The US claims to be the melting pot of the world.
I think I have found a rival.
The underdog melting pot of cultures is the bleak plain of Paine Grande under the the watchful eyes of Los Torres Del Paine. Where else does one discuss characters from The Lion King with a couple from Argentina in 60mph winds while trying to straighten bent tent poles at 2 in the morning?
Or maybe the melting pot is Southern Patagonia in general. Tonight I made (actually I just ate) crepes in a hostel with people from Sweden, Chile, Australia, Canada, Scotland, England and France under the watchful eye of the smoke alarm which blared and refused to be silenced. I can think of no better melding of cultures. Except possibly trying to get a parking ticket validated after group grocery shopping when none of us really speak much spanish.
Hiking in Los Torres Del Paine park has been nothing short of incredible. The raw beauty of these mountains mixed with an amazing group of people have made for some of the best hiking I have experienced.
The weather was great as well – during the eight days I was in the area, it only rained twice and was windy just one evening. The park rangers said they had never seen the weather this mild. Typically, hikers consider themselves lucky to get one or two calm and clear days a week.
I mentioned a windy evening. ‘Windy’ really does not do justice to the violence of that weather. I think ‘maelstrom’ might be a better word. This wind was so powerful, I was literally blown off the trail several times. During one particularly strong gust, I got sprayed from a lake which was a 1000 feet away. The wind was so powerful it pulled water from the lake and made a 100 foot tall ‘cloud’ of water drops. The waves on the lakes flowed in circles as the wind coming down the valley created a vortex.
The locals call this wind ‘La Escoba de Dios’ or the broom of God. I think they must have watched its effect on tents. So many tents did not survive the evening. I think Marrmot and The North Face must love this wind as it guarantees tent sales. My tent survived, but not without much drama (Sadly this tent is no longer in my possession-a topic of a future post…)
I am so thankful to has been able to see this amazing back-ally of the world.