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Paddies do Patagonia


Diary of a Home Bird
Ciara Galvin

I had just started hiking in Patagonia, with a backpack that weighed a tonne thanks to snacks and supplies needed for the five-day trip.
Myself and Phileas ended up joining ‘English Henry’ (whose aid we had come to the day before as he attempted to set up his one-man tent) and ‘German Chris’ (who thankfully showed us all the correct way to carry our rucksacks, so as not to do irreparable damage to our shoulders and backs).
As mentioned on this page previously, I’m not exactly an experienced hiker, so five days including four nights camping was, well, a baptism of fire.
The day before we left, while renting our camping gear, we met a group of women who had just completed the infamous ‘W trail’ that we were about to embark on. We picked their brains for tips and tricks on how to survive the endurance challenge.
‘Tie your food in the trees’ was one girl’s tip, much to our confusion … we later learned she had woke up one night with an inquisitive mouse running across her face looking for some snacks. Phileas did not like the sounds of this, and I nominated myself for mouse watch during the trip.
Dehydrated pasta and rice were the dishes of choice, and baby wipes became the new shower gel, sanitiser and anything else you can think of using them for.
We had Google-imaged the stunning vistas we would be coming across, which was a bad move, considering it rained three days out of five. With no showers, and a leaky tent to call home, we developed a deep appreciation for hot water and lots of chocolate.
We knew we were out of our depth when we ended up hiking with Finland’s answer to Bear Grylls … one night we realised he was eating his dinner with a piece of wood he had fashioned into a spoon after he lost his metal one earlier that week. Meanwhile, we had to ask for him to setup our stove after I spent ten minutes scratching my head looking at the contraption.
In fact we were surrounded by people who looked like they knew what they were doing, including a Canadian group that had brought water purification kits, while we drank from the park’s streams and waterfalls (we were assured it was safe).
You’ll be glad to hear that we had no run-ins with rodents, and our food was not attacked by foxes or birds while it hung in the trees … if it had been, then we’d really have been in bother. There’s no Supermac’s delivery to save the day around those parts.
In fact we looked after ourselves pretty well when it came to food, considering ‘English Henry’ seemed to survive solely on peanut-butter wraps and half a kilo of raisins. We did run out of fuel for our stove on the final morning, however, and had to borrow from the same very kind gent.
By the fifth and final day we were petty done with the whole ‘roughing it’ experience and were seriously craving hot showers and beds. The morning started off with waking at 7am in darkness in a puddle of water on my side of the tent. I then had to put back on saturated hiking boots from the previous day’s run-in with a patch of ground that would give any bog in south Mayo in the depths of winter a run for its money, before embarking on an hour’s hike up a mountain. The idea was to try to catch the famous Torres view at sunrise, but instead, we got snow and clouds. Phileas told us that ‘it’s about the journey and not the destination’ to try and make us feel better.
It was a race against time to catch the bus on the final day. Just when I was losing the will to live on the final stretch to base camp my iTunes saved the day, as Marvin Gaye serenaded me with ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and got me over the finish line. Despite looking like a greasy extra from ‘Fame’, the sense of achievement was immense – and who knows, I may even attempt Croagh Patrick on my return home.

> 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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