We headed off to breakfast bright and early to tell our newfound friends the big news and received a round of applause from the whole camp! Then, it was time to get down to business. We had a VERY full day ahead with our “Towers trek” – a difficult trek to the base of the gigantic spires of El Paine (8 hours roundtrip!) to see three granite monoliths reaching 9,400 feet, up close. The ascent was incredibly steep but we still took in the startling views: valleys, camps, rivers, bridges, forests and moraine. The temperature must have changed twenty times! We made it in four hours - which apparently was good time, and after a rejuvenating lunch at the top of our hike, we had to head back quickly since the descent was steep and Manuel knew it would take us much longer. Jay’s knees were bothering him so he walked backwards almost the whole way!! When we finally made it back from our hike, I had never been so happy to be back on level ground. The hike gave me a new respect for our guide, and for the many people who trek through Patagonia on a regular basis. It’s a truly unforgiving wilderness, and I felt honored to be in such distinguished company as Manuel and his friends who we met along the way. We finally took a load off (my feet have NEVER hurt so badly) but it’s was a good hurt, as we reveled in the success of our challenging climb. At dinner that night, we met a new family to join our crew – this one from Seattle – right around the corner from where my brother lives! We really celebrated our hike with our fellow travelers that night, since it’s safe to say it was the toughest, but most liberating hike we’re ever taken. For some of our newfound friends, it was their last night in the eco camp, so we all stayed up late drinking wine, talking about our different cultures, customs and marriage traditions. We heard some interesting stories about Slovenian bachelor parties, where the soon-to-be groom must drag a life-sized cross from bar to bar, all while wearing a dress!
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