Ok. So this experience happened in El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina.
I had just come from Bariloche and planned to spend a night in the ‘hippy town’ of El Bolson. I ended up staying there for 6 nights (such is the way when travelling).
I staying in an amazing hostel called ‘El Publito’, which is 3km from the main town (the main town being a single road with loads of hiking shops). El Bolson is surrounded by mountains so trekking is one of the main reasons people visit. I have never been a huge fan of trekking but i def wanted to give it a good go!
Our hostel was so cool as it was an old cottage in the middle of no-where! There’s a beautiful river next to it, and then just fields around it, and further on, mountains. What i loved about the hostel is the homely feel! It only holds about 20 people or so, so everyone gets to know everyone else. There’s no TV, just a big fireplace, a few guitars and a bookshelf. A beautiful place to unwind.
After a few days of relaxing, i had made good friends with a few people at the hostel and decided to do our first trek. There are various ‘refugios’ (which is like a safehouse for mountaineers to stay in for shelter). One day we decided to do a fairly easy 1 day trek, which was walking up to a near by refugio. The morning we decided to set off it had been snowing (first time i’d seen snow in maybe over a year!). We walked up, and up, and up, and up, and up. Eventually passing through the clouds and walking into fields of virgin snow and sunshine! When we got to the refugio we rewarded ourselves with an ice cold homemade beer! We spent a few hours hanging out in the sunshine, celebrating life, checking out views of the andes and looking down on the carpet of cloud below us! We even found some sledges and played in the snow for a while!
The walk back wasn’t as fun – 13 km which totaled my feet!
Anyway, inspired by the incredible day we had, myself and my new friends decided to do a big, 3 day trip. This was to become one of my most memorable experiences of my travels.
4 of us planned our route and set out, with bags full of food and clothes. Our walk up the mountain was INTENSE. Solid uphill walking for over 6 hours. But the walk was incredible. Through forests that had freshly been capped with snow. Silence was everywhere. Humans were miles and miles away. Around us, only nature.
We had to make 4 river crossings on the way to the safe house. Some of which were very scary, and the danger was very real (if anyone got hurt, it was a 6 hr walk to the nearest person/telephone!). As it was so cold, some of the rivers were crossed by walking across the ice! Others were crossed by balancing and shimmying across tree’s that had fallen across the river. One crossing took us about 40 mins before we worked out how we could even cross it. There was one other crossing that we had to jump across (with a big backpack on!) and took about 10 mins to pluck up the courage to do it (luckily everyone made it!).
I’ll never forgot the moment where we walked over to a clearing and were exposed to HUNDREDS of miles of the Andes in both directions, with Chilie on the other side. The clouds were below us and the scenery was un-describable. But ‘Epic’ is one word i could use to come close to doing it justice. We spent about 20 mins just looking.
We continued our trek and got to the refugio a few hours later (after getting lost). Whoever had stayed in their before had left us with some wood to cut up for a fire. The refugio had a wooden fire stove, a firepit (which we couldnt use as the pipe taking the smoke outside was blocked, and filled the hut with smoke), mattresses, a few plastic chairs and an axe.
Our next few days were beautiful. So simple. But beautiful. We would wake up, start a fire in the over to heat water for tea (the water came straight from the river next to the hut) and get to work. One person would collect wood for the fire. One person would be chopping the wood. One person would be creating paths through the snow (which was about 1 ft deep!) so we could walk to the river/fire pit/designated toilet area without getting covered in snow again.
We spent nights around the fire playing games and talking.
We watched the Moon Rise one night. This was like the sun rise – but the moon was so full and so bright that you could actually watch it rise. We walked to the edge of a cliff to watch it. I’ll never forget it.
We discussed ‘The less you need, the happier you are’…i totally agreed with that. I was so happy, and we had nothing. Just nature and eachothers company.
We walked further up the mountains one day and found GIANT icicles formed off of a cliff edge. There were around 6ft long and about 6 inches thick!
The sleeping at nights was the only downside tho. I would sleep in all of my clothes (like, 2 jumpers, 4 Tshirts, a few shirts, a sleeping bag, hat, scarf and gloves…) and still couldn’t sleep cuz i was so cold!
Sorry if any of this post has sounded corny, but it was really such an incredible experience. I had been wanting to do something ‘off of the beaten track’ for a while, and this truely was one of those experiences. We were soooooo far from the nearest human being. We were above the clouds, living on the peak of a mountain, fending for ourselves. It was incredible. I have a massive smile just thinking about it!
OH – my LC-A died as we were walking up the mountain!!!!!! So i don’t actually have pics of being at the refugio….only the pics from the first ‘one day’ trek. I have pics as we started to embark up the mountain, the last one i took before my cam died was the one of the 3 of us walking in a field to the base of the mountain.