Patagonia - Torres del Paine - Day 1 & 2 / by Mark Boyd

As per usual I woke early the following morning.... and unsurprisingly it was still raining.  Yannic had his schedule to stick to.  Mine was flexible, and today would be an opportunity to dry my outer layers, base layers and boots.... Quite how I didn't really know.  We bid farewell to one another and I headed over in to the kitchen/dining building.  I knocked together some breakfast, chatted to a few fellow trekkers and then got to drying.... I filled my metal bottle with boiling water and plunged it in to my right boot.... the steam billowed from the surface of my soaked Salomon... I repeated this exercise over and over again from 8am until 8pm in each one of my boots.  During those 8 hours I made new friends from Santiago in Chile and Sao Paulo in Brazil.  Stories were shared, food was eaten and layers were dried.  My new drying technique had really taken off!  Daniel was a top guy, he was a videographer, we chatted photography and camera equipment.  I left him with my metal bottle to continue drying his boots.  Later that night he showed up at my tent with my bottle plus a gift of a posh chicken curry dehydrated ready meal.  I planned to eat this the day I saw a puma, and with my binoculars at the ready maybe that would be tomorrow!?  Or maybe I'd save it for the end of a tough day's trekking.... Anyway, it was going to be a special occasion feast.  Daniel invited me to stay at his place when I eventually returned to Santiago for my flight home.

As the day drew to a close the rain stopped.... the clouds began to part.... and the sun pierced the remnants....


The following morning with a good breakfast in my belly I hit the trail at around 8.30am.  I was carrying a total weight of 18kg.... Enough to feel heavy after a few hours!  I checked in at the ranger station.  The ranger told me that they'd constructed an 'artesenal' bridge over the now swollen stream 100 metres down the path (many of the side trails were closed due to the previous 36 hours of rain), just head left off the trail.  On reaching the tangled mess of thick slippery tree branches I could see it wasn't going to be easy with this unbalanced weight on my back.... with that thought I leaned slightly to the left on the middle of the bridge.  I attempted a quick counterbalance, lifted my right foot quickly to readjust and placed it down too fast on to a branch that was way too slippery.  Bang!  I slipped and fell.  My leg passed through the tree limbs.  My freshly dried boot dipped briefly in to the stream.... It was out quick enough to remain dry.... My thumb bent backwards as I landed heavily on my right hand.  Ooooooooooooh, that hurt....  I knew immediately that I'd injured it.


During the next couple of hours I spent every twenty minutes or so bathing said sprained thumb in the icy stream. 

Whilst walking I tucked it up under my left backpack strap against my collar bone, compressing it whilst elevating it.  Every fifteen minutes it became a little more painful.  It was in the back of mind that this injury could well lead to a premature end to my Patagonian adventures which concerned and saddened me.


Dealing with my backpack quickly became painful.  Attempting to rummage necessary articles from within using only my left hand was difficult and frustrating.  I found that if I sat on something 'seat high' I could swing the pack around on to my knee.... Or by finding something that I could rest the bottom of the pack on whilst standing with a slight bend in my knees I could lift it on and off without further aggravating my stupid thumb.  My wrist ached.  I continued to ice, compress and elevate.  My thumb slowly began to change colour..... I was beginning to feel sorry for myself. 


I was now on the final stretch of today's trek and was within an hour of my camp site.... I was a tad peckish.  I lowered myself on to a foot bridge with a view and sat down.


I swung the pack around on to my knee to access the ziplock bag in the bottom which containedd nuts, dried fruit and chocolate pieces.... I then I remembered that I'd also been carrying boiled eggs in each of my pockets.... I slipped my hand in to the right pocket.


I could feel the warm soft mess.  I pulled out the broken, shell encrusted egg and ate it - shell and all.  There was no way of removing the tiny shards of shell.  I reached in to the other pocket and did the same..... crunchy, eggy goodness... I was tired.

I wandered on.... The trail opened up between the mountains.  There was a lot of bird life.  I stopped and watched a hen harrier type bird through my binoculars whilst the warm sun bathed my skin. 

Things were looking up.... A distant rumble filled the valley as a huge slab of snow fell from one of the mountain faces causing a small avalanche.  I stood and watched numerous icy, white cascades for a further 15 minutes.


Due to all the starting and stopping to deal with my thumb it had taken me almost 5 hours to walk what normally would have taken me 3.5 hours.

Patricio the camp site security at campmento Frances, spotted my swollen, prettily coloured thumb whilst I was attempting to remove my pack to sign the register... He returned with a bandage.... It looked as though my ICE treatment had done it's job.... The thumb was still painful, but not quite as painful as it had been.  I needed to remain aware of it and try to rest it as much as possible.  Right now being aware of it wasn't an issue.


I erected my tent on one of the wooden platforms, chatted with my neighbour's and then wandered back up the trail to where the small avalanches were occurring.  It was 3pm and the warmest day I'd experienced yet, with the temperature pushing a balmy 19 degrees.  I sat up off the trail, removed my top and let the sun warm my winter whitened skin.... 


Birdsong filled the still air whilst deep intermittent avalanche rumblings reminded me of how cold it would be another couple of hundred metres up.  It was beautiful here..... and I was in no hurry to return to camp.... There was plenty of time for that.


I eventually wandered back at around 6pm.  I cooked up a camp style feast of dried ravioli, broccoli and cheese sauce.... I prepared my 'overnight' quinoa breakfast and slept.  

Tomorrow I'd be trekking the middle peak of the 'W' trek - the trail to Britanico....