Backpacking Eight Months On the Road
By Bus Through South America
By David Rice
Page Twenty Seven
Backpacking by Bus In South America
Eight Months On the Road
By David Rice
The van had dropped us at a staging area where there was a campsite but we agreed to hike towards our reserved cabin for our first nights lodging. I had no idea how far the cabin was but we struck out anyway for our camp and luckily, after seven hours of hard hiking, we made camp with two hours of light to spare.
We had five in our group by this time, a German woman, a South African man, a Brazilian woman and an American woman in her sixties. We had met earlier on the boat and decided we would book the trip together although, while we hiked, we each went at our own pace. That pace would have the young African man way out in front, me and the 30-year old Brazilian woman a few miles behind, and the German woman in her twenties and the American woman in her sixties, trailing far behind. This allowed us each to enjoy the scenery at our own pace and to try the many side trails if we chose.
We would still meet each night at our pre-booked camp but we would all arrive at different times throughout the day.
On our first morning I left camp before dawn to climb into the mountains. I reached the base of the mountain and then climbed hand over hand up a steep bank strewn with big boulders, hiking through a light snowfall. . Snow continued to fall while I hiked for half a day, climbing towards a clearing were I could get a view of the basin, a glacial cirque surrounded on three sides by steep peaks. When I finally got to the plateau the snow was so thick I could not see. I sat and waited for two hours but the snow never let up. I never did have my view and I reluctantly had to climb back down without my view to reach the cabin before dark.
Each night the cabin would provide bunks but we would need our own sleeping bags. We brought some food and we were able to find water everywhere, either glacial streams that are melting faster then they have in recent history or at the cabins.
I had brought dried fruits and nuts in my pack and we were able to buy meals at each cabin were a park staff member would cook in a kitchen of sorts and were I would get breakfast each day for twenty bucks.
When you consider that the staff packs in all the food by horseback and you are miles from civilization in the most exquisite scenery with lakes and meadows and wildflowers, gnarly trees struggling to grow, and soaring mountains with snow-capped peaks, breakfast at $20. was fairly priced.
"God look at those mountains," I would exclaim to no one in particular during a hike in a moment of awe. Those peaks provided many moments of awe. I couldn't believe how steep and majestic they were. Everywhere streams carried water that had been locked in ice for thousands of years and was now racing through the valleys and heading towards the ocean to clean it up. In this remarkable setting, I considered a twenty-dollar breakfast of eggs, bacon, coffee, and yogurt a bargain.
The cabins are spaced so that a hiker can spend eight to ten hours going between stops. I would hike eight hours each day over trails, at times flooded with water, where park employees had built walkways and at some places suspension bridges across low areas. The trails are well marked in the 240,000-hectare park but you could get in trouble if you were not careful. In the high season of December, January, and February, however, there would be many hikers to give assistance.
I saw herds of Guanaco, a small Llama, while hiking but no dangerous animals live in the park as far as I knew. The trails took some caution, however.
On one trail I walked a knife-edge as I looked down a thousand feet into an abyss of a valley with water running through it. One misstep on that trail could have been my last.
Patagonia David Rice Photop