We woke up to rain at Dickson. I got out of the tent finally, motivated by peeing and coffee. It was a lazy morning, as we knew we only had a few hours to go. The map said it would take 4 hours (9K), so we were in no rush. But when there was a lull in the rain, and as the desire for coffee (and peeing) intensified, I took the initiative.
Having gotten a sense of Patagonia weather, and knowing that we should take advantage of all lulls in the rain, we quickly took down the tent and packed up, prior to having breakfast. K and I are good at systems and routines, we are solid at packing up camp. If we want, we can get out of camp, fed, teeth-brushed and all, within 35-45 minutes, perhaps even less. So, when we noticed that the rain was slacking, we packed up and ate breakfast under the cover of a tree, celebrating the lack of mosquitos.
We weren’t the first out of camp, but we certainly were not the last. As we set off, the rain started back up and we felt bad for all those folks who were still in their tents. Or, even worse, those just emerging. But, we were on our way out and glad to have the trail to ourselves.
Once leaving the river valley and climbing out, the rain settled in as a long-term guest. The clouds hung heavy on the peaks surrounding us, and we did not have access to the amazing views that were surely out there.
The rain held steady, for all 3 hours it took us to walk to Los Perros.
Los Perros is at the base of the pass, and even thought it is a short day, most folks stop there to rally for the next day – the up and over. K and I did not feel overwhelmed by the pass, but at the same time, there was nothing in us that wanted to keep walking in the rain.
I stubbornly had not put on my raincoat (I’d rather keep it dry for warmth) and not put on gloves (I’d rather keep them dry and use them for warmth) – which, meant that my hands were rendered fairly useless by the time we got to camp – but at least I had warm, dry gear to put on.
I fumbled with the tent with my clubs-for-hands but we got it set up and put on dry clothes in order to go sit in the cooking shelter, which was thankfully a covered building, albeit without any insulation, or really, any sealant between walls, windows, etc.
We rushed in, started to heat up hot water, and finally were able to relax, knowing that the hypothermia-emergency was behind us. In looking around, we noticed that the hut was quite basic, with a wood stove (with no wood) in one corner, and 3 tables and rudimentary benches placed around the perimeter of the room.
Since we hike fast(er) and steadier than most folks, we were some of the first folks to get there that day, having passed a few folks during the trek. There was a Russian couple sitting next to the fire, but we came to find out that they had decided not to leave that morning, due to the rain. But, it was quiet in that first hour.
As time went on, more and more folks came in – in twos and threes – seeking respite from the rain before setting up their tents – as the rain poured down through the afternoon. People came in, drenched to the bone, shaking off rain coats soaked through, shoes dripping with water and mud.
And it all seemed like normal travelers, some whom we smiled at, recognizing from passing on the trail or others we had seen at Dickson, or even Serón two nights before. As the afternoon stretched on, and K and I held tight to our place within the hut, it became more and more crowded. But it was chill, folks coming in, seeking warmth, and then heading out to set up their tents. Until 5 young men busted in.
The air changed, crackled and popped. The crowd became silent, as all eyes turned to these 5. Not only were they young, but their packs were as big as them. These 5 were all South American, short in statue, but strong – their packs were literally at least half the size of them. They (the packs) towered over their heads and were full. So full. The young men put them down in heaves and hoes, and stripped out of their t-shirts and shorts (no rain coats for these boys).
It all happened so quickly. We all – all us travelers – Chilenos, Americans, British, Germans, Argentinos, Dutch – all of us – silenced, frozen in the moment – staring at this spectacle in front of us. It was shocking, as we had gone from quiet, docile, rainy day to full on assault of manliness, strength and gear.
Their gear was every where – as their packs were huge – they kept unloading, multiple sleeping bags, 7 cucumbers, 9 bags of pasta, 4 boxes of wine, 6 bottles of pisco.
Quickly we realized that they were the ‘sherpas’ for a guided trip (that would arrive later) and they were carrying all the goods. And, we also realized, they loved being on show.
Over the course of the next hour, we watched these boys set up their kitchen and kick people off a table in order to set up a table cloth, put out snacks and prepare for their guests. K and I were glad that we were sitting at the other side of the room – so we could watch – but mostly so that we could stay right where we were and did not need to be displaced by the incoming crew.
Eventually the guided trip came in – a mixed age group between the ages of early 20s to to late 60s. We had seen a few of the folks around camp at Dickson the night before, not realizing they were part of this group. They saw their table and descended – partaking in their snacks and drinks, soon voice levels rising as their dehydration and alcohol mixed.
They seemed to not notice they had displaced backpackers, not noticing us all – 10 to a bench, crowding around stoves, cooking our simple dinners. We watched them eat all their snacks, and drink their drinks. Don’t get me wrong, I had enough food for the trek – but would I drink a beer? or eat some salty snack? Heck yes, if they had wanted to share. Which, sadly, they never did offer.
The show went on, and eventually we got bored and played some farkle with a Dutch-French couple we met. And eventually went to bed with high hopes of the rain stopping during the night, believing that while we hadn’t had salty snack mix and beer, we would have a beautiful day hiking up to the pass the next day.
And we were right.