The Risk-Taker

Risk-taker: A fool who has an incredible ability to ignore the present danger that they are putting themselves into.

Ya, ya, ya. We have a screw loose. So what.

Although I’m sure plenty of risk-takers have met a fiery demise (doing something awesome, of course), there are still a lot of us who’ve managed to stay alive and keep this invigorating existence going.

But today one hero, in particular, deserves some recognition. The man will have to remain unnamed because sadly, I was running behind myself and I didn’t have time for frivolous small talk.

It was on a hike in Torres del Paine, Chile. I was doing the W Trek in an intense express tour of 3 nights. I was relegated to the express tour as I am incapable of planning. When I called 2 weeks before my trip, the concierge politely informed me that people had made their reservations last April, and I would be lucky to find a day trip with my last-minute shenanigans.

However, she, despite her curt first impression, was able to finagle me the short 3-night tour through her connections and knowledge of the completely confusing and useless campground reservation website. Despite charging astronomical prices to get camping reservations, which they tout as “necessary,” they apparently forgot to allocate some of the cash stockpiles their hoarding toward hiring someone who actually knows how to make a website… If any of you read this, please use all of the $700 you charged me for 3 nights of camping to improve it, thank you 🙂

Anyways, from my research 2 weeks out, I gathered I needed reservations. As I only live out of 2 tiny backpacks, I also would either have to rent or buy gear for the trip… I really only had 3 ways to slice this Torres-del-Paine-in-the-last-minute-trip and they were all expensive… So I took the Glamping route, and I have to say it was amazing! No lugging gear, no setting up tents, hot breakfast and dinner each day — they also sent me packing with a sack lunch. Ok… maybe it was worth $700, I will never carry gear again!

So, accepting my fate and expensive camping trip as the only way to get reservations, I set out with my light pack of clothes and skipped up and down the trails until my knees gave out… which was halfway through the first day. Ya, the Torres hike is tough, straight up. Buy the nerd poles, save your knees!

On my way to day 2’s campsite, I decided to stop by my hiking buddies’ refugio for a happy hour. They also signed up last minute and had to take the glamp route, so we decided to take advantages of the facilities (and beer) they were offering.

After a most enjoyable happy hour, I realized it had actually been more like 2 hours, the sun was getting low, and I still had an hour and a half hike to get to my campsite and hot dinner! I took off with tremendous vigor in search of my very expensive camping meal. In my mad dash, I came across the most curious man, huffing and puffing his way up a ridiculously steep section of the hike… certainly the toughest hill of that day.

Out of breath, this pudgy fellow tried to sneak out a few words in between his large gasps for air. He informed me that he was trying to get to the Italiano campsite, which I knew was probably at least a couple of hours from where he was at, especially after seeing how he was handling this hill… then on top of that, he told me he didn’t have any reservations. The other (not) funny thing was that he wasn’t carrying any gear. To my knowledge, Italiano is a bring your own gear kind of place, no fancy lodges or cafeterias there.

Rather shocked and feeling like a sucker, I told him, in a jealous tone, that I respected him for showing up without reservations… at the same time, I cautioned him that he may be sorely disappointed with what he found in Italiano. I also started grilling him about how he had gotten so far with so little gear and without reservations, we were in the middle of the W!!! But, sadly, his English wasn’t great, and he wasn’t a Spanish speaker, so I think I confused him so he just looked at me, smiled and nodded his pudgy, sweaty head and laughed.

That, my friends, is a risk-taker! A 60-year-old, overweight, underprepared and strangely happy man, who didn’t know the language of the country, or the international travel language (English), LITERALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, gasping for air on a rock on the side of an impossibly steep hill.

I was dumb-founded, flabbergasted… and late for dinner. I had so many questions… but communication was tough and I had to get going, I tried to advise him to try and stay at the next campsite where I was staying (Francés), as they would actually have more options than Italiano, adding that this would also help him arrive before nightfall… I don’t know if he understood… but I know I will never forget this epic risk-taker. I hope you made it you wild man!

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