It was a long time coming but we did it! Not only have we trekked Patagonia but we’ve also raised £10,399 for Marie Curie.
I signed up to the challenge solo in 2020, then the pandemic happened and the trek got pushed back to November 2022. In that time, I met my partner Sam and he signed up when there became spaces available.
The combined fundraising target for us both was £7,998 and we want to thank everyone who very kindly donated. We have been invited back to the Marie Curie hospice in Penarth at some point, as we have raised over £10k for them.
Now onto the trek!
Day 1 – Departing UK
The majority of the group met in Penarth, ready for the coach to Heathrow airport. I was excited but also a bit nervous as this was our first time meeting everyone and we had a very long journey ahead. I needn’t have worried though, everyone was lovely and we felt really welcomed by the Marie Curie team.
After a 3-hour journey to London, we were introduced to the Action Challenge leader, Joe, as well as David and Jessica, from Marie Curie. We also had a medical doctor joining us, Dr Nikki, which was reassuring. Technically, we had two doctors as one of the trekkers, Jane, was a GP too!
The overnight flight to Sao Paulo was about 12 hours then we had almost a 3-hour flight from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires. I definitely underestimated how tired I’d feel after the first leg of travelling. I wish I could say that I’d slept but I think apprehension was keeping me awake. Sam, the in-flight movies and the food kept me going though. British Airways kept us well-fed!
Day 2 – Argentina
We had the opportunity to explore Buenos Aires in the afternoon, which was fun. It’s a vibrant, busy, sprawling city full of Latin passion and classical architecture. Casa Rosada was a highlight! And check out the sunset.
Day 3- Esquel, Patagonia
After breakfast, we headed for a local flight to Esquel where we transferred to La Caldera and to our camp for the next few nights. The wild camp was at Piedra Perada, set below the iconic 200-metre-high standing stone. What an incredible location! I think the views made us all feel incredibly grateful to be there and it was wonderful to experience Patagonia at its simplest.
Here, we met local tour guides Daniel and his wife, whose knowledge and expertise were invaluable. And let’s not forget our coach driver, Mr Jones, who became somewhat, a legendary figure to all of us over the trip. “WE LOVE MR JONES!”
It was basic camping in dusty and windy conditions but there were portable showers and toilets so I couldn’t complain. Having the right camping equipment worked wonders, the staff at Go Outdoors were super helpful! Regatta Great Outdoors also very kindly gifted some kit to us so a huge thank you to them.
Obviously, we had no phone signal or Wi-Fi, which I enjoyed as we could truly switch off and immerse ourselves in the surroundings.
Day 4 – Little Vulture Canyon
After an early start and an unsettled night (I’m not a great sleeper), it was time for our first full day of trekking. It was a long one at approximately 23km and the weather was hotter than anticipated at over 30 degrees. SPF and plenty of water were very much needed! The photos don’t do the views justice!
Day 5 – Buittera Canyon
Another long trek day at 20-22km! We made our way through the Buitrera Canyon today with its 200-300m high walls and volcanic formations. We also got to see wild chinchillas and visit some of the archaeological sites and cave paintings that dated back 5100 years.
Day 6 – John D. Evans
This morning started with a trek along the dirt roads to the John D. Evans memorial plaque in the Kel-Klein Valley. There were brilliant views of Gualjaina’s mountain range and our climb reached a natural stone window looking over the Gualjaina Valley and Lepa River. The terrain was rough and the hills were steep but it was nothing Sam and I weren’t used to.
Tonight’s camp was based in a vineyard close to the village of Gualjaina, where we had a real Argentinian Asado barbeque and local wines from the foot of the Andes. Of course, I don’t drink alcohol but it was nice to see the other trekkers let their hair down after 18-24km of walking.
Day 7 – Cwm Hyfryd
For our last day of Welsh Patagonia, we trekked along the original ‘Rifleros’ path towards gorgeous scenery of the snow-capped Andes as the town of Trevelin comes into view. At this point, it felt almost strange to be in civilisation after being in the wild! By mid-afternoon, we arrived in Travelin town and a celebratory dinner at a Welsh school.
After basic (but tasty) meals while camping, it was a treat to have pastries and cake! After a lovely evening of feasting and being entertained by the pupils, we set off on the overnight coach to Gaiman/Trelew. We walked around 18-24km today.
Day 8 – Gaiman/Trelew
Despite being comfortable on the overnight coach, I barely slept and started to feel run down as a result. I’m upbeat most of the time, but I really struggle when I’m tired so this was the most challenging day for me. I think adrenaline had kept me going so far and now the toughest parts of the trek were done, I was feeling the exhaustion. Fortunately, my fellow trekkers kept me going and we enjoyed a walking tour of 10km around the town. To finish, we had a fabulous meal together in a local restaurant and reflected on our adventure.
Day 9 – Buenos Aires
Today, we transferred to the airport and took a domestic flight back to Buenos Aires. There were several football fans, including Sam, on the trip so most of us gathered in local bars and cafes to watch Argentina vs Mexico in the World Cup. I’ve never seen patriotism like it! Everything comes to a standstill when Argentina play football! It was amazing to witness. When they won, it felt like the whole of Buenos Aires erupted into a party! I’ve never seen such devotion. And to end a spectacular trip, we saw an Argentine tango show before heading home.
Day 10 – Depart Argentina
In the morning, we arrived at Ezeiza Airport ready for our afternoon departure to Sao Paulo. Then we left Sao Paulo for our overnight flight back to Heathrow Airport. As you can imagine, we were all running on empty after all our travels but we were full of fond memories.
It’s near impossible to summarise what an experience this was. It was emotional, exhilarating and exhausting all at once. I couldn’t imagine not having Sam there either, he kept me strong when I was needed it.
From fundraising, to training, to preparing to the travelling to the wild camping to the trekking itself – it was a challenge in every sense. But the Marie Curie/Action Challenge team, the local tour guides and the trekkers made it all manageable. And helping crucial caring services made it all worthwhile. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!