Six days in rough nature, in a camp
20.02.2012 - 20.02.2012 15 °C
Early in the morning the taxi arrives to pick us up for delivery at the busterminal in El Calafate. After some hassle on no is having the tickets, we're boarding the bus. Prepared with snacks we know to have to be eaten up before we arrive Chile, we're relaxing in our semi comfortable seats (the more northern you come in chile/argentina the more comfortable the buses get, and since we're driving towards the most southern points in Chile, expectations aren't too high). Bobo has his cushions well positioned so nothing can go wrong. We're leaving into the landscape, huge empty spaces, some estancias, hills in the distance, but most of the land brownish grass. After 4 hours an old mine appears, some dilapidated industrial sites, the old trolleys had been turned into a museum, but even that looks closed now. The only modern thing are the conveyer belts, so modern spread through the country side as if the mine would sell those instead of cole. A kilometre further the related village appears, a spurl o houses spread over a hill, Tio xxx the name, some houses referring to better times, but it's a rough space here now, poor probably, and not much prospect for those who got stuck here in the middle of nowhere. The bus needs some fuel, and having a loo before getting to the border isn't a bad idea either. Actually I had wondered not anticipating what complication the border would bring, whether we're still in Argentina or had crossed into Chile already. The first stop comes, and the few South American jump out of the bus, while we're still believing some policemen would just get on the bus to check the passports, and that's it. Quite the opposite! We all queue outside, since there was another bus earlier, in the wind, and 20 min later infront of the Entrada desk, i.e. we're not in Chile yet, since a glorious fotograph of Mrs Kirchner makes clear who rules the country in Louis XIV style. The officer stamps our passports, and types the names into an at least 30 years old computer. Soon we're boarding again, to drive another mile into Chile, to stop for the next check, this time the luggage including a x-ray scan, and search for fruits and vegetables. But our power trekking food, processed to unidentiability, didn't raise any attention, and the nuts and fruits have all been eaten up. Back on the bus, we reach Puerto Natales quickly, where vans from the ecocamp awaiting us, and we realise no many on the bus, booked the same travel company. Heading for lunch, at a restaurant close to their offices, we meet our tour guide, Manuel, who announces the other 5 people, Australians, will arrive a little later, as their ship is just pulling into the harbour. We go for some wine in a local supermarket, as we allegedly were encouraged to save some money here, instead of buying it in the camp, a carmenere a local variety, not sure yet whether that's the grape or the region, anyway, we get some, and also an Errazuriz, a vineyard we plan to visit later when around Santiago.
Another 3 hours drive with a stop over in a prehistorical cave, milon, which contained the bones of some prehistorical animals, released by receiving glaciers, some thousand years ago. The other group guides who entertain that part of the tour, appear to be very informed, but also patronising (??) to a point which makes me worried abou their attitude, and what we can expect from Manuel.
We make another stop at Lago Sarmiento, a beautiful blue, because of some special sediment from earlier glacie times, which also prevents life in it. Finally we arrive at the Ecocamp, at the foot, very close to the towers of the Torres. It's getting quite fresh quickly, the non heated domes, not to the delight of Slobodan, are quite small, just large enough to open our luggage, using now second time, the technical clothing trekking gear, which w felt was so essential but not fashionable to buy.
A Pisco sour is awaiting us, and some initial briefing for the next days, since meanwhile all the Australians have arrived. Two couples in their fifties, and one of their sisters. Nice and well educated people, so we're even more pleased not to be in the other group, and also not in fear being pushed through the trekking route.
Manuel explains the tours of the days, and certainly expectations were set, the Bader valley a must, and the boat trip on the last day an unnecessary nuisance, since we all booked trekking, not pensionairs boat rides. Certainly the fire in the park in Dec took it's toll, but this group isn't easy to satisfy, there must be some similarities between Germans and Australians, I didn't know so far.
Dinner is served in the large communal domes, 3 courses to leave a good impression, and then we're ready for bed, trying to organise in the dark the few things around us, freezing a little, and wondering why we're actually here ...