Today I had the opportunity to climb my first mountain in Chile. :-) I started the day helping with breakfast and cleaning the hostel. Sandra showed me out to make homemade pancakes which we ate for lunch. We topped them with jams, peanut butter, chocolate, applesauce, butter, etc. I learned the recipe so next time I can pitch in and make them.
Afterwards I hung out around the hostel and waited for Keith, and Australian, to return from town because he wanted to do the hike as well. Sandra and Thomas asked me to take notes while I was hiking so that I can create a sketch map of the route for our guests.
To get to the trailhead you first have to walk through the town streets to the southern edge and take a left when you reach a gate. About 20 yards away is a hole in the fence in which you squeeze through. Haha. The first part was beautiful pastures full of flowers and trees, passing by huge horse enclosures. You passed through two more gates and steadily rose in elevation. Most of the first part was quite easy and provided excellent views of the surrounding valley. This place is truly spectacular to behold.
About an hour in you reach a small waterfall where we stopped to wash our hands and so I could get some water shots with my GoPro, which I periodically turned on to capture footage of my hike. From then onwards and upwards, the terrain turned into zigzagging paths going extremely steep up the mountain. The pine forests thicken and had shed their needles all over the path making it very slippery, adding to the difficulty of also having a hard time catching your breath.
Eventually as we climbed high enough, the non-native pine trees gave way to the native species hung with lichen. I felt like I was in a Dr Suess novel! I even saw a bit of snow up there. The native trees then gave way to small gravel rocks which began the last part of the ascent to the top. It was alien to me to have passed through such different landscapes all on one landmark. It was quite windy at the top but the view was so amazing it didn't matter. Mountains all around, Coyhaique stretching out at the bottom of the valley, and the insane mountain you just climbed below you. What a feeling of accomplishment!! We stopped for a bit at the top, took some pics and I even tried to get some giant condor birds to fly closer to us. (Thomas had said if you lay down and play dead they will sometimes fly very close to you and you can maybe get a good pic of them). They called my bluff, though, and flew pretty far up and over us so we didn't get any good pictures of them.
The trek down was quite difficult and painful... It hurt my knees a lot and my legs were shaking like crazy from the exertion of climbing. The whole hike up and down took about 4 hours. We were booking it pretty good. Finally as we reached the lower parts and the sweeping fields, I must have let down my safely guard and I twisted my ankle (same one I have had problems with for a while now). Keith kindly helped me up and I walked it off ... Ironically, we had just been discussing how we both had bad ankles- my right, his left. Oh, by the ways Keith is a sort of Res Life Director at a university in Australia, and I would put him somewhere in his late 30's-40's. Last year he ran the Championship Adventure Race, where you compete in a team of 4 in kayaking, trekking, and biking. It is 8 days long and you have to navigate yourself though all sorts of terrain. He said they didn't sleep the first and last night and only slept one hour every night that week. It sounded insane. His team didn't win but they did well... They trained for 14 months prior to the race.
Needlesstosay, he kicked my butt on this hike. :-P
Arriving back at the hostel was such a good feeling and sitting was an even better feeling. I was truly spent. That night after I ate dinner with Sandra and Thomas I joined some other guests in the common room for a few beverages. Keith and I toasted to our awesome hike and exchanged stories with two young Belgians that were biking through Chile. They had just finished their studies and wanted to take a trip so they are heading down Chile from north to south. They had found some good Belgium brews at the supermarket down the street and we tried some... So at least now I know I have options. Haha They were also vegetarians, which is difficult to do in a region where one of the main industries is sheep farming.
It's so cool to get a chance to talk to all the travelers. I have already met so many cool people from all sorts of places. Many of the young people have finished their studies and are taking time off to travel before they start a career. Otherwise people are just saving vacation and coming to trek or see glaciers and so on. I've had a great experience so far and I can't wait to see what adventure I will have next here!