Category Archives: hiking

I Love Lucerne: The 5 coolest things about Switzerland’s medieval metropolis

THE LION MONUMENT

When bloodthirsty revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace during the 10th of August Insurrection in 1792, more than 600 Swiss guards were slaughtered whilst bravely trying to defend the French royal family. In 1820, this truly moving statue was carved to commemorate their efforts. Whilst the throngs of Chinese tourists with selfie sticks take away from the atmosphere somewhat, it’s an important part of the city’s history. Plus, there are pubs nearby.

Moustachioed author/rhythmic gymnast Mark Twain is probably the only writer more revered by the literary community than myself, so it seems right for me to let him say a few words about this tragic beast. Plus, he’s dead, so there’s no chance of him suing me for plagiarism.

“The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff — for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.

“Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.”

I’m certainly not lion when I say it’s a must-see when visiting this wonderful city!

PILATUS

When a little Swiss bloke suggested that pilates is the number one thing to experience whilst in Lucerne, I assumed he was on the drugs. After all, I’ve been thrown out of pilates classes across the globe, so they’re nothing new to me. Then I realised he was actually talking about Mount Pilatus, and kind of regretted reporting the little bloke to the cops for heroin possession.

The big slab of rock is close to the centre of town and it’s a short bus ride from the main station to the base. There’s a cable car to the top that can save you an eight-hour round-trip hike, but it costs close to $100, so do what I did – wait till the attendants at the bottom aren’t looking and just hop on. Like beer, cable cars are even tastier when they’re free!

I’m not sure what the view from the top of 2118m Donkey Peak is like, because the weather was shithouse and it was draped in clouds, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had on the mountain. There are bars, ropes courses, and paragliding launches. On the way back down a crazy black man started chasing me and I had to hide in a small cave. Good times!

THE CHAPEL BRIDGE

I’ve been infatuated by old, wooden buildings ever since my nextdoor neighbour Mr Pringle took me to see
The Bridges of Madison County at the cinema when I was eight years old. It was difficult for me to see the film through my tears of shame, but it certainly left an impression on me.

Known to locals as Kapellbrücke, this structure is the oldest surviving wooden covered bridge in Europe, having been built in 1365, and is seen as the symbol of the city. It’s right in the middle of town, just a stone’s throw from the station, and can get really bloody busy. There are all sorts of fancy paintings in it, including a number depicting beheadings and lynchings and all that fun stuff, so psychos should be satisfied.

I would have liked to stroll along the bridge with my good friend Mr Pringle, but he’s currently enjoying his honeymoon with his seven-year-old Vietnamese husband, Tran, at Disneyland.

YE OLDE TOWNE

Lucerne is older than Hugh Jackman’s wife, and the historic heart of the city is really well preserved. I had fun pretending I’d found a time machine and had been transported back to medieval Europe, smugly swaggering around with iPhone in hand whilst the backwards peasants around me amused themselves with sharpened sticks and dried dog turds.

Then I started thinking about the black plague and what I could do to prevent it ever happening, so I raced around warning people not to fuck rats. I thought about World War II and started telling anyone with a little moustache that nobody’s impressed by mass genocide. I tried to warn the clueless Euros about the atrocities to come, but it didn’t work. Nobody appreciated my heartfelt pleas and eventually some locals threw me in the frigid Reuss River. Oh well, enjoy coughing up your intestintes and getting chucked in concentration camps, you ungrateful pricks.

THE LUCERNE GOLEM

Everyone knows that the Swiss have been involved in a brutal war with vampires for the past 4000 years, but what’s not so well known is the reason Lucerne has never been overrun by creatures of the night. It’s because of Plugg, who’s some sort of magical golem.

Legend has it that the vampires were about take over the city when the locals, out of sheer desperation, crafted Plugg out of mud and horse manure, danced around her a bit, and then sacrificed 683 virgins in order to bring her to life. Sounds like a waste of perfectly good virgins to me, but anyway, it worked. Plugg came to life, splattered the vamps, and has looked after Lucerne ever since.

I found Plugg beneath the ancient Musegg Wall and, magic vanquisher of demons or not, she wasn’t able to protect herself from my roving hands. I just hope no bloodsucking freaks snuck in whilst we were making out.

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Intensely interesting interactions in Interlaken

Switzerland is best known for reliable watches, multi-purpose knives, successful tennis players and its lively gangsta rap scene, but all I was really interested in during my visit was climbing a really big mountain and then paragliding into wild. So after bidding adieu to Hamster I headed straight for Interlaken, an adventure playground high up in the Alps that offers something for everyone.

Switzerland (not to be confused with Swaziland – if you’re not sure which one you’re in, just look around and count the black people) is about the size of your average Manly fan’s penis and has great public transport infrastructure, so it’s easy to explore. With some time to kill in Geneva before catching the train to Interlaken, I took a stroll through the buzzing city centre and along Lake Geneva’s lively waterfront. The mixture of history, culture and architecture makes for a stunning place to spend an arvo – shame there was a half-pissed Aussie ruining the authentic Euro feel of the place.

A few hours on a modern train brought me to the fairytale village of Interlaken, with it’s shimmering lakes, cute houses, thunderous mountains and swarms of Chinese tourists. Ignore the throngs of selfie-snapping shitheads and it’s easy to fall in love with the place. The sweet scent of freshly-baked bread and cakes wafts through the streets, and the sound of energetic music competes with bird songs for attention. There’s something beautiful to see on every corner, it’s easy to get around, and there are usually paragliders soaring through the air, so it’s pretty much a slice of heaven.

As the name suggests, Interlaken is in-ter-middle of a couple of wonderful lakes. The water is cold year-round, but slug a few cans of Quöllfrisch and they’re fine to swim in. There are dozens of hikes to take on, a couple of funicular railways that look like they’d be plenty of fun(icular) if they didn’t cost so much, and the opportunity to go bungy jumping, sky diving and jet boating. Whether you’re poor as a dog’s foot or have cash falling out your anus, there’s no reason to be bored in Interlaken.

A word of warning, Interlaken is more expensive than a Filipino mail order bride, and even a night in a bog-standard hotel costs as much as buying a three-bedroom house in Wyong. Luckily, there’s a cheaper option – the less-than-salubrious Balmers Tent Village. The beds aren’t comfortable, the toilets aren’t clean, and the whole shebang feels like its going to blow away in anything more than a gentle breeze, but at least it’s in the price range of your average drunken Aussie. The fact the old birds I was sharing my tent with brought me breakfast in bed each morning didn’t hurt, either (even if it left me wondering whether they’d been sucking me off in my sleep).

Interlaken is the heart of the rugged Bernese Oberland region, but there are lots of great little villages surrounding it, and they’re all worth checking out. I caught the train to Grindelwald – which is sure to put a grin on anyone’s face – and was astonished by how beautiful it was. The mountains are so enormous and imposing they even put the Andes to shame, and as the sun peeked through the clouds and shone off the verdant green pastures and eternal glaciers, I really felt like I was somewhere special.

There’s a cable car to the 2166m-high First summit, but it costs $90, so being a work-shy deadshit budget-conscious backpacker I decided to hike it instead. It’s not a particularly tough trip, and the views are unreal, but it is pretty bloody dangerous. Not because of avalanches or rockslides, but because the path up the hill is shared with Asians scooting back down on go-karts. Our little Oriental mates aren’t great drivers at the best of times, and their skills don’t magically get better when hooning down the side of an astonishingly steep mountain at 150km/h.

When I made it to the top I looked out in wonder at the magnificent landscape in front of me, then got the hell out of there before anyone could ask me to join the search party for the half-a-dozen Chinamen who zoomed off the cliff to their deaths that afternoon. All in all, not a bad way to check out the Swiss Alps, but now it was time to fly over them…

Floripa Madness!

There are certain places on this big fuck-off blue ball called Earth that I truly believe I was drawn to. Whether to meet someone who would touch my soul or to experience something that would change my life, I didn’t choose to visit these destinations – they chose me. Florianopolis, in the south of Brazil, is one of those very special places. I stumbled in for what I thought would be three nights and now I’m regretfully stumbling out 15 days later, feeling as though I’ve experienced a lifetime in a single fortnight. Yeah, Floripa is a pretty damn cool place.

It was by pure chance that I ended up visiting the island. As well as boasting some of the greatest surf breaks and paragliding sites on the planet, Florianopolis was also at the centre of a major international drug smuggling ring for many years. The story of drug runners and millionaire kingpins was told in Kathryn Bonella’s fantastic book Operation Playboy, which my old man read a few months ago. He told me to read it, I did, and the picture painted of Florianopolis meant that I had to include it on my trip through South America. And they say drugs aren’t good for anyone!

The actual city of Floripa is nice enough, straddling the coast of Santa Catarina and the edge of Ilha de Santa Catarina, but the true beauty comes from some of the further flung spots. There are 42 beaches on the island, and most of them are spectacular. I set up camp in the hills overlooking Barra da Lagoa, a fishing village lined with palm trees and golden sand. It’s a peaceful place that reminds me of Bali, with monkeys swinging from the trees, bamboo houses, open-air bars and restaurants, and a good vibe. As I walked down the beach for the first time, with emerald hills rising above me and the azure waves crashing at my feet, I already knew that three nights wouldn’t be enough.

People check out Drunk and Jobless for the naked photos of me humping statues and wild stories of alcohol-fuelled debauchery, so I’m not going to post an entry that reads like a teenager’s diary, but I was fortunate enough to meet someone wonderful on that mystical island off the coast of South America. Someone who showed me the beauty of Brazilian culture, taught me that beer belongs in the freezer even when it’s cold out, didn’t judge me for wearing skin-tight womens leggings in public, and introduced me to the magic of caipirinha and the kilo lunch. We spent enough time together that I now wear thongs inside and wash my underpants in the shower, like a true Brazilian. Floripa is a place anyone would enjoy, but one person made it truly incredible for me.

Right, the mushy stuff’s over, somoving on. Florianopolis is a magical island, and if you’re drawn there, don’t fight it. Go snorkelling, hike up mountains, drink cheap beer in great bars by the water, sit in the sun and smile, perve on stunning women wearing G-bangers, wear a G-banger yourself and not feel like you’re being judged for doing so, lie in a hammock and watch the world roll past, gorge yourself on pizza for three meals a day, enjoy strolling through the crime-free streets, visit the nudist beach, get caught in a Brazilian truckers strike and not be able to go anywhere because there’s no petrol, swim in crystal clear waters, kayak past the most incredible waterfront houses you’ll ever see, dance the samba with locals, end up with lots of useless change in your pocket, and watch the sun set over the water with a good bottle of cheap wine. Fifteen years wouldn’t be enough time there, let alone 15 days, so there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be back. Put the Brahma in the fridge!

I Can’t Help Iguazu Falls-ing in Love With You

I’ve never met a waterfall I didn’t like – and trust me, I’ve seen a few over the years – so there was no chance I’d miss out on Iguazu Falls during my adventures through South America. Along with Africa’s Victoria Falls and North America’s Niagara Falls, Iguazu is part of the holy trinity of big, wet, splashy things, and it’s absolutely magnificent. If you don’t believe me, just have a squiz at the photos.

Iguazu is 82 metres tall, 2700 metres wide, has 275 drops and woos millions of tourists every year. And ladies, he’s single! The locals reckon the falls were created when some tart named Naipí was meant to marry a god named El Kevin, but she fucked off with some other bloke (probably a Maori) and so Kev cracked the dirts and sliced the river up. I don’t know how historically accurate that is, but it sounds good enough to me.

Half the places to view the falls are in Argentina and the other half are in Brazil, but it’s a short trip between the two sites so it’s possible to check out both. There are three main tracks through the Argie side of the falls, so it takes at least half a day to check everything out, and that’s if you don’t spend too much time stuffing around, oohing and ahhing at all there is to see. I headed out after a 26 hour bus trip from Montevideo and managed to see it all before beer o’clock, so it’s not that much effort.

Circuito Superior and Circuito Inferior both give a good idea of what the falls are all about, with some really pretty spots, but these walks never reach the spectacular highs found at Victoria Falls. The falls are, for the most part, a little too far away, with only the final fall of the Inferior stroll rising up above the boardwalk. Luckily, that’s not the best of it.

Garganta del Diablo, or The Devil’s Throat, is what it’s all about. After catching a fun little train through the jungle, a wooden boardwalk took me out over the gurgling Rio Iguazu, to a bottleneck where thousands of litres of water crashes down every minute. The brute power of nature is astonishing, and I just stood back in wide-eyed wonder as the spray smashed into me and the whole world sounded like it was being torn apart. If this is what the devil’s throat is like, perhaps someone should hand the poor bloke a Butter Menthol.

As has become tradition when I visit waterfalls, I befriended a couple of coloured gentlemen. Reuben and Bert, a gay couple for Suriname, are very much in love and enjoying their honeymoon together. Whilst marvelling at the spectacular views, Reuben declared that the only thing more powerful than the raging waters of Iguazu Falls is one of Bert’s kisses. I dunno about that, because my urge to chunder was pretty bloody powerful right about then.

The comparisons with Victoria Falls are obvious, but I have to say that, so far, Africa’s Smoke that Thunders reigns supreme over South America’s Big Water. Not only is it larger and more imposing (but enough about my penis!), but the tracks offer more variety and allow you to really get up close to the massive wall of water. Don’t get me wrong, Iguazu is superb and truly one of the most awesome things on the planet, but I did feel a tad let down after visiting Victoria Falls.

Going from Victoria Falls to Iguazu is like rooting a chick with big tits, but being slightly disappointed because you rooted a chick with bigger tits the night before. It doesn’t make rooting the chick with big tits a bad experience, but in a perfect world you’d have the big tits first, and the bigger tits second – or in this case, Iguazu for an entree and Victoria for the main course. Sorry, I got distracted by all those tits for a second.

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A hell of a time in El Chaltén

El Chaltén is a great little town surrounded by natural beauty, but when I found out I’d be stuck here for a week due to a lack of buses, I wasn’t the happiest little Vegemite. The townsfolk are preparing to close the place down for the winter, so there are hardly any restaurants or bars available, and the streets are almost deserted. With some dodgy weather around threatening to keep me off the area’s world famous hiking trails, I was looking at spending day after day locked up in my hostel watching re-runs of M*A*S*H and eating stale Argentinean bread – but as it turns out I’ve had a fuckin’ cracker of a time here.

With dark clouds all around, I took a trip along the Laguna Torre track, which is really gorgeous. It’s an easy hike that offers stunning views out over the valleys and canyons, which are burning orange and red at this time of year. After 8km I found myself at the lake, which was actually a bit disappointing. It’s basically a poo-brown pond surrounded by mounds of dirty rocks, with a pretty sad-looking glacier at one end. The hike is like a Stephen King novel – brilliant all the way through, with a crap and disappointing ending.

When the sun finally shone down upon El Chaltén, I took a stroll up to Lago Capri, which lies at the base of Monte Fitz Roy. Now this is a nice blopdy lake. The whole thing was frozen over so I couldn’t go for a dip, but that’s probably a good thing because it would have been a similar experience to getting fucked up the arse by Frosty the Snowman. Seriously though, you’d struggle to find a nicer place anywhere on the planet.

Loma del Pliegue Tumbado is a hard name to say, and the hike out to this mirador is just as difficult. It climbs 1000m over the course of a 9km scramble through forests, ending with a steep climb through deep snow. It was pretty much deserted when I was there, because I guess all the fat cunts who tried to climb it died of heart attacks and rolled back to the bottom.

My struggles were repaid many times over, because the views from the top are astonishing. I found myself in a perfect position to kick back and marvel at the shimmering Andes. Until I saw Fitz Roy in all its glory, basking in sunshine, I couldn’t have imagined how incredible it is. In the right light, the entire mountain range glows. The whole experience was made even more special by the fact I was smashed on bottles of ice-cold Quilmes.

So now, as I prepare to board a bus for a 24-hour ride to Bariloche, I’m glad that I was forced to spend an extra couple of days in El Chaltén. It allowed me to take my time and explore more of Patagonia’s astonishing wilderness. I was able to form a more intimate relationship with Fitz Roy, as I saw the massif in all sorts of different conditions. And more than that, it allowed me to get really, really wankered on cheap boxed wine every night back at the hostel – and that’s what travelling is all about, right?

Goon and lagoons: The Laguna de los Tres trail

The Laguna de los Tres hiking trail in El Chalten, Argentina, is one of the most awe-inspiring walks in tbe world. It sweeps along ancient cliffs, past raging rivers, and towards glowing glaciers – but I didn’t get to enjoy much of it because I was monumentally hungover after a night of drinking the dodgiest red wine legally allowed to be sold without breaking numerous United Nations conventions.

Actually, the first half of the hike was fine because I was still pretty pissed. With another box of Vino Toro in hand, I sauntered into the park with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. It’s a steep trek, but the path is well maintained, with heaps of brilliant miradors to provide views out over the valleys and mountains. Seeing as I was drunk, I was extremely personable and made lots of friends, including one pervert who told me that Australians are the best-looking blokes on Earth. I gave him a high-five and kept swaggering up the hill.

I’d heard that the last kilometre of the 12km first leg of the walk was challenging, and it fucking well was. It features a 400m climb through ice and snow, with strong winds making things even harder. I had to climb up on my hands and knees, sliding back down the cliff a few times and ripping my hands apart. It was made more difficult by the fragile state I was in, but this is a rough climb by any standards, so quadriplegics should forget about it.

The views from the top, however, made the whole struggle worth it. Not only is it possible to look back along the fiery orange valley, but the shining blue de los Tres Glacier stands imposingly in front of the mirador, and is spectacular. Laguna de los Tres basks in its own azure glory, and Monte Fitz Roy stands imposingly above it all, rising thousands of metres up into the clouds. It’s quite a nice spot, really.

The walk back to El Chalten was somewhat more difficult than the trip up, because with every step I became further consumed by the brain-stomping hangover that comes with guzzling Vino Toro. Twelve kilometres might as well have been 1000, as I lurched from side to side, seeing double and doing my best not to shit myself and hurl up my guts at the same time. My best, it seems, was not good enough.

The rancid red broth in my stomach was causing me all sorts of trouble, and I finally collapsed in the middle of the track and unleashed a steady stream of deep crimson bile that steamed angrily in the early evening air. When I started I couldn’t stop, and soon the path was awash with the tumultuous residue of my boozy evening. I lost all track of time and place, and was barely able to see or hear. I thought I might die out there, and at that point I didn’t really care if that happened. This was the sort of hangover that should be reserved solely for sex predators and Manly fans.

I was crawling into a bush that seemed a good place to perish in, when I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder.

“Come with me, my friend,” came a swarthy Latino voice, and I looked up into a kind, mono-browed Argentinean face. It was one of the park’s hard-working rangers, and he helped me to my feet and gave me a bottle of water.

“No, not water, ” I gasped. “I’m hungover, don’t you have a beer?”

The little bloke gave me a wink and rifled through his bag, finally producing a can of Quilmes. I guzzled it, did a little dance, and felt ready to run back down the hill.

“We carry these just for the Australians,” the ranger chuckled, and we both pranced back to El Chalten, hand in hand, as a full moon rose over Patagonia. All was well in the valley.

El Chaltén is an el champion place!

I’ve been to plenty of out-of-the-way places over the years, but few have been as remote as the Argentinean village of El Chaltén. This tiny dot on the map is home to just 1600 people and a bloody long way from anywhere – around 220km down the road from El Calafate, which itself has a population that could fit in a phone booth, provided the locals hadn’t been eating too many empanadas. There’s only one reason for anyone to be in El Chaltén, and that’s because it offers some of the best hiking on the planet, underneath the imposing Monte Fitz Roy.

I arrived by bus in the early arvo and, because the weather wasn’t completely shithouse, decided to get out and see what I could see. The three main hikes (Laguna de los Tres, Laguna Torre and Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado) each take more than eight hours to complete, so I went for a couple of shorter options (like that time I banged midget Siamese twins. They weren’t conjoined freaks or anything, just from Siam. And I dunno if they were really twins or if I was just so smashed I was seeing double. Shit, if you’ve stumbled across this site because you’re interested in South American hiking, I feel sorry for you).

First up was the popular Los Cóndores walk, which starts just out of town and is only around a 3km round trip. It provides a top view out over El Chaltén, as well as the opportunity to watch condors cruising through the skies. The end of the track also offers the chance to marvel at the delightful Lago Viedma. It’s an easy walk – mobs of pensioners were scraping their way up there with their walking frames – and a great way to get acquainted with the area.

From there I walked through town to continue my adventures. El Chaltén exists only for touristic reasons – honestly, why the fuck else would a town pop up hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, at the end of a lonely dead-end road? So despite being a small place, there are heaps of bars and restaurants, which all sell drinks and food at highly inflated prices that a po’ ol’ unemployed champion like thyself could never hope to afford. But if you’re a valuable member of society and actually have more than five dollars in your pocket at any given time, you could have a ball going out every night.

At the northern end of town is the path to the legendary Chorrillo del Salto. Alright, maybe it’s not legendary. Maybe I just heard about it a few hours ago. But waterfalls are grouse, so of course I wanted to see it. The walk there is as easy as a Wyong girl with five Cruisers in her, but there are some stunning views out over the mountains and rivers. The waterfall itself is quite lovely as well.

With plans to hike the 25km Laguna de los Tres trail in the morning, I went to bed early so that I could get a good night’s rest… nah, fuck that. Real men hike with hangovers, so I ended up getting absolutely shitfaced at the hostel with an eclectic mix of Germans, Poms and Italians. We polished off our final box of disgustingly cheap Vino Toro around 4am, at which point I stumbled into bed with someone I didn’t know particularly well, gave her 30 seconds worth of reasons not to want to get to know me particularly well, and promptly passed out. And they say hiking is good for your health.

Ice to meet you! Adventures at the Perito Moreno Glacier

I thought my ex-girlfriend was the most frigid thing on the planet, but then I met the Perito Moreno Glacier. This 250-square-kilometre block of ice is absolutely magnificent, incredibly cold, and one of the highlights of the Argentinean side of Patagonia. If you like massive slabs of ice and being so cold you think you’ll lose a few fingers, then this place is for you. In fact, you’ll probably find it a chill-a-minute!

The town of El Calafate (pronounced smell-curry-far-tee) is a seven-hour bus trip from Puerto Natales, where I bid tchau to my Portuguese mate Tony and left him to rebuild his life after nearly being sexed up by a couple of admirers. El Caf is a decent little tourist town (although sleet-ly too cold for my liking) with some nice restaurants and bars, and a really shitty lake that looks and smells like it’s made out of dog turds.

Which it might well be, because El Calafate has more dogs per capita than anywhere else in the world. There are three dogs for every non-dog, which means they’re everywhere. You can’t scratch your dick without hitting a dog. They’re all over the streets, chasing cars, fucking anything that moves, and crapping on bushes. It’s like having thousands of Todd Carneys in one place.

But enough about the town. People only come to El Calafate for the glacier, and it’s one of the most astonishing sights anyone could wish to see (along with the arse on this one chick I befriended in Slovakia, but that’s another story). The size of it is snow laughing matter – the ice field is 5km wide, 30km long, 100m high and as blue as a Smurf’s blurter.

You can pay top dollar to walk on the glacier or cruise around it in a boat, but I wouldn’t bother because you can get a bergs-eye-view from the park’s numerous trails. There’s a number of walking tracks that get nice and close to the ice, offering the chance to see it from all sorts of different angles and heights. It was bloody freezing, with snow and high winds, but none of it bothered me because I was pissed had such a cool view in front of me. In fact, I froze to the occasion and explored the entire park.

My sidekick for this adventure was my Japanese mate Sean, who had probably warmed himself up with some sake before taking on the sub-zero conditions. If not for that reason, he needed to be piste to put up with the chill-dish jokes fluttering around him. My hilarious acts of wordplay were snowballing, and receiving a frosty reception, so he looked like he was ready to ava-launch himself off the nearest cliff. I don’t know what I did wrong – after all, isn’t Japan known as the land of the icing pun?

Torres del Paine, Day Tres: Avalanches A-Go-Go!

Patagonia’s hiking wonderland of Torres del Paine is like 50 worlds in one. It doesn’t take long to walk from dense forest to sparse flatlands, or to wander from bright sunshine into pelting rain, dense fog or worse. For my third day on the W Trek, I made my way up the Frances Valley towards Mirador Británico. It was a bloody unreal trip, but also saw the onset of horrible weather that threatened the rest of my hike.

The day began with angry winds that rocked Camp Frances, but nothing looked as wild or unkempt as my little Portuguese mate Antonio. He was wandering between the tents in nothing but his underpants, with scratches all over his body and a distressed look on his face.

“Did the rodents eat your clothes, Tony?” I chuckled.

“I wish,” he replied. “I ended up in a tent with a fat girl who had run out of chocolate. She took out her frustrations on me until I finally found a Mars bar in my pocket. I threw it into the bushes and when she dived after it, I escaped. I feel violated and unclean.”

I grabbed my daypack and left the European to piece his life together as I got back out there to see more of the park. The hike up to Mirador Británico is really pretty, running along a roaring river for several kilometres before heading up into the snowcapped mountains. Just look at these photos – it was fuckin’ beautiful and I enjoyed every second I spent looking out at that astonishing landscape.

The most stunning aspect of this hike is the massive glacier that clings to the cliffs far above. Every few minutes, a frightening rumble echoes through the valley, but while it sounds like thunder, it’s actually regular avalanches. They’re incredible to watch – tonnes of ice crashing into the abyss far below. Each frigid tumble emphasises the relentless power of nature, and it’s not hard to feel small when confronted with something that large (something I’m sure Antonio can attest to).

The hike heads through ancient forests full of skeletal trees clawing at the sky, across windswept plains, and ends up with a brilliant view of the rear side of the legendary Cordillera Paine. When I finally made it to the mirador, I had giant mountains on every side of me, providing a memorable view. I didn’t spend too long enjoying it, though, because the wind and rain started up and it actually became pretty dangerous being in such an exposed part of the park.

It was good to have a day’s hiking without my tent and other gear weighing me down, so I’d highly recommend spending two nights at the lovely Camp Frances. By the time I returned, Antonio had moved on to escape the clutches of his plump lover, so I drank a box of lukewarm Clos down by the lake with a group of excitable Chinamen I met.

“He who see rain at night will see mountain in morning,” slurred one of the fellas, before passing out in a bush.

“Ancient Chinese proverb,” explained his mate, whilst not realising he was pissing his pants. “It mean tomorrow will be good day for hiking.”

I just nodded and assumed the bush-diver was Shanghai’s answer to Tim Bailey, but when I woke up the next morning and looked out of my tent at the pouring rain, I realised the truth of another proverb; Never trust a Chinaman who’s smashed on cheap goon. I hope you enjoy these lovely photos because trust me, the story gets a lot nastier from here on.

Torres del Paine, Day Uno: Wild on the W

Tonight, Drunk and Jobless is coming to you live from Patagonia’s world famous Torres del Paine National Park. Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard about it until a few weeks ago, either, but it’s famous with the hiking set, and for good reason. The mountains in this part of Chile are incredible, the lakes are so blue it almost hurts. There are glaciers and icebergs, angry cliffs and violent winds. The weather changes its mind every five minutes, there’s the ever-present danger of being blown into a fjord, and every wonderful sight is beaten by an even more wonderful sight around the next corner. This place is great.

So great that thousands of people come to Torres del Paine every year. Seriously, this joint is Disneyland for people who enjoy looking at trees. I knew that when I found it on one of those shit ‘Top 5 Things to do in Chile’ blogs, but it was driven home when I happened on an introductory lesson for hiking the trail while I was picking up some gear.

“Are there toilets out there?”

“Will I get cold?”

“Where are the Wi-Fi hotspots?”

I’m not some unreal bushman, but I know that if you need to shit on a hike, you go behind a tree… but more on that later. Things didnt improve when I woke up at some some silly time, jumped on a bus, and ended up in the Park. I swear half the motherfuckers there were dressed as if they’d only ever read about hiking on the internet. North Face hard shells when it didn’t even look like raining, five layers of snow clothes when it was about 12 degrees, I even saw some fuckwit in a sombrero.

I took a catamaran across a windswept lake to the start of the hike, and that’s where I met a Portuguese chap named Antonio. He told me that he’d managed to sneak past the front gates of the park without paying, had climbed onto the cat without paying, and planned to camp without handing over a single peso. One thing I’ve learned since arriving in South America is that you don’t want to get between a Chilean and a dollar unless you’re willing to lose a finger, so when I said goodbye to him at Paine Grande camp, I didn’t expect to see him in one piece again.

I’m in Patagonia outside the peak times, but I was still worried that I’d be pushing through people just to keep going along the trail – and the truth is that I pretty much was as I started out on the famed W Trek. I can walk faster than most otber people (except the Germans) but I take a lot of photos, so I had to wind my way around the same people over and over again. For someone who usually hikes alone in Australia, I didn’t really get that feeling of being out in the elements that I usually look for.

It can be a clown show at times, but it is bloody amazing. It’s not just about the mountains and lakes, because every tree and shrub and rock is worth taking a photo of, or just standing back and basking in its glory. There aren’t many places that can match the epic scale of Torres del Paine, so watch your step whilst you’re gaping in wide-eyed wonder at the incredible stuff going on in the Patagonian wilderness around you.

The hiking in Torres del Paine isn’t exactly difficult. There are no really steep bits, or really rocky bits, so as long as you’ve got a set of legs that work, it takes no major effort to get around. What has made it tough for me is the fact I’m carrying everything I need for five days on my back – tent, sleeping bag, mat, and food. Most people choose to stay in the refugios along the way, or rent a different tent each night. Those who really have money falling out their arses also eat in the restaurants, so all they need to carry around is a spare cashmere sweater. Really, if you’re on a week-long camp and you can’t carry your own supplies, maybe you’d be better off staying at home.

Like most people who hike the W, I spent my first night at Camp Grey, about 11km north of where the catamaran docks. After setting up my tent, I hiked a further kilometre to Glacier Grey, which is absolutely astonishing. A wall of glowing blue ice lurks menacingly on the lake, while massive chunks of frozen water constantly break off and cause deafening crashes.

Things were also noisy back at camp, because I got the squirts. There was some bad stuff going on in my guts, and the toilets were full, so I raced down the track out of camp and let rip with last night’s chicken vindaloo, which looked like it hadn’t even touched the sides before coming back out. Unfortunately, in my panic I hadn’t realised that the path looped back towards the campsite, so when I started wiping my arse I looked over to see a couple of horrified Germans gagging on their sausages about three metres away from me.

“Sorry, Gunter,” I chuckled as I wiped my blurter. “I guess a threesome’s out of the question, then?”

There’s quite a nice bar at Camp Grey, but when I wandered in and asked for a cold one the little bloke behind the bar gave me a toothy smile and asked for 4000 pesos, so I stole as many complimentary olives off the bar and hotfooted it out of there. Luckily, I brought a bottle of Chile’s cheapest vodka with me, so when I got back to my tent I was faced with two options. I could take it out to the camp kitchen, where gorgeous European women would treat me like a king and fight for the attention of me and the bottle, inevitably leading to an evening of raucous sexual debauchery. Or I could mix it with a can of overpriced Sprite and smash it in my tent by myself, thus achieving maximum drunkenness and increasing my chances of vomiting on a puma.

I took a deep breath, made my decision, and walked towards the camp kitchen with the cheap bottle in my hands. A dozen women, each one looking stunning despite a hard day of hiking, was drawn to me like moths to a flame. For a few minutes, I was the king of Torres del Paine, as offers of sex and chocolate were thrown my way. But I’m a man of simple tastes, so I chose a delightful Brazilian lass and escorted her back to my tent as she sucked back the vodka.

Once inside, she began to strip off for me in preparation for hours of getting naughty in nature. And then… well, I don’t know, because I was so tired from walking all day that I passed out. When I woke up, there was no sign of the Brazilian or the vodka. I climbed out of my tent, and was stunned to see Antonio sitting on a log with a massive smile on his face.

“You wouldn’t believe my luck!” he told me. “Last night I arrive in camp late, a beautiful Brazilian lady come up to me with a bottle of vodka and asking for sex. She take me back to her tent, we make fuck all night. Three, four, five times. Free accommodation, free alcohol, free poontang. It’s a good day to be Antonio!”