Just back from a week in the rugged south of Chile. We booked the trip a few months ago when Snakes signed up to run the Patagonia Marathon. Though there were less arduous options, he decided to tackle the ultra, a 64K course (a hair under 40 miles) that wound itself through the foothills of the Torres Del Paine National Park. No words can relay the scenery, my photos will try. He’d been training for the past few months despite the thick smog and drizzle that inhabits (and inhibits) Santiago in the winter months.
We flew into Punta Arenas, a port city that sits along the Strait of Magellan. It’s about as far south as you can go on the mainland continent. We picked up the car and drove north for two hours along the “fin del mundo” highway before reaching our first destination, Puerto Natales. This gusty little town serves as a jumping off point for hikers to grab supplies and fill their bellies before setting off for adventures in the icy beyond. We’d been following the forecast for weeks in preparation, our teeth chattering their disappointment. Overcast, drizzly, snow showers, high winds predicted for every day of our week long visit. I hoped that Snakes would at least have “cooperative” weather for his 7 hour run. (Still can’t wrap my head around that.) I’m pleased to report, they were gloriously wrong. Brisk and invigorating, yes, but perfectly sunny every single day but one! What luck. We started our first full day rising with the sun and joining a boat ride to nearby glaciers. Bushbaby would’ve preferred to stay back and spend the day at the swirly slide we’d discovered in town upon arrival. Both Snakes and I were nervous we’d over estimated our daughter’s patience for things like a day long boat excursion. There’s a fine line to walk when yearning to explore a place where you may never have the opportunity to return and placating a 3 year old, all while respecting your fellow travelers. I’m glad we took the chance. We chugged out into the river, pausing to admire a colony of penguin-like birds living in the rock ledges and retreating glaciers. In the cozy space below deck we played “UNO” while sipping hot tea offered by the tour organizers. After 3 hours or so, the boat tied off at a remote little dock to allow us an hour and a half long hike to stretch our legs, explore the lichen covered terrain and join the others for a photo op with the glacier.
Our guide told us that just 10 years ago the glacier in the background of this picture extended all the way up to that rock. From where we are posed, visitors could reach back and touch it. The hike back to the boat was a little more difficult for the Bushbaby, but with a horseyback ride from mom and a few football carries and sack-o-potato holds by dad we all made it back to the boat in one piece.
As we settled back into our seats with grumbling bellies and a shiver in our bones we hoped for the best, since the appeal of UNO had long worn off. Regrettably, I’ve never been one of those amazing moms who travels with multiple courses of snacks and refreshments in my bag. We had some super salty airline peanuts since we’d already eaten our orange, so all was not lost. I noticed one of the crew moving carefully down the aisle with a full trey of what I figured was apple juice. No sooner did I look over at Snakes and say, “Wouldn’t that be amazing if that was whiskey? But of course it’s apple juice.” and 2 very generous glasses of whiskey poured over “glacial ice” were plunked down in front of us.
“Apple juice!!!” Coco was elated to quench her peanutty thirst. Luckily the guy showed back up with juice of some sort before she lost it. We were all teetering at this point and mommy’s whiskey was a welcome reprieve.
The final stop was for a hearty meatlovers lunch at a bucolic farm right along the waterway. Their main source of income must’ve been catering to travelers such as ourselves passing through every afternoon. Nothing existed in any direction except their modest farm with sheep, a hoop house and a blazing churrascaria attached to a room filled with tables and chairs.
I hadn’t meant for this post to carry on for so long, but I guess it’s worth stating the obvious and saying that it has been a while. As usual, I’ve missed this. After lunch we all cozied back into the boat and returned to our starting point.
We had a four hour drive ahead of us the next day into the heart of Torres Del Paine national park. Our lodge was the ending point of the marathon which was taking place the day after. I was relieved we’d broken it up into a two day trip since after only four hours in the car I was having flashbacks from our vacation in Namibia, after which we’d sworn to reign in our vacation ambitions.
We settled into the lodge and scoped out the finish line. There was a 100K trail marathon (or something equally as terrifying) that was finishing up that afternoon. Snakes jammed his pack full of “goos” and laid out his gear for his departure time of 5am. They picked him and the other ultra runners up and drove them for two hours in the opposite direction, so they could spend the next 6-7 running back. There was very little race support in this remote locale, I imagined he could just stop and drink from rivers when the urge struck.
The bushbaby and I got a little more sleep then spent our morning poking around the horse stables and checking out the preparations for the post-race festivities, a massive lamb barbecue. Around the time we were expecting our guy to cross the finish line, we settled in to cheer the other runners in and wait for ours.
Snakes did it. He finished his final (or so he says..) ultra marathon. He was wrung out with exhaustion as you can imagine, but invigorated from the sense of accomplishment. He even managed to rally the next day to join us ladies for a horse ride and capture the below image which may actually inspire me to do holiday cards this year! Thank you all for reading and bearing with me as I work to resurrect one of my dearest creative outlets.