Woolly jumpers and the poncho

20180510_184443.jpgI arrived at university in 1998 with a selection of knitted patterned jumpers.

In my minds’ eye I looked outdoorsy and rugged.

I should probably mention that I had also dyed my hair straw-blonde which perhaps did not help build that image. At 18 you make some odd choices.

The jumpers had been pass-me-downs and though their functionality as a device to create warmth remained second-to-none it transpired that they did not form part of the fashion of 1998. They were relegated to work wear back home for log chopping and bonfires at which they excelled.

It is therefore with some bemusement that I found myself in Chile examining a selection of fine patterned woolly jumpers that in 1998 could possibly have led to social exclusion.

20180511_204712.jpgIn the end I overcame temptation on the basis that I own quite a few jumpers already and do not have space in our travel bags for duplication, but I did emerge as the owner of a poncho. The moment I slipped it over my head I knew the sale was sealed. A masterpiece in design and function.

I doubt that jumpers or ponchos create an outdoorsy or rugged look, and 20 years on from I’ve learned of course that it does not actually matter.

I do know that I am looking forwards to cold evenings with a fire in the garden and a cigar and cognac in hand, friends around me, and my poncho over my head. And that does matter.

If you don’t already have one, get one and come round.

Baby free hiking and hot springs

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Hiking up the valley towards the hot springs

I want to write about leaving your baby behind and getting some mum and dad “couple” time.

When babies arrive (spoiler for those without kids: there is no stork involved) your life changes irrevocably. The wonderful parts speak for themselves and I won’t list them here. Kids are an amazing gift.

Conversely, time as a couple becomes scarce, sleep deprivation leaves you broken (unless you are in the lucky minority with babies who sleep effortlessly), and other hobbies and aspirations are placed on hold or turned off permanently.

We had the privilege of being able to travel extensively whilst Bertrand was between 6 and 10 months, determined to keep our passion for travel and the outdoors alive and perhaps to instil a taste for mountains, fresh air and international adventure into his little spirit.

Travel with a baby is tough. Waking every hour whilst our little one teethed in Patagonia was harder than any work stress I have experienced. His process of unlearning the sleep-training we had painfully introduced sapped our will. His yelling at 3am with paper-thin hotel room walls left us slightly shame-faced as we entered each morning for breakfast, wondering who else had suffered a night of no sleep.

But travel with a baby is also so rewarding. His excitement every time we see a dog (every few minutes in Argentina). His laughs and squeals at my pain and exertion as we trekked up mountains. Cuddles wrapped-up in a poncho by a fire after dinner watching the sun setting, nestled in with an arm round my neck as he dropped off to sleep. If you have the opportunity to travel with your young one, don’t over-think it, just do it and you’ll work the rest out as you go. Continue reading “Baby free hiking and hot springs”

Trail runs near Zapallar

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For those who want some nice trails near Zapallar, Agua Clara is an excellent choice

“Every-man’s right” has a nice ring to it. In UK law it is the right to roam freely across most moorlands, hills and heaths for the purpose of exercise, even if they are privately owned. The rich and famous don’t get exceptions. Even without this the UK is blessed with a superb network of footpaths and excellent Ordinance Survey maps.

I like to try and get out for a run in each place I visit. Continue reading “Trail runs near Zapallar”

3 family-friendly walks in Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonia is heaven for those who love the outdoors. The Nahuel Huapi National Park has a good range of marked treks available ranging from short well-marked trails through to serious multi day mountain excursions for experts only.

After our experience in Villa Traful climbing Cerro Negro, we decided to hunt out a few baby/kid-friendly walks in the Villa la Angostura area. Our little one had been a proper trooper on our big trek putting up with a long day and a lot of brambles and branches, so we wanted to find routes which were a little more baby friendly.

If you’re in the area with a baby or family and want to get out into the outdoors then any of these 3 are good choices though the Belverdere viewpoint does require a decent climb and the waterfalls require careful supervision.

Continue reading “3 family-friendly walks in Patagonia, Argentina”

Lost and found in Patagonia

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Setting off … registration is mandatory and very sensible!

The Cerro Negro trek takes you to a peak above Villa Traful (North of Nahuel Huapi national park in Patagonia, Argentina). With perfect weather and the sight of the rocky peak too much to resist, we set off on the steep path.

In April the sun is fairly low in the sky creating a magical light, and the colours of the trees have turned into yellows and flaming reds. The town has emptied from the high season leaving behind the core of a few hundred residents, one or two tiny shops, and a restaurant or two. We had the route to ourselves. Continue reading “Lost and found in Patagonia”

“Laguna de Los Tres” (the Fitzroy hike) with a 9-month-old and a wife with a fractured foot

Chalten”, a word from the old Patagonian language meaning “smoky mountain”, is used interchangeably for the town and the mountain that dominates the skyline. The formal name for the mountain is Fitz Roy, after the Captain of the Beagle who chartered much of the wild coastline with a young Darwin on board.

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Early on in the route, baby on back, feeling fres

I’ve enjoyed climbing for a number of years.  At first, I wanted to progress and challenge myself but absence of time combined with self-inflicted injury frustrated my progress. At this point, climbing changed for me and became more mellow and spiritual – a perfect antidote for many hours in the office.

The site of rock still creates a reaction for me; an awareness and respect for the physical and mental strength of those that venture into the domain of the mountains, and respect for the mountain itself which one moment can be basked in sunshine but the next could be throwing gale-force winds at rain at you.

Cerro Fitz Roy is awe-inspiring, rising into the clouds in which it is often shrouded. This is a place of legends.

The hike to the lake “Laguna de Los Tres” takes you to towards the foot of the mountain and is the most popular in the area and the goal of many who visit. Our challenge was whether we could do this with a 9-month-old baby and a wife who fractured her fifth metatarsal only 4 weeks ago.

Read about our hike

New favourite trail run, new favourite trail running shoes

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My Saucony Everun trail shoes. Loving them

Some online reviews rave about the merits of the best restaurant in town when they’ve spent a handful of days and tried only a handful of places, so as a caveat to the title of this piece: I’ve not done that many trail-runs and have not previously owned trail shoes.

Before leaving London I bought a pair of Saucony shoes from the lovely staff “Run and Become”. The shoes have been a revelation for me, taking in sand, mud and even a little rock scrambling with ease.

Their first proper outing was a 20km run starting 16km north of Chalten leading up to a mountain lake called Lago Electrico.

Running can clear the mind and cleanse the body. Just occasionally something more magical happens and you transcend where you are, and for that brief time you are connected to something much greater. It is as if you found your natural state, running almost sub-consciously.

Read more