Here's to Flexibility!

When one or two people tell us we have to do this or that, we note it and see if it fits in. By the time the sixth person told us we have to raft "the Fu" we decided to escape the heat of summer and stop off in Futaleufu to take on the world famous river. Having rafted in the States, we were prepared to take on class IV sections but we were quickly persuaded to join a group for a more intense full day trip. The 20-foot waves and class V sections gave our arms a good workout. Unforgettable!

Preparing ourselves to put-in, water raging from the get-go!

Unbelievable how much white water there was, this picture does not do it justice!
(Note the Cat on the left side for size reference)
Our first Class V water! This rapid is called the "Terminator". 
Sunset hike to overlook Futaleufu, great way to end a great day
Los Alerces National Park, Argentina was our next stop. We couldn't get much information on the park from Chile, so we crossed to Argentina to plan our route. The entire western side of the park is protected but inaccessible by foot due to all the waterways (and only scarcely by boat). The thick bamboo and thorny bushes make the forest inpenetrable for bushwacking, and the trails few and far between. In order to get off the dirt road, we diverged from our typical through-hikes and opted for an out-and-back one night trip to Lago Kruger. We never imagined a worse day than our first day in Reserva Cerro Castillo was possible. Alas, now on top of the heat and horseflies, we were bleeding from the inescapable thornes swallowing up the trail. Our various ways to deal with anger and frustration became evident- I slip into a quiet zen state and go to a happy place in my mind, Trinity reverts to a 13-year-old cheerleader "wahoo-ing" down the trail, and Sarah develops a severe case of Tourette's where she swears with every step.

I lost the tread on my shoe after we left Cochrane and the liner gets jammed with rocks with every step
Enamored with the bamboo jungle trail... at first...
Getting this amazing view during our miserable hike made it more worthwhile
Around the half-way point to Lago Kruger we found a secluded beach where we dropped pack and ran into the water to sooth our itchy wounds. No way we were doing that again! Refusing to return the way we came, we spent two nights at this pristine beach- lounging under a willow tree taking in a spectacular view of Lago Futalaufquen. We would have stayed there indefinitely had Trinity not so boldly plunged into a nearby cove and flagged down a wakeboarding boat that took us to salvation across the lake. We were back on the dusty road to hike through the rest of Los Alerces.
Quiet reflection at our private beach
Relaxing sunset on our private beach after a looooong day
We did not hesitate to jump in the water fully clothed to get a ride across the lake

Although the first day was absolutely miserable, Los Alerces National Park is without a doubt stunning: most notably its 2,000 year old trees and crystalline rivers and lakes. Due to the abundance of water, we kept coming back to the same word to describe it: tranquil. We just wished we had kayaks in order to explore it more! The few existing trails skirt alongside the dirt road and were occassionally hard to follow due to the plethora of cow trails leading in all directions, so we faced the dirt plumes and took the more direct route most of the way.

One of the many gorgeous rivers in Los Alerces National Park
Although awful to breathe, the dusty road provides excellent lighting in the forests!
Los Alerces is a prime destination for fly fishermen
We were excited about a less travelled trek between Lago Epuyén and Lago Puelo. However, on the bus to Lago Epuyén we noticed a haze in the distance. As it grew thicker we learned that a forest fire had started only hours before, directly between the two lakes and in our path. As the sun set, the red sky framed the mountain silhouttes and cars had pulled over to take pictures of the burning hillside which was started by a 20-year old pyromaniac. This was unfortunately the second human-caused forest fire we heard about this week. The first being in Torres del Paine, on the front side of the park where we did the "W". We feel an indescribable grief for Torres del Paine. It holds a special place in our hearts and we feel fortunate to have seen one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Spotting the haze across the valley from the forest fire near Lago Epuyén
We can't help but think that maybe the lack of trails in Los Alerces and the forest fire at Lago Epuyén are signs that we should have stayed in Futaleufu and spent the summer on the water. The bungalo style jungle lodge, five-day sea kayak trip and roll classes were all very enticing...

  •  After telling our ride we were from the States he promptly put on his CCR classics, we really miss music!
  • Our first class V water with olympian and kayaking pioneer Chris Spelius's company Expedition Chile 
  • Being told the "girls dominated" as paddlers next to the brawny midwestern boys on our trip
  • Sarah finally got a new sleeping pad!! ...and I used the excess for shoulder/hips pads for my pack (unlike Sarah and Trin, I haven't had them the whole trip, now I feel like I'm wearing my comfy Osprey pack!)
  • Picking fresh cherries
  • After telling our river guide Josh that we heard horseflies taste like honey, we learned that ants apparently taste like oranges. We are invisioning a very organic ants-on-the-log but have yet to try it...
  • Spending a full day lounging and swimming on our own private beach
  • Wading up to our chests in all our clothes to be rescued via boat from returning on the awful jungle trail
  • Having the best showers of the trip so far- consistent hot water and pressure! At a campground no less...
  • Ringing in the New Year's on our secluded beach and listening to the music from across the lake
  • Camping next to the most tranquil river in Los Alerces
  • Bathing in the rivers and forgetting that even though we were "clean" we still hadn't done laundry in almost three weeks
  • Being able to throw out trash throughout the park and not have to pack it out
  • Homemade apple juice on a hot summer day
  • Being swarmed by the black horseflies instead of the yellow/green ones- they are easier to catch!
  • Doing the last hike in my shoes which have a hole in the tread and inevitably fill with rocks with every step

Bitter Pills:
  • Getting sunburnt in 10 mins of exposure. We go through bottles of sunscreen like water and keep getting darker!
  • I woke up to Trinity yelling she had a "leech" on her neck. All I could manage to say through sleepy eyes was no way it was a leech because they live in water. It was a slug and left quite a mark- both physically and mentally on Trinity. We affectionately refer to it as her slug-bite. She may have discovered the newest cross-breed of slug-leeches.
  • Another traveller breaking a "hitchhiker code"- if three girls stop a car, you can't just throw your stuff in too without saying a word!
  • As much as we love sleeping without the tent and under the stars, it comes with a cost. Sarah got shit on by a bird while in her sleeping bag... a little too close to the mouth.
  • Seeing volcanic ash along the trails and beaches
  • Getting straight robbed by campgrounds! They charge US$10 per person to camp, unlike in the States where they charge per campsite. When we asked if we had to pay the additional "tent fee" if we just didn't put up the tent, the lady looked at us like we were locas! (and waived the fee!)
  • Waking up to a skunk outside our tent and praying the papparazzi of tourist taking pictures would not startle it enough to spray us
  • Sarah's can opener breaking on her multitool... not as indestructible as we thought!
After re-routing ourselves around the fire to Lago Puelo, I learned that the Bariloche airport is closed due to the volcanic ash (I am leaving this week for my brother's wedding in the Dominican). Trinity and Sarah hiked from Lago Puelo to El Bolsón via two of the refugios (huts) in the area. I reluctantly left them and went on to El Bolsón to rebook my flight, unsure of whether I would need to take a bus to Buenos Aires sooner than expected (I now fly out of Esquel, three hours south).

El Bolsón feels like a hippie beach town but instead of the ocean it is set in a wide valley of jagged peaks, which were hidden behind the smoke from the forest fire the first few days. Every other day they have a vibrant market of artisan crafts and every other restaurant seems to be a microbrewery. With the relief of rebooking my ticket, I hiked up to Refugio Lindo to surprise Trinity and Sarah, but was unfortunately a day too early and we missed each other. We reunited in El Bolsón for an asado with new friends at Hostel El Bolsón. I leave them for a week on the beach in the Carribbean and they will make their way north from El Bolsón to Bariloche.


  1. Hola las chicas locas,
    I am Alex you met a bunch of times between Torres del Paine and Lago del desierto.
    I want to thank you for your blog because I am delighted every time I read one of your posts and it is a pleasure to follow you along the trail even if i would rather be on the trail (hatching some plans to exterminate horseflies) instead of sitting behind my computer in Paris. Anyway, I will shortly have to face with a major issue since you are about to step out north of my 'trekking in the patagonian andes' book map. I am counting on you to give far more specific details on your way so that I can keep on following you without any map :-) In the meanwhile, I invite you to see my pics from my patagonian treks; it is a good opportunity to catch up with the torres you missed because of the fog and the cold !!!
    Once you'll have reached Carabean Sea and if you still have enough energy, don't forget you can swim to France to pay a visit. You will be more than welcome; we have nice mountains and good food too :-)
    I wish you the best for 2012 and your next stages which will be as memorable as the 2011 ones without any doubt.

    1. Alex! Your pictures are absolutely stunning!!! they put ours to shame! Thank you for sharing!!

  2. Keep rocking Team Patagoni-yeah!! And don't forget the advice of one noble guide who said, "It's kind of thorny in this region, I think you need a machete." :) Faced with overwhelming odds and insurmountable obstacles, where will the next installment find our intrepid explorers? I can' wait to tune in for more action.