Hiking Tierra Del Fuego – Part 1: The Planning
Making Up Our Minds
It was 2011, and Will and I were sitting in a friend’s carport watching the Georgia game.
“Ever thought about going to Patagonia?” he asks, as Marcus Lattimore gashes the Georgia defense.
“Sure. That would be a blast.” I say.
“Want to go in December?”
“Let’s do it.”
So we went.
As I get started writing about this particular adventure, know that this is my favorite part of the story. The discussion Will and I had was not about all the reasons we couldn’t do it, or how hard it would be, or how neither of us spoke Spanish or had even been to South America. We thought only about how great it would be. Yes, we were lucky to be able to take the time and spend the money to go on the trip. But I’m proud that at least this time I thought not about the costs of a wild trip, but about the benefits. We made up our minds and made it happen.
The planning process took the next several weeks. For those of you who have yet to try it, this trip has helped me to identify several stages of overseas trip planning.
- No worries, we’ve got plenty of time
- Hmmm, wonder if it’s time to start planning yet?
- Googling “Patagonia” and then just looking at clothing for an hour
- OMG I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW WE LEAVE TOMORROW
These are my planning stages. Others may approach it in a more organized fashion.
Where are we going?
First we had to decide where exactly we wanted to go. Chile? Argentina? Patagonia’s a big place and most of what we knew about it came from this episode of No Reservations. So we spent a great deal of time actually doing research on places to hike. TripAdvisor was helpful for this, and if you were planning this trip now, it looks like you can find some good advice from Lonely Planet here.
Access was an issue. We weren’t too keen on having to spend additional time traveling once we were actually in Patagonia, so we ultimately settled on going here:
More particularly, there’s a loop trail that goes into the Tierra Del Fuego national park just north of the city. We could fly straight into Ushuaia from Buenos Aires and walk to the trailhead. Ushuaia is also the southernmost city in the world, so I got to tell myself that I was literally going to the ends of the earth for the trip.
Where are we staying?
We’re hiking. We had absolutely no intention of doing anything but sleeping in tents. So here’s our first mistake. We didn’t think for a second that we wouldn’t be able to find a place to camp the first night. Let’s see how that works out for us.
Me and Will. Good friends since college. Along the way we found another adventurer, Anna. She was going to be studying in Argentina in the Spring semester so the timing worked out perfectly for her to take the trip down and then just stay until school started. Here’s us:
What do we have to bring?
This was by far the most difficult thing to plan. Those of you who have planned longer backpacking trips know that bringing the right stuff on a trip is one of the most important things you can do.
Note that I’m not saying here that you need to be sure to bring enough stuff. That’s really easy to do. You can just throw everything you have into a pack and wind up carrying twice as much stuff as you need and making every step that much more difficult. Generally, a good pack weight is about 20% of your body weight for a multi-day trip. (more discussion here).
We were spending about 6 days on the trail (in retrospect, it felt like a lot longer – funny how that works). The first question was food. We had no idea what the food situation would be like down there so we opted to pack our own. That meant everything. So each of us was carrying around a fairly large bag of freeze dried backpacking food in a garbage bag. In addition to that, there’s the old standards:
- water filter
- bowl and spork
- water bottle
- sleeping pad
- sleeping bag
- rain gear
- playing cards
- warm clothing
- gold bond (seriously. putting this on your feet at the end of a long day of hiking is the best)
- first aid kits for people and for gear
And once you’ve got all of that packed put together and divided up, there’s really not that much room left in the pack. For reference, REI has a great checklist that you can use to help plan out what to bring.
When we were putting this together, we just shared a Google doc that we used to list everything we thought we were going to need to bring. Before the flight, we all came together, dumped everything out, and just talked through all that we would need. Note that there’s something key that we left out of that list, which we discovered once we arrived in Argentina.
Tickets bought and everything planned and packed. We got on the plane. And a few hours later, we saw this:
More to come later.
Here’s my question for the audience. What’s the most difficult trip you’ve planned for? Tell us about it in the comments!