Running for Rape Prevention

Running away from reality for weeks on end is something I think everyone should do now and again.

Some people call this vacation; I call it keeping my sanity.

Now my style of vacationing is not for everyone. I like to run around and explore things, climb mountains, walk for 20 kilometers one day in a city seeing what there is to see, and tromp across a country going from place to place to place.

El Chalten, Laguna Torre hike

Whenever possible, find yourself in beautiful places and ENJOY!

  • I usually need a vacation from my vacation by the time I am back home.

Something interesting about vacation is that you learn about yourself in new ways, you see yourself in places and are in situations that you aren’t in every day and there are some ah-hah! moments along the way.

For instance, after spending three weeks in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, I now know that I:

  • Actually do like fruits and vegetables and would miss them if they were no longer in my diet.
  • Can overcome my Canadian ‘niceness’ and leverage all my Spanish skills to get us on a plane that we have tickets for but no seats and somehow ensure we are first in line of the 12 people that the airline decided to screw that day.
  • Am still not agile enough to grab a camera lens before it rolls down a massive sand dune and is lost forever.

My biggest revelation this trip was figuring out why I run.

Nearly every time I run with the Speedsters, someone asks me the dreaded question.

What are you training for?

Nothing, the answer is nothing.

I am not going to solo Sinister 7, the Death Race is nowhere on my agenda, and running a three hour marathon is nowhere in my genetic potential.

  • My running goals usually have to do with staying upright and not getting lost from the group.

You may find me running a random cross country race, a 10K, or even a half marathon, but that is about it and usually with about 12 minutes of notice, simply because I feel like it – nothing more.

So imagine my surprise when I find I actually do run for a very specific and practical reason.

I run for rape and pillage prevention.

Not in general, just for me … my own personal rape and pillage prevention foundation.

We spent three weeks exploring the south of South America. Buenos Aires, Colonia del Sacramento, El Calafate, El Chalten, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine, Punta Arenas, Calama, San Pedro de Atacama, and Santiago.

  • 269 kms hiked, 10 places visited, and logistics galore.

With the agenda I had created, there really was no room for error; all the flights, buses, car rentals, and boat transfers needed to work.

It was encouraging when we arrived at El Calafate that there was a man at the rental car counter and he knew we were coming, even if it did look like we woke him up from a nap.

After a lot of conversation about how to drive in Argentina and what to do and not to do when driving as well as a lot of highlighting about how to not break the car, including watching the doors for wind, we were on the road in a cheap, white Ford.

Perito Moreno, here we come.

Perito Moreno

Seeing this gem was high on my list!

Photo

Experiencing this massively tall glacier was high on my list. After a quick bite at a corner café, we were on the road.

  • After about two kilometers of driving, there was a little ding. I looked to see what it might be and nothing seemed amiss.

Perhaps the cheap, white Ford was just happy to be on the road?

I shrugged and we kept driving towards the glacier. After all, we had to get there and enjoy it before it closed since we were only in El Calafate for the afternoon and it closed in 3 hours.

It was getting warm in the car, so I turned on the air conditioner, full blast. Heat came out.

Strange.

As we started up a hill straight into the extreme wind, the car struggled. I thought it was due to Ford’s choice to make a gutless, extremely basic car – it was no match for the wind.

Putting it in fourth did nothing. The car started to choke, sounded like it was stalling, and then it slowed.

  • With the pedal to the metal, the gutless car was able to muster 60 kmph up the hill.

The ding happened again and this time when I looked at the dash, the red engine light was on and we were overheating. Pulling over onto side of the road near the top of the hill, we wondered what to do as the car buffeted and threatened to topple in the wind.

No cell coverage. No town. No water. No food.

Just a whole lot of wind and arid, empty landscape.

El Calafate

Beautiful … but rather devoid of help when you need it …

Springing into action, we applied sunscreen, I pulled my hair into a bun, we put all our money and ID in our pockets, and then started down the hill to look for a cell connection and help.

Nervous to leave the car behind, but more nervous to die on the side of a windy hill in nowhere Argentina, I followed, hoping no one would steal our stuff.

  • Losing all your belongings in Patagonia, just one week into a three-week trip seemed less than ideal.

Being kidnapped from the side of the road and sold into slavery wasn’t high on my list either, but a woman’s got to do what a woman has got to do when life hands her a crappy rental car in the middle of nowhere.

Speedy said what I was thinking. “I really wish I knew more about this part of the world, if it is safe for us to leave our stuff here or if one of us should stay with the car.”

Relief filled my veins. I knew we needed to divide and conquer.

“I will go. Give me the papers. I speak Spanish and I have my new runners on. I am ready.” I replied as I pointed to my new-for-the-trip trail running shoes which I had slapped on my feet earlier that morning for some reason rather than my ballet slippers.

  • It was fate.

With hesitation, he turned his back to the wind and expertly tucked the rental papers in the plastic file folder that I had with all the travel information and then kissed me goodbye.

“Worst-case scenario, I will be back with a taxi. Wait here.”

And I was off running.

“You don’t have to run you know!”

“I know. But the wind is pushing me.”

As I ran, I wondered what the heck we were doing … perhaps my adventurous spirit had gotten the better of me.

Cars and buses full of tourists whizzed by, all confused at the very white woman who was running with a clear plastic zip file folder full of papers.

I was just glad that they were all tourists and not the South American mob.

The threat of having a car of bad men patrolling the area for foreign women that they could sell into slavery seemed low, so I just kept going and somehow a smile and laughter found its way to my mouth.

I couldn’t actually walk down the hill with the force of the wind, so I let it push me at a slow run back towards civilization. The sweat poured off my elbows as I jogged and I was glad that I had drank a whole bottle of water at lunch. And then I was nervous for Speedy, alone and without food or water. I had no idea how long this was going to take.

As I ran, I saw what looked to be an Estancia off in the distance. I wondered what the people there were like and if they were friendly … if they would be ok with a Canadian woman with crazy hair and medium Spanish skills landing on their doorstep, asking for help.

As I neared, I realized it was the Glaciarium, a place I had mocked when reading about it in the Lonely Planet book. Never so glad to see a museum about ice in my life, I checked the hours of operation on the road sign and was happy to see they are open daily until 7:30 pm.

Glaciarium El Calafate

Help might be on the way!

It was only 5:15 pm – perhaps I had time to be rescued.

The road sign let me know that I had another 1,300 meters to hit the front door. With help in sight, I started running uphill on the rocky terrain. I actually felt athletic and was glad that I go to Fast Trax twice a week.

  • A girl needs to be able to run for help when life requires it!

Coming through the front doors, I made an effort to not look like I was in complete crisis, which was hard since I was sweating like crazy and my hair was a complete disaster from the wind.

Luckily, I had taken the kilometer and a half up the hill to practice my speech.

I opened the door and pretended to look at the signs and brochures, as though I was there to see the video on glaciers. I wiped the sweat pouring off my brow and sauntered up to the desk and asked if the woman spoke Spanish. She looked at me with a furtive smile, “A little.”

“Bueno. Hablo un poco de Español.”

I had no idea how to call anyone in the country, my previous attempt at trying to call a taxi company in Buenos Aires proved that no matter how many numbers I put into the phone, I would never make the phone ring.

After watching her eyes widen at my story of disaster on the side of the road, I asked her to call the rental car company for me. She dialed like a phone maven and handed it to me once it was ringing.

From her intense listening to the phone after punching 48 numbers into the phone, it seemed like ringing after dialing wasn’t always a thing that happens in Argentina.

Thus began a long, random conversation with the man at the car rental place.

After we agreed that I did in fact rent a car from his company just hours previous, we had to get to the part where it broke, how it broke, what we didn’t do to make it break, and where both Speedy and I were and how we weren’t together.

The hardest part was ensuring that he knew that Speedy was with the car and that I wasn’t with the car, but at the Glaciarium, NOT the Glacier.

  • The second and third largest issues were ensuring that he picked us up, not just the car and that there would be a replacement car for us as we were due in El Chalten for the night.

“Glaciarium. Museo. No hielo.”

“So you at glacier? It is very pretty.”

“No. Estoy a la Glaciarium. Es un museo circa de El Calafate. You have to pick me up and pick up the car – two places, two people. Hay dos lugares a los que debe ir.”

“I call you back. 5 minutes at this number.”

The most troubling part was there was no hope or clear plan when the dial tone sounded.

Eight minutes later, I acquired help to call back.

“I was just calling you. A truck is coming for the car. Una hora.”

“But what about me? I’m not with the car.”

“Ok. He come for you. Then you get car.”

“One hour?”

“Si, una hora.”

“What is the name of the man coming for me?”

“Antonio. Big truck. You will see him. Adios.”

The sweat had finally dried and my internal body temperature had returned to normal. There was a plan. I am a woman who loves a plan. Now with time to kill, I shopped in the gift shop, bought postcards for my nieces and wrote in them, looked around the outside of the building, and bought some water.

38 minutes left.

When you’re waiting for rescue, life goes slowly.

65 minutes later, my North American time clock was ticking and Antonio was late.

Lateness brings its friend anxiety with it every time it shows up.

Suddenly, the petite woman with the ability to dial numbers and make the phone ring came up and rattled something off in fast Spanish.

My brain was moving under water. “No entiendo.” I don’t understand.

“You have to go to road. Man in big truck get you there. He called. He is coming now.”

“He’s picking me up on the carretera?”

“Si. Ahora.”

Yelling, “GRACIAS POR TODO!” over my shoulder, I started the kilometre and a half run back down to the highway.

  • I didn’t want to miss my ride back to civilization.

Arriving at the road, it was just me, the beautiful view, and some tumbleweed … for a really, REALLY long time.

5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes.

Buses and cars full of tourist on their way to the glacier zoomed by. No big truck. Looking towards town, I scoured the highway in hope of seeing a big truck driven by a man named Antonio.

Nothing.

15 more minutes.

Did I miss him? The Glaciarium was closing soon … in about 20 minutes I would be without someone who can actually dial a phone in Argentina and make it ring on the other end.

  • Disaster and being sold into slavery started to feel like a possibility.

I decided to not panic for another 10 minutes. With the time for losing my mind set for 7:15 pm, I relaxed and enjoyed the view of the lake and interesting landscape.

Without notice, a very large truck rolled in behind me and bared down on me. Apparently my time to panic needed to be moved up from 7:15 pm to NOW. Being all alone, I wasn’t sure what to do when the door opened and the men in the truck started in on whatever it was that they had in mind. I fervently prayed that some tourists would drive by and rescue me as I was being pulled into the truck kicking and screaming.

The door opened and Speedy tumbled out. It was my rescue! Somehow he got Speedy, the car, and all our belongings, and didn’t grab me.

In fact, it seemed like he didn’t actually know to get me.

When he rolled up to the car, he had no English words for Speedy, just a winch and expertise of fetching broken rental cars on this road.

I climbed up into the cab, made space amongst tools, greasy rags, and the gearshift, and wedged myself between a man named Antonio and Speedy.

“You are Antonio! Amazing.”

“Si.”

Antonio is apparently a man of few words.

After dropping the car off at the repair shop and being dumped on a corner in town, we were in line to get a replacement car and continue our adventure which included having a Dutch woman throw herself at our car in the dark on the highway and demand ride into town. Her boyfriend was trapped on a cable run and hanging over a river, trying to avoid a horrible death; in fact she was pretty sure he was dead.

  • My Spanish and calming panicked people skills were required once again as I translated the crisis to Spanish for the rangers.

In the end, just like our car, it turned out to be a rather minor incident and deciding the worst is about to happen is never a good idea; it never helps you make good decisions.

El Chalten road, fitz roy

The road to adventure is a beautiful thing.

When people ask me what I train for while running, I am now going to tell them to be able to run for help when traveling in a foreign country.

I run for rape prevention.

Not in general, just for me – my own personal rape prevention foundation.

It is nice to have a reason for doing what you do.

Maybe I am not crazy after all.