Long update today !
After all the excitement of the truck arrival our first transfer in Icatha, a truly awesome vehicle with lots of well thought out details based on the years of overland experience by the Odyssey team. Jim, you would be in seventh heaven!
Just as we were packing up to leave El Chatlen we had a fine example of road safety standards in south America as a contractors vehicle came up the road transporting roofing that covered 80% of the windscreen…………
The other thing I managed to do on our last day in El Chatlen was get quite severely sunburned on the head and face, this lead to 2 conclusions. 1, I am an idiot and 2, the natural thatch on top that has served so well for 50+ years is no longer up to the job. Sob. Very sore and itchy scalp for a couple of days but fine now.
Ithaca attracts attention everywhere we go and a number of other people have come on board to see what it’s all about. Think we have made an excellent choice in choosing to use Odyssey listening to some of their stories of other trips and overland companies.
That said we had our first “what the **** are we doing moment?” with our first bush camp en route Monday night from El Chatlen to Torres Del Paine. We timed the arrival perfectly with a heavy squall of cold driving rain getting heavier as we followed the demonstration on how to put the tents up, compounded by the fact that our particular set of previously unused tent poles needed a bit of fettling to fit from the ever obliging Graham but we spent an extra 10 minutes now soaked to the skin, with numb fingers getting it sorted. Oh how we laughed at the thought of being sunburned and then numbed to the bone in the space of 48 hours.
20 minutes later the skies cleared and we had an excellent spaghetti bolognaise prepared by owner/driver/chef Pete. Happy to say, now that we have a few nights camping under our belt, that the tents are great, roomy and easy to use. We are very pleased with the gear we purchased, warm sleeping bags and surprisingly comfortable sleeping mats and pillows. Our best purchase of all, Petzl head torches, essential for those middle of the night excursions that men of a certain age need!
Tuesday saw us complete the journey to Torres del Paine including our first border crossing from Argentina to Chile. No problem just a bit of a faff, everyone’s bag having to be unloaded and scanned and truck inspected by various officials from customs, police and agriculture. Chile is particularly concerned about the latter to protect their farming industry and import of all fruits, plants and similar is carefully controlled and checked.
The other thing to deal with is new money and whereas an Argentina peso is worth around 7 to the pound, Chilean ones are 700. So 10 and 20 thousand notes are common and the prices seem astronomical e.g. a coffee will appear on a menu as being $1,500 – its actually just £2. Chilean money is very attractive, brightly coloured and apparently slightly plasticized a huge contrast to the very faded and tatty stuff you get in Argentina. In fact, on a completely notional first impression, Chile seems to be doing generally better judging by the infrastructure, cars on the roads, state of buildings, quality of produce in shops and so forth.
Torres Del Paine is simply stunning, the mountains, lakes and glaciers at every turn providing fantastic vistas. This is the home of the famed w-trek a 4 day trek around a “w shaped” route, supposedly one of the top 10 walks in the world. 16 of the group are doing it and another 2 doing part of it, leaving just 7 -9 of us to amuse ourselves for a few days.
Four consecutive days of 6 – 9 hour strenuous hiking carrying you own food, clothes and for some tents, is definitely beyond both our expertise and physical fitness. My hip requiring a quieter day following a relatively modest 10K hike from the waterfal on Lake.
Camping Pehoe where we are based for 5 nights whilst the w-trekkers do their stuff is excellent, nice camping spots – see the view from the reception – hot clean showers and plenty of activities. The bird life in the camping is very varied and Karen got an excellent shot of a pair of wood peckers.
Wednesday we took a boat trip on Lake Grey to view the Grey glacier. There were far more icebergs in the water than at Perito Mareno and with a simply lovely mountain backdrop, the vista was stunning. Before taking the boat we took a walk on the lakeshore where some of the remnants of the icebergs are grounded. One highlight a pisco sour (local Chilean spirit) or a whisky served with glacier ice.
There is definitely a general work creation scheme in Chile e.g. buying a small bag to store valuables, we chose one, which was then taken and put in a bag by an assistant, whilst we went and paid a different person – paying in dollars avoided the 19% local vat – where we got a receipt to collect bag from yet another person as we left. Similarly having reserved the boat trip via the camping reception, we had to check in with person A, where we got a voucher to go and pay person B to receive another voucher to go back to person A to get our boarding passes. Makes the NHS look a model of efficiency!
We are having a chill day today just enjoying the camp site, doing chores like washing (at least Karen is J) updating this blog and getting photographs ready for when we have connectivity again in Ushuaia.
Tomorrow we are going to meet the others returning from the w-trek and we may do at least part of the final leg, will see how we feel and what the weather looks like.
BTW Richard, Taureg isn’t a VW car in Chile – it’s a pack of coconut biscuits.
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