Fitz Roy and pee part due
Guest blog! What up yall?! So this is Andrew, the 4th wheel to the amazing SBAM Van. You might know it as the the SavvlinVan Adventures or some other epic title to try and depict our trip. But I am here to tell you my version of this small but important part of the saga. From the desert wars of Argentinian derby racing to the finally of our hiking trip in Patagonia.
I’ll start off with explaining the SBAM Van and how it came to be. As most of my nonsense it starts with left over wine that Stevie didn’t finish off the night before. But I felt the need to come up with a team name, because why not and you have so much time on the road you do anything to keep your mind occupied. Thinking to use our first or last names in an acronym it was between SBAM (stevie, brian, andrew, marlie) or MASS (marlie, Andrew & Sloan’s) Marlie and I agreed SBAM was by far the best and Brian and Stevie gave no input to my comment because they weren’t listening, probably thinking It was just normal gibberish just coming out of my mouth. The name became fun when thinking about taking photos of the food we were making in the van and then calling it SBAM Van Bam. The thought is a lot more funny with a half a liter of vino tinto in you.
So now the crew is moving on from El Calafate, (….. which is the closest city to Glacier Moreno one of the most beautiful and ridiculous things we have ever seen. Gigantic ice wall above the lake moving 6 feet a day and calving over 10 story building size pieces of ice into the water. The different colors of blue can not even be described by a 248 pack of crayola (number made up). Very few things could surpass seeing the Glacier up close as the highlight of the day but luckily Ricky Martin happened to be in town for a concert that night and we were living la vida loca all night long….) after an hour or so of driving north on route 40 we see what looks like cars racing in the dirt and immediately pull over. Not sure whats going on we pause on the side of the road and see derby cars racing around a track with what looks like an ameture Nascar set up. Being on the side of the road we get out to investigate the local festivities. Not 10 seconds in we see a wreck after the first turn. We are hooked. I go back to the Van as the Sloan’s sit on the hill. I grab the chairs and the wine and head out to join the boys. On the hill side we had a command of the valley bellow and also didn’t have to pay the ticket entry fee to watch the race. We thought we had a much better view anyways and didn’t see the point. After a few minutes of us being there and probably the fact that people saw our van on the side of the road, vehicles slowed to see what was going on and started to pull in. 3 races, 2 wrecks, a couple spin outs later and the hill side was covered with motorhomes, vans and other cars that decided to do like us and watch the race from further away. Surprisingly though there was now a line to get into the event leading all the way to the highway. This was a big event for the local community and it was a a delight to experience it. Not much later, the ticket lady came by so we decided to move on.
Before we took off we all decided to pee along the highway to make the next leg of our journey more comfortable. The three men made an arc out front of the van and dampened the dust while Marlie used the pee cup insde the van. Assuming logic was in play and because I was a little buzzed and motor functions were slow, walking back to the Van the door opens and I mention to Brian (who is passed the van door at this moment) you don’t think she’s going to throw it out the door do you? Before I could take a breath all I can see is a few fingers wrapped around the pee cup and a yellow flood being tossed out from it. Being down wind (it’s very windy outside, it’s patagonia!) half of this yellow stream of nightmares flies onto my face and clothes.
Standing there with my arms at my side in disbelief that this had just happened, I shout like I do, “oh what the fuck Mar”. Her response in the most delightful and innocent chuckle she says, whhat? (She knew, oh she knew) After explaining she just through her piss on me, she just laughed and said sorry. For the next few minutes I was trying to communicate that she needs to think before doing stuff and how stupid of a thing it was. Being that I was still not somber and Marlie’s ability to make things not a big deal we just laughed it off. No harm done, its just pee.
The next part of the story is up for debate but I believe from memory it was completely on accident. While driving down the road to El Chalten, Marlie and I are in the back, talking and joking, for some reason I was holding the pee cup and Marlie was making a sandwich. When I go to put the pee cup back I turn it over not realizing there was still some remnants of Marlie’s pee still inside and it drips onto her sandwich. We immediately start laughing as I profusely apologize and bleed my innocents in intent, Marlie laughs it off and I am thankful not to be victimized as a jerk. Still hungry Marlie eats her sandwich anyways and we consider ourselves even.
Waking up in a haze on the couch I hear Brian ask me if I want empanadas, my answers is yes and I tell him to get me what he thinks is best. I immediately fall back to sleep and an unknown amount of time later Marlie comes back and puts down a box with empanadas in it and says, “we are in the woods behind the van”. Closing the door I fall back asleep and wake up a few minutes later to the mouth watering smell of hot empanadas. Che’s empanadas. Pulling myself together and immediately devouring 3 empanadas I decide it’s time to get up, go find my friends and figure out where we are. To my surprise there are no woods behind us and are in a city I can only assume is El Chalten, I see a woodlogged restaurant and the three of them inside drinking a beer. Joining them we drink tasty local brewed happy hour beers for 30 Argentinian pesos each. Service was slow and if we didn’t make an effort to pay I hardly think they would have noticed me had left. After waiting 5 minutes at the bar for a bill and reluctantly leaving a tip we head down the road to the entrance to the national park where we plan to park the van for the night. Pasta dinner and a game of Catan later we decide to go to bed early so we can start hiking early the next morning.
The next morning we sleep in and get a slow start to our day. Marlie and Brian head off back to town on foot as Stevie and I start packing our backpacks for the trek. After what seems like a couple of hours the two return and finish packing. Once packed the start of our last trek in Patagonia Argentina begins with a jolly park Ranger explaining to us that it’s an easy hike of less than 2 hours to get to our camp. My spirits high from the excitement of a short hike and the beautiful scenery we start up the trail which happens to start in an immediate ascent up 200 meters. After 10 minutes of hiking and getting a little tired the always positive Stevie says, “don’t get your hopes up Andrew but we are going to a camp further than the one the ranger said, probably twice that” . Supper excited as you can imagine me being, we traverse up further to a look out. The view shows the vastness of the valley bellow and beautiful mountain ranges. Rejuvenation flushes over us as we are giddy with what we know the beauty of this hike will behold. We continue up for another half hour and pass by two English girls who I had met in the bar the night before who explain that it’s probably only an hour longer to our campsite. Confused by three different perspective timetables I give up the notion of time and just start enjoying every step I take. My enjoyment was probably more so the fact that the rest of the hike was relatively flat from here on out.
We decide to divert off our main trail to a lake to enjoy lunch. We eat pb&j’s that Stevie had made that morning and an apple. We get our first views of Fitz Roy mountain and see off into the distance where we plan to complete our hike for the day. Taking off layers of clothes that we started the trek with because of the heat, we head off down road. A kilometer or so later Marlie makes mention of her uneasy fealling that we did not bring the salami and cheese for our lunches for the next 3 days.. after confirming with each other we had realized that amongst the confusion of packing at different times that morning we did not pack all the things we needed. This was the first time Stevie while hiking lost his shit. But it wasn’t a tantrum like I throw, but more of a captain of a sports team who had just lost a game because of a tactical error. Sitting on the ground a few feet from the group his hands on his head he frustratingly shouts, “come on guys we are better than this!”. Talking amongst ourselves we agree we have enough food to continue and will just have to rearrange our menu. After a few moments we are back on the trail heading towards our campground.
Arriving around 6pm after a relatively easy hike we set up camp away from others the best we can and head out of the woods to a clearing to look at the mountain range and watch as the sun was going down. The clouds blest our view as they dissipated to show us our first full clear view of Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks. After taking a bunch of epic photos we decide it’s time for dinner. The wind decided to join us for dinner as we ate Chicken and mashed potatoes. Our guest decided to stay the night even though she was not invited and howled all night long. My worrisome thoughts kept thinking she’d grace our sleep by knocking a tree down on top of us. Luckily she was a better guest than feared and we woke up early the next morning safe and sound.
The three musketeers got up an hour before sunrise to see the sunrise at a view point a few kilometers away. This was going to be no easy morning hike so I decided to stay. I slept soundly for another hour before being woken by my alarm, I saw through the little window in our tent a pink glow. I jumped up put on my boots on without tying them, rushing to make sure I see the sunrise on the face of the mountain. Before I get to the clearing I accidently run into/kick a bird of prey picking at food left outside of some lame backpackers tent. Scampering off in different direction I reach the clearing to see the mountain range of Fitz Roy lit up with a pink glow. For the next 5 minutes I take entirely too many photos of the exact same thing cause I want to make sure I’m able to capture it. Failing miserably on capturing the essence of the sunrise I start to chase around a different bird of prey trying to get a photo of it with the mountains in the background. With the pink hue gone from the mountains and realizing how ridiculous I must look running around with untied boots in my long John’s I go back to bed for another hour before my team returns for our second leg of the trek.
When they got back I felt fresh and ready to take on the day. They all said the morning hike was worth it and Marlie even blew chunks half way up. I thought the extra rest was worth it and was glad I didn’t do it. The second day hike on the map showed a dashed line on the map, that the key called unmarked path. So of course we miss our first turn and end up going 10 minutes out of our way. Once on the right path along the river we end up weaving in and out of the forest up and over little patches of mud. We come to a point where we need to climb up a mud hill with a fallen tree in the middle. Being last one and watching the other three, swan like gracefully traverse this obstacle. I go full steam ahead and with my head down looking for where to put my feet I blast my skull on a branch. Luckily holding on I’m left with my pride wounded and a scrape on my scalp. I even throw a mini tantrum telling the others they need to let me know there’s a low brach right in front of me. They all say they weren’t watching and I man up and only cry on the inside. (Later at the refugio we find that I have a massive scrape on my head with dried blood. At least 10 of my last 200 hairs on my head bundled with skin falls out. As I’m writing this, 2 weeks after the trek I still have a scab.) Clearing through the forest we are now going around the bend and moving away from the river. Walking on stones ranging from fist size to footballs we come across massive boulders in front of us. We find our path from cairns on top of some of the boulders leading the way. With the river turning away from us to the right and the forest behind us we look to our left to see a Glacier in the mountain coming down the canyon it’s predecessor glacier friend had left behind, along with all the rocks we were currently walking on. This glacier took us all by surprise and was breath taking. To me seeing these blue beauties is the entire reason I wanted to hike in Patagonia. No where near done with the hike I was already completely satisfied. My brain already having two visual organisms that day, was in no need of a third, but with a few hours of hiking left, anything was possible.
After leaving the glacier and the boulders behind we come to another forest with a well walked path. Muddy in spots but doesn’t look like anyone else had walked through that day. Randomly our path leads us to a wire fence with wooden posts topped with barbed wire. The path continues on the other side of the fence just as it does leading up to it. There is a cut space in the fence where it looked like others have gone through, so we toss our bags over and straddle through. This forest was creepy. Rotting and covered with moss. Half the trees have fallen down and the other half looked like they were about to. The trees were white like they had just been burned but it was way to wet and the green foliage all around said otherwise. The wind I feared that might have blown down trees on us the night before seemed to have wrecked havoc through this enchanted place because of all the fresh logs covering our path. You could tell they were new cause all the old ones having been chainsawed through. Our next obstacle in our path was the estranged cows being led by a huge steer. I kept calling it a bull but I was informed that it was a steer because it had no balls. Normally cows just look the other way and go about their business, but this herd was afraid. Either they never see humans or they know if they do, the herd gets one fewer each time. Being afraid the steer might charge, I walked completely around them into the woods off the trail. Their eyes followed me the the entire time as I made my way around and back to the path. Once I was around and on the path the herd turned and head into the woods the other direction. The others continued up the path towards me and I was then taught by Stevie about the etiquette of not scaring the herd and how much fun it is when farmers brand their cows.
Our feet starting to hurt from the walking we come across a sign and a group of ladies heading the opposite direction and notify us that it is an hour more through the forest to the refugio. With out complaints we keep on down the path admiring the surroundings and enjoy the perfect weather. After a few pee breaks a hour passes and we settle upon the refugio and start setting up camp. Unfortunately this was private land so we had to pay to camp but we were the only ones there and had very nice hosts.
The refugio was one room with a wood fire heater. Making it very pleasant to drink wine and play Catan in after making dinner. While playing our first game of Catan, a female employee who none of us had seen yet comes out and asks us if we have rolling papers. Amongst the others saying no and lo siento, I tell her to use an apple. With a confused look on her face she just stares at me. So I say manzana (Spanish for apple) and make a hand gesture like I’m using the apple as a pipe to smoke weed. Though this is something I have never done… I know it’s possible and how to make it. Stevie and or Brian tell me no she wants papers for cigarettes. Knowing perfectly well what she wanted it for, I repeat myself. Marlie catches on and tries to explain in Spanish and English better than I did and tells her step by step instructions . The lady employee smiles, thanks us and walks away. A small debate about what she needed papers for breaks out and then we go back to our game. A couple passes of the wine around the table later, the girl and her coworker (the boy that checked us in) come out with an apple with a big hole in it looks confused and asks us in english, “is this right?” we all have a good laugh with them, then we show them how to do it with an apple from a basket on the counter. Marlie makes it for them, they get really excited and run to the back.
Our game nears to the end and the two employees come back out and ask us if it is ok for them to lock up. We ask if we can finish the game and they say of course. They then ask us if it’s okay if they smoke inside. More than happy to abblige them they offer us their apple smoking device. Not wanting to seem rude I had to accept. It of course was tobacco. After the Catan game and yet another victory for the queen of Catan (self proclaimed title by Marlie), we hang out with our host and learn a little bit about them. I join them for a game of cards. The spanish name escapes me but the closest translation they could think of in english is “fuck you”. After two attempts at explaining the rules to me (the rules still not clear to me) we play for the next hour or so. I’m told the story of how they came to the refugio and their goals for traveling like us in the offseason. Completely confused and doing my best to keep up with their pace of play I end up winning. Their only response to me after achieving the sweet success is…. Fuck you.
The next morning started a little later than I expected as I thought the rest of the crew was going to hike to some ridiculous high lookout over the next 8 hours. That plan was nixed and Stevie decided after advice from our new friends to go for an “easy” hike to a lake with a view of Fitz Roy. Was only going to take 45 minutes along the river then back out. Seeming awesome and simple we all decided to go. Planning on hiking out to the SBAM van afterwards we knew we had a long day ahead but was excited to see our last epic view of our Fitz Roy trek. Pleasantly surprised we were in awe of the valley only 30 meters from the camp site. Blue clear skys, not much wind and nothing between two mountain ranges besides us and a slow meandering small river. After 15 minutes of hiking we are already graced with Fitzy’s presence and don’t lose him the entire trek.
Walking along the river starts to get more difficult starting to go up and down and then too some unexpected difficult ups and downs. At this point it’s been 45 minutes and we know there is still a relatively steep incline to go but don’t see it in site. Stevie looks at me and says, “sorry Andrew”. In my head I laughed cause he actually felt bad cause he knew I didn’t feel like pushing myself that day and his positive attitude about the easy hike swayed me into it. I was actually doing good and wasn’t upset I actually figured this and kept on chugging along. We finally reach a lake which is awesome with a big rock bolder in it with a long waterfall from the mountain range in the background feeding it. But unfortunately this is not our lake. Ours is still 100 meters or so up. Not into it a anymore I say I’m going to head back this is good enough for me. I get persuaded by Marlie and Brians encouragement to finish cause we are right there. We weren’t. Though only about 20 minutes up over rooks and around bolders we reach a very beautiful turquoise lake with the peak of Fitz Roy gracing the back drop. Definitely worth the extra push, though we don’t stay more than 15 minutes because the wind is so strong you can’t stand. We do however have an epic photo of Marlie’s graceful nature trying to do a jump photo. Hilarious (though she does usually do jump photos really well).
Besides the extreme wind pushing us to leave, there was Brians unfortunate timing of bubble guts. We needed to hurry any was so we started down. Brian unleashed his extra “turbo” and scooted quickly past us and down the hill and across the valley. Going at our pace we weren’t to far behind and awed again at the beauty of the place we’re seeing for the last time as we we’re turning our backs to the park and heading out.
Though Brian beat us back to the refugio he had experienced what might be some people’s worst nightmare of hiking. After he cleaned himself up we grabbed our bags and said goodbye to our friendly hosts and started heading through the forest. Walking through the forest this time seemed to take a lot longer than it did coming in. I don’t know if it was because we had already walked the path before or because I was tired from the hike earlier that day but I was so ready to be done hiking and in the van. The only thing I kept thinking about was how trekking in patagonia was over and this was just the little bit left, so enjoy it and stop acting tired.
Well, the end didn’t come any time soon. Once we finally made it out to the main road through the national park our plan was to try and hitch hike or to the van. We were told hitch hackers get picked up all the time and the road was to be busy. Though we saw plenty of cars no one felt charitable to pick us up. So we did the only thing we could and started booking it out on the road. 16 kilometers was the number in my head and the pain I felt in my left ankle weather it was real or not kept getting worse. Every step hurt. I was now using my walking stick as crutches trying to take wait off my left leg. The road was stones, much harder to walk on than the dirt paths of the trek. Constantly putting pressure on my ankle with little twists and rolls. Maybe 15 kilometers left at this point Stevie tells me worst case we got two hours on this road to a refugio we can stay at.
We decide no one wants to pick up three dude hitchhikers (we never do) so we noodle Marlie in the back with a lot of room between us hoping someone would be nice and pick up the pretty lady. That didn’t happen after the first hour and at this point Stevie and Brian are out of sight way ahead of me and Marlie comes running up, bored and tired of being back by herself, she has a bright idea thinking if she’s running ahead of us it will look like she’s frantic and in distress and someone would definitely pick her up….. I’m dumbfounded as she just takes of jogging leaving me behind gimping along on one leg. Of course Marlie’s idea doesn’t work, but she does catch up to the boys so that was a success in itself. A half hour later still gimping, mentally making my pain worse than it probably is, I come across nothing other than the no balls bull and his clan of eyeballing cows. I have a good laugh as they stare me down as I walk as quick as I can on the other side of the road and away.
About two hours after we hit the main road, countless cars passing me and the fact that I haven’t seen any of my comrads in about 40 minutes I start thinking about calling it a day. It’s now 7 pm and a storm is coming. Luckily I have all I need to set camp and just need to pull off the road and set up before the rains come. I figure if they get a ride they’ll come get me and if not I can just start back up in the morning. I’m at the base of a cliff side and tell myself I’ll go around the bend and set up camp if I can’t see my friends or the refugio. As I get close to the point I hear a vehicle coming, I’m thinking this is it perfect timing. I can see it’s a transport vehicle and read the company name as Fitz Roy transport. I’m stoked, they will definitely want more money. I raze my hand as they do in Chile to wave down a bus and he just keeps on going past me like I was a tumble weed. Of course the bus was next to empty. Companies wonder why they don’t turn enough profit… turning my emotions from high to low I give up all hope and just stand their for a few seconds. With my head down a green truck drives right pass me and stops. I get the wave to jump in the back. In my excitement I think I cleared the gate in one leap. My first ever successful hitch hiking experience begins.
Maybe a kilometer around the bend where I might have given up, I come across the refugio and I see Brian ahead. I was hoping the one with the keys would hang out by the road just in case I caught a ride. Luckily Brian had the same thought and tossed me the keys as we drove by. In a quick few seconds of communication we knew what the other was thinking. Excited to be the savior of our hitching hiking experience and relishing the opportunity to finally get to drive the van. (Yes, I have not driven the SBAM Van, not once. Haven’t even turned it on. Though I’ve offered many times it seems they do not trust me to drive or don’t think I’m capable. An error I feel in their judgment and a little offended) This is it, my time to shine and to show I’m worthy. The trek has come to an end, I along with three of my most favorite people on the planet have hiked some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Relishing in the bath of memories I’ll cherish for ever, the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction washes over me.
Skreeetch! The truck slams on its breaks, giving me a bit of whip lash. I see the all so familiar wave of come hither to the truck that I thought was special for me. Realizing that I wasn’t special but just another hitchiker this very nice family must pick up all the time. My good buddy Brian leaps into the truck. Dreams crushed.