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Buck30 - Greater Patagonian Trail Journal - 2017

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Brian (Buck-30)
Begins: Jan 5, 2017
Direction: Southbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sat, Apr 8th, 2017
Start: San Diego
End: San Diego
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 806.0

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 1,491
Journal Visits: 12,203
Guestbook Views: 178
Guestbook Entrys: 5

GPT Summary and Planning Thoughts For Future Hikers

*Greater Patagonian Trail Summary and Planning Thoughts For Future Hikers*

[2017 UPDATE: Just thought I'd mention that Jan has updated his site with a big section that I feel like addesses some of my points. I doubt Jan agrees with me much but I think he was surprised by the number of hikers who were either unprepared or found the GPT to be different than what they expected (like it actually not really being in Patagonia). I like what he wrote and feel like it's a fair assessment of the GPT. I think back to my 2-3 months on the GPT and not much has changed. It just wasn't for me, but one thing that has come to light more is the need for speaking Spanish. The more I think about it the more I've realized that the cultutral aspect of the hike was as or more important that the actual hiking. Sure, you can survive just fine with almost no Spanish like we did, but to truly enjoy the GPT and all the cultural aspects I think you will want to speak a lot more Spanish than we did.]

[I'll also mention that I've taken and probably will take some more criticism from some hikers currently on the trail and others. To me this trail was way more of a cultural experience than an amazing thru-hike. I really wasn't looking for that mix. Sure I enjoyed the cultural aspect but I didn't expect to be walking mostly low elevation valleys through one of the greatest mountain ranges in the world. It just wasn't for me. There is a group of 2 on the trail now that will talk about this trail a lot different than me and that's great. Just do your research so you know what it's really like. Frankly, based on the information at the time I hiked, I just assumed it would be the most amazing trail ever. It wasn't like that to me, maybe it will be for you.]

[And lastly, lastly, I think my biggest disappointment was based on my expectations. I guess I just had unreasonable expectations. I assumed I would be hiking through these huge, amazing Andes mountains and the hike just really isn't like that at all. If I had gone in with different expectations I probably would have enjoyed it more]


CAVEAT #1: We didn't thru-hike the GPT. We had 80 days to hike. When we
booked our plane tickets there were sections 1-18 or about 850 miles. After
we booked our tickets the trail was expanded another 850 miles to sections
19-33. We wanted to see different parts of Chile so we never planned to
thru-hike the GPT as we couldn't reasonably hike 1,700 miles in 80 days and
see other famous stuff. So we skipped down the trail a lot. But I feel like
we got a good feel for all the different areas the GPT travelled to form an
overall opinion. Also, I've hiked a lot of miles. I had high expectations
of the Greater Patagonian Trail. My opinions are based on those high
expectations. You might be a lot less jaded than me.


CAVEAT #2: Nothing I say below is meant to disparage Jan or the route he
created. I'm sure he would disagree with my thoughts and conclusions. It's
amazing the amount of effort and love Jan has put into creating a long
route down here. But that being said, I feel like I should be honest about
my experiences. Most people will hear, Greater Patagonian Trail and
immediately jump to certain conclusions. Having spent 2 months on the trail
I feel I should provide my perspective.


CAVEAT #3: One thing I've learned over the years of giving others advice or
getting it myself is that everyone enjoys hikes differently. I've told
others how much I loved a certain thru hike and they hated it or vice
versa. So keep that in mind when reading this.* I feel like the greatest
service this entry can provide is not to convince you of my opinions, but
to at least shed light on what the GPT is really like and you can decide
for yourself cause I'm 99.9% sure the GPT is totally different than what
you think it is.*


*OVERALL:*

Honestly, I wouldn't recommend hiking the GPT to any of my thru hiking
friends. Here are my main thoughts why I really didn't enjoy hiking the GPT.
(Please keep in mind I'm generalizing/summarizing here. There are
exceptions to every complaint and I will try and cover the good stuff after
this section)


1) First off, Google Patagonia. You see all those amazing pictures? The GPT
generally looks nothing like that.


2) Something named the Greater Patagonian Trail sounds soooo amazing. I
honestly thought it would be one of the best hikes I've ever done. No so
much. The wiki page does a good job to describe how it's named "Greater
Patagonian" and not simply "Patagonia" as the trail covers a lot more than
just Patagonia, but as a reader and being so excited about the GPT I doubt
you really read this and take it seriously. In reality the trail barely
covers Patagonia at all. Instead of focusing on the geologic definition of
where Patagonia starts, I'll focus on how a Lonely Planet or other
guidebook would group Patagonia as this has a more realistic feel for what
you will think of as Patagonia.


The trail starts in Siete de Tazas National Park (or has been extended a
few hundred miles north to Santiago by now). This area all the way down to
around Pucon (or so) is really known as Middle Chile. This is sections 1
through about 10. That means much of the original 18 sections of the GPT
are in Middle Chile. The Andes are generally large but rather flattish and
not very dramatic looking. The landscape is mostly open valley grazing land
and some monkey puzzle forest towards the latter half of the section. It
looks nothing like the pictures you saw when you Googled "Patagonia".


After section 10 (or so) you enter the Lakes District. You are still not in
Patagonia yet. This region is characterized by huge lakes and the region is
generally forested. It looks nothing like the craggy mountain pictures you
saw when you Googled "Patagonia".


We entered the "real" Patagonia in section 25 at Coyhaique (well, really 26
since 25 is all road walking). It's likely the real Patagonia started
before that in sections we skipped over but I believe sections 21-25 are
mostly road walking. Some of this looks like the "Patagonia" you saw when
you Googled it, but much of it is road walking, low elevation and nothing
like the craggy, glaciated mountains of Patagonia.

For example one of the final sections which I assumed would be epic, Cochrane to O'Higgins is
200k. Of that, 100k is low elevation road walking (split into 2, 50k
roadwalks) and the 100k of trail is the Ruta de Pioneers which is an old
gaucho trail and basically a low elevation valley grazing land walk with
one great Pass. It's not the Patagonia I imagine when I think of Patagonia
or the Andes mountains.


3) Here's the biggest problem with the GPT. It's mostly a LOW elevation
valley hike. The GPT was created using existing trail, roads and cross
country. Chile/Argentina doesn't have an extensive trail system like the US
or Europe. It does have a lot of horse trails. Horse trails are used by
settlers to graze their horses, cows and sheep and to travel around. If you
are a settler would you make a horse trail way up on the rugged ridges and
mountains of the Andes? Of course not. Your route is through the gentle
valleys and up and over the easiest passes you can find. So most of the GPT
is on low elevation horse trail, low elevation dirt roads and low elevation
cross country. You almost never do a real ridge walk or summit a mountain.
Seriously. In all of our hiking we rarely did anything approaching a high
elevation extended walk.


Think about the PCT or CDT. These hikes are substantially at higher
elevation with lots and lots of miles on ridges, on the crest, over peaks.
The GPT is nothing like that. I felt like I was mostly walking through
heavily grazed, low elevation valleys. The Andes are around you, but until
section 26, the Andes actually are fairly large but rounded and not that
impressive. Walking up in the large and rounded Andes would actually be
amazing, but you are almost never up there. Walking in a valley at 2,000'
while the Andes are above you at 6,000' isn't really all that impressive.
When you are in a low valley the Andes on both sides of you kind of just
look like long, green, flattish ridges.

One analogy I tried to come up with was the percentage of your hiking
elevation versus the elevation of the mountains around you. On the PCT or
CDT I felt like maybe you are at about 70%. As in, if you are walking at an
average elevation of 7,000', the surrounding mountains are at 10,000'. Or
in Colorado, if you are walking at 10,000', the mountains around you are
13,000'. You feel like you are "in" these mountains. On the GPT I felt like
it was 30%-40%. If my average elevation was 2,000', the surrounding
mountains were 6,000'. Big difference. On the PCT and CDT I felt like I was
mostly "in" the mountains. I rarely felt like I was "in" the Andes. I can't
overstate this feeling enough, I really rarely felt like I was "in" this
epic mountain range called the Andes.


I also can't overstate enough of how LOW the GPT is. I've never hiked a
mountain trail where most of the time was spent in valleys.


4) A lot of the miles are on bad trail or dirt roads. I don't mind hard
hiking, but bad trail plus bad scenery isn't fun to hike. Bad trail plus
great scenery is great. And then add in the 40% of the GPT that is on dirt
roads and you don't really have a great thru-hike. Lots of bad trail + lots
of dirt roads + low elevation hiking = no fun.


5) I'll admit, I had major expectation bias for this trail. I really
thought it would be one of the greatest hikes I've ever done. It didn't
even come close to living up to that and I felt like I was always measuring
it against these expectations. Also, the Andes mountains in Chile really
don't see all that different than hiking in North America. I've hiked the
PCT and CDT twice each and a lot of other trails and I felt that the
scenery on the GPT was very rarely unique to anything I had already seen in
North America. I guess I don't even know what I was expecting for scenery,
but I didn't feel like I saw a lot of unique stuff while hiking. I joked a
lot to Skittles that each area I was in I could name a place in America
that looked exactly like it.


6) One of the things I like best about thru hiking is the stuff "in
between". What I mean by this is every trail has the epic, famous stuff
that everyone does. I like that stuff of course. But what I really like is
all the other hiking in-between the famous stuff. This hiking is stuff that
has no name, stuff I would never purposely seek out but to me, what really
makes a hike enjoyable. It's all the hiking that can be just as amazing as
the famous stuff.


I felt like the GPT had almost none of this "in between" stuff that I like
so much. It seemed like most everything that was really enjoyable on the
GPT, everyone else was doing to cause it was famous. Then all the stuff in
between was rather mundane. It seemed to me that there was no need to be
thru hiking. I could do all the cool hiking with the tourists and
everything else was kind of mundane. This is not how I like to travel but
it actually seemed like the answer to me. Kind of like how on the Te Araroa
now, most people feel like hiking the north island just isn't worth it and
you are better off being a tourist and just seeing the North Island
highlights.


WHAT DID I LIKE?


1) Anything volcanic was amazing. This was by far the most unique hiking on
the GPT. Section 1 is incredible. Volcan Puyhue in section 13 is great.
Section 10 (Villiarca traverse) is supposed to be amazing, it was closed
for fire warnings for a month when we went by unfortunately. I was blown
away by how cool the volcanic landscape was. Unfortunately there isn't a
ton of this on the GPT.


2) Certain other parts of the trail are great. I'll detail what I think
about the sections overall below. There are definitely good miles to hike,
its just that they are heavily outweighed by the mundane parts.


3) The villages/culture was very enjoyable. It's too much to describe but I
truly enjoyed being in a foreign country. Especially early on when you are
in villages that are super small and don't see a lot of tourists. I always
enjoyed the real towns more than the tourist towns. For example, Puerto
Varas is a really famous tourist town and is 20k from Puerto Montt, a
larger working class city. My guidebook of course steers you heavily to
Puerto Varas, but I enjoyed Puerto Montt much more. I liked to see the guy
juggling fire at a stoplight for change, I liked to buy blueberries off the
old women on the street for a dollar for a huge bag. I liked the street
life of Puerto Montt. I liked staying in some random Hospedeja with some
family that spoke no English. Puerto Varas was just a sterile tourist town
on a beautiful lake and had none of this.


4) The bus system in Chile/Argentina is amazing. Pretty much the entire
country is covered including the tiniest rural towns on rough dirt roads.
And except the long haul buses down south, bus travel is really cheap. It
makes it easy to get to town to resupply or jump sections.


*SECTION OVERVIEW:*


We were really unclear on what the sections would be like and as time went
on and things weren't always very enjoyable it became important to figure
out what sections might be best to hike. The below is based on what we
hiked, what Jan told us via email and what Morris, another hiker we met,
has hiked.


Section 1: Amazing volcanic landscape. Epic.


Sections 2-3: We hiked these. It was mostly low elevation valley hiking,
over a Pass and then back to the valley. There wasn't a tree for days and
it was pretty beautiful. Very remote. I'd hike these again.


Sections 4-9: We didn't hike these. Based on what we know from Morris,
maps, etc. we felt like these sections would be more of the same from 2-3,
except less remote, more road walking, not as beautiful. Also, they were
closed due to once in a century forest fires where the government closed
all Parks from Section 10 through Santiago. Morris described it as fairly
open low elevation valley hiking with volcanos in the distance to look at.
Also, the latter sections transition into monkey puzzle forest. Sections
8-9 are predominantly road walking.


Section 10: This is a famous volcanic traverse and is supposed to be
amazing. We missed it due to the above noted forest fires.


Sections 11-18: These are pretty hit and miss, mostly miss in my opinion.
We hiked sections 11-13 and 16. Volcan Puyhue was in here which was epic.
Section 16 is Cochomo which is famous as "little Yosemite" but fairly
disappointing unless you do side trails up the granite mountains. The rest
of what we hiked and what we didn't hike from what we could tell was fairly
mundane.


Sections 19-21: Jan recommended these to hike. I don't know much about
them. I'm not sure I would expect anything amazing based on looking at the
maps are reading Fidget/Neon blog. Jan's recommendations to us seemed to be
primarily based on what sections had mostly trail versus sections with
mostly road walking and not necessarily always a recommendation based on
the scenery. Morris did some of this and said 18/19 was mostly roadwalking
and 21 was hard and not very scenic.


Sections 22-25: Mostly road walking is my understanding. Jan didn't
recommend these to hike Morris did 22 and said it was nicer than 21.


Section 26: Cerro Castillo. Epic.


Section 27: This was pretty nice, even the long road walk to Puerto Ibanez
was fairly scenic.


Section 28: This is a ferry across the huge lake. Very pretty and only 2k
Chilean Pesos.


Section 29: Chile Chico to Cochrane. This was really excellent hiking
(except for a 30k road walk in the middle). Make sure to take Jan's cross
country route from Chile Chico and not the road. We saw hundreds of
guanacos and flamingos.


Section 30: See above example for why I think this section would be
disappointing, we did not hike this section.


Section 31: Ferry across O'Higgins. We did not do this. It only runs
certain days and is expensive.


Section 32: We didn't hike this. It's a fairly famous walk now for cyclists
or others to walk from Chile to Argentina but mostly it sounds like an
expensive ferry across O'Higgins (like $ 60+), a bunch of dirt road walking
and some trail through forest. Epic if you are a long distance cyclist
pushing your bike 8k through a rutted forest. Seems mundane for a hiker.

Section 33: This is really a loop hike in Los Glaciers National Park and
very excellent hiking. You absolutely have to do this.


*WHAT WOULD I DO IF I COULD DO IT AGAIN?*


I love thru-hiking more than anything in the world and I wouldn't thru hike
this trail. It's just not that great. But I would recommend going to
Chile/Argentina. I would hike certain sections of the GPT and then do the
famous touristy hikes too.


I would definitely hike sections 1. I would also hike sections 2-3. Maybe
4-7 if you really want although it doesn't seem that exciting. 13 to catch
going over Volcano Puyhue. I could do without 16 but if you want to
consider trips then the Cochomo valley would be worth hiking. After that
I'd skip down to 26 and hike 26-29. Also, 30-32 if you want but they aren't
as great as they seem. I'd definitely hike 33.


Added to the GPT above I would do the famous hike in PN Nahuel Huapi near
Bariloche. I'd also spend time at the end hiking in Los Glaciers NP and
then Torres del Paine NP and the Fuegan Andes at Ushuia at the very end of
the continent. Also, the Diente Circuit across the channel from Ushuia.
Then see if there is anything else you want to do and add it on.


The Lonely Planet Hiking in Patagonia that is old and out of print is still
really valuable and helpful. It has a ton of good hikes in it and covers
all the parks above. The prices, etc are outdated but the hike descriptions
are still predominantly accurate and give good ideas for where else to hike.



*GUIDEBOOK*:


There is no guidebook. Jan has an extensive wiki explorer and he has some
detailed information on Sections 1-4 but that is all. Not sure when he
plans on completing that. Jan has the GPT heavily reliant on GPS. He has a
cool overlay for your Garmin GPS that adds all of the tracks and waypoints
easily. He also has a Google KMZ file that will open on your phone. None of
these had KM markers which is a pain to figure out distances, however a
friend of mine has been adding the track to OSM public with KM markers. I
don't believe this is publicly shared yet. Also, the free Orux app for
Android now has a feature to easily add KM/Mile markers to tracks you have
opened. The KMZ for your phone can be annoying as it opens up all tracks.
Hiking, packrafting, a million alternates whereas the Garmin overlay for
your GPS you can just load hiking specific tracks.


The tracks for sections 1-18 have been walked by Jan and are 99% accurate.
There is occasionally a stray piece he didn't walk or some sort of snafu.
He has also now walked sections 26-33. He hasn't walked 19-25 as far as I
know.


The tracks are of course really helpful and basically the only way you will
know where the GPT goes since there is no guidebook or other description. I
printed a high level set of maps using GAIA on my laptop to have a better
overview of where I was going. They were a bit high level to navigate but
nice to have to figure out what was going on in each section. One thing
that drove me crazy was that Jan has a million alternates mapped. It's way
overkill. At times it seems like every road or possible other option had
been mapped. It's way too confusing. There is no information or context on
these alternates so you are very unlikely to ever take them and they just
add layers of confusion. Personally, I would do away with all the
alternates except ones that truly are better options for one reason or
another (bad weather or a harder but more scenic route).


As for topo maps, if you use an app on your phone like Orux or Gaia you can
download detail topo maps that were fine. These are OSM based maps.
Skittles also bought the Garmin Chile topo maps ($ 90) and they were no
better and he even thought probably worse.


If you need to load topo maps on your Garmin GPS the best I found for free
was at this website.


[Xxxxxxxx]


These cover the entire countries of Chile and Argentina and were fine.


*VILLAGES*


The GPT goes through a lot of small villages. Resupply at times can be
challenging. Most of the little shops carry the same dry goods. Pasta,
grains, cookies, chips, canned goods, ice cream, etc. Nothing to heat up
and chow down when you arrive and a fairly boring resupply for hiking.
You'll figure out what you like and can get creative. Cheese and fresh
bread is also fairly common in small villages. The trails does go through
or get near a few bigger towns which was enjoyable. Buses pretty much cover
everywhere and are really cheap although sometimes the ride on a dirt road
can take a while. Also, the rural bus schedules aren't available online so
you are usually at the mercy of arriving and hoping there is another bus
running later that day.


Bethany (Fidget) kept a brief but very nice and informative set of town
notes that covers almost all the GPT towns. At some point I believe she
plans on making it publicly available. These town notes were incredibly
helpful just to know if there was a decent shop in town and maybe a place
to stay.


*LODGING*


In the small villages most lodging is called Hospedaje's or Cabanas. Think
small, dingy, thin walls and cheap. It's hit or miss. Some were quite
pleasant and others downright terrible. Usually 10k CP per person ($ 15).
Sometimes a bit more and typically more in the bigger towns. Wifi has
become fairly common albeit it works sporadically. Some towns have it free
in the Plaza de Armas (a nice village square) or at your lodging, but not
always. Finding free wifi otherwise can be tricky. You won't find as many
opportunities to do laundry like in the US. Lodging is more expensive in
Patagonia.


*SPANISH*

The wiki page pretty much insists that you need to speak Spanish to hike
the GPT. Not true. Your life will be easier and your cultural experience
much more enjoyable in you do speak Spanish, but it's not mandatory.
Neither Skittles nor I took Spanish in school, we knew very, very little
when we arrived and we got by fine. There were a few confusing times or
misunderstandings. Figuring out buses can be a challenge, but overall it
wasn't too big a deal. When on trail it doesn't matter much at all. There
were many times though we wished we could have spoken to the locals we met
in the middle of nowhere. I think that would have been a great addition to
our hike. We had one difficult situation with the Chilean Carbinaeros
(police) where they wouldn't let us continue on and because of our Spanish
it took us forever to figure out they thought we were unprepared. I had to
whip out my GPS, maps and finally emergency beacon which convinced them we
were prepared to hike into the "frontiera". Once in Patagonia we found a
lot more people speaking English and if you are in a bind you can always
find a tourist who speaks English and Spanish to help out.


*MONEY/ATM*


The best thing to do is to bring a couple ATM cards and a couple credit
cards. That way if one doesn't work you have a backup. Capitalone credit
cards don't have the 3% foreign transaction fees most cards do. I also have
a lame State Farm online bank account which doesn't charge that 3% fee and
also reimburses up to $ 10 a month in ATM fees. The ATM fees in Chile were
like $ 8 and in Argentina like $ 6, really high and frequently you could
only get like $ 150 out at a time in Argentina. Many, many places only take
cash, especially in small villages and in Patagonia.


*FUEL/STOVE*


Usually I use an alcohol stove but it can be hard to find denatured or the
equivalent down here. It's available but you never know where and when you
might find it. The little hardware stores in villages tend to carry it if
anyone does. Fidget/Neon were carrying a liter at a time since they never
knew when they might find it again. I decided to bring a Pocket Rocket and
it ended up being a good decision. I only cook a basic dinner so an 8 ounce
canister would last me like a month. You can find replacement canisters in
the big hardware stores in bigger towns and in all the tourist towns in
Patagonia. The only issue we once had was we could only find 16 oz
canisters which was a bit much to carry so we waited and found canisters in
the next big town.


*WEATHER*


One of the funniest ironies of the trip was that for the first 3 sections
we hiked through unrelenting sun and heat and there wasn't a tree for miles
at most times. We would cower up bushes and large rocks for shade.
Remember, most of the trail isn't actually anywhere near Patagonia. It was
an unusually hot summer but you can assume much of the GPT is actually
quite temperate or even hot at times. Then you get to Patagonia and it's
the exact opposite. It can be very cold, very windy and very rainy. The
lows never got too low (maybe freezing) but at times the highs can be
pretty low and when coupled with rain and especially wind it can be quite
cold. Having a good raincoat and rain pants was worth it.


As for seasons, the wiki has better detail on this but keep in mind that
the shoulder months could be chilly/rough. It was quite rough enough in
March in Patagonia that I wonder what April would be like.


*DIFFICULTY*


After receiving what I'm assuming was a lot of emails from inexperienced
hikers, Jan harped to us a lot that the GPT is much harder than the Triple
Crown trails in America. I would agree with him although we didn't have any
real problems. Most of the "trail" is really actually very rough, steep and
rugged horse trail. There is some cross country hiking here and there.
Occasionally there is a dead end or confusing spot. On the flip side, there
is a lot of dirt road walking to offset that difficulty. Some of the other
less experienced hikers struggled and turned back in certain sections. With
the exception of being blocked by a lake that had expanded in a rain storm
in Section 29, we never really had a problem. Sure, it was tougher than the
PCT or CDT, but no tougher than the type of trail I've walked on other hard
trails like the Hayduke, GET, etc. But if you haven't done trails like this
then you'll probably find some of the GPT quite tough.


*NAVIGATION*


Not really a huge issue to me. You have a ground truthed GPS file for
sections 1-18 and Jan recently hiked Sections 26-33 so only Sections 19-25
haven't been ground truthed. With an accurate GPS files these days it's
pretty hard to get lost if you know what you are doing. There are
definitely plenty of tricky spots but if you are paying attention and have
a GPS you should be fine.


*WATER TREATMENT*


Much of the trail goes through cow, horse and sheep grazing land. We didn't
treat any of our water and never got sick. I guess we are both immune to
Chilean giardia too! The whole "don't drink the water" thing is more for
countries like Peru, Bolivia, etc. Tap water in every town we went to was
fine and the hiking water was no different than the US so do whatever you
normally do to treat your water.


*ELECTRICITY*


You'll need an adapter (not a converter). Chile uses the 2 round prong one
like Europe and Argentina uses 2 flat blades that are offset. There are
plenty of small resupply points to charge your devices. I carried one 10k
amp Anker battery.


*OVERVIEW MAP*


One of the best things we had was a big overview map of the country. Like
one of those 1:1 million scale maps. I labeled the start and end of each
section and it really helped get a picture of where I was hiking and the
resupply towns. It also helped when we wanted to skip around.


*DIRECTION OF TRAVEL/PRIVATE PROPERTY*


Jan suggests going Sobo due to several private property issues where you
can enter the property from the north and then if you get caught they will
escort you out south, the way you want to go. These are usually
hydroelectric plants or large estancias and there are only a few. This
doesn't seem to me to be a tenable situation if a lot of people hike the
GPT. We got escorted out of a hydroelectric plant and it wasn't an issue
but I could see it becoming an issue if they see 20 hikers next year.
You also sometimes cross other private property of locals. It can be rather
tough to tell if it's private or if a locked gate really means it's private
or not. Generally speaking locals are lax about this and we had no
problems, but again if more and more hikers come I wonder if this will
become an issue at certain places.


Other than these private property issues I would totally want to hike this
trail Nobo. Intuitively it makes a lot more sense. Walking south into the
Patagonian Fall/Winter seems crazy versus a much preferred walking North
into the Middle Chile Fall/Winter. The main private property issue is
section 1. I'd rather hike Nobo and try to get permission to enter Nobo or
flip and do that section south.


*GEAR TO BRING/MAIL SYSTEM*


The number one thing you should bring with you are extra shoes, especially
if you care what type you wear. Finding good, not crazy expensive shoes
down here isn't easy. If you wear a size 11 or 12 or larger it can almost
be impossible. Many of the tourist towns have good shoes but they seemed
expensive and who knows what you might find. Better off bringing a couple
pairs and mailing them ahead.


In Chile there is a US style General Delivery system called Lista de
Correspondence. It seemed like only the bigger towns had post offices and
we sent a bounce box to 2 different cities with no problem. Each box was
about 10k or $ 15. They are required to look in your box so if you try to
mail say batteries or fuel then you will get caught most likely although I
did hide batteries in my shoes no problem.


I can't think of anything else you would need to bring that you absolutely
couldn't get down here. Usually I can't find Crystal Light type drink mixes
in other countries but they have these packets called SPRIM that you can
find everywhere and work well. It takes a little more than a Crystal light
packet but much less than like a Kool aid packet. Skittles drank a ton of
them and liked them.


*OTHER HIKERS*


Only 2 groups have successfully hiked the first half of the GPT (Sections
1-18).

First off would be Fidget/Neon who are walking the entire length of South
America. They officially hopped on the GPT around Section 15 and hiked to
Santiago as well as much of Jan's route for the southern sections in
Patagonia is based on what they hiked. So even though they may not have
walked every step of Jan's GPT, they have essentially walked it all and
then some. Their blogs are here:


https://her-odyssey.org
http://laurensgrandadventure.blogspot.com


A couple who lives in the Yukon blazed through Sections 1-18 in about 2
months and have summary blog entires here:


https://www.nothingtwowrite.com


2 guys who called themselves "Greater Patagonia" hiked and packrafted some,
did other non-GPT trips and have a blog and Facebook that doesn't have much
info.


http://www.greaterpatagonia.com


2 guys called Rumples Stilskin (on Facebook) hiked about 350 miles,
packrafted about 150 miles and did other non-GPT trips.


A group of 4 called Unbounded were also trying to make a documentary along
the way. They seemed a bit in over their heads with 50 pound backpacks and
having to turn around in several different sections. They covered maybe 1/2
- 2/3 of the first 18 sections in about 4 months.


http://www.unboundedthefilm.com


Morris, the German we met hiked a lot of Sections 1-33. His trail name,
"Cherry picker" cause he likes to bounce around to the best sections worked
well on the GPT. He bounced around a bit and hitched much of the road
walking but probably hiked at least half the trail, maybe more like 2/3.


There was also another single German guy we heard of and don't know
anything about.


That's everyone I know who was on the GPT this year, there is probably
someone I missed. If I had to be judgmental (and I always am!) I'd say that
no one truly loved the GPT. People were bouncing around all over the place
and several of the groups focused almost exclusively on the southern half
(Greater Patagonia, Rumples Stilskin). A telltale sign to me that hiking
the GPT really isn't for most people. I think everyone enjoyed their trip
to South America and made it what they wanted it to be, but as you can see
almost no one really hiked a huge part of the GPT by the end of their trip.
This is very similar to what happens on the Te Araroa in NZ.


*COST*


It's not as cheap as you think on the GPT. Chile/Argentina along the Andes
isn't really a third world country. It's more like 2nd world leaning
towards 1st world much of the time. In the remote villages on the trail
things were cheaper than the US, but not by a ton always. In Patagonia
prices essentially equalled those in the US. You could usually find a
double room for $ 50-$ 60, but you also didn't get very much for that in
Patagonia. Lodging in small villages was closer to $ 15-20 a person but you
also didn't get much for that either. Food is hit or miss. Street food was
cheap but cafe and restaurant food didn't seem much cheaper than in
America. One of my favorite sayings in Patagonia was, "first world prices,
third world service".


*PACKRAFTING*


Jan put a lot of effort to incorporate significant packrafting options for
the GPT. This seems really cool but I'd recommend thinking hard about
packrafting if you really plan to thru hike the GPT. Splitting weight with
a partner I believe Jan mentions that it added about 12+ pounds to his base
weight (namely packraft, paddles, life jacket, dry suit, dry bags). To me
the biggest issue with Sections 1-18 is that only about 10% of the route
can be packrafted. That's not very much when adding 6+ pounds to your base
weight that you'll be humping up steep horse trail. You could mail your
gear ahead using the bus cargo services but your gear is expensive and this
seems a bit risky to me. Jan lost a packraft this way.


The second half of the GPT seems to have a lot more packrafting
opportunities although I don't know the exact percentage. This looks like
it could be a lot of fun and maybe you can pick a specific large section of
miles that you can mostly packraft. I think that could be epic at times.
Keep in mind though that packrafting in Patagonia typically isn't lounging
in your boat soaking up the sun. If it's windy, cold or rainy you'll wish
you were walking.


Keep in mind that no one has blazed significant miles with a packraft on
the GPT so you would be the first. 3 groups this year used packrafts off
and on but really didn't cover many miles of rafting or hiking overall. Jan
has packrafted a lot but he hiked/scoped the trail in sections over years
(although he has done some solidly long hikes with the packraft but I
believe at a slower pace than you would probably need to go as part of a
thru hike). Not that it can't be done, just keep all this in mind.


*DANGERS*


Chile/Argentina around the Andes is very safe, it's not the South America
you might be worried about (although most of SA is pretty safe these days).
I never even remotely felt at danger. From Section 10 down to the very
bottom is tourist central and every tourist town will have an insane number
of international backpackers. From Santiago south on the GPT you hit little
villages which are definitely a lower standard than you might be used to
but safety wise I felt no issues at all.


*CONTACT INFO*


If you made it this far and have questions then you can email me at
briantanzman (at) gmail.com

Entry 53 of 53
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Journal Photo

Greater Patagonian Trail

The Greater Patagonian Trail is currently a 930 mile (1500 km) long trail route that leads you right through the heart of the legendary Patagonian Andes. It's a stunningly beautiful and diverse trail that crosses volcanic fields, idyllic Andean valleys, snow covered mountain ranges, lush green forests and deep blue lakes and rivers. Its creator, Jan Dudeck is extending the trail north to Santiago and south towards Tierra del Fuego for a route over 3,000 kilometers. Learn more: www.wikiexplora.com/index.php/Greater_Patagonian_Trail

 

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