Written by Neon
In Barreal, we were looking for internet and ended up on the front porch of a hostel. The hostel was closed for the season, but the owner kindly gave us his wifi password and some water. We sat on the porch for a few hours, catching up with business stuff before we decided to ask if we would be able to stay for the night. The owner, Maoro, said yes and showed us a room. As he was showing Fidgit around, it turns out that another person who was on an endeavor to walk from Ushuaia to Alaska stopped through here ten years ago. His name was Ian and he spent a month in Barreal!
We were able to do all of our town chores in a day and made our way out of Barreal the next morning, walking towards Calingasta. Having so many town stops along our route has made resupplies easier because we only need food for a few days at most. The thing that is most concerning for us is the stretches between towns that don’t have any water.
We made it to Calingasta in a couple of days, with minimal concerns for water because we were walking along a valley floor with a river flowing to our east. In Calingasta, we were able to quickly resupply and left town in a blowing wind, which is common along the anteplano down here, and we have had the luck of not experiencing much thus far. We had a sidewind, and then a tailwind, pushing us forward to where we finally camped – in some shrubs next to a schoolhouse protected from the winds howling around us. I slept fitfully that night, until the winds died down and the near-full moon set.
The next morning, the day was calm and cloudy- perfect for walking. We packed up and walked through two small ‘villas’ of a few houses each. At the last villa, we also reached our last water source for what we believed to be 90 kilometers. We decided to nap by the water and head out later in the evening after making dinner to save on water consumption. Also, the full moon would be enjoyable and help light our way through the desert. I’m not generally a night owl, but I was up for trying to night hike, and the sun has been setting around 7:30, so it how bad could it be? We ate dinner and left the small villa with high hopes and 8+ liters of water on our backs. I tried for a few hours to enjoy hiking in the light of the full moon, and I believe I failed miserably. I struggled to put one foot in front of the other, I blamed it on the cold wind, the extra 17 pounds on my back, and that I couldn’t nap when we tried earlier in the day. In the end, maybe I’m just not a night hiker. We found a flat spot along the dirt road and passed out around 11 pm.
I slept horribly, and woke up to a cold morning and a hiking partner who also slept poorly. We ambled on, trying to be positive until the sun warmed our bones so much we shed our layers and enjoyed the slight breeze that came up. We saw that Fidgit had marked an abandoned estancia along our route and planned to make it the 35 km there. As we closed in on our goal, we noticed it didn’t look as abandoned as it perhaps once was. We came upon the ‘abandoned estancia’ and walked up to a Gendarmeria, where there were warmly greeted by one of the four men stationed there. They invited us in, shared their fire and dinner with us, and set up mattresses in front of the fireplace for us to sleep on. Many stories were shared, but I was mostly deliriously tired and struggling to sit upright, so I didn’t have much capacity for much else.
We both slept well that night, and left the next morning refreshed and headed downhill into town, knowing we would have enough water to get there. We made it down to the small town of Bella Vista and decided to stealth camp in an abandoned lot and walk into the larger town of Rodeo the next day. We found a small lot full of prickly shrubs and situated ourselves in for the night. We awoke the next morning to cool temperatures and made our way to a gas station to warm up and get some internetting done – we have recently figured out that the YPFs of Argentina have some of the best internet around!
At the gas station, we ran into a guy from Minnesota working on his Masters Thesis. He was also volunteering at a nearby National Park, and we talked with him more than we got things accomplished. It’s been a while since I’ve spoken in person to a native English speaker, and I realized through speaking with him how much I’d simplified my language and forgotten words. As Fidgit and I left the gas station to make it to Rodeo, we made plans with our new friend Andy to meet up later for dinner. We then busted our butts to walk the 15 kilometers to Rodeo before nightfall, and we made it just in time! Unfortunately, Andy’s ride picked him up super late, and we were unable to have dinner together. Fidgit and I found a place to stay in Rodeo, then promptly showered and collapsed into our beds.