T R I P S
I have been traveling all my life, and there is where I find that satisfaction that keeps me happy. Here I share my experience of some of the trips part of the IWG and the ones I have been doing after the program with tips that maybe can be useful for you to know.
Hiking in Russia - 10 days
This was the first trip part of the International Wilderness Guide program, I still remember how exciting I was about this one, Hiking is my thing, so I was counting the days to go there, but my luck wasn’t that good when we got there, the terrain was full of bogs and in the second day, I got stuck in one, trying to get my foot out of it, I made a wrong move and I twisted my knee; I didn’t take it seriously in the beginning and I continued walking, of course, it was hurting, but I thought that just it will be for a while, unfortunately, it wasn’t. We stopped for lunch, I sat down and all was fine, but when I stood up, I couldn’t walk, the pain was terrible, I didn’t understand at that moment what was happening with my knee, because I never got injured that badly before that, so it was a confusing feeling, one of my friends there checked my knee, and it was completely swollen, it was so big that I got scared, I really thought that it could get better, but it was the opposite, I continued for few days because I didn’t want that we end all trip for me, but my knee was getting worse and worse, so the teachers couldn’t let me continue doing the hike, because it was dangerous. The first idea it was come back to Finland, because I needed to see the doctor and I couldn’t walk anymore, but I didn’t want to do that, because I was thinking all the time that it was unfair for the whole group; even though they were really supportive, they were saying to me that they don’t care about going back, that the most important thing is my health and all the things that are supposed to help to make you feel better, but in my mind, it wasn’t possible to accept the idea of going back, however, we needed a plan because obviously continue hiking was impossible for me, so we try to find a solution in the middle, where we don’t need to end the trip and at the same time I could rest my knee. We agreed that I will stay by myself in a spot in the forest nearby where they will get at the end of the trip, and that was a better solution for all of us. I remember how terrible I felt, mixed feelings all the time because the pain was so powerful that I can’t describe with words, but a part of me just wanted to continue and the other side of me just wanted to go home. I remember my teacher asked me so many times if I was sure that I can stay by myself there, without any communication, I said: yes, I can do it! and inside of me, I wasn’t sure at all, because that was the first experience for me to stay in the forest alone, the real forest, thousands of hectares of wilderness, where there are no people around, just nature, wild animals, and yourself.
I remember I was so angry with myself, I couldn’t understand what was happening, in my mind, it was all the time: Why? Why me? Why now? At that moment, nothing was making sense to me, I have long experience hiking, so that’s why I was so upset with myself, I was going back to that moment when I got stuck in that bog, thinking why I tried to get out my foot in the way I did, that maybe it should be in another way and nothing of this it would happen, but in reality, who cares! Everything was done in the way it was, and nothing else to do, but it took me a while to accept it. I think I experienced all the feelings, I cried a lot in the beginning, but then it was getting better and better, I started to enjoy simple things, like in the morning when everything it was cover with ice, and then the sun comes and starts melting it, plus you get some sun that warms you up for a couple of hours and then you can have a beautiful sunset. It was a process, because obviously, in the beginning, I wasn’t that happy.
I stayed 4 days in that place, just by myself in the middle of nowhere in Russia and there is when you realize how much we use our cell phones or how much you miss the people you love because you miss everything… I have been camping whole my life in different places, and I love my time alone but is different when you plan it and you chose where to stay, in this case, was different, because I didn’t plan that this trip it would end up in this way, but everything happens for a reason, like always.
The first day was terrible, I cried a lot (still angry at myself) then I didn’t know what to do, but I needed to start thinking clear, assuming that I will stay there, so first things first, putting myself together and start to build up my shelter, then organize my things and after I had all done I tried to make fire, but it didn’t work, making fire was one of the things that really took me time to learn, for some reason was really difficult for me, I tried so many times that day and nothing; I was hungry and getting cold, so I really needed fire, but nothing, I was upset and I just gave up, so I decided to go to my sleeping bag and that I will try the next day, trying to think positive. It was difficult to get some sleep the first night because it was cold, you hear animals, noises around, and you know that you are there alone, so you get scared if you have never experienced that before. After that night, everything got better, the next day I made the fire, and I can’t explain how happy I was, I wanted to have someone next to me to talk to and celebrate my big victory: make fire! which was the best thing in the world for me at that time. So, since I realized I have 3 days more to stay there alone, I decided to write a diary, telling all I was feeling to my best friend in Chile, she is the only one that could understand how I was feeling, I missed her so much there, I always miss her, but there it was even more, and I must say that writing helped me a lot, I felt almost that she was with me all the time while I was writing to her.
When you are alone in the middle of the forest, far from home, far from your loved ones, you realized so many things, you can connect with yourself, and you appreciate the things you have in your life, which sometimes we completely forget in the daily routine. The simple fact of sleep together with my husband in our bed, was in my thoughts every night, thinking that he didn’t imagine in the situation I was in, but I was remembering that he always says to me: you are tough girl honey! And that thought in my mind was giving me good energy all the time.
I think everything happens for a reason and that bad situation wasn’t the exception, like a mentioned before making fire was difficult for me in the beginning, but during my stay there I had a lot of time to practice since I couldn’t walk that much around, because I was injured, so chopping wood and making fire, was my job every day and then it was so easy! and after that trip, I could make fire anytime, anywhere.
Ski trip Finnish Lapland - 7 days
Forest skis, that was the challenge on this trip, I never tried those ones before and I can tell that they are not easy to manage in the beginning, so big and long skis, besides you need to wear special rubber boots with those skis. There I was again feeling that I couldn’t make it, but I did it, and after a lot of falls, I got it!
This trip was a preparation for the solo ski trip because it was about practicing skiing, long and challenging routes, but we were all together, so still, if something happens, there was always someone to help.
I think this one was the most complicated for me, I wasn’t that good emotionally at that moment, because I had some personal issues that got my mind completely in another place that wasn’t exactly where I was. Everything was more difficult because I didn’t feel like been there, in a moment I thought to quiet, just left everything and go home, but in reality wasn’t possible, because I was really far away and without any phone reception, so again “everything happens for a reason” because thanks to that trip I faced all my fears and I learned to ski in a proper way.
I remember it felt so weird been in those skis in the beginning and I was afraid of falling all the time, in practices at the school I fell so many times trying to go uphill, that I didn’t want to do it again, but I had to, because in that trip was all about to show that you can manage skiing and orienteer the whole group, so we had different routes every day, where you have your day to be a guide and take the whole group skiing to the assigned route. In my day guiding, I fell a couple of times uphill, I didn’t want to continue, because I was tired, and I didn’t want to fall again, but I had to do it because it wasn’t another way to get to the point where I needed to take the group; there it was a special moment when Mikko (one of my teachers) was behind me, telling me: Do it, Cathy! You can do it! Say to yourself that you will do it this time; Put all your anger there and go up! And he was right, I needed to believe in myself, and I did it, then step by step I was getting better and I started to have a lot of fun.
After you are skiing whole day, your feet are completely wet inside of those boots, the only thing you are wishing for, is to have them free, rid of those boots, take your socks off, put your feet next to the fire, and feel that they are DRY, what an amazing sensation! At the same time, if you have something to eat that you like, it could be a really enjoyable moment, even when the temperature is -28. I must say that thanks to some Aussie friends I got “Tim tams”, and they were my reward every evening.
The downhill was a scary thing, you know the techniques, and you have it on your mind, but another thing is encouraging yourself when you are on top of the hill and say: Ok, now I go! I never will forget the last day, because was the day when I was feeling complete confidence, carrying my sled, skiing in the right way, good pace, going uphill was good, but I didn’t realize at that moment that if I was going up, in some point I have to go down, and there I was, in a really high hill all dark, just with my headlamp trying to look how high it was, but it was impossible to see, so it was just like take the risk and do it; I say to myself: Let’s do this!!!!! Oh my god…! What a feeling!!! I was going so fast, getting so much speed and the adrenaline is huge! While I was skiing I was just repeating: oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! And I really enjoyed it, I didn’t fall, I got downhill in good way and I was so happy, that everything was worth it for that moment of satisfaction.
Solo ski trip - 10 days
The highlight of the year, the trip I was waiting since I got into the course since I got that experience in Russia of been by myself for some days, I knew I could handle that part of the trip, this time will be more days, but I always felt good about it. As I mentioned before, feeling good emotionally, I think is the key to this sort of trip, physical conditions are important too, but I think the emotional part is everything. I was feeling awesome with myself at that moment, so anything that could happen to me could solve it, that was how my mind was working.
I remember we were all together skiing until we got to the spot that it should be the point where we meet again after 10 days, last breakfast together, and then ready to go, one by one.
This trip was completely different to any of the others we had before, especially because this time you could plan your own route, you have a specific area where you have to be, but you create your route as you wish, the only thing that we really needed to do, was going to the checkpoints in the days we agreed previously.
If I have to mention a concern in this trip, it should be the orienteering; I was worried if I could be able to read the landscape over there, everything went really good with that, but I got another issue that I never considered it could happen, I got sick, I got flu the second day of the trip, so everything was a little more complicated when you are having flu, staying outdoors and skiing whole day is not that easy, but I knew I could manage, although I must admit that when I got fever I just wanted to call my husband to say: Pleaseeee! Take me home!!! But of course, I didn’t do it…
In those 10 days, you must be moving every day and build up your shelter every evening in the spots you had a plan in your route, and I can tell that building a shelter in the snow it takes about 2 hours to have a nice place because is not just about building a shelter, is about doing it with your skis on, is more than one meter of snow, so is no other way to do it, and do everything with your skis on is not the easiest thing in the world, but at the end is good fun and you get so tired that after that you sleep like a baby.
The weather conditions, in the beginning, wasn’t the best, for that reason was difficult to follow my original route, I had to make some changes to it, but all worked out. I was skiing and a few hours later the rain started, so I had to find a place to camp, before it gets worse, at the end of that day all was good, I got a nice spot to camp, and I stayed there, the problem was the day after, I was feeling sick already, but I could manage, not too bad; so all things packed, beautiful sunny day, ready to go and I found out how soft the snow was, it was a nightmare to ski that day, so difficult, getting stuck every 300 meters, after few hours I realized that I have to change my route again and just stay there because I wasn't getting anywhere with that pace, and taking out the sled from deep snow, not that easy!
That day I was feeling really tired in the evening, just wanted to eat something and sleep, that was my big plan, but I got something that I didn’t expect, about 1:30 am amazing northern lights came, although I have seen them many times the feeling I got that day it was completely different, I was just by myself, in the middle of nowhere, resting from a tough day, thinking about my plan for the next day, and then I started to see how the auroras were coming, that was the first time to watch them from my open shelter in my sleeping bag, it felt like they were dancing just for me, what an amazing feeling! It was a perfect moment...what else could I ask for?
After that night, the weather changed, and we got cold nights, so the snow conditions were good since then until the end of the trip, I was tired of having the flu, but at the same, I was enjoying a lot been there in the middle of nowhere by myself. This trip meant a lot for me, because was the proof to myself that I can survive in really extreme conditions, I realized how much I had learned here, thinking about who I was when I started this course and who I am now, and I felt that the process was done for me, although it was one more trip to do, I got the feeling of mission accomplished after the solo ski trip.
Canoe and kayak trip - 5 days
This trip was completely enjoyable; the weather was perfect, and we didn’t rush as much as we always did on the other trips. Also, we got Henkka with us (our teacher) that was a really nice experience since this is the only trip that he is doing with us, and personally, I always enjoy any chat with him, as I mentioned before, he is the best teacher ever.
When you are canoeing, you need a good partner, no doubt that communication is the key, and I got the best partner ever, we never paddled together before, but we understood each other so well that everything went smoothie and nice. I remember I was so scared when we were checking the rapids we will go in and I was telling to him that I was scared, and he was so calm that made me relax as well, we planned beforehand how we will do it, keywords that will help us to know exactly what to do while we will be on the rapids and everything went perfect, my adrenaline was on 100% and my heart beating so fast, that when we passed the rapids I couldn’t believe that we did it, was so niceeeeee!.
One of those days I was having fun kayaking when suddenly the wind came, just in one minute everything changed, big waves around and I tried to paddle to get to the shore, but it was impossible, I was feeling that the wind was taking me and I couldn’t control it, but using all the power I got with me I rid of the wind and I could make it getting in the shore, no doubt that it was a scary moment that I didn’t expect, but besides that episode, this trip was full of happiness and good memories. This was the last trip of the course and definitely the best way to end the whole process to become a wilderness guide.
Hiking Finnish Lapland - 7 days
This was the first trip I did after I graduated from the wilderness guide program in Finland, that year of training I didn’t have time to do any trip on my own, besides the ones I was doing as part of that program, so I was excited about going hiking for fun like I used to do it, and with this I’m not saying that the trips I had in the training weren’t good, because they were amazing, but there was always some pressure behind, prepare those sort of trips where you need to be outdoors at least for one week, it takes time to plan, besides all the activities that we needed to do, so with those trips, you could have fun, but it was part of a learning process, and that is a completely different story than when you go hiking just for fun, enjoying doing what you feel to do at that moment, not with a schedule to follow.
Before I met my husband I was traveling by myself, being a nomad, travel around where I felt to go, there were some times that I traveled with a couple of friends as well, but this was the first trip outdoors with my husband since we met we travel a lot together, different countries, but is different to travel to see places and staying in hotels than when you are doing everything outdoors, so this was a new experience for me, and it was beautiful.
After you been far from home, you start missing many things, but there was something that I was missing a lot, my mountains, I used to go there a lot, everywhere you go in Chile there it will be mountains around, I love to get in a submit, get higher as possible, it gives me the best satisfaction in the world. So, my husband knew about how I was feeling, kind of nostalgic about mountains, and he knew an area in Lapland where are some rocky hills, never been there before, so that was the place we decided to go, an exciting adventure ahead, one-week hiking in different places with hills, nothing else to ask for.
We got there, and we had all sort of weather, some days cloudy, others with rain, and at the end, we got some sunny days as well, It was perfect and relaxing, this time he was leading, so for me was just enjoying around, not thinking of orienteering or what I have to do later, and that it was beautiful. Food was a little different as well, we made a food plan, but this time I didn’t need to cook, he was cooking, and I have to say that his cooking skills are much better than mine, he is amazing at cooking indoors and outdoors, so I had tasty meals every day.
Hiking in the summertime in Finland is amazing, especially in Lapland where you have 24 hours of daylight, and there are so many different national parks to visit, all of them with amazing tracks and different landscape, so you really can have variety in 7 days hiking, but there is only one problem, you will have a lot of mosquitoes giving you company while you are hiking, my opinion of those ones is not the best, actually, I hate them, but even that was good in that week, not mosquitoes at all, so what can I say, I was the luckiest person in the world on that trip.
Hiking in Peru - 7 days
BACK TO MOUNTAINS
After a couple of years, we finally could go to South America again, and that’s means to see mountains, all November in there and long planning before to use our time in the most effective way.
We started with Peru, there we got in Cuzco and from there to Valle Sagrado, we had an amazing road trip visiting ruins, getting familiar with historical places, and going up to mountains as much as we could. The best for us was that we got the possibility to get away from town, going to the wilderness, being in the valley where it is not that much around, beside huge mountains and deep green around you. We had time to see around, to get in touch with virgin nature, that was one of our goals, and the other one it was going to Machu Picchu, but not just to the village, the thing for us it was going to climb up Huayna Picchu, that was what we were prepared for, getting on top of that majestic mountain that you always see in the background of any photo of Machu Picchu.
To get in Machu Picchu, you need to get first in Aguas Calientes by train and then a bus that takes you to the national park. At the entrance of the national park, you miss a bit the feeling of where you really are, because is so crowded, that you forget in the amazing place that you are at that moment, is so much security control to get in, to see if you have the right ticket, it is the correct time, etc, etc. but once you pass all that, everything changes, because you are surrounded by pure history and nature at the same time, is a powerful energy that you get in there.
There are different tickets depending on where you will go, ours was going to the ruins and climb Huayna Picchu, there are different turns to go up to Huayna Picchu because only 200 people can go at the same time, so our ticket was first going to ruins and then at the end climb the mountain if you ask me, is the best way to do it, because being in the ruins of Machu Picchu gives you the time to connect with the place, and understanding the way the Incas were living there, and then go for your adventure hiking up. Personally being there was very important for me, because after all, I have read about the Incas it was like putting pieces together and many things made sense at that moment.
After we visited the ruins, it was our turn to go to Huayna Picchu, there is a time when you can start to go up, first some controls again and some waiting, all that is not the nicest thing but is part of. We agreed with my husband that we will go in a normal pace, not rush at all; we have this agreement every time that we are hiking because that’s the only time that I can really enjoy myself and look around, without thinking that I’m responsible for people behind me and that I need to have a specific time to do any hike that I’m doing when I’m working. I love my job taking people out there, but when I’m hiking on my holidays, the story is totally different and I’m the slowest person in this world, stopping a lot, and I’m never in the lead, that’s the way I feel that I’m on holidays, I like to feel where we are, and enjoy all the way until we reach our goal; I’m really lucky that my husband understands that, and he always takes the full responsibility of what we are doing, he is the best partner.
The weather was crazy, but amazing at the same time because we experienced everything that was possible when we got there, first it was raining heavily, my god was heavy rain! Then it was stopping for a while and it got foggy, you couldn’t see that much when you try to look down, only the narrow steps that you need to climb to get on top. I must say that it is not an easy way, the terrain is unstable, and the higher you are getting you start to feel the altitude, but everything is worth it. We got on top and we couldn’t see a thing, it was completely foggy, I have never experienced something like that before, it is like a heavy smoke around you, you really couldn’t see anything. We sat in a rock just to enjoy the feeling of being there together and after few minutes, clouds started to go away, and little by little we were getting the view of the ruins of Machu Picchu, it was just awesome! After that, it got sunny and we had the chance to see in our way down all that we missed on our way up.
My recommendation if you go to Machu Picchu, buy your ticket with time and get the one to go up to Huayna Picchu, because that was the best of all we did in Peru, and we did a lot in there.
Hiking Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia - 7 days
HOME SWEET HOME
Going back to Chile was everything for me at that moment, to see my family and friends again after so long time, it was mixed feelings between getting anxious and happiness. First things first, seeing The Andes Range from the plane, made my heart beat faster and faster, I wanted to cry, I think I did a bit, mountains mean a lot to me, and with them all my memories with my loved ones.
In Chile, we had so much planned to do, so many places to go, and a trip organized with family and friends, so there were 2 weeks for that and the last week that we had left, it was to have our trip to the Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, that was only for my husband and me because it was our honeymoon, the one we were planning for a long time, where we will have a road trip crossing the mountains from Chile to Argentina.
Our plan was to stay in different cities where we had hills to go hiking every day, traveling around, go to the wilderness and get to the end of the world (literally) and I can’t explain how beautiful it was, every place more amazing than the previous one, that was our feeling all the time, the kindness of the people in the South of Chile is something that you forget that exist, and when you are there, you feel all that love that people give you not expecting anything back. We met awesome people there, genuine and generous, they were sharing experience how is to live at the end of the world closer to the South pole, and we were telling how is to live on the other side, near to the North pole. All the people got happy to see that love stories exist when we were saying how we met and how we made it work. Get all that love from people that just know you for a few hours, is something that makes your heart feel full of love.
In each trip that we plan there is a highlight, and in this one was Torres del Paine, getting to the base and see “Los Cuernos del Paine”, we planned our route with a lot of time, we knew exactly the points we wanted to reach, everything planned, but there was something that we couldn’t plan, and that was the weather, November is a good month to go down South in Chile, spring, sunny and not that windy comparing how is in winter, so it's supposed to be good, and actually the weather was good all the time since we arrived South, a bit windy, but manageable, except the day for our main hike in Torres del Paine. The day came, and we went there pretty early, in our way we realized how windy it was, bad, really bad. We got there and all the signs were saying that we shouldn’t do it because it was crazy, the people in there was saying to us, that it is our own responsibility to go hiking, because the weather conditions were terrible, the windiest day of the year they said. We decided to give it a go and see if there it was people getting back, we probably should get back. On our way to the start point, everything looked terrible, one bus was flipped over for the wind, there is a hotel just before to get to the first track, we were passing by and a window was blown away because it couldn’t handle the wind, all that was scary, but we still wanted to try. The wind was crazy and started to rain as well, there were people getting back saying to us that we will never make it, but something inside of us was saying that we could.
We continued and even the weather conditions weren’t the best, being there it was amazing, one of the best places I have ever been, loving the mountains as I do, there you feel in paradise. It was a difficult hike, the wind made it so intense, we passed one of the base camps and after us, they closed it, so it was just on time.
5 hours to get on top, not an easy way at all, but having so many obstacles to get there, it made it even better. I must admit that in some point I was exhausted fighting the wind, I got scare a couple of times that I just felt that couldn’t control myself and the wind was taking me away, and when you see yourself hundreds of meters high up in the mountains, you realized that you can be gone in one second. I have been so many times hiking in the mountains and I have never felt that scared like that day.
After we got on top, it was a mission accomplished, the best feeling in the world! And the weather was getting better as well, the sun came, and we were able to see different colors in there, and even a rainbow in our way. In conclusion, I can say that this has been one of my best top 10 experiences, simple as that!.
Australia - 1 month around
One month is the time we take with my husband every year to have our holidays and travel, this time the destination was Australia, and when you say “1 month” it seems like is enough time to do and see around, but I can tell that Australia, beside of being a huge country, there is so much variety in landscape and so many things that you can do in each region, that one month in there feels like nothing!
We did a long trip, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland. Flights, road trips, outdoor trips, we did everything that we could do in there. Wildlife in Australia is amazing, I fell in love with the koalas that are the cutest animal I have ever seen. Besides my lovely koalas, you can see kangaroos and wallaby’s everywhere! And they are also so nice, of course when you say wildlife, there is the dangerous part as well, there are a lot of snakes around, but if you don’t disturb them, they are all good, you just need to be careful where you step on.
Is difficult to write about all the places we visited, because there was so many, but one of my favorites trips it was when we were into the winery valleys, since I’m from Chile where we love the wine, and we have beautiful winery valleys, those places made me felt just close to home with an amazing landscape around. Barossa and Margaret River, are a must-visit when you are in Australia if you are a wine lover.
The beaches! I was so looking forward to going to those beaches that are a bit hidden, with no people, white sand and turquoise water, and I got that! My favorites ones were Cottesloe in Perth and a hidden one on our way to Esperance, where it was only my husband and myself. Obviously, there is a special mention for the beach Surfers Paradise in Gold coast, because there was the first time I tried to surf, and it was one of the best things I tried in there, my Aussie mate made it look so easy, that I even wasn’t that scared. So much fun! I fell from the board so many times, but even that was good fun, trying and trying I got to stand up on the board and get the feeling of why the surfers love so much to do this.
There it was our outdoor time, and we spent time camping with our Aussie friends at the flat rock in Ballina, what a beautiful place! When you wake up in the morning and the beach is next to you, just waiting for you to go to have a walk, and when you have good people around you and Aussie barbecue. What else can you ask for?!
I have to talk about Sydney, that being honest, it wasn’t one of the destinations that I was waiting for, because I thought that it will be just a big city, with a lot of people and good places to visit, but nothing more than that, I mean if we were in Australia, we needed to go to Sydney, I needed to see the opera house, is a must! But if I’m mentioning Sydney is not for the opera house, (that, by the way, is amazing) is because Sydney is more than a beautiful city, it has places that probably you don’t go if you are just visiting the city side. Besides visiting the iconic places in the city, we had a walk from Bondi to Watson bay, and that walk made me change my opinion about Sydney 100%, I just loved it! Walk that part of Sydney is amazing, you can get to see the city center far away from some specific spot when you are walking, while you look to the other side and you have huge cliffs with the blue ocean around, the contrast of that, just made me love Sydney, and say to everyone that goes to Australia, that is a city that is a must, but not just for the city center, is because the contrast of a busy city with the quietness of the other side of the same one is awesome, and my recommendation of where to stay, definitely in the area of the rocks, so so nice!