During January and February 2017, Martín Lizondo, 27 years old, from the city of La Plata (Buenos Aires), had what he called “the best vacations of my life”… traveling the more than 600 km of the wonderful trails that form the Huella Andina, a long-distance trail that runs through the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut, from Villa Pehuenia to Lake Baguilt.
In this interview, Martín tells us about his trip and gives several tips for those who intend to enjoy the beautiful adventure of touring the Andean Footprint.
– Martín, tell us a little about yourself: have you enjoyed trekking for a long time? Did you make extensive outings before doing the Andean Footprint?
I always liked the outdoors and the camps. It is something I learned to love thanks to my family and the Scout movement, of which I am currently part as a leader.
Specifically, “trekking”, that is, excursions on foot in rugged terrain, are my favorite activity. Every year I go out in the mountains, from the age of 14, and with my backpack on (flying camp) from 17.
Before doing the Andean Footprint, my longest walk had been 5 days. The Footprint took 42 days, of which 34 were hiking.
– Did you do any physical preparation before?
Physical activity is always good. During the year I do a lot of cycling, I walk a lot to go to work and I spend most of the day on the move. A few months before the Footprint I began to prepare myself with greater intensity, going to the gym and walking every day for an hour with my backpack on. I am not an athlete, but I try to stay healthy.
– Tell us what is the list with which you assembled your backpack and the equipment for the trip
DAILY USE CLOTHING
– Synthetic T -shirt –
– Synthetic sun
hat – Merino “buff” collar (white for the sun)
– Trekking shoes
– Merino stockings
Backpack base weight: approximately 6.4 kg, items in the backpack:
MAIN 4 (2.9 kg)
– 48 liter backpack
– Tent for 1 person (with additional floor)
– Down sleeping bag – 7 ° C
– Inflatable mattress (not self-inflating)
CLOTHING (1.2 kg)
– Long-sleeved merino t-shirt with zipper
– Waterproof jacket (without coat)
– Down jacket (in home-made bag it serves as a pillow)
– Extra underpants – Extra merino long socks
KITCHEN (0.28 kg)
– Titanium pot with spout for 1 person (serves as a pot, kettle, mug)
– Portable “spider” type heater (sometimes I used a carafe, not always)
– Matte + bulb
– Fork-spoon ( middle split)
TOILET (0.35 kg)
– Quick-drying towel
– Toilet paper
– White soap
– Small toothbrush + concentrated paste
1ST AID KIT (0.2 kg)
– 10 cm elastic bandage .
– 10 × 10 gauze pads (2 units)
– Iodized alcohol
– Charcoal tablets
VARIOUS ELEMENTS (1.5 kg)
Electronics: cell phone + charger, automatic camera + case + charger, small LED flashlight.
Orientation: Footprint maps + road map + plastic compass.
Repair kit: needle + thread, insulating tape, patches, aluminum tube for rod.
Others: simple light knife, pocket notebook + pencil (split in the middle), matches (small box), lighter, elastic bands, nylon bags, 3-meter rope, backpack cover.
Fishing: fly rod, reel, flies (in vetún tin), extra line.
(The bags are homemade, made with waterproof insulation + thread and needle)
– After having traveled the Andean Footprint, would you make any change in the equipment you assembled, would you add or remove something?
Would make some changes, yes. As you know, with each journey many things are learned. My tendency over time is to carry less and less things, to carry less weight and to enjoy the walk more fully.
Two years ago it was that I started to dabble in the “weight” of the backpack. It was due to tendinitis that I had, due to over exertion, followed by rehabilitation. I considered the need to carry a light load to put less pressure on the heels. I started making lists, weighing object by object. The result was that I went from loading approx. 12/15 kg basis weight, at 5/6 kg approx. When I returned I realized that it could take even less.
– What did you take in the stages to eat?
The Footprint is logistically very well armed so that no one starves. There are generally supply points at each stage header. Sometimes there are supply points every two days and at most every three. Although camping supplies are usually expensive and offer little variety, for the exhausted walker they are more than enough. In the connection stages, you go through towns with more variety and prices.
He always carried little food so as not to carry too much weight. My daily food was basically:
a) A good breakfast before starting the day’s walk. It could be a coffee with cookies, oatmeal, cereals, something with enough calories.
b) A light lunch, which was generally tuna or cold meat. I made the sandwiches before leaving, so as not to carry cans.
c) Food to “snack” all the way: cereal bars, biscuits, cookies, granola.
d) I had dinner early and since it was already installed, I could take my time to cook. Everything depended on what was available: from polenta to a good milanesa. Many times he did not cook due to fatigue and ate cold.
I always had instant soups, which I call “emergency soups”, some granola or extra cereal just in case.
He didn’t have whole bags of rice or noodles, just the minimum amount. He shared everything and exchanged with other people. I think whole rice packages are not suitable, because they feed little, take time to make and weigh a lot.
I really missed the mate, because I didn’t have any yerba or thermos. I drank mate when I shared a stove with a group of campers; And at the end of it all, I bought yerba for Baguilt Lake. It was my moment to say goodbye to the Footprint.
– You took a fishing rod, tell us how and where your fishing went well.
I have loved fishing since my dad taught me in Tierra del Fuego, where I grew up. To the Footprint I took my fly rod n ° 5, with a floating line, which is quite versatile. If I wanted it to sink a little, I would fish with a streamer, if not, with dry.
As many will know, the best times to fish are in the early morning and in the afternoon / evening. But in the morning I was busy walking and at night I was tired from walking so much … so I fished less than planned, but when I did I had a lot of fun.
At Villa Pehuenia I brought out a nice trout that we made with my friends on the grill. Then when I was alone, I took one out at Lake Krugger. A monster-trout escaped me in the Arrayanes River, which fought 40 minutes and I couldn’t directly take it out. In other places I was not lucky; But as other fishermen will understand, the beauty of fly fishing is “casting” and enjoying the beauty of the place, with or without a pike.
– An important topic is water. What strategies did you use with this?
The Andean Footprint constantly passes through sources of drinking water: streams, rivers and lakes. It is a real luxury. To give you an idea, I ended up carrying a bottle of just half a liter and I had plenty, because I constantly refilled it. The maximum I took in a section was 1 liter and a half, as exceptional.
I did not use filters or water treatment tablets, because the water is very pure. If he doubted cleanliness, he just went on to the next stream. The only thing to avoid is standing water or water that is very close to livestock.
– Tell us about the overnight at the end of each day, how about the campsites where you were? Did you spend the night alone? How was that experience?
The entire Andean Footprint has assigned areas for camping. Except in case of need and that “the night catches you”, it is important to respect these areas, in order to generate the least possible environmental impact.
In almost all stages there is the possibility of finding a campsite with the minimum of services, at the beginning or at the end. It is in the planning of each one, calculating the hours of daily walking and planning where to spend the night.
There are several sections that do not have camping services, only rough areas. For my taste they are the best. When I camped alone, for example in Tapera de Lagos, on the way to Villa La Angostura, the experience was tremendous. But one is never completely alone, accompanied by fire and the sounds of the forest.
– Which stages were the hardest and why?
I would not speak of “hard” stages, as of suffering, because I love trekking and I enjoyed doing all the footprints. Yes, I could say that there were more difficult stages than others, due to physical demand, but these are always the most beautiful. The stage to Lake Krugger is one of the most demanding, but it was one of my favorites, as was the passage to Quillén.
Making an exception, there was a moment that I could consider “hard”, but because the path was not marked. I am referring to the stages from Moquehue to Ñorquinco, which cost a lot for having to go cross country, with no path, and the rain made things worse. I experienced it as a challenge, but when I started I didn’t know that the section was disabled. This is not a problem if the one who is going to make the Footprint is previously informed of the status of the section.
– Any nice anecdote that you will treasure in memory?
There were many days and many places, and each day was a different anecdote. Something that caught my attention is the brotherhood that is generated spontaneously on the path … people invited me to share the stove, the mate, the food. Everyone wanted to hear stories about the road, in a climate of totally spontaneous peace and generosity, regardless of age or place of origin. I will never forget the warm welcome we had at the “Doña Rosa” campsite in Ñorquinco, when we arrived totally wet with my friends from Moquehue. There was also a group of boys from Mendoza in particular, who struck me with their happy, healthy and positive spirit. I made friends from many places, all with their stories … even from other countries. Each one told how they had passed the difficult rainy days, where they had been lost, how many blisters they had on the feet etc. I am sorry I cannot mention them all, but I am very grateful to have met them.
On the other hand, the Andean Footprint has something unique that other trails do not have: it is an experience in its entirety. There are so many days and so many hours of walking that makes it so special: full contact with nature, the time of silence to reflect, the total change of routine, the nomadic life and austerity. All this makes the Footprint become a long, thoughtful, very personal journey, from which one returns internally renewed.
– In recent months, the Huella Andina project was officially canceled, but the trails will always be there.
So what would you say to those who are thinking of touring it?
The Andean Footprint can be traveled and the biggest challenge is will power. I mean the full footprint. You have to be determined to do it and be aware that there will be many obstacles along the way. They may touch disabled stages, there may be places without enough information, days with rain and cold, but if you set your mind to it, you can always get ahead.
The key is to prepare in two ways:
1. Planning: assembling an efficient team with time, not necessarily the most expensive, but light enough to travel comfortably.
2. Fitness: doing physical activity every week, going for a run, cycling, camping regularly, walking and climbing the stairs with a backpack on, etc.
The last tips are:
Report on your itinerary at each reporting center, at each campsite and at each park ranger possible. This will guarantee them greater security.
Check about the state of the trails. Most disabled trails can be done alternately by route.
And finally, if you want to fully enjoy the Footprint, study nature with its animals and plants. In this way, they will better learn to value and care for it.
The Andean Footprint is a unique and personal experience. I’m sure it will mark them for life. If you have the time available, be encouraged to make it complete. You just have to set the goal and prepare in time.
Have a good walk!