Musings at Santiago Airport

Kate Clissold | Wild Women On Top Member | Winner of 2015 Most Inspiring Award

If you have taken a trip with Di Westaway have you noticed she travels with her own mug? 

It’s not your average enamel camping beaker or a trendy rubber one that folds down to a floppy frisbee shape, it’s of the decorated fine china variety and I'm always slightly envious and as usual on my most recent trip, I forgot my own!

This mug is a conversation starter to all those Di smiles at charmingly and politely asking for it to be filled with tea, honey and for my tastes rather too much milk...I am British deep down.

Is it a reminder of the comforts of home, a way of getting just that little bit more from the pot or more? I've been pondering this after a few trips with Di now...It’s a metaphor for travelling under her expert, caring guidance and adventure loving company that spills over the rim, and has me philosophising between flights at Santiago, Chile... I clearly have too much time at this airport stopover.

When you travel with Di as many of you know it’s like being with that warming cuppa. Her passion for living a healthy lifestyle spills over into her enthusiasm for sharing life, adventure and all things wild, like her hands around her mug always centred around the group she is with. As carefully she guards that precious cup she protects and inspires the team she is with.

We set off 3 weeks ago, four climbing buddies; women with various levels of fitness, experience and with one thing in take on a challenging journey to trek and climb in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca Mountain range, our nominated goal being the most beautiful mountain there.... Alpamayo. 

Being a Wild Woman now of 3 years’ experience, one of the sayings I've picked up over and over is "Expect the Unexpected!"  We know all about this at training when another set of stairs is added, a detour through seemingly impenetrable bush or the rain and wind strike us horizontally during an exciting session at night and we return with unstoppable laughter.......

The expected, if you've ventured to Peru is the amazing food , the generous and helpful guides and porters ...those 6am wishy washy bowls, afternoon tea of guacamole and popcorn, amazing soups, fresh trout and ceviche for dinner. The scenery that dominates is spectacular, a backdrop of snow-draped mountains that cut into the perfectly blue sky and beckon in the distance and can be spied for 360 degrees from the noisy and colourful streets to the climbing rocky trails. 

I've ventured to Peru before with a wonderful group of Wild Women, I felt part of this tribe, we are a coming together of women from varying backgrounds all under the umbrella of adventure and being a part of this strong supportive group gave me, the self-belief that I could challenge myself further and I was determined to return and climb one of those magnificent mountains. This was the expected!

But Wow!! This trip sure did deliver the unexpected and as I sit here I am still trying to process, my mind will not quiet.

The mountains in the end were the not the expected ones, struggles with altitude and cold weather brought changes to our itinerary. Disappointment did not linger with us because out from that bottomless mug of strong tea, Di pulled out huge resilience and positive thoughts of climbing 3 more mountains than we had bargained for and they were all stunningly beautiful. 

Our new goal became centred in the beautiful Ishinca Valley with the towering fangs of great mountains all around, waiting to be climbed with names such as Urus, Ishinca and Toclaraju which dominated at 6000m. Instead of steep ice walls we now ventured on moonlit summit treks at 1am, up through the rocky moraine, winding switchbacks to the icy penetente covered glacier slopes which became my nemesis. Summits are exhilarating places no matter how high, the mental and physical effort you have fought through to get there is rewarded with initial air gasping exhilaration, congratulatory hugs and in Di's case a handstand on a precarious (n.b. safe according to Di) ridge with a dazzling view. Beyond that there is the moment of literally breath-taking silence a numbness of senses before the sounds of below float up and you are back in reality and on the way down. 

On reflection, the journey towards our goal was the prize of this adventure and all we learnt along the way. We added to Di's mug the strength of new friendships that grew as we trained together with goal specific exercises like rock climbing, stair summiting and bike riding, surviving injuries and testing our fears.  Trips to buy gear, sharing recipes for energy snacks and mini adventure trips were the honey sweetener, and the coming together as a group in Peru, that final splash of milk.

But it’s the fine china mug and the caring sharing leadership of our Wild Woman On Top leader Di Westaway that makes adventures like this a success. I am feeling very blessed to be a part of our wild woman community and to have had a share from that mug!

 Explore stunning South America in 2017


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