“What was the highlight of your trip?”
After each Zephyr tour we run, we ask participants to complete an online evaluation and rate every aspect of their adventure from food and lodging to guides, routes, and activities.
But the highlight question is the very first one we ask and, I’ll admit, my absolute favorite to read. Many people reply that it is difficult to pick just one highlight, and I can completely understand that. When I guide a trip, I keep a mental checklist of my highlights, and I like to share them with the group on the last night of the trip.
On our Patagonia Trekking Adventure in February, my highlights included astounding scenery (yes, the lakes truly are the color shown above behind Karen’s jubilant jump!), phenomenal and challenging hikes, and the wonderful warm and caring local guides (Roberto and Rafa, pictured here).
However, sometimes the highlights come in the form of more simple memorable moments, like the powdered eggs we had for breakfast at one of the lodges (ugh…but I understand eggs are difficult to transport to the middle of nowhere), or feeling like a proud mama that all 16 Zephyr adventurers brought exactly the right gear for all conditions of the trip. But what I will never forget about this particular adventure is getting a personal smackdown from Mother Nature!
On the third day of our trip, we hiked from our hotel at the entrance of Torres del Paine National Park along and above the beautiful aqua Lago Nordenskjold. The day was stunning – blue skies with a few wispy clouds and a hint of a breeze – we were able to hike in T-shirts.
This type of weather is a treat in Torres del Paine National Park, and we were lucky enough to be on our second day of it. Another weather phenomenon Patagonia is famous for is strong wind, but I will get to that shortly.
We reached our simple lodge that afternoon and had dinner in the shelter. Its huge windows provided a glimpse of the lake on one side and on the other side an amazing view of one of the park’s most prominent geological features – Los Cuernos (the horns) – towering above us.
During dinner, we noticed that the wind had picked up a bit and was creating havoc on the lake. It begged to be explored further, so a small group of us put on our layers and rain gear and went out to greet it.
It was exhilarating! Huge water-filled gusts hit us full in our faces, and we had to brace ourselves against the power, all of us shrieking in delight. And then it would subside for a moment, and we’d look out at the lake, watching for the next one. The white fog-like wall of water would appear on the other side of the lake and we could see it rolling toward us, fast as a train, each of us bracing and leaning in to welcome it to shore.
And then there was that rogue gust.
When it reached us, I realized it was packing more than the previous ones and turned away at the last second out of instinct, probably lifting one of my feet to pivot. That was all the wind needed. It picked me up and a millisecond later, I found myself on the ground a little further inland, thrown against the rocky shore.
My first thought was, how in the heck could a wind be strong enough to pick up ME? I am what some would call a sturdy gal. Luckily, Lisa – a tour participant who we called MacGuyver for her uncanny ability to fix everything – had braved this last squall with me and was there to inventory the damages.
The shutter on my new little camera was broken and ultimately even Lisa wasn’t able to fix it. My toe was cut, and my elbow and knee were both tender. My hip would still have a Frisbee-sized bruise on it a week later. But my wrist and hand took the worst of it. It was bleeding, and quickly swelling. I was also fortunate to have a few medical professionals helping me care for my wounds for the next week, as well as a whole lot of TLC from the rest of the gang.
When I got back home, I finally visited my doctor and what she said surprised me: yep, the wrist had been fractured. But she also said that it had healed up nicely and that all the TLC had helped.
That moment. It was awe-inspiring and a reminder of how nature can change our lives in an instant, on a small scale like what happened to me and on a large scale such as in Nepal and its recent earthquakes. But it was a moment I wouldn’t trade for a perfect wrist and a working camera.