Whatever was I thinking about when, back in November, it felt like a good idea to go on a guided hike through a forest? I was clearly guilty of failing to read the small print and when I saw some of my fellow ‘trekkers’ kitted out with stout boots, walking poles and every conceivable bit of walking kit you could wish for, I thought my own waterproof jacket and trainers were a little under stated! However….
Our arrival in Punta Arenas had been peaceful and in an area famous for its summer winds of wild proportions, that was a relief. (They have purpose built hand-rails throughout the town as there are days when you cannot stand safely and walking is incredibly difficult – sounds like a windy day in Blackpool). I also learned that they don’t have sunny days in this part of the world. Sometimes the sun shines for a little while but you can experience four seasons in the space of 10 minutes. Today’s high cloud was considered ‘beautiful’ by the locals. The port itself is too small to take a cruise ship of this size and so we had to tender ashore. Therefore, with no rain, little wind and the temperature almost reaching a magnificent 10C, it felt like a good day for a walk. That was before I realised we were being taken to a chair lift.
The plan was to go to the top of the mountain via chair lift and walk all the way back down through the dense forest. Right…..that was the bit I missed in the write-up! The gentle breeze at the bottom of the mountain soon gave way to something a little stronger which had the chairs swinging and our guide cheerfully told us that the temperature at the top of the mountain was about 10 degrees colder than below. As we had a very long walk ahead we would soon be warm.
Taking in the different types of trees and plant life was only possible when your eyes were not glued to the floor as you were stepping across tree roots, wading around bogs, jumping over streams, clambering through dense undergrowth and negotiating scree and rocks. The two guides were good and helped people across the really awful bits but there were a few ‘bottom slides’, trips and stumbles along the way. Not, I might add, from me, although I did find myself giving the odd tree a hug to avoid planting my bottom on a steep slide which would have carried me into a stream. All along the trail there was evidence of animals, some of them very large, but the guide was dismissive about the numbers of wild animals. “Lots of rabbits”, she said. If the rabbits round here leave that amount of mess, they either have exceptional appetites or Harvey, the giant white rabbit, is here on holiday!
It took almost 3 hours to reach the promised hot chocolate at the bottom. But by then I was warm. My knees felt as though they may not function for some time and my toes, which had been firmly welded against the fronts of my shoes, were complaining loudly. Climbing the steep steps onto the coach was hard but getting back down them pure torture.
I just know I am going to be stiff later and probably worse tomorrow but I have two days in the fiords visiting glaciers and a day at sea to recover before my next Chilean experience of waterfalls and a volcano from Puerto Montt.