Gauchos are their names. Mountain Cowboys. Their load, supplies for the Refugio, high in the mountains. The only way to get food, propane, and other supplies to these places. This was why the price of everything in the Refugios could be easily divided by the number 4 in order to find it’s true value. This was a business for the Gauchos, they must have been paid by the trip. Silently they plow up and down the trails at a speed that you wouldn’t believe possible. No warning cry when they burst around corners. They seemed to ignore the lively hoods of the people who would eventually be buying the goods that sustained their lively hoods.
A string of 4 barreled around the corner as I practically dove into the face of the mountain. I spun around to watch in amazement as other trekkers essentially did the same thing. I didn’t have any room for terror as my heart was full of amazement. I thought of how Bud, my horse riding, cowboy lifestyle emulating, step father would have absolutely been bouncing in joy to observe such a display of machismo, skill, and dedication to a dieing art form.
The horses were loaded up with 25 and 50 gallon tanks of propane. On the way back up the mountain, I hoped they would be carrying something a bit less explosive. I think the Refugio needs some more corn flakes.
We arrived to the final camp site and I made sure to find a spot that was flat to avoid the sensation of falling all through the night. I settled at a spot that was about 6 feet from a babbling stream. What a funny situation. People pay good money for CDs with tracks of this very sound. I laid down in my tent for a quick nap and never heard the stream once. I was tired. Tired enough to switch my ears off. We ate dinner early this night because we were going to wake up at 3:30 am the next morning to catch the sunrise in the most famous viewing point in all of Patagonia. Search in Google Images “torrez del Paine” and you will undoubtedly see thousands of pictures of the granite spires with reach 2500 to 2800 meters in height. According to lore, the towers turn red when the sun rises for about 30 seconds. This is of course, provided that there isn’t a cloud in the sky (a very VERY rare thing in Patagonia).
The logic was that we would wake up and look into the sky. If we didn’t see stars, we would not bother with the 1 hour vertical hike in the middle of the dark to see the red towers because there would be bad weather. Clouds block the stars, we go back to sleep.
I had the job of waking Tomer and Yael up to tell them weather or not I see any stars. 3:30 comes and by the time I got out of my warm sleeping bag to tell the two that I didn’t see any stars I felt like an idiot. How the hell did I agree on this. How was I stupid enough to freeze my ass off.
“Tomer, no stars.” “Really?” “Ya and it’s freezing out here.” “No, wait a second….. Fuck.” “What?” “I see a star…..damn it, there’s another one….. come on, let’s go.”
Tomer eventually came out of the tent to say that he would go, but Yael would stay. He brought a stove and coffee to make something warm while we were up near the towers. It was a good idea. One that would have surely skipped if I were alone. We also brought our sleeping bags and mats to try and stay warm.
We stumbled and fumbled around in the dark for 45 minutes before we finally made our way to the top. Surprisingly enough, we were not met by hoards of box tickers. We were the only ones up there. We were far ahead of schedule as well, so we started to boil the water. Other’s trickled in, but never broke into double digits.
As the sun came up it was blocked by clouds that were nearly a mile away. Shortly after that, the towers were engulfed with clouds that would hide the site almost completely. “Well, I guess you could say “Welcome to Patagonia” about this little morning.” Tomer said. We were absolutely freezing, even with the sleeping bags, all of our warm clothes, the mats, and of course a cup of hot coffee in each of our hands. Just when we thought about staying around for a bit, we had some Patagonian salt shook onto our wounds. Hail began to pelt us as the temperature dropped even further.
“Ok, time to go.” I said but just as we began to pack up a rainbow cut across the fresh sunlit sky. It went over the rock formation just to the side of the towers. It was the most well defined rainbow I had ever seen. “Well, that’s not bad.” I said. Swiftly after I had though “I’ve seen it all” A second rainbow formed just a few meters on the outside of the first. “Ok, now I’ve seen it all.” I said, “Should, we wait for a third? Come on, a unicorn could be on his way, but I’m still freezing.” Tomer said in a bit of wisdom.
As we made our way back to the tents, we were awestruck in what we somehow managed to climb in the dark, carrying all sorts of equipment.
After we packed up the tents for the last time, we walked back to the site in which the bus would pick us up to take us home. Tomer filled me in on every thing from the fact that all Israeli flights have air marshals, to every apartment building having a safe room in it capable of surviving an indirect hit from a rocket, to his take on Palestine being a problem that no one really wants to tackle (not some sort of mortal enemy), to the fact that the Sheckle (the Israeli currency) is one of only 8 currencies accepted in international banks, to how to pick out an Israeli traveler based on the clothes that they wear, to how to cleverly test if they are from Israel with a mistakably international “Hiiii” as a greeting.
We talked for hours (actually 5 days) about all sorts Israeli things. Let’s just say that coming off of that mountain, I decided that I need to see this place that is so culturally interesting.
When sitting on the bus back to Puerto Natales, I was beaming with accomplishment. Most people slept as I tried to sort out all of the positive energy pulsing through me. I could have been out there for another 5 days. I was conditioned and remarkably resolute. This whole trekking thing was growing on me. I could see myself turning into one of those nuts who swims the English channel or something. Confident in my abilities, I wanted more.