Today I climbed a mountain!! Yep, I sure did. I was really nervous going into it. I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I made it and I don't think I was even the slowest one. Ok, maybe going up they had to wait for me twice, but I still made it!!
I started out today by meeting the group of people I was going with. It was myself, a really nice guy named Jim from Melbourne, Australia, this nice Chilean guy named Victor, a Father and Son team from Seattle (I never caught their names), and our guide Carlos. We all met up and made our way to the stables. The trip started out on horseback. We rode 1.8 kilometers up into the mountains on the horses. I'm super glad we did that, otherwise I really doubt I would've made it. I got my horse, named something like Chita. Anyway, I was the last to get on my horse and it immediately started freaking out a bit. They walked him around for a minute and he calmed down. Carlos told me I had the frisky horse today. Great, like I didn't have enough concerns already. The horses weren't even a concern until then. So, we all were finally ready and we were off. It took about and hour and a half to get to where the horses could no longer go. I kept telling my horse that we were amigo's and everything was going to be ok. I think he responded well because he didn't try to throw me agin. We got to the place where we would park the horses and everyone got their gear ready. Then we started hiking. The first 2 kilometers were in a beautiful woods with a bit of up and down on the trail. I did pretty well there, so I was feeling a bit more confident. Then we got to a point where Carlos said it was straight up from here on out. He was not kidding. It started and remained really, really steep the entire way. There was a good path meandering back and forth up the mountain, but it was at least a 60 degree angle from that point on. I kept to the back with Jim, and we were doing pretty good. The other guys were pretty far ahead of us. We finally caught up with the group at a little waterfall coming out of the mountain into a glacial river. Carlos and Victor said the water was more pure than any water I've had, so I filled my water bottle in the stream, splashed the freezing water on my face and we were off again. This time, I was at the back of the pack. I felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest and I started to feel a bit dizzy. So, I was climbing really slow and taking a lot of breaks. I finally cleared the tree line and saw the rest of the group and Carols yells "Hey Wisconsin, you ok?" I just gave him a thumbs up and waved them on. A little side note, I found out Carlos did his final year of High School in Wisconsin! What a small world. I loved hearing that, and he was pretty excited when I told him where I was from. So, we had a bit in common. They waited for me for a bit. I caught up with them and then we immediately started moving up again. I could've used another break, but I didn't want to seem like the weak one. So, I kept pushing forward. It took a little over an hour to climb that last kilometer, but when I got to the top, it was amazing. The towers were right there. There is a glacier around the towers and it melts to form a lagoon. So beautiful. I was so happy at that point that I did the climb. I was kind of proud of myself. I haven't done anything like that since I was in my teens.
We got to the top and everyone started taking photos. Then, we all found a rock to sit on and had our lunch. It was so peaceful just sitting there having some lunch and just taking in the sun and the beauty of it all. I'm truly lucky. Victor was taking photos and video, had 2 GoPro's, some sunglasses that recored video, that he gave to one of the Seattle guys, and his iPhone. He also had some great goggles that he was wearing. They didn't record video, they were just cool. So, I had to get a photo of him in his goggles. It was pretty awesome. I found out later he is putting together a new app and needed the footage for that. We stayed at the top and just talked and hung out in the sun on our rocks, taking photos and exploring a bit for over an hour. Finally Carlos said it was time to go.
I followed Jim down and he was moving pretty slow. His knees aren't what they used to be, as he told me. I was cool with that, I liked his pace. Let me tell you, I thought going down was 200 times easier than going up. Sure it was hard on the legs and knees, but at least I wasn't going to pass out. Jim and I talked a bit on the way down. Finally, we hit the tree line and that same little waterfall. We all got some water and splashed some cold water on ourselves. Jim wanted me to go ahead of him now because he was feeling pretty bad that he was moving so slow. I stayed with him for a while, then, without realizing it, I was probably 1/4 mile ahead of him. We finally made it down the really, really steep part and waited for Jim. Then, the rest was back through the woods on the same trail to the horses. I kept up with Carlos, who was in the lead. It was good.
We finally made it back to the horses and I had a little conversation with Chita. In half English and Spanish, I let him know that he and I were friends and everything was going to be ok. I told him not to be concerned about trying to throw me earlier, it was all in the past. Let's start new Chita. It worked, Chita was a super horse going back down. It was so much fun on the horses and a bit terrifying. The horses would go down these steep areas with rocks and I thought for sure they were going over the edge of the cliffs. It was a super long way down. But, I trusted Chita in knowing what he was doing and he didn't let me down. Only thing was, he really wanted to be in the front of the horses behind me so at some points he was trotting down the mountain. I didn't like that so I made him slow down. He obliged.
We got back to the hotel about 6:30 this evening and we all made our way to the bar for celebratory beers. Jim had to go check on the wife, so he gave me his email and phone and told me to look him up if I was ever in Melbourne. I will Jim, I will. Then he was gone. I had a beer with Victor, and half of the Seattle team. The Seattle Dad, I found out, was not feeling well. So, they drove him to the nearest hospital. Apparently he woke up with strep throat this morning, so he needed an antibiotic shot. We were sitting by the fire on some couches. There was a couple from London already there so they welcomed us to join them. Victor and the British guy started talking architecture. I like architecture, but I was so spent from the day, I felt like after one beer I was going to doze off. Plus, I really, really wanted to take a HOT shower and ease my aches and pains. I excused myself and did just that.
I just got back from dinner. The dinners here are amazing. There are two options for starters, main courses, and dessert. Then they bring you an appetizer that is fixed. Today's appetizer was a salmon flan, a blueberry and red pepper salad, and a king crab and mussels ceviche. I'm not really into that kind of food, but it was really good. Then I was served my cream of mushroom soup. After the soup course they serve a watermelon sorbet to cleanse the palette. Everyone needs to cleanse the palette, duh. Then the main course was served. I had a pork loin rolled with cranberries and blackberries, served on what appeared to be super fancy mashed potatoes. Then for dessert was a chocolate soufflé. I washed it all down with some excellent Chilean wine. Truth be told, I was really, really hoping cheeseburgers would be on the menu tonight. Or maybe even some chicken soup and a grilled cheese. Nope. It is very fancy. Who would've thought in the middle of Patagonia that they would serve such fancy food! I should've eaten at the bar. Sandwiches and fries there. But it is my last night here so I wanted to splurge a little. Well, it's all inclusive so I guess I didn't really splurge. I guess I wanted to celebrate my accomplishment today.
Tomorrow I leave this area. I'm so sad to be leaving. This whole experience here has been amazing. Probably my most favorite place I've been, when on a Great Adventure. I've met some really great people on this trip too. The Chilean's are super nice. Can't wait to correspond with everyone I've met. Tomorrow I leave for Punta Arenas at about 2:00 to catch a flight back to Santiago at 8:00. I'll arrive in Santiago at about 11:30 tomorrow night. Then I have all day Friday and most of the day on Saturday before I head home. I don't know if I will have anything to blog tomorrow since it is a travel day. But, maybe I will get up early and try to do some time lapse of the sunrise. Who knows. I'm so tired and sore now, it may not happen.
So, if nothing happens tomorrow, I will update again on Friday when I'm back in Santiago. Cheers everyone!!!