I am happily oblivious to the fact that my kilometer to mile calculation is entirely erroneous, a blatant misapplication of the 2.2 pounds for every kilogram, so in my mind’s eye, this 80+ kilometer trek is entirely easy-peasy-ish with an average pace of 6 miles per day.
It’s alright, I tell myself, for in our packing haste and organization, our brains this morning chug along with only four hours of repose, so nevermind that I am off 2-3 miles per day in my average and nevermind that I blissfully forget to factor in bonus day hikes, the least of which is the reason we are here–sunrise over theTorres.
Because, Torres means towers and Paine means blue–in Telweche, the indigenous tongue–and it is not “pain” but “pay-neh” and I am here for the million dollar view splashed across the Patagonia clothing catalogue and National Geographic adventure magazine alike.
Preferably, with guanaco standing perfectly poised in the mid ground.
Just for us … and a million other tourists, that is.
Graham and I are far from alone this Friday morning. Our bus is full, the mid-route café break cramped, and it sounds like most everyone and their mom does some deviation of the same route–Pehoe ferry to Paine Grande to Lago Grey, back to Paine, to Italiano, up the French Valley, to Cuernos to Las Torres to sunrise to entrance, and out!
Or, maybe in reverse, the more typical east to west route, start off high–literally, a killer start to a day–and end up at Paine, just you and a bazillion other campers.
We, however, add on a day and a deviation, opting for a more secluded start at Administracion, views of the Torres stretching before us and the plains, walking face-first into orgasmic sight rather than turning our backs to it.
Or, so, this is what we delicately plan, something between the “Q” and the “W,” the 5-day circuit plus tail, so six whole days in the park, certain that each day will offer the promised bluebird glimpse, certain that our morning fog is exceptional, certain it will burn off this afternoon, or, even most definitely by tomorrow.
We are giddy and excited, convinced that we are about to embark on the grand-daddy of all backpacking trips, the head honcho, the epitome.
So, when we browse through the café souvenir shop and stumble upon a wood carving of an Indian–by that, I mean Native American, but this caricature has everything of a 1920s tobacco ad, “smoke like a red skin,” he screams–with toothy grin as wide and tall as his entire face, head crowned in chief regalia, feathers massive and tumbling down his back, round belly pushed forward like a Buddha belly, and I laugh incredulously and mutter to Graham that this is so wrong, unabashedly racist, to which he deadpans–
“All the more reason to get it because it might not be available for long.”