Hola, Lachie here.
I know we consistently mention how whimsically and unprepared we head off on our hikes, but this time it was just silly. It was already midday and we had 22km to walk, the first day of a long hike we'd pieced together. Only we still didn't have a map, half our food, or any idea about the hike. All we knew was where it started and that it was called the ‘Cinco Lagunas' (five lakes).
We sourced a map from our couchsurfing hero Adrián, who had come to collect some of the things we wouldn't need on the hike, and he gave us a few handy pointers. Lastly, because our hiking menu is solely composed of pasta, rice and cookies it was quick to buy eight days-worth of supplies and hitchhike out of town to our trail.
This first day followed a twisting river toward a cascading waterfall at the end of the valley. The cruisy track then, in typical Patagonian style decided to head straight up to our first laguna. Here in Argentina when they want to climb something, they simply go straight up. There's no beating around the bush. Just sweat, heavy breathing and a gruelling slope. A quick 500 vertical metres later, and almost immediately the unbelievable views of Laguna Negra were ruined by three naked boys running to cool off. That night, perched just above the laguna we were treated to the first of several spectacular star gazing nights.
Leaving the refugio crowds behind the next day we traversed around the mirror-like laguna and over our first of many passes.
We prematurely celebrated our days end with snacks and more skinny dipping before discovering the track around the second laguna mysteriously disappeared. We had our ‘official' map, a hand-drawn map, and our phones, each telling of different routes to take, yet none of the three options yielded a track to follow. Since we couldn't go over it, under it, and struggled through some of the dense bush around it, we decided….. we had to go through it!!!!!!!!
This trend of hide and seek with the path continued through much of the next day. It made the going tough but rewarding as we navigated over two passes, across a valley and down to our third, unreal campsite.
We didn't think it was possible but every day of the hike seemed to just get better than the previous one. Hard to believe.
Waking to the soft pitter-patter of rain on the tent was the first sign our incredible weather streak had come to an end. Much of the morning was spent looking at the thick fog covering the mountains we were supposed to navigate. Given the difficulty of finding the track in perfect weather the previous day, the fog covered mountains we would have to traverse, and the lack of information we could gather from our map to be able to use our compasses, we were pretty uncertain if it would be possible to do the days walk. After lots of indecision, we went anyway. While the views had disappeared, navigation was far easier than we anticipated. Walking through the clouds was a refreshing and enjoyable experience, it certainly felt wilder.
Soaked from the day's fog and rain we cruised down into an incredible old-growth forest. The famous Patagonian Legna trees were draped in moss and beginning to enter their colourful autumn mode. A fire was lit and the afternoon was spent drying our clothes and really appreciating the isolated, incredible place we were in.
This was a pretty special afternoon. It was the first time on the hike that could simply relax beside one of the many incredible lakes we were camping beside.
With three boys sharing a 4-season, 2-man tent, we wake most mornings with our sleeping bags and everything else wet with condensation. Hence, our normal hiking routine involves waking up and laying everything out in the sun to dry. This normally takes until about 11am so by the time we make it into camp we generally have barely enough light left to set up and cook dinner. We often don't make time to relax and just stop. It's an endless feeling of go, go, go. Do this then that. All of a sudden it's time to sleep. Much like back home, we don't often make time to do the things we each would like to do such as read, learn Spanish, meditate or listen to podcasts. Hence, this afternoon spent beside the laguna, under the autumn trees was really special. It gave us time to unwind and really appreciate the beauty that surrounds us everywhere. This idea of downtime whilst ‘on holiday' seems funny but given the long period we are travelling for it will be important for us to consciously incorporate into our days. Even returning from a hike sees us jump into extreme cleaning mode, writing blogs, sorting photos and videos. Simultaneously, we search for couches to surf and planning where, how and when we will go somewhere new to launch straight into a new hike or activity. All these things we choose to do and the vast amount of places we want to experience mean we are constantly on the go and it's actually rare to just stop and relax. This is something we're working on.
The tranquillity of this afternoon carried through to the next day where we consciously incorporated a short day into our walk so we could again pitch the tent in yet another unbelievable location and enjoy the beauty of Patagonia.
Our second last day decided to give us a surprise. We chose to follow a newly formed track, not yet on the map. With Scott and Pat feeling a bit sick and pretty low on energy we hoped this track would shortcut us left into the valley. Instead, it hooked right and climbed over several peaks in the opposite direction, classic. Regardless, it was well worth it and we were treated to a quiet spot by a river for our final night.
With all our food eaten, our packs felt as though they were filled with feathers as we belted out the last few k's. At the end of the trail, we split up and hitchhiked back to Bariloche. Arriving at 8pm under a setting sun, we yet again found ourselves in the middle of a town, without food or a place to sleep. Unbelievably, moments before trying to catch a bus to the edge of town to camp, a couchsurfing message came through saying we could come and crash for the night. A perfect ending to a perfect hike. We ended up staying four days with this legend Christian who took us kayaking and made delicious empanadas with us.
Until next time….