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Full Circle

Day 162: Torres del Paine National Park

Lago Grey, Chile 
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Filming the icebergs on Lago Grey (before it turned nasty).
Michael Palin - Full CirclePalpable feeling of remoteness and vulnerability. The wind rises in the night and blows so hard that at one moment my window is wrenched open with such a crash and a howl that I am convinced some mountain banshee has entered my room.

By dawn the wind has whipped itself into an even greater fury, tearing at the threadbare trees, sending them straining and stooping for the ground. The good news is that it has cleared the sky of clouds and as we eat breakfast we can drool over the view of the great saw-toothed array of peaks, gilded by sharp morning sunlight.

I struggle down to the shore of Lago Grey. The black, crystalline sand is littered with gnarled branches and tree-trunks stripped white by the elements. Every now and then there are gusts so strong that I feel the unpleasant sensation of having my eyelids peeled back by the force of the wind.

Just before lunch we make a brave and probably foolhardy attempt to reach Grey glacier. The wind has abated but rain has started to fall. Once out of the lee of a small in-shore island our dinghy is caught by high-peaked waves which crash in over the bows, filling us with water. The boatman takes the brunt of it, standing with one hand on the outboard and the other on a steadying rope. We are soon soaked and the camera and sound equipment is facing permanent damage, but it is the sight of our boatman closing his eyes as each wave breaks and the wind lashes spray across his face like machine-gun fire that persuades us to turn back. The peppermint blue cliffs of the glacier remain tantalizingly inaccessible, a reminder that real beauty rarely comes without a price.

A continuous road north through Chile does not begin until Puerto Yungay. It's only two hundred and thirty miles north of here but it is separated from us by a permanent ice tableland and some of the highest mountains in the Andes. If we want to make further progress we must take to the sea.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 162
  • Country/sea: Chile
  • Place: Torres del Paine
  • Book page no: 222

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