El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

by Stephane Alexandre / Jan 20, 2017 /
Stephane Alexandre's picture

Our wonderful tour of Patagonia sites continues with the Lago Grey Path. Our van pulled up to the beginning of the path almost an hour after lunch, and we carried our sluggish bodies out of the van. This was one of the last stops of the tour and we had already been dumbfounded by the wildlife and wide landscape that we have seen along the way. 

"One hour and 20 minutes" reminded our guide.

El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

It had already started drizzling, but my friends and I rushed towards the path, our eyes ready for a luscious green feast. We were not disappointed. Soon we started seeing deep green trees hovering over us. Once in awhile, the light blue sky managed to peek through the leaves. Along the way, we met people from all over: Hungary, China, London, India, etc. However, we shared our van with a family of nine and another couple on retirement. It always impresses me how we, as human beings, can quickly connect with people over a short period of time despite language difficulties. Since this was towards the end of my study abroad experience, it still felt surreal that I had enough energy to explore Chile, despite still having to ask Chileans to please slow down when they are talking. Soon, we were talking about our different schools and countries, and even taking pictures of each other in front of the beautiful mountains. But for now, back to the Camino!

Firstly, we had to walk across the bridge. The small bridge of about 100 feet proved to be difficult because the wind was IMPOSSIBLE. Our guide warned us that the path was easy. And he was right, sort of. The bridge shook the whole time and the waves in the river beneath clashed against the rocks, warning me of what could be if I ever let go of the railings. The wind had no mercy; I wept for the four year old that kept getting almost knocked over. 

El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

After about 12 minutes of walking, we came upon the shore. It was breathtaking. The Torres echoed behind the glaciers, partially hidden by fog themselves. Oh, my friends, the winds were relentless by then. Soon, glasses, hats, jackets, and scarves attempted to flee and I started screaming like a mad woman. I hid behind my friend, using him as a human shield, but still the winds found me and almost knocked my windbreaker off. Then we walked to a HUGE blue glacier that was melting in the middle of the lagoon. It was such a surreal experience, feeling the wind and mist on our faces. Though I never denied global warming before, I happened to see it happening in real time. 

El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

This trip to Patagonia was such an eye-opener of how much is at stake. We saw mountain ranges covered in ice, and just a few kilometers down we saw guanacos wandering and eating grass. There is so much diversity and such astounding wildfire that needs to be respected, protected, and preserved. Even if I walked in the parks every day, I don't think I would ever get tired of the sights. 

El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

And mostly, that is one of the things that travel does to us. It forces us to step back and re-examine just how much is at stake. I am not here to persuade anyone of global warming and climate change. I am just a girl who stood helpless in front of a glacier as it was melting…and felt horrible. This was not something that I was learning in a textbook or reading in research papers - this was happening right in front of me in real time. 

El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

And that’s the other main aspect of travel that I will always be obsessed with---the passing of time. I have learned that the passing of time is distinctly different in each culture; in some countries, dinner at the table takes three hours, in others, I gorge on a meatball sub for 23 minutes and go to bed. The traditions and upbringings engraved in our minds intertwine with our experiences, making life enriching. I’m sure I could go back to Chile and go back to that same spot in Patagonia and it would never be the same. El Camino Grey would still be different---somehow. This concept of time is somehow the most enthralling and terrifying thing about travel for me. And I love it.

El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

It is my sincere hope that your trip to Torres del Paine is less windy than mine. Our guide basically assured us that "we ain't seen nothin'!" Well, the waves didn't carry us away, and we all made it back in one piece. We live to explore another day.

El Camino Grey, Torres del Paine

 

 

Stephane Alexandre is the Intercultural Immersion Editor for Wandering Educators. A Tufts University student, she just returned from studying abroad in Chile.

All photos courtesy and copyright Stephane Alexandre