I’m at the bottom of the world making an attempt to walk the length of the world. It’s possible I will become the first woman to do it. It’s possible I won’t make it at all.
Days can be straight forward or not – especially when you don’t speak Spanish, are walking on your own, in remote areas, with no idea of what lies ahead, and especially when you aim for a town… that turns out not to be one.
Last time we spoke I commenced the expedition but failed to secure a permit to cross the Argentina-Chile border at an unofficial location. So I walked from Ushuaia to the border, hid a food cache, and planned to return from the Chilean side.
INTO THE WILDERNESS
The hike back to the boarder from the Chilean side is 5(ish) days. I aim to start near Yendegaia – possibly the lowest town in Chile. It’s only accessible by a trail but on approach discover a sign mapping a new road that will take me almost all the way, reducing the re-entry time from five days, to one.
I drop the final food cache and spot a cabin that might be usable as a refuge… or house a farmer with a gun. I don’t speak Spanish yet so it’s hard to interpret the underlying meaning of signs. ¡Propiedad privada! and barbed wire could mean anything. I hoped hot chocolate.
Towards Yendegaia I soon come to a sign with crossed guns on it that suggested not to enter… but the barricades were open so… I am soon stopped by authorities who tell me to turn back. They have other interesting things to say:
- Yendegaia is not a town, it’s a bay. Some people live or holiday there accessing their cabins by boat.
- My trail is being turned into a new road… using explosives… lots of… often.
- Due to the terrain the road won’t be complete for 10 years.
- BUT there is an alternative trail.
- BUT I need a park permit (great).
- BUT they aren’t telling me not to go for it. Wink, wink.
- BUT they can’t tell me where the trail is.
It’s raining, we are running out of day light and Ruben has to turn back for Ushuaia or he’ll miss a day of work so…
I jump out of the car, wave goodbye to Ruben and fight my way down steep hills through stabbing trees and into soft squishy peatmoss. Which is fun – until it’s not.
My feet are wet, my gloves are saturated, I’m cold, I don’t have a permit, or a plan …but I figure I should probably avoid the explosives.
I race daylight and rain to set up camp, change clothes, wonder when I will have a ‘system’ for the chaos in my tent, and then calmly and collectively begin to freakout.
I WAKE UP WITH A PLAN
I head for the mountains, turn off tracking on my beacon (permit) and navigate for the border.
I am close BUT I have reached a flooding river and spend hours trying to find a beaver dam, a fallen tree, rock hops, or a slow running section to freeze my way across, all in the name of reaching next week’s food.
But being summer, the snow and glaciers are at max melt and Gandolf haunts me all bloody day while I agonise over my food situation.
I could not pass.
I return close to the restricted road and set up another camp to rest (hide) for a few days.
Here I count out all the food I have and ration it. I have under 900 calories a day for 10 days (I should be eating about 4500). I don’t have far to walk though and the road will make it easy to get to the kayak leg so I stew on my error, dream about it, even tweet about it… but I am not worried.
That night I wake up with hot-cold fevers. I appreciate being out of the glacial mountains in time for rumbling to remind me how close I am to the explosions (ops) and the wind warns me that my super awesome light weight ‘4 season’ tent I was assured would handle Patagonia – won’t.
I take a bath in a river – a quick one. I find a cut on my foot that isn’t looking good and that night I realise… I have a UTI.
I am at least 15 days from the next town.
The antibiotics in my first aid kit (#MacGyver) work on everything except the cold… and I’m totally ok with that.
Good News | Bad News
By now I’m in contact with Cristian from the Kayak safety crew using the safety beacon. I tell him about my food situation and he tells me they can arrive a week early if it suits me. You bet!
I HAVE EXCESS FOOD!
I redistribute my food rations, gorge myself, even THROW OUT food to save weight for the final (now joyful) walk. I’m warned it could be further than I expect and to leave early. So I do.
On arrival I receive another message.
We can’t make it till the 4th [a day later than the original]. Can you wait for us? A hug
RESCUED BY THE FARMER WITHOUT A GUN (OR HOT CHOCOLATE)
Weighing at least 5kg lighter, crack lipped and totally babe’n (sarcasm) I head to Caleta Maria – the kayak meeting point.
I haven’t seen a sole in 10 days.
Seven men are standing further down the road and I’m in the middle of convincing myself to go up and give them my best ¡Hola! – when they all turn and stare at me. That’s awkward.
Not risking them leaving (not that they can go far), I call out much earlier than needed. So now we wait… for my tired legs to reach them. Also awkward.
They tell me they are fishing for trout! My starved brain freaks out and I start talking so fast no one (not even me) can understand what I’m saying – I calm down.
I ask if any of them know if the house down the road is a refuge, or a farmers cottage, or has an abandoned shed because I am so tired and so hungry I just want a night where I don’t have to set up my tent. Just.One.Night!
Julio (who happens to be the owner) tells me to let myself in, put on the fire, and have a hot shower (!).
They arrive back at 10pm with a ton of fish… and offer me dinner. My eyes give me away (actually, I’m holding back tears) but my stomach has shrunk so much I’m full after one sausage.
Julio lets me stay in his families hostel and attempts to fatten me up (what a dream) while I wait for the kayak safety team to arrive. When they do, they also bring extra food!
THE STRAIT OF MAGELLAN
The paddling is freakishly calm. The sun is out and feels so good I wear a shirt. The water is 5 degrees.
With my gear loaded into the kayak I am paddling a much heavier set up then I am use to (I have been spoilt), the paddle is heavier than I am use to (very spoilt), yet the scenery is sooooo remarkable it doesn’t matter.
Wildlife Highlights: Dolphins playing by my kayak and a few meters from where we are camped on the beach! Albatross – so rare you can only see them on an island I pass or in Antarctica (black browed), Humpback Wales, Seals, Elephant seals, Penguins, Condors, Walrus and Sea Lions – locally known as Sea Wolves (also a really good name to freak Mum out).
- Crystal clear water
- Electric blue glaciers
- Landslides that look like water-slides
- God rays through clouds, and
- My good looking safety team… finding camp sites you can only dream of, making hot chocolates in the morning, and drinking Matte (tea) with whisky while I paddle. hmmmmm.
It is without question I fluked the good weather but on the final crossing, the Magellan showed signs of what it can be like. I learn to brace as we enter the swell (#lastminute) and battle it out for 9 of the 10km. Then close to shore my arms are gone, birds are circling close to my head (awaiting my carcass), and a seal mocks me as it skims across the waves.
I am counting strokes, channeling friends and people who inspire me… anything to make it across.
As though misery is written all over my posture Cristian, my guide, sings out Go Lucy Go!! It’s good for another 500m but then the swell picks up to what feels like 6 meters (probably only 2). I am handling it like a boss (an incompetent one) when I am smashed by a wave, start to tip, brace… and wish I had fallen in. So I call to the team, I’m out.
I have nothing left. They pick me up and haul my pruned body to shore. With some comfort, the waves are so big, even the boat must travel at paddling pace.
Then my dry bag comes loose from the kayak and makes a break for Antarctica. No big deal, only contains my most valued items. In the morning Cristian braves the cold and using my tracker (inside the dry bag) locates it on a beach 20km away (while I stay behind, high, dry and warm).
The dry bag failed. While the tracker survived the salt water, my phone (with all my logistics, photos, notes, life) did not… neither did my jelly beans (devastating).
I hear from the caretaker at San Isidro that I was unlucky. The day before (and incidentally the following days) the water was “like a cup of milk”. Helpful.
On to Pt. Arenas
Dried out and fed, I head north again and on the trail I am met by Julio! The family were worried when they saw my tracker go off course (as were many of you!). So Julio drove over to check on me… and bring me dinner!! AND CHOCOLATE!!!!
The next day I walk with two stray dogs for over 20km while Humpback Wales play in the ocean not far from the road and dolphins go into a feeding frenzy.
I stumble upon a cafe at the half way mark and pop in hoping for chocolate and a drink – I have what I think is more than enough money but later learn $500 Chilean Peso’s is almost equivalent to $1… so the cafe owners GIVE me lunch… AND a HOT CHOCOLATE! I die.
…Later in the day the local police pick me up for a coffee and some biscuits. I set up camp, sleep well and the walk to Punta Arenas is… a stroll. Well, sort of, not really but the point is #VisitChile!
HERE I WAIT
…In Pt. Arenas for my replacement gear to arrive (because what’s adventure without misadventure?) and… to fatten up (my favourite thing).
NEXT UP: a photo blog
Less words I promise! I’m now heading for Puerto Natales!
- one town in between,
- high winds,
- open land, and
- You, me and hopefully… a new phone (Go Insurance Go!)!
WANT TO HELP?
There are so many ways and all are SERIOUSLY appreciated:
- Help grow support by liking and sharing my posts and social pages.
- Give me blog feedback – I love the good, the bad and the ugly.
- If you know anyone along my path who would happily offer me a shower… that’s probably best for everyone!
- If you have ideas (photographic, social, or sponsor contacts), or want to hear about something in particular – go ahead and send me a message but keep in mind while I’m on the trail it may take a few days for me to get back to you.
- You can donate dinner, a hot chocolate… or a new shirt here – but best of all,
- Keep on reading!
Thanks for all your support – the primary reason why me and my depleted first-aid kit are still here!!!!
Nothing like reading about an adventure to make you want to do one! You’re awesome Lucy!
Can’t wait to hear about it!!
Great read Lucy. You are so much braver than I will ever be.
Hi!!!! So good to hear from you! I don’t know if it is me being brave… or lucky… but I’ll take the complement xo
Keep up with the words Lu! They paint pictures we wouldn’t otherwise see. I saw your track change course close to shore and thought your exhausted self must have been caught in a strong current! Wow, stay at it, it’s already a great adventure.
Thanks!! Once I have my phone I’ll be better (or have less excuses) at posting updates.
It’s amazing here. Hopefully you guys will be able to swing a visit xo
Keep the words coming, it is your story we are following to come a little closer to what you are experiencing and the awesomeness of it and you. I hope your mother did not know about the initial problems you encountered!!!!!! Where do you think you will be in September time frame? Feel a walk coming on! Love always.xoxo
Close to Santiago! You could book flights and then easliy catch a bus in either direction to me!!!
PS Mum helped me get a new tent!! She’s a legend!!
Mums are meant to be legends!!xo
Ok will look at flights and visas. We have a friend (wwoofa) Cristian who lives at Villarica south of Santiago. So would be good area to aim for. When approx. do you enter Peru? Also have contact in Sacred Valley. Is that en route? Walking Wilpena pound in May and perhaps Bungle Bungles so hopefully walking legs will be back in shape!! Lol
Wow… go Lucy go…. I had to read it twice, first read was a quick skim, just to see what was going to happen, and then went back and read it properly. Great blog and an awesome adventure (makes the ride from Mandorah very boring!). Stay strong, will channel stamina, endurance, good karma and chocolate to you
Awwww Thanks Moi!!! Always with a smile too xo
These posts are so exciting! I really enjoy reading them. Best wishes for your travels.
Coming from you that means a lot!! Thanks heaps 🙂
Wow the adventure just jumps off the page Lucy, laced with sarcastic humour, what’s not to love, making memories to last a lifetime. Pom poms punching the sky in Brisbane – make that lemonade!!!
Hahaha love it… lemonade all the way to p. Natales!! 🙂 xo
What a fabulous Blog entry – well done Lucy! After reading abouyt the permit problems I suspect the biggest hurdles and challenges you’ll face will be with the “authorities” and with “officialdom” in general. I’ll hit the GFM site and shout you a kilo of replacement jelly beans. – Fingers crossed for the next leg of your trip.
HAHAHA Thanks so much! They don´t sell them here but you bet I´ll be getting a friend to mail me some!!! If you ever need to know – Homebrand (woolies) are the only gluten free ones, they taste good, you get more, and they cost half!
Good one Lu. Great reading. Keep them words and pics a coming! xo
Thanks Dyl!!! 🙂
So many deliscious treats along the way! What great people you attract. Excited already to read the next blog. How did they cook the trout? My mouth is watering.
On a grill over an open fire with onion, tomatoes and spices on top!!
Incredible story! I am one of the “7 fishermen” who were in Caleta Maria …Good trip!!!
I KNOW!! Thanks so much for feeding me!!!!!!!! and thanks for following the journey. I love all your comments 🙂
This has to become a book! I feel like I’m reading an adventure fiction, I can’t believe your living it! You are so awesome! Keep going!! Big love xx
You¨ll have to highlight all your favourite parts for me to make it easy write xo
What a wonderful experience that you are playing out right now. So many great memories already!! I need to be more vigilant (spelling) with checking your posts. You go girl!!
Thanks Stu!! Everyday is an adventure… I never know what random thing is going to pop up!!
hello Lucy …loved reading your adventures …take care and I hope you find lots of chocolate givers along the way xx
YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!! Truck drivers are the best xo
I am full of awe and admiration for you and your remarkable endeavour! Keep going…
Sending peace, love and encouragement from England ✨
Thanks so much Jon!! Keep sending encouragement from time to time – it makes a big difference on the harder days
thinking of you on this sunday morning in Brissy ..sending lots of love …so good to see your smile
Big love to you Pat!! Feel free to send some warmth too xo
Hi Lucy I’m also Lucy and we kind worked together on Vice Roy project from Jins.
Good luck and keep walking girl, you’ll make it.
I wish I could help you with something useful and relevant and I’ll try to find a friend or a friend of a friend that can offer some real support to you in South America.
Best wishes to you. Keep going and I’ll follow you 🙂
THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!! Must be because you have an name
Any contacts would be seriously appreciated and of course if you’re ever back over here… come walk with me!!