Patagonia Part 1: Es como Alaska pero no hay animales que pueden comerme!

Patagonia is the last great place I have really dreamt of going. I can use my Spanish and hopefully improve, hike in the mountains, and wander around a pretty safe environment. And I have no real schedule. Finally.

My trips to Spain and South Africa were mainly to spend time with friends and family. That was the priority. Being in Spain, Portugal and South Africa was a side benefit, and amazing.

But during that part of my trip, my heart and mind were continually looking towards South America. Part of it was that I didn’t have to really plan around a plane flight once I got here and could plan just a few days in advance, thus settling into a rhythm of “how do I feel?” and what I have learned from fellow travelers and locals about what to see and do. It is a rhythm I love and tends to dictate my life. It is also why I can only travel with a certain type of people; those with a flexibility to their day and an understanding that me not wanting to do something is not dismissive of their wishes. It’s why seeing Dave and Derek and Laura and Andy and Jo was so awesomely easy. It is also why solo travel can be amazing as your life path crosses someone else’s if only for a hike or a beer or sharing a conversation in your hostel room. It is a rhythm that, while harder to accomplish as you get older, still resonates deeply with me and does not go unnoticed. It can be lonely at times but not much. I connect with people easily, even in Spanish, and they usually respond to my enthusiastic basic spanish.

I spent a week with a grad school buddy, Chris, in Buenos Aires. He had just had achilles tendon surgery and his wife was on a work trip. So I settled into my “manny” role I am used to and just stepped in when I could to supply “Uncle Bob” time with his 3 and 5 year olds. While he slid up and down the stairs on his ass and around the place on a wheeled office chair!

Buenos Aires IS A BIG CITY. I stopped liking cities awhile ago. But I enjoy seeing friends in them. It makes it easier.

I rolled over to Mendoza which is so much like Napa/Sonoma but so much more beautiful and farther from the ocean. Hot, dry, and high. Couchsurfed on a young angry feminist (self-described) hippy chicks floor and played music with her friends. She lived in a small place amongst the grape farms and it was really nice, and really quiet. Day hiked with my new buddy Alejandro. I liked Mendoza.

A long flight to the “End of the World” in Ushuaia brought me to Tierra del Fuego. The geography here is really unique. Ushuaia has the feel of Juneau as it has the cruise ship shit show and is around the same latitude in reverse. Juneau is way more stunning as the big mountains are right there as are the glaciers.

Here the mountains are smaller but no less stunning. Jagged peaks and hidden hikes. Day hike mecca. Its fucking windy here. When it is not, it is incredible. No bugs, no animals to be afraid of (but that DOES diminish the allure a bit). It is an island, cut off from the rest of South America by the Straits of Magellan. Tierra del Fuego includes both Chile and Argentina and was named by Europeans that saw Native fires burning as they sailed up the Beagle Channel and Straits of Magellan but the indigenous folks hid in the trees. That didn’t save them unfortunately. They are now eradicated here.

Puerto Williams, on the south side of the Beagle Channel, is really the southernmost city and also on an island. Isla de Navarrino. It is also in Chile. Chile is expensive. And this town really is. All goods have to come from Punta Arenas; a 30 hour boat ride. Instead of two hours from Argentina. There is weird shit between Chile and Argentina about importing food. It is mainly the Chileans issue.

To that end, Argentina and Chile are different. Argentina is to Chile as Canada is to the US. As Portugal is to Spain. That is my first pass. Chile is a bit more intense. A bit more arrogant, and a bit more capitalist. Argentina a bit less ignorant. That is my first take. I bonded more with the Argentinians. They are more open-minded.

Because of last minute decisions, I was forced to stay at an “Eco” hostel here in Puerto Williams. I am not sure the exact connection with ownership here. But the 30 something couple here calls themselves owners. But they are doubling the size of the place (and the original place is not finished), have only a small kitchen that makes me feel uncomfortable to cook (as they make expensive meals for guests), and seem to have more employees than guests. The hostel is 6 km outside of town and there is no communication as to expectations and who is in charge.(I got a ride to the hike yesterday but after a 16 km hike I had to walk the last 4 km home) It is kind of a shit show actually. But I have connected with some of the employees, it is in a beautiful setting, and I needed a break anyway. Hmmm. Some millennials that are trying to be hip and eco groovy and failing miserably. Sound familiar?

The light changes and moonrises and wind and sun and clouds and rain and super long days make you feel like you are staying in a different place every day. Overlooking the Beagle Channel and staring at Argentina is pretty cool. And that moonrise….Wow! My body feels great after three pretty burly day hikes in a week with a maybe ¾ full pack?

I’ve done the unthinkable. Popped my credit card down for a last minute discount trip to Antarctica. The boats leave from Ushuaia and some fellow hostel folks said I “must” do it. And I am. Check out Facebook for my recent pics. I really can’t be bothered with the Cyber jerk off between these tech companies and sharing info. Greedy fuckers.

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

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