Puna 9: Food

Delicious peanut butter lunch near Paso Socompa

Food has played an essential part in this trip. On our first trip to the Puna we didn’t put much thought into it beforehand and ended up eating mush for weeks. This was incredibly bad for our (well, mostly Haz’s) morale and meant that by the end we were very eager to return to civilization. This time experience taught us to eat better when we’re up top. Below is a list of all the food we carried on the various parts of this trip and an outline menu. But first, here are a few things we’ve learnt along the way:

Salami, salami, salami (and maybe a bit of olive oil)
Salami is packed with calories and is incredibly morale boosting. Take as much as you can carry! We really looked forward to our salami and mash meals as they broke up the pasta monotony. Olive oil is also very high in calories and much improves instant mash. Look out for sensational, and cheap, local olive oil in Fiambala.

Christmas lunch on El Condor

Angel hair pasta is gross!
At altitude water boils at a lower temperature and as a result pasta takes much longer to cook. It also cooks more unevenly, going mushy on the outside while remaining hard in the centre. It’s worth buying the more expensive brands of pasta, such as Lucchetti, as they don’t go as mushy. Pasta shape is also important. You need something that cooks fast to save fuel however angel hair, which cooks the fastest, ends up a squidgy and incredibly depressing mess. The shape known as espirales in Chile and tirabuzon in Argentina is our favourite.

Dry veg in the sun
This is like witchcraft! Take 1kg of carrots, slice it finely, leave it in the hot Andean sun for a few hours (watch out for the afternoon winds) and you end up with a few hundred grams. Throw the dried veg in with your pasta water and watch it grow back.

Drying veg in San Pedro de Atacama

Re-use your pasta water
When water is scarce on the Puna, throwing away your pasta water doesn’t make sense. We use ours to make pasta sauce with soup powder or if we are using a pre-made sauce then we save the water in a Nalgene bottle to make our porridge in the morning.

Drybags make great air tight Food Containers
We like to store our oats, mash, bulghur, trail mix, and noodles in roll top dry bags or zip lock bags. The food takes up less room like this and you don’t end up carrying lots of rubbish around.


Our Menu

100g of oats each (usually made into porridge) accompanied by 500ml coffee. We only took 80g each during Part 1, but upped the ration when Neil complained he was being starved.

Either bread, wraps or pitta with chorizo, jam, peanut butter or dulce de leche.
Or 125g each bulghur with chorizo/salami, garlic, oregano and olive oil.
Or 1/2 pack Fruitigran biscuits each.
Or Hogareñas wholemeal crackers with dulce de leche, or cheese spread.

Either pasta with soup powder. Laced with parmesan, garlic, oregano and merquen to taste. (This is the lightest meal option, and so the one we most commonly ate. We came to dread it.)

Or instant potato with chorizo/salami, garlic and olive oil.
Or instant noodles (however, these are not on sale in Argentina, and Chilean instant noodles are worse than any we’ve ever tasted.)
Or pasta with a pre-made sauce (heavy, but we carry a couple as a treat).

Chocolate (we gave up on this after the first stage as it kept melting in the desert).
Trail mix (half peanuts, half raisins).
Biscuits (Don Satur bizcocho is best as they don’t crush easily and are chocka with calories).

We usually consumed 3.5-4 liters of water each per day. This was calculated as follows:

0.5l coffee
0.3l porridge
1.5-2l during day
0.5l tea
0.7l supper

Food Carried (between us)

PART 1 (17 days)


2.7kg Oats
1.6kg Tortilla wraps
1.8kg Pitta bread
1kg Bread
1kg Peanut butter
0.5kg Blackberry jam
1kg Bulghur
1kg Chorizo
4kg Pasta
1.6kg Instant noodles
1kg Instant potato
4 sachets tomato soup
3 sachets mushroom soup
3 sachets pre-made pasta sauce
1.3kg Chocolate
1kg Peanuts
1kg Raisins
1.2kg Sugar
250ml Olive oil
20 Cedron teabags
20 Earl Grey teabags
0.1kg Instant coffee
0.1kg Parmesan cheese
0.4kg Milk powder
1.5 bulbs garlic
Sun dried carrots and mushrooms

TOTAL 28.5kg. (For Americans, Liberians, Burmese and old people this equates to about 63lbs.)

PART 2 (8 days)


1.6kg Oats
2kg Bread
0.4kg Crackers
0.75kg Dulce de Leche
1kg Bulghur
0.3kg Salami
3.5kg Pasta
4 Sachets Instant Soup Powder
3 x 150g Tomato Puree
0.1kg Chocolate
1kg raisins
1kg Don Satur biscuits (Taste like pie crust and are full of calories)
1 bulb garlic
0.2kg Milk Powder
0.5kg sugar
20 black teabags

TOTAL: 13kg (29lbs)

PART 3 (15 days)


3kg Oats
2.5kg Bulghur
4 x 250g packs Fruitigran
6kg Pasta
8 Sachets Instant Soup Powder
3 x 340g Premade Sauce
1kg Instant Potato
600g Salami
1kg Peanuts
1kg Raisins
7 x 210g 9 de Oro Biscuits(Similar but inferior to Don Satur)
250ml Olive Oil
1.2kg Sugar
400g milk powder
Black tea
Apple, honey and cinnamon tea (AMAZEBALLS!)
100g Instant Coffee
3 x Fruit powder drink
1 tin tuna
1 tin sweetcorn
100g Mayonaise
Herbs and Chilli Flakes
1 Bottle Cider (For the carabineros)

TOTAL 21.5kg (48lb)

We learnt the hard way that foxes can open or rather rip into dry bags. Jonson reccommends that if you leave food depots you dig a hole, line it with rocks, place the food in a strong bag in the hole and then weigh down with rocks.

PART 4 (18 days)

3.5kg Oats
1kg Bulghur
6 x 250g Fruitigran Biscuits
0.54kg Spreadable cheese
6 x 250g Crackers
7kg Pasta
3 Pre-made Sauces
11 packs soup powder
1.5kg Instant Potato powder
0.9kg Salami
1kg Peanuts
1kg Raisins
7 x 210g 9 de Oro Biscuits
0.5kg Walnuts (Luxury Snack)
1kg Sugar
Black Tea
Mint Tea
100g Instant Coffee
400g Milk Powder
250ml Olive Oil
Herbs and Chilli Flakes
Dried Carrots and Squash

TOTAL 24.5kg (54lbs)


9 thoughts on “Puna 9: Food

    1. Neil and Harriet

      Hola Mateo,
      Nah, we always decide the 10g tin is too much weight to carry out as rubbish! We don’t eat as well up on the Puna as when we’re cycling with you…

  1. Jan


    food is the one thing, the other: How to cook it?

    When I was in Chile in 2011 I got white gas in any bigger supermarket. Last year in Salta I didn’t find any. As I had read about this problem before (though I could hardly believe it) I also brought a gas stove. And I really found suitable cartridges. Because I didn’t want to use unleaded petrol I took the cartridges and left the liquid fuel stove at the B&B in Salta.

    Therefore the question: What kind of stove do you use? And what kind of fuel?


  2. Neil and Harriet

    Hi Jan,
    We had an MSR Whisperlite with us (for when we were cycling), and an MSR Pocket Rocket (for the peaks). We bought bencina blanca and a gas canister in San Pedro de Atacama at the start, then refuelled in Argentina with petrol as we couldn’t find bencina in Antofagasta de la Sierra or Fiambala. We wanted to just go with our gas stove for parts 2-4 of our trip, but couldn´t find enough cartridges in Fiambala (we found a few for use at high camps, but not enough for the whole trip).

  3. Skyler

    Less than 1kg per person per day! Very light when you’re working hard. So did you lose weight? Gain weight? Spend all day resisting the urge to slam a whole package of Fruttigrams by yourself? I’m allowed a whole pack of Fruttigram cookies by myself each day (tropical or avena y pasas please). Jealous?

    1. Neil and Harriet

      We lost a few Kgs but were only really hungry on part 2 where we were pushing most and doing very long days. Fruitigrans weren’t the problem. The dry bag full of nuts was however. We would limit ourselves to 2 handfuls each per break and I would make those handfuls very big indeed until Neil realized what I was doing. He then made me count out the individual raisins to check I hadn’t been too greedy. You know you’re hungry when you are searching on the ground for a single peanut that you’ve dropped. Tropical are my fave fruitigrans!

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