Hiking Patagonia in a Wheelchair with Wheel the World

Three wheelchair-users enjoying the views of Patagonia during their hike
Hiking Patagonia in a wheelchair - enjoying the views

Recently, 17 members from the Wheel the World team, along with some family members, traveled to El Chaltén - a town in Argentinean Patagonia. In this article, we will share the experiences written by two wheelchair-users, and one who participated in assisting. We hope this will showcase the adventure, emotions, and inspiration to live the experiences you dream to live - regardless of your physical abilities.

Group photo of the Wheel the World team hiking in Patagonia. Wheelchair users in joelette wheelchairs
Hiking Patagonia with Wheel the World.

Vale's Perspective of Hiking in Patagonia as a Wheelchair-user

When we arrived to El Chaltén and met with the team, I felt very excited because the day was finally here. We had started planning this trip earlier last year, so it had been a long time coming. I also felt sadness for those who could not travel due to a storm in Argentina that caused flights to be rescheduled. But I know that at some point we will do this again so that those who were not able to attend will be able to do so next time.

Second Time Trekking

I’m a wheelchair user and I've had one experience with trekking. I had done it in Parque Chamisero in Chile with Columbia and the Wheel the World team, but the journey had been shorter than the one we were about to do. You can read the full experience here 

I fell in love with the experience and being able to go trekking again made me feel fulfilled.

Hiking Patagonia with a joelette wheelchair and assistance from people
Hiking through Patagonia with a Joelette wheelchair.

But when the day arrived, I had doubts if I was going to last so many hours sitting or if I was going to have the energy to travel so many kilometers. How would I go to the bathroom? I suppose these are questions that many of our travelers with Wheel the World may ask themselves when traveling.

We did two days of trekking. The first one was to Miradores de los Cóndores y de las Águilas, a path of medium difficulty. It took us about five hours to complete. The second trail was Laguna de los tres and took us about 10 hours. It was 11 kilometers one way and 11 kilometers back. We decided not to travel the last 2 kilometers because it was very difficult, the path had many rocks and a steep slope. It was not our intention to take these risks, but rather to be able to live the experience of teamwork.

The first experience was spectacular. We had a super sunny day which is uncommon for the time of year. All the mountain peaks could be seen and we were even able to see condors.

Both days were of great expectation. Although I was not walking, I did have to be attentive to give instructions to my team, like if there was a stone or a branch for example. And I love that it is an experience where people with disabilities can actively participate. Because it is usually thought of that people always have to help us and we just have a passive role. But this was different, it was a team activity in which each role was important.

And the landscapes are wonderful, if you have never been you have to go!

Hiking a trail of El Chaltén, Patagonia in a wheelchair with assistance.
On the trail in El Chaltén using a Joelette wheelchair

You Can Live These Experiences, Too

The last 2 kilometers of the second day were super tiring, I remember that they told me how much was left and it seemed like we weren't going any further. But when we reached the end of the path I felt proud of our team, because it was no longer just a personal goal to go trekking, but rather this experience would serve to recharge our batteries to continue building the best product that each of us can in the area where we are.

It was very exciting to see how everyone collaborated as much as they could, everyone was doing something, some were pushing the joelette, others were taking photos. 

As I set personal goals to reach places I once thought were inaccessible due to my disability, it not only opens doors to new destinations but also fuels a deep desire to explore even more. Experiencing trekking with my boyfriend, something we thought we wouldn't be able to share, was truly magical.

"As I set personal goals to reach places I once thought were inaccessible due to my disability, it not only opens doors to new destinations but also fuels a deep desire to explore even more." - Vale

Personally I like adventures but all types of trips make us feel fulfilled. As someone with a disability, I recommend putting aside your doubts and encouraging yourself to live these experiences, too.

I am very grateful to each member of the team who joined in this adventure.

Sometimes, we may not fully grasp the process of shifting from thinking "I can't" to finding ways to adapt and make an experience achievable.

Catalina's First Time Hiking

A wheelchair users hiking through Patagonia in a joelette wheelchair with assistance
Trekking through Patagonia with a Joelette wheelchair

For some people, having a disability means being unhappy with your life, having to stop enjoying things you used to enjoy, or not being able to do some activities because they are simply not accessible for people like us.

Except nowadays, most of them are (or at least that's what we're working towards).

A couple of weeks ago, I went to El Chaltén, a small town in the Argentinian Patagonia, along with some other members of Wheel the World for a team-building trek.

Growing up, there were some things I thought I would never be able to do, not because I didn't want to or because I thought I wasn't capable of them, but because I didn't know they could be adapted for me to do them. This experience was one of them.

My first thought when I heard about this trip was, "There's no way I'm missing this," and in a matter of minutes, I already had my flight and hostel booked. I was very excited, not only because it was my first time doing something like this, but also because I was surrounded by people who care. It was as important to them as it was to me that this became an unforgettable experience in which no one was left behind.

The Beauty of Teamwork

I remember that day in the morning when we gathered to do a quick tutorial on how to use the joelette and meet our friends from Walk Patagonia, who helped us make this trip happen. I was filled with excitement, but I also had worries because, as a very independent wheelchair user, I'm not used to asking for help or letting people help me. And this is what it was all about. I felt a bit vulnerable, trusting people I'd never seen before that day and letting them guide me. Some of you readers may think, "Okay, there's a team carrying the joelette; you were just enjoying the view," and you're not far from the truth; I did enjoy it. But I also had a role in this. I had to tell the person behind me how the road ahead of us was because they weren't able to see it for themselves. I had to coordinate the team so they could lift the joelette at the same time when there was a step so we wouldn't trip and hurt ourselves. They had to trust me, just as I was trusting them.

I'm not sure I can describe exactly how it felt when we finished the activity, but I would say It was a kind of feeling of accomplishment mixed with pride and disbelief for what we had just done. We saw beautiful landscapes, got sunburned, laughed, and enjoyed ourselves. This experience was truly one-of-a-kind.

There aren't enough words to thank the team for making this happen and for joining this adventure, and to the ones who couldn't make it, you were missed. I hope we get to meet soon!

Now, at home and reminiscing about this trip, I reaffirm why being able to have experiences like this truly matters. Traveling is sacred, said one of our members on the last night of our journey, and I couldn't agree more.

Let's live the life we dream of; let's wheel the world.

The Wheel the World team hiking a trail in El Chaltén, Patagonia with 3 wheelchair-users
Wheel the World team hiking in El Chaltén

Pablo's Perspective: Not Just Another Hike

When I found out that a trip to Chaltén with adapted trekking was being organized, I didn't hesitate to say: count me in!

I knew it was a perfect opportunity to share moments with people I saw daily on webcam and some I only chatted with. It was a chance to meet part of the team in person and experience something unique.

I already had tickets to Chaltén, which my wife actually gave me last March for my birthday. However, we decided to change the date to join this adventure.

In Chaltén, on the first day of trekking (a more relaxed route), we all gathered to get to know each other, introduce ourselves, and prepare for the upcoming adventure. It was like a pilot test where we understood the dynamics and tried to help each other. We also identified details to improve for the trekking the next day, which would take us to Laguna de los Tres and last approximately 10 hours.

Wheelchair-user being assisted up a trail during a hike in El Chaltén, Patagonia
Wheelchair-user being assisted on the trail in El Chaltén, Patagonia

It Wasn't Always Easy, But it Was Fulfilling

I experienced that trek with enthusiasm, feeling motivated and eager to contribute as much as possible. It wasn't easy, especially in uphill sections, but I was fortunate to carry both Vale and Catalina at different times. I can affirm that it required strength, balance, and above all, a lot of willpower, which allowed us to reach and complete the trek successfully.

I never thought I would end up so moved by this experience. It wasn't just another trek; it became something I'll keep in my heart, a beautiful memory with an incredible group.

I came back happier than when I left for the trip, exceeding all my expectations. The word that best describes what I felt is "fulfilled."

I'm ready for the next journey.

Final Thoughts

If you are someone that has a disability, adventures are not off limits. Hopefully these experiences shared in this article were able to inspire you to push the boundaries and have experiences that you didn't think were possible.

Wheel the World is continuously working to provide accessible travel and adventures all around the globe. Find hotels, activities, tours, and more with all of the accessibility information you need at Wheel the World.

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