The weather began to take a turn for the worse with warmer temperatures and a lot of rain. A lot of the snow melted and there was only just enough to keep the sledding going. The next guests to arrive were an Austrian couple who originally planned to do the Cruca de los Andes Tour. Being from Austria, German became the spoken language for the best part of two weeks which left me with very little to say.
During the first few days Konrad and Inge took them on a tour but due to heavy rain, rather than camping, they stayed at the cabin each night. I looked after the house and animals and also collected a French couple, Louis and Elodie, who had come to volunteer here. On their first day I took them with me as we drove to the mountain and I think they were a little surprised at the ‘road’ we had to take to get there. Their first two nights were spent at the cabin while Konrad, Inge and the Austrains came back down to dry off after doing most of the tour in the rain. I then changed with the French to stay up at the cabin and look after the dogs. I had spent the last few days either alone or with four people speaking German and I was now due to spend 2 days on my own so I was in need of some conversation! Because of the weather two days became three and I think I started to lose it slightly, below are some of the photos I took to demonstrate. I don’t know how long I’d last marooned on a desert island, at least whilst being sane. Most of the time it rained but on my third night we finally got some more snow. I took the opportunity to take some of the dogs out and go sledding. The last time I tried this it was a bit of a disaster so I was a little nervous. Fortunately it passed without any problems and it felt unbelievable to be dog sledding alone with nobody for miles and miles!
Due to weather issues and complications at the border, the Austrians chose to stay in Chile rather than attempt to cross the Andes. This took Konrad and Inge back up the mountain and left the Frenchies (as they are now collectively known) and myself at the house. For the best part of two weeks I only went dog sledding once and I was looking forward to getting back on the sled. Luckily I didn’t have to wait much longer. Konrad dropped the Austrians off at the airport and swapped them for a family of four Italians who I would take on the tour along with Konrad. First however, I had spent almost 90 days in Chile and as that was the limit I had to cross the border to Argentina. I took a morning bus for roughly 6 hours to San Martin de los Andes, a nice skiing town a couple of hours over the border. Arriving just before dark I found a hostel, saw the nearby lake and only ventured round the corner where naturally I ate as much meat as possible and then went to bed. Several hours later I was back on the bus at the crack of dawn go back to Villarrica. As soon as I returned I packed my bag, drove up to the mountain, stayed the night at the cabin and then we started a 3-day tour. It was a busy few days!
Luckily the rain disappeared and the sun came out. It was perfect conditions as I waited at the cabin for the others to arrive. We were taking the four Italians out as a prelude to the Cruca de los Andes tour. We took a route through the forest, climbed higher into the mountains and then descended down a valley where we set up camp at the edge of a forest. The following morning we made the decision to keep the camp in the same place. Without wanting to write an essay I would like to give you a bit of an insight into what I’ve been doing. In the morning, unlike hiking where it’s a quick job to pack up and leave, with over 40 dogs to feed, crap to clean up, breakfast to prepare, tents to put away, harnesses to put on every dog, pack sled bags, set the dogs up on the correct sleds and in the correct order and finally put away stakeouts, everything takes a lot longer. If there isn’t a river nearby then we have to melt snow for both humans and dogs so it takes even longer. Although the job of a guide is amazing, it is hard work from the minute you get up. The first chance for a rest is usually when you get on the sled and I’ve begun to appreciate those first few moments when you can catch your breath.
The Italians chose the option to do a loop in day two so with the camp left where it was and with the relatively empty sleds we climbed high up the sides of the volcano and on to the glacier. These three days were some of the best days sledding in the season so far. Incredible views, perfect weather and prepared trails meant for perfect sledding. The Italians were also good at handling the sleds which meant I could enjoy the views a little more and I finally had chance to take out my camera without worrying about anybody falling off or chasing after a sled with no driver!
After a great second day, we cooked a meal and were in tents by 9pm. The third day continued in the same fashion as we made our way back to the cabin to end the tour. Basically, more great weather, fantastic viewe and great weather. My only problem was trying to fight off the sunburn! We all returned to the house where Inge prepared a fine meal and we all rested well. The Italians had booked The Cruca de los Andes tour which includes all meals, the shorter tour in Chile and the 5-day tour crossing the Andes.
This meant we needed to bring some of the dogs down to take to Argentina. Inge wasn’t well and was still being kept very busy looking after the cabins and guests. One thing I really like about working here is that whilst I work hard, I know that Konrad and Inge are always working just as hard. For example, a day down at the house, although maybe more relaxing, can involve feeding dogs, cats, ducks, chickens and sheep, looking after guests, maintaining cabins, kennels and the rest of the property, buying supplies from the nearest town and taking them up the mountain. Rest days are few and far between. I always worked hard in my last job and it pained me when others (not all) would clock in, clock out and not give anything more than that. Anyway, Konrad and I went to fetch the dogs, broke the record by carrying 45kg of dog food each and also introduced The Frenchies to dog sledding. It was a difficult first go with little snow and lots of rocks to avoid. This was our only ‘rest day’ before we set off for the 6-7 hour drive to Pino Hachado, Argentina, where we would start the tour and our attempt to cross the Andes by dog sled.