As most of you know, I have a perfect marriage – unblemished by conflict, harsh words, or tumultuous struggles for control.
…and the relaxing, 19-hour bus rides between them.
(And believe me, you haven’t tested your marriage until you’ve taken a 19-hour bus ride together.)
All was going smoothly, harmoniously, joyfully even. But one treacherous day of climbing in the Patagonian Andes interrupted our perfect idyll with a highly unpleasant marital spat.
The day began on a promising note. We negotiated the (short) bus ride from Bariloche to the trailhead at the base of the ski mountain, and frolicked amidst the wildflowers on the 10 kilometers straight up to Refugio Frey.
I was unwisely wearing new hiking boots, but once Larry ingeniously thought to put a wadded-up map under my heel, my Achilles tendon pain miraculously diminished. When we got to the top, the views were spectacular – with gothic spires of rock and insane rock-climbers making the perfect backdrop for our lunch.
On the way down, I managed to leave behind Larry’s favorite Coca-Cola hat and we forgot to refill our water bottles, but we weren’t expecting much difficulty. Until we (meaning “I”) made the fateful decision to take a different path back to base, a mere 4 kilometers from the trail’s end. In an unprecedented show of democracy, Larry had turned the decision about our route over to me, and I, in an unprecedented show of accommodation, chose the new route that I thought he wanted to take. And before you could say “spectacularly bad idea,” we were alone on a trail that led nowhere, out of water, me hobbling along in my now excruciating new boots, and with absolutely no sign of the base.
I won’t share with you our conversation as we plunged deeper into unknown territory (this is a family blog) but believe me when I tell you that there was a fair bit of cursing (moi) and glowering with towering blame (Larry) until we finally had to turn around, walk 5 repeat kilometers back to our turnoff, and then trudge, unspeaking and staggering with fatigue, another 6 km. to the base.
We must have looked rather frightening because when we finally bumped into other hikers (an Argentinian family that clearly was not out to ascend any peaks), they practiced all their English on us and ended up driving us the 20 kilometers back to our hotel.
The next day, just to prove my point (that’s the kind of wife I am), I visited the mountaineering club that gave us the map showing the “alternate” route down, and the woman guide said to me, “Oh no, you should never take that trail – it’s not going anywhere!”
(Then why the heck is on the map??)
…and I decided to test my mettle and hike alone up the challenging Refugio Lopez. It was a jaunt straight up….
…to a glorious overlook of the lake (and then straight down).
I made it to the top in half the expected time – then did the old football side-step all the way down the steep bits to spare my toes the excruciating jarring. I got the bus there and the bus back, despite not being able to speak a speck of Spanish, and felt terribly proud of myself. Larry’s kayak trip was not quite so successful (too much wind and ironically, they’d gone back to the same beach where we had taken the wrong turn off the path) but all in all, we’d both had a good day and decided over dinner and wine to stay married.