Looking back on the day I trekked to Laguna Torre in Argentinian Patagonia, it fills me with such a wide variety of thoughts and emotions. It was a day that ended up with me getting a violent case of food poisoning (the only time this has ever happened) and blisters on my feet that were so large I am honestly surprised they didn’t pull anything into orbit! However, despite what sounds like a horrendous day, I would do it all over again – because it brought me even closer to my father, and gave me a feeling of truly unparalleled pride.
But let’s start at the beginning!
After a pleasant bus ride from El Calafate to El Chalten, I was eager to get out there and do some Patagonian trekking. After reviewing a map of all the local trails, Papa Burne and I decided to give the Laguna Torres trail a go.
However, the map itself wasn’t completely clear. It said the round trip trek would take at least 5-6 hours, but it also kinda read like it was only a 9km round trip, which didn’t totally add up. I thought that maybe it was just such tough terrain that would make it take that long, but I also had a sneaking suspicion that actually it would be 9km each way. It was also 3.5km walk from our hostel to the starting point of the trail, which would add up to either 16 or 25km.
Neither of those distances is small, and I was a but worried that my fathers knee wouldn’t allow him to travel such a long distance. When he was a teenager he damaged his right knee very badly, resulting in multiple reconstructions and a ridiculous amount of arthroscopies over the years. His knee caused him chronic pain for over 40 years and I was extremely conscious that it may not last the distance without putting my father in complete and total agony.
I desperately wanted to do the trek, but I also really didn’t want to leave Papa Burne behind. So, I assured him that it was only a 9km trek because I was about 75% sure that this was correct, and made sure to tell him that we could turn back at any time.
So, we picked up some snacks and sustenance from the supermarket and were off on an adventure!
The first three kilometres were easily the most difficult as it was a whole lotta uphill climbing!
However, despite already really feeling my ‘out of shape-ness’, the prettiness of the trail kept me motivated to keep going.
We soon reached one of the main viewpoints, and it was at this time that I realised that the trek was definitely going to be a 25km round trip. At that moment, I told Papa Burne that he could turn back now as I didn’t want him to hurt his knee. But, Papa Burne is a trooper and he decided that he wasn’t yet ready to call it quits.
After leaving this viewpoint, the rest of the trek was tiring, don’t get me wrong, but instead of it just being a straight uphill climb, we kinda just slowly undulated towards the lagoon. The hardest part of this section of the trek was the complete lack of cover from the sun. Even on a cold day you still definitely need to slather on some sunscreen.
Eventually, we climbed one final hill and there it was, the glorious Laguna Torre.
We promptly plonked our butts on some nearby stones to rest our tired feet, and shared some pastries and chocolate to celebrate the achievement. I was already swelling with pride that my Dad had done it, and furthermore, he had done it with absolutely no complaining about pain or discomfort – what a freaking champion!
We spent a while revelling in our recent victory and soaking up the stunning views in front of us. I could have stayed a long time more, but we were conscious of time and the hours of daylight.
Parts of the trail had been semi-tricky to traverse in daylight, and I certainly didn’t want to have to be going back over them in the dark!
At first, the hike back to El Chalten seemed like it was much easier. We powered through the first six kilometres in record time, but then I started to feel like I was developing blisters, and this is where the trouble began.
We took some time to rest our feet and have a snack, and I had hoped that this would be enough to prevent blisters from forming, but alas, it was not.
A short while later I found myself in quite a lot of pain. My feet felt like they were on fire and every step was torturous. I began cursing my poor choice in footwear and doubting whether I’d actually be able to get back to the town.
Luckily, I had Papa Burne with me, and it was his encouragement that kept me going. On the way to the lake I had felt like I was the one doing the motivating, but on the way back, my dad got to return the favour.
By the time we actually got back to town, I had the largest blisters of my entire life on the undersides of both my feet. I tried to lance them but they would just keep refilling with that serous-y liquid that blisters are filled with.
They were so bad that I was pretty much out of commission for three days, because I could barely stand even walking to the toilet in bare feet, and there was no way I was pushing my poor feet into shoes!
However, despite all the pain that came with doing the hike, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Pain is fleeting, but memories like these ones will last forever.
Getting to El Chalten: From El Calafate bus station, buses run regularly each day
Laguna del Torre: Can be done in a day, but you absolutely need to start early
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: I cannot stress enough how important it is to wear proper hiking boots!