I’m on the set of Game of Thrones!
It’s -17c degrees, rivers are frozen, I defrost water bottles in my sleeping bag, I burn my fingers in the cold taking photos, my shoes freeze overnight, and my hair freezes (and snaps off) in the wind!
It’s so cold and windy – I wear all my clothes… But I don’t look even nearly as cool as Ygritte. #lifegoals
Earlier in the week
Later in the week
I’ve returned to the middle of nowhere. It’s cold. Wind blows snow across the road and I see my first puma!
In the afternoon I find a closed hotel with a frail caretaker and ask him if it’s ok for me to camp on the property.
As though I have lost my senses, he reminds me it’s cold and windy and drags me inside to a room in the hotel.
Midway through the tour, the power fails and cuts off the water. He worries.
Copying his tone from earlier, I remind him there is a river and offer to help collect some. We laugh until we find ourselves trudging through snow for a very long kilometre.
The river is almost completely frozen over. I reluctantly volunteer to slide across the ice to collect the water.
“No problema, es fácil” I say as I simultaneously begin to hate myself (#Imfromthetropics).
He holds onto my feet as the ice cracks under my slithering… 24 litres later, we spend the whole afternoon laughing and arguing over who’s turn it is to lug the canister neither of us can carry far.
In the morning we walk together for over an hour. Before he turns back for the hotel he gives me that fatherly “please take care” look.
To thank him (and reassure him) I give him a block of chocolate (yep). He’s so pleased I wished I could give him more… But I have a problem with chocolate sharing.
Later that day, the river I planned to camp at isn’t one and I’m forced to ration water.
I walk another day and my next river doesn’t exist either.
A car pulls over to offer me a lift. When I explain what I am doing he reminds me it’s cold and windy. I agree and ask if he has water.
He has enough to refill my bottles for three days… In the morning my water bottles are completely frozen.
From here on I store my water in my sleeping bag at night and start sleeping with an extra pair of socks on to insulate my feet from the near frozen water.
I also learn that truck drivers are a more reliable source of water than “rivers”.
Snowstorm of the century:
I reached a small town (of 12 people) buy food, hang out with a family who are concerned about me because… it’s cold and windy (and a snow storm is building).
I explain that I can’t stay to wait out the storm because I don’t have cash on me for accommodation (most places only accept cash) and head out.
As promised earlier I find a river WITH water, WITHOUT being frozen over AND a road tunnel so big I could park a plane in it… or my tent.
My affection for the road
Following the storm everything has turned white. It’s now extremely difficult to walk on or off the road and there is so much haze I can’t see the sky or very far in front.
I’m in a whiteout thinking of how I promised Mum I wouldn’t walk in one (sorry Mum)…
In a moment of lapsed concentration, I slip on the ice and wind myself as I hit the ground.
Whooping and pinned down by the weight of my backpack I worry I have broken something. I realise the pain is from the wet ice burning my leg and find the motivation to stand up fast…ish. I feel selfconscious of my lack of coordination when I notice a cow watching.
Over the coming days this happens so frequently I barely hit the ground before I’m up again. #unrequitedlove
Turns out people generally don’t use the road for a day or two after a snow storm because road workers come through to clear it out.
Great for me because I meet a bunch of them and look forward to seeing them each day as they stop to say hello, ask me if I have changed my mind about a lift, remind me it’s cold and windy, and on occasion give me chocolate and mate (“ma-tay” – a hot tea).
I even agree to a video interview for their Facebook page… to show off my incomprehensible Spanish.
Mientras despejando La Ruta Nacional 40… Te encontramos con hechos unicos
Posted by Distrito Vial Perito Moreno on Wednesday, 28 June 2017
I then wade through snow to set up camp and since I’m already wet, I spend the evening stamping out a path through the 1.5m snow cover back to the road. My intention is to keep my last pair of socks dry (and unfrozen).
Weather report: Windstorm in the morning
I have enough food to camp where I am for a few days but keen to reach town, I decided to take on the wind… that and I don’t want the path I just built to be blown away.
All my gear is laced in snow and ice. So much so my pack is nearly 40kg. To lighten the load I throw out the last of my water and by 5am I’m stoked to be walking along my weather withstanding path to the road, except…
Roadworkers are really efficient here and have come by at night and pushed meters of snow across the last section of my path.
BRAIAN RIQUELME. NATIVO DE PERITO MORENO. EMPLEADO MUNICIPAL AFECTADO AL DISTRITO VIAL EL TRABAJABA COMO RECOLECTOR DE RESIDUOS Y HOY LO PODEMOS VER COMO UN VERDADERO MAQUINISTA.FELICITACIONES COMPAÑERO. SEGUI SUPERANDOTE.!!¡
Posted by Distrito Vial Perito Moreno on Friday, 30 June 2017
I step across the road barricade hoping the snow is hard packed.
100kg of me + pack plumet through the snow and I’m in a hole waste deep. I’m also several meters from the road and can’t see how it’s possible to walk from where I’m buried.
Resolved in my helpless situation, I throw myself out of my snow hole onto my stomach hoping I can worm my way over the final meters to the road… and I’m really hoping my pack doesn’t slide forward and send me head first back down into the snow mound!
It worked. And my socks are still dry 🙌
Love from locals
Half an hour later (5.30am) I’m given a 1.5L bottle of soft drink from the roadworkers! Not my typical breakfast but since they insist….
The day is beautiful, the sun is out, and I stop to take some morning photo. My hands start to burn from the cold and when they don’t warm up over the next few hours I become paranoid I have frost bite. I don’t.
The wind chill is -17c so I decide I can hold off all toilet stops until I arrive in town.
As though the proximity of town improves my modisty I put my pack between me and the road, and use a road barricade (I haven’t seen a car since the road workers that morning but can’t hurt right?)… me being me, I look up in time to see a car roll around the corner (full view).
All I can do is laugh… Until the car stops… And starts reversing!!!!!! #wtf
On the off chance they didn’t see what I was doing, I pull up my pants as discreetly as possible, start walking casually around my pack like nothing is out of order, and kick some snow over the evidence.
But my toilet humour gets the better of me and I can’t keep a straight face as the window of the car rolls down.
It’s the family from the hotel! Oh god.
They were so worried about me in the storm they wanted to check on me (and got more than they bargained for!!).
They ask if I’m hungry, I tell them I’m not. They remind me it’s cold and windy and give me a ham and cheese sandwich bigger than my head!!!… and a thermos full of tea!!!… Lucky I have an empty bladder.
On arriving to town, I run into a man who asks where I plan to stay. I tell him I plan on camping.
He reminds me that it’s cold and windy… and gives me a room to stay and we drink many many Mate’s “con coco”…
…which is code for so much sugar I consider running to the next town!
I’ve just completed a two week stint and despite the cold, wind and water – I’m having my best week yet.
…might be because it’s the week of sweetness here in Argentina which is a week where people exchange chocolate for a kiss on the cheek. I’m totally into it! 😍🍫
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