Right on time!Posted by Trinity on Thursday, January 19, 2012We finally have been able to get the pictures from our Villa O'Higgins to Cochrane leg (when we stayed with gaucho Don Rial) on the blog. Check that blog post out here: Thankful for Wine.
While Shelley was sipping "dirty bananas" on the beach at her brother's wedding, Sarah and I spent the last two weeks sipping homebrews throughout the hut ("refugio") system surrounding El Bolson. Along with their many perks (homebrews, homemade bread, tarts, pizza, actual trails) came some unanticipated hurdles such as having to register at each refugio so they can keep tabs on you and abiding by specific hiking schedules. As a result of our recent bouts with flexibility, we've developed a new mantra- as we're taking off on the trail at an unplanned hour, stopping for lunch at 4pm, or waking up at 10am, we'll exclaim, "right on time!".
The following summaries describe our experiences at each refugio along with our objectives and (mostly unrealized) outcomes for each day. In addition, we have included some posted vs. actual time and distance comparisons. Trail distances were not posted for most of the refugios - the established hiking areas we have visited in South America (Torres del Paine, El Chalten) quote times instead of distance.Jan 4 - Puesto (300m total elevation gain)Posted distance / GPS distance: 12km / 8km (okay, so we are hiking animals at this point but if the trail was actually 12km uphill, we'd be trail running!)Posted timing / our time: 4.5hrs / 2.5hrsexcludes distance and timing from Lago Puelo to trailheadObjective: Hike to refugio Motoco from the town Lago PueloOutcome: Hiked to the outpost at the midway point. Started hiking later than anticipated (6:30pm) after troubleshooting Shelley's flight situation.
Jan 5 - Refugio Motoco (300m total elevation gain)Posted distance / GPS distance: 12km / 5kmPosted timing / our time: 3.5hrs / 1.5hrsObjective: Hike to Refugio MotocoOutcome: Mission accomplished!
Jan 6 - RiverbedObjective: Hike to refugio Cerro Lindo by bushwhacking over the mountain separating us from the adjacent valleyOutcome: Hiked back down to trailhead and started hiking north to the trailhead for refugio Cerro Lindo. Luis told us he forbid it- he would need to come looking for us and would report us if we attempted. Additionally after some scouting, the thick bamboo groves and steep rock faces appeared impossible without machetes and technical gear.
Jan 7 - Refugio Cerro Lindo (1100m total elevation gain)
Posted distance / our distance: not posted / __km
Posted timing / our time: 5-7hrs / 3.5hrsexcludes distance and timing between trailheads Objective: Continue on "trail" to reach the Cerro Lindo trailhead and follow the trail to the refugio.
Outcome: Mission accomplished but not without roadblocks. The "trail" to the trailhead was washed out which forced us to hike a portion of the distance upstream in the river.
Jan 8-10 - El Bolson
Jan 11 - Natacion TrailheadObjective: Hike to NatacionOutcome: Hiked for 30 minutes and then returned to the trailhead.
Jan 12 - Refugio Natacion (1200m total elevation gain)
Posted distance / our distance: not posted / __km
Posted timing / our time: 4-6hrs / 4hrsObjective: Hike to refugio Retamal.Outcome: Hiked to refugio Natacion. As we were enjoying a long lunch in the shade by refugio Natacion, the refugiero approached us asking our plan. We explained that we were going to continue onto refugio El Retamal. Not possible he said- we would have had to leave by 4pm and it was 5pm. Exhausted from schedules, we didn't put up a fight this time.
Jan 13 - Refugio RetamalObjective: Hike to refugio Encanto Blanco over the pass.Outcome: Arrived at serene and tranquil El Retamal after a half day and decided to stay- we weren't gaining much distance by crossing the pass to Encanto Blanco anyway plus we'd have to deal with the wrath of the horseflies at the pass' elevation.
Jan 14 - Refugio Los Laguitos (400m total elevation gain)Posted distance / our distance: not posted / 14km
Posted timing / our time: 5-7hrs / 4hrsObjective: Reach a lake past the retired refugio Los Laguitos. After reconsulting a map, we decided we could make an attempt at an alternate route to Bariloche.Outcome: Refugio Los Laguitos turned out NOT to be retired per our map. In addition, the refugiero indicated we would need to require special permission to hike on our intended path.
What you don't see: swarms of horseflies... we ended up eating our meal inside for protection.
Jan 15 - Refugio Cajon Azul (500m total elevation loss)Posted distance / our distance: not posted / 16km
Posted timing / our time with limping Sarah: 6-8hrs / 5hrsObjective: Hike back down to the town Wharton to begin hiking north to Bariloche.Outcome: Hiked to Refugio Cajon Azul. Within 50m of leaving the refugio, Sarah sprained her ankle. We taped it up, put her shoe back on, and roller-bandaged over her shoe for additional support. She used both her poles for support on the way down and transferred all her water into my dromedary (water = substantial weight).
We walked out of the refugio system's hiking trails "right on time" on January 17, the day Shelley was scheduled to get into Bariloche- bussing the rest of the distance. Although we didn't make it all the way to Bariloche by foot, we loved experiencing the refugio system, the luxury of drinking homebrew nearly every day, and having good conversation with lots of new friends along the way. In hindsight, we think it's better Shelley missed this leg because she would have ended up working at one of the refugios for the season.
We have happily reunited with Shelley and are plotting our route north around volcanoes while enjoying the beautiful lake town of Bariloche chock-full of chocolaterias.
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