February 2, 2003

Chile flagThe last day of the circuit! We got up and went over to the refugio, so we could use their hot water to make our breakfast. The sky was grey and cloudy, but there was no wind and it was warmer than it had been on any other morning of our hike. The trail was easy, too, although there was the mandatory uphill climb from the refugio. But after that it was comfortably level.

After a couple of hours we started meeting fresh-looking hikers coming the other way, and before long there was a flood of them. As our trail met the Torres trail by the Río Ascensio, we had officially completed the circuit. We cheered and hugged each other, and then we waited for eight more people to cross the footbridge before we could head down through the Hosteria Las Torres to wait for the minibus. We stopped at the little kiosk at the Hosteria for ice cream, which cost about twice what it did in Puerto Natales.

It turned out that we had about an hour and a half before the minibus arrived, but we didn’t feel like walking along the road. So we sat at the campground bus stop and just waited. But now we were the experts: “The Torres? Just follow this road up through the hosteria there”. We watched some little furry animals darting from one bush to another. They were bigger than rats, smaller than rabbits, and had no tails or very short tails. No idea what they were; they were like small, fast-moving guinea pigs. While Rosemary was trying to photograph the Southern Lapwings that were stalking around the area, some cowboys galloped herds of horses past us, towards the hosteria.

Finally the minibus arrived to shuttle us back to the park entrance. It was jam-packed again, and it took us a while to get off because everybody had to sign out of the park. Who should be there but the Dutch couple, again! But our big bus was waiting impatiently to take us back to Puerto Natales, so off we went. Because we hadn’t been delayed on the circuit we were arriving back a day earlier than the day we had made our reservation for. Unfortunately Casa Cecilia was full, so we went down the street to another place, named Oasis, which did have room.

Once in our room, we pulled our dirty clothes out of our packs and evaluated them. We decided the best approach would be to put them back in the bottom of the packs and wash them when we got home, with the exception of all of Paul’s cotton socks, which were threadbare and foul-smelling. Those went into the wastebasket.

We walked about town for a bit looking at souvenir shops and checking out restaurants. What day of the week was it, we wondered? We finally decided it was Sunday. For dinner we went to a restaurant named Cristal and ordered things we had been missing, like salad and steak. The food was good, the steaks still tender even when well done.

At 9 pm we went to the Plaza de Armas, met up with Uira and Mike and Rosalie, and went for a cup of hot chocolate. It was very good hot chocolate, too. We exchanged e-mail addresses for after the trip; Uira was going back to school in a couple of days, but Mike and Rosalie still had a couple of weeks in which they would be travelling through Argentina.

Back at our hostel we went to bed, then pulled all the blankets off the bed so we could get to sleep. At least we can be reassured that if we ever come here in winter we will not be cold at night.

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