We woke up in our last night of Torres del Paine national park feeling refreshed and a bit excited to be back in puerto natales that night. But there was plenty left to do before that! We got up and had breakfast quickly before Ann and I walked down to the kayaking area. We walked in on the wrong house first but then found the right one with our doctor friends surprisingly sitting inside!
Apparently, for the second straight day the ice trekking excursion wasn’t possible because of icebergs built up near the area of embarking. So they decided to do he kayaking too! We waited for a few others before getting ready. Kayaking was amazing, we got within 50 meters of the enormous glacier that dominated our view.
We skated across the icy waters with double kayaks and the best company. We were much more free to drift around during this kayaking trip than the last one in Argentina. It was a unique trip from the first and worthwhile to pay for it again for that exact reason.
We paced back to the camp area, stuffed down some tuna sandwiches laced with balsamic (actually quite tasty), and swung our packs on our backs to make the final hike. It was a perfect day. I swung up and down our line of the group talking with different friends from the past few days. I ended up catching up with the doctors who sped ahead and lasted the rest of the hike with them. We navigated some pretty wet conditions but were able to stay dry as we hopped around the trail.
5 hours later, we made it. After 70+ miles over 8 days, we had finally reached the end of the line. It was an incredible experience with amazing people. We were all so relieved after being wet and cold and hungry for many long hours during the hikes. But that’s the best part, being rewarded at the end. In this case, I shared a cold beer with my weeklong adoptive parents as well as the world traveling group we befriended. I couldn’t have imagined the hike ending any better. But it did get better.
After saying a bittersweet goodbye to those world travelers, we sat in line for the boat back to the bus stop that would take us back to town. It was here that, after 2 months of being in or near Argentina, I finally had my first sip of mate, a bitter herbal tea. For those unaware, it is a signature experience to drink mate and a significant piece of the social fabric. To be included in a round of mate is honorable and a sign of inclusion in a group. Or so I’ve been told. I received this gourd of mate from our porter who’d been carrying our tents and food all week. The smile I wore when he held it out for me to drink must’ve made the joker look sad.
And it didn’t go away, I must’ve been smiling the entire 2-3 hour ride home. When we got back to puerto natales, our group of the couple from Pennsylvania and Connecticut and the doctors all decided to meet for a late dinner. We met at a delicious seafood restaurant where we savored the seafood meals and recollected the memorable moments from our hikes. With lots of smiles and laughs, we said goodbye with hopes that we’d see each other again another day. And with those same thoughts I slept like a newborn fed with great memories.