The Garden Route: Week 2

Day 5: Plettenberg Bay

I arrive at Albergo Backpackers in Plett late Friday afternoon; these turn out to be my favorite hostel and favorite town of the trip. The beach is stunning, and the town consists of pretty houses on hills and small shops. The hostel is tastefully designed and they do a braai every night on which guests are welcome to put their own food – genius. I run to the shop for groceries; this seaside town doesn’t sell fish anywhere (?!?), so I convince a sushi restaurant to sell me a piece of salmon. I shower for Shabbat, and then throw my food on the braai so it’s ready just in time for candle lighting. I finally open the bottle of wine I’ve been lugging around all week and enjoy a delicious Shabbat dinner by the fire.

Spot the kosher food

There’s a shul in Plett, and Shabbat morning I walk the 25 minutes to find five men reading the parsha aloud in English. I’m not invited to read one of the aliyot, but they do eventually ask if I have a vort (I don’t) and then welcome me to join for kiddush. The people are kind, if offbeat, and I eventually excuse myself and meander back to the hostel via the gorgeous beach (with a quick stop in the fancy hotel to lament the fact that I’m not staying there). I spend the rest of the afternoon reading on the hammocks in the hostel’s well-kept garden, and pass the evening much as I did the night before.

Kind of obsessed with this hostel

Day 6: Storms River

Sunday morning, Steve comes to pick me up, and along with Rox and the kids, we head to Storms River to do the first day of the 5-day Otter Trail. This hike is plenty fun: it starts with bouncing across huge boulders, then a forest trail along the side of a hill, all in the view of the Indian Ocean. Eventually we arrive at a waterfall, where we swim, rest, and have lunch. We head back along a similar route (it’s high tide so we have to skip the boulders, much to the kids’ chagrin – and mine). The others head back to Knysna, and again Steve drops me off at my next destination: Wild Spirit backpackers in The Crags.

Day 7: The Crags

Wild Spirit is set in the forest with views of the lush green mountains surrounding it. It’s a hippie haven: tarot readings are offered and there’s a tattoo shop. At 7:30pm each day, dinner is served, followed by a bonfire just off the deck. I can see how people get stuck here.

The next day I hang around the hostel kn my laptop (work and job hunting). I walk a kilometer or so to a nearby farm to pick up some produce. In the late afternoon it begins to rain, and eventually the bus arrives to take me to my final destination.

The view from the dorm rooms at Wild Spirit

Walking to the farm store

Another okay location for job hunting

Day 8: Port Elizabeth

I arrive in PE late at night and go straight to bed; I have an early day ahead.

At 6:30am a game drive vehicle shows up to take me and 5 others to Addo Elephant Park. It’s a 40 minute drive to the park followed by 5 hours driving through the park, including a break for a picnic breakfast. We get very close to elephants, zebras, and ostriches, and spot kudus, buffaloes, and many many warthogs. Try as we might, we don’t find the lions. This outing is good fun…. it’s also just about the only thing to do in PE.

At the watering hole

No seriously, how cute are they

Well hello again

Truly a ridiculous looking bird

The shy kudu

In the afternoon I go to the beach but it’s windy and freezing. The Boardwalk – a pretty area with shops, restaurants, and a casino – is deserted. It seems generally not recommended to wander around alone, so I head back to the hostel for their walking tour, which is interesting enough to kill a couple hours. Mostly I’m just biding my time until the next reasonably priced flight, which is at 1pm the next day.

The pristine waterfront of PE

In the morning, I get a couple hours at the beach, and then it’s sayonara, PE. By the time I land, the waters have changed from the turquoise blue of the Indian Ocean to the gray of the Atlantic, officially marking the end of my week in the Garden Route.

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The Garden Route: Week 1

Day 1: Mossel Bay

I’m using a service called BazBus, which takes people from town to town along the Garden Route. I decide to start at Mossel Bay, which is the first town on the official garden route, and take it from there.

After a very long ride (8am-3pm, oof) we arrive at Mossel Bay, a sleepy beach town with a couple of roads, a walking path by the shore, and not much else. The town is kind of deserted, and the only things of interest are the antiques: antique shops along the road, antique cars in the cafe parking lot, antique boats in the harbor.

I take a walk along the water and come across a super cool section of the ocean between boulders that has been turned into a swimming pool. I climb up to a lighthouse and then head back to the hostel before dark. Some Israeli girls show up and I think maybe I’ll have someone to have dinner with – or even to drive with – but alas they go out for dinner and are gone before I awake in the morning.

The next day is rainy. I wander through a random museum – not very informative but it has a replica of the ship that “discovered” the cape; I climb on it and feel like Charlotte Doyle. During a break in the rain, I take a dip in the ocean (Southern? Indian?). Tuna salad for lunch and then onto the bus to head to the next town.

Days 2-3: Wilderness

Wilderness is a hippie town. The hostel I choose has a lot of activity going on, but it turns out it’s mostly locals. The village is quite a walk away and it’s raining, so I can’t go food shopping. I skip dinner and end up hanging out in the hostel bar with a bunch of guys who have gone off the grid, moved to wilderness, and spend their nights in the Fairy Knowe.

On my first day there I take a long walk along the beach (the hostel owner did not do a great job describing the distances). I’m supposed to check out some cool cave that I never find; I stop for an iced coffee and to FaceTime into Abie’s bris (welcome, Abie!) and then make the long walk back to the hostel. Rox, who I had met on Sunday, joins me there and we grab bikes and head to town to do some food shopping and watch the sunset.

The next day we go for the main attraction of Wilderness, the Half-Collared Kingfisher trail. First we kayak for 90 minutes, then a 40 minute hike to a waterfall. We hang there for a bit, then head back for the return; this time we are kayaking upstream, and we are pretty darn excited when we get to the start and return the kayaks. Back to the hostel to eat a well-deserved lunch, then off we go to our next stop.

Day 4: Robberg

Rox has been connected with a Jewish family in Knysna, and we stay there Thursday night. They are SO nice. The wife is away, but the husband and kids are incredibly gracious hosts. Steve has picked up fish for us and double wraps it on the grill, along with some veggies. After a strong hot shower with a large plush towel, I throw in my laundry and come out for dinner. Steve has poured us glasses of whiskey. This, I could get used to.

Our backyard in Knysna

After the first good night’s sleep in weeks, Steve drives us to the next town to hike the Robberg peninsula. He’s offered his youngest son a chance to “bunk” and show us where to go, so we’re joined by 8-year-old Tivon. The 2-hour hike takes us along the coast and then across some sand dunes. It’s just gorgeous. Steve meets us at the end with a “picnic” (chocolate, crackers, cheeses, all kosher) and continues with his unending generosity by driving me to the next town, Plettenberg Bay, where I’ll stay for Shabbat.

Our fearless leader

Robberg Nature Reserve

Cape Town, the Extended Version

“I have some updates for you.” I’m out having a beer when my boss texts me. “Global Digital Strategy is no longer.”

We chat, and anticipated reductions have come sooner and broader than expected; he’s been let go, as has his boss, and I will likely experience the same upon my return. He thinks we will get 3 months of severance, and he’s trying to find us another role in the company. I need more information, but I don’t get any, and the company doesn’t communicate anything at all. I debate, I research, I shed a few tears, I send an email asking for an extended vacation, and then I make my decision. Another two weeks in Africa, it is.

I spend most of Thursday doing administrative stuff – changing tickets, booking hostels, and making plans for Shabbat. Friday I return to Kalk Bay where I sit with my laptop at a cafe by the bay and write my cover letter. I take a dip in the tidal pool (whoever said these are warm LIED) and I get a ride back to Cape Town with a woman and her daughter who are firm in their stance that I cannot take the train alone. I pack up my belongings and head to a hostel in Sea Point, where I will spend Shabbat.

Shabbat is pleasant: I have Friday night dinner with my friend Gila’s cousins in their hotel suite (they are visiting from Joburg). Shabbat day I am misled by Israeli tourists and end up at Chabad – it’s fine, it’s looong, I invite myself to kiddush club, I get invited back for lunch. After lunch I sit and read on the hostel’s rooftop deck where we see whales!!! At first we just see the spray shooting up in the distance, and then one starts jumping and diving nearby. It’s amazing.

Sunday I meet up with some people I connected with through Jewish Girls Travel Forum, a Facebook group that occasionally provides useful travel advice. The three of us have booked a driver to take us to wine country in Paarl. We taste delicious kosher cheeses, check out a brewery and chocolate makers nearby, and wander around a farm. We end the day with kosher wine tasting.

Cheese tasting at Fairview

Babylonstoren

Backsberg Wine Farm

All in all it’s a relaxed day, leaving me time to prepare for the Garden Route, which I’ll start in the morning.

2 Days in Cape Town

The first thing I notice in Cape Town is the language: all the signs include Afrikaans, and the spoken English is tinged with a rolling “r.” This is in stark contrast to Joburg, where I mostly heard Zulu and other tribal languages, and English was clearly a second (or 11th) language for the most of the people with whom I interacted.

Ummmm say what?

I arrive at the B.I.G Backpackers Monday night. It’s new and homey, and I will spend the next few days hanging out with the other guests. I have just over two days to hit all the main attractions in Cape Town, and I’m determined to do it right.

Tuesday morning I head over to Table Mountain: the weather is clear and the workers at the hostel urge me to take advantage. I climb up Plattekip Gorge, a hike that takes me longer than it should, thanks to my failure to wear a hat in the blazing sun. Two hours later I’m at the top of Table Mountain, wandering around with a frozen daiquiri, feeling sweaty and accomplished.

All the sweat.

Nice hat.

I take the cable car down and grab a ride with a couple back to town (“white people don’t usually do those kinds of favors for strangers,” our Malawian driver tells us. “I’m impressed.) Their Uber takes us to their hotel, and they give me their room number so I can take the hotel shuttle to the V&A Waterfront. There’s not much to do here, just shops along the water. I rest my legs with a delicious cup of iced coffee – one of many I’ll consume over the course of my stay – and head back to the hostel for a conference call that will take the next few hours and glaringly display the connectivity challenges in Africa.

After work I wander along the shore (the water is far too cold to go in) and make my way to the Jewish area of Sea Point to grab dinner at Avron’s (meh).

Wednesday is peninsula tour day. I get a private driver to make sure I hit all the spots I’ve read about, and drag my roommate Laura to join me for the day. Our first stop is at Kirstenbosch Gardens for a brief meander, followed by a quick photo op at Muizenberg beach, and a chance to pop into a couple of bohemian shops at Kalk Bay. I find myself wishing I had two hours at each of these spots instead of twenty minutes.

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Muizenberg Beach

From here we go to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. I still don’t really understand the different between these places… they’re in the same park, and one is a lighthouse and the other is a sign? I also don’t understand what ocean I’m looking at. Our driver tells us about all the animals we’ll see: baboons, ostriches, springbok, maybe we’ll spot a whale. We don’t see a single one. We climb up to the lighthouse, take a few pictures, and we’re done. Apparently there’s some hiking to be done there, which we don’t have time for; without it, this requisite stop is a bit of a snooze-fest.

Our next stop is Boulders Beach. We try out the free walking path first but don’t see much, so we buy the tickets to access the boardwalk. Best. Decision. Ever. The boardwalk is absolutely surrounded by penguins, and they are laying eggs! We jostle for a spot on the boardwalk and from there we watch the penguins waddling around, swimming, and sitting on their eggs, and we see babies nestled next to their mothers. Super cool. This is also a stunning beach, and would be a good place to stop and swim if we had planned in advance.

We head back to Cape Town and get dropped off at Camps Bay, where we read on the beach until the wind gets too strong and we are freezing and head back to the hostel. They are doing an organized sunset hike to Table Mountain, so I quickly change and join them for the 30 minute walk up, where we find a spot to watch the gorgeous view of the sun setting over the water.

Once the sun goes down, we hop a cab to Mojo Market, a cool indoor market with food stands and bars. We start with a cold beer, and then we each grab our dinner of choice. I love this, because there are actually two kosher food stands (a chumus place and a falafel place, both delicious) so I can sit with everyone else rather than eat alone.

I sip my beer, enjoying my last night in Africa, making final plans for the morning before my flight… and then my boss calls, and everything changes.

Victoria Falls

M and I landed in Livingstone about 10 minutes apart and walked into the airport, where we were quickly introduced to African time: it took a good ten minutes for the immigration officer to look through our passports, paste in the Kaza visa (which would give us access to both Zambia and Zimbabwe), hand write our passport details onto the sticker, and take our payment…. all. very. slowly. The money change experience was similar, though with the added benefit of being educated by the money changer that Israelis are the best whites, then the British, and then Americans are way below. Right then.

Our hostel offered free airport pickup, which eventually showed up, and after our driver did some deal with the airport security guard, we were finally on the road to the town that is Livingstone.

We checked into Jollyboys, purchased tickets to the Jewish Museum to visit the next day, bought some groceries, took cold showers thanks to solar heaters on a gray day, and then, ahhh, Shabbat.

We passed the day (gray again) with a little davening, a visit to the museum, reading by the pool, and a lot of eating (hint: a double wrapped cottage pie heated on an electric burner-turned-plata is a stellar Friday night dinner). Havdalah, bed, and prayers for a change in weather for the next day.

Sunday morning – the day we’d been waiting for! We headed out around 7:30am to the Zambia side of Victoria Falls. We started with the “photo walk” for our first glimpse of the falls from a distance; hiked down to the “boiling pot” to the level of the water below the falls; came back up to “knife’s bridge” where we got soaked in the falls’ mist; and tried to spot some rainbows despite the overcast morning. I was happy to start the day with some movement and amazing intro views to the falls.

On the way down to the Boiling Pot

The bridge to Zimbabwe

The faintest of rainbows

Knife’s Edge Bridge

Zambian side of the falls

After a couple of hours, we started the 15 minute walk to the Royal Livingstone Hotel to catch our boat to Livingstone Island. The grounds of this five-star hotel were spectacular, and we would return later. For now – onto the boat and toward the edge of the falls.

Behind me: Livingstone Island and mist rising from the falls

We crossed the island, and the guides led us over rocks and water to Angel’s Pool, a small pool at the edge of the falls, with a rock “bench” to sit on (i.e. rather than going flying over the falls). We took turns going in, then climbing closer to the edge, while our guide took hundreds of photos of each of us. Basically it was a photo shoot with an adrenaline rush – but it was very cool nonetheless. After the pool, we were served breakfast on the island before heading back to the mainland.

We used the Royal Livingstone bathrooms to change (that’s what the hotel is there for, right?), got a ride on the hotel’s golf cart to the Zambian border, and went through immigration to begin part 3 of our day: Zimbabwe.

The bridge to Zimbabwe

The view from the bridge was okay, I guess

#34, strictly speaking

This side of the falls was markedly more commercialized, with a small cafe inside and well-marked paths along the falls. We sat for a bit to eat, chased some baboons away from our sandwiches, and headed down the path to see the powerful Zimbabwe falls.

A thousand pictures later, we headed back over the bridge to Zambia to catch sunset back at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, surrounded by zebras and overlooking the Zambezi River with a view of the mist from the falls in the distance. Quite a way to end the day.

On the last morning in Zambia, I took a quick taxi ride to a local village which gives tours for $5. They get about 10 tourists a month, so it’s not quite a major destination. I felt a bit funny taking pictures of what is simply somebody’s day-to-day life, but they kept reassuring me it was okay. I noted their water tank, which a tourist sponsored a few years ago. Before that, they walked 5 miles down to the Zambezi to get their water.

The village’s income is largely from tourism, so after the tour I visited their crafts market (non-optional) and bought some crafts I surely don’t need.

Mukuni village

Helping his mother

Getting water from the new well

A new house

Back to the airport to head back to JNB, where I said goodbye to M and headed off on my own to Cape Town.

Johannesburg

What started as a ten-day whirlwind trip to Africa has turned into a three week adventure. Therefore, without further ado, I’ve decided to restart this blog.

The trip started off with a drama: I arrived at JFK bright and early on Sunday, luggage in tow, to be told by the check-in agent that I would in fact not be going to South Africa that day. Why? My Israeli passport is only valid with an extension, which is uniquely not accepted in SA, and my US passport did not have two blank pages which they demand because…. unclear. Their stamps are small. Perhaps they just love separation.

Anyway. The next morning I stood on line at 6:30am (there were already 30 people on line at that hour!) to get a same-day passport. Paid, received, and Tuesday I was back at JFK boarding my non-stop flight to Johannesburg.

I arrived and ordered my first of many, many Ubers in a city that is too dangerous for walking around. You notice it immediately: absolutely everything is behind a wall. Houses, stores, parking lots. Everything.

The Uber took me to the hotel where my friend M was staying for work – a lovely suite hotel with a porch and birds chirping in the background. From there, I headed to a free walking tour in the center of town, where we saw Mandela’s law office, antique mining equipment, a local market, and an endless string of empty dilapidated buildings. While it was not the most informative tour, it was really the only way to walk around, so I was glad I did it.

The cheapest produce I’ve ever seen

Dinner was at Burgers n’Brew. South Africa has been radically different from any other vacation I’ve taken, where I usually eat very little and subsist on avocados and ice cream. Here, there is access to so much food – kosher restaurants, kosher supermarkets, and an easy-to-spot hashgacha on tons of stuff in the supermarket. Tonight was the first of many dinners out – inexpensive, all, but also unhealthy. All the food tasted like margarine and sugar and chemical flavoring and fried; this was true in every restaurant I ate in. Time to clean up your eating, South Africa.

The next day was the day I had been waiting for: a deep dive into South Africa’s history, including a bike tour of one of the Townships, which is where the blacks were moved to during apartheid. But… it was pouring. A group of us piled into a van for a driving tour of this sad, wretched neighborhood, metal shacks built to house miners and today housing families.

Soweto on a rainy day

After seeing the evidence first hand, I went to the apartheid museum to get a bit more of the background. This museum takes hours to walk through and contains endless information on apartheid, though I found it a bit disorganized and hard to follow. Still, it’s a must-do in Johannesburg, so… done.

From there, I headed to Maboneng, a district with warehouses that have been converted into shops and galleries. It was lovely and felt safe-ish to walk around, but still, not safe enough, so I soon found myself back in an Uber heading to the hotel.

That night M and I grabbed dinner at RTG. While we were there, there was a blackout. This was not unexpected: all week there were 3-4 hour blackouts throughout the country, thanks to “load-shedding,” aka managing demand following major financial issues at ANZ, the energy company, thanks to government corruption. There’s nothing like blackouts and not-working streetlights in a major city to remind you that you’re still in Africa.

After an eternity, RTG turned on their generator and brought us our delicious food (but not before we foreigners demanded free beers to compensate for our wait). Then, to a bar called Hells Kitchen for drinks and live music (so loud… I must be getting old). The bar closed at 11, which is a theme here… everything closes early, presumably before people can get too rowdy and things get too dangerous. In both Cape Town and Johannesburg, nights started at 8 and wrapped up by midnight.

Friday morning we popped into Moishe’s to get food for Shabbat (herring, chumus, rolls, delicious cottage pie, and of course biltong) and off we went to catch our flight to Livingstone. Good riddance, Johannesburg; hello, Zambia.

Torres del Paine 3N/4D

After 4 hours on the bus from El Calafate, we arrived to the Chilean border, where the customs officers were on strike (taste of home!) We sat in a nearby cafe until the customs agents arrived to open for 1 hour. Luckily we all made it through – third time sneaking my meat past the border, phew – and the bus continued to Puerto Natales, which serves as the tourist base for the Torres del Paine National Park.


Puerto Natales is a quiet, windy town full of camping equipment stores and not much else; these happily took my money as I rented a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat, and bought a camping stove, walking sticks, and sunglasses (as my old ones accidentally found a new home in the lake near El Calafate). I spent a couple days shopping / panicking / shopping some more, then spent a relaxed Shabbat reading in my hostel. Luckily, my hostel had a homey atmosphere with a living room, shared dining room table for all, tv area, etc, which was perfect for those few days.

Saturday night I packed and repacked my backpack – food, equipment, and one change of clothing – and Sunday morning I was off to the national park.

Day 1 (10 km)

After a couple hours on the bus, we arrived to the park and caught our first glimpse of the imposing “towers” for which the park is named. We were forced to listen to 17 speeches about not starting fires in the park, and then we headed to a catamaran which would take us across the lake to the other side of the park. We would spend the next 4 days basically walking back along this lake, coupled with outings up mountains/valleys alongside it.

The catamaran arrived at the campsite around noon; most people continued to the next campsite, for an extra night in the park, but I stayed and immediately went to go put up my tent, something I’ve done a hundred times before, right?

Well.

Putting up a tent in Sataf and holding on for dear life to your tent in 60km winds is not exactly the same experience. After desperately tossing rocks atop various parts of my tent, and staking it with one hand while throwing my body on top of it to keep it from flying away, I looked at my tent flapping in the wind and had little to no hope of it staying in place. After repositioning and restaking it not once, but twice, my tent looked slightly more stable, an hour had passed, and I was exhausted but ready to start my hike up to the glacier.


The winds were not any better along the hike, whipping me in all directions as I slowly trudged up the hill. After 5km, I arrived at the first view point of Glacier Grey, barely able to see, using all my energy to stand in place, my mind registered that I was seeing a glacier, registered that it was beautiful, registered that I should take a picture, took out my phone, snapped a picture, upon which I decided that this was surely a good enough view of the thing, and I turned around to head back to the campsite, skipping much of that day’s walk. I was done with that wind.

Back at the campsite, I entered the shared “kitchen and dining room” (a big room with tables, benches, and a sink) to prepare dinner on my camping stove (pasta with tuna, if you’re curious). A few of us went into the refugio (basically a hostel) next door to grab a beer. By 6:30pm, I was back in the tent, feeling a bit lonely but lucky to be inside, because a few minutes later it started to rain. I lay there, feeling a bit ill, unsure if the tent would hold up in the wind or keep out the rain, wondering what exactly I was doing there. Finally, I fell into a restless sleep, woken up regularly by the wind, the rain, the hard ground, the cold, until the early hours of the morning.


Day 2 (19km)

I could barely lift my head in the morning, and it took my until day 4, when I was feeling better, to realize that this was not “what it feels like to wake up in a tent” (duh) but rather “what it feels like to wake up in a tent with a fever.” I made breakfast (oatmeal), packed up the tent, hoisted up my pack, and started off toward the next campsite. After a couple of hours I arrived at the base of the French Valley, where I left my pack before heading up the mountain. This was a beautiful hike alongside a gushing stream and below a glacier, from which we constantly heard the thunderous sound of avalanches. Unfortunately, the last kilometer to the lookout was closed, so we just sat at the top eating our lunches in some combination of rain/snow/sun, but luckily mostly sun.Back at the bottom of the valley, I grabbed my pack and walked the last 30 minutes to my campsite for the night. This site didn’t have a room for us to cook in; instead, we were each given a platform on which to set up our tents (nailing them into the platforms, what?!) and do our cooking (with wooden windshields for our stoves, seriously, what?!) I had met someone in the French Valley who was staying in the campsite and also hiking alone (his friend had backed out after the first day, a girl after my own heart), so we hung out and cooked our dinners together. But still, by 7:30 I was back in my tent, and an hour later I fell into a restless sleep, interrupted throughout the night by the insane winds around us.


Day 3 (13km)

Despite the fact that I was carrying my pack all day, and despite the fact that I was still pretty ill, the third day was the most beautiful and relaxing day of the hike. After another morning of oatmeal, we set off to the next campsite to pick up another girl who was hiking alone. The three of us walked along a beautiful stone beach and stunning vistas of mountains and lakes, keeping a pretty intense pace but stopping occasionally for snacks/pictures/shmoozing with other groups of English speakers. After a lunch break all together, I split off from the rest of them, headed to a different site at the bottom of the mountain.

The last part of the hike was a bit of a bummer – it was in the vicinity of the park entrance, and the walk was along the road, with cars passing by and sleet coming at my face. When I finally got to the campsite, giving my shoulders a relief, I found a couple of Americans I had met the day before, and we headed to the refugio for some drinks and Jenga before coming back to the campsite to prepare dinner in the rain (surprise, pasta!). It was a fun, relaxed evening, and I went to sleep super late that night (read: 11pm).

Day 4 (16km)

The last day is the climax of the trip, with a climb up to the base of the “towers.” Most people start the day at one of the campsites partway up the hill, often hiking up to see sunrise at the towers, but we were staying too far to do this – supposedly a 5 hour walk.

I headed out a little after 8am with a Canadian couple, Nicole and Brett, with a plan to head up and back down in time to catch the 7pm bus. We walked pretty quickly up to the top, partially to get out of the wind, partially Nicole and I trying to keep up with Brett. The last kilometer was a beast, basically climbing straight up a bunch of big rocks, as everyone coming down kept reassuring me that “it’s worth it.” Finally we got to the top, to the base of the towers, where we took the requisite pictures (though they were somewhat hidden by the clouds).


After the pictures, we looked at our watches – it was 11am. After a quick debate, we decided to try to make it down for the 2pm bus, which would mean doing a supposedly nine hour hike in five hours. We booked it. We hopped down the boulders, jogged through the forest, took a 90 second bathroom break, and basically ran down the last hour to the campsite, where I still had to pack my tent. It was nuts, but invigorating, and I arrived at the campsite by 1:10 – plenty of time to pack, drink water, and acknowledge the fact that I could barely feel my legs. I got on the bus at 2pm, feeling accomplished and satisfied and ready for a change of clothes.

That evening, back in Puerto Natales, a bunch of us that had hiked together over the last few days met up for some beers (and pizza for them), happily showered and in clean clothes and ready to sleep in a bed.