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13 Hour day: Mr. Musculo Kicks Butt

CHILE | Thursday, 10 January 2008 | Views [2099]

We always have a good laugh at some of the TV commercials in Chile and Argentina. The one for liquid cleaning fluid in particular, cracks us up.  Like our Mr. Clean in the states, here they have "Mr. Musculo" (Mr. Muscle), a guy that cruises around in his superman outfit rescuing women sunk in kitchen duties.  Darrin likes it so much that when he moans about our treks and his achy muscles, that he says are growing gigantic on each trip requiring physical activity, we now refer to him as "Mr. Musculo."  And today was definitely a Mr. Musculo day.  When Darrin looked at the map and timeframes/distances last night he nearly freaked.  I had planned our first day, which was really just a half day once we arrived the park from the catamaran, to be only a 4+ hour trek.  We could have come back down another 4 hours that same night (as the sun doesn't set until at least 11:00 p.m.), and stayed at the Grande Paine Refugio on the Lake, but I figured eight ours hiking in only half day would be pushing it for the first day.  so the second day would be our big 13 hour day, taking us from Glacier Grey to Lago Pehoe, up through Valle Frances and then back down to Refugio Los Cuernos.  He hadn't realized it would be such a long day, but we had already booked and paid for our camping and meals at Cuernos because they only had one tent left.  So the only way for us to go is forward.  We had to leave Refugio Grey without having breakfast to make our timing work, as the refugio doesn't open until 7:30 a.m.  We pack up our gear, wake up the gear rental guy to give back our home, and retrieve our passport being held as a deposit.  He was pleased to be woken up so early.  It's 6:00 a.m. and just getting light, but freezing cold and windy.  We both couldn't imagine having to put on cold wet clothes on a morning like this had we encountered rain yesterday.  Luckily we're warm, and we keep a steady pace, on a mission to make our final destination.  We stop off after the first four hours at Grande Paine Refugio, which looks more like a luxury mountain resort, and now we wish we had trekked the extra four hours last night to camp here.  We run into our Israeli friends who are now just leisurely waking up and starting their day.  The cafeteria is now closed, we've missed it by 30 minutes.  However, this is the one refugio that has an amazing stock of food for purchase in it's camp store.  We load up on cheese, pepperoni and fresh bread for our breakfast sandwich and lunch, all for under $10 - eating those meals in the Refugio would have set us back nearly $40!  Over our fine sandwiches we meet a father-son duo who are working together with their wife/mother for a non-profit she's created to help developing countries "ascend" out of poverty.  They've traveled the world together soaking up culture and learning from locals, enjoying a happy balance of work and play.  Inspiring that these guys are also from the US, Salt Lake City, and are living the dream.  A great story, and personally for me, a big inspiration.  

So we're pleased, and full, ready to plough through the next 9 hours.  The weather continues to turn foul.  It's so windy I nearly get blown off the trail.  I stop to capture it on video and Darrin laughs at the act of trying to video record wind... really, it's all for the "sound" which is so cool here, we can hear it coming kilometers away through the valleys and when it finally hits we're braced low, keeping our balance.  We make it to Campamiento Italiano, a very basic "free" campsite at the base of the Valle Frances (middle W), and we eat another sandwich, fueled up not to ascend through the valle to see the beautiful Frances Glacier. Weather is not in the cards today, as the clouds and rain are moving in quickly.  It's too cloudy to see the cones, so we cut the ascent short hoping to make it to Refugio Cuernos before it really storms.  Luckily the clouts outside the Valle de Frances (known for attracting foul weather) is starting to break up as we get further from Frances.  After several more hours of up and down slopes over loose rocks, we reach the lake and very picturesque beach, full of black and white rocks - a really unique beach and setting.  I reach over to feel how cold the glacial waters are and nearly get blown over by a huge gust of wind.  We reach our Refugio Cuernos, and Mr. Musculo is ready for a chilly beer to relax his weary musculos.  This refugio is great.  Our tent is private and sheltered among bushes, the staff if happy and entertaining - the chilean women in the big open kitchen are singing songs as they whip up veggie canoles and tasty desert.  How lucky we are, good food and treating ourselves to a cold beer as a reward for our 13 hour day.  we enjoyed fun travel stories with a French couple and another couple of guys from NY on their few weeks vacation... one guy from NY had just quit a 14 year job, the other a professor... we congratulated the one on having the courage to let it go, and he was in a state of elation imagining his future from this amazing lakeside mountain camping retreat.  We find that meeting other travelers along the way far surpass the useful information we could ever hope to find in a guidebook... compiling others stories, tips and travels would make a much better guide book than Lonely Planet.  

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