Up and around gentle slopes, with stunted nirre trees and scrub revegetation, we crossed and recrossed little channels and streams, back onto the wide open river flats. Jan was heading onto the next refugio from us and had to reach our stop, Puesto Serron before 2pm, if he was to make to Dickson before sundown. Do-able, but meant he would have to push on ahead. Having swapped stories on our similar experiences on the West Coast trail, we said our goodbyes.
Earlier we had spotted the UV indicator board near the entrance to Park HQ; heads up on how sunny it would be and dutifully applied suntan lotion before we set off. As the sun climbed higher in the clear blue sky and we began to feel it’s heat, we stopped for a spot of lunch in the first place we could find with any shade, near the banks of the rushing Rio Paine. Pitta liberally spread with Philly cheese, slices of queso de oveja and lomo vertado, plum tomatoes… All that was missing was a chilled glass vino rosso!
Time to up the ante on the sun protection and get the big guns out – SPF50. What we hadn’t realised on our quick pharmacy dash was that as a hypoallergenic kid friendly version it was not just a delicate shade of puce in the tube…. It was tinted purple. Great, Matt looked like he was auditioning for a Ribena ad, and I, a poor cousin of a geisha girl… No more arguments as to whether or not it had been applied fully!
We rejoined the trail, following the burnt orange painted markers, mirroring the path of the river. Not long after, we began a game of tag with a small groups of trekkers all heading for the campsite, alternating pitstops along the broadening trail, now heading over meadowlands and pastures scattered with nirre woodland.
Our first official campsite came into view; a small simple structure that housed the bathroom (hot showers!) attached to a main building for those that preferred to have their meals cooked for them and chance the reputation of the care-keeper cum cook…who spent his spare time practising his tightrope walking between trees (!?!)More trekkers arrived, tents started to pop up and as the sun began to set, the mozzies made their appearance. Happy sharing the campsite with the caracaras that wandered into camp, the mozzies were not a welcome addition. Perched around picnic tables, preparing our collective suppers was a great- ours a mix of Austrians and Americans, we chatted about were we were heading, our trip so far and traded travellers tales; it also meant covertly (or not) we could check out what the others were preparing for supper.
Having seriously liberally doused ourselves in “Jungle Formula” (post shower sweetness replaced with ‘Eau de Deet’) we were surprised they were going anywhere near us. While we were busy flapping our arms to keep them away, had admire Paul, a proper dude from New Mexico, who calmly let them hover, settle and ignored them. And they seemed to ignore him. Wasn’t working for me – I retreated to safer ground and zipped up the tent until it was time for supper – pasta with fresh Neapolitana sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan. 1- 0 to the mozzies.