There is a puddle on my sleeping bag, and we’ve only been braving this weather for a mere two hours. It is nightfall, and come tomorrow morning, I fear we might be swimming in Paine rain for our fantabulous tent goes the way of my rain jacket–useless.
My big girl panties are up to my ears, and I am almost too exhausted to notice the wedgie.
That is, until I overhear the lady whose bag I rescue from being totally lost on the trail say that the refugio still has beds, warm beds, bunk beds, beds with sheets, in a building, sheltered from the storm, void of rain, and I dare peek at the price sheet.
Even for this penny pincher, it’s affordable given the circumstances, and I let my mind wander into the dangerous territory of luxury, Graham’s gaze following my every thought, he also on the brink of being totally fed up with this shit for weather, and only if they are willing to refund our camp fee for the refugio fee and only if the refugio has room do we even let our minds collapse wholly around the thought of comfort.
They do, they do, they do, and we manage to tear down our campsite in record time, trailing wet bag, wet thermarests, wet fly, wet tent, wet pack, wet everything into the refugio, spread eagle on any surface possible for the slight chance that this pot belly stove might just make it dry.
This is a whole new world, the refugio building light and airy and perfectly climatized, the sound of clinking beer bottles, soft laughter and smiles a stark contrast to the other building, the camping cook shelter, barely warm, stinky, full of hunched shoulders and hard faces, everyone just a tad bit miserable.
Because, you see, trekking Torres del Paine is a two-tiered experience, one for the money-poor but experience-rich and another for those who prefer to trek in the lap of a little luxury.
Acampamentos versus refugios.
Tent versus plush bed.
Mud-packed boots versus suede slippers like those of our bunkmate couple.
Scoff not, friends, for the lap of luxury here is delightfully similar to trekking Nepal’s Annapurna circuit, double the price, for sure, and lacking of the quintessential mountain meal–dal baht and veggie curries and chai–but for right now, this is the best $17.50 I have ever spent in my life.
I mean, break this down:
$10 to camp in the rain
$35 to sleep in warm beds and take warm showers
Hell, if I ever do this circuit again, I’d consider going wholly refugio-style, maybe even going as far as eating meals in-house, dropping pack weight considerably, paring down to a day pack only.
Sounds heavenly, especially if older age finds me a little less rough and little more squishy.
Graham apologizes to our bunk room partners, they already clean and tucked into the white duvets, noses in books, ready to relax into fairy land, their clothes and what not neatly piled away in their corner of the room, a quarter of the gear I carry in my pack.
We are like a T-Rex walking in a glass house, noisy, smelly, intrusive and laden with soaked gear, trying our best not to mess this space, a delicate balance given that what I want most in the world is dry clothing, for every ounce of material I own is doused.
Sorry, sorry, sorry, we say, from a quasi-warm shower (disappointment!) to a dinner for which we barely have appetite to bed time, a snuggle session on a mattress with our slightly damp sleeping bags.