Walking in the blue sky, blue mountains and blue water

Walking in the blue sky, blue mountains and blue water

Du Xinxin


The Andes and Rocky Mountains run through the continents of South America and North America, respectively. The Rocky Mountains have the best scenery in Banff, while the Andes have the most beautiful scenery in Glacier Park and Parque Bainé. On the border between Argentina and Chile, there is the Glacier Park in Argentina to the east and the Parque Bainé in Chile to the west.

From Argentina's Glacier National Park to Chile's Baiene National Park, travelers mostly choose to take a bus from Calafate to Puerto Natales, Chile. The trip took 4 hours, we received our tickets with our passports and the double-decker bus slowly left the city. Soon, the Argentine Lake was submerged in the desert.

Although this type of landscape is called steppe, it is sparse and windy, with few sheep and cattle visible and no homes. When the Spaniards first came here, they saw that the local indigenous Tehuelches were very tall, so they called Patagonia "the land of the Bigfoot". This land of Bigfoot is really open, hundreds of miles along the road is not seen. The clouds were changing and it was raining in faraway places.

The wind was howling as we pulled into the Argentine border post. The place was depressingly dilapidated and the staff were pulling faces, as if to tell border crossers that going to Chile was treasonous.

I never imagined that once I crossed the border, my surroundings would change. A river or a water channel, cattle and sheep roaming on green grass, and more houses. The climate is unpredictable and the ecology is cruel, and I wonder how many generations it took to achieve such an environment. Chile's territory narrows extremely rapidly as it stretches southward, with a maximum width of more than 300 kilometers from east to west and less than 100 kilometers at the narrowest point, making it obvious that the slim Chile treasures the land even more. In contrast, Argentina, the second largest country in South America, has the rich basin of the La Plata River basin and the Pampas in the south as a sheep and wheat grazing area. No wonder the Argentines feel that Patagonia is simply not worth using and simply leave it to the barbarians.

Leaving the border checkpoint, the sun was gradually sinking in the west. The river meanders, the water and grass are abundant. A large lake, the sunset sprinkled with broken gold on the surface. Outside the car window, the wind was still strong, judging from the tilted posture of the trees and wood. Once we drove into the port of Natales, I saw the big lake with snowy mountains again. The mountain was the southern slope of Cerro Benitez. The water was not a lake, but a glacial bay called "The Last Hope Bay".

The western coastline of southern Chile is quite fragmented by fjord islands. The area is a maze of peaks, glaciers and waterways. In 1557, the Spaniard Juan Ladrilloge sailed through this maze of waterways in search of the Strait of Magellan. During his voyage, he felt that this place was the "last hope" to reach the Strait of Magellan. After Chile was founded, it was named the Last Hope Province.

Puerto Natales is the only city in the province of Last Hope, with a population of less than 20,000. The city is located 112 kilometers southeast of the Parque Nacional de Baixay, and the nearest major air terminal, Puerto Arenas, is 400 kilometers away. Most of the people who come to Parque Nacional Baione fly to Arenas and then take a bus to stay here. Hotels, restaurants, various travel agencies, transportation and outdoor equipment are the main industries here.

The bus pulled slowly into the station, and the houses in the residential area next to the station were spaced at small intervals. Strange how houses can be built so crowded when the population density here is less than 0.4 people per kilometer. Most of these low-slung clapboard houses have tin roofs and the clapboard wall paint is mottled, but they don't look particularly bland and dull because of the open river bay. The camp we lived in was located on the shore of the river bay, where the wind and water were cold, and heavy windbreaks were tied under the doors.

The clear plastic sheeting built up the restaurant much like a large yurt, and Ricky from the travel agency came out to greet them. He was a Filipino and could speak in Chinese. When asked why he came all the way here to make his home, he said he had come to Chile several times because he liked skiing, and then he started this travel agency in partnership with a Chilean who had lived in the United States for many years. It sounds like this is one of the fastest growing regions in Chile, with a gross national product that has been growing by more than 10 percent a year for several years. However, materials and talents cannot keep up with the development, everything is expensive here, and he himself is both a boss and a plumber.

Except for Ricky, all the employees here are white. This trip once again confirmed that the further south the South American continent goes, the higher the percentage of whites. Most of the west coast of South America is located in the tropics, which is not suitable for permanent white settlement, so whites settled there mostly as employers of labor, while most of Chile is in a temperate maritime climate, suitable for crop and pasture cultivation, and thus became the only area that relied on white labor for economic development.

Ricky continued his explanation as the waiters began to serve the food. This meal of lime marinated seafood, vegetable salad and grilled fish are extremely fresh and tasty, the food is also very moody, but for a day of running and did not eat much lunch for people, eat moody or eat not enough ah. By now it was 10:30, and tomorrow we have to walk the Three Towers Trail in Hakuuchi Park. I believe the crowd would like to rest early, this welcome speech and dinner is too delayed.

After the meal, walk back to the housing along the candlelit path. The cabin sits above the wetlands of the bay, with the open water visible from the window. Across the water, the lights are misty in the distance. The land is the Magellanic Basin, and the bay runs from the Eberhardfjord outlet to Mt. Eberhardfjord is named after the German Hermann Eberhardt, who visited the area by boat in 1895 and found the remains of giant prehistoric tree otters, but at that time they were mainly active on the ground. There is a statue of a tree otter in the center of Port Natales and an excavation memorial site near the city, which consists of a series of caves in which prehistoric human remains have also been found.

The stars shine brightly and the distant mountains curl. It was midnight when I slept on the water, as I did for most of the following days.


Early in the morning, we left Round Arch Camp and drove north for an hour or so to enter the east gate of LagunaAmarga in Bainai Park and continued to Three Towers Camp. After parking at the campground, the group loaded up water, cameras and warm clothing and headed up the Three Towers trail. After crossing an iron bridge, the trail wound northward, with the river flowing rapidly below the ramp. This section of the trail was obviously washed by mountain water, and there were many rocks, and the last section was almost stuck in the cracks of boulders. The sun was fierce, there was no shade along the way, and there was no good scenery, and I was bored walking, when I saw a man riding a horse, so I hurriedly gave way. When I saw a sign on the roadside marked "WindyPass", I realized that I had arrived at the long-known windy area. When I was at Fitzroy Peak, I met a young Chinese man. He said he had to crouch down and brace himself on the climbing pole to keep his balance when he encountered a gale on the Bainai Trail. They waited in this position for more than 40 minutes before they could go ahead. I think it would be quite dangerous to encounter high winds here, with a hillside on the left and a cliff on the right, and few trees to help stabilize. Fortunately, at this time, the sky was clear and the wind was resting, so our luck was really good.

This area is densely wooded and the trail meanders through the jungle. The uphill slope is narrow and steep, and the road is muddy. The surface of the forest is intertwined, some roots look solid, but it is easy to slip and fall on them. After turning a big slope, the torrent rushes underneath and the view opens up. Under the blue sky and white clouds, the snow-capped peaks appear from afar. The shade of the forest, the cold water of the stream, but there are many people sweating to draw water. This was the first camp, Chilean Camp. My son and I were the oldest and the weakest in the trekking group, and our friends were long gone. The leader of the group was a very strong guide who often trotted around to make sure his teammates were safe, and at this point he carried my backpack so I could walk the last section lightly.

Crossing the river via a wooden bridge, the rugged path through the forest continued to rise, and Waizi already felt quite difficult. We finally arrived at the Three Towers camp. Looking northwest, the forest was sparse, the rocky hill was steep, and there was no path at all, so this short distance took an hour. Looking ahead, three light blue-gray peaks - three towers stand out in front of us, its shape is like three broken snow out of the spring bamboo shoots, pavilion in the blue sky and white clouds, reflected in the calm mirror-like lake, glacial lake between the milky white and sky blue two colors. The three towers are South Tower, North Tower and Central Tower, whose height is 2600-2850 meters. They appear gray, white, yellow, green and blue in different light, but the rock's natural color is light gray-blue. The name "Las TorresDelPaine" is a phonetic translation of the name, which means "The Blue Tower". 12 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing, we have finally reached our destination.

Gaijin came down the hill before me, but he forgot to bring water. When he was resting on the roadside, a girl gave him a bottle of water and a pack of nuts. Gaijin thanked him and learned that she was from Brazil. It's the same all over the world, trail users are very friendly with each other.

After hiking the Three Pagodas Trail, we drove from the East Gate to the Gray Lake Hotel. The car was facing southwest, running over the winding and bumpy mountain roads. Outside the window, the waters of Lake Nordensk and Lake Sarmiento de Gamboa were green and blue. On the way, I saw for the first time the Blue Cape (Los CuernosdelPaine), the most exotic peaks in 100 and South America. They were like three giant horses of light blue and gray, breaking free from the snow-capped mountains and roaring towards the sky, as if to tell the story of a thousand grievances hidden in their hearts. The car seemed to drive around the horned peaks, with white clouds and clear blue sky.

We then drove along the Blue River downstream of Lake Péoé. The surface of Lake Toro shimmered under the sunset. The trolley drove further downstream of Lake Ash along the west bank and finally arrived at the hotel on the south shore of Lake Ash. This is already in the western part of Bainai National Park, more than 60 kilometers from the three pagodas in the east. The hotel rooms are all in the forest, with simple facilities, but the lobby and dining room are large and comfortable. Outside the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the Gray Lake, the Great Blue Mountains and the Olgun Glacier unfold like a picture screen, dreamy and beautiful.


At 4:30 a.m., the crowd was still in dreamland. I paced to the jungle behind the house to photograph the lake and the mountains under the morning sun. The gray glacier quietly crept at the junction of the mountain and the lake, and the white clouds were either in the shape of swords splitting the mountains from the sky, or like a wind woman with her cheeks puffed out blowing hard at the strange peaks. The blue ice on the lake is crystal clear, and the red and white cruise ship is still moored in the distance. The surrounding forests all slope to the southeast and are hideous. I have seen trees of this stance in the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. However, a little further away from the lake, the trees grew squarely and spread out quite comfortably. The grass was soft and tender under the soughing canopy.

The food table in the breakfast room is already full of all kinds of fruits, custard and bread sausages. To think that this area has only 160,000 people and the flight across takes over an hour! It was a delightful satisfaction to have such a rich breakfast in such an isolated area. Chatting with the elderly people at the table, I learned that they had joined the tour in Germany and then traveled almost 4700 km from the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, along the Chilean coastline all the way to Tierra del Fuego.

After breakfast, we walked through the forest for 20 minutes to reach a suspension bridge at the end of the trail. This bridge is similar to other wooden bridges I've walked across in the park, which also limits the number of people who can cross it. After crossing the bridge, the lake shore was just beyond the trees. The lake was miles back from the shore at this time of year, and the beach was covered with sand and gravel, which we had to cross to reach the ferry. It was impossible to walk lightly on the sand and rocks, and now we were facing the wind. The wind was blowing from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, and was now driving along the gray glacier, making a big show of its power. If I didn't turn to the northwest, I would have been blown into the cold water of the lake. It was extremely difficult to travel, I was occasionally forced back by the wind, a girl next to me long hair and clothing like a wild snake.

Hundred within the climate has always been incomprehensible, not to mention the prediction of the weather after a week, even to predict the next hour is impossible, in Darwin's diary, he once said that a day of four seasons, several consecutive days of wind and rain for the norm. When people make plans to travel within a hundred, it is almost useless to check the weather in advance. Since the weather is so unpredictable, it is not uncommon for people to come here from miles away and wait for a week without seeing the true face of the lake and mountain, and return home in defeat.

In the gale, the yacht headed for the Grey Glacier. This glacier is dozens of kilometers long and melts into a gray lake after breaking into the hundred from O'Higgins National Park. The gray lake turns into the gray river, which meanders and transforms into the Serra-no River. The river splits through a thousand mountains and ravines to reach the swampy plains. From there, it wanders with ease, twisting and turning for dozens of miles south to join the Patagonian fjord, while settlements such as the ports of Platte, Boris and Natales dot the eastern shore. Perhaps it would have been more beautiful if we had taken the water route upstream a few days ago and rafted against the white, crystal glaciers to enter the Hundred Islands with ease? It would have been even more memorable if it had been a full moon night.

At this time the yacht chopped the waves forward and the mountains receded backward. The cold wind in the face, the waves splashed. The wind blew water foam, splashing on the face cold bone chilling. Half an hour later, we approached the ice tongue. The leading edge of this tongue of ice was divided into three sections by two islands, one large and one small. The yacht approached each section carefully. If we hadn't experienced the Moreno Glacier before, this gray glacier would have left a deeper impression. On the way back, the storm was a little kinder, but we saw huge icebergs floating on the lake, and several kayaks were weaving in and out of the blue ice.

Leaving the Grey Glacier, we headed to the PehoeHostel, located on Lake Pehoe. In order to protect the scenery, there is no hard surface road in the park and all the campsites are simple except for 4 hotels in the park. In the high season, the standard room in this hotel is 500 USD per day (three meals are provided), and some hotels charge 5000 USD for three days. The Péoé Hotel is located in the very heart of the park and has only about ten rooms. Although the rooms are old, they are perhaps the most picturesque and picturesque in the world, and the opportunity to stay there is unattainable.

The hotel is located on the island of the same name and is reached by crossing a maroon trestle bridge. Waves of white water lapped tirelessly against the shore of the lake, and the yellow flowers of Calafate were in full bloom. A Magellanic goose family lives in the lodge yard, and a couple of geese like to stand at the water's edge, as if deliberately allowing me to take pictures of them, and they should be the happiest of beings. On the emerald-colored lake, I saw the Great Blue Mountains, Admiral Nieto Mountains and the Hundred Neighborhood Peaks group ringed by the iconic beauty of Hundred Neighborhoods is the blue three towers and the blue horned peaks. At this moment, the three towers are flat and upright like monuments, while the horned peaks are twisted and sharp, like three roaring horses. These mountains were formed at different times, the light-colored rocks came from volcanic eruptions, their granite peaks were once underground lava pools, and the darkest parts of the tips of the horned peaks were once soft sedimentary rock layers.

After settling in, we wandered up the hill behind the hotel. Here, we saw orchids, also known as "women's slippers", with their orange-yellow color and more delicate flower structure. The state flower, the Columbine, was also planted here, its pink and purple flowers swaying in the wind. A few young friends jumped up and down on the island and took pictures, showing their youthfulness and vitality.


The next morning, the mist floated on the surface of the lake, slim clouds draped around the peaks. The sun was rising and tinting everything red. A rainbow appeared over the lake and the mountains, and a second one faintly appeared, making the scenery dreamlike. On the bridge, the early risers were busy capturing the fleeting moment with their lenses.

In addition to the three-tower trail, there are also hiking trails called "W" and "O" in Hyakunai Park. Both the "O" and "W" trails take several days to hike, and I have heard that some young people have completed the "O" and "W" trails in eight days. "O" and "W" routes in 8 days. At our age, it was a tough hike for a few days, and I'm afraid it will be difficult to complete the "O" or "W" hike in our lifetime.

Early in the morning, you will go to the Nordensk Lake crossing to complete the "W" route in the French Valley. The ferry crossed Lake Péoé to the Grand Bleu ferry terminal, which was quite crowded and cost $60 for a two-way ticket. When you leave the ferry, you will see wooden huts with many tents set up in front of them. If you want to finish the W, many hikers will stay here and get up in the early morning so that they can walk to the next campsite.

It was very windy, so I put on my hat and gloves and walked along the Skotzberg Lake towards the mountains. Gently sloping, wooded, lake after lake, the glaciers of the peaks on the left became clearer, and several peaks jutted out ahead. Below the mountain, the blue water of the lake rolled like waves. The slope is not too steep, but the wind is extremely strong, so it is not easy to travel. After Lake Skotzberg, I walked through the woods and bogs. By now the mountains were high enough to see Lake Nordensk in the distance. The lake was named after its discoverer, the Swedish geographer Otto Nordensk. The day before, on my way to the Grey Glacier Hotel, I had crossed the southeast shore of the lake. At this time from the west to look at the lake, only to see the emerald-colored lake stretched to the sky, no wonder I had thought it was a river. Walking further up, I came across a suspension bridge with white waves tumbling under it, so I could see that the river came from the high mountain glaciers ahead and rushed down into those lakes.

We sat on a large tree stump for lunch, with clusters of white dog orchids open under the trees in the forest. The flowers were similar to a woman's slipper, and the flowers were so delicate that a seemingly delicate being could survive in such a harsh place! After the meal, I continued along the river, and a few pale green trees stood strong on the small islands in the river, allowing the strong wind and fierce water to hit them. Under the peaks ahead, glaciers overflowed. At this point it was a three-hour walk to the Britannia Lookout in the valley, which is close to the most beautiful part of the valley. At this point the guide said, "You have to head back now or you won't make the last ferry." She was sure I would have no problem going back alone and then trotted off to catch up with the group.

Walking up a section of the slope to the north, suddenly the wind gusts, blowing people forward. I fell in front of a rock and knocked my knee. A pair of women walking with heavy loads had to crouch down to avoid the wind. The blonde woman was sitting with the wind at her back, and the wind was tearing at her hair, almost pulling her backwards. The other woman crouched against the wind, her black hair was blown like a veil to cover her entire cheek.

Gaijin did not participate in the French Valley hike, but saw several other sites with the driver. He said the most recordable are two waterfalls, one of which is the Blue Falls north of Lake Amaga. The white water waves are pushed by the hard river bed and finally leap into the blue pool. Green trees, grasslands, rocky mountains, snowy peaks on both sides of the blue pool, the blue three towers towering in the distant western sky. The other place is the Great Waterfall, which is rarely visited by tourists. It is formed by the huge flow of Lake Nordensgold into the southern shore of Lake Pei Oei. In order to see the magnificent waterfall, he walked for 15 minutes against the gale, the intensity of the wind is comparable to that of the Grey Lake. Next to the waterfall, he enjoyed the view of the peaks of the Blue Tower.

On the way back to the camp in Puerto Natalis, we saw the original camels (Guanacos). Sparsely populated and without natural predators, the area around Bainai National Park is estimated to have roughly 500,000 heads. These native South American species are related to llamas, alpacas and others. They prefer to live in herds and are almost defenseless. If you get too close, the most they will do is spit at you.

That night, the group celebrated the successful completion of the 100-needle excursion. Tomorrow morning, we will head to Puerto Arenas, located on the northwest coast of the Strait of Magellan.

(Recorded on December 3-6, 2019. The author currently lives in Georgia, USA. Main works: "Ganges: Flowing from This World to the Next" and "This One Goes to a Thousand Waters")