The camping culture in Argentina is incredible. Refugios scatter the Patagonian countryside, linked by well maintained trails that lead you through some intense and breathtaking vistas. You could spend a good few weeks in one area just trekking from refugio to refugio, indulging of course in some hearty home cooked meals prepared by volunteer staff (necessary to fuel you up those mountain climbs!). I’ll admit to fantasizing about the ease of hiking with a just a daypack, knowing that I would arrive to a clean bed and warm food at the end of the day (and even have a shower!? [who needs a warm shower, when you can go take a swim in a glacial lake!]).
But we came here to camp, not glamp! This is made very apparent by our excessively large 70 liter backpacks – into which we have stuffed our tent, ground tarps, kitchen equipment, and first aid bags. We have a love hate relationship with our gear – it keeps us alive and the added weight will give us some killer legs, but in times of weakness I’ll admit to fantasizing about accidentally on purpose losing my bag off the side of a cliff.
But it’s the price we paid for paying next to nothing on our three day trek through the mountains of Bariloche. There’s a Spanish saying here – you pay with either pesos or peso ($ or weight!). We were perhaps a touch too ambitious. That first morning saw both Aidan and I stuffing our bags with growing apprehension, having also bought food to supply the whole trip. It was with great relief that we both aired our fears (communication is important people!) and decide to leave our nonessential items in storage. With a load off our backs. [haha great pun! Love it], we set off for the hills.
Now we made a ton of memories in these mountains. Essentially we threw ourselves into an activity in which neither of us was prepared. As a result, we had many bloggable moments. We saw some incredible vistas, which we’ll pepper throughout this post, but since my words couldn’t possibly do those views justice, I’ll talk about the misadventures. Mini story style.
Getting lost – an Aidan & Savannah classic
We knew navigation was going to be an issue for us. We both tend to be incredibly confident in our sense of direction, while history keeps teaching us that we have absolutely no sense whatsoever. What did surprise us was the speed at which became lost.
After taking a quick look at the map posted at the trail head, we set off. We probably should have given it more than just a cursory glance, since we basically got off the trail the moment we entered the park. What resulted was an hour detour through an extremely dusty bike path.
We fared a little better the next day, having clued in that all we had to do was follow the red dots. Aidan became extremely adept at finding them, whereas I tended to get distracted and forgot we had to do anything but wander and look at vistas [Those vistas were surreal, but I’m pretty sure you were just shite at spotting them]. We all have our strengths!
The moral of this story is pretty simple – test your gear before you go on a trip. Especially if the loss of a particular item will result in an inability to eat. What we did instead was trust that an old borrowed MSR stove would work just as well as it did 20 years ago. Not the case!
While Aidan began to prepare our supper for the night, I attempted to set up our stove. I poured the white gas into our fuel canister, inserted the pump, and started to apply pressure to the system. A weird popping noise occurred after each pump, and I was unwilling to do anything more, at risk of blowing both of us up. I’ve had lots of experience with stoves, but not with this relic I was trying to operate, and my troubleshooting skills are subpar at best.
So we went down to the refugio, in the hopes of finding some savvy campers. We didn’t end up having to actually ask for help – our sad and desperate expressions brought on by seeing the hot pizza being served soon brought us a kind soul willing to come to our aid. After confirming my fears that the pump was indeed broken, he ran up to his campsite to loan us his own stove. Seriously, you’ve got to love the kindness of strangers.
Our supper for the next few days was to be lentils and rice, and seeing as we didn’t know when or where we would find another stove, we decided to cook all our food that night. Which is when we realized that instead of instant rice, we had bought the stuff that took 20 minutes to cook (that’s another moral in this story – reading is important). After depleting the kind stranger’s entire supply of gas (luckily we had enough of own to replenish his canister), we finally got to sit down and eat our supper – with our sporks of course!
[lentils and rice!]
Our coffee woes
This is also in reference to the broken stove. But I think we can blame this particular misadventure on our grandmother. You see, she drank many cups of coffee throughout her pregnancy with the twins, so it was inevitable that Aidan and I should become addicted to the stuff. We’ve learned from many occasions how bleak and painful life becomes when we don’t get caffeine, so we planned ahead. We bought instant coffee bags (didn’t know that existed before getting to Argentina), thinking that would be the most efficient and cost effective means of caffeine consumption. Unfortunately, hot water is needed for those packets to work.
It didn’t take either of us much time to realize our predicament. We used the kind stranger’s stove again in the morning to brew our first coffee, and then placed two packets into my bottle and filled it up with hot water. That was for lunch.
Neither of us were feeling very social at the next campsite (most likely due to the sunstroke – see next post), so there was no kind stranger to lend us his stove again. Not to worry, Aidan and I could solve this problem at least! Two more coffee bags went into my nalgene (my water will never taste the same), and were then left to steep overnight. Coffee the next morning was absolutely horrendous, but at least we had caffeine to fuel us through our last trek out of the mountains.
It was inevitable really, for two white Canadians having just left a cold winter, to become extremely sunburned. We swear we applied sunscreen, but apparently spf 30 with sparkles (applied only once) does not cut it when it comes to the Argentinian sun on exposed mountain tops. The pictures really say it all.
Our legs were suffering on our last day of hiking, having ascended and descended two mountains the day before. If you’ve ever trekked through scree you’ll understand. Imagine skiing on powder, but instead of snow, it’s rocks. And sometimes you’ll break through that layer of powder (still rocks) and get slightly buried. And then sometimes you’ll dislodge a huge snowball (boulder) down the mountain, and have to warn fellow skiers (insane mountain goat people) to avoid fatalities.
That’s all to say that we were very excited to find shelter for the night, preferably one with four walls and a shower. If you’ve read our previous post, you’ll know that that bed was a long way away…