|Towers of Pain: The Challenge of Torres del Paine||1 | 2 | 3|
Our first full day in Chile has me still feeling sick, albeit better than the last few days. The worst of it was two nights ago, when it became clear that something I ate (probably the wild ostrich in our last dinner on board the icebreaker) was definitely not agreeing with me. Writhing from stomach cramps and trying all night (but failing) to get sick was essentially what gave it away. After all, it's now been nearly a month since the last stomach issue I had, so, of course, I was due. Yesterday was mostly a travel day, and I wasn't able to eat much, so I didn't get far in terms of building up my strength. Today, I'm still feeling kind of gross: I felt weaker than an ant at breakfast, and had barely the energy to eat more than a few bites of greasy, runny scrambled eggs. But things are getting better, albeit slowly.
We had but one goal today, here in the Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile: to hike the trail to the park's namesake feature. It's an eight-hour trek both ways, and some parts are considerably steep. It was our most ambitious hike to date, and required some serious preparation in the way of a good breakfast and a small lobotomy. We were zero for two, but we set out around 10am to tackle the trail anyway.
|Because It's There?|
We got through the first vicious part of climbing straight up for about 400 meters or so, then up and down again into a valley, to another refuge. We'd only been out for just under two hours by this point, but I had to rest for a while, as I was really out of breath, and my chest even hurt. (That one was new.) After fifteen minutes, I felt ready to continue; although I could have rested longer, Erin was antsy to move on. The trail continued along a stream, and I kept with it for about another half an hour, before I finally had to sit down again. Erin had that "I'm on a roll here..." look, so I had to make a decision. With a little more rest, I probably had enough strength to keep going, but what really had me concerned was whether I'd have the energy to make it back, and there was some serious uphill track ahead, too.
|So Close Yet So Far|
Sensing Erin's frustration, and understanding how much she really wanted to go, I called it quits. I can't blame her at all: I wouldn't have even done the hike for the way I was feeling, but it was our one and only shot, and we basically travelled for a whole day just to get here, not to mention paying for the most expensive hotel on the continent. Given that, I'd be damned if I wasn't going to give it the best try I could. But I really didn't think I could do it, so we parted ways. Even though she doubted she could make it all the way to the top herself, it was worth the try, and it was better for one of us to make it than neither, after all the effort. I took some of my stuff from her pack and went back to a little meadow area about a hundred or so yards back, allowing Erin to continue along as far as she could go — hopefully to the top. We agreed to meet in three and a half hours, giving her enough time to do the round trip at a relaxed pace, so if she wasn't back by then, I was coming after her. (Not that I knew for sure whether I could, but at that point, who's to say?)