Patagonia - Torres del Paine - A Long But Beautiful Day 4 / by Mark Boyd

With breakfast done, camp packed away and loaded on to my back I was ready to hit the trail.  The estimated time from Campmento Frances to Campmento Torres Central was 5 hours.... It was a beautiful day and I fully intended for it to take much longer!  With a wrong turn at the very beginning which lead to the crossing of paths with another British fellow (we kindly re-directed one another) I was behind the estimated time within 5 minutes of starting.  This slight 'misadventure' along with the initial steep climb which necessitated the removal of thermal base layers saw my plans for a 'long day' easily being achieved.  Pride was bubbling.... Hahahahaha!


With a camera on one backpack strap PeakDesign clip and binoculars on the other I was well prepared for my first puma spotting.  This particular area looked magnificent.... Surely I was going to spot a puma today!

The vistas were simply magnificent.... 


The trail took me along the ridges of the surrounding mountains, then all the way down to the periphery of the huge turquoise lake that was the centre piece of this and the previous sections of trail.  The pebbles crunched pleasingly underfoot..... I paused here.... There was no one.... To say it was serene would be an understatement..... I even briefly considered stopping and setting up camp (illegally), but knew all to well that I'd be discovered.

I stopped at the river to fill my water bottle and continued onwards.  


I scoured the hillsides for pumas at each and every opportunity....


I sat and enjoyed my lunch (a handful of fruit, nuts and chocolate, followed by crunchy peanut butter on a 6 day old tortilla) over looking the huge lake.  


The blue sky and warm sun overhead made for the most wonderful of trekking days.  With late afternoon encroaching I realised I needed to up my pace a little, but by this time I was starting to feel a tad tired.  Legs were getting a little heavy and as for the shoulders, well they were really feeling the pace.  I had at least another hour and a half of walking ahead....

 This path to nowhere lead exactly there!

This path to nowhere lead exactly there!

With another little 'detour' I was on to the final stretch.  I could even see the Torres del Paine hotel off in the distance.  As I drew ever closer I caught site of what I thought to be a condor way above my head. 


It was being dive bombed by what appeared to be a fairly small bird of prey in comparison, but I then realised said dwarfed bird of prey was similar in size to our own harriers in Britain, pretty sizable....  

 The Andean Condor turned out to be a Black Chested Buzzard Eagle.... Who knew?

The Andean Condor turned out to be a Black Chested Buzzard Eagle.... Who knew?

 The Hen Harrier was a Cinereous Caracara, between Hen Harrier & Female Sparrowhawk size.

The Hen Harrier was a Cinereous Caracara, between Hen Harrier & Female Sparrowhawk size.

I continued to watch the dogfight overhead for 5 minutes...

It wasn't long before an actual Andean Condor did appear!


On arrival at the campsite I collapsed in to an exhausted heap and dozed in the evening sunshine.... Following an hour of relaxation and recuperation I decided it was time to set up camp.  With tent pitched I decided to lie back down in the sunshine until it had dipped behind the mountains.  The temperature plummeted with immediate affect.  Night time clothing of underlayers and a quilted pack down jacket were dispatched.

I was absolutely famished and needed top prepare food.  What delights remained within my food selection..... Looked like boiled eggs, steamed broccoli and instant mash for the evening meal... Even at such a basic selection I was excited:  Hunger, the best seasoning!

As I bedded down I set my alarm to go off at 4am.  I was considering being at 'The Towers' (Torres del Paine) at sunrise... but then decided I'd rather be puma spotting on the way to 'The Towers'.... morning half light would be a great time for spotting wild critters!  Where on earth were these golden cats hiding???