Our first deadline had been met – the ferry across the fjord – but another loomed large: another ferry departing in two days´time.
This one was south across a lake that was difficult to get round without crossing borders and several hundred miles´detour. It also only ran twice a week which meant either marching close to 100km in our first two days, or a four day delay.
We shouldered our heavy packs and took option one.
The Carretera Austral is the southern highway of Chile. It is a long dirt track with infrequenct traffic whose final stretch to the small outpost of Villa O´Higgins is only reachable by ferry. We saw a couple of cyclists, a handful of cars timed for each ferries arrival and almost no one else during our hike.
Our track rose from the fjords and into the mountains where huge condors emerged from the trees to ward us off their nests. Vast lakes flanked us on both sides and wild glaciers ran off peaks to within spitting distance. It was beautiful and we had it to ourselves.
It was also a purgatory that we had to ourselves. Long days pounding our feet over and over into rocks below with the hot sun above pounding into our heads was tiring. Nausea crept in within minutes of every rest stop. The soles of our feet ached but most of the pain was dull, non-specific and body wide.
We weren´t sure we could make it in time for the ferry. Marches got shorter, rests got longer. We powered onwards past the 12-hour mark on our second day, crossing the final river, parched through not drinking enough, hungry through not eating enough, and weary from walking too much.
A jeep pulled over in the darkness at 10.30pm.
“Do you guys want a lift?”
We were a few hundred yards from the village.
We collapsed in the back. If this was cheating then it felt remarkably like success.