Meiting Lai participated in our 2016 Youth Volunteer Trip to Argentina in 2015. She shares her insights about the adventure and provides really helpful tips for those who are joining the ride! **Click on the photos without the captions to see more notes from Meiting!**
Hi! My name is Meiting Lai and I had the opportunity to participate in the youth volunteer trip to Argentina during the 2015 summer. I hope this post will answer some of your questions, whether you’re on the edge deciding to participate on the trip, or if your trip is coming up next month!
This is the trip overview for my year:
Day 1: Salta Prep Day
Day 2: Salta – El Carril 35km
Day 3: El Carril – Dique Dabre Corral 35km
Day 4: Dique Dabre Corral – Alemania 51km
Day 5: Alemania – Yesan River 50km
Day 6: Yesan – Cafayate 30km
Day 7: REST DAY!
Day 8: Cafayate – Quilmes 55km
Day 9: Quimes- Trout farm 35km *
Day 10: Trout Farm- Tafi del Valle 40km *
Day 11: REST DAY!
Day 12: Tafi del Valle – Yerba Buena 109km
Day 13: Cultural Exchange
Day 14: Wrap up
*Uphill days, get ready to drink some herbal altitude teas
In total we biked more or less 450km!
A little bit of Advice
How athletic am I? How in shape do you have to be to keep up?
Okay let me begin by saying I am not the athletic type at all! I participated in my school’s swim team and cross country but I am ridiculously slow. In fact, the only time I got a medal that was not for participation, was at a race where there were only 3 runners in my category …. :)
Everyone starts the trip at different levels but after biking for 2 weeks, we basically end up on the same level. The trip is designed to be adaptable; we start off riding around 17km-30km a day, and eventually move on to biking 100km! There are plenty of rest days in between for your muscles and stamina to grow. The trip leaders are also very knowledgeable, understanding, and approachable. They disperse themselves so that there is always someone at the back and front.
If you don’t bike a lot, I would say to explore Calgary’s bike paths or even bike to school. Personally I found it so surprising how far a bike can take you! I live on the edge of the city and taking an express bus downtown would take around an hour, but on the other hand biking would also take me around an hour (17km). Also try to build your cardio by doing long jogs but at a very manageable pace.
Know how to use bike gears for those killer hills (there’s no one that complained more than me) and again, learn to pace yourself!
What about food?!!
The Argentinean diet is heavily based on cheese, bread and meat. However, we had all sorts of special diets from different participants that were vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian that were well fed. Sometimes we ate out in restaurants, treated by our hosts , and sometimes we made food especially while on the road. We were split into different committees of 3-4 people and we rotated responsibilities every day, such as food preparation.
Remember that while it’s summer here in Calgary, it’s winter in Argentina! On one of our last days, we were zigzagging our way down from a mountain through a rainforest. But it wasn’t like what you thought a rainforest is at all! Don’t get me wrong the scenery was really beautiful like we were placed in a car commercial, but it was not the humid, steamy and warm environment we expected. I suppose the day itself was a bit chillier than average, but it was a combination of the little body activity required from going downhill, constant wind and the damp environment that made basically everyone put on all the clothes they had at the top of the mountain; we’re talking about 3-4 layers here. I personally made the mistake of not bringing gloves and had to resort to making DIY gloves using socks and wrapping it in plastic bags…but on the bright side, there’s something about collective suffering making you that much closer with everyone! As we made our way downhill, the weather managed to change so much that we were back in our t-shirts and shorts. The scenery alongside every moment was absolutely beautiful, and I would consider this one of the most memorable moments of the trip. So what have I learned:
Pack clothes that you are comfortable to move in
Bring warm clothes that are easy to layer
More socks! (Many of my friends had to reuse many days old socks…)
Sunscreen (reapply too) I can’t emphasize this enough! You are out in the sun all day
But above all, pack lightly! Remember that you are carrying whatever you packed, for a near 500km.
Even in the middle of never-ending deadlines, assignments and exams, I often think back to the experiences I had in Argentina last summer and they are truly unbelievable. The fond memories I gained from that adventure are none like the others, and will probably be irreplaceable in the future as well. Take advantage of this opportunity to live in the moment, learn to stop and smell the roses, even when you’re back in your daily cycle.