A stray dog stole one of my shoes and a tall chilena stole my pants. At this rate I’ll be naked by Christmas. This is my story.Since we spend all our non-hiking time in flip flops, I didn’t notice my shoe went missing from under the side of our tent until we were packing up to leave Cochrane. We then found out stray dogs steal shoes and other items with some frequency at Carmen’s house (Don Rial’s daughter- we camped in her yard). This was unfortunate for several reasons:

  1. Now I only had one shoe (+ flip flops)
  2. I’m now without my Newton custom orthotics
  3. I was in Cochrane, a spot of a town, not exactly a shoe-purchasing destination
  4. I only had $44 in cash. Cochrane’s ATM does not service VISAs nor do many stores accept credit card payment.

On the walk to the general store, a stray dog started following me, which I ignored (because otherwise they keep following you in hopes your love will translate into food). I sat down next to the general store to read while waiting for it to open. The dog sat next to me and started to put the moves on me like a teenage boy in a movie theater. He put a front paw on my leg, then the other, and soon enough he was on his back lying in my lap. I kept ignoring him, trying not succumb to his cuteness. Awhile later, he got bored and moved on. Could this have been the culprit?

I got the last (probably only) size 40 tennis shoe in the general store for $40. The shopkeeper was kind to give me a little discount for my troubles. They fit perfectly so I started off on the trail with optimism.

Sixty kilometers and two days later on a quiet dirt road through beautiful Valle Chacabuco (refer to note at bottom of post), large blisters developed on the pads of my feet. I could feel every pebble through the ultra-thin sole. Not to mention, rain drops and wet grass would permeate the shoes straight through to my foot.  As I read just weeks earlier in Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, “(blisters) probably represent the most common health-related reason for ending outings.” Although my heart wanted to keep pushing on, I knew I had to let these buggers heal and get some appropriate shoes before I continued on the trail.

Two hitch hikes and eight hours later, I arrived in Chile Chico which unfortunately didn’t offer adequate shoes or a VISA-accepting ATM. I would need to travel to Coyhaique where I was assured I could find replacements. With night falling and $4 to my name, a gracious hostel owner agreed to let me stay in exchange for buying her groceries (the grocery store thankfully accepted card payment). I ended up having to stay two nights because the ferry ride was booked (across the largest lake in Chile to subsequently take the bus to Coyhaique)- it was another random Chilean holiday. Luckily, there were several travelers “in the same boat” as me so we made the most of it with a big dinner (for which I did the same groceries-for-cash exchange).

 Then my pants were stolen. Yes, my pants. They went missing from my small laundry load the señora was washing in the back of the house- due to timing and circumstance, she believes the thief was a tall chilena who stays with her occasionally on work contract and gave her “mal sentimiento” (a bad feeling).  I will keep you posted if she finds the thief.

I arrived in Coyhaique late Friday night and dined on sushi in my rain pants and flip flops. Yesterday, I searched high and low for new shoes and pants. In a shoe store, I was telling the salesman my story and asked him if he had any recommendations for where I should seek pants. He suggested the closet of a store next door that I hadn’t even noticed. Although the store next door had already been closed for “mediodia” (lunch/siesta time), he lead me around back so I could check out their selection while they were closing up. While trying on various pants, I wandered over to their small selection of shoes and yelped in surprise with unexpected tears when I saw my Patagonia Arrants! I think she thought I was crazy. They also turned out to be only $90- compared to $150 back home.

I’ve forfeited the search for pants. There’s not a very good selection here and the ones I’ve liked have been too short. Additionally, the hiking pants have been wicked expensive (despite their ugliness)- $150!! I bought some light leggings and will call them good until Shelley can retrieve my Patagonia Inter-Continental Pants (which come in a Long size) at her brother’s wedding in mid-January.

I’m enjoying hanging out in Coyhaique at a friendly hostel with a lock on my door, eating lots of green veggies and fruit smoothies, using fast internet, taking luke warm-ish showers, meeting folks at the NOLS base, arranging our Christmas dinner plans here (I volunteered Sarah to be in charge of dessert), and being followed by a german shephard puppy (do you know how much self control it takes to not coo and pet it??). My blisters are nearly healed so I’ll be ready to return south later this week. I feel like I’m missing limbs without Shelley and Sarah- I’m coming chicas!!

Letting go and flowing with Chile…

NOTE: This was in North Face/ Esprit founder Doug Thompkins’ and Patagonia ex-CEO Kris Thompkins’ land preservation project. They have two reserves and an estancia (estate/retired ranch) that they are combining to develop a Chilean National Park. Read more about their phenomenal project here.