Monday, 31 March 2014

A well deserved break

Working at sea is an incredible experience, however you do return to land with a renewed appreciation for solid ground, green grass and a horizon filled with topography, glorious topography! It was with these motivations that a group of us jumped at the opportunity to spend a little time in Chile's famous Torres del Paine National Park. 

The fabulous Torres del Paine (photo by Heather)
The peaks of the Torres (photo by Jesse)

We left the ship painfully early on Wednesday morning to catch a bus up to a charming port town near the park called Puerto Natales. Here we were able to hire tents, sleeping bags and mats, and fill our bags with food for the adventure ahead. From Puerto Natales it was another bus journey into the park. The view out the window got steadily more incredible. Jagged peaks loomed in the distance and the sunshine blazing down highlighted vibrant lakes and stark outcrops of rock.  The ferocious wind whipped up the lakes sending clouds of spray up high in the air towards soaring condors. We drove past herds of llamas grazing with spindly legged young and flocks of rheas with wind ruffled feathers.

Once in the park the bus dropped us at the edge of Lake Pehoe where we hopped on a catamaran (because what else does an oceanographer do with a day off the ship?). Lake Pehoe is a vibrant turquoise thanks to sediment washed down from glaciers. The boat ride was pretty choppy thanks to the strong winds, but by now we are all experienced seamen and hung off the top deck absorbing the magnificent view of the mountains in the sunshine.

The catamaran on Lake Pehoe (photo by Jesse) 
Ocean cruises are not all hard work - the team enjoy some relaxed time on the water

The view from the catamaran (photo by Heather)

The catamaran dropped us at a campsite on the shore of Lake Pehoe and at the feet of the Torres del Paine range. We quickly set up camp, no easy job in such windy conditions! After dinner we sat at the lake shore and stargazed until it clouded over and the first few drops of rain started to fall. It was quite a wild and rainy night, but most of us slept very soundly, enjoying a bed which wasn't swaying and rolling beneath us.

Andrew had won the lottery for a tent to himself... but unfortunately this rather backfired. The zips on his rented tent refused to close and he was left with a rather draughty bed for the night! We also chose to store our food supplies in his tent and poor Andrew was awoken by a small gang of mice munching their way through our chow. Not the most peaceful nights sleep!

Kim and Siobhan set up camp for the night

Mike in his element!

The next day things slowly cleared up into another stunning day of sunshine. We spent the morning walking, aiming for a view of the massive Grey Glacier and taking in the astounding landscape. We started our return to the ship early in the afternoon, refreshed and invigorated – bring on the next leg of the cruise!

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