Cochamo Valley, Chile
We just returned from an amazing few days camping in the Cochamo Valley. This place is certainly not the easiest to get to, but it was definitely worth the effort. We took a bus from Puerto Montt to the small town of Cochamo. From there, it was a 5 hour hike up to the campsite. We were shocked how many people were coming up and down the trail! We tried to pack as light as possible given the hike up; many people had huge bags with tents and sleeping mats attached to the outside, not to mention they were carrying toddlers. When we finally got to the campsite, not surprisingly, it was packed. Apparently a few years ago this place was a hidden gem, but now (probably thanks to social media!) families and friends flock to this area for summer vacay. Despite the number of people, it still felt incredible to be up in the mountains with a beautiful view. We found a nice and shady secluded spot and set up for the next few days. After dinner, we watched the sun pass behind the granite mountains, and prepared for an early morning start the next day.
Hiking Arco Iris kicked my butt. Eleven kilometers and 1300 meters of elevation gain. We started out early to beat the rush, as well as the heat of the sun. We hiked upwards and onwards until we came to a few sections where we needed to use ropes along the trail. Going up this was no problem. Coming down was a whole other story! We recently watched a documentary on a famous Czech rock climber named Adam Ondre; I was in awe of his skill. On the Arco Iris trail, using ropes and trying to rock climb down a measly 6 foot drop, my "rock climbing skills" (or more like lack of thereof) were totally put to shame. The trail lead us through deep forest and along smooth rock faces, and eventually we emerged out of the treeline and had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. And then there was snow! It's always a fun experience trekking through snow in 30 degree weather, in shorts and a t-shirt. We were rewarded at the top with nature's trifecta of beauty - a mountain lake, a waterfall, and a snow covered volcano in the background!! We only saw maybe 5-10 other people on the trail...turns out we really didn't need to rush to avoid the crowds...in retrospect, given how difficult this hike is, I understand why!
After we made it back to the campsite, it was time to relax and unwind. For Devon, this meant going down the natural water slides....as many times as possible (see here and here for evidence!) We had fun watching people of all ages, slide down and crash into the water! Another natural playground.
In today’s society, the most movement we do with our bodies on a daily basis consists of standing, sitting, laying down, and maybe some running or weight lifting or yoga, on a good day. Gone are the days of sitting cross legged on the ground, hanging from the monkey bars, and running around at recess. As children, we move around constantly, without any extra thought or effort. As adults, so many of us restrict our daily activities to conform to the societal norms and “conveniences” of modern life - we drive rather than walk, take the escalator or elevator instead of stairs, sit at a desk all day at work…you get the picture.
Arco Iris sparked an awareness and mindfulness of the potential of human body fluidity and movement. It took us back to the days of playing on a playground. It is interesting that what as children we refer to as “play”, as adults we refer to as “exercise” or “work”. Here we were performing the same movements we had in elementary school, but with much more deliberate concentration and effort. I was aware how I had to purposely think how to place my feet between tree roots going up nature’s natural staircase. I noticed how the rope felt uncomfortable under my grip as I pulled myself up a steeply inclined rock. As we climbed wooden ladders, I felt a nice stretch and engaged muscles in my arms and back. We had to jump across rocks to cross a few rivers, which required focus on my core strength and balance and ankle stability. The varied trail tested a our balance, coordination, strength, and creativity.
Focusing on the fine and gross motor skills required to complete this hike reminded me of my time as a Behavioural Interventionist. We designed fun obstacle courses and games to help improve the motor skills of children with autism. As kids, so many of these skills are used on a daily basis without even knowing it. Somewhere along the way as adults, these skills fade into the background. Exploring the Cochamo Valley truly felt like taking a step back in time into our youth, and brought a real awareness to the abilities our bodies have, which we sometimes forget about or take for granted.