January 02, 2006 GMT
Torres del Paine

"Nothing prepares you for the spectacular beauty of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine", sais my guidebook "South American Handbook". Bullshit.

It's nice and beautiful but the author should see the "Tre Cime" in Italy's Dolomiti mountains. They are embedded in much more spectacular surroundings and give a lot more beautiful views - in my opinion. But maybe when you do one of the multi-day trekking tours with all the necessary tents, food and equipment, then you might find out what's so spectacular (which I doubt). I just did a one-day hike to a lookout point from where you have a great view of the (okay: impressive) huge tower-like rocks. But I have seen more interesting mountain scenery in my life.

The Torres del Paine national park is situated in the souternmost part of Chile, which is actually cut off the Chilenean mainland, so all Chileneans who want to get there have to take the boat or plane or have to pass through Argentina. On my way there I met a group of two couples from Colombia on two BMW motorbikes. They were doing a 7 weeks ride from the north to the south of the continent (return by flight/ship) and were perfectly equipped with new bikes, matching suits, intercom and a Garmin navigation system. We met several more times on our parallel way to Ushuaia and - what a surprise - they were really nice.

I also met Germans on the way - like all over the journey: Some youngsters in their twenties, other (less youngsters) in their fifties. Strangely the youngsters were really uncool, using the formal "Sie" instead of the more personal and relaxed "Du". On the contrary almost all the German travellers, that I met on the road - 30, 40, 50 or 60 years old - quite naturally used the "Du". So either young Germans have a strong tendency to uncoolness or I really do look that old... :-)

Everything (accomodation, admission, food) in the Torres del Paine park is extremely expensive, since CONAF, Chiles governmental nature conservation organization, uses the money from this park to also foster other parks and projects. So I decided to finally justify the heaps of camping equipment (tent, matress, sleeping bag, cooking set etc) that I had been carrying around for the last 3 months without using it. Sorry, I prefer a real bed in a real room. However the evening of 23rd was really nice since I quickly made friends with German (the latino equivalent to Hermann) and Panchi, both chilenean trekking guides and with Luis, who was working on the campsite. We spent the evening at the campfire, chatting and drinking until early morning, together with a funny american-australian girl group of four young child carers / teachers.

Contrary to that evening the 24th was rather quiet with some really awful self-cooked noodles and reading. A young german couple who had recently arrived asked me for the cooking equipment, which I borrowed them, so they were really grateful. But not grateful enough to have the idea to have at least a beer together. This is one of the great differences between the latinos (above all the argentinos) and the Germans. A latino would invite you to have dinner with him and you would end up with a booze-up or at least spend half night drinking and chatting. A (typical?) German does not even have the idea - or is too distant to put it to reality. This is one of the conclusions to which I came due to my experience with a bunch of different people in South America - and this is something I love about the South Americans. On 25th I set off for Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city.

Posted by Winne Lichtblau at January 02, 2006 10:53 PM GMT

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