This park is set in a stunning valley, surrounded by mountains, and filled with huge herds of guanaco, including numerous young.
As we arrived, after a long but exhilarating drive through the mountains from Argentina, it seemed as if we might have the campsite to ourselves. However, as we rounded the last bend, I spotted a British-registered Landrover Discovery and trailer.
They were bound to be boring old farts who wanted to talk.
Turns out, they were a very interesting couple, who not only invited us over for dinner in their fabulously kitted out trailer but shared their last Gin and Tonic with me. Along with ‘nibbles’.
They were retired management consultants, and on a 5-year retirement trip, starting in Canada and heading later to Africa then Australia. Lauren was immediately in love with their custom-built trailer, which featured heating, a proper bathroom, a full oven, a microwave, wardrobes and comfy sofas. I enjoyed some adult conversation, which ranged (of course) from Brexit to the Galapagos, from Mozambique to China to Trump to the environment. The food – roast salmon and vegetables, followed by fresh mango and mint tea – was a far cry from the stir fries and pastas we have been managing on with our one ring and two pans. It was almost embarrassing how excited Lauren was about the food…… They even had little tiny dishes for olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping bread in. It was a very civilized evening as we moved on from G&T to delicious Chilean wine.
We had planned to head to Cochrane the next day, but a ‘short stroll before lunch’ ended up being a 14km hike up a mountain – we kept agreeing to go just over the next hill or just round the next bend, and before we knew it, we had climbed a massive lump of a mountain, giving us spectacular views of the valley (most unfortunately on my camera and therefore unable to upload as too big for the rubbish wifi here, but you’ve seen enough ‘big views of mountains’ from me by now). It was effectively 7km of straight up, followed by 7km of steep down, and my knees, back and ankle reminded me that since I last did any serious hiking, I’ve had spinal surgery, buggered my lungs with long-untreated pneumonia, torn the ligaments in my ankle, and put on way too many kilos!
Even Lauren admitted to being ‘a bit tired’ as we reached the summit. Although she said this while attempting to climb a rockface, so I didn’t really believe her.
It was worth it though; as I hobbled home through the curious guanaco, I felt completely wrecked but also full of life.
If that makes sense.