When The Tax Went Sour

Today we went for a walk up to Lake Esmeralda with a couple of other English girls staying at the hostel, Adele and Jenny.

We were dropped off at a small winter cabin where dog sledding is usually run in the winter and so were greated by the eager howls of a few dozen huskies. We went into the cabin and had to pay a few pesos for the entrance fee into the valley and were given a detailed mountain map showing our route up to the lake.

Walking Map

The lady that ran the cabin also gave us a series of verbal instructions to accompany the map, but as she spoke it all in Spanish, we only understood that ‘turba’ meant we’d get wet and muddy to some extent (i.e. it was boggy) and that we should start from outside where it said ‘Start here’. We presumed there was nothing more important than ‘follow the black dotted line’…how hard could it be?

We started by walking through a flat wooded area which then opened into the wide valley floor with stunning views of the mountains and a carpet of pretty flowers. Ah, it was good to be back in Patagonia!

Vale de Lobos

We carried on walking andd crossed the bridge, gradually ascending the valley through more woods until we found out what ‘Turba’ meant.

The path split and meandered across the river flood plain with no obvious dry path across. So began the hop, skip, jump, splash routine as we tried to navigate our way without getting wet.

Daryl cursed Evie for telling him he didnt need to bring his gaiters for the hike and Evie cursed Daryl for having longer legs. Suffice to say we got a little muddy.

Walking along, it was warm, sunny and pleasant… until the winds blew at which point we were reminded of where we were…although it was still warmer than the UK by the sounds of it!

After a couple of hours, we reached a rock outcrop and once we’d passed over it, we were greeted with a gorgeous view of the lake, guarded by the mountains in a horseshoe shape. Funnily enough, the lake had an emerald green colour to it! Well worth a bit of boggy mud and winds!

Because it was still quite early, we almost had the lake to ourselves, save for a group of Argentinians that had camped there the night before – that must have been special, if not a bit cold!

We stayed for about an hour, taking in the scenery, appreciating the mountain silence and watching some tiny birds (thats as descriptive as we get unfortunately!) flying though the bushes and wandering around us. Very simple but enjoyable.

Lake Esmeralda

The two girls we had walked with actually walked around the lake…turns out it looks green from the other side too!

We headed back and bumped into some friends of ours from the hostel (Agnes, Virginia and Rodrigo) who had also decided to do the walk too. They were in trainers and spotless when we saw them and were a bit worried when they saw the muddy state of our boots. We gave them some helpful advice – dont step in the turba and stay to the left of the black line on the map. It must have worked because they looked a hell of a lot cleaner than us when we saw them later.

That night, the now traditional routine of someone buying a bottle of vino with several glasses kicked off proceedings once again…

This time though, we had some Chilean guys staying at the hostel who Rodrigo had ‘taxed’ the night before and so in return, they wanted to introduce a new Chilean tax: Pisco [Sour] Tax! Although, it was still Rodrigo that collected the payments.

This was another night of music with random bad renditions of various songs, remixed to suit the bits we could all remember, interspersed with samba dancing and a Trinidadian dance that involved the girls shaking their thang, so Daryl didnt really pay attention to what it was called…

We’ve already mentioned the Frenchman that cycled from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia; this night there were a Brazillian couple that had just motorcyled down from Brazil and even better, he played the harmonica. Rodrigo loved him and they jammed together easily.

As the night wore on, and with the entire hostel congregated in the lounge, the atmosphere was alive and the taxes flowing.

At some point, Evie needed to go to the loo and was ‘taxed’ very heavily upon her return…everyone else had had a sip of Pisco, yet Evie was given a double shot to finish off the bottle! If we didnt know better, we’d have thought Rodrigo and Allan (the ‘taxing’ founders) were trying to get her drunk!

A short while later, the tax served its purpose and before you could say ‘No Woman, No Cry’, Evie and Allan were singing to Bob Marley in their own unique style, clutching an MP3 player to their ears, desperately trying to remember the words. It was pointed out that they might hear better if they had it the right way round and werent listening to the back cover rather than the speaker. Oh dear.

Somehow, we dont think the nomination for the Mercury Music Prize will be in the post any time soon.

Towards the end of the night, the obligatory backpacker group photo was organised with military precision and the synchronising of multiple camera 10 second timers after everyone had lined up their shot from the other side of the room… except poor little Evie who was far too ‘taxed’, kept pressing the button, running back to her seat and posing, wondering why everyone else was still stood up. No mater how hard we tried, she just couldnt grasp that just because she gave herself 10 seconds, that was useless unless she told other people to sit down too! She did this three times, bless.

She was still sober though…apparently. Daryl got the decent picture from Agnes the next day.

Pay the Tax! Group photo

Good times, great new friends.

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