A Travellerspoint blog

Poetry in the rain

It's Sunday afternoon
I'm at San Telmo markets
The bicentenario celebrations
are in full swing
people are everywhere

It starts to rain
`I’ll walk’, I tell my friends
It picks up as I begin
`I’ll be fine’
I have my raincoat

It starts to pour
I head into a bar
and order a Malbec
chatting to the French bartender
on exchange in BA

The rain ceases
‘now is my time’
I head for the door
but it starts again
‘Oh well’, I resign
and step onto the street

It’s now pelting
I keep walking
surrendering control
over my pants getting drenched
‘Its only water’, I think to myself

I start to ponder
about my life and travels
in South America
floating from thought to thought
‘Have I really connected enough?’

The streets are now deserted
only the sound of rain persists
Some shadows of umbrellas pass by
as I slip in my sandals
among the cobblestones

My pants are now soaked
hugging me like a wet towel
or a new pair of stone pipe jeans
that you agree to try but never buy
‘Its only water’, I think to myself

Off the towering architecture
rises smokey mist
from the spotlights
that light the buildings
in the night time

Familiar objects start emerging
People huddling under awnings
waiting for a break
with squinted expressions
though some smiles escape

In my element now
I wander serenely
calm and free
as wet as I can get
‘Its just water’
repeats like a mantra in my head

I start smiling at strangers
who start smiling back
intrigued by my indifference
to the weather
while rain drops like percussion on my head

I arrive at my hostel smiling
The door man grins back
‘Lots of water’
he says in Spanish
I nod and walk like a sponge inside

Posted by Tracy Chap 11:55 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

The light side of the moon

I'd heard about Aldea Luna, an organic farm in the North of Argentina, by word of mouth from a Canadian traveller who enjoyed a well deserved week long break there during his cycling tour of South America. He gave it a good wrap and said it was a great place to relax for a while. I was keen to check it out so after arriving back in Salta from Cachi, I made plans to head there the next day. The farm is one hour from Ju Juy - one of Argentina's largest cicties in the north - and only one bus a day goes there, leaving at 7am in the morning. I spent one night in Ju Juy, a bustling place that resembles Bolivia more then the rest of Argentina, and headed off early the next morning. The bus was a rickety old thing that looked like it belonged in a museum. It was slumped down on the last platform of the terminal. I jumped on and grabbed the front seat. Enjoying some fresh facturas (pastries) and some tea from my newly bought and much cherrished thermas, I ate breakfast and watched the passengers come on board. Apart from three other travellers who were obviously heading to the same place as I was, everybody else were locals, carrying parcels and large bags of stuff, heading off to work or back to their country homes with their week's supplies.

When the sun rose I saw how beautiful and lush the surrounding countryside was. I hadn't seen anything this green since Tierra del Fuego (in Patagonia). The bus driver put on a CD of a folk singer from Salta (I eventually discovered from the gentlemen sitting next to me, after he realised I was asking him a question and stopped jumping up from his seat thinking I was trying to get pass). After an hour and a half, the driver shouted 'Tilquiza' and all the westerners on the bus jumped off. We were greeted on the road by one of the wwoofers from the farm. She showed us the way to the house, which was a nice, rugged, one hour hike from the bus stop.

Aldea Luna, which means Moon Village in English, is perched on the top of a mountain surrounded by lush forest. It has a beautiful view overlooking the valley in front of the main house. It is run by a family, a couple and their 12 year old son, and a male friend of theirs. They have both volunteers and wwoofers working there (the difference being the amount of hours each one works and how much they pay to stay there), but people can also stay just as guests. Initially, I thought I would stay only 3 nights. One of the factors in initally not wanting to stay longer was the world cup, and the fact that it was starting that week, and that I wanted to see both the Argentine and Australian games. But after discovering that, despite not having electricity at the premises, the men had bought a TV especially to watch the world cup, and the national chanel, the only one they got on the TV, was screening one game a day, and both the games I wanted to see were going to be shown, and I was welcome to watch them if I wanted, I decided to stay and volunteer for a week, which got extended to 10 days. (Yes, somehow I have gone from being a mild admirer of soccer to an obsessed football fan who is now planning her travels around ther world cup.)

Aldea Luna

Aldea Luna

From a distance...

From a distance...

Volunteering at Aldea Luna involved working 4 hours a day from 8am in exchange for board. The afternoons were ours to do whatever we wished. The work ranged from gardening, to shoveling earth, to cooking, to sowing. The variety was great and I realised that I could sow after all, was strong enough to use a shovel, and that I didn't have as black a thumb as I had thought. One of the highlights was going down to the local school and starting to build a garden there. I now know how to make a garden bed from scratch, something I am sure will come in handy at some point in the future.

The food was also a highlight. Elizabeth, the lady of the house, is a great cook and we enjoyed hot, heathy, and delicious vegeteraian meals 3 times a day. The hot porridge and homemade bread were a great motivation to get out of bed in the dark, cold mornings, and the other meals never disappointed. I learnt some new receipes, like home made gnocchi, vegetable tarts and delicious vege burgers, and had visions of myself returning to Sydney and making home made bread every morning before work (a girl can dream, can't she?).

The Aldea Luna crew

The Aldea Luna crew

One of the many beautiful sunrises at Aldea

One of the many beautiful sunrises at Aldea

The afternoons I spent hiking through the forest, doing yoga and meditation, reading, and playing games (oh, and of course, watching football). I learnt how to play chess, with much helpful advice from my sympathetic opponent, and picked up a few new card games. The family were lovely and I enjoyed working and dining with them. Their six dogs were also gorgeous and I loved my hikes with Hugo in the afternoons (he was the only dog allowed to come along because he didn't eat the chickens like the others!). And the group of volunteers were great. After one week I was feeling extremely healthy in mind and body, which was fantastic! But... never having had been able to stick to the straight and narrow path for too long, I started to feel a bit restless and knew that it was time to let loose and go a bit crazy. So I arranged with the other volunteers to have a few drinky poos on my last night at the farm.

Berry, my South African chess teacher and mate, and I kicked things off in the late afternoon by taking 2 bottles of wine, my ipod for music and some snacks up to the first lookout in the forest. There we drank and chatted as the sun went down, and tippsily headed back after dusk. We continued with a few wines at dinner and a few more after. Drinks lead to a game of homemade pictionary, which lead to playing songs on the ipod, which lead to dancing, and more drinking, to the splitz (of course!), and stumbling into bed at around 4am. Ironically, my last day on the farm was spent feeling very hungover, but we had a ball and I thought it was well deserved after working hard.

Cheers!

Cheers!

All in all, I had a wonderful time at Aldea Luna. I made some good new friends and left feeling very inspired. The life that that Elizabeth, Martin, Mateus and Eraldo have created, making everything from scratch by themselves and creating this wonderful community, is an incredible achievement. Having never been farmers before, they learnt everything from books and local connections, and are still leanring so much all the time. Their ability to live so freely and happily on their sustainable farm, away from hectic city life and constant consumerism, growing their own organic food, building their own houses, respecting the lives of their animals, relying so little of unsustainable energy, and not having turned into hippy extremists, made me reallise that anything is possible and left me with the desire to do the same.

And although I went straight out for a steak on my first night back in Ju Juy, and know that I will slide right back into my city lifestyle when I get home, I will be taking a piece of Aldea Luna with me into the future, and know that in some big or small way, my life will be different as a result of this experience.

Posted by Tracy Chap 11:55 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Back to Zen

When I thought about travelling to Argentina what I had in mind was a European style capital city, beautiful wilderness, great wine and steaks, and tango. I certainly didn't come here to learn about South America's indigenous people, let along discover ancient ruins. Expecting to find all this in Bolivia, Peru and Equador, it came as a surpise to find that the people from North West Argentina have a predominantly native ancestory and there is still a preserved native culture existing in certain areas.

After two weeks in Buenos Aires, I decided it was time to hit the road again. I'd had a fabulous time there but had pretty much seen what I had wanted to see and could feel myself falling into a cycle of just partying with other backpackers, which although was fun for a while, was not all I came to South America to do. So after a spontaneous bender of a night and about two hours sleep, I caught an overnight bus 20hrs north to Salta (the biggest city Northwest of Argentina). It was one of those days when you're so tired (and hungover!) but you have to endure the day and stay focussed enough to do everything you have to do so you're ready to leave. By the time I sat down on the bus I felt so relieved that I had made it, and could just let go and vege out. Sleep was all I had on my mind and I wasted no time in getting ready for it. Just as I was about to drift off, the bus guard puts on a DVD of music clips which blasted through the speakers. I developed a distinct dislike to him after he refused to turn the volume down, especially since this was immediately after he asked us if the volume was alright. Worst of all was that each song played for only 10 bars then swapped to the next. It was music for people with ADHD. Luckily, I was tired enough that with cotton wool in my ears and a bit of time I eventually managed to drift off.

My first impression of Salta was not that great. I chose my hostel because of its high ratings on the internet, but was underwhelmed by it upon arrival. It had one tiny kitchen with a table and a TV and some chairs, and that was the only communal space it had. I also quickly realised that Salta was absolutely freezing at night (and I am talking below 0 degrees) and the hostel was very cold, with the doors left open at night and little internal heating to warm it up. I have since realised that most places in the region are the same and I have had more than one meal in a restaurant wearing everything that I own and still shivering as I eat. I think it is only cold here for three months a year so I guess everyone just puts up with it until its over (a bit like in Sydney!).

Despite these short falls, the one tiny communal room made the hostel very sociable, and I managed to meet some other travellers on my first day there and arrange with them to rent a car and head to Cafayate the next day. Cafayate, among other things like, is famous for the Quebradas de las Conchas, a mountain range stretching 50km north of the town. Driving along this route was incredible, with enormous red-tinged mountains (not unlike the colours of central Australia), of all different shapes and formations appearing on either side. Once again, I was blown away and had never seen anything like it in Argentina before.

Quebradas de las Conchas

Quebradas de las Conchas

salta_2.jpg

We then drove south of Cafayate to see the Ruins of Quilmes, a native people who lived traditionally in the area up until the Inca and then Spanish conquests. They are the largest and most preserved ruins in Argentina and they were great to see. We wandered around the stone walls and climbed the mountains to get an areial view, and I could almost imagine what life would have been like at that time.

The next day I spent exploring Salta and this time I saw a more attractive side to the city. Like most Argentine towns it has a central plaza with trees, a fountain and a statue of a man on a horse (most likely of San Martin, Argentina's liberator). It is surrounded by cafes with outdoor seating and had quite a charming feel to it. Located off the plaza is the MAAM, Salta's archaeological museum, in which there are three children from the Inca period preserved there. The children had been mummified and buried high up in a Volcanic mountain, as a sacrifice to the gods. For some reason, the climicatic conditions of the mountain prevented their bodies from decaying and when discovered hundreds of years later they were completely intact. They had one of the three children on display, a little boy. It was eery but fascinating to see a real dead Inca child in a big glass tube.

The Incas arrived into Northwest Argentina 100 years before the Spanish did, expanding their empire down here. Before the Incas came, however, there were other native people living here. One group that I had the opportunity to learn a little about was the original native people from Cachi. Cachi is a small town about 150kms south of Salta. The route there is very scenic and winds through the mountain range known as Valles Calchaquíes. It takes four hours by bus one way from Salta, which gives you some idea of the rugged terrain it crosses. The bus departed Salta at 7am, so it was an unsually early morning for me.

I was determined to see the scenery though so I tried my best to stay awake the whole time. We got to see the sun rise, which was lovely, and from then on the scenery was stunning. Cold though, very very, cold, but I knew that after the sun was up, it could only get warmer so I just tried not to think about it. The bus wound through the countryside, stopping at tiny towns, and dropping off parcels to locals, sometimes just a newpaper. People boarded and disembarqued in what looked like the middle of nowhere. It was great watching all the locals interact, especially the school children who seemed to know everyone on the bus. There is only one bus per day that goes past, so it is the critical means of transportation for the locals.

On the way I befriended the only other Westerner on the bus, who I recognised from the hostel. It is not everyday that you get to meet an Afro-American, dread-locked, hippy-punk chick called ´Dragonfly of the light', who travels the world trying different types of marijuana and writing articles for Skunk magazine, when she is not modelling or trimming weed on her boyfriend's farm back in California. We hung out for the day wondering around Cachi and enjoyed a lazy lunch in the sunshine at one of the cute cafes. (Despite being very cold at night, Salta and it's surrounding region is blessed with warm sunny days every single day in winter, which provides a great opportunity to store some heat for the coming night ahead.) Dragonfly was great value and I loved hearing about her life story. I was in tears hearing her stories of accidentally carrying drugs, that she had forgotten she'd had on her, across international borders, and although getting checked on several occasions, she managed to get away with it everytime. She was hilarious and had a caring soul, and being my age exactly, I felt inspired by her free spirit. She didn't live by society's rules and expecations, she created her own way, and I love that. I had to giggle when a few days later, I bumped into the overlyfriendly monk, who we had met together on that day, and as I went to scribble my email on his piece of paper (as he requested of all tourists), I saw written there 'ganjaprincess@xxxxx.com'. Not speaking a word of English, I doubt he had any idea what it meant, which makes it all the more funnier.

The road to Cachi

The road to Cachi

An odd couple... Dragonfly and the monk

An odd couple... Dragonfly and the monk

Cachi cememtry

Cachi cememtry

Dragonfly headed off that afternoon but I was keen to hang around for a few more days. So after wandering up the mountain to see the cemetry, which was ordained in colourful fake flowers, making it appear strangely kitch but beautiful all the same, I eventually found a cheap hotel and booked in. Paying just as much as I would for a dormitory in a hostel, I was very excited about having a twin room and two whole days to myself. That night after enjoying a delicious pizza and doing some Spanish study, I headed back for an early night. One of my favourite sensations in the world is drifting off to sleep infront of the TV or a good book. At home, it would sometimes be my Friday night ritual, after some takeaway and a good DVD, I would just let the comfort of lying on the couch sweep me off to sleep. Like when you see a cat or a dog sleeping in the sunshine with an expression that seems to signify they are in a state of pure bliss. That is how I felt. I was playing Iron and White on my ipod, getting through the first chapter of Kerouacs's 'On the Road' and enjoying the warmth of the electric heater that I placed inches away on the bedside table facing me directly. I hovered in that delicious space between wake and sleep, until eventually I gave in and drifted off. It is something that I take for granted in daily life in Sydney, but which is such a treat here when even having a private moment to dress can be a challenge sometimes.

The next day I set off with a local guide to do some trekking in the mountains. After not having done any hiking for over a month, I was aching for it and enjoyed every moment. My guide, Santiago, was of native american origin and was very knowledgeable and proud of his native culture and history. The original people of the land were the Calchaqui people and their bliefs and customs were different to the Incas. They did not believe in lots of gods like the Incas, they only believed in Pachamama, or 'mother earth'. According to Santiago, they did not believe in a spiritual realm or afterlife, the believed only in nature and the earth. But they must have seen the earth as having some spiritual energy, as they do provide offerings to 'mother earth' and have shrines in her honour. The shinres are basically piles coned shaped piles of rocks. At first glance, I thought that people had littered rubbish around them, but then I realised that these were offerings. Soft drink, water, and alcohol are all poured on the rocks as offerings, and bottles are often left there too. It was fascinating to learn how the Pachamama rituals had overtime become intertwined with Catholic ones, as was evident by the candles that were burned alongside the offerings in some of the shrines. Apparently it is very commom for people to go to church in the morning and make offerings to Pachamama in the afternoon without causing the least bit of internal conflict. Also unlike the Incas, the Calchaqui people lived in a casteless society, in clans, with elders making the laws about how things were to be.

We climbed 400 metres above sea level on our hike and sat up on the highest point overlooking the valley. Santiago was a fabulous guide and made sure I was well looked after. He even took my blood pressure to make sure I didn't have altitude sickness. He spoke no English so I was proud that we had managed to communicate as well as we did in Spanish.

Santiago and the pachamama shrine

Santiago and the pachamama shrine

High in the sky

High in the sky

Santiago was a busy man. As well as working as a guide, he worked part time as a public health nurse and ran his own resturant with his wife and children. He invited me to come for dinner there that night so after a much needed nap (high altitude makes you really tired!), I headed over for a bite. Being just a simple whole in the wall type of place, I was delighted to find that the food was delicious, fresh and healthy, and cost absolutely nothing. I didn't hesistate to head back for lunch the next day, before heading back to Salta!

On the journey back I was feeling satiated and inspired. I'd had a week off drinking and was feeling healthy again. I loved discovering Cachi and its surroundings, and getting off the beaten track. I was on the road again, but whereas Kerouac's protagonists, who also loved adventure and travelling, seemed to be lost souls, escaping emptiness and living just for kicks, I was feeling content and complete. Not searching, just zen.

Posted by Tracy Chap 11:55 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Smitten

Like many great relationships, initially we did not get along. I thought you were pretentious and rude, and was glad to see the back of you the first time we met. But over time, I got to know the different sides to you and, like many other before me, I fell hopelessly in love.

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what it was that pulled me in with such intensity. Maybe it was exploring another part of you, namely Palermo, which is much more chilled out then your hectic down town area, and is full of funky shops, bars and cafes, as well as green parks and friendly locals. Maybe it was discovering your pumping nightlife and live music scene, and realising that there was something awesome to do every night of the week. Maybe it was your sexy tango that drew me in, it's subtle suggestiveness and dark overtones, which seduced me all the more when I danced it first hand. Alternatively, it could have been your beautiful Parisian architecture that gives European cities a run for their money. Or your slightly rustic feel with potholes in the sidewalk and run down buildings, that gives you a rougher, less manicured, edge. Maybe it had something to do with your workking class history - the stories of poor Italian migrants struggling to feed themselves while working down at the port in La Boca, that I identified with. And the inspired Bonito Quinquela Martín who turned La Boca into an outdoor modern art gallery. Maybe it was your people, or at least the few I got to know, who had a cool, fun loving edge to them, and once they got to know me, were warm and open, and allowed me into their world.

Most likely, it is the unique combination of all these factors that makes you so exciting.

The second time we met, I feel like I got to know you properly. I explored your different parts, learnt more about your history and your beloved Eva Peron, and understood more about your politics and the suffering your people have endured. I got to explore your art galleries and music scene, and danced to live percussion, salsa, tango, and rock. Going to see La Bomba del Tiempo's (a huge percussion group from BA) 4th birthday concert was a definite highlight and took me right back to Carnaval. I was also well connected the second time around, which made me feel more at home. I was lucky to have met both Portenos and other foreigners while travelling around Argentina, so I had friends to catch up with when I got there. I loved meeting my girlfriend for brunch at Oui Oui, a beautiful French cafe in Palermo, and going to my friend Diego's house outside of the city where his family and I sat around drinking mate and tea on a lovely Sunday afternoon. I also loved having a reunion with some of my Mendoza buddies in one your big party hostels (discovering that I can still party with the best of them!). I shopped at your Bohemian markets and funky boutique stores, and drooled over things that I couldn't afford to buy. I also got to celebrate your country's Bicentenairo staying smack bang in the heart of all the action. I respect the fact that your city practically holted for five days straight to celebrate with equal intensity each day your country and its South American history. I even got to chant your country's name at an international footbal match against Canada, who you ruthlessly thrashed.

I loved your routine of dinner at around midnight and not heading out to a club til 2am, and feeling no shame whatsoever of waking up at 1pm or taking a siesta any time of the day. I completely share your passion for red wine and adored indulging in a delicious Malbec everyday that I was there. And of course, how could I go pass your delicious steaks and choripans (although I regretably overdosed on the latter, to much discomfort!).

Bella La Boca

Bella La Boca

A great Latin Jam night

A great Latin Jam night

Funky Palermo

Funky Palermo

Vamos Argentina!

Vamos Argentina!

But don't get me wrong, you certainly have your fair share of flaws as well. To start with, you have a seriously dysfunctional approach to money with an extreme lack of small coins and a strong resistance to giving change of any capacity. The supermarkets would rather undercharge me then give me coins, and your shopkeepers had no shame in searching through my wallet to make sure I had nothing smaller. Your city also has a problem with petty crime, having had two things stolen from me, and hearing numerous other stories, you are a place where you cannot let you guard down. And, let's be honest here, for a South American country, your people can't dance! As my Porteno mate put it, 'they jump', like they are in a mosh pit to any sort of music. But I guess overall your strengths outweigh your weakneses, and over time become quirky characteristics that I came to accept.

But I guess that much of what I loved about you, holds true for the whole of Argentina, and it wouldn't be just to give you all the praise. And I am just refering to culture and people here, I haven't even touched on how mindblowing and varied your country's natural wilderness is. I guess it is fair to say that I fell heavily for the whole crown, with you just being the jewel in the middle of it. And while I am sure I am going to fall just as heavily for Bolivia, just as I did for Brazil, I am leaving your country with a heavy heart, not ready to say goodbye just yet, but not wanting to miss out on exploring the rest of the continent. But although I am leaving, I have a sneaking suspiscion that we will meet again before the end of my travels, so I won't say goodbye just yet, I'll just say... hasta luego, Buenos Aires!

Posted by Tracy Chap 11:53 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

I lied about (not) being the outdoor type

by Wilderness Kate

It is amazing how quickly humans can adapt to new environments. Six weeks ago, I was sitting on a tropical island in Brazil, feeling nervous about how I was going to cope with the dramatic change of temperature I was about to encounter in Patagonia. I was not overly eager to expose my body to a cold climate and hadn’t done any real hiking in over a year. I considered myself a city girl who had come to South America to get submerged in its music and culture, but thought that while I was here, I may as well check out some of the wilderness that I had heard was pretty decent. I would not have described myself as very comfortable in the outdoors, and my last real camping trip had been a total disaster, ending in an increased phobia of tics and leeches, and getting dumped by my ecologist boyfriend.

So it is not surprising that I was feeling rather nervous about my first overnight trek in Patagonia. It took me a whole day to prepare for it. I spent 2 hours in the supermarket thinking of food to bring and walked out with some completely impractical items, including 2 bottles of wine and heavy jars of food (…though I did not regret the wine one bit!). But actually, the trek went great and I was surprised with the ease with which it all happened. In fact, I had had such a good time doing the “W” that I was keen to do more. And since the “W” is such a challenging trek with some very difficult terrain, if I can do that then I could do anything… right?

Unfortunately, due to the weather, we couldn’t do any overnight trekking in El Chaten like we had hoped, but we did get to do a few day hikes there. I was starting to feel a real pull toward nature and began jumping at any opportunity that came along. In Bariloche, we rode bikes along a 25km track in the National Park with amazing views of the Nuhuel Huapi Lake. In El Bolson (the hippy capital of Argentina) we hiked to several good look outs and explored the forests inside and out. At one stage in El Bolson, I was feeling so inspired by the surroundings that I started taking artistic photos of a dead log and had to resist the urge to hug a branch lying next to me. I was beginning to feel at one with nature, wanting to emerge myself deeper and deeper into it. No mountain was too high to climb, no trek too long, no blister too sore. I was becoming “Wilderness Kate”, committed to living the rest of my life away from the city smoke, entrenched in the bush.

And while I was loving all the beautiful day excursions I was doing, they were leaving me slightly unfulfilled and I knew that I needed longer than a day to really hit the spot. So after arriving back in Bariloche, after 4 days in El Bolson, I was determined to do some overnight trekking - rain, hail or shine! (Luckily, I didn´t need to test this promise out.)

Tourist information is not easy to come by in Argentina. You need to drag it out of the tourist staff as if you were extracting a tooth from an elephant, and even then they will still tell you very little. After such a process, I managed to find out that there were some good hikes I could do in Bariloche and some refugios that I could stay in overnight (and that was literally the extent of what they told me). But I wasn’t going to let some arrogant tourist staff member put me off. I was charged and ready to go. So much so, that I was willing to do it alone, if Britt couldn’t join me. This time I did my shopping in 20 minutes, bought practical, light food, and was ready to go in an hour or two. I had a map and a torch, warm clothes, and a feeling of invincibility. I felt like a Pro! Britt ended up coming along as well, so I also had good company.

So with our tightly packed backpacks we set off to do the 4 hour climb up to the Catedral Mountain to stay at Refugio Frey. Britt was only able to come for one night, but I was keen for more so I brought enough food for 2 nights and planned to decide up there if I would go on alone or not. The hike was gorgeous and the setting of the refugio was truly magical. Finally, I felt like I was deep in the wilderness far away from civilization, with only the sound of the wind and the lake passing my senses. It was too good to head back the next day, so I asked the refugio staff member if it would be safe enough for me to hike across to the next refugio alone. In true Argentinean style, he shrugged his shoulders and said he thought it would be fine - end of advice. A group of Israeli travelers overheard me inquiring, and said they were heading there the next morning and that I was welcome to go with them if I wished. I decided to join them, and OH MY GOD, AM I GLAD THAT I DID!!!

Little did I realize that the next day’s hike was going to be the hardest I have ever attempted in my life. How can I describe it so you get the full sense of what it was like? Hmmn… Think of a 2km high mountain that you have to traverse. Usually, people would design a trail that would allow you to cross along the side of the mountain to the other side. But imagine that you have to climb straight up to the top, not criss-crossing, just up in a vertical line. Now envisage that the mountain is covered in thick snow, and as you are climbing up your leg falls into a deep pit on every fourth step. Imagine looking down along the way and wishing that you hadn’t done that, and being grateful for any footprints that had been left before you which allowed you to step in pre-compressed snow.

Picture hoping that that the way down on the other side was going to be easier, and although you felt relieved once you discovered that the other side was not covered in snow, you soon realized that climbing down a sandy, steep cliff full of loose rocks was about 5 times as hard as climbing up in the snow. Imagine stepping downwards for close to 2 hours without once having a firm footing, sliding the whole way and falling frequently on your arse. Now imagine that you make it to the bottom and after about 20 minutes of flat terrain, you realize that you have to do it all over again. Also, keep in mind that you started the trek late and are concerned that you may not make it to the refugio before dark. Finally, imagine that after 7 hours of mountain climbing you eventually see the refugio ahead (thank, Christ!), but as a final challenge you need to hike across a swampy, muddy trail that you can’t help but fall into.

Me at the beginning before I knew what I was in for

Me at the beginning before I knew what I was in for

Taking a much needed breather at the top of mountain number 2...

Taking a much needed breather at the top of mountain number 2...

I arrived at the refugio shell-shocked and exhausted. Unable to talk or think, I just laid on the floor feeling wrecked. As my brain began normal processing again, I started to recover and I was able to enjoy a hot cup of tea, sympathetically donated to me by the staff member there.

Ironically, I wasn’t feeling like such the “outback kid” anymore. My cocky attitude had been smacked right out of me and I felt like a small speck of dust, bowing down to the all powerful and omnipotent NATURE. I was extremely grateful that I hadn’t tried to hike it on my own and decided that although I had come a long way in my confidence in the wilderness, maybe I was not quite ready to tackle it alone… and that was alright with me!

That night I was awoken by the pain of my throbbing, stiff legs and 2 days later I am still struggling to walk down stairs. Despite the pain though, I definitely feel that my itch for nature was well scratched (if not deeply scarred). I had had a good fix and managed to feel utterly connected to nature for an extended period of time. I can now also appreciate the incredible views that we witnessed, views that are only visible from the peak of a 2km high mountain. And though I am ready for a few days of rest, the light is still burning inside of me, and I know that within a week or so, I will be ready for more.

I wonder if sometimes it is the things you least expect from your travels that are the most rewarding. Maybe they are the experiences that stretch our worldviews and change us as people, opening our eyes to something new. If this is the case, then I can’t wait for the rest of my travels because I truly don't know what to expect. I am open to everything and willing to try anything, so who knows what lies ahead. Although, I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if I don’t have to climb down a steep, slippery mountain for a while!

  • Inspired by the song “Outdoor type”, by the Lemonheads.

Posted by Tracy Chap 19:59 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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