To the end of the world (almost!)

2016.12.10, Day -1 Transit

Boston to Patagonia, as the bird flies, is ~5800 miles. It’s been a long and drawn out two days flying from Boston to Dallas, then to Santiago, and then finally, Puerto Natales: and so we’ve begun our first trip to South America! (En route was also Ann’s first layover in Texas, which included a surprisingly delicious BBQ dinner in the airport, and Chewie’s first time losing his ATM card in a foreign country.)  

We spent the afternoon exploring this small port town and picking up some final supplies for the trek. It’s rather chilly and windy here even in the summer. Boats are rocking on whitecaps, and snow patches still hug dark mountaintops (Ann has been referring to them as orcas). Unexpectedly we’ve become a source of bemusement for the locals. Chewie espied our cab driver post on Facebook “Just picked up two Japanese tourists from the US.” She was also completely skeptical of our ability to cross a single lane street, and got out of the car to supervise...

Back at the hotel, we’ve laid out our cargo, the culmination of a few months of planning and experimenting in BOS, along with newer acquisitions from PNT:

  • Zpacks duplex flex tent (with poles), Enlightened Equipment Accomplice quilt, Exped hyperlite duo airpad, Sea-to-Summit pillows, and schnozzle: 6.17 lbs.
  • Because we went ultralight on everything else, we could indulge ourselves with ~15lb of camera gear. Nikon D700: 58mm f1.2, 20mm f4, 75-150mm f3.5. Canon 5DM2: just 24mm TS-E f3.5 II. Gitzo carbon fiber tripod (still 3lbs!). And accessories.
  • Locally bought dried fruits, nuts, fuel canister, and a lighter: things we thought wouldn’t go through customs (we declared food but it turned out that the inspectors didn’t care enough to look in the right bag).
  • Ann’s last minute, self-sewn ultralight, waterproof, and untested camera bags – hopefully they’ll do okay!
  • The ramen were a late addition as well, after we realized they’re actually great value in terms of volume/weight per calorie, and, we love ramen.
  • Having chafed ankles already on transit, Ann made yet another last minute decision to pick up a pair of trail runners. She’s hoping to god this act, in defiance of all counsels, is going to work out.
  • Opening the huge #10 can of Mountain House breakfast skillet was our last great challenge before hitting the trails. The decision to leave behind the can opener does seem a bit silly now. (Fortunately, the waitress at Afrigonia ­– which is, by the way, a fantastic restaurant with the juiciest 8-rib lamb chops and king crabs, both local specialties apparently – took pity on us and had the kitchen staff open it.)
  • Total fully-loaded pack-weight was probably close to 40lbs for Chewie and 25lbs for Ann at the start of the adventure. 

For the next few days we’ll be traveling ~60 miles by the most ancient means of transportation: walking around the Torres del Paine National Park.

2016.12.11, Day 0 Puerto Natales

Today was all desolation in Puerto Natales. It’s Sunday, and nothing was open. We wandered purposelessly around the ghostly streets in a cold drizzle, before catching the afternoon bus out of town.

At first glance the landscape here is vaguely reminiscent of Iceland. It’s hills after weather-eroded hills, only here there are more shrubs and trees, and tall grasses in place of moss-covered hraun. When we arrived at Hotel Lago Grey, we were in for an unwelcome surprise: the boat we were planning on taking to Refugio Grey to start our hike apparently broke down yesterday. The stories vary: it got tangled in a mass of ropes or hit a newly calved iceberg, but either way, the engine is fried and will take days to fix. On top of that a group of older people apparently got stranded on the other side of the lake without overnight shelter… Uh…

There's our beleaguered red boat, so close and yet so out of reach...

Also, the weather forecasts for the next few days are not looking good, especially for Wednesday and Thursday, which are our longer days. We think that God is sabotaging our efforts to pursue a more active lifestyle.

Tomorrow it begins...