Greater Patagonian Trail northern part- summary and conclusions
The most important question regarding this trek is, did I enjoy it and would recommend the GPT to others: The first part of the question is easy to answer, I enjoyed walking the northern Part of the GPT very much! The diversity of the landscape from dry cacti country to high mountains, lush forests, colourful mountain deserts, towering volcanoes and beautiful lakes is fantastic, especially since the weather was very good, for most of the time. And one aspect I liked very much, might be not so welcome for others. The GPT is not only one trail, but a huge network, so everybody can create his own route, and there is still a lot of room for exploration! While the current "main trail" has a length of 3000 kilometres, there are about 12000 kilometers of route options!
Before I get into more detail, here come some pictures which illustrate the variety I found on the trail!
But I must emphasize, that for a huge part of the trek I didn't follow the main route but explored more remote options.
Dry cacti country just south of Santiago
The highest mountains of the GPT are in the very north
Even in the dry north there are majestic trees in the valleys
Home of the arrieros- the cowboy dream is alive
Most parts of the trail are shaped by volcanoes
Strange white sand deserts
The gorge of the powerful Rio Colorado
High desert sunset
The large Lago Maule
Swirling sand in high desert
Condors are frequently seen
The beautiful Lago Dial
Fuchsias and waterfalls
Beautiful forest valleys
Laguna del Laja
Flowers in hostile environment
Sierra Velluda at dusk
Glacier covered mountains
Bizarre Araukaria trees
Fuming volcano Copahue
Although Jan Dudeck who created the GPT has done a big deal in providing good informations, especially GPS- tracks, for somebody who is just used to established, well frequented, marked trails, the GPT will soon prove to be quite different. Knowledge on how to use a GPS device is absolutely necessary! I wouldn't consider the navigation especially difficult, just different from what most hikers experienced so far. But again, what might irritate other people I enjoyed thoroughly.
The GPT involves more planning than more established trails. I can't emphasize it enough, Jan's work is excellent and ever expanding so as a starter everybody who aspires to walk the GPT should spent a lot of time with his writings!
Not following a trodden path, but a mixture of different tracks, from the occasional cross country stretch over lovely horse trails to the rarely found vehicle track, there is a lot of variety. I enjoyed the huge number of single trails very much, because I don't like roadwalking, even on dirt roads with almost no traffic...
There are more possibilities to resupply as one would expect, but even my longest stage with food in the backpack was just 19 days. When you keep the rest of your gear minimal and light this is really doable. I would advice anybody who thinks about the GPT to research quite a bit about ultralight hiking. It really works! And things who seem to be unavoidable for "Old school hikers" like wearing boots, are really not necessary. O.K my trail running shoes were a mess after 1000 kilometers, but that is quite o.k regarding the often not very shoe friendly terrain...
As most of the time the temperatures are high and you basically cross deserts, one might think, that water is a problem. But not so, there are creeks almost everywhere even in the middle of a dry summer, so I never carried more than a liter of water!
A number of time I got quite thirsty but nothing serious.
One thing I worried about are the private lands the route crosses. Quite often there are gates and signs indicating that no trespassing is allowed. While this indeed is a potential problem for hikers, on my trek I had no problem with this issue at all. I hope this will not change when a larger number of people goes hiking there! Key to keep the landowners in good mood towards hikers is of cause good behavior, like no littering, closing gates and so on.
While I am sure that hiking the GPT is possible with little or even no spanish, it gets your sympathy at potentially not so happy encounters when you speak at least some words in the language of the country you are in. I regretted that my spanish is not good enough for proper conversations as that would have enriched my experience!
So far I met only two other GPT-hikers. While the number of people on the trail will surely expand, I don't see that there will be many hikers in the future. That is good, because by this the atmosphere of wildness and exploration will stay alive, but things like a trail community and frequent meetings with like minded walkers will probably remain rather rare.
Regarding gear, I would take a warmer sleeping bag! As most of the time I did quite well with my 500 g downbag, there where some frosty nights were it was insufficient. A one kilo downbag would be a much better choice!
Securing the matress with a cord should never be forgotten unless you like to sleep on the bare ground, like I had to do!
Yeah, and after all I am happy to announce, that in just a little more than two months I will be off to Patagonia again, continuing the trail, this time with a Packraft!