Onward and upward (plus a bit of downward)

Friday was our last day at the Hotel Las Torres in Torres de Paine. Steven decided to take it easy, but as you know, I never decide to take it easy and so I didn’t. We had a part-horseback, part-trekking all-day trip up Cerro Paine to get a different view of the Towers and because I wanted to do a horseback trip. We thought it would be mellower than the hike up to the base since it was 4 km on the horse and 4 km straight up the hill.

No problem. Robin and I met another couple who were on the excursion and we headed to the stables with our guide, Valentina, to get our horses and a short lesson in how to hold the reins. (An aside: There were five women guides and four of them were named Valentina.)

First off, my pin head didn’t fit in the adult size helmets, so I go a child’s size and I believe my beige one looked way more professional than the bulky black ones everyone else had. Then we put on gaiters to protect our pants from sweaty horses. Finally, we were introduced to our horses and hopped on for the ride.

Everything was going great. The view from the horse was spectacular and we were just walking, so I wasn’t worried about how I would walk when we got off the horse. Only one problem: It had rained the night before and the ground was muddy and semi-impassable at one point. The baqueano (horse guy) found a spot that seemed OK and rode his horse across. Then it was my turn. Well, Blondie my horse had a different route in mind. A route that sucked her legs into the muck like quicksand causing her to fall and me to fall off into the mud. At this point, I am going to turn it over to Robin to describe what happened since I was in the middle of it. And, no, no one got video and I will not be a YouTube fail star.

Robin’s play-by-play

From 8 feet above:

There was some confusion as to which way we should take the horses across the mud flats. The baqueano thought he found the best way, and proceeded to cross. Sue went next and I was behind her. before we knew what happened the front legs of her horse sank 3 feet and down to its knees.

The horse fell forward and floundered and attempted to get up, but then fell again launching Sue 10 feet to the right, and planting her face first in the mud. She was already fairly close to the ground at that point, so it was more of the side launch and the mud plant which made things so damn funny. It was hysterical.

But the grown-up part of me said repeatedly, do not laugh!! This can be a dangerous situation.

Sue struggled to all fours, and began to turn around in the mud in an attempt to stand up. Unfortunately the horse, who was also attempting to regain her footing fell backwards onto SUE launching her face first into the mud again, and this time, pinning her leg under its torso. 

While the mud bath continued, I repeated my mantra, Do NOT laugh! Do NOT laugh!!  I strove to be a bigger person.  I mean, can you imagine if something terrible had happened to her and I had been seen sitting on my horse laughing my ass off and shooting a video. That would’ve been bad. I never would’ve been invited on another trip with them again.

Once she and the horse were out of danger I snapped a few shots which don’t even begin to do the story justice. Look at the ground, it’s the beginning clue to her state of her mud-caked self.

All that said she was a true champ, and incredibly gracious about the entire thing. She changed into some rain pants she had packed and a few extra clothes from the guide and carried on with a smile and a laugh and a great attitude, something that many people would not have been able to pull off!

You go girl!!!

I was not hurt at all. Mud is pretty soft, but hard to get out of once you’ve been sucked down to mid-calf. Valentina gave me a hand and Blondie and I stood and carefully made our way out the mud. Luckily, I had rain pants in my backpack, so I removed the mud- packed gaiters and my muddy pants and put on the rain gear. Don’t worry, I didn’t subject the group to my bare butt –I had another layer underneath. After I cleaned up a bit, I got right back on the horse and off we went.

(Steven’s comment – I am so disappointed that there is no video! Where is a 15 year old with normal TikTok skills when you need them? I am so sure our blog would go viral with video of my wife face planting off a horse into mud.)

The trail stayed pretty slick in spots, so we left the horses a few feet earlier than they typically would and set off on foot. My socks were a little squishy, but other than that I was fine. The trail was a steady uphill and started to look like a moonscape with lots of rock and scree. I never felt out of breath or like it was too difficult, but it was no stroll in the park. Of course, when we got to the top, it was well worth the trek. We ate lunch, took pics, and headed back down.

The way was a little slippery because of the scree, but I only slipped a few times and we were able to make it back down to the horses in about an hour. The way back down was uneventful since Valentina and Robin decided to take a less watery route. The view got even better when the clouds parted and we were able to see all three towers clearly.

I loved the trip, but couldn’t wait to get the mud off me and my clothes. That shower was one of the best of my life!

To end on an extra high note, Steven and I were sitting in the lounge area when a waiter yelled, “Puma!” We all ran to the window and saw the big cat strolling down the path at the hotel. It had just eaten a couple of baby birds and was happily wandering back into the wild.

Saturday morning we said goodbye to Torres del Paine and all three of us agreed that we wished we could have stayed longer. The scale and beauty can’t be conveyed in pictures. We took a four-hour van trip to Punta Arenas because I wanted to see penguins. We didn’t realize that there’s not much else to do here and that it is mainly a staging area for trips to Antarctica, but so be it. It really does feel like you’re almost at the end of the Earth. We are staying in a cute boutique hotel, La Yegua Loca, with a view of the Strait of Magellan.

Sunday we got up at what would normally be before dawn, but here is already full sun, 5:30 a.m., to make a 6:15 a.m. van pickup and head off to the penguin boat. Transportation seems to be the main issue we have with our tour. We really didn’t need the van transfer — we could have walked to the office and gotten and extra 30 minutes of sleep, but we didn’t know that. The boat trip is about 40 minutes and then you walk around Los Pingüinos Natural Monument taking pictures of Magellanic penguins, cormorants and other birds. Penguins can be loud! Just watch the video below.

It was fun and with the patch, I didn’t get sick at all on the boat. Plus, we were very lucky and had sunny skies and calm seas. yay!

After the penguins, we stopped at the only other attraction we were interested in, Museo Nao Victoria, which has replicas of one of Magellan’s ships and the Beagle. It was worth about 45 minutes.

Knowing what I know now, I would not have come down here just to see the penguins since there isn’t much else to do. An extra day in Torres del Paine would have been amazing, but I am not going to complain since I am the one who wanted to see penguins. We even got the timing right since the penguins were nursing their chicks. Overall, a great experience, but I’m just not sure the trade off of two days was worthwhile.

Tomorrow morning we fly to Puerto Montt and drive over to Puerto Varas for the last leg of our Patagonia adventure.

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