Tsjop… Tsjop… Tsjop… This is a new sound! Next to the trail: fresh chopped bushes. An arriero is busy waving around his scythe.’¡Ola !’, I shout, because he’s not aware of my presence. We chat a little. ‘Where am I coming from and where do I go?’. ‘That’s the old route’, is what I understand. Well, that sounds promising!
Combined with a lot of altitude meters and it being summer and pretty warm today surely is going to be promising. But, for now, I’m following an easy to follow and well maintained trail.
The exit to the old route I miss; it’s not that visible anymore. And once I’ve found my way back to it, it’s Partytime! The trail is overgrown, fallen trees and large rocks block the path and it’s difficult to find the route. My new Therm-A-Rest Z-lite sleeping pad is a huge unit hanging on my backpack and it loves to cudle with growth.
Grrr… Grrr… Grrr…
I reach the treeline at the hottest time of the day. The only way to deal with the heath is to take a siesta and the next few hours I crawl underneath some bushes and wait for it to cool down.
The second part of the climb still is warm. Sometimes there’s a trail, often there are cow paths and usually there’s nothing at all. While I’m making my way up, dark and impressive clouds are building.
A little later I hear rumbling sounds.
This is no fun!
I’m on my way to higher and besides backtracking there’s no alternative. I make my way to the first possible bivouac area as quickly as possible. The sky turns darker and darker while pitching Tarptent and I’m hoping for the best.
Twenty minutes later, the sky looks cheerful blue again. Again, I really, really, really can’t make any cheese out the Patagonian weather.
The next morning the trail leads me further uphill. Again, over a more-not-than-there-is trail. Fortunately, friends Locus and GPS show me the way. Spot on.
After the climb, an endless descend follows (2175 meters to be precise). On this side of the mountain the trail is clear. That doesn’t make it easier (or faster).
Hours later, upon the road, I immediately understand that hitching here doesn’t make much sense. This is the end of the road to nowhere and there’s 0 traffic until I reach the first tourist attraction: a lake near the river. There are quite a few cars driving here. Too bad for me it’s early afternoon and no one is back to town in the coming hours.
After I’ve passing the lake, I encounter a closed fence. The nearby living owner comes out and explains I’m passing private property. According to my information I’m walking on a public road I explain. I also tell about my hike: from the previous to the next village – to keep it simple. After this I’m allowed to pass, without paying.
After more kilometers on a dusty road I reach a junction. Here there are lots and lots of Chilean tourists camping, swimming in the river and having a BBQ. At a camp store I eat a late lunch containing ice cream, an empanada, a hot dog and an ice-cold cola. The owner tells that there are Micro’s (buses, size small) leaving to the nearby town. No, he doesn’t know when.
So I wait at the bus stop. Every now and then a car drives past. Unfortunately, none stops.
After an hour and a half a car stops and the drivers offer me a ride. They are British and earlier I walked past their holiday home. They know a lot about the area, also that the private land-owner charges tourists 4000 pesos and they’re surprised that I was allowed to pass without paying. Of course they’re curious about the trail and my adventures.
They also remind me, that not far from here, on the Argentian border and at 4600 meters altitude, an Uruquayan plane crashed in the 70’s. And that reminds me to mention the impressive documentary Stranded, because it is a remarkable achievement how the survivors of the crash managed to stay alive in such a harsh environment. It is even more remarkable how a few of them, were able to walk back to civilization (near termas del Flaco). Without knowing where they were, without winter equipment, in harsh conditions and cross country.
Altos de Huemul
Alto Huemul Track
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