• Anna Liszewska

Sometimes it was really difficult. (GPT part 4)

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Cowboy asked where we were going. "Parque el ingles" replied Matúš. Men showed a wide trail, explaining that they were also going in that direction. Matúš, denied it quickly and pointed to the mountains. Movement of the head, raised eyebrows, and twisted lips told us that we were planning to do something not really normal.

Since we started this section, we were walking mainly cross-country in very demanding terrain. Day was really tough, we barely managed to keep pace of kilometer per hour. We started with climbing a loose slope. We had to pay a lot of attention where to place our feet, to don’t slide. We tried to stick to the coordinates. However, we had to turn back and choose a different way many times. In the next slope We tried to walk with switchbacks, looking for the best way. Sometimes we were not sure if it was even possible to move further.

The descent into the valley turned out to be another challenge. Many times, I was sliding uncontrollably on soft sand. At one point it was so steep that I was using just my ass. My slide ended much lower, where huge stones were piled up. It took us the rest of the afternoon to maneuver on the top and between them. We were finally down, in a huge canyon. Whole day with a constant dose of adrenaline knocked me off my feet. We pitched our tent in the first place where we got access to water. We had to dig a hole in the marshy ground first, so that we could scoop it with a cup.

Next day, we noticed that we had a company. Argentinian Gray Fox was following us in the short distance. We read that they are very curious and often approach people. You have to be careful with your shoes left outside the tent. The more worn out and stinky they are, the greater chance of their disappearance. If we weren't hiding them inside from tarantulas, we made sure they were tied to the backpack or tent.

GPT consists of 40 sections of a different length. The shortest one is 35 km long and the longest one is almost 200 km. Each part has a difficulty scale of 1-5. Thanks to that, you know more or less what to expect. Will it be an easy dirt track, a relatively easy trail, or difficult kilometers of cross-country with the addition of bush bashing through dense forests. The section we were walking is the only one that goes beyond the scale, and its difficulty is marked as 6. In the information document, it is clearly marked only for hikers with a very good mountain experience. Adapted to very difficult and demanding terrain. Reading this, I wasn't fully aware of what it really meant.

The wind got stronger and the clouds darkened. We checked the weather on GPS. It turned out that the following day will be very windy with a lot of rain. After fording the ice-cold river, we pitched our tent at a safe distance and decided to wait out the next day.

The wind was really strong. We spent most of time holding the tent from inside. In some moments, heavy rain was switching with hail. Buried in a sleeping bag, I was shivering from the cold despite the large number of clothes I was wearing. At the moments when the weather was calming a bit, we focused on repairing our gear. And there was a lot to be repaired. Matúš was fixing shoes that were in terrible condition, sharp stones in the cross-country part left their mark on them. Soles had a lot of cuts, and the material on top was barely holding. I sewed torn clothes and patched backpacks. Often, I had the impression that the trail was testing us. Everything was getting broken and torn. In every town, we had to buy a set of glues, patches and anything that would help with keeping our gear intact.

From the morning of the next day we tried to remember Spanish phrases for the guards. The path stretched 20 km through a valley which is private. Someone bought it just to fly in by helicopter for fishing on weekends. That day was Saturday. It took us five very difficult days to get there, and we couldn't imagine going back the same way. Waterfalls, a river with well-fed trout, and a huge lake for weekend fishing. All this is watched over by two arrieros.

We got to the fence of the makeshift shelter. There were bottles under the roof and a mess left on the table. Two saddled horses were tied to the tree. A few small dogs ran out from behind the gate, no one showed up despite barking. We waited a moment longer and were happy that nothing was happening, we quietly moved on. Who would have thought it would be so easy. After a kilometer, among the trees, we noticed the roof of a small house. The horse tied to the tree looked at us lazily. We heard voices in the distance. But no one appeared, the path turned left, past the cabin. As we were passing it, we sped up considerably. Walking along the lake, we saw a motorboat by a small pier and a Chilean flag waving in the garden of the house.

If you have enough money, you can buy in Chile whatever you want. “South American Switzerland,” we heard before we left. Now I'm not sure about that. Chile, while being one of the most developed countries in South America, also has one of the most striking differences between rich and poor. A few figures: While 1% of the population owns 26% of the country's wealth, 50% of households own only 2%. Or the fact that only four families own up to 46% of the companies in Santiago.