Two legs are better than four

Posted on January 20, 2016


 Hiking on the island can be done on two legs or on four. My first and last experience of horse riding was in 2007 in the foothills of the Andes in Buenos Aires with the most beautiful man I have ever clapped eyes on (my Argentinian guide) with a horse that had a temperament much like my own – headstrong, stubborn and a little nuts!! I’d like to try it again but not in this landscape, that would be suicide.

As soon as they can stand Chileans are put on a horse. Being able to ride is in their DNA. When I landed on Friday there was a man waiting with a group of horses for the anyone crazy enough to ride bare back for four hours through some extremely difficult and hazardous terrain. Needless to say I was the first person in the jeep.
My hike the last two days has involved part of that trek the horses do and I am astounded how they make it up and down these muddy, slippery and sometimes dangerous paths. The first two treks were very beautiful. One takes you up to a view that over looks Cumberland Bay, the other is through a magical rainforest rich with the aroma of exotic plants. The colours in the forest are so vivid they seems artificial. I sat under a tree with five male hummingbirds who were calling to each other for half an hour. It was fantastic. Their wing speed is so fast and so loud it makes the most incredible purring sound and with five of them whizzing about it actually made quite a racket.

Today’s hike was to Mirador Selkirk. This was the steep hillside that Selkirk chose to make his home. He carved an area out of the thick vegetation and built a hut on a slope. He then spent his days scurrying up and down the switchbacks to the summit to lookout for passing ships. He must have been as fit as a fiddle after four years and four months. This is a great hike and in parts challenging, but after Kilimanjaro anything that doesn’t involve altitude and an elevation above 4500m is ever going to be as tough. I still have no idea how I managed a 9km hike the day after summiting in Tanzania with a damaged kneecap. The mind boggles.
The view at the top is magnificent. Bathed in sunlight the hills sparkle gold and green. I was hypnotised. The deep blue ocean stretches for miles and gives me a sense of peace. I know when I retire I need to be close to water, wherever in the world that may be.

My week here has been remarkable. Last night after dinner and showering off mud and sweat from my hike I took a stroll around the bay. There I met one of the Chileans who was on the plane with me. N is the only person on the island who speaks perfect English. His wife is Russian and he can’t speak Russian. He invited me to join him for drinks and we drank Pisco sours swapped stories about our adventures, family, life and work while he chowed down on a plate of octopus. He’s been coming here for 15 years and loves fishing.

At midnight I turned 40. We toasted my birthday, embraced and then the kitchen brought out a chocolate brownie with a tea light for me to blow out. It was perfect. He then escorted me back to my lodge along the seafront under a sky filled with many many stars. It was a beautiful ending to the start of a new decade.