To say that our journey through Section Two of The Greater Patagonian Trail was a turbulent one, would be an understatement to say the least. As with all fantastic adventures though, the lows are met with equally intense highs, and my goodness did we have our share of both!
We set off from Talca (the capital of Chile’s Maule region) on New Years Eve and took a small bus to get us slightly closer to the trail. After a very long and pretty clammy bus ride where at least half of the passengers were standing, packed together like sardines, we disembarked, threw on our backpacks and got to walking again. It had been a busy morning for us in Talca that day and the rushing around like headless chickens trying to send packages to who knows where and restocking on who knows what had made us pretty tired...Needless to say we were all in bed by 9pm, even despite the chants, fire works, and music from the nearby locals celebrating the new year with family camping outings.
On New Years Day however, we decided to head on and after a decent amount of hiking, we set up a fire, cooked some homemade (all be it slightly playdough-y looking) pizza and sipped on industrial quantities of Chilean wine. After a night of living like, what essentially felt like royalty in comparison to Sections One's soup diet, we were raring to go and ready to beat our distance records from the previous week. Unfortunately, Aljoscha's Achilles-heel injury was still bothering him and he'd just got a sore throat to boot, so, after a few kilometers on the road, we hitched a ride with a lovely local family and made sure to get an early night for a speedy recovery.
At this point in the trip, we'd learnt from previous experience that our food supplies on the first section would not suffice this time around, so our bags were filled to the brim with all kinds of treats. It helped a lot being so much more prepared for when hunger strikes, or when 'Willy the worm' needs feeding (Aljoscha's insatiable appetite now has an alter-ego, just in case you were wondering who the worm was) but still there were times when it wasn't quite enough and the team was struggling to find the energy to keep hiking when we were burning such a high number of calories every day.
Luckily, paradise came in the form of freshly baked bread and homemade goat cheese at a settler’s summer ranch that we passed by after a long day's hike. Jan Dudeck (the creator of the trail) had marked Irma's family ranch on his trail guide as a good place to stop to refuel and we did just that. Irma also agreed to be our very first interviewee! So, with Garrett firing off the questions, Robyn translating and Aljoscha filming, we have our first interview under our belts. Irma’s family were incredibly welcoming and had no problem with us popping in and out of their home to grab water or whatever we needed to take to our tents which they’d let us pitch right outside.
The surroundings were incredible with the goats, chickens, dogs, horses and even kittens roaming around freely, coming and going as they pleased. We were so intrigued as to how Irma’s family managed to live so self sufficiently so far away from any one else in quite literally the middle of nowhere; but since this is something they’ve been doing for so many generations in that very home, it’s something that comes naturally to them and it was obvious that they loved being there. Apart from their solar panel, small generator and infrequent trips to the closest town for supplies, the way they live is incredibly simple and from what Irma said, that’s what she finds to be most liberating in life.
In the following days our ailments all surfaced and trekking through became just that little bit more of an effort. Anthony still had a pretty deep wound on his back from where he’d fallen and his backpack rubbed him raw, which hadn’t had the time to heal properly. He'd been a trooper continuing on despite the pain but since it was still not healing, it was a bit of a worry. Then Robyn got sick and was continually spewing up and down mountains for two days, which Aljoscha said was like 'leaving a breadcrumb trail of vomit'...That's one way to find our way back, I suppose!
Through sickness and injury, we managed to muster up the little strength we had left to finish the section. The trail itself took us to some scenes that were nothing short of breathtaking. Those mountain passes may be hard in the blistering summer heat, but my goodness are they worth it for the views! We've been lucky enough to meet some very generous Chileans, stay on a Gaucho's ranch, hitch hour long rides through the countryside in the back of a passer-by’s pick-up-truck and even see wild foxes and their pups. Needless to say, after a few days of r & r in San Carlos, we are more than ready to get out there and see just what section 3 has to offer.