El Infiernillo – translates as “little hell” and describes this hike

16 Jul

When I thought of the things I might do on this trip burning lama dung at 4,000 metres while in a mountain refuge taking care of a travel companion suffering from altitude sickness was not on the list.

Incredibly I managed to tick this off during the hike up El Infiernillo. Funny how some translations are just perfect. “Little hell” was exactly what this hike was like. And a little hell without even a map to know how long the pain might last.

We got the bus from Tafi to the start of the hike, a climb of around 1,300 metres.

There were warnings signs immediately that this hike was not going to work out well.

Even the bus driver thought it a ridiculous idea..

I mean it is always funny when the bus driver asks you, more than once, and with an incredulous expression, why you want to get off the bus at a particular place, here El Infiernillo and the start of the hike. “El Infiernillo, El Infiernillo” he said a few times. “Now why would you want to get off there, there is nothing there”. He then asked us to describe where we wanted to get off. We had visions, totally unrealistic of there being a shop or maybe even an office where we could collect a map of the route and get some pointers on the hike. This was utterly ridiculous. There was nada (nothing) except a closed ranch and a local family setting up their pottery stall. We got off anyhow, looked around and then decided to try to get some local knowledge about the hike.

So, Marco decided to ask the man of the family for some directions about the hike. Now maybe it is just me but I sometimes have the impression that Spanish must use the most words of all time to say, well, very little.

I say this because I quite often find that conversations that take several long minutes in Spanish and involve much nodding and shaking of the head then translate to a mere few sentences in English…seems strange to me…anyway Marco chatted for ages to the man….then translated it back as “we go this way and there is a small house you can stay in”.

Getting directions for the hike

Getting directions for the hike

With that we set off..

Our progress was slow.

Hiking El Infiernillo

Hiking El Infiernillo

We had been told there would be water on route. On the way up all we could find was frozen streams which we tried in vain to melt in our camping cups and which, when melted involved eating the grass which was frozen into it. We reached water almost at the top of the first hill which must have been at about 4000m. By this point Lieke was feeling quite unwell, I think caused by the altitude.

We had some lunch there and a rest and then headed on. About half an hour later we reached the “casanita” or”small house”.

Now I was feeling quite buoyant that we had somewhere to stay. There was even some straw on the floor to give some insulation. The place had a door of sorts and there was a place in the corner where it seemed that others had made a fire. Lieke and I quickly set about gathering twigs and whatever else we could find for a fire, including some lama dung. First attempts at burning some dried roots did not go too well as they filled the refuge with so much smoke you could not breathe. But we did manage to get a nice fire going with some wood we found around.

It was at this point that Marco started to feel rather unwell. One minute he was fine, the next he was gripping his head and saying he could not stand the pain. Lieke and I were quite worried as he would not respond to us. By this point we were at 4,000 metres, it was blowing a gale and we had to decide whether to try to get down the mountain before darkness (it was not far from dark) or whether to weather the storm in the refuge. We decided on the latter as by this point Marco was sound asleep.

We cooked some pasta on the fire, having run out of wood we had to use some lama dung to burn which, as it was so dry, worked quite well. Marco bolstered a bit and had some pasta. I then had the idea that we could attach the outer of the tent across the door of the refuge which had gaping holes and through which the wind was whistling. This was probably not the best of ideas. The whole night the tent shivered violently in the wind making it sound as if, at any point, the refuge might have lift off. Spent a very cold night in my sleeping bag at 4,000 metres listening to the incessant wind and wishing that it would be light.

The next morning we got up, had a quick breakfast and a team meeting at which we decided to abandon the idea of making it to Cerro Negro. We packed up quickly and headed down the mountain.

At the base the family were still selling pottery. Marco had another long conversation in Spanish with the woman of the family selling pottery.

This translated as “she said there was a lot of wind in this area and you call the wind in the Andes La Puna”.

It was one of those hikes that it was nice to get back from. And I suppose the moral is never do a hike where the start of it translates as “little hell”!!!!!

The Refuge

The Refuge

Lieke collecting stuff for the fire

Lieke collecting stuff for the fire


2 Responses to “El Infiernillo – translates as “little hell” and describes this hike”

  1. Ard-Jan July 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    Hey Angie, way to go with your website! I love it, it gives me great ideas for when I continue my trip! I’m still in Buenos Aires, working and making some money to continue travelling as well. Weren’t you supposed to be back in Scotland ages ago? Haha, caught the Travel bug eeh?;) Have a great trip and take care!

    • angiemain July 18, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

      Hi Ard-Jan! you inspired me with your’s when we were in ushuaia. actually love doing my blog…never done anything like it before but it is really fun. been reading your’s. liked the yerba mate one!!! how is ba going? I am in la paz. intend to take some spanish lessons here for a few weeks as need to get to a stage where I can chat to people as I love talking so much! where are you off to after ba? travel bug…one bug there is no cure for! chat again soon. take care angex

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