March 17, 2009

Body by Torres

6 days, 101 kilometers
You have to believe in your own willpower. And cute nicknames. At least that's how Christian did it.

A self-described "office boy," my friend actually works within Torres del Paine National Park, chained to a desk and a radio. So he sprang straight out of his swivel chair to join us on the circuit. The object? Weight loss. He said he was tired of being the solo guanaco macho .

(guanacos, a camelid common to this latitude, travel in female packs, choosing one male to safeguard them. The unluckies get cast out together, like B-league fraternities)...

At the trailhead he pulled out his backpack--a 35 liter pack. I shook my head and looked to the 90 liter bag in the back of his Toyota truck, recently dented by the butt of a mare (he wouldn't say what he had done).

I handed him 7 days worth of rations, half my tent and a fuel canister. We heaved our packs on. Though it was nearly 4pm, we had about six more hours of daylight. The trail was nearly flat but the wind bullied us back. We ate caramels for morale and kept on. At Camp Seron we popped a bottle of bubbly I had lugged up to toast the inauguration (or the end of the worst administration in US history). Half the pleasure was lightening my load.

I won't kid you. The trekking is not that difficult but wearing a 40 pound pack IS. We weren't a couple, but I tried some psychology, applying a cute nickname to keep tempers cool. "Almost there, honeybunch!" And so forth.

I don't think it is just the exercise. Life on the trail has the power to transform us.

We trod on, snacking on what I remembered to set aside (sometimes just peanuts, from the economy pack) and wondering where the good stuff was. We emptied streams of freshwater and hoped rain would refill them.

Our biggest day took us from Camp Perros over the Gardner Pass and to Camp Grey--a total of 22 kilometers, with wind, ladders and an elevation change that would read like a heart attack on an EKG. At camp, Honeybunch bought us all cans of beer, which served as an appetizer. Next I did the near forbidden. After all those kilometers, I prepared two packets of ramen noodles. I gave one to Honeybunch.

It was the look on his face.

"Hey," I said. "Didn't we have real sausage with the couscous? And bacon in the fettucini that time?"

I think he moaned. I discussed how ramen was a rite of passage to young Americans that we occasionally returned to with fondness. At least I do. But the look held.

At the end of the trek, he unpacked to return my gear, handing me a ten pound grocery bag of food. So here were those cookies, caramels, the chocolate covered....Not only had I forgotten about this stuff, I had started rationing.

"What are you doing with all this?"

"I thought you wanted me to carry it."

So as my pack got lighter every day, Christian's had not. This was the work of the culture gap: Chilenos are foremost gentlemen. Christian lost seven pounds on The Circuit. And kept on hiking, losing 31lbs total. Trekking can be arduous, trekking partners the cruelest of all. It worked for Honeybunch.

It made me wonder about the mare, though.

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