My friend thinks I’m a lot like a bear. All I do is eat, sleep and, when the weather is good, frolic in the sun drenched meadows. I’d say I’m more like this:
From the beginning
I’m closing in on 2000km of my 30000km stroll across the globe. I say stroll because I’ve progressed about half of where I thought I’d be by now. But damn… warm houses, conversations, hot food and modern comforts…
Last time we spoke
I copped an injury coming out of winter and had to stop for two months with the odd mountain, kayak, marble cave, glacier, whale and dentist thrown in. Now, back in the gauntlet, a few things have become obvious: I had to loosen my waste belt, was quivering under the weight of my pack and needed to add an extension (hours) to my ETA to campsites!
I will say this. The first leg back in was pretty random… Even for me… And I think it’s fair to say I own random.
In the mornings I stop to eat a pastry (my second one) and drink hot chocolate. I have to brush off the frost that has settled on my pack to pull out my thermos.
Thought those days were behind me.
By lunch I’m ready for a cheese heavy sandwich and juice you can make using packets of surprisingly authentic powder.
The heat is souring yet water sources are lined with sheets of ice which is great for the juice… Not great when I took a shortcut into the middle of a floodplain and had to trudge my way through 3km of skin burning, ice bath hell.
By the time numbness kicked in it was actually kind of fun.
In the afternoon the heat picks up so much I copped sunstroke and windburn… And start to worry about running out of water. Needn’t have:
Some nights, I don’t need my sleeping bag. Some nights, it snows.
I took a day off… until I received a storm warning that had me flee to a rather delightful abandoned shelter.
The next day: Clear, still and sunny: blisters a bloody mess.
A tiny town with a big (sometimes misplaced) heart
I stopped in at Alto Rio Senguer for a day to restock and chat to some locals.
The man at the grocery shop gives me my next week supplies!
The community hall where everyone hangs out has free WiFi and an awesome atmosphere.
I meet a 7 year old girl who chats to me without an Argentinian accent (makes it a lot easier!) and then lectures me about being single and tells me how great her dad is.
I mistake her dad for her brother.
The temperature turns below zero and it starts to snow (go figure) I take refuge in the petrol station and recharge my electronics. The man behind the counter gives me lunch (empanadas made by his brothers wife 😍)!
I consider staying longer.
Then, the night before I leave, a man calls out to my tent. I wake up, find my torch, try and remember some Spanish.
It’s the father-not-brother.
He tells me his daughter told his mother about me…. and that I was camping. His mother got mad and made him look for me to invite me to stay!
I say thanks but that I have to get up early to leave. After some negotiating he gives up and shakes my hand (odd). His hand is ice cold. Turns out it took him over an hour of searching to find me.
Fear of mother is a real thing here.
Shonky distance estimates
I continue on.
At 7am I spot a landmark I guess is an hour or so away (I’m usually pretty good at that). I drink my hot chocolate (yeah it’s an addiction) and walk all day trying to reach it. I even walk a few more hours past my planned campsite before I give up. The next day, more than 24 hours later, I reach it… at lunchtime.
I also reach an estancia with a chick so awesome I want to stay.
She works a sheep farm with her brothers, handles the working dogs like they’re an extension to her body, can whistle like a boss and has a sense of humour that has me in stitches.
We chat for two hours and she gives me a massive bag of nuts to continue my walk… This is a big deal because nuts are impossible to buy here. She bought them in the north!
I’m so happy I pick this as my favourite walking day… and oddly the ice bath day as well.
The heat and wind tear shreds off my lips. As an old farmer tells me, my lips look as dry as a chooks bum. #wtf?!
It turns out my stomach isn’t the only thing that softened over winter. The blisters on my feet (one in particular) are so outrageous I’ll link you to photos to spare anyone with medically sensitive eyes.
I end up walking in hour intervals to manage the general all over my-feet-are-pathetic pain.
…and the winter cushioning I mentioned, drips away with every kilometre. I loose at least 5kg before the next town… and worryingly lose my appetite entirely… 2 weeks on.
I wonder if I’m terminal…or have worms. Not sure yet. I’ll let you know.
With my replacement gear I started off equipped and feeling like a pro.
On the first night I blow up my sleeping mat and cop a mouthful of mould spores and discover a similar situation with the cap of my Nalgene.
No idea if it’s fixable (?)… One thing’s for sure, my sleeping mat isn’t pleasant to inflate or deflate.
I clean the Nalgene.
I have 6 gear-related melt downs:
1. I thought I broke my backpack – Aarn (the dude who makes them) reassures me it’s ok. It’s ok.
2. I thought I lost my spoon – I love that spoon. It’s one of those Sea to Summit spoons with a long handle so you don’t burn yourself cooking… and more importantly, reach the bottom of food bags!… A day later I found it where it was meant to be.
3. I lost a tent peg. Really. So annoying.
4. My new shoes begin to fall apart and cause heal blisters. I write to the manufacturer. They don’t write back. I can’t buy another pair for another 200kms. Daggers. #GorillaTape really does fix everything. #MacGyver-ing
5. I run low on stove fuel and can’t buy more for another 200kms – so I learn how to service my stove and consider buying kerosene (probably a good thing to learn).
6. I tear a hole in an awkward place of my new tights (BlackMilk for those in the cult) the same way I did the last pair… Jumping over barbed wire fences. Barbed wire: expensive, superfluous and the bane.of.my.existence.
On occasions I have short romantic(less) interludes that go something like:
A man passes me in a Ute. He stops. Pauses to think. Laps back past. Returns and begins to 20/20 me.
I can only imagine these fringing-60-year-old-men are thinking. But what ever it is, I can’t help but think it is with the enthusiasm of Doug the dog from the film “Up”.
We talk. He cannot understand how or why I am single and alone. Or why I don’t want to get in his car and travel off in the wrong direction to his farm.
… to live happily ever after.
But I can assure you we are both as baffled as each other by the end of the conversation.
A stone throw from the town I’m aiming for I’m stopped by the police.
Thrilled because I think they might give me a coffee (wrong country)… I realise, when they close the door behind me that they want to search me. Oh god.
I change my strategy. Full of smiles and jokes I try:
Are.you.sure.you.want.to.go.through.my.pack?! I’ve been walking for a week. It’s alllllll bad. Really really bad.
Humourless death stares in reply I take poetic justice in their disgust of my week old everything, including my leave-no-traces rubbish bag… Which I kindly leave with them.
After they’ve opened everything, muddled it all in a pile of disorder that hurts my strategically attuned packing brain, they ask me if I smoke weed.
That question earlier could have saved us all a lot of time and a monumental sculpture of crusty underwear entwined in half-rotten rubbish and a toe curling stench.
I give them a humourless no, repack, and hobble off with my crippling blister towards anything consumable while I order something impressively oversized to fatten up on… In this case two steaks, a salad, mash potatoes, a mountain of chips and unsurprisingly, a chocolate milk. I drink it with three croissants while I wait for lunch.
The chef falls in love with me.
Campsite of awesomeness
The Municipal Camping has hot showers long enough for me to remove my strapping tape residue, wash my hair, soothe my blister, wrinkle my skin (love that), and… shave my legs for the first time since December! Yep.
I find a weather protected position – i.e. the caretaker lets me sleep in the BBQ house on a real mattress with power, light and all the things I could dream of!
I rest for 4 days – practice my Spanish with them while they offer me food, and seek out WiFi throughout the town.
I find it.
I head to the local restaurant / petrol station where the kindest people welcome me in, feed me delightful sweet everything and bring me flat whites while I use their computer and Internet!!
Then the owner tells me he’s a lawyer and to contact him when I have problems. Oh.
Hopefully that’s not a jinx!
Wondering why so many people stop to chat when I’m on the road?
It doesn’t take long for Truckies and commuters to toot their horn when they see me, wave, blow me kisses and sometimes stop for a chat or to give me chocolate – seriously, I nearly cry!
Then one lonely week I spent little time near roads, there wasn’t much traffic when I was by the road and noone stopped, honked or waved. No kisses. No chocolate… nothing.
A lady I met said it was a shame there wasn’t a way of letting the community know I’m coming. Which got me thinking…
What if I placed a Facebook ad asking people to say hi? #BOOM
A town called Esquel. It’s massive (by my standards). I’ll be walking shorter days (bliss) and I’ll cross my 2000km milestone.
I’ll also buy new shoes, a tent peg and stove fuel 🙌
3 things you can do
1.Enjoying the adventure?
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2. Restaurant of dreams
In the next town is a restaurant I have been walking towards for months. It’s meant to be the bees knees (Does anyone even know what that saying means? Do bees have knees?). 🐝
Now you know how much I eat (without an apatite) you can help offset my bill here.
Oh god I hope they have apple pie! 🍏
But best of all,
3. Keep on reading!
Thanks for all your support – without it I’d be crying on the side of a road to a fringing-60-year-old-man about my blisters… And nobody wants that (except Doug).
See you out there,