We left the camping site early this morning. We knew we did not have enough time to climb to the top of Champaqui but we decided to climb as high as we can. The other problem was the police. Last night we were told we could not climb the mountain because of the fatal casualty the previous weekend. We decided to go and have a look.
When we reached the entrance to Champaqui a group of 8 policemen were already waiting there. One guy approached us but at that exact moment the water bottle fell from the backpack and we got busy with it, ignoring the policeman. The policemen got distracted and we sneaked past them. We were so quick and we didn’t look back.
As we were walking we heard someone whistling. I told Andrey is it the policeman but he said it could also be a bird. So we kept on walking! We did not walk very far when an out-of-breath officer descended upon us. We were laughing and joking with him and he was very kind. He told us about the accident and said we could hike but they needed our details. Fair enough I also think it is important in case something goes wrong. We could hike to the top but we did not have enough time left. What a pity!
The beginning of the hike is nice. You hike next to some houses and then you enter the Pine forest through a gate. From there on it is all climbing!
The view once you are out if the Pine forest is nothing but spectacular. From here we could see as far as Dique Molinos, Villa del Dique and the Calamuchita Valley. I was amazed to be able to see so far especially the lake areas.
I saw some interesting flowers on our way. It is amazing that these plants flourish in their natural habitat but as soon as you try to plant them in your garden they die.Once you open your eyes to everything that nature has to offer you will be amazed at the beautiful things there are.
We hiked up to a Kiosk (small building where you can buy something to drink or eat) but it was closed. I saw a couple of donkeys on our way. They are funny things. As we started to hike I felt really awful. I was nauseous and felt dizzy. The day was too hot and I think I was slightly dehydrated from the day before. I was upset with myself because I didn’t want to feel this way. I also realized that I was definitely not fit enough and if I wanted to climb Champaqui I will have to train.
We hiked a little more and then took a rest. A group of people came past us and they were carrying a woman with ropes. I am not sure what happened but she seemed to be in trouble. Maybe she hurt herself but she had to be supported. We watched with interest and later they put her on a mule. I hope she was OK. It was a really hot day!
A lot of things were happening at once. A man came down the mountain with a lot of bags. At first I thought it was food and supplies for the base camp but then I found out it was for people who didn’t want to carry their backpacks to the top. Andrey and I seemed to have a difference in opinion about the matter. He believes you should carry your own bag and I am taking the obvious choice of having someone carry my luggage for me. I mean it is murder enough to climb this monster!
We were ready to get on the way when a group of horse riders came past us. These guys must have been professionals. I think they often go on this route. They were super friendly and each guy that came past us greeted and asked if we were OK. Such friendliness and in the middle of nowhere! I must say despite of the heat I would much rather walk up Chamapqui than go with a horse. It seemed like a very difficult tasks!
We hiked up to 1900m and then we decided to go back. To reach the top of Champaqui you need to climb to 2,790m. It is all climbing!The base camp is also very expensive. They charge 150 pesos per person per night. It includes dinner (noodles) and a breakfast. We didn’t want to spend so much money and it would have been the logical choice to sleep some other place on the mountain. Like everything else in Argentina it is not easy to find this information before you depart. There are no Internet sites to give you information.
Getting down was easy. I had less cramps and to my amazement it went very quickly. We reached the town at about 4pm. As we walked back to the camp we passed a house and they advertised freshly baked bread. We stopped, had a chat to the man who was putting a new shoe on his horse. It was interesting because his son was holding the one front foot. This prevented the horse from running away or moving. This man was also very friendly and explained the whole procedure to us.His wife brought us the bread. It was really delicious!
When we got back to the camp the river was swamped with young people. They were divided into 2 groups and were playing games in the cold water. I sat down on a rock and watched them. The joys of being young, you don’t even notice the cold water!
Camping always looks like a lot of fun when other people do it. It`s been only a couple of days but I really miss my bed. We didn`t bring an inflatable mattress with us and my back is killing me. You have no idea how hard a piece of ground can be!