The Quest for the Crazy Herb – Another Weekend of Trekking.

Here comes the due account of my second trek with the Trekking.cl hiking group. As I explained earlier it’s a community of avid hikers and nature- lovers who are willing to take on anyone who shares their passion for the outdoors. After the first hike I was already waiting impatiently for next weekend and the journey to the valley of “Yerba Loca” or “Crazy Herb” as the direct translation would be. Obviously I was quite curious about the name, although I strongly disapprove of any psychosomatics of course. Unfortunately no one knew about the history of the name and we were unable to find any plants that to our knowledge could make you “crazy” and if we did we wouldn’t share it here because spreading that kind of information on a public forum would be highly irresponsible. However since we knew that the youth in Santiago isn’t very big on sports and more about smoking pot and chilling out we did come up with a devious strategy the government could abuse to provoke appreciation for mountaineering amongst the lazy MacDonald’s generation. The way up to the end of the valley was about 20km long and included 2km of ascent. If you planted a few pristine samples of Cannabis sativa up there in the final pass before the glacier I am pretty sure the lazy young hipsters would become a generation of enthusiastic mountaineers, granted they could actually make their way back down after enjoying the fruits of their hardship.


After last weekends successful ascend to the hills surrounding Santiago I was feeling good about taking on Yerba Loca. Starting our journey the weather was glorious and everyone seemed pumped up about reaching the glacier “La Paloma” of which we could see a part of in the distance. We started to make our way up the valley and although it wasn’t as steep to start with as last week the way was longer. During the first day we advanced quite slowly pausing every now and then to take in the views. In the end a hike like this, at least for me, isn’t about “performing” but rather “enjoying the ride”. As the sun started setting we decided to make camp after about 13km of walking.


As the night fell upon us people started cooking a little barbecue of whatever meat and sausages everyone happened to bring about. The escudo and pisco bottles started coming out of the backpacks and there was a general feeling of sharing and taking in the experience together. I must admit though that I was quite ready to crawl into my sleeping bag once I had my belly full and didn’t partake in the heavier drinking, a decision I didn’t have to regret the next morning when the alarm went off at 5:30 and the last part of ascent started.


The whole way the landscape had been slowly changing from a lush forest valley into a barren waste, coloured by the shades of cyan and rust from the iron and copper rich ore of the mountains. In a way it felt like a journey through time, a passage from a vibrant living landscape to a realm of dead stone devoid of sentiments for the mortal world below. This experience strongly reflected how I felt in the Atacama desert a few months back and it’s the kind of feeling that reminds me why I live 14 000 kilometres away from home and away from all things familiar.


I had had a little accident with my food last night, meaning I didn’t have any supplies for the second day. Arnold, one of my trekking companions, kindly let me dig into his remaining cookies, but nonetheless when we reached the highest point of our journey I started feeling my stomach grumble and I wasn’t the only one. When there’s no food the second best thing is to daydream about it so with my mates Mike and Steve we drew strength from the idea that once we reach Santiago after all this we’re going to hit an awesome hamburger joint and fill ourselves up with a huge and extremely unhealthy dinner. This idea really whipped more speed into us and it felt that after no time we reached the base of the National Park. Just before the base we were treated with a show of soaring condors and hunting Chilean eagles and afterwards I became curious about the condor, one of the biggest birds on the planet, with a wingspan of up to 3,2 meters. What stroke me as even more interesting though was the fact that it’s one of the oldest living birds on the planet with specimens living over 70 years in captivity and scientist speculating that it could theoretically reach 100 years, pretty similar to the lifespan of a human.


So after 40km of walking and 2km of ascent and descent we were finally in a car on our way to Santiago. All of us were hungry like stray dogs and our mouths were salivating over the prospect of some real Yankee style hamburgers and cold beers. When we got to the hamburger joint and took the first sip of a cold lager even the girlfriend of Mike, who came by to say hello, understood that this was not a time of conversation, but of quiet devotion for the miracle of tasty saturated fats refuelling our spirits and our souls.


Scooping up the last French fries I already had my mind firmly on the next adventure. My dream of Patagonia and reaching the “end of the world” is drawing closer and I feel physically and mentally perfect for facing whatever awaits me there. Photographically I’m not 100% satisfied with what I came back with from this particular trek, but that is partly due to the fact that hiking in a group you are somewhat depending on the patience of the others as well. When it comes to shooting amidst a heavy hike like this, many times it’s for the photographer to go just a little bit further. When everyone else put their bags down and took a sip of water I was looking for a vantage point, a composition. When the others woke up at 6am I had my alarm set for 5:30 to be able to take a few long exposures before we took off. It’s all good and well on a 2- day hike, but we’ll see how it feels like on the 5th or the 6th day of a gruelling adventure in Antarctic conditions. I promise I will try though!


Meanwhile everyone here’s the link for www.trekking.cl again, if you are situated here in Santiago you owe yourself to check it out. My friends in Finland could start thinking if this kind of thing would be possible there as well. Especially Rovaniemi is situated perfectly considering outdoors activities!





  • Kirsti Honkavaara says:

    Posted: December 19, 2012

    This trekking must have been a fantastic and unforgettable experience! Remember to thank your Dad for having trained you since your childhood in this kind of exercice in Finnish Lapland, It's useful now...! Reply


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    Posted: December 19, 2012


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