Patagonia Dias Uno a Siete

“The tragedy of this life is not that it ends so soon but that we wait so long to begin it.” 

The cinnamon whiskey is hot as it’s sweetness hits my throat and coats my belly. It makes me feel good and warms me up. Although the inside of our paper-thin ultralight tent is like a sauna inside, I’ve been freezing all day. I lay back and hear the murmured whispers of other people around us. Backpackers are rolling into camp, setting up their room for the night. The wind is hard, and it’s whipping the thin material of our tent vestibules, making it hard to rest. The sun is still high. Today, thank God, was an easy hiking day. I need to sleep. Only a day prior, I had been fever-ridden, sleeping restlessly in a hostel in Puerto Natales, Chile piled four-high with sheepskins for warmth. I lay back wondering if it was smart to start this journey. It was risky. I had considered staying back in Puerto Natales and sending G on his way, but I had to give it a shot, knowing that once we started, there was no turning back. No search and rescue, no way off of the O except finishing it in its entirety. That’s the stubbornness in me. 

When I had woken up this morning, the fever had broke. I still felt like death when we boarded the bus in Puerto Natales that took us to the ranger station of Torres Del Paine in Laguna Amarga. This is a two-hour trip, so I slept on the bus and prayed that this sickness would leave me. There was too much planning, logistics, and heart that had gone into this trek — one of the hardest travel plans we’ve EVER made. 

We climb out of the bus with 60 other backpackers, check-in, and start our day. It’s slow, my chest incredibly congested, my nose stuffed. Even on a good, healthy day, I knew this journey would have some difficulty. I second guess my decision to start. What if I literally cannot make it? I have to! We are carrying everything we need for the next eight days on our backs, and even though we are accustomed to this and have packed light, my pack feels heavy. I am so congested. My breathing incredibly labored. 

The mostly flat/rolling terrain and 13-kilometer hike was a blessing on this first day out of Laguna Amarga. I was still star-struck with the whole idea of us being in Patagonia. Pata-freaking-gonia, I kept thinking. It’s one of those trips we’ve talked about and dreamed about for years. Now I’m sick and miserable and fighting each step to get to our first camp. 

As I lay back in our tiny Big Agnes tent, I think, “there’s no turning back now.” 

We are at Serón. 

Logistically speaking, this trip was outrageous! We didn’t want to go with a guide, a team, a mule train…you get my point, so I was left to the booking arrangements. There are three players in Patagonia;  Fantastico Sur,  Vertice Patagonia, and CONAF. These are the three places you will go to for booking all camps and refugios. We had decided to hike both the W and the O circuit; The “O” includes the “W” trail, with the addition of the backside, or northern section of the mountain to make it a long loop, – 130 kilometers. A max of 80 people are allowed onto the backside O a day. It’s undoubtedly a more challenging trail, and it’s also without refugios, but it’s all worth it when, as you finish climbing John Garner Pass, you get an unprecedented view of the icecap Glacier Grey. 

The booking process was maddening. Very strict dates are required, and none of these agencies work together. Not to mention they ALL hold different camps and refugios on different parts of the trek, and not in order. CONAF being the government-held camps does not even open for registration until much later in the year, so as we booked Fantastico and Vertice camps in August for our February trip, we could not book CONAF until sometime around November. The spots fill quickly, so as you can imagine, by the time CONAF rolled online for reservations, the dates we had booked through the other two agencies didn’t work out into the CONAF schedule. The day we landed in Santiago, Chile, we didn’t have a full camp itinerary, and let me tell you, as you walk into each camp, they check your reservations, along with your passport and the PDI slip. If you are off by a day, you will be asked to go back. 

Campsites are arranged like this:

Vertice Patagonia – Campsites: Dickson, Los Perros, Grey and Paine Grande

Fantasticosur – Campsites: Serón, Los Cuernos, El Chileano, Central and Frances

CONAF – Free Campsites: Italiano, Paso and Torres Ranger Station & Camping

After arriving in Santiago, Chile and spending a day and night we flew down to Punta Arenas and stayed at a great hostel. I was chilly as we took a walk around town, and we were amused that our weather app showed that we were in the “Antarctic Zone” as it is the southern-most city before Antarctica. We wandered down by the water; The Straight of Magellan, for a while and headed back to our hostel and to bed early as we had a bus to catch at daybreak.

Thankfully we had three days to spend in Puerta Natales before heading onto the O. I was incredibly sick and we still did not have our reservations for camp. After going back and forth between the offices of Vertice and Fantastico, waiting in line and jostling dates we thought we had them all together, but after further review I had missed a camp, shifting a date, and had to start all over with new dates. I was down for the count at this point, in bed, shivering with the worst flu ever. My poor NON-Spanish speaking husband had to go back to these offices with new dates. By the grace of the Holy God, he was able to “pictionary” his way through. They made some calls for him and BOOM, he came back with our itinerary…..to leave in the morning!

Seron Camp is a basic camp. It’s a grassy field with two picnic-style tables that have a tarp for wind cover. You have to cook in these designated tarp areas only at every site. I barely remember being at Seron, to be honest. I slept and went into the hut to cook dehydrated soup with our MSR stove one time. I loved hearing and seeing all of the friendly faces and different nationalities and languages of the people we would be spending the next 8-9 days alongside. Once you start the O-circuit, and because they limit the number of people on the trail, these become your leap-frogging trail friends. 

The following day, we broke camp early and headed out to Dickenson Camp. The views were unbelievable, and we kept finding ourselves stopping every chance we got to take it all in! It’s a steep climb and steep downhill coming into Dickenson. Today was 19 kilometers; It’s one of the most beautiful camps on the O. Once you arrive and check-in, you can find a spot for your tent anywhere you want. We shrugged out of our packs and wandered around. We saw a fox scampering along the treeline. We set our tent so that in the morning, as we unzipped to make coffee, we would have a perfect view of the soaring mountains and glaciers. Dickenson has a great set up for cooking. A little cabin-like shelter, with electricity — also, hot showers and bathrooms and even a small area where they sell snacks. We bought Pringles and chocolate here. 

After pitching our tent, we showered and laid in the hot sun, waiting to see who and when the others would roll into camp. It was at this camp that we met “the two traveling nurses” who were from the States, working at different locations in the States until they save enough for their next great adventure. They travel on their earnings for a few months, return to the US, work for a few months only to repeat the process over and over. We loved swapping stories about the places we’ve all been in common and the enjoyment of different cultures, cuisines and our unquenchable wanderlust. 

We also met “One Pole and the Goodr Girls”, a group consisting of a guy and two women traveling together. One Pole lost one of his trekking poles along the first leg of the trip and came into camp with one…deeming him “One Pole” The women he was with both wore my favorite brand of athletic glasses; Goodr and have friends who work for the company, thus-The Goodr Girls.

There was also an Argentinean father and two sons, two Chilean buddies traveling together, and a pair of Aussies (a father and son) who we cooked and had dinner with at Dickenson. We’ve never laughed so hard in our lives as we did with these two and their quirky personalities. Still, some of the moments we laugh about the most from this trip come from these two. 

Con’t-

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Restore Me

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What a year it has been! I spent the last year with BE ruminating in my mind. That was my word for 2018. I am so not into New Year’s resolutions. Never have been. But what I DO, is pray. Pray for a WORD, a word to focus on and to set me on fire. To fix my heart on intentions, meaning, and hope. Don’t get me wrong, though, I am not bashing on resolutions, and I think they work for many. I think sometimes we get so off course during a year that giving yourself a resolution is incredible! It creates a fierceness in you: a determined heart and a purpose. I am, however, about goals. The type that allows growth but is not over-reaching and unattainable, so that you set yourself up for failure. Pliable goals that move and flow over the year. Some quick and some that are going to require some hard work. Maybe repairing a relationship, running a 5k, picking up an old project you were frustrated with or picking up a discarded passion that you allowed to fall away for whatever reason.

Last year was the year of “BE,” and I have been put to the test. Two thousand eighteen was an unbelievable year! In 2017 we had decided to sell off, donate, bless others with our excess and pack up and move out of the country. We dedicated to a full year. The year brought so much growth, challenge, joy, change, and transformation to both G and I. It was pretty magical, and we learned a lot. We learned that things are indeed never in our control. Something that sometimes both of us struggle with, obviously, because we continue to be challenged on this. We were blessed in a multitude of ways that we never imagined. We learned to BE more present and trust more. We learned that being comfortable and BE-ing comfortable means entirely two different things. We learned to BE more gracious and more thankful. We learned that to BE content doesn’t mean materially or always easy. We learned to BE more patient and to navigate problems without allowing annoyance to slip it’s ugly fingers in.

Going into this year as I nestled down my heart to await my word, I was excited! I was also exhausted and frustrated. We knew the time G and I had spent apart due to his career was not working well. Although living abroad, he had a lot of travel to the States. More than we anticipated. We knew that my complete retreat from racing and triathlon was not working. Coming off of several years of constant competition and endorphins to “hammocking” was not feeding my soul and my inner fire.
I prayed for a few months for my word, and just like always, in the early, dark hours of the morning while lying in bed, it was there on my heart.

Restoration.

res·to·ra·tion
/ˌrestəˈrāSH(ə)n/Submit
noun
1.
the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.
synonyms: repair, repairing, fixing, mending, refurbishment, reconditioning, rehabilitation, rebuilding, reconstruction, overhaul, redevelopment, renovation; informal rehab
“the restoration of derelict housing.”

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This is always the part of the story that gets me excited because I never know where these words will lead. I always look forward to the transformation that they bring each year. I love that it gives me something to focus on and center myself on. Pray about and REALLY listen.

Restoration/Restore can mean a million different things. We do know we both love living abroad. We both agree that we are still dedicated to that. We are both wild-gypsy souls with an unquenchable amount of wild and wanderlust. We know that beyond the shadow of a doubt had we not decided to move, we would’ve regretted it later on. We are still happy we leaped when a lot of people would instead remain comfortable in their box. We know that no matter what, we will usually always take the road less traveled. We will never take things for granted and never say no to an opportunity. We won’t “live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” Travel, seeing other countries, visiting places in your own country, meeting people, exploring, eating foods that are questionable (HAHA) smelling, tasting and feeling the pulse of new areas, we think, intensifies the richness of your life. You realize how small you are on this vast globe. You learn a lot about adaptation and resilience. You learn there are a million paths to happiness, and none of them look the same.

img_3408So we start over. A new year. A new word. A further purpose. A fresh new love. New expectations and possibilities. New promises to lean in to. New vistas. With a renewed sense of wonder and curiosity and a fully open heart for RESTORATION, whatever that is going to look like. Ready to flip the flow (thanks Pastor Steven) Laying everything down for an inspired and passionate start line with a fresh eagerness and inquisitiveness for two thousand nineteen.

Happy Festivus -Airing of Grievances

Take a look at your life. What do you see? 

I try to keep my social media positive and inspirational all while being authentic and real. OF COURSE like everyone I have bad days and situations and I definitely SEE them, acknowledge them and accept them but they never destroy me and I don’t see a need for complaint. So often all I see on social media is complaining.

”The house isn’t perfect”  But does it hold a loving family and friends? Do you gather around a table for incredible meals and talk and laugh and make memories?

”The government isn’t perfect”  When has it ever been? George Washington owned slaves and made mistakes on the battlefield due to his lack of experience as a general. Those mistakes cost him the lives of many soldiers. They almost cost him the independence of America. Or Hoover’s belief that raising taxes would somehow fix the “Great Depression”

”The new car isn’t perfect” Neither was my 1989 Honda Civic that I bought in 2002, but that car represented my freedom from domestic violence and is still my most favored car. 

”My marriage isn’t perfect” How can you ever have the expectation of living with someone other than yourself and have it completely copacetic? How completely boring.

“My kids aren’t perfect” Thank goodness kids aren’t clones and they all have individuality and their own identity. 

”My body isn’t perfect” 🙄🙄 It is strong and healthy and capable? 

The list goes on. Oftentimes things aren’t as we planned and that’s part of life and growth.

 We ARE NOT OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. 

To live in a constant state of compliant really shows a lack of happiness and gratitude all around.

 Ya know what’s perfect? Nothing. 

So it’s either a situation where you honestly can’t be happy no matter what the outcome and you’re completely unable to please OR maybe you feel so out of control that you need to control everything to create perfectionism OR maybe you just love the drama. Maybe you’ve never been in a situation where you’ve dedicated time in your life to something other than yourself. 

I can’t be certain, but it’s heartbreaking, honestly. 

We live in a society bent on being perfect, which has created nothing but stress and drama. 

Stop and take a look at your life. 

There is a laundry list of things I could be adding to this but I’m trying to keep this short and sweet. More than likely my passion will run more wild on this than the crazy curls that grow unruly out of my head.. but I digress. 

As Greg and I travel the world and meet people the one thing we notice is the perfectness in imperfection. We travel to places where people are (to American standards) struggling, without complaint. I fact it’s more often the people who have less-than are the ones more likely to invite us for dinner. It’s the people who worry about their water sources being polluted, knowing it could be worse, invite us for tea. They smile, they tell stories and they don’t complain. They know things aren’t perfect but have decided to rise up and see the greatness, not to strive for perfection but to see things through another lens. 

Over the years Greg and I have had more times of looking at one another and thinking Whiskey Tango Foxtrot than you can imagine. We raised kids. HaHa, that right there should reveal our skill-set.  We’ve built houses for ourselves and for others in foreign countries. We’ve had no money and an abundance. We endured sickness and long-distance-moves. We’ve served on missions, we’ve lost friends, we’ve had delays and bad flights, we’ve had plans change that weren’t in our control to begin with, BUT we’ve always ALWAYS been grateful. In the 5 seconds after a tragedy, we may look blinded, but within another 5 we think… 

“Wait, look at our life!” 

This year I have had an abundance of friends suffer. Through decades of marriage that came to an abrupt end. Through the diagnosis of cancer that has decided to take a young, healthy body and ravage it. Through losing a home to a natural disaster. Loss of a spouse and children. Unexpected moves from an area they love. Loss of jobs. 

Stop and take a look at your life. 

I can’t help but think 100% of us have something better to do than complain.  EVER! 

Please stop. Please stop making mountains out of nothing. Please stop feeding drama on social media.  Please stop being petty. Please do something for someone other than yourself. Please look around you to those who are REALLY hurting. Please get out of bed and stop complaining about your health and DO something to move towards change. Please see someone and/or admit that maybe you’re depressed and seek help. Please stop posting things that make people roll their eyes. (Ok maybe it’s just me) 

Please be delicate with one another. Please forgive someone. Please spread kindness. Please give to someone in need.  Please agree to disagree (HONESTLY) Please extend grace. Please be humble. Please love without condition. Please…. just be a kind human.