Picture-heavy and word-light post (hooray!).
After reaching Punta Arenas, I had some backtracking to do. Dad and I hadn't made good enough time on the ride down to stop in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine and had to skip it in order for him to make his flight. I had stayed in Punta Arenas to look for another motorcycle to continue the trip, but first order of business was to go to Torres del Paine. For years I had drooled over pictures of the park, and knew that if I ever had an opportunity to visit such a fascinating place there was no option but to go.
Arriving in late afternoon, I made camp the first night at Las Torres campsite at the base of Mount Almirante Nieto. While fussing over a pot of beans that seemed like it would never get cooked, a couple of guys who were camping nearby with a large group approached me and asked if I wanted to join them later for some conversation and pisco. Of course I said yes, and after choking down the half-cooked beans I grabbed my bottle of wine and joined them. Under the dark silhouette of the mountains and and a crystal-clear view of the Milky Way overhead, we laughed and counted shooting stars well into the night.
Our group consisted of three Chileans from Punta Arenas, three more from Concepción, an Italian girl living in Santiago, a Japanese girl who didn't know a lick of Spanish, the occasional appearance of a guy from Seattle whose laugh was as loud as a car horn, and a Texan who needed a shave. The best part was that everyone had arrived either alone or in groups of 2 or 3, but we got along so well that we decided to stick together. In the morning we made our way up to the lookout of the Torres and adopted a couple from Santiago/Easter Island into our family.
Unfortunately a huge storm moved in right as we reached the Torres, thanks to the ever-unpredictable Patagonian weather. Even though this was the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere we encountered sleet and snow at the top of the mountain.
Due to the weather disappointment at the Torres and lots of urging by my new family to continue the hike with them, I decided to stick around for a few more days.
Torres del Paine, Cuernos del Paine, Paine Grande, Valle Frances. A quick google search of any of these names and you'll understand why I was happy to extend my trip.
We finished the trek with a very, VERY windy boat ride across Lago Pehoé before catching a bus to Puerto Natales where showers, pizza, and beer awaited us.