Last Saturday, I attempted to hike in a park to the east of Santiago. I was successful. I just didn’t hike on the right trail, making a wrong turn early on. I had blown quite a bit of my time trying to find the park entrance (a metro and a bus, how hard can it be?). Today, I started earlier, knew my way to the entrance and, so, about a quarter to nine (I left my apartment at 7:30) was talking to the park attendant and a couple of climbers from Spain. I should note early, I’m not sure how accurate my information about these guys are. They were really nice but I didn’t catch all of what they said which is a familiar theme. They had about the same amount of English as I have Spanish, so it was a good match. One is a runner and the other a climber, though I didn’t get into what he has climbed or what his preferred type of climb is. They had been told that climbing to the top of Cerro Provincia is “Muy facil” and, indeed, it isn’t really a climb. It’s just a long, hard walk. Cerro Provincia you may have seen in pictures I post of sunrise. It tops out just over 9,000 feet (my apartment sits at just above 2,000 feet).
In all respects, you’d have to think, were you observing us, that they were better prepared than me. Younger, fitter, less gear, speaking Spanish, seem to know where they’re headed, you get the idea. So what did I have over them? Water. The park is entirely dry, we’re talking Prohibition-era Southern Baptist revival dry here. The guy taking money was very concerned about them and stopped processing me when he heard them talk about their water supply. He came back to me for a moment, but when I told him my plans and that I had seis litros de agua, he waved me on without a second thought. My Spanish friends had 1.5L each. My plan was to walk to the end of the trail that would deliver them to the trail to the peak. I had about a 4 mile one-way walk ahead of me with a 2,500 foot elevation gain. A decent walk but nothing like the 7 mile, 6,500 foot gain they had. As it worked out, I arrived home with about 1.5 liters of water left. I would guess they’re still out there as I write.
Did you like how I opened this piece up making it sound like the Spanish guys and I were doing the same hike? Writing skills, they’re not just for poets anymore. Yes, I’m climbing a mountain today but I’m too cool to just come out and say it. No, of course not. I planned to stop well short of their target. We actually took two different trails that rejoined and, 40 minutes in, I was ahead of them. Take that, climber dudes! Of course, I know I was ahead of them because as I was laying on a rock thinking about all the mistakes I’d made this day, they strolled leisurely by me and said hello. I never saw them again. I hope they’re okay and that they make the peak.
I actually had a great hike. There was a guided group of about 30 hikers of varying skills that I couldn’t shake but they were nice enough. I suppose I should be amazed that on a spectacular trail whose head is within 10 miles of 8 million people there were only 50 or so people in the park. Amazing or sad. Let’s go with amazing, it was a good day.
I got to a pass between two hills where the trail opened up into the Andes. I was able to see El Plomo in the distance, closer and much clearer than from Santiago. Santiago has a smoke/haze layer that seems to hang out at around 4,000 feet. I was above it here. And to the side. Unfortunately, I was fooled by a fence in the trail which is only supposed to ward off bikes which are plentiful on the way up. You can cross the fence easily enough but I didn’t. On the other side of the fence, the trail ambles on for another mile and a half or so of fairly level hiking with one quick climb at the end. Instead of this very reasonable option, I took off straight up the hill to the right, a difficult climb full of loose gravel and menacing cactus. But I made the top without instinctively grabbing any of the cactus that beckoned a sliding hiker. There I enjoyed a very tranquil lunch looking into the Andes. I was only interrupted once by a flying insect roughly the size of a Piper Cub and with a stinger that might have held a 20 mL of venom. She seemed more interested in the plants.
About that time, I heard people. Looking down, I saw, yes, people, and under the people’s feet, the trail. Aha! I made my way down to it and had a much easier time of hiking. I turned back with about half a mile to the end of the trail – another day. My wrong turn robbed me of the time I’d had before my self-imposed turn around time which was, in retrospect, far too early.
On the way home, I managed to get the right bus, at the right stop, on the first try (as opposed to last week’s wrong bus, at the wrong stop on the third try). I was home over an hour earlier than I’d planned. Now that I know my way there and back I can start earlier and leave later. I doubt I have the peak in me but I can at least get up on the trail to the peak and go a bit further.
This evening, I had planned to rent a car and go to an observatory in roughly the same part of the city as the park trailhead. But the planned rental company’s hours were not what the internet said. For example, the internet said they were open today but the sign on the door said that they were not. When it comes to actually procuring a vehicle, it turns out the sign on the door trumps the sign on the internet. There are other companies and I could use the one from a couple of weeks ago but, basically, the cheap ones have kind of dubious hours and are a bit of a walk and the one I know will run me $100 to drive through Saturday night traffic to get to an observing site that is not especially great for two hours of observing before I have to drive back through traffic to the house. I’m just not up to it.
I really have to solve this problem of getting out of the city at night. But with sore legs, homework to write and no good plan I’m going to stay in. I wonder if there is anything I can stream this weekend?
The wonderful feeling when suddenly, there is no more land ahead on the trail.
The let down when it’s because the trail turns to the right. And the stupidity when you don’t see the trail so climb the hill.
El Plomo in the distance. As usual, the phone camera does a disservice to the incredible view.
From the actual trail, looking up where I had lunch. It’s overdramatic, I came up to the top from the right in this picture. A few cacti but not many.
Looking back to Santiago and her protective layer of haze.
The tree for which the trail Alto del Naranjo is named.