Back from winter and I can barely handle the heat! Vermont is absolutely TREATING US with 60-70 degrees and sunshine everyday this week but it still has me feeling like I need to do some heat acclimating. I just returned from a trip to Argentina where it’s winter with temps in the 30’s and 40’s.
Two and half weeks ago I traveled down to South America to join Thomas and his family for what I would call an educational safari. His mom is on sabbatical at UVM and working on a research project studying stromatolites: a microorganism living in the salt flats in northwest Argentina. The salt flats are located in the middle of the desert of the pre-Andes range close to the Chilean border. Stromatolites flourish in a dry environment and at high elevation, so it’s no wonder they were in abundance at 12,000 feet. These tiny little guys are also known to offset more CO2 than the amazon rainforest so they’re pretty neat. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only useful thing found in the salt flats. Lithium is also embedded in the rock. Lithium is used for batteries including those used for electric vehicles, so there’s been a huge rush to mine for the lithium while forgetting about these poor little stromatolite dudes. Which is exactly what brought this crew of scientists (or pretend scientists - me) down to study the region, ecosystem, and impact on local life due to the mining.
Never have I ever seen anything quite like this area. I’ve been to plenty of deserts before - Moab, Phoenix, the high desert… they are all lush with life and greenery compared to the barren desert we explored. For a week, we drove from village to village, stopping for food, water, and sleep. During the day, we hiked volcanoes, learned about their specific geological significance, visited archeological sites that could be traced back to 20,000 years ago, and also saw a lot of vicuña’s (kind of like the wild version of a llama).
During the trip, I did my best to stay active. Although it was an easy week of training it didn’t mean zero exercise for me. I woke up a little early most mornings to go for a run, do a bodyweight strength workout, or work on some plyos before we ventured off for more exploring. In the evenings, we ate dinners full of the Argentine diet staple: meat. Lamb, steak, llama, pork. That’s what was for dinner. I can’t lie and say this part was a little tricky for me. Although I’m not a vegetarian, I’m definitely not used to consuming so much red meat and I am definitely used to eating far more fruits and vegetables than what was available in the middle of the winter-time desert. But I did the best I could to adjust and recognized it was only for a week. I was appreciative to be where I was and held on to that! (Disclaimer: the meat we ate was absolutely delicious, just in quantities I wasn’t used to).
We wrapped up the safari with a few things on my mind. 1. There must be a better way to shift away from oil/gas and toward renewable energy without destroying the fragile ecosystem that exists in the lithium triangle. 2. The world is big and although skiing has brought me to so many incredible places there is also so much more out there to see. 3. I’m very thankful to the Woolson family for extending the invite on this adventure. 4. The indigenous people of South America freaking love their llama’s!
Back in the city of Buenos Aires I felt like I could breathe again at sea level. Most of the safari was between 11,000-13,000 feet so the morning runs started to feel a bit easier in the city. I memorized every inch of the city parks during my various runs and scoped out some of the museums we later visited. I even met up with my cousin who just so happened to be in the city with her fiance at the time!
One afternoon we took a boat to the Island of Rest. Two artists created a sculpture garden that coincided with the ecosystem living on the island. We then sat down for one of the most delicious meals of my life that left me feeling stuffed for days.
By the time my trip in Argentina was wrapping up I was starting to feel antsy to travel home. I had placed a few blocks on my own personal balance beam that I find is so important to maintain when it comes to my ski career. But it was starting to get out of equilibrium and I was ready to get back to ski training. My running legs had put up a good fight but they were in need of a break. Likewise, the cultural differences were starting to catch up to me. Dinner didn’t start until 10 pm meaning bedtime wasn’t until 1 am, which is definitely not something I am accustomed to. Likewise, the meat-heavy diet was causing some GI issues and I was no longer feeling my best self. I was beginning to feel tired, both physically and mentally. I recognized that I hadn’t really stopped moving in many months, with a busy ski season, followed by an adventurous spring, along with a hectic start to the training year in May/June. I felt like I was getting to the point where I really needed to be home. Although, I don’t really have a home at this point in my life... I needed to slow down and find some consistency.
Now that I am back in Vermont and reflecting on the trip, I am so grateful for the opportunity to join and really appreciated the time I got with Thomas and his family. I am also very excited to be back in the Green Mountain state with little upcoming travel on my near schedule. If you need me, I’ll be here. For a while. Not moving. Just doing my thing.
Professional skier, traveling the world, exploring the culture, racing my heart out.