Up late again. Some early bird hikers were already coming in from other camps when we were about to set off.
Consequently, our plan to take a quick walk up the valley (Valle del Frances) to the higher camp was quietly
forgotten. Instead, we headed off towards the Torres.
Yet another brilliant day! For most part of the track, we were always within sight of the mountain and never
very far from the lake. At one point, we were actually walking on a pebble beach. 2 hours and 6km later,
we came upon a very modern-looking refugio (hut). From there, there were tell-tell signs of horses riding on
the same track.
Another 3 hours later, we stopped by a fork on the road. Well, one thing we didn't have with us was a map, very
unusual for us. We had a faint idea that we should be pushing left to gain some altitude instead of going down to the
valley, but the trail on the right pointed to Las Torres while the one on the left to Chileno and we knew we
were heading for Torres.
So we waited by the fork hoping we could run into other hikers with a map. 10 minutes later, a group of 5 showed
up but they did not have a map either. We followed our instinct and headed for Chileno while watching everybody
else taking the lower route to Las Torres. Soon, we found ourselves alone in a grassy pasture - a welcoming change
to the rocky and shrubby surrounding before - with cows grazing in the distance. The trail eventually
came to a huge gorge going up a steep mountain side. It looked a lot harder than it actually was and we were soon at
the top enjoying beautiful vistas of the gorge and valley below.
A bit higher we could see Refugio Chileno, nicely camouflaged down the river valley. Our track turned into a narrow
goat path then headed back down to the gorge. Around 6PM, we arrived at Chileno and found the cafeteria inside crowded
with people who looked like they had just stepped out of an L.L.Bean catalog. So, instead of spending 7000 peso for
pitching a tent there, or 13,000 for a bed, we bought 1 liter of red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, a sleeve of chocolate
cookies for 4500 peso and put our backpacks back on -- we were taking our Cab for a night of wild camping.
The night was falling and the track was not easy with a lot of short but steep hills along the river. One hour later,
we strolled into the free camping area, Camp Chileno, just before dark.
With Brian trying to look for the ultimate camping spot and me wanting to settle down as soon as possible, somehow,
we managed to upset each other before we set our tent up on a less than perfect grassy spot by the river. The night
must be magical, or maybe it was the soothing sound of the river flowing down, soon, we were leaning against each other
while sipping a fine cup of wine with crackers waiting for our pasta to be ready.
It was a wonderful night.