ice from the iceberg floating nearby. I took some pictures, made myself some hot chocolate again, and went completly ZONK. I slept for about two hours, waking up, because for two seconds I heard voices speaking in hebrew. I went to take my long desired shower, and looked for those voices. I found them quite easily, because only an Israeli can spot another Israeli a mile away. I spoke to them for a while, and then went back to my tent to cook dinner, and rest.
The sixth day was definitely the windiest. As soon as I left the campsite in the morning, the roaf took me higher and higher, away from the lake but still moving along to it. As I went higher, the wind got stronger. Way stronger. I was almost blown off my feet more than once, despite my weight with the muchilla. The map said, that the next campsite is 11 KM away, and should take 3 and half hours. For some reason, I got there in just under 3 hours. Maybe it was the wind, coming from behind me that helped. Anyway, the wind was still very strong when I arrived at the campsite, and it took me a very long time to set up my tent, but eventually, I vanquished my foe, and rested.
The next morning was windy. It was more windy than the day before, and the wind also hasn't stopped all night. Every time I would fall asleep, the wind would lash out and my tent woke me up. I barely slept that night. In the morning I tried to pack up my things alone, but it was impossible to fold the tent on my own. So, while on my way to brush my teeth, I met two Israeli girls that agreed to help me, and also because they wanted to get rid of some weight, they gave me cookies! We bid farewell, as each went his own way, and I made my way to the next campsite. My goal today, was to get to this next campsite, leave my things in a proper place, and go uphill, about two hours up, to a view point, of the whole valley. After the view point, I would have come back, picked up my things and carried on another 5 or 6 KM to the next campsite, so that the next day wouldn't be too long. When I reached the first campsite, though, I met a girl that I knew from the army, she was a paramedic in my battalion. So I rested with her and her friends, and eventually went up to the view point with them. On the way we saw another beautiful glacier, amazing waterfalls and a huge river. We came back quite late, so I gave up on the rest of the walk for today. At night, we all cooked together, and I also saw some guys that I met before, in El Calafate, so I set up my tent next to them and tried to heal myself, because the next two days, are long, and supposed to be very difficult.
I woke up again, quite late. Took my time not hurrying anywhere, I sat with some friends in the morning and drank coffee with them. At 12, I finally bid them farewell, and left the campsite. The first part of the day, to the first waypoint, didn't take too long. In less than an hour and half I covered the distance. After that, the next waypoint, which was a campsite, hidden in the hills, about 11 KM away, the nap said it should take about 4 and half hours. I was determined to prove the map wrong, so I set off at a brisk pace. The way this time, was much more difficult. It was high noon and the sun was very strong. After about three hours straight of walking I took my first break near a river with very cool water. When my break was over, I continued on my way. Unfortunatly, my way this time, was mostly uphill. It was a very tiring walk, very depressing. On the way, I passed the group that I was with the day before. They told me that they left the campsite at half past eight. So I continued on and passed three more girls that I knew, and they left at seven AM. I must say that today, was probably as dificult as it was when I had to cross the snowy mountains, last week. It was cold and windy then, it was hot, and very humid now. Two sides of the same coin. I made it to the campsite in three and half hours. HA! I beat you map! As I rested there, one by one, the groups that I passed by arrived, and we all sat together and rested. We ate some energy bars, and after 40 minutes, myself and three of the girls carried on. If not for them, I would've made it alot sooner, but because I promissed, I helped them on the last chapter for today. I pushed, they grumbled, and after only one hour, we finally made it to our final destination. We arrived at the last campsite completely exhausted. The girls practically collapsed, and I made us all some good-old, Israeli coffee.
Tomorow morning is the last part of the trek. The reason why I, and everyone else, came all the way up here. Tomorow morning, we wake up before dawn, and make our way to a view point, about an hour away from the campsite, to watch the Torres mountain (hopefully) light up in the sun's early morning rays.
Well, it's the morning. The entire camp woke up at 4 AM, and began a climb in the dark that took about an hour, toward the pillars. We arrived there just before sunrise. The pillars themselves are very impressive. The wind up there was unbearable. Early morning breeze, high in the mountains. Not something to be experienced more than once. When the sun's rays finally hit the stone, just as as the tips of the pillars were starting to turn to red, a big cloud came and ruined the whole show. We waited for a little while longer, but it was too cold, and too late anyway, because it only work in the begining of the sunrise, and if you come too late, you've missed it. We went back down to the campsite, packed up our things and made our way back down to the entrance to the park. Right at the end you can either take a shuttle-bus to the entrance, or walk the whole way, which is about 7.5 KM. Well, I didn't walk for nine days, 105 KM (by my calculation) to take a bus for the ten kilometers. So, of course, I walked back with a guy I met during the trek. The walk back was very easy, although very boring to the eye's, there was nothing special to see. We waited for a while longer there, and then boarded the bus back to Puerto Natales.
The foes were vicious, man-eating, cat-size mosquito's, with large teeth, that can breath fire. They had three heads, and if once you cut off the wrong head, it grows two in it's place.