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Entries about hikes

Preparing for Patagonia: Chilean style


View Australian adventure! & Getting to know Chile & Exploring Patagonia on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

When I decided to head to Patagonia, I dutifully read up on both the Argentinian and Chilean side, which is where I really learned about the Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia. It didn't even occur to me that I could trek it independently of a tour, so I started researching companies. They turned out to be pretty expensive and I assumed my best bet would be to stick to some day trips.

However, I met several people on my Uyuni/ Salt Flats tour who had been trekking there and they all gave me tidbits of advice and encouragement to go and do the trek independently. There were a few women like me who'd gone alone, also with minimal previous trekking experience, and that's how something that had not originally been on my agenda at all, turned into a new adventure I could realistically do.

As per the advice I was given I tried to get to Puerto Natales in time for the 3pm information and advice session at Base Camp. Base Camp is a pub and trekking rental store next door to, and run by, the Erratic Rock hostel, their staff give this talk every single day and stay around to answer all the questions you have. I'll include some of that advice as I go here, but if you're planning to trek, especially the O or the Q, please don't take my words as gospel, still go to the talk if you can, as they will give up to date and more specific advice.

Thanks to a longer than necessary border control (and which border crossing isn't?), I arrived at the talk at 3.15, a little flustered having missed the beginning. It didn't matter though, I heard all the advice for people wanting to do the W trek, normally a 5 day trek. I had had to wait in El Calafate as the buses had been full, so I only had 4 days to complete the trek which the staff there helped me plan.

The rest of that afternoon was about preparing everything I needed for the next four days, including equipment hire and food shopping. As I was going alone, I needed to be able to carry everything for myself, and knowing exactly what to buy was quite tricky as you need to pack food that will properly sustain you but that is light and resealable. There was plenty of umming and ahhing in the supermarket but finally I settled on dinners of rice, veg from a carton, soup packets to add flavour, and tuna. For breakfast I purchased the two portion packet of oatmeal from Base Camp as I didn't want to buy a whole box for just me and for lunch I got rice cakes, nuts and raisins.

In the end, I took about the right amount and type of food. This included some beloved chocolate, as we had been advised to take some sort of treat. I was also glad they reminded me to bring ziplock bags, which are excellent for sealing open food packets without them leaking.

The next challenge was packing the bag with the right distribution. I had been lucky to get a bed at Erratic Rock (they don't take reservations!) so I was close to some very knowledgable people. Thankfully, someone noticed my phaffing and decided to help me pack it all in! No the process he noticed I had purchased a large plastic bottle to take with me. Horrified, he rushed into his room and returned with a 500ml bottle, and almost demanded I swapped since there was no need to carry the extra weight. I was slightly sceptical, but actually this was one of the best pieces of advice.

Unlike other treks, the Torres del Paine national park is full of fresh and clean streams and rivers, so rather than schlepp around 2 litres, it's much better to carry a small bottle and refill it all the time.

After what was probably way too much flapping about, I finally finished packing up and collapsed into a very comfy bed ahead of my early start the following morning.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 03:06 Archived in Chile Tagged landscapes preparation patagonia hikes Comments (0)

Huaraz - exploring at altitude

all seasons in one day
View London - before the off! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

This time last week I had been in Huaraz for all of about 3 hours, having arrived with 5 other volunteers in the early hours. We'd taken an overnight bus from Trujillo to Huaraz, and were already waiting to go on our first excursion.

Huaraz about 3000m above sea level, and all of the expeditions from there go higher still. All the advice is to acclimatize to the altitude before going much higher or attempting a difficult hike. So naturally, we chose the Pastoruri hike - the trip that takes you to the edge of a glacier at over 5000m. Naturally. I should mention here that we had been advised that although it's high up, the walk itself at the top wasn't too taxing.

The bus ride takes you through the vast Cordilleras Blancas y Negras. We stopped at various points on the way up, to get some coca tea, to see the unique Ancash cacti, to take in the scenery on your own two feet rather than a moving bus. The stops are also supposed to help you adjust to the altitude as you climb. We reach the final bus point at about 1pm, ready to start the hike. Unfortunately, I stepped off the bus and the mountains around me continued to move, the tour guide told me I just needed to breath, which at the time, and at 5000m, was easier said than done. I stayed on the bus whilst the group went off to the glacier. As I got back on the bus, the heavens opened and the 1pm rain started, except at 5000m, it was a snow storm. After about an hour, the group came back back having reached the glacier but soaked and cold to the core. Having been a bit unwell in the days before the trip, the snow storm seemed like a sign that perhaps, I just wasn't meant to do that hike! I slept for a lot of the drive back to Huaraz, and felt significantly better once we were at a lower altitude.

The next big trip I had wanted to do was Laguna 69, look it up, the photos look stunning. However, it is by all accounts a difficult trek; I was feeling discouraged from the day before, and if truth be told, not 100% better so I opted for the Chavin de Huantin tour. The drive takes you through the Cordilleras Negras (as opposed to the Blancas peaks which have snow). Chavin was a pre-Inca civilisation and the ruins we saw date back to over 2,500 years ago. The site we visited was a former Chavin temple, an important religious centre for the Chavin civilisation. Due to lack of money, and perhaps cultural and political will, the ruins haven't been protected as well as they might deserve. You need a fair amount of imagination to picture the temple in its former glory, and an animated guide will certainly help. Our guide, a former school teacher, was certainly that. He spoke with passion, especially to inform us that the tour would only be successful if we worked together - listened and concentrated on his tour - otherwise we wouldn't learn anything at all. '¡Amiguitos, escuchame!' You can take the teacher out of a school...

On the final day of our trip, we did an independent hike. We took a local bus to the bottom of a mountain and made our own way up through Quechua farm villages to a lake at the top. Half way up, one of our group couldn't walk anymore due to an old injury, so we sent 3 of the group up on foot, whilst we found a taxi for the injured party. 3 of us went up the rest of the way in a taxi, a slightly scary experience, especially when we passed a 4x4 coming in the oppposite direction. I would have preferred to walk, but in the spirit of no one gets left behind, I'm glad we all made it to the lake! From the top you get overwhelmingly beautiful views of the snowy Cordilleras Blancas and the valley below.

I would have loved to have had more time In Huaraz, and ideally to have been completely well, but I'm glad I still decided to go. I would thoroughly recommend Huaraz to anyone with a spirit of adventure who is lucky enough to be close enough by to visit (a 8 hour bus ride is close!).

Posted by Rebecca Heller 07:07 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains ruins huaraz hikes altitude Comments (0)

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