February 8, 2004

Chile flagWe had planned to get up early, but only managed to haul ourselves out of bed by 8 am. Last night’s clouds didn’t result in any serious change in the weather, so we had the usual blue skies with only a few clouds. We said goodbye to Marcus (the tour leader of the French group camped next to us), then headed out onto the road for our 6 km walk. At this time in the morning there was not much traffic on the road, so we didn’t get too dusty.

The road followed the same ups and downs we had bussed over yesterday, in reverse, beside the Río Paine as it flowed from Lago Pehoé to Lago del Toro. They were more noticeable on foot, though, and we were surprised that it only took us an hour and a half to get to the Laguna Verde trailhead.

Our guidebook described the Laguna Verde trail as an “easy” trek. True, except for the brutal 300-metre climb up to the mirador at the very start, which had Rosemary running out of gas. However at the top there was a panoramic view of the plains we had crossed yesterday, Lago del Toro, Río Serrano, Cerro Balmaceda, and so on. We threw ourselves down in the first shady place after the mirador and ate our lunch.

After that the trail became easier, a pleasant fairly level walk through coigue woods and then open grasslands with small lakes, but we found it hard work. Perhaps we had burned ourselves out with the hike along the road. Our first glimpse of Laguna Verde was a flash of green water ahead of us in the distance, but by the time we reached the lake the sun had gone behind some clouds and the lake was an ordinary grey colour. At the far end was a collection of white buildings with red roofs. These turned out to be Estancia Lazo, a ranch and guesthouse just outside the park.

We turned and walked back into the park. The CONAF guarderia was uninhabited and a small wooden building up the hillside turned out to be the refugio. It wasn’t as bad as our guidebook had said; in fact it was an ordinary two-room backcountry hut with not much except empty wine bottles left by previous users. There was a stove, which was basically an old barrel stuffed full of sticks with part of an old chimney pipe sticking out of it. Perhaps it worked once but now it looked more like a fire hazard, so we left it alone. We didn’t need it anyway as the weather was still warm, although the wind was gusting strongly.

We couldn’t find a level spot to pitch the tent so we decided to use the refugio, which was not at all dirty. Although it was only 3 pm we cooked up some soup, because we were both quite dehydrated, and then we napped for a while. At 6 pm we made dinner, which was more soup followed by pasta (sour cream and chives with peas and carrots). This was too much for both of us, so we ate part of it and finished up with hot chocolate, listening to the wind roar outside.

After dinner we walked down to the beach at the end of the lake. It was an ordinary stony beach, but oddly enough it was covered with animal bones of various species. We had a look into the old tin building next to the refugio, which looked like a small room behind a muddy stable. Probably this was the building our guidebook described as “barely habitable”. Then it was early to bed. Tomorrow we hoped to catch the 1:45 pm bus back to Puerto Natales, so we needed to leave by 8 am.

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