Wednesday, 15th January: You should be here, dad!

My dad would love this place! A chance to go walking by yourself; see very few people and the people who you do see only want to say hi and keep walking. There are extraordinary views wherever you look and the terrain is unpredictable, undulating and vast. You can do 5km hikes or hike lasting days and you can get up before sunrise to see the sun come up over the mountains, or leave at 3pm and still have 6-7 hours of sunlight to walk in.

Along the paths you will cross rivers with bridges that have a maximum of two people allowed on it and rippling brooks with logs to step on. You will see condors flying overhead, an assortment of small birds flitting from shrub to shrub and butterflies and huge fluffy bumblebees bouncing from flower to flower. Up ahead the mountains impose themselves and the wind blows the clouds often hiding the peaks and leaving the mind to create the image of what it would be like when clear. On top of all that you have green glacial lakes and blue lagoons that span the distance the eye can see. Yep my dad would love it here!!
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My mum would love the walks too but would also appreciate the fact that dad could go off and “do his own thing” whilst she sat in the “great room” or smaller rooms reading her kindle and soaking up the view. Upon return they’d sit down for a five course lunch or buffet dinner (ensuring that they had the “all inclusive package” and go to bed rested and invigorated… maybe even after mum had had a massage. Yep a place for them both.

This is a place for those who love to walk… the serious walker.
You know that when…
* Everyone has hiking walking sticks and what’s more uses them
* Backpacks are filled from the top with the flap that goes over and have a multitude of clips to secure things. They are generally bigger than Claire and what’s more have covers to go over them.
* The metal drinking cups hang from the backpacks-yep serious walkers!
* There is a sign up at the entrance to the hotel telling everyone that “backpacks must be left outside” – guessing they’re not talking about the Kathmandu backpacks we have.
* The only store other than the gift shop and commonly known as the “kiosko” only sells things like packets of noodles, dry and sweet biscuits and drinks. Suppose they pack well in the backpack, are pretty transportable and can be cooked or eaten along the way. Not what you’d see though in most corner stores.
* Head bands, bandanas are the normal attire. They let the heat from the head out whilst collecting sweat and keeping the hair (or in some cases lack of) tucked away.
* When you book a three hour horse ride there are only four people on the tour (and three of them are us…guess the rest are out walking)
* People walk around with high socks accompanied by gators.
* There are no Nike Frees in sight unless you look in Claire’s bag and she would be too embarrassed to bring them out. The only place in the world where Nike Frees are not fashionable.
* You are given the easy route to walk which consists of massive inclines followed by massive declines… not necessarily what you’d constitute as easy back home.

So today what did we do? Well we went for a very short walk (according to those around here anyway). About 8-9 kms up to the top of a mountain that looked out onto a huge glacial lake, down onto the hotel area and across to the mountains surrounding us. At times the path was quite gravelly and the inclines steep but as we’ve learnt from the experts one step at a time; just set a consistent pace and you’ll get there even if it takes you a while. We spent some time at the top, taking photos and watching condors soar in the updrafts above us. Whilst not pretty birds their wingspans are massive and so they strike quite an imposing figure in the skies overhead.
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After coming back from our walk, we had lunch and then prepared for our 3pm three hour horse ride. Initially Claire and I were just going to do this activity but after reading yesterday’s blog about challenging yourself, Philip decided he’d be part of it too. Despite this area being a national park, it turns out that the land that the hotel is on and another 4000 hectares are privately owned hence the reason why they can have horses. The national park then encapsulates the private land giving the appearance that it is all part of the bigger park.

Now the horse riding component of the day started off on an interesting note. In the morning when walking, we had been passed by a girl running up the mountains with a pack on. She did the easy route first and then proceeded to turn the corner and run straight up a vertical incline onto one of the more difficult routes. Watching her we were amazed at how fit she must be to do such a thing. Well…as mentioned before there were only four people on the horse ride and you guessed it she was the fourth. Not only that, when asked if anyone had ridden before she indicated that she was a show jumper who had competed. Oh great! Turned out she came from Sweden but had lived in Paris for more than eight years – more French than Swedish we thought. Throughout the trip she had to have the question or make the point. Not only that for half of the journey she had her boyfriend run ahead so that he could get a photograph of her coming down the path. It was only when he was “released” as Philip put it that he was allowed to return back to the hotel (one thing about her though the “mozzies” loved her and she hated them – made for an interesting battle throughout the ride)
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Our ride covered a lot of ground seeing lakes from atop ridges and then moving down to the shore. We also went through rivers which was great although we had to make sure that our horses took it slowly given the rocks that couldn’t be seen. We also went through areas where fire had burnt out some of the vegetation and now left remainders in the form of hauntingly beautiful white tree trunks. Philip was actually doing quite fine until the inevitable happened on the way back. The horses and our guides (we had three-the English speaker Catarina and two gauchos or cowboys who looked after the horses) sensed that we were on the home straight and it was time to take off, although probably a little too slow for our show jumper. Bits bobbed in all different directions but let’s just say not in unison with the horse making for what could be a very painful experience. This wasn’t fully recognised until the point at which we disembarked from the horse and all the “bits” tried to reassemble themselves back into the correct locations. At that point Philip in particular realised that things hurt in a way that could be REALLY painful tomorrow and the day after.
Our impression of the adventure was a bit like Goldilocks – Philip probably won’t do it again, I thought it was quite good and Claire LOVED it being “just right”.
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Making it back to the comfort of our hotel room, we then needed to find out what time our transfer would be tomorrow. Unfortunately no-one seemed to know anything about it which made for some interesting times. Luckily a very helpful couple of people on the desk made some phone calls and got it sorted for us so 9am tomorrow we are off headed further south to Punta Natales and our next opportunity to see some more of this wonderful landscape.

By |January 17th, 2014|Chile, Our Trips, South America|