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Does my rucksack look big in this?

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LIFE’S A BEACH Ciara Galvin ‘in training’ on Brazil’s Ihla Grande.

Diary of a home bird
Ciara Galvin

‘Ye haven’t changed a bit’, that was the text message I received from the female roomie four days after flying the coop. Four days!
For two smart girls who’ve done their fair share of travelling, you’d imagine we’d have the art of applying sun lotion perfected, but no. Falling asleep on beaches and sloppy application of sun cream resulted in a leprosy-like skin condition, for me anyway.
With fluorescent skin and my backpack resembling a three-bed semi-D, we drew much attention from the locals of both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Still, navigating the metro system with everything including the kitchen sink on your back could be seen as training for our five-day camping and trekking expedition in Patagonia this week. Yes, you heard it right, the Ballinrobe Bridies are hitting the wilderness to be at one with nature.
On the picturesque island of Ihla Grande, we completed our first serious trek. Child’s play compared to the wilds of Patagonia, but hey, we survived it. With minimal supplies (that morning’s extra breakfast stash and an under supply of water) we headed into the jungle. To say I’m a novice trekker is an understatement. The most taxing incline I had previously completed was High Street hill in my hometown in heels.
My guide, travel buddy and all-round saviour, ‘Phileas’, assured me the journey would be worth it for the beaches – and, it was – but the never-ending sweat, howler monkeys and Swedish couple happily telling us they saw a huge black snake did rattle me (pardon the pun).
Bridges crossed, rocks abseiled (OK, the rock was only little, but it was still cool), we reached Lopes Mendes (some say it is one of the finest beaches the world has to offer, others say it isn’t a patch on Keem Bay on a fine day). And we did what any weary hikers would do: We fell asleep in the sun. For hours.
At least Phileas made it in for a swim; I however, was firmly in the land of nod, only to be woken up to tackle the two-and-a-half hour return trip … with one overly blush cheek. I was, literally, scarlet for myself.
Thankfully the pink has turned bronze. Making it to Patagonia was a trek in itself, a six-hour bus through the Andes across the Chilean border turned into more than ten hours. We were lucky to even get the bus, as the route had been shut the previous two days due to mud slides. So the day it reopened we spent a delightful three hours just trying to cross the border. Between backlogs and border control it was, let’s just say, ‘an experience’.
The Peru Two were nearly succeeded by The Ballinrobe Two when we became the only people on our bus called aside to have our bags checked. The problem? Too much medication. Travelling for four months means you tend to think you’re going to get hit with every disease under the sun – try explaining that to a Chilean police woman.
Stay tuned to hear if we survive the wilds of Patagonia....

In her fortnightly Diary of a Home Bird column, Ciara Galvin reveals the trials and tribulations of a twenty-something year old who has recently spread her wings and flown her parents’ coop.

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