Walking through Argentina
As we have progressed nearly 3300 miles on this hike one thing has remained clear, becoming the first people to do this thing is not easy. The Northern region of Chile is an area marked by high plateaus and very little water. Salt flats render what little water there is undrinkable, and therefore long distance trekking nearly impossible. Additionally, walking along the salt flats, which are very flat to say the least can definitely get to us.
Long days with little change in scenery and nothing but time to think has been the norm for this portion of the hike. After several hundred miles with very questionable sources for drinking, knowing that we still have an incredibly far distance to travel and struggling to find the motivation to do so, we made a break for the Eastern slope of the Andes taking us across the border and well into Argentina. Having heard that the water situation is only slightly better in Argentina, we hoped to find greener pastures, but were unsure to say the least.
It was an extremely difficult thing for us to find ourselves standing in yet another salt flat at the beginning of our first trek on the Eastern Slope, again with no water, again with many flat miles to walk. We pushed on as we always do, crossing the 15 mile dry salty pond, and hoping that on the other side would be something to celebrate.
It was about 1500 ft above the flats, as we continued our steep climb up that we indeed would find a spring and renewed hope for the months to come. As it turns out, the Salar below Lagunas Blancas would be our last salt flat for a long time and Northern Argentina would prove to be one of the most incredible places we have yet encountered.
In the past month we have found ourselves walking through what has been some of the most beautiful and diverse regions of the trek thus far. A week ago today, we were walking through jungle at 1000ft above sea level. Three days ago, we crossed a 16,200ft pass. We have been in hot springs, glacially fed rivers, dessert, and wetlands.
We have been in the depths of 5000ft high canyons, and on top of very very high peaks. Perhaps more important than all of this however, are the people that we have met here, both local and travelling. Connection is something both Deia and I have struggled with while down here. Afterall, it isn’t easy to leave everyone you know for 10 months, let alone 2 years that this will end up taking in total.
Just as we needed it the most, after Paul had left for Patagonia, and we found ourselves missing home a lot, we ran into Craig and Jody. As the four of us sat around a table in Cafayate, Argentina exchanging stories of Mountain Lions, bed bugs from their travels in Southeast Asia, life in the outback of Australia, and life on a very long trek, I again realized how important friends are.
We would spend several days with Craig and Jody just hanging out, before they would move on in their world tour and us in our South American journey. In the weeks surrounding Easter and what is called Semana Santa or Saint week, travellers (mostly from Buenos Aires) swarm the lesser known parts of the country.
This would be our first experience travelling in tourist season down here, and it makes so much difference to have like-minded people around. Though the vast majority of the people we have met are not hiking (we have only met one other group of hikers on this entire trip) sharing stories from around the world, nights spent playing music, and simply enjoying a beer with friends is something I have greatly missed and needed.
Addtionally, Paul returned from Patagonia this past week to join us for a few hundred more miles. Having a touch of home with us is something we will positively miss when he moves on next week. It has really meant a lot to have a friend from home travel so far to see us and what we are doing down here.
As we have neared the Bolivian border, we have also noticed an incredible change back to the way things were further to the North. Traditional costumes, menus of the day, and a very strong connection to the land have again become the custom.
The people of Northern Argentina by no means have much money (even when compared to the rest of Argentina) but are readily willing to share what they have. It is kinda funny, but in our experience down here, it seems that the people who have the least want to give the most.
My understanding of this fact comes with the knowledge that what they do have is all that is really worth sharing anyway. As we have again been welcomed in homes, on property, and simply in conversation by the locals, I have continued to feel an incredible bond to people as human beings.
I was walking with Paul the other day talking about how much I do feel as if I belong here, how much I feel like I belong anywhere I want to go in our world, how welcome anyone should be anywhere they choose to go, basically a much greater understanding of my part of one human race, I like that.
Currently we find ourselves about four days from the Bolivian border. Though it has been an incredibly full period here in Argentina, I find myself very ready for change, very ready to move on. As we become more and more accustomed to life down here, my mind continues to wander to future places and times in my life. We are about 500 miles from reaching the halfway point of the hike. Sounds crazy, huh? Well it sounds crazier to us. So much we have experienced and struggled through in the 23 degrees of the globe that we have walked thus far.
At times that distance seems so endless and yet so confining. At this point, we are pushing ourselves to reach the point where we left off in Peru by September, which will allow us just enough time to get through Patagonia before winter hits next April. We are very much looking forward to a return to the culture of the Northern countries of South America and to experiencing a new country. Despite some mental challenges, I remain extremely committed to the hike, and very optimistic about months ahead. Please write and share your lives with us, it helps a ton to hear from home.