The cold morning air wrapped around me like an unwelcome blanket, just the slightest of breezes slashed across my exposed neck. I know it was my my fatigue that made me feel so cold, but that knowledge didn’t provide an overwhelming amount of comfort. The wind in Patagonia is well known, and for good reason. The wind in the middle of a city rivals only that of the wind on a Canadian mountain summit. The difference being the wind in Canada feels like it belongs there, in Patagonia it feels like an entity with bad intentions. My stomach felt like something was trying to escape and I barely had the physical or mental strength to stand. The taxi pulled up two houses away, Erin waved and he pulled up to us. I hugged Erin and she gave me a kiss. It was dark, but I knew she was crying; my tears not far behind either. She quickly let go said an abrupt goodbye, spun on her heels and quickly walked back to the small guest house we had been renting. She spared me a long goodbye, and deep in my heart I thanked her for it. I climbed into the taxi and headed for my five a.m. flight. My South American Adventure was over, all that was left was a forty hour nightmare of airplanes and lay overs. I pitied and envied Erin, she had a lot of adventure left ahead of her but she had the misfortune of having to do it alone.
Erin and I flew into the town of Ushuaia, Argentina on Saturday morning. I was a bit taken aback by the airport. It was a small single runway affair, with large timber beams that made it resemble a cozy mountain lodge. Our hostel was only a few kilometers away from the airport so we decided to walk. The decision was influenced by the fact that the walk was along the seaside, which offered us a beautiful view of both the sea and the surrounding mountains.
We got to the hostel, got settled into our dorms, and walked into town to get some groceries. The next day we did a hike up to a glacier. It was at the far north end of town and the first portion of the path was along a (closed for the season) ski hill. I still can’t help but day dream about catching a flight to Patagonia in the middle of august to go snowboarding.
Our trail quickly went passed the top of the chair lift and went from a wide gravel road to a narrow packed pathway. It took us through some amazing mountain scenery, over a few bridges, and eventually to a glacier… The first snow I had seen in a very long time. We stopped, had eggs, bananas, and croissants for lunch and then found our way back down to the trail head. All said and done it was only about a two or three hour hike, but it offered views usually associated with an all day hike.
The next day we really felt like challenging ourselves. We went to the nearby Tierra Del Fuego National Park to do the hardest trail listed: Cerro Guanaco. I am told the name translates to “Alpaca Hill”. A shuttle picked us up at our hostel, drove down every street in town to pick up other hikers, then headed to the park. The bus stopped at the gate so we could pay our entry fee then the driver was kind enough to drop us all off at which ever trailhead we asked for. We were told that our chosen hike was four or more hours each way and warned not to begin it any later than noon as the last shuttle back to town was at 7pm. We started our hike a little after 11am so we decided we best hustle a little, lest we have to spend the night in the Patagonian wilderness unprepared. It would make for a good story but it only gets to about 12 degrees Celsius during the day and I have a hard time imagining night time being anything other than cold.
The first part of the hike was steep uphill through a densely wooded forest filled with thick trunked trees. I also noticed that a lot of the trees had large burls on them, which I found very interesting. I later learned that burls are the result of stress, damage, or illness in trees. So its possible that some sort of disease went through the forest at some time. The dense trees started to thin out and then we found ourselves at the edge of the strangest patch of trees I have ever come across. Our path led through a patch of the most twisted and tangled tree I had ever seen. I couldn’t understand it the trees grew in any direction and, apparently, often changed their minds about what that direction should be. I spotted one that had grown in an almost perfect four foot loop. It looked like a haunted forest in a Disney movie.
After the haunted forest was a mud hole. We cautiously walked along the edge, trying not to lose a shoe until we reached a gravel creek bed to walk along. Our trail then led us across a seemingly open field. The field, however, was soft wet ground and required care and caution to navigate, for fear of the soft ground sinking into the water. I accidentally learned that the water was about the depth of an ankle.
Across the field was the final portion of our hike. A very steep trail etched into the crumbly shale on the mountain side. This would lead us to the summit of the mountain and reward us with beautiful views of the park, the town, and the ocean. Going up the final section Erin and I passed a group of people playing in a patch of snow on the mountainside, on the way back we would overhear that they had never seen snow before.
Surprisingly, we managed to reach the summit in just over two hours. It turns out we had hustled needlessly. We took a bunch of pictures and made our way back down, enjoying the scenery just as much the second time through. All said and done our hike took us just over four hours total.
On our third and final full day at Ushuaia it was far too windy and rainy to do anything of note. We just relaxed and planned our trip to Chile. The next morning, bright and early, we jumped on a bus at traveled eleven hours to Punta Arenas, Chile. It was nice to see the Patagonian country side through those big windows. We spent a few days in Punta Arenas and then I caught a plane home, and Erin took a bus to her next adventure, a nine day hike around Torres Del Paine. Hopefully I can get her to write it up for us all to enjoy.
By this time, many of you are likely wondering why I came home early, and why Erin didn’t. Well, the truth is, I am sick. I have had IBS for many years now. While travelling it got worse. A lot worse. I was stressed and not eating much; in fact I lost about 50 lbs in five months. I often found myself staying in the hostel, sick, while Erin would go do activities alone, or waste the day in the hostel. I was essentially paying big money to hang out in cheap bunk beds with a stomach ache. So we talked about it and decided it would be best if I came home and got control of my diet and stress and tried some new treatments. Erin wasn’t sure if she should keep traveling without me or come home with me, so I put my foot down. I told her to stay and travel. She is a more experienced traveler that me and she is no stranger to solo travel. Furthermore if she did come home with me there isn’t much she can do to help me recover, and it would mean ending the trip of a lifetime very early.
Posted in Hiking, Travelwith 2 comments.