With HT Wandelreizen I travelled to Argentina and Chile. Below the route and photo link.
Puerto Madryn – Punta Tombo: penguins, sea elephants and whales
Ushuaia/Tiera del Fuego
Calafate/Perito Moreno Glacier –
Fitzroy mountains – most beautiful mountain range I ever visited
Tears of Fire and Ice
Dripping wet we walk into a small cafe. Hot coffee and ridiculously expensive apple cake, which I share with one of our group, is exactly the comfort food we need. Our first views of the nature of Tiera del Fuego is great. Green and brown everywhere. Water and rain everywhere. No land of fire, but harsh like only a summer in Patagonia can be. Our walk had been short and intensive. Especially the last part we increased to military marching pace. Drizzle rain changed into cats and dogs. A disturbing promise for our trek of two days which will start tomorrow.
….the next morning
My hand reaches out for a branch as my shoes begin to slide in the mud. A dead branch bends, but does not break holding the weight of my back pack and me. With some extra effort I lift myself a couple of meter higher. Some curses slowly rise and my head slowly begins to glow red. We have been walking for one hour in this dense forrest. Looking around and ahead, no path is visible anywhere. Walking gets heavier and heavier. Another 6 hours of trekking ahead as planned. Our guide also seems to be lost. We stop. Our guide tries to find a path on his own. “We have return to the starting point” he says when he gets back. With empty gaze of disbelief we stare at him. One hour lost. Another hour to get back and start over. With a planned trek of 7 hours ahead we all have our own thoughts. Wouldn’t it a great to return to the cozy youth hostel in Ushuaia, we arrived the day before yesterday? Thoughts of the warm fire place, friendly owners and great food make me feel homesick.
Rain pours down on us when we start over, at the start of our trek. We throw our back-packs over a fence and climb over. Nobody says a word about the 7 hours ahead. Met constant pace we walk on through an amazing landscape. Snowy mountains ahead. Green around us. The clouds and the rain seem to have been made for this kind of landscape.
Nature does desperate attempt to make us stop. The rain from yesterday returns. With our Gore-tex rain outfits we came prepared. Mud sucks our shoes into the soil. Water slowly drips onto our socks, and into our walking boots. We push on. We scramble over tree trunks that block our path. Even rivers are no match for us. We change are walking shoes for sandals. With a big smile we have our photos taken when we cross the small rivers. We are the ultimate adventurers. First steps the water feels cold. Then slowly the pain starts. Our feet move faster and faster through the water. Pain gets worse. When we step out of the water a cushion of needles explodes around our feet. I scream! …What a great adventure to tell when we get home!
Slowly warm blood returns to my feet. After four river crossings on a row, fun is not fun anymore. “Not again, please!”. My feet feel like frozen lumps of meat. Cold numbs the pain. When I walk after a crossing, for one minute, I do not feel I have feet at all. Then pain flows more heavy through my whole body. Finally we take a wide turn away from the river. One challenge passed.
The snowy mountains come closes. Rain changes into snow. Wind is blower more fierce. Nature does not surrender. Neither do we. Path is getting steeper. Nature becomes dangerously beautiful. A snow storm limits our views. We only have to cross over this mountain pass and a short walk down to our camp site. Hope that the difficult part is behind us, fades quickly. Snow drops below our feet. Our legs sink till our knees into the soft snow. I lift up my tired legs. I have to take giant steps to follow the steps our guide has made before me. This reminds me of Months Python’s ‘Ministery of funny walks’. Soon I return to reality; pain shoots through my knee, and I scream. The others look back, but are too busy themselves walking and not falling down. My foot slides and like a ballet dancer I lie between two foot steps. Again a huge pain shoot. A curse rises from my mouth and heart. Soft on the outside, hard within. I try to keep my leg as straight as possible and continue. I even speed up my pace. When I will reach the top I will worry about the next challenges. I deny the pain, smother another cry and continue.
Arrived at the top of the pass we lean against the wind. One of our cameras is swirling around on a tripod because of the strong wind. Taking a group photo on this spot is not going to work. I am glad that I can get my breath back. Our guide knows about my knee aches. I have no other choice then to continue to our camp site. After three meters the pain is back and I know that this will get tough. I can hardly bent my knee without shoots of pain. Descending down the mountain without bending my knees is impossible. Tears fill my eyes and for a moment I just scream. I know that I have to move. Today only for half an hour, but what about tomorrow? Tomorrow an eight hour walk is planned through the same rough landscape, though it will be mostly downhill. I sit down in the snow. Another shoot of pain through my leg. How will I ever get down this mountain? What will I do on a 3 week walking tour through Argentina and Chile with not being capable to walk? Has my big escape come to an early end and will I have to go home? Unimaginable….
The soft hand of Rianne, a woman of our group, rests on my shoulder. I tell her that I can not go on. Tears burn in my eyes. The falling snow melts down the pain. She give me her walking sticks, two sicks as mittens and a knee bandage. Others of the group take my heavy backpack. On a steep part I stop. For once I let my tears flow. Nature has won. But I know that I can not quit. Rianne stays with me, which feels very nice. Concerned faces when I catch up with the rest of the group. They all think the same like me. What about tomorrow? I stumble into the tent, which my tent mate Trudy had set up. Finally I can take off my wet socks. My freezing feet en hot painful knee get warm in the sleeping bag. Slowly my whole body starts glowing.
I forget the strain and stress for a moment when Trudy brings a warm cup of coffee. “Please stay in the tent and get warm”. I could fall asleep in a second. “Pilav with rice” dinner is great. After dinner I struggle to get into my sleeping bag. The smooth sleeping bag glides down our sloping camping spot. Like a baby I end up at the exit of our tent. A few times I try to push myself up, but the pain in my knee is too much. Tiredness overcomes me, and I fee into a restless sleep.
The next morning everything looks a lot better. Looking outside of our test, I see some blue sky! Temperatures have dropped in the night, because of the clear skies. When I stumble out of our tent, I am chilled to the bone when some ice drops from the tent. Summer…?! My knee feels stiff and warm. I do not feel pain at the moment. Many questions and worries by the others of the group, but I do not have much choice. I will have to start the trek downhill. I block out the possibility of pain. Soon after we leave the first stretch downhill is quite steep. The stiffness slowly transcends into a warm glowing pain. Not too extreme, but I can not deny it. I slow down my pace a bit en on parts glide down the mountain. I am relieved that the terrain becomes more flat. The pain slowly goes away. The warm glow stays. Slowly I feel more confident. The terrain is tough, like it was the first day. Seven hours of walking, downhill, through muddy swampy terrain, littered with tree trunks. Lifting my legs is very tiring, but my knees are OK. The landscape feels spooky, like in a Scooby Doo cartoon. The introduction of the beaver has a destructive effect. At the end of the day everybody is exhausted. Finally we reach a normal sand path. Not much later a Landrover stops when we try to hitchhike! I gladly accept the offer to take some of our group to town. The rest of the group take the bus and arrive in our youth hostel not too much later. Memories of these days will be there forever.