Condor Cave hike Jan 3 2010

DAY 6:  I’m bushwhacking up a trail in Patagonia, scrambling over loose rocks and getting more frustrated by the minute. My knee aches. The guide is not helpful  or attentive. I wish I’d remembered to ask for hiking poles—they really help. I wish he’d remembered to offer them.


Everyone else is having a fine time enjoying the vistas of the distant snow-covered peaks, the blue glacial lakes below. “I really think this is the most beautiful day we’ve had hiking,” my daughter Reggie says.


I can’t be cajoled into a better mood. Traveling can be frustrating and difficult, especially in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, and maybe I’ve just hit a wall after nearly a week in Chile.


I admit this has been a remarkably easy trip so far. We had a wonderful time touring quirky Valparaiso and cycling around some vineyards. We made it to a famous Penguin nesting habitat, even if we were there the wrong time of day to see thousands of Penguins, we saw plenty.


And for the past few days we’ve been ensconced in Hotel Remota ( just outside of Punta Natales where the beds are oh-so-comfortable, the food very good and the staff attentive.


So why am I having a bad day? I can’t blame it on my kids. They are all in sunny moods as we climb ever higher up the hill—no trail in sight—and climb over fallen trees to beautiful vistas. We explore a few caves along the way, one apparently where remnants of a giant sloth was once found. But the guide doesn’t explain and all the signs are in Spanish.  I start lamenting that I need to learn Spanish. My daughter interrupts that I should just enjoy the day.


She’s right of course. The hike is a challenge for me and I should be pleased that I manage as well as I do. It’s not my fault the guide is having an off day. I’m here in one of the most beautiful places on earth with my family. Everyone is healthy and happy. No one is squabbling, though they are teasing me.


Travel itself, of course, is a challenge, just like today’s hike. It may not turn out the way you expect—I was expecting a leisurely walk today, for example, not a bushwhacking expedition. But it is the unexpected that keeps you on your toes—and provides the most stellar memories. Often it is what goes wrong—and how you handle it–that makes  the memories and offers teaching moments along the way—for the adults as well as the kids.


My daughters have told me this trip that all of our travels—all the many times I’ve taken them out of their comfort zones—way out—have helped to make them the young adults they are today–never fearful of a challenge, always eager for the next adventure, always interested in meeting people from different cultures.


I need to follow their lead and embrace the challenge, I decide, squaring my shoulders. We did enjoy a nice picnic under the trees, after all –ham sandwiches, chicken broth and the best homemade cookies.  I enjoy talking with our other hiking companions who include a committed mountain climber on his way to another expedition from here. My knee isn’t aching too badly and, the guide promises, it is mostly downhill the rest of the way.


Besides, tomorrow is another day.