Tag Archives: hiking

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!

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Bariloche: bars, bushwalks and bad behaviour

Pictures of Bariloche make it look like a sleepy little town in the Argentinean mountains, but this place can be as wild and exciting as you want it to be. It’s surrounded by monumental natural beauty, but also full of great restaurants, busy bars and nightclubs that run until dawn breaks over the lakes. During my time in Bariloche, I saw a little of everything it has to offer – and trust me, it offers a lot.

I arrived to predictions of heavy rain, so I immediately extended what was planned to be a three day visit to five. It was a good call, because the weather the first few days was atrocious. I still set out into the wind and rain to climb Cerro Otto, a 15km round trip from town, which on a nice day would deliver wonderful views back over Bariloche. Honestly, I should’ve stayed in bed with a box of wine and a good book. I saw next to nothing and just ended up cold, wet and tired, like a nymphomaniac snowman’s girlfriend (yeah I know, I was really reaching with that one).

After drying off, I decided to get my insides wet instead, loading up on cheap supermarket booze before heading into town with a young lass I’d met earlier at an empanada stand. Seriously, nothing turns me on more than a woman who can down a dozen meat-filled pastries in a sitting. If I thought the weather was challenging, it was nothing compared to an evening in Bariloche. We started out at a delightful restaurant where I had my first encounter with a thick, juicy slab of Argentinean beef. No, I didn’t suck off some swarthy Latino bloke, I got stuck into a steak, which isn’t something I often treat myself to because I’m a povo backpacker. I got the small steak, but it was still the size of my head and absolutely scrumptious. Fortunately, the waiter forgot to charge me for my food, so it tasted even better.

Bariloche is known as Argentina’s party capital for a reason, and after dinner I stumbled through a haze of bars serving wide ranges of craft beers, and clubs playing thumping European techno music. At some point, whilst I was having an illuminating conversation with a tattooed bouncer regarding whether or not I had ingested one too many beers, my lady friend slipped off into the night with the bloke from the empanada stand. As I looked out over the warming sun as it climbed over the lakes, with vomit on my shirt, I was just happy I’d made it through the night. It was great to be in a proper city after weeks in remote villages but come on, I’m 35, too many nights like that would kill me.

Fortunately, the weather picked up from there, and I was able to appreciate the true glory of the area. I jumped on a bus out to the waterfront village of Llao Llao, which is the starting point for a number of short but breathtaking hikes. Climbing to the top of Monte Llao Llao (an easy hour’s hike from the bus stop) is a must-do when in Bariloche, and as I sat up there, I couldn’t help thinking that it was perhaps the most spectacular place I’d ever visited. Well, maybe there’s a few places between legs that best it, but it was still very pleasant.

Bariloche is a weird place. It looks and feels much like a European city, but it has enough dirt and grime (and a surprisingly large amount of burnt-out cars) to give away the fact it’s not quite first world. Dogs wander around everywhere, graffiti is splattered across most walls, and little Argie dudes rush around everywhere. But with such a massive selection of bars and restaurants, as well as some of the best scenery you’ll ever see, it really is a cool place. Now I need to get out of here and head somewhere to give my liver a rest. I hear Buenos Aires is nice this time of hear… how could I possibly get into trouble there?

El Chaltén to Bariloche bus: Are we there yet?

The worst thing about being at the arse end of the world is that it’s a really, really bloody long way from anywhere. So when I wanted to leave El Chalten, in Argentina’s southern Patagonia, I really only had one option – a 24-hour-long bus trip along Ruta 40 to Bariloche. And yes, it was every bit as grueling as you’d expect, with sickening food, stops in creepy towns and police busts.

At least the cops have cool uniforms

If you’re heading north from El Chaltén, the bus is the only way to go outside backtracking to El Calafate and taking an expensive flight to Buenos Aires, so they sell out early. During autumn there are only three buses a week, leaving plenty of people (like me) stranded in El Chaltén for a week or more. By the time I staggered to the bus stop at 10pm, I felt like I was breaking out of prison.

Look how much fun I’m having

Whilst the trip sounded like a nightmare, I boarded the bus with hopes and dreams of being seated next to a pretty European lass. As the Patagonian wilderness rolled past, I’d win her heart with stories of my drunken adventures and by saying that her hair looked pretty, and maybe get a handjob around the 17 hour mark. Instead I climbed on to find a fat German bloke sitting in my seat with half an empenada hanging out his mouth, and when I asked him to move he farted into my seat and said he’d kill me in my sleep. I suppose dreams arent meant to come true.

Expect to look at this for 11 hours straight

The first 10 hours of the trip crawl through the pitch-black Argentinean night. The road out of El Chalten is bumpier than a crack addict’s complexion and there are no towns, villages, windmills, trees or amusement parks to break up the monotony. There’s not even much cow shit to gawk at. With nothing in the way of heating, it was so cold on the bus that ice was forming on the inside of the windows. I was just grateful the bus actually had windows.

The best bit of the trip was when they played a Morgan Freeman film… in Spanish

There are two types of seating; the more expensive cama, with fully reclinable seats and plenty of space, and the cheaper semi-cama, which lean back a little and are a bit shit. I’d recommend the cama every day, but the little bloke at the bus station must’ve picked me for a poor cunt, because he didn’t even give me the option. So, squashed legs and an aching back it was.

Oh yay, it’s a dog! And a crack caravan!

Fortunately, the good folks from Marga serve food on the bus. Unfortunately, it’s of indescribably bad quality and the serving sizes wouldn’t satisfy a Somalian toddler who’d already stuffed his face with rice. Dinner and lunch were identical packages that consisted of some sort of dodgy biscuit, a slice of soggy garlic bread, and a sandwich that caused heated debate between diners regarding the identity of the contents. Some said chicken, some said tuna, I said arse. Homeless arse. Trust me, that’s the worst kind.

You wouldn’t feed this shit to a sex offender

It’s a boring trip with stuff-all to see, so if you think it’s a good way to check out Argentina’s stunning scenery you’re out of luck. Ruta 40 is nowhere near the Andes, and the only thing you’re likely to see hour after hour is dead grass and brown hills. The occasional llama or deadbeat town are the only things to break up the boredom. Well, that and the chance of being caught up in a major police bust like I was.

Wait! There’s a bush!

Alright, ‘major police bust’ might be the biggest exaggeration since I told a girl that I’m often confused with Peter North, but there was still some excitement when the bus was pulled over by the cops. A local woman on board was caught smuggling a small dog in her handbag, which meant our trip was delayed for two hours in the middle of nowhere. Honestly, there are so many street dogs in Argie that she might as well have left her old dog at home and picked up a new one when she arrived. The rude bitch didn’t even apologise!

Take your dog and fuck off, lady

There’s no denying that the El Chalten to Bariloche bus is a tough ride, and as far from the glamorous side of travelling as possible. It’s a never-ending journey for backpackers seeking adventures in far-flung destinations, with the ever-present danger of major delays or breakdowns. By the end I was so tired I could barely pick up a six pack to drink back at my hostel. But there was also something wonderful about being surrounded by people willing to go through such an ordeal for the sole reason of exploring the world. Would I recommend travelling through Patagonia this way? In a heartbeat. Would I do it again? Fuck no, are you crazy?

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 Quattro: The rain in Paine falls mostly on me

Torrential rain. Sub-zero temperatures. Sleet and snow. Cyclonic winds. They sound like good names for heavy metal bands, but they’re not the kind of words you want to hear while you’re hiking through Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. My fourth day on the W Trek dawned with absolutely appalling weather that saw a number of tracks closed for safety reasons, and left me wondering whether I’d actually get out of my tent at all.

I did finally crawl out around 10am to start a wet, wild and at sometimes dangerous 16km walk towards the ccentral Las Torres campsite. I can’t say the views were breathtaking, because I could see dick-all other than the thick clouds around me and the rain that pelted into my eyes. It didn’t take long before I was wetter than a fat chick with a box of fresh donuts. As the weather worsened, I had to keep going, because there was no shelter or places to divert to. It was just one sopping foot in front of the other for hours.

There’s a section of this track that runs along the shores of Lago Nordenskjold,and that’s where things got truly dicey. The wind was smashing through at more than 150km/h – enough to knock me off my feet and send rocks flying at my head. It was kind of scary, and I was grateful when an attractive Chinese girl asked if I wanted to hold onto her pole so I didn’t get blown away.

“No thanks,” I replied. “But feel free to hold onto my pole if you like. You won’t be blown away by it, either.”

The last few kilometres of the walk felt like something out of a World War II prison camp. Lonely, skeletal figures staggered through the gloom, sometimes falling, never speaking. When I finally reached the camp, it was even worse. Far from the comforts of Camp Grey and Camp Frances, Las Torres is little more than a turd-smeared toilet block and a small tent, which was full of muddy, crying, shivering survivors. To make things worse, the shack that serves as a shop was out of Clos. It was a tragic end to an awful day – or so I thought.

“Hey man!” came a voice, and I turned around to see Antonio standing there with a girl under each arm. He told me he was heading back to Puerto Natales on the next bus, and planned to get drunk and go dancing. I looked around at the horror show surrounding me as I weighed up my options; I could stick around in the mud and misery another day in the slim hope that a miracle would happen and it would clear up enough that I could hike up to the Torres in the morning. Or I could jump on the bus, get epically drunk in a warm pub, and try to pork a stunning Chilean girl. If you’re wondering which way I went, just check the name of this blog.

I made the right decision, because the weather just got worse and I ended up having a top night. After getting back to Puerto Natales at 10, a bunch of us loaded up on boxes of cheap Clos and headed out to a swinging bar, where I got smashed on awesome local beer and worked my way through a kilogram of chips. I’m doing my best to rediscover all the weight I’ve lost over the last year.

Things then took a turn for the bizarre. On the way home from the bar, after killing another box of Clos, Tony and I ended up in a near-deserted pub with only one old pisshead drinking in the corner. At 3am it seemed like as good a place as any to continue the festivities, so we got stuck into more of Patagonia’s finest piss. Then a couple of perverts walked in, and we suddenly found ourselves in a more dangerous situation than anything del Paine could throw at us.

“You are handsome boys, why not you dance on the pole?” asked one of the creeps. At first I assumed he was talking about his dick, but then the barmaid flicked a switch and a sad string of rope lights lit up a pole in a dark corner of the room. The sicko started gyrating to a song that must’ve been playing in his head, saying, “You would look so good on the pole. Don’t be scared, I dance with you.”

I told the idiot in no uncertain terms that I didn’t intend on dancing on any poles, but poor old Antonio was drunk enough to be coerced into the corner. He bopped around a bit while the perverts oohed and ahhed and lifted up their shirts to expose their erect nipples, and I laughed along and did my best to cop a feel of the barmaid’s big tits. Suddenly, my Portuguese pal let out a squeal and raced for the door, spilling out into the frigid night. I skolled my beer and followed him, and when we saw that the perverts were after us, we ran through the icy streets of Puerto Natales until we were sure we’d lost them.

“I’m fine with dancing on the pole, I’m alright with their sexy comments, but I draw the line at them biting my penis,” he yelled.

I just nodded, afraid to ask any further, and then handed Antonio a box of Clos to help him suppress the memories.

“No more Clos,” he wept, throwing the carton into an open drain. “With you, it is always about the Clos! We hike, we drink Clos! We don’t hike, we drink Clos! Because of Clos, I was almost raped by a retarded guy!”

If the marketing team at Clos don’t use that as their tagline in the future, they should lose their fucking jobs.

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 Dos: Prances to Frances

After a spectacular first day in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, I was looking forward to a cracking second day that would see me hike 23km from Camp Grey to Camp Frances. This section of the W Trek winds past lakes, mountains and waterfalls, but when I woke up, all I could see was rain. I felt like snuggling into my sleeping bag and wanking the day away, but I put on a brave face and strutted out into the angry wilderness.

The first half of the journey involves backtracking towards Paine Grande, where I started the trek, but it was like I was seeing everything for the first time again. A different time of day meant that the mountains and valleys shone bright with new colours, and I was amazed by Torres del Paine all over again. I get the feeling you could walk these trails a thousand times and still fail to see everything.

The second half of the day saw me climbing up headlands that provided fantastic views over the shimmering lakes, with sensational snow-capped cliffs in the background. I splashed through icy creeks, and scurried across dodgy-looking wooden bridges that looked like they could fall to bits at any minute and causing me to bust my arse. It wasn’t a tough hike, so I was able to enjoy the stunning vistas around me, as I neared the imposing mountains of the Frances Valley.

It’s autumn in Patagonia, so the park is ablaze with burning reds and simmering oranges, which stand in stark contrast to the azure water and emerald hills. However, despite being a truly wild place, it’s surprisingly quiet. There are very few birds, animals or insects, so often the only noises are far-off rivers bubbling away, or glaciers collapsing in the distance. Just ignore the whinging Americans that pop up every hour or so, and it’s like being the only person on Earth.

When I finally made it to Camp Frances, my Portiguese mate Antonio was standing at the front gate with a beautiful Korean girl under his arm.

“Hey baby,” he cooed. “A puma ate my tent this morning, can I sleep in yours?”

“Oh no, that’s so sad,” replied the lass. “You’re very brave, of course you can sleep in mine.”

“Excellent. The puma also ate my pyjamas, so I won’t be wearing any to bed.”

With that, Antonio led the Korean beauty off so that she could sample his linguiça.

Camp Frances is a cool place, with dozens of wooden camping platforms strewn about the forest, like something out of a fairy tale. It’s a magical place, but there is an evil that lurks beneath the trees – horrible, razor-toothed mice that eat anything they can find, even if they have to chew their way through tents or bags to find it. These filthy pricks get into everything, and the only way to escape their hunger-fuelled wrath is to hang your food from a high tree. It’s also a good way to keep your chocolate bars away from fat cunts.

The best way to forget about the ravenous rats is to get shitfaced, and Frances is a great place for it. The on-site minimarket sells one-litre cartons of wine for 4000 pesos – a deal I most certainly availed myself of. Clos is actually a pretty good drop, and I ended up downing two boxes with Antonio when he finally emerged from the Korean’s tent with a smirk on his face. Everyone else was in bed by nine, but we rocked on till 2:30, when the Clos was finally empty and Antonio staggered off to find a tent to pass out in.

The W Trek never fails to surprise, amaze and challenge, and as I pushed further into the hike I fell even more in love with Torres del Paine National Park. It’s a top place to hike, and all those delightful mountains and valleys look even better when you’re smashed. Torres del Paine could well be the perfect pairing of alcoholism and ascending mountains. Speaking of which, I need to shake off this hangover and keep heading through the mountains…