As you may have read from my wife’s blogging... we did a LOT of hiking throughout Patagonia. But the real mother-load came in the form of the grand-daddy mountain known as: The Towers of “Torres del Paine.” I’m not fluent in Spanish, but I can safely assume the translation must mean, “Towers of Pain,” because the 8+ hour hike was brutal. If you viewed our video montage, you might assume our full-day hike up the Towers of Pain was unicorns, rainbows, and sunshine.
But it was none of those things.
Except for the sunshine. Yes, the cloud-free day offered us sunshine which provided an over-bearing, non-stop, sweltering hot assault upon our worn-down bodies, unprotected faces, and quickly breaking spirits.
"Towers of Pain"
Before we even reached the base of the mountain, we had trekked nearly a mile along dirt roads because our campsite didn’t offer free vehicle rides. (The campsite tenants didn’t even offer rides to someone willing to pay in hard, cold cash... what a bunch of jerks.) So by the time we finally made it to the foot of the mountain, the foot(s) of my body was already feeling the burn. It was only 30 minutes in, and my socks were thoroughly soaked. Not long after that, my foot moisture had penetrated into my new hiking shoes, eventually rendering them water-logged. Fortunately, it would only be about seven more hours of squishing my way to the mountaintop and then sloshing my way back down.
I attempted to distract myself by checking our phone for an update on sports scores. To my dismay, despite hiking on a place named after the numerous, imposing towers that surrounded us... these were not the type of towers that aided service signals... and hence I had no cell phone reception.
To cope with the fatigue and pain that was setting into my legs, I spent the better part of an hour daydreaming about my hypothetical life as a professional female tennis star who was winning grand slams on the men’s circuit. This fantastical journey helped me take my mind off the strain my body was enduring in the real-world.
Before too long, my attention was suddenly directed to a pungent, freshly laid pile of horse poop, intermittently littering the trail for the next hundred yards and my daydream was cut short.
Thankfully, we eventually crossed a stream and were free from all future horse trails. Things were looking up! As I crossed a rickety bridge, I turned around to make sure my wife was still in tow. Instead of being two steps behind me, she was perched on a rock, staring at me, with a camera in her hand. She held the lens up to her eye and implored me to “dance like a silly boy!” I can’t explain how devastating and embarrassing it was when my wife forced me to dance like a maniac.
After two-passerbys laughed at me/my dancing, I consoled myself with the knowledge that we were well over halfway to the top. (There was light at the end of the tunnel!) If I had truly known what lay ahead, I would have immediately turned my smile upside down...
...The last mile of the hike was essentially a fully vertical ascent.
But with each slippery or jagged rock, tree root foothold, narrow plank “bridge”, and other ironman-competition-like pathways, we had somehow nearly reached the top. We walked around a giant boulder, and behold! We had finally reached the summit! A crystal blue glacial water lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and tall, rocky escarpment!
I looked around, taking it all in. After soaking in a full 360 degree view, I couldn’t help but scan the surroundings again... a surge of panic started to radiate throughout my body... how could this be?!... where was it?!... suddenly, the full weight of our situation dawned on me... there was no beer brewery at the top of the mountain. My face fell dead and my shoulders slumped as the gravity and magnitude of the moment hit me... this five-hour, upward torture trail... had all been for nothing.
Left with nothing but a downtrodden outlook, a few shards of energy, a broken spirit, and everything on the inside of me now dead, my wife directed me to stand on some nearby rocks and forced me to “do another silly dance!” (I promise you, it’s all in the video.)
The return journey down the mountain took much less time, but somehow felt like it was eternities longer. Fortunately, I had recognizable landmarks to approximate how close we were to reaching the end (a rickety dancing bridge, a creek, horse poop...).
I knew we had survived this harrowing journey as we took the final zig-zag to the bottom of the mountain. My wobbly legs, sunburnt face, and sweaty armpits were ready to collapse into one giant, curled up ball. When we finally reached our campsite, I laid lifeless on the grass until I felt some semblance of life returning to my body.
It had been a full day’s adventure, to be sure. After consuming a much needed dinner, I retreated to our resort (oh wait...I mean the cramped campervan my wife made us rent), assumed the fetal position, and fell asleep until it would be time to wake up for another big day. But as I lay shivering under the thin blanket in the Patagonian summer night, I couldn't help but feel a small sense of personal accomplishment. Before I met my wife, I never imagined I would see as much of the world as I have, and at times on our travels I appreciate the comforts of home even more, but I would never want to adventure with anyone else.
To read about more of our adventures, as told by my wife (and sometimes myself), feel free to visit our blog! We will be providing regular "His & Hers updates" when we move to Shanghai, China next month! Subscribe to be the first to receive our newest posts.