I’m walking towards the door, I remember reaching my hand to grab the handle and turn and then my vision went black. I feel arms around me as my legs go limp and I feel like one of those toy giraffes who’s limbs were held attached by elastic string. When you hit the button on the bottom, the string would loosen and all of their joints crumble and they end up in a little pile. As a kid I used to make those toys do an awkward ‘dance’ pushing the button up and down and now it appears that I was the one that was doing the awkward dancing. I was still slightly aware of what was going on – but every movement was disjointed, weak, and uncontrolled. And I was hot – so very hot.
But there were these arms around me, and a man talking to me telling me to breathe. He propped me up, put my arm around his shoulder, assumed my dead weight and somehow got me upstairs, unlocked the door to my room, and laid me in my bed. He quickly opened up the window for fresh cool air as I felt as if I were self imploding – the heat came pouring out of me. I just lay there and breathed.
90 Minutes Earlier:
I was sitting in the lobby of the adorable little Hosteria El Pilar, situated on the river bank far away from civilization, drinking a cold beer and working on writing. This was the perfect place in this mountain region of Patagonia to relax and unwind. It was designed beautifully with fireplaces peppered throughout common areas, plenty of comfy seating, and lots of windows to let the sun pour through. It felt like a home. This little cottage came complete with a white picket fence, an amazing view of Fitz Roy Peak, and two of the best most welcoming hosts I’ve ever met – Cristina and Guillermo.
15 Minutes Earlier:
I had just sat down for dinner with the rest of my trekking group and everyone was chatting excitedly and getting to know each other. I felt a little off, my stomach sort of ached, and strangely food or drink didn’t sound very appealing to me. But I continued to socialize the best I could.
5 Minutes Earlier:
I knew something was wrong. I was getting hot – really hot – starting to sweat. I felt uncomfortable. I took 2 bites of my onion soup and I knew I needed to leave right now and lay down as heat radiated out of me. That’s when I excused my self from the table and starting walking to the door for my room. That’s when I crumbled. That’s when Guillermo caught me luckily before I hit the floor with a thud.
I spent the rest of the evening in bed with hot flashes, cold spells, and episodes of diarrhea (yes – I know – this is getting personal – but it’s a fact of travel). Cristina and Guillermo checked on me every 30 minutes. They brought me tea, made me eat some soup, and gave me a little bell to ring in case things deteriorated further. They called the doctor in town located about 20 km away to get some instructions on what to do with me. And I laid there dumbfounded about what had happened, feeling thankful that I had such wonderful people to take care of me. But my brain was preoccupied with my future wondering if there was any way I would be able to do my big hiking trip to Fitz Roy the next day let along the entire Patagonia trekking that I had planned for the next 4 days. The Fitz Roy view point was one of the highlights of Patagonia and I was supposed to hike 18 km the next day to the viewpoint which included some challenging switchbacks on steep terrain. I couldn’t even imagine getting out of bed let alone switchbacks.
And I slept.
The next morning I felt normal – myself again. I had a cautious appetite. Cristina came and checked on me in the morning and had me come down to eat some breakfast. I heard about the wonderful dinner I missed the night before which didn’t surprise me as everything that the people at El Pilar did seemed to be wonderful – even caring for a sick traveler.
I didn’t want to leave this little oasis of hospitality, care-giving, and beautiful tranquil views – but I had to make a decision to move on and try to do the hike. Cristina packed me a lunch, and assured me that there were a number of points on the trail where I could decide to simply go back into town or get help. She gave me a big hug and waved goodbye. I was strangely sad to leave. I was just at El Pilar for one night – but it was a memorable one!
I never did figure out what was wrong with me, but I was fine, albeit tired and weak, for the rest of the hiking days. It’s horrible to be sick on the road, but I think about how lucky I was to have people around to help – a luxury for a solo traveler.
El Pilar is a great place to start your El Chalten hiking from – but make sure you plan a few days there to really enjoy the atmosphere and view. They have bikes to utilize for getting into town or exploring the areas, and many other outdoor activities. You can do a number of hikes from the Hosteria and back allowing you to have a bit of pampering and a comfortable bed at night. In retrospect – that’s probably how I would have organized my trip instead of doing the camping. You can easily hike to the Fitz Roy lookout from El Pilar and back in a day. It provides you a more atmospheric and secluded alternative from the lovely but touristic town of El Chalten. Plus you get to meet Cristina and Guillermo – two of the nicest people I met in all of Argentina.
You can find more information on El Pilar here.
Disclosure: Adventure Life hosted my Patagonia travels. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own – as you know how I love to speak my mind!
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