Saturday, April 5, 2008

We woke up at 6:45, since our excursion was set to depart early again. There was a magnificent sunrise - perhaps the best we had seen (meaning ever) - around 7:15, with the Cuernos being illuminated with different colors by the rising sky:


We decided the next morning we would set up the video camera to capture the sunrise, as it lasted only 2-3 minutes.

The drive over to the Towers took awhile, but the scenery was good. On the drive we saw numerous vicunas, plus large groups of birds (perhaps a puma made a kill), not to mention the mountains. Our group for hiking to the Towers included only people from the day before - Mario, Lucinda, Manuel, Mark, Francis, and ourselves. Our guide, Beatrice, was not very good. In fact, she was easily the worst guide we ever had on any of our Explora excursions in Rapa Nui, Atacama, and Patagonia.

She rushed up the hill and through the valleys, apparently unaware or unconcerned that she was leaving 2/3 of her group behind. Justin kept stopping to take photos of the beautiful landscape - picturesque valleys, streams, waterfalls, panoramic views, and so on, and basically had to run to catch up to the pack, so he just gave up trying and stayed far behind. No one else was seeing much of anything, because all they could see was the pair of shoes in front of them as Beatrice ran up the hill. It was frankly no different than if we had printed out a picture of Beatrice's shoes and put them on the treadmill or the elliptical trainer. It was all very disappointing.


At one point, a second group started to form, with Mario leading it, with Mark, Francis, Crystal and Justin. We came to a fork in the road, and had no idea which way to go since the leading group was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately we picked the correct direction, and found the leading group waiting about 500 meters ahead. The weather was very variable, sometimes we were shedding layers, only to put them back on (plus more) 5 minutes later. We walked through a beech forest, and then came out at the base of a glacial moraine that we had to ascend.


For this, Beatrice told us basically "go at your own pace, follow the red dots on the rocks, and I'll see you at the top." Not surprisingly, many of us got lost, and were trying to scale boulders that we should not have been because we were in the wrong spot. We could not see Beatrice because she was well above us, plus it was starting to sleet and then snow. The rocks were hard enough to get over, but now they were slippery as well. After at least an hour of this we finally got to the top for our panoramic view of the towers, but because it was cloudy and snowing we could see only faint shapes. The only thing we could see clearly was the Condor's Nest.We had lunch in a cave where we tried to warm up again.

On the way down Beatrice again set everyone free, and Lucinda and Crystal made their way down 5 minutes before anyone else. At least this time everyone seemed to be on the correct path. It did stop snowing, and the weather got better, giving some nice views of the valley that we couldn't see in the morning because of Beatrice. The walk back was uneventful, as no one was together, off walking by themselves or in a group of two. Crystal was walking with Lucinda, who is a travel writer. Justin was walking with no one. Towards the end of the walk we saw an Embothrium, a rainbow, and a crested Caracara.

On the drive back we finally did see the towers - albeit from afar. We also saw a group of guanacos in the middle of the road, a single guanaco looking out over the valley and separate from that Crystal saw a puma. We got back, got cleaned up, and headed down the bar. We picked our excursions for the next day, then ate and went to sleep.