Monday, 16 May 2011

Luna Sandals at the Garganta Del Diablo: running in Tilcara

A new town and a new pair of running "shoes".  I've had a pair of Barefoot Ted's Luna sandals kicking around since last year, but haven't had a chance to try them until now.  I must admit I was put off by a couple of previous attempts to tie the laces, but finally got the hang of it today.

So, setting off from the dusty town of Tilcara, high up in the Argentinian Andes, but close to the Bolivian border, I began walking uphill out of town and fifteen minutes later I was past all the houses, at the sign marking the start of the trail.  If you can't find a map with the trail marked, head up from the centre along Alverro.
Road or trail
The trail heads up the valley, easy at first then with a a few switchbacks.  The sandals coped well with the sharp rocks and dusty trail.  I stopped a few times to tighten the long leather laces but I eventually got the hang of them.

The Luna Sandals are a joy to walk in.  They feel as close to walking barefoot as you can get, without damaging the soles of your feet.  This is in part due to the simple construction: a flat sheet of vibram rubber, in the shape of a foot, with three holes in it, and a thin suede footbed.  Combine this with a long leather lace which threads through the holes and ties around your ankles and you will see why - there simple isn't any "shoe" to cover your foot, just a sole and a lace, so they feel very open.

The sole provided excellent protection from the sharp rocks.  While thicker than my Vibram Five Fingers, I could still feel a lot through the sole (this is a good thing!)
Luna sandals - made for running
The Garganta del Diabolo was easily reached in just fifty minutes from town (the signs claim it is 4km although it took me 15 minutes to reach the 4km sign).  Its then a short walk down, after paying the AR$3 entrance fee, to see this very narrow and deep gorge.  Water is taken away for drinking along channels that follow the contours.  Some of the paths were very exposed, but fun to walk along!  The Garganta is around 2,800 metres above sea level and while a little breathless from the walk, I'm not sure whether that was a mild effect of altitude or just from walking fast uphill.
View from the trail
Now comfortable walking in the Luna sandals, I put them to the test and jogged back gently into town along the road.  This route is 8km hairpinning back and forth, and the path is in sight for part of it.  It is a rough, rocky road and the vibram soles of the sandals stood up well.  I had a bit of soreness on my second toe from the leather lace rubbing but they were otherwise comfortable.

I had never really intended these sandals for running (surely you can't run in an open sandal I thought), rather they looked like they would be a great piece of footwear for walking in hot climates, and lightweight enough to take travelling.

I don't know how well they will last, but first impressions are great and I think they are going to be a lot of fun.  I'll be reporting back here.

The trail to Garganta Del Diablo