Intrepid travelers near 10-month mark of long journey | SummitDaily.com

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Intrepid travelers near 10-month mark of long journey

Special to the Daily/Deia Schlosberg

Gregg Treinish and Deia Schlosberg are right where they want to be ” nearly 10 months into their epic hike through South America.

Having originally planned an exclusively southbound trip from Ecuador to Tierra Del Fuego, the Leadville duo altered their itinerary a few months ago due to concerns about weather. After taking a long bus ride to Santiago, Chile, they began hiking north toward Huaraz, Peru. The Summit Daily News has been tracking Schlosberg and Treinish through periodic blogs they’ve been posting on http://www.roadjunky.com and http://www.steripen.com., respectively.

Following is a recent set of updates.

Deia Schlosberg ” March 20

The latest: We’ve been walking lots and lots of miles ” our most to date, averaging between 15 and 20 a day, with many days taking us well into the 20s. Chile, as a land, as well as the Chileans who live here, are both treating us well. This past section, we had our friend Paul here to hike with us, and having fresh eyes (and ears and nose, etc.) present helped me to experience things anew again; both the amazing and the ridiculous.

It’s getting to the point in the trip, it seems, where I start to lose track of what was where and when. I remember the details, it’s just that the exact order and time of them is starting to matter less. Usually I have my journal to help me out with the specifics, but for the last month or so, I haven’t been writing as much for whatever reason. It felt too forced, or maybe I was just too exhausted each night from all the walking. It’s still magnificent. And, something seems to be shifting in my mind about it all. The experience as a whole is hard to think about now in the midst of it, but I’m getting glimpses. Paul asked if we felt brainwashed by it ” meaning, more or less, did it still feel like a choice to get up and walk every day, or did it just happen automatically without our decision to do so coming in anywhere.

For me, I am very much aware every day of my level of desire to continue in this project. Where “level” means just that ” a fluctuating scale ranging from, “Damn, I can’t wait to pick up where we left off last night, get my pack on, and see what’s around the next turn,” to, “For the love of God, just let me stay in my sleeping bag.” But because of these little glimpses I’ve been getting of the big picture, I keep acting according to the former.

Almost every human interaction we have had in the past month, outside of the towns, has been with either vineyard workers or miners. These are the two obviously largest industries in Chile, as every valley has evidence of one of the two. The workers have been entirely lovely. The industries themselves have caused us a bit of frustration, however, as both use the water from the valleys almost entirely, leaving solid blue lines on our maps representing nothing but empty river beds and some hardy shrubs.

Walking through these valleys is probably the only way, other than living in one of the small towns at their bases, to see this very real impact. We had been wondering if anyone other than the goatherds and birds above was aware of the reduction in water, when we came across some signs posted all over the small town of Chihuinto protesting the mining company excavating and exploring up the road. Apparently in addition to using all of the water, the company was melting the glaciers that supplied the water as well, and the people were not pleased that they would all have to displace themselves if the situation doesn’t change. I don’t blame them.

On the other side of this coin are our friends that we’ve met working for the companies, making a living to support their young kids back in the cities whom they look forward to visits with, and who are truly kind, generous and fun people. …

Paul’s week with us has been dubbed, “The Chile Sampler,” as it took us over just about every type of terrain so far encountered in this long, narrow country. We had narrow, dry valleys, 21,000-foot peaks next to us, green, winding river beds, high, rolling passes, wide, old lake beds, huge salt flats, miners, grapes, llamas, horses, goats, stone huts; the works. I could not have picked a more representative section to introduce our friend to the country.

Also representative was our perpetual struggle with finding water, which, as we’ve gone farther north, has become tougher and tougher. We decided that 24 hours at a time without water, mostly spent walking, is our limit; the sources have become too far apart and too unreliable, and the areas too remote to continue safely in the same line. Thus, we are heading east to Argentina to continue the trek to the north. The eastern slopes of the Andes are much wetter and smarter.

Gregg Treinish: March 20

Throughout this section, we have seen many signs of the very elusive Puma. Viewing tracks, prey, and even the occasional hairball on the trail would not even begin to compare to our closest encounter one night. I fed the core of a pear to a street dog in the tiny town of Chanchoquin. The dog followed the first two people that had been nice to it, surely in years, and we soon found it and ourselves five or six miles out of town.

We had made the decision not to be nice to the dog as we feared that if it followed us we would find ourselves with a starving dog unable to feed itself in the middle of nowhere. Well, the dog wouldn’t make it that far. As we drifted off to sleep, dog under a nearby tree (shrub anyway), we were startled by what sounded like a horse stampede. Is it a rockslide? Is it a cow? Too fast, too small, too dark.

As the object passed us moving 30 mph or so only 20 feet away, we wondered why the dog wasn’t barking. We would get our answer about ten minutes later as we heard yelping from a nearby hill. The yelping continued for far too long and gradually got softer and softer until it eventually just stopped. The second pair of eyes moving closer to me was enough to remind me not to mess with the prey of a Mountain Lion, and to scare me back to my sleeping bag. In the morning we would find only tracks of both a dog and a cat, a very large cat. Better than starving to death I guess.