Cycling Chile/Argentina '04 | Torres del Paine Index Day 13 Day 15
      Day 14: Camp Chileno <-> Las Torres Trekking: 5KM Lap of Luxury

Rest day. We woke up to a quiet morning with nobody around. Down the river, the icy cold glacier water was not the most welcoming but I badly needed a hair wash. To minimize the exposure, I used our drinking cup to wet the tip of my hair first, then took a deep breath and suddenly felt the squeeze -- my head must have shrunk at least one size. Later, when I was back at the tent waiting to be thawn by the sun, I heard Brian screaming for his life from where I was -- it is a ritual everybody has to endure.

With only cameras and a water bottle, we joined the pilgrimage with tens, if not hundreds of others going up the exposed talus field to the base of Las Torres, one hour away from our camp. The three towers (torres = towers) stood majestically high up to the sky like giant cathedrals but it wasn't until the very last step when an unexpected glacier lake came into view that I was totally captivated by the scenery.

We found ourselves a small alcove out of the wind, and sight of other people, and sat there pondering the idea of one day climbing one of these towers.

Back to our camp, we stopped to have a conversation with the park ranger and a Mexican traveler who had been hitchhiking all the way here from Baja California. The Mexican speaks very good English and naturally became our translator. Curious about why we did not get any "Tacos" at camp Pehoe, I told our story to him and through him to the Chilean. Then, they burst out laughing -- "Taco" is not taco here, they call a bundle of firewood "Taco"!

Outside the ranger's small cabin, there was another odd-looking, octangular wood hut. When he found out we were rock climbers, the ranger took us inside. You could easily convince me it was the ruin of a prehistorical caveman's dwelling other than pictures of route maps on the wall. A group of 5 African climbers built and used this hut as their base camp for a 35-day attempt to climb the north tower in the seventies.

We discovered something else too. While we were talking, the Chilean park ranger kept filling water and drinking it out of a small cup through a smoking pipe like tube. When he noticed me looking at it, he passed the cup over and offered me to drink, out of the same tube he was drinking!

"Do you like it, it's Mate." He asked me. It was pretty strong, and very different. One sip of it and Brian claimed he was drinking liquid tobacco.

"It is good for you, especially in the mountain." He told us. That was the first time we had a Mate (pronounced as Ma-Tay).