No Paine No Gain

by

Torres del Paine

Marc: We hadn’t planned to go trekking for four days in a national park in Chilean Patagonia. But after meeting so many travellers who were singing the praises of Torres del Paine we felt compelled to go. It was the best decision we could have made.

But getting there would not be straightforward. The origin of the word Chile is said to come from the Quechua for ‘end of the world’. That being the case, we were heading to the end of the end of the world.

We took a hangover-heavy, ultra-early flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas in the south of the country, then a four-hour bus to Puerto Natales, followed by a short sleep, a 6am wake-up call and another four-hour bus into the park itself. Over the next three days we would hike 60km and see some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth.

The photos say more than I ever could (although still don’t do it justice). But I will say that at one point, approximately four hours into an arduous trek on the first day in Torres del Paine, I was thinking to myself that no scenery could be worth the pain and discomfort I was going through at the moment. Then I got to the viewpoint for the famous ‘three towers’ of the park and realised how wrong I was.

The views were magnificent and were elevated further by the euphoria of getting to this far corner of the earth through pure sweat and grind. Patagonia proved to be the highlight of our trip so far.

Manna: Our friends know that neither Marc nor I are the hiking type.  But especially not me. I had already been surprised to have enjoyed our Colca trek so much. Torres del Paine, however, would further affirm my enjoyment of walking in nature (*gasp*) and would take me as far as admitting I was quite possibly a trekker at heart.

The fact is, though, that anyone would be converted to trekking if they had seen what we saw in Torres del Paine: Great peaks of rock towering over sky-blue and emerald lakes formed by meltwater from crystal-blue glaciars holding thousand-year secrets in their looming silence. Piercing winds racing down corridors of crumbling slate, giant piles of boulders serving as final tests of endurance and merit for the impossibly beautiful landscapes lying just beyond.

Nowhere else have I so felt the sheer force of not only nature but earth at its most powerful, millions of years of sun and rain and wind and ice and pushing and pulling – it brought our own small existence sharply into perspective.

That said, my humbling in the face of the elements did not prevent me enjoying my everyday pleasures. In fact, enjoyment seemed to be magnified. Probably because I was burning about ten times as many calories as I usually do. The gaping hole of hunger at the end of our day was the result of strenuous physical activity, and the giant three-course dinners at the refugios (shelters) went down like only a well deserved meal could. Every night I slept like a rock – or an old shoe, as we say in Catalan – to wake up in the morning with motivation springing forth, despite the aching muscles.

It’s hard to explain  — and it’s probably far too early (and cheesy) to say — the impact Torres del Paine had on me, but it feels like there was definitely a before and after.

(Click on a photo for a larger image)

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One Response to “No Paine No Gain”

  1. Gabrielle Says:

    Amazeballs.

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