Hey guys! We landed in Brussels early this morning and took a train straight to Paris (I cried the entire way out of a mixture of exhaustion and excitement, it was really attractive). We’re here! We’re finally here! While I’m off squeezing as much of this amazing city in as I can, I’m delighted to introduce my first (of 8!) guest-blogger to you. Take it away, Annie!
Hey everyone, it’s Annie from insideology here. Erin is currently swooning around the streets of Paris, croissant in hand, and has asked me to drop by and tell you about my favourite holiday.
I have been to many beautiful places in the world but Patagonia is the one that has stayed with me more than any other. The wildness, the scale and the awesome strength of nature. That feeling where you are nothing more than an insignificant dot that can be whipped off the top of a mountain at any moment by a playful gust of Antarctic wind.
In 2007 I was lucky enough to spend three months travelling around South America. In the middle of January, still weak from having just spent five days in a Peruvian hospital recovering from Salmonella, I set off from the Mediterranean warmth of Buenos Aires to the harsh Andean summer of the Torres del Paine and Fitzroy national parks.
We walked most days of the two week trip through the bottom of Chile and Argentina, sometimes for up to ten hours a day. I was hard, it was gruelling and it was cold. Really cold. But it was worth it.
For most of the trip we camped, sometimes on sites where no fires were allowed, where there were no toilets and no way of keeping warm. Nights where I would sleep cuddling a Sigg bottle filled with boiling water, stuffed into a sock. And other nights on a site with a huge log cabin serving salami and red wine in front of a roaring log fire (honestly one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten) and the most powerful, hottest shower I’ve ever stood under.
We walked and we walked and we walked. Like the Grand old Duke of York, we marched to the top of mountains, just to march back down again. The paths were steep and relentless. I had plenty of chance to practice the technique I’d learnt from my Inca trail guide of walking diagonally, methodically up such paths. We oscillated between sheltered, green valleys and freezing cold glacier-topped peaks. Layers of clothes were on and off like light switches.
I found myself constantly re-adjusting my perception of beauty. One minute marvelling at dirty ice-topped moonscapes, the next the soft green cosiness of the forests. The handsomeness of rugged, stripey peaks and the astounding beauty of ice.
The scenic rewards were worth every shiver and every aching bone. The view of the continental ice cap after hours of trekking up a snowy, windy glacier to reach it. Turning around at the bottom of a lengthy, taxing descent from a laguna to see the peaks of Fitzroy mountain through the trees. Looking down on turquoise icebergs peacefully bobbing around crystal lakes. The relief of dropping off freezing, blustery mountain tops into calm, green valleys and icy, white rivers. Catching sight of a comet on a midnight trip to the toilet.
This was a trip that stripped me raw. I slipped off a glacier and spent a whole day with my boots full of the coldest water I’ve ever experienced. I thought I was going to get frostbite on my fingers owing to my stupid lack of waterproof gloves. I nearly got blown off the top of the Loma del Diablo by a malevolent gust of wind (my feet actually left the ground). I’m not really someone who gets frightened but I cried on a Tyrolean traverse from abject terror. I had a full on panic attack on a canoe that was going backwards, lacking the upper body strength to paddle it upstream through the strong current.
But in the end you re-assemble yourself into a stronger version of what you were before. A feeling of pride that you conquered something, rose to and met a challenge. Fears that dissipate and the satisfaction that comes with having survived extreme conditions with endurance, will power and a pair of walking boots. The happiness deep inside that comes from having seen and experienced something that few people will in their lifetime. This is the stuff that adventures are made of.
I mean, WOW, right? Aren’t those pictures incredible? I’d never have as much courage as Annie to undertake a vacation like that. What about you guys? Can we give Annie a round of applause for kicking things off? Thanks, Annie!