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Friday, 10 November 2017

A Day Complete

… complete with Heaven and Hell. Yesterday we took Highway 9 North to visit the famously beautiful Parque Torres del Paine. We were fortunate to start out around 0730 with the most peaceful and sunny day possible. Every 'local' we met during the day told us how lucky we were to be here: "such beautiful weather - NO WIND!" Every viewpoint from which Larry took a photo - familiar from the many tourist advertisements of the area - contained a glass encased little hut from which you could snap your picture without danger of being swept away by strong winds. Of course, he took these photos unimpeded by an enclosure.

My only problem with our day as tourists was the fact that I was driving. Apart from the main highway #9, travel was mostly on very poor and narrow roads composed of gravel alternated with tarmac. This pavement was made more interesting by large potholes. On these roads, we met few vehicles like ours. Alas - we'd followed our usual plan and I had sought the smallest and cheapest vehicle I could rent. The helpful people there DID warn me that many folks had accidents on the roads around here. Perhaps I should have taken heed at that point, and noticed that my little car was already covered in dust. Everyone who passed us - that is everyone going in the same direction - roared by in big 'Expedition' vehicles. Luckily, I grew up when Alberta's farms were mostly serviced by gravel roads. I'd learned to drive out on Uncle George Penner's farm. The advantage of gravel roads was that we could always tell when someone was coming to visit us because the cloud of dust announcing an arriving vehicle could be seen for miles across the flat countryside.

So now I knew when a car was coming towards me or coming up from behind. Most of the roads here are 1 or 1 ½ lanes. I could find a bit of wider road and pull over a little as the tour busses or large expedition vehicles cruised by. Of course, we'd have to close our windows (it was warm out) to wait for the dust to settle while I proceeded along slowly and in 2nd gear. In the low areas of road, the surface resembled corduroy. Being shaken to bits seemed a possibility. By my second driving day, we'd already had to take the car back to the Rental Agency because of a nearly flat tire. They seemed very accustomed to the problem and sent out an employee with a portable inflator. But it now seems flat once again.

After 9 hours of driving, we were ready to relax when we got back to the boat in the dinghy. We had just eaten a meal of wraps and had a drink when Larry warned that the winds were building up. About 1 minute afterwards, our anchor alarm blared and we both rushed out to find we were rapidly moving into the shallower water. The dinghy was bouncing around on its leash and there was no way of getting down to ease its troubles. Luckily we'd taken our usual precautions and secured it with double lines including a steel cable - but a constant worry was that it could turn over, fill with water, lose the oars or flood and ruin the engine (it didn't). I rushed out to lift the anchor (my job) but it came up with a meter-wide ball of tangled weeds and mud attached. Of course, without being grounded, the strong winds (35-40 knots) were blowing against the hull and driving us even faster into shallow waters and it was pure luck that we hadn't already 'grounded' and stuck. Larry got us into somewhat deeper water and came forward to finish dealing with the messy anchor, and I went back to steer - driving back and forth under his directions for the best course and the deepest water within a very narrow possible range. This would continue - until (1) he could get the muck off the anchor and it would be able to 'dig in' (2) we could find a deep enough spot to hold the boat with secure depth all around so that it couldn't start moving again and (3) it calmed just enough for the anchor to sink through the weeds into the mud below before the wind yanked it free.

The water is not much deeper in any direction and this is a far from an ideal anchorage, but there are few anchorages here and it's the one the Armada (Navy) directed us to.

Luckily our emergency only lasted for about 2 hours. Today, I'm having a 'rest' and editing photos while taking the antibiotics I got from the dentist on Tuesday. I have a problematic molar. Poor Larry is spending the day fixing the water-maker. Luckily, he thought ahead and has all the tools (including an impact wrench) that he needs.

At 1899-12-30 00:00 (utc) our position was 51°36.54'S 072°39.59'W

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