Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Say hello to "Ramstein"


Well, we just finished the Dientes De Navarino Circuit (DDNC) and were excited to connect this hike with a hike to Lago Windhond. We felt good, our legs were strong and we just needed to resupply in Puerto Williams since we already got some basic information about the Lago Windhond Circuit (LWC) before we started the DDNC. After a short shopping trip and rental of a fishing pole we stopped by our hostel, (Hostal Lajuwa in Villa Ukika) to grab some more items.

The one trail option to LW started right at our hostel and our very friendly host Christian confirmed the way. Of we went, up the valley, proud to only stopped in town for ma couple hours so this should feel like a longer, connected trip. After 2 hours of hiking "in the right direction" we started to wonder where the actual trail will start. It started to get dark and we were at a point to choose between a river crossing (old, collapsed bridge) or to go on, further into the woods. The map we had from the DDNC only showed part of the LWC, the start, but not how to get to the trail head :-(. Anyway, we hiked for another 30 minutes, passing several side trails and exploring some of them but non of them were leading to the trail head. At one point we knew that we went to far into the next valley so we decided to turn around and to give the river crossing a try. It´s not to much fun to get your feet wet at the end of a long day when you are tired and ready to camp. However, we saw this as our last option for the day. We crossed the river and after 3 minutes came across a big opening where we encountered several cows. So far, when we met cows, they just ran off but this time a big black bull decided to slowly walk towards us and to let us know that he is not moving by making his deep, loud "muhhh"s. OK, now it was time to leave and to turn around.  From this side of the river we spotted an OK camp spot so we decided to camp there for the night and to go to town again the next day to get precise trail head information.

The next morning we retraced our steps to town in less then an hour and we went to the same outfitter where I rented the fishing gear. Well, it looked like we were in the right place, we just didn´t find the trail head or see it...So after a short stop at the store for a second breakfast we hit the road out of town again, this time also with the map showing the entire LWC. Walking out of town we noticed a dog next to us, following us and being on our side at every turn. At one point I said to Karen " What if he is our guard dog who will come with us to LW to protect us from the wild dogs that are at the lake? (Hikers, who did the trail, apparently sometimes have problems with or at least encountered wild dogs at the lake). He certainly looked like a tough guy with one of hi K9 already missing and his jaw being out of alignment...

Well, we were still kind of close to town so he must or will turn around eventually, right?!? Anyway, back at our river crossing and close to our campsite there should be a sign that marks the trail head so we were hopeful but also a little bit sceptical at the same time. The 3 of us reached the point where Karen and I crossed the river and after 2 min on our original trail we saw an old, rusty looking 1m x 1m "something". I noticed that "thing" yesterday too but didn´t check it out closer. Now we had a closer look and yes, it was our trail head sign!!! So yes, we already were here yesterday, camped 3 minutes away but went back to town to get more info on how to get here...lesson learned :-).

We took the path, crossed the right river arm this time and we were on our way. We being, Karen, the dog and I. Well, now we were in the middle of the woods and it was more and more unlikely that the dog would just return. What to do? We don not have any extra food for this strong looking, short haired, blue eyed, 60 pound male dog! Well, it´s his choice - we are out here for at least 4 days.

As we continued on this beautiful, remote hike to this big lake on Isla Navarino Karen and I started talking about more and more about the dog, AND, he needed a name too! I suggested  Pelé, like the famous soccer player but Karen didn´t really like this name. My next suggestion was Ramstein, Karen liked it, and that was his name from now on. Ramstein, our hiking buddy and protection-guide dog.

Ramstein resting
He stayed very close to either Karen or me all the time, rested and fell a sleep when we stopped, and made himself a good, cozy bed for the night when Karen and I set up our tent and he was right there in the morning. We arrived at the lake refugio on day 2 of our hike and Ramstein was still in good spirit, besides the the cold, rainy weather. At the refugio we met Manuela, Gabriel, Phillippe from Chile, which we met before we went to hike the DDNC at our hostel, their friend Andreas and John from France. They were at the refugio for several days now but only John managed to catch several fish so far. The rustic refugio had a wood stove but no more door and was a pleasant change to the wet and rainy environment we were in for the last day. We were able to fit our tent inside the structure to utilize the extra weather protection. Ramstein, Karen and I agreed, had to stay and sleep outside. However, that evening the rain turned into hail and Ramstein, who listened very well came sprinting into the refugio to find his own corner to rest. At this point he only had some left-over polenta and some fish skin from John´s fish in his stomach but he still behaved very well and never bagged for anyones food. However, we could tell he was hungry and the plan was to catch a fish for him. One for us and one for Ramstein.

Refugio Windhond
Well, the fishing didn´t work out, for non of us and we all left the refugio that day. The wind picked up in the afternoon again and in the evening, at our campsite at Lagune Salto it was raining hard too. Ramstein found a nice protected spot under some bushes again but couldn´t resist bagging for our mushed potatoes that night. In the morning he got half a package of crackers (that we didn´t like) and we were starting to make plans to buy him a big piece of meat or some sausages, to reward his companionship and trail finding abilities, once we are back in town. Getting closer to town, Ramstein found a quarter of a cow-leg and carried it proud in his mouth but for some reason he didn´t bring it all the way to town.

Hiking with Ramstein
We reached the outskirts of Puerto Williams and he was still with us but closer to the town center he was gone... :-( ... bummer, we thought! We ran some errands in town and got a snack at the supermarket. After finishing the snack we saw him again, walking down the street, and we called him over because it was reward time. I got a big package of sausages in the store and we feed them one by one to Ramstein - he was very happy to get some "real food" (and very hungry, snapping after and catching the sausages while still in the air). Now we were one team again and he followed us all the way top the hostel. Ramstein was even so close to us that he decided to sleep right in front of the hostal´s entry door (for at least 4 hours) while we got clean and did laundry inside. What a companion! Sometimes that evening he must have left but we still saw him the next day in town and if he saw us, he came over and followed us for a while. We told our Ramstein story to our host and several other people we met before and that night we found out that Ramstein was already well missed in town, that his real name was Austral, his owner is a 3 year old boy and that he is know for fighting cars that drive down the road (that´s how he lost his K9 and explains his out-of place jaw).

Well, Austral, you were a good, loyal hiking companion! The lesson learned for us is that we better get ALL the information we need, even if it is only the exact starting point location, BEFORE leaving town but that little mishaps like this might lead to a different hiking experience and might even bring you a special hiking buddy....

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