My Andes’ adventures, the pearls of Patagonia and colourful gems of Jujuy made for a 6 week magical story of growth.

Moving forward, without a precise plan though with little apprehension, I left Auckland high on friendship, endurance and anticipation. Following two months of increasing distance and confidence on trails, my last day in New Zealand was spent with a friend who was just beginning a Kiwi adventure of his own. Most content travelling alone, reconnecting with Majell was a welcome reminder of the encouragement and support I have irregardless of which mountains I find myself in, literally and figuratively, or how lonely the road towards recovery and acceptance can feel.

In reflection, South America was a tale waiting to be written with I, the lone character, open-minded and eager to grow along with the story line. My Andes’ adventures quickly filled with fascinating and supportive characters while featuring picturesque landscapes making for a colourful page-turner.

A local group from the nation’s capital invited me to join them for Carnival weekend when I arrived early in February. Stepping outside my comfort zone, I embraced the long weekend as a window of opportunity into the local culture, Spanish lessons, while putting jet lag in its place, getting local trail suggestions and technical running tips. From road rules, catch phrases, differentiating between empanadas and bananas, confirming that yerba maté is in fact not a drug, that it is not normal to eat dinner before 10pm nor to consume a meatless meal, my first days were more than any guide book could ever depict. New friends helped me draft a trail running dream route in their native land. Running in the Buenos Aires province with locals who were as interested in my story as I was in theirs set the scene for a chapter of growth.

Autonomy  continues to challenge as I long for the freedom of hopping on a bicycle, motorbike or in a rental car and exploring Patagonia’s Route 40 without time restraints or dependability. Daily arrangements to ensure I hit the most scenic and appropriately challenging trails are not so flexible when I am reliant on a driver. The remoteness of much of Argentina’s Lake District leaves little cellular communication access to simply call when I feel ready to get back to my accommodation. That said, there were times of opportunity to run from my door exploring exclusively on foot. One of the preeminent reasons El Chalten tops my favourite running destinations thus far is for its accessibility as a lone visually impaired runner.  Playing with Fitz Roy for a week without dependence on any motor vehicle aloud me to shelf that common feeling of dependence.

However disheartening losing my driving privilege often feels, opportunities have come from such happenstance. Exploring several of the countries national parks including Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi (San Carlos de Bariloche), Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes (Villa La Angostura),  Lanin National Park (San Martin de los Andes), Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and Parque Nacional Perito Moreno (El Calafate), Cerro Fitz Roy (El Chaltén) made for connections and memories so very different from my running yet so positively impressionable. Despite my shockingly horrific Spanish language acquisition skills, hitchhiking is a universal language than I have developed. Drivers have become new friends naturally inviting me into their culture while often being my right eye and safety net.

Taking my runs beyond the safety and security of marked trails,  through barren deserts, plenty of sunshine, rain, snow and Patagonia gales, has led to personal growth and confidence building beyond any therapy curriculum. Movement meditation throughout Argentina has helped slowly foster my transition towards accepting and embracing my destiny.

Having embraced much of what Patagonia offers, I welcomed local advice and headed to some of their fairytale destinations. Located in the outermost northwest corner of the country, Jujuy province has quickly gained in popularity with National Geographic recently citing the area as a top little known gem to be visited. The valley’s colorful rock bands, so drastically different from the south, inspired while the altitude and technical trails challenged me. Exploring trails off the beaten path were only made possible by Alvaro, yet another welcoming local trailrunner cum tour guide. We ran among the Cerro de los Siete Colores or the Hill of Seven Colors bordering the village of Purmamarca. The origin of the village name in fact means town of the Virgin Land, appropriately so as I felt set in the scene of an old-school Western with locals selling their handicrafts and inviting tourists into their seemingly untouched community.

Alvaro was just one of the many faces, human and nature alike, which combined to make Argentina such a charming country in my eye. Its breathtaking natural beauty accompanied by warm hearts that welcomed leave me eagerly anticipating a return. Though a 6 week magical story of growth, I have experienced such a small part of the silver-coloured land, know that with more time and travel, could be a colourful, bestselling multi-chapter read.

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  1. Kellie MacKenzie says:

    Your adventures are amazing. I always get very excited when I see there is a new blog post!! Loving following your story!

  2. Andie says:

    You continue to amaze me each and every day! Sending you love from Bulgaria! Keep on running my sweet friend. Our runs together in Moscow are held close to my heart.