Day 5, Refugio Grey to Campamento Paine Grande
How wonderful it was to wake up in a warm dry bunk bed and be able to fall out of it, rather than having to hunt for yesterday’s underwear stuffed into a makeshift pillow, push damp clothes into a sleeping bag to warm for a few minutes before dressing horizontally, pulling on boots, then finally, crashing out on all fours through a dripping tent door, getting sodden in the process, before arriving at a fully upright position in whatever wind and weather the morning had brought!
It was also wonderful to have been able to shower inside, in a room with radiators, and space, and hooks to hang things on, not worrying about dropping precious dry clothes onto an icy cold muddy floor.
Before taking off we dropped our packs in a locker room and walked back up the way to grab some photos in the relatively better weather. On returning to the refugio, we discovered that we were not the only ones to have dropped bags that morning. We spent best part of the next hour excavating our 4 packs and then carefully returning the hundreds of others to the very small room. Shortly after we had finished a very angry woman started hurling the bags out again. We watched her for a while, and then took off.
The path followed the valley down, rising and falling to cross streams, eventually climbing to a fantastic mirador where a number of people had stopped on a rocky promontory. A massive gust of wind, set them flying for hats, gloves, hiking poles. A pack cover filled like a balloon, ripped off a backpack and disappeared over the glacial lake. Our plan to stop here for lunch was soon revised. We finally escaped the wind when we came down into a deep, tree-lined ravine. Lunch was cheese and tortillas, not my favourite, but I was beginning to feel unwell.
At every refuge there is an elaborate check-in procedure. Not only must you produce your booking information and National Park Pass, you must also hand over your passport and PDI, a flimsy piece of paper which you receive when you enter the country. These latter two items are then copied, who knows what for. After this, if you are dining in, you are asked if you have any dietary requirements. We got quite good at saying ‘Andy y Ona son vegetarianos, Kris come de todo, Miranda come de todo pero no puede comer nada con huevos’. The previous evening I asked a member of staff three times to confirm the meal was egg free. Three times I was told it was. It wasn’t. For the next two days I suffered the consequences, although I did very much enjoy the offending vanilla desert at the time.
Even though it was me with the cramps, it was Andy who took the fall and came crashing down backpack and all, on a fair weather dry day. He just put one foot wrong. Fortunately, he was soon upright again and little damage was done. But good it happened on this day and not the previous
Paine Grande is the largest of the camps. It sits between Lago Grey and lago Pehoe and has a boat connection to Refugio Pudeto, where there is a road. As a result it gets many visitors. The best bit about it, is the view, but otherwise it was the least favoured of all our stopping places. That evening soon after we moved in, a mass of kids arrived. They kept us up most of the night. I don’t think anyone realises that you can hear everything through a tent wall. That’s everything! I was envious that these kids from Santiago, were able to have such an exciting school trip. I remember a day trip to Boulogne when I was at school, most of it spent on a coach. That’s about as exotic as it got!