To South America and Back

Monday, February 06, 2006

My big toenail may be gone but it was worth it!

Jeremy and I departed our favorite city and headed into what we heard to be an awful tourist trap...Bariloche, Argentina. At first sight, we felt like someone dropped a small town from the Swiss Alps right into Argentina. Later we decided that due to the tourists this city brings in and the focus on spending big bucks and skiing it reminded us of what Aspen might be like. We took some quick pics of the st. bernards that walked around in the center square and then climbed several steep hills to find the cheapest hostels in the city (yet still one of the most expensive that we've stayed in). For the rest of our days there we tried to avoid the tourists but it was pretty difficult. Though Bariloche was a tourist trap, we had a delightful time. I will skip to the best part of our stay in the area though...and that was not in Bariloche at all.

It was in the heart of Patagonia that Jeremy and I had the best experience on our trip thus far (yes, we have had favorite cities and favorite restaurants but this was another favorite). It was probably also the most trying. We begun our three day trek through the Patagonian mountains from Villa Catedral, Argentina.

Day 1: a four hour hike through forests and winding hills overlooking a beautifully green lake with one tough uphill climb ending at Refugio Frey. We set up our tent, rested our weary legs, and tried to take a dip in the crystal clear lagoon but as it was a fresh spring, it was freezing cold. We were also wary of drinking from it but by the end of the trip that fear was long gone as we filled our Camelbaks without any resistance from every creek and lagoon we found. It was delicious. The refugio was one lone cabin-like structure with an outhouse beside it. It resided along the shore of the lagoon which was completely surrounded by mountains. Our dinner was more expensive than we had hoped but we were loaded with more meat and rice than we could handle. The small structure where one woman cooked up the meals for about seven people was lit by candles (as there is no electricity). We dined with a couple from Belgium and a man from Buenos Aires who sung in the choir and wore a button of Jack Nicholson from the Shining. Odd but so entertaining! After a rough sleep, we were back on the path (keep in mind, this was hardly a path at times...not something you would ever find in the States...hardly any signs, no guards patrolling, no emergency first aid, etc....just us and the woods/mountains/streams...and a few Israelis).

Day 2: a 8 hour hike consisting of three mountain climbs ending at Refugio Jakob. The first ascent consisted of easy to grip large rocks following a waterfall topped with a snow drift leading to another gorgeous lagoon. Following that, it was up a mountain of snow and boulders. Then straight down a mountain(and when I say "straight" I mean terrifyingly steep) of all (and when I say "all" I mean ALL) loose gravel. A refreshingly shady forest with another beautiful stream followed. Then...up yet again. This included a scary snow climb where even Jeremy admitted he was frightened for his life (I'm glad I wasn't the only one). Then down another straight mountainside of loose gravel but this time with rocks the size of footballs. It was this descent that I believe led to the fate of my toenail (we'll get to that later). I have to admit that this day's trek was the most energy draining and death-defying experience of my life(since I am scared of heights). By the time we reached the refugio we looked like we just crawled from battle. The lovely refugio workers took one look at us and offered us some beers. It was yet another small cabin structure alongside another amazingly clear fresh spring lagoon. They offered a three course meal of corn chowder, gnocchi with meat and sauce, and flan for dessert. We dined this time with a man from France who was there to kayak and a couple from Buenos Aires who also did the same trek that day. We were suprised to see the Israelis that we passed in the forest stroll in over two hours after us! I'm pretty proud that I even made it but was elated to find that I could do it faster than another person. Sleep that night was a bit more restful.

Day 3: a less rigorous trek of 5 hours beside a winding crystal clear river with rolling hills as the only obstacle. My legs and feet didn't want any of it though, no matter how rigorous. We woke to do some yoga to help our sore muscles, drank some coffee and got on the road again. I took an accidental dip in the river as I was trying to cross it which felt nice as running water hadn't been an option since we left Bariloche. As we reached the end of our journey, five hours later, I fell into a van that whisked us back to our hotel in Bariloche. All I could do was swallow some advil and rest my dead tired legs. After that we rejuvenated ourselves with some beer and pizza.

During the days following the trek I have watched my big toe slowly deteriorate, turn black, detach from my toe, and it will soon be gone forever. Yummie. I have to say that it was worth it. The days we spent trekking were the most exhilirating and fun of our travels so far. The views were spectacular! Being absolutely alone in the woods and on the sides of high-reaching mountains (with only a couple sightings of other trekkers) was such a great experience. Jeremy and I often discuss the constant "need to immerse oneself in culture"that travelers are always trying to acheive. We've decided that that's crap and focusing on that ideal only leads to further seperation from the culture. Instead, it's just a matter of living and learning without so much need for aspiring to an unatainable goal. Anywho, what I'm getting at is that it's almost impossible to get lost in the world down here without being an outsider (in some sense) but this trek taught us the most thus far about the region and the differences between our culture and this particular one. Without the need for constant human contact, showers, and an easy escape route, we were truly In Patagonia.


At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Sam said...

Can I leave comments? Can I use some HTML tags, such as , , ?
Well, you guys look pretty fresh all considered, and I'm nearly green with envy. Looks beautiful. When are you getting back again? We need to schedule a meet and greet in Boston... (More later)

At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Chrissy said...

gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawk! I would chop off ALL my toenails to join you...! Aimee, did you try the duct tape trick? I hear it cures everything! ;) Love you guys, think about you daily! xoxoxoxoxoxo Darshie xoxoxoxoxoxo

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Chirimoya Tours Peru said...

Nice reports and Fotos from your Trip to Chile. But in Peru ist better and more shure driving by an good bus. Hope you come back to Southamerica one day.

Yours sincerely form Lima



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