Argentina to Chile via the Andes….

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I landed back in Heathrow yesterday after one of the most mind-blowing and challenging experiences of my life.  I would like to thank you all for donating money for the Princes Trust and I am pleased to say that I have raised well over £3,000 for this exceptionally worthwhile cause.

So – it is hard to begin to describe what we have just done but I will try and give you an idea of the sheer beauty and extremities we have been to – it what seems like weeks, yet was only days!

The journey and challenge really began as we left the UK, with three flights and over 24hrs of travelling before we reached Mendoza in Argentina and met with our Goucho’s, Matias and Roderigo. 

From there we left and headed deep into the Andean mountains to be met with the rest of the team, and our horses.  My horse was a lively black horse, with no name – the group kindly named him Soltero which means single!  This name had come from the immigration forms, all the other participants signed married or other – I signed Soltero.  However, this is fine, as Soltero proved to be a fabulous horse, and my status was no problem, aside from the odd amusing joke…….last year’s single girl now lives with one of the Goucho’s in Argentina!

The trip took 6 days – and we rode on average for about 10hrs a day, climbing up to near 5,000m.  I was constantly amazed by the sure footed horses, they never stumbled or lost their balance, even when the path looked like only a small animal could progress upwards.  Occasionally they would pause, as the altitude would take their breath away also.  Occasionally, we would have to stop for breath, and some of us more than this – it is a blessing that horses cannot be sick or this could have been interested.  However, after day two of climbing – all of us had adapted to the altitude and the sickness had passed, even if it had been treated by the medic, Liz who travelled with us.

The scenery was quite literally breathtaking at times,  we spent four days having checked out of Argentina, before we checked into Chile, so we were literally in No Man’s Land!  It really was mind-blowing and I do not think anyone was prepared for the sheer beauty and vastness of the mountains, volcanoes and wide open space.   We climbed up huge cliffs, through fast flowing rivers, snow pinnacles, sulphur springs and grassy plains in the most extreme conditions – even with factor 50 sunblock most of us look like we have spent at least a month in the Artic, not 6 days in the mountains.

As well as the sheer beauty and peace of the mountains, we met some wonderful, respectful Argentine people, who looked after the group in such an understated and fantastic way.  We were fed by a five star chef, who wanted a season out of the kitchen and prepared the most delicious evening meals, in the middle of nowhere – how he achieved this I will never know! We ate freshly made pizza’s, beans, pulses and on the last night our lamb that had travelled with us – that apparently was a gift for the Chile Goucho’s – fortunately we did not realise until after it was no longer with us!  If anyone requires a fabulous chef – I would highly recommend Carlos…..

We camped in tents when the ground would allow us, and lay under the stars on boulder fields when it would not – the darkness and enormity of the sky is put into perspective in that environment.  I have never seen so many stars, and shooting stars in all my life! 

It is rare, also to have the time to really talk with people as we are so controlled by the media etc.  In the Andes, we had nothing but ourselves, no phones or anything.  This allowed us all to really talk to each other, even if there was a language barrier, we began to understand each other.  Although I cannot roll my r’s, which means that I pronounce at least fifty percent of the Spanish language wrong, much to their entertainment!

So all I can say is that I feel very fortunate to have been given such an amazing opportunity.  I have gained so much from this trip and hope to help inspire and encourage more people to live their life to the full!  I have made some life long friends within the group.  Everyone gained something, or overcame a fear such as vertigo, camping, extreme weather etc.  It is amazing what the human body can endure if it has to – we survived on about 4hrs sleep per night, in extreme temperatures but we have all returned alive, inspired and very much alive!

I will write more when I receive the photos from the professional photographer – Alexandra who came with us.  More photos will be posted on the gallery over the next few days.  If you would like to donate towards the Princes Trust or have media enquiries please do contact me on 07720 845849.

I will keep you all posted about the next Challenge and I am more than open to suggestions!  Currently I am on target for the £30k in my 30th year – with the Strictly Energised Charity Ball coming next month, along with the 2hr Charity Spin!

For more information about the trip visit www.cordondelplata.com and for the Princes Trust visit www.princestrust.org.uk

Thank you once again for all your support with the fundraising and I look forward to sharing more stories about the trek with you all individually.