Day 27 & 28- 16, 17 February 2017

Spanish word of the day: montaña- mountain

We arrived in El Chalten. Greeted by grey skies and raging showers. What to do what to do? The only thing to do here is hike. But I refused. Still not 100% recovered I didn’t want to risk getting more sick. All I could think was- I did not travel on a plane for 3 hours at 4am to sit in hotel room watching it pour while I play candy crush on my phone. The day went on and so did the rain…

A cute little cerveceria, popcorn, dinner, bottle of red wine,rummy game and a cool American couple later, we went to sleep and woke up the next morning to blue blue skies. Wooohhooooo it was meant to be. Now let’s hike!

Trying to take advantage of the turn in weather we opted for the longest and most challenging hike we could choose. Mount Fitz Roy. Over 10km up. And 10km down. Averaging between 6–8 hours we decided if we were going to do this we may as well do it properly! That’s a half marathon guys.

And so we joined the serious hikers and walked and walked. Every kilometre that passed we saw something more amazing. More beautiful. Throughout the whole hike I could not stop thinking about my father. This would be his ultimate. When he was younger he used to walk for hours in Kirstenbosch gardens in Cape Town. Climb Lions Head and Table Mountain every holiday. Water ski at the Vaal dam. Run. Walk. Explore. Everything! When I think of him at his peak, I see him there. And then life happened and after illness and ageing he just can’t do the things he loves to do anymore. So pops I want you to know I hiked this one for you!

That got me thinking… you don’t have to necessarily love doing this or do it often to appreciate it. I am by no means a hiker at heart but to experience it… to see the world for a couple of hours from the perspective of a bird! To get so high and see so far. It was overwhelming. How tiny we all are!

I’m sure some of you reading this have done something like this before. Hiked and walked often. But to be in the Andes and not be able to see anything around you except more mountains and lakes puts you in the midst of nature like you’ve never seen it. As far as the eye can see there is nothing artificial. Nothing built up. It’s all been there for…well forever.

So with my father in mind, I urge you to do it now while your bodies can. And maybe in your 70's you will still be able to. I saw a lot of older people with their hiking sticks and guides determined to make it to the top. It was inspiring. So it’s not an age thing. It’s more of an- if this appeals to you, and you want to do it, don’t wait thing. Add it to your bucket list and tick it off. You can do it on a budget. You could camp. You could do it in decent accommodation. You could even find luxury if you looked. But don’t only talk about it, make it happen. Because even these pictures can’t capture where I’ve just been!

Ok enough of the inspirational stuff- let’s get down to details. The journey of 9kms is like being on a movie set. A dream. Lakes, camping sites, glaciers, rivers, bridges, birds, trees, mountains. Your eyes literally don’t know what to process first there is such a selection of unbelievable perfection before them.

So that last part to reach the final 1km where things totally change is almost like you’ve been given false advertising! The intensity is amplified. The mountain gets more steep. The rocks get wobbly and you start thinking “what the hell am I doing this for!”

Now those of you who are reading this and know me well- I can guess what you’re thinking. How did Megan do this for over 10 km without her clumsy self doing something! Yup… you guessed it, in full Megan style, on the way down after buzzing from finally reaching the top. Sweating but ice cold. The wind so strong everyone at the top was wobbling and pulling their hoods over their ears as the wind travels off the glacier and onto their faces. Our faces. My face.

After all that… on my way down. Navigating down the rocks, 10.5km in the bag, with another 10 to go…it happened. Slip, crash, fall on my butt in a muddy puddle. Ouch!

Before you start laughing let me give you context. This was not only my clumsiness ok?! There were wobbly rocks. Water flowing. Mud. And I was wearing my Nike free 3.0 trainers. You see?!

As it happened I looked at my shoes and I could actually imagine them saying “well what did you expect dude? We never signed up for this mountain hiking half marathon stuff. What did you expect?! Show me a gym lady!”

Ah well just a bruise (butt and ego), to remind me each time I take a shower over the next few days that I got to the top of a 3,405m mountain.

So what can I learn from this experience Mother Nature? Since you have all the answers?! Stop 2 reminded me that anything worth it in life requires effort. Career. Relationships. Love. You have to put in the hard work to reap the rewards. And you need to be made of the stuff that pushes through the monotonous, the tiresome, the pain, the cold, the sweating, the sore knees! Because when you do eventually get there, you only remember that feeling at the top.

And of course, afterwards, the shower, soft bed, delicious meal and deep sleep is just the cherry on top!