Saturday, January 2, 2010

Torres del Paine - Day Five

This night, Kaitlin had another poor night with the coughing. With her now medicated, we blamed it on the cold air - never-the-less it would keep her from making the march to sunrise at the Torres.

So the five of us shivered our way out of camp as snow dribbled infront of our faces in the singular beam of light that was our headlamps. Once it gets dark down here - it gets dark.

The hike up to the base of the Torres was not exceedingly difficult despite being nearly straight vertical in some areas and the white blanket that made the path a wash at times. Still, I felt as if we were in some kind of danger. A combination of having no inkling as to what lay before us, having very little water, carrying what might be access weight in a scramble, and the impending sunrise.


Here, I have made it to the base viewing area and the sunrise has just begun to show through the valley. We were early, perhaps the second or third group of people there.

After ten or fifteen minutes, the Torres themselves were looking fairly bleak. We had no idea when things should happen - how fast they would happen - or what exactly was even supposed...

However, as the minutes passed, we became aware of one concrete fact. We were too early. We could have left nearly an hour later than we did, forgone the standing in the snow and darkness, and not have missed a thing. Blanche and Laura turned back - convinced what, if anything, happened - was not worth losing their toes. I was enthralled...

More sun began to show in the sky, the snow ended, and the shroud of stagnant cloud began to burn away from the face of the Torres. The rock face to the right of the towers visibily changed as the sun crept over its surface - this gave us some ideas and kept us confident in the necessity of our presence.

Now more than two hours had passed since we first arrived. The sun was obscured from the Torres by a ridge of rock. We told ourselves it just needed to eclipse the ridge and that if the clouds held off we would be amazed by this natural phenomenon.

But the clouds didn't hold off. A smattering of rogue clouds just thick enough to disperse the suns rays kept bolting over the towers and into the path of the sun's light. As we began to debate the legitimacy of staying and waiting, we overheard a group of locals discussing the morning.

The girl became conscious that people were listening in and turned our way:

"You really need to be here in February. The sun lines up with that valley and hits the Torres dead on.."

OH! silly of us! We hadn't come too early. Our nearly (but not quite) perfect weather conditions were not the problem either.. We were an entire month too early!

We tucked tale and sprinted down the trail, skidding here and there on the slushy snow as day hikers began to make their way towards the Torres. Antti and I got in our tents to catch a few hours of sleep before we moved camp away from the cold of elevation down to Refugio Chileno. For Rob and Blanche it was time to pack up camp and begin the four-five hour trek out of the park.

We woke up later that day and Rob had left his green curry paste for us, beautiful man! Knowing that our soup and polenta for the rest of the trip would have at least some flavor and relieve our sinuses, we strolled casually down to Chileno, set up camp, and hunkered down in the Refugio with a book, some food, and no intention of stepping outside unless absolutely necessary.

We succeeded in this. Between the two couples left, we held our table all day. Reading some, but mostly planning future trips: Antti and Laura coming to the States to crash in our tiny fictional apartment in Berkeley - Kaitlin and I coming to Finland to ride bikes along the hills of Tampere and maybe the guys would take a few weeks to wander around the soccer shrines of Europe and maybe we'd go to Bosnia and Poland and certainly Sweden and Norway and probably Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania - one or all.

We shared fake Pringles and talked about the Holidays away from home. We talked about our families and I wished that I could speak Finnish so I could pry a little less awkwardly. I wasn't sure if we were just poor at asking questions or if we answered their's too thoroughly. The only solution could be that we exchange lives for some time. They come to our country and see how and why we live. We come to theirs and do the same - meet the parents.

It's a thought that keeps me smiling. When the hostel is flooding with new people and you keep asking the same questions and answering the same questions - it helps me, of course to think of my family and friends in the States, but also to think of the friends I have made while traveling - the ones that could be my neighbor anywhere.

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