And we're still climbing...glad we decided not to walk (Jesson Burnam)
We had to take several flights to take us to our next destination of Torres Del Paine – it’s that remote – and flew from Santiago to Puerto Mont, then finally to Punta Arenas. Though the flights were many they flew by – we were beyond excited to see our next destination. Once our last plane landed, we met up with the group we’d be with for the duration of our trip, and headed to an incredible authentic local lunch at a tiny family owned restaurant called El Morro Del Tehuelche. It was our first chance to bond and break bread with our fellow travellers: a young, just-married couple; a hilarious and well-travelled Australian duo; and a family of five (!) hailing from our very own neck of the woods - Philadelphia. What a small world! Frequently throughout the trip, Jay and I would marvel at the guts it would take for these parents to take such young children off to the wilds of Patagonia – but the beauty was never lost on them. After a lunch of traditional Patagonian fish stew, and generous hospitality, we climbed back on the bus for to ride to Puerto Natales to check-in at Cascadia Expeditions. After a brief look around the town, we were off again – this time to the Cueva de Milodon – a massive, ancient cave that once housed a prehistoric giant, sloth like creature called Milodon. On the way back we spotted a rock face called Diablo’s (or devil’s) chair. Then we were off again to reach out ultimate destination - Torres Del Paine National Park. Nothing could have prepared us for the silencing beauty we were about to witness for days straight. On our way there, our driver pulled over so we could all get out and enjoy a majestic sunset that was just beginning. With the Paine Grande mountain range and los Torres as the backdrop, it was such a beautiful sight that Jay and I cried. After a long but breathtaking trip full of so many new sights and sounds, we entered the park at dusk and took a rocky, narrow road through a dark and wild park. Jay and I couldn’t believe some of the roads these drivers could navigate, and they looked so comfortable doing it! At one point, there was a bridge we had to cross that was so narrow, we all had to be silent so the driver could concentrate and he even had to move his mirrors in, to miss the sides of the bridge by an inch! We all clapped when we made it safely onto the other side. After about an hour, we arrived at Eco Camp, a welcome sight. We were immediately greeted by our friendly welcome party, checked right in to suite dome #6 (the last one facing north) and noticed that a welcome fire was already lit in the wood burning stove - a cozy sight. The dome was beyond our wildest dreams – wood floors, a comfy king-sized bed, floor to ceiling windows, a spacious bathroom – all the comforts of home with none of the environmental impact. After settling in, we headed back to the main dome where we were to have all our meals throughout the duration of our visit. It was here we met our guide Manuel and got a briefing on the next day’s hike to Lago Grey while sipping pre-dinner pisco sours. A delicious steamed salmon for dinner awaited, wine…plus good conversation with new friends. We agreed right then and there that life just doesn’t get much better.
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