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  • PATAGONIA JOURNAL Day 1-30

    Day 30 Proximity

    It has been 16 hours since Sam dropped me off at SCL in the heat of a sultry summer evening for my flight home.  We had spent the previous hour looking for a jack handle to replace the one we left in the dirt after our encounter with the profiteering tire merchant in southern Argentina.  It was not a success and I was not willing to risk missing my flight so we called off the search and will leave ourselves to the graces of the rental car company. We did learn it should cost 15,000 pesos about $30 USD.It occurred to me that I have spent every day, 24 hours a day for the past 30, no more than 10 feet from this guy, aside from the time fishing or trips to the bathroom.  Riding in the truck, sleeping in a tent, making meals, hiking we were within arms length of each other. I cannot think of anyone I have or will experience such a concentration of proximity for that duration.What is mineable from this?  The ore collected will be smelted further with time.  In its unrefined state produces some impressions of value, insights not available from family vacations.  

     

    Day 29 The Decent

    We descend Paso Sistema Cristo Redentor traveling from Mendoza over the Andes and enter the smoggy oxygen rich air of Santiago. The road is a new super highway completely foreign, though I feel the shadow of familiarity. This dejá-vous moment is uncomfortably relaxing. The road signs and smooth pavement makes me feel I have entered another world and I have.  The GPS on my phone works,  (a naive misguided expectation of mine for the other 9900 Km we have driven).  Our sights are fixed on the Park Place Hotel. We arrive the bellman’s face cannot contain his displeasure as we wheel into the valet court, hop out and ask him to take our bags. He will not take them because to do so would make his crisp black suit look as though he had just slide into home, covered in dust. We have to load his cart.  The gringo hillbillies arrive at a beautiful downtown hotel………………….. very incongruous. After disgorging our vehicle of its contents the valet took the keys and sat lightly on the seat rolled down then windows hoping to dissipate the accumulated sent of the road. Our roja camioneta (red truck) was off to its stall, we were off to a shower.  

     

    Day 28 Things I Remember

    Not everything is a story, yet there are things that made an impression worthy of capturing, images that are etched on my mind? Traveling 6000 miles I recall with sights, sounds, and smells of the moment. These are front of mind.Streams of icy water fall from the glaciers that hang above us like long silky tentacles tethering these great storehouses to the earth.

    Distant plumes of dust rise like smoky fires announcing the presence of fellow travelers rolling across the miles of dirt roads.

    Long shadows cast by a falling sun across a wide horizonMountains of ice made ages ago moving to the sea to begin the journey again.

    The roof of my tent adorned with the celestial handiwork of The Creator leaving His fingerprints on the cosmos and on me.

    Wind, powerful and unrelenting, shaking your tent through a sleepless night, buffeting each step as you walk the ridge, frothing the water of the smallest pond.

    Clouds resting on the distant horizon like curtains on a stage.

    Volcano’s capped with snow standing against blue sky with smoke testifying silently, I am only sleeping.

     

     

    Day 27 Hemispheric Disorientation

    Drop me in the woods with a blindfold on and within a few minutes I will point you north. In the southern hemisphere give me a compass and I want to argue with it. Here I am directionally undone. It is my inner magnetic senses that are out of equilibrium? I have lost my directional superpower.   Here is my best shot. Those that read this, chime in. We are sensing creatures; we take in and process information in vast quantities at a subliminal level. How do we know we are in danger, or a person is lying to us? Malcolm Gladwell explains this phenomenon in his book Blink. He makes the case that people reach startling accurate conclusions with limited overt information. This is accomplished on a sub-conscience level taking in covert information processing it and reaching a conclusion. My hemispheric disorientation is the result of everything being reversed. It is summer now, south is colder, the rising and setting sun is south of east and west. These are things that are processed on a sub-conscience level and not assimilated correctly.  

     

    Day 26

    A hollow sound is unmistakable, and a hollow feeling is likewise. The dark grey clouds hang low in sympathetic sadness.   Driving the final leg north we arrive in Bariloche. I know this town 11 years ago Mary and I came here to visit our daughter Molly. She lived here as a Rotary exchange student. Our time here was spent with her friends Janni and Maru. We did everything and were treated as royalty by her host family.  Hiking horseback riding, swimming and staying in some very special places.  Now returning 11 years later, leaving them home 4 weeks ago I have that empty feeling. Not a bad feeling just a sad one. What is it in seeing the familiar we rush back to those we shared these experiences with? We are incredible creatures possessing the ability to transport ourselves to a different time with the simple stimulus of the familiar. This double-edged sword of memory cuts two ways.  The warm feeling of affection and longing with feeling of emptiness.  This is not a permanent state but one held to savor the sweetness of the past and anticipation of reunion. I have never understood the loneliness of those who have lost a spouse or loved one and the heightened sense of loss at Christmas or Thanksgiving or a time of mutual sharing. Today I am beginning to understand.  

     

    Day 25  A do-over

    11 years ago my wife arranged a fishing excursion with a guide, today I am here again fishing these same waters in Patagonia. I miss our guide, I believe his name was Francisco. He was a large jovial fellow with a big mustache and beret, who would have fit stepping out of a Hemingway novel or a river fishing. His broken English permitted interesting conversation during our tea breaks or having funny commentary on the fish I lost. The river we floated was short, containing the most ethereal waters I have wet a fly. It connects a series of lakes the primary is Lago Futalaufquen and Lago Menendez. Yes, the same namesake of the Futaleufu river in Chile.  The water is so clear and deep the fish swimming below you appear to be cast in glass, like a museum display. For fisherman this makes good fish watching, for fish it makes good fisherman watching. You can see 100’s of these rainbow beauties rest in the cool currents and laugh as we work to coax them to take our fly. They turn up their noses as they see the finest tippet looking like a towing chain in the clear water. Sam and I did not have the benefit of a float boat to fish, a big disadvantage, apparently a bigger disadvantage for me than Sam. You see he and a very productive day, me not so much, and lets just leave it at that.  

    Day 24  To Wonder

    As a kid most days I missed the bus, this deficiency was remedied by hitchhiking to school. Some dad usually picked me up on his way to the train, feeling sorry for me knowing how hard it was to wake his kid every morning.   I usually beat the bus to school, sometimes passing it on the twisty woodsy roads of Suffolk County. South America and Patagonia in particular is the epicenter of penniless well educated students striking out for a summer adventure. The outskirts of each town were eddies that collected an assortment of unwashed youth looking for a ride to the next destination.  If I sound down on these kids, I am not, I am just reporting. We were always hard pressed for space to pack them in, though they would most likely not mind the discomfort. The creativity and effort of their approaches was to be admired, dances, skits, signs, miming, to outright begging on their knees. Today, the gap in our gear would permit 2 underfed students into the truck bed.   Sam slammed on the breaks as we passed and asked if we should pick them up. No deliberation ensued but by then we had stopped and backed up 200 yards to the widest smiles I have seen in a while. Frank and Anna, were from Germany, both graduate students studying in Buenos Aires, on summer break. Frank was on more than a summer break he was traveling till August then he had to get back to Germany. Anna was headed back to school in a few months. They were leaving the assado festival in town and headed to El Bolson, our destination.   They piled in with their packs and gear with some slight cargo adjustment they were now just mildly uncomfortable for the 200Km drive.   It was cold and starting to drizzle, I kept looking back to check on them but they were hard to see. I told Sam to stop I needed to check on them, he looked at me in complete disbelief. “You want to check on them?” Did I say, Anna was dressed quite fashionably in a flimsy cotton blouse, with a skirt, leggings, and some flats, all very worn and needing laundering. Frank had a T-shirt and jeans. “Sam they are freezing they need a jacket.” Sam’s compassion came oozing out, “they should think ahead, they know it can be cold.”   Dad’s think all kids are their kids and would want the same thoughtfulness from a stranger. We stopped, rearranged the back again for more comfort and wind screening and got them our jackets. El Bolson here we come.  

    Day 23  A Kodak Moment

    We kept climbing higher at every turn the road that was to take us to the river was taking us to the stars. We were 100 Km short of our aggressive goal of 1000 Km for the day. We needed to find a campsite it was getting dark and we were running out of options. Our optimism to keep going was diminished at every turn. No trees, nothing flat and no spur roads. We turned around, then we saw it. The perfect little oasis beside the road flat, wide, protected from the wind and the views were perfect. Along the road is quiet since so few vehicles travel here, this was more desolate. We unloaded the truck and Sam announced he was going to the top if the hill with his camera.   Then it happened, the grey clouds hanging loosely on the horizon turned violent with fire, oranges, reds, purple, mixed together and changing with every frame. Then as quickly as the show started it was over, and no amount of applause would produce an encore. The setting sun gave the most memorable images. Was it the light color, or the brevity to be savored? I do not know, but it was.  

     

    Day 22 The longest Day

    This was a long day and about to become another as the hour hand approached midnight.  We had sauntered to Tierra del Fuego and now we were sprinting back to Santiago. Our goal was to get to Bariloche in 2 days from Ushuaia and it was slipping away. Sam had great designs to do some fishing and shopping for his bride to be, which drove him. On the other hand I was craving my sleeping bag getting off this concrete ribbon of craters with fuel trucks approaching us at a closing rate of 250Km/Hr. We had not seen an intersecting road for hours, this was a lonely stretch of highway. We flew past a cattle gate backed up and pulled off the road. One word can describe this campsite – TERRIBLE, burs, dirt, road noise, no tent, and a protesting companion. “Sorry Sam, this is it, once your eyes are closed it will make not difference.” Not exactly true you could still hear the trucks though the frequency had diminished.   I looked up at the canopy of stars and was most grateful that our prayers for safety had been answered. That is the last thing I remember.   There are always compensating components to any situation. The morning was the most beautiful yet. The desert air was crisp and cold not yet warmed by the rising sun. The clouds were sufficiently present to give us a full color good morning.   Soon we were on our way.  day22

    Day 21 Grit

    The two riders ahead sparred for the apex of each turn up the last pass before descending the slopes that held back the icy waters marking “fin del mundo” (the end of the earth).  This was the last ascent before reaching Ushuaia then 600 miles of open ocean to Antarctica .The two riders were kitted out for business atop some variant of a BMW R1200.  This was a common site on our journey. Solo riders to a group of 30 Indonesians.Riding a motorcycle here is a grueling and tactile mode of transporting oneself across a beautifully harsh landscape. Heat, rain, cold cratered gravel roads, breathing dust, fighting for visibility and road as trucks passed from the opposing direction, or passing you on a blind curve.  Two saddlebags limited luggage to the essential. These people had grit.The gap between us now was narrowing as the riders applied pressure to their large Brembo brakes as they wheeled off to the wide viewing area. There was an auburn pony tail gathered with a bright bow peaking from under the helmet of one of the riders, this was a woman, not just any woman, this was a woman with grit.  

    Day 20 The universal language of trouble

    I understand trouble in any language.Walking back to the truck to throw away my coffee cup before we took one last look at the Perito Moreno Glacier, there were 3 park rangers standing beside it as if guarding some dignitary. I was flattered for the special attention, but that did not seem right. They were protecting evidence to make the case against us for pilfering property of The People of Argentina by picking up firewood earlier that day.My Spanish was not going to help and Sam’s was good enough to get across borders, get flats fixed and order a beer, his legal vocabulary was not up to task. We were going to be cited and would have to appear in court Monday (it was Saturday). We had a schedule to keep. The three rangers, one acting as translator, were not particularly sympathetic to our story. Sam was getting very pale and I was calculating the cost of bail in pesos and how much I could get from ATM’s by Monday.Sam was beginning to be get traction with the rangers, now I put my Perry Mason hat on for closing arguments. I asked them to consider that if it were our intent to steal this firewood, would it make sense to park in plain sight at the visitor lot? Earlier that day the Ranger had asked me not to put trash in the can, and to carry it out of the park. I did and I waved my little trash bag as evidence. They were softening, and in all likelihood had softened to two gringos traveling this far to gawk at the wonders of Argentina.We agreed to dump the wood in the woods by the parking lot and we were free. Sam was happy and wanted to go back and get a few more pictures of the glacier. I told him we are getting in the truck and getting out of here before their boss hears about this and wants to reconsider, he agreed and we were G O N E !!!!  

    Day 19  Hey Toto

    It is clear we are not in Kansas anymore; living in the United States has given me a view of the world I need adjusted regularly. I have been to Africa, Europe, Canada, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean, each time I come home most grateful, being reminded again of what we enjoy. The places I have visited are beautiful with modern cities, wonderful people, but the material benefits and political freedom we enjoy, as Americans should never be taken for granted. A friend once told me that the value of traveling outside the US is to understand the US, he is right. There are places I would enjoy living for 6-12 months, but eventually I would want to go home.Crossing the border between Chile and Argentina is no small feat, it never took us over 2 hours or less that 45 minutes, and we will do it 7 times. One time we were threatened with fines because the border agent believed the sausage we were bringing in was not cooked, which it was and previous crossing was not an issue. Sam worked his charm with the female border agent and she took his passport number in case of future incidents of sausage smuggling. In Argentina every town we entered we were stopped and questioned by the newest police recruit. This usually resulted in Sam getting high praise for his Spanish and being asked if we knew any of the officers relatives in Miami. Exiting town it was the same drill. Do you think they could work out a system to do this more efficiently? Nah, it would require fewer officers, this system allowed the bad guys to come to them. Interestingly if you entered or left town after 6:00 PM the guard stations were closed and it was smooth sailing for us or any would be criminal.  

    Day 18 to follow

    Day 17

    The crux is a term used by climbers to define the most difficult move or section of a climb. All other moves are routine and practiced, and are prelude and postlude to the crux. Today we climbed to the base of Fitz Roy one of the most iconic rock spires in the world. It was a 10 Km hike up, 6.2 miles not far. Or should I say 9 Km up and 1.0 Km straight up. There was noting technical or difficult in the climb, it was just the grind of putting one foot in front of the other.  The ferocity of the wind added another dimension to the hike, doing its best to make you earn the view hoping to discourage you with thoughts of its power blowing you off the ridge. Wind in Patagonia is nothing like I have experienced, sure I have felt strong wind, but never with the constant, pounding intensity of the wind here. Wind so strong and menacing you look for ways and places to elude it. The assent was complicated by others making the decent, stopping to let them pass or ready to catch them when some misstep on the loose gravel sent them sliding into you. The parka, hat and sweater were now dug out of my daypack, it was cold, and the layer of insulation was welcome. We reached to top, Sam well ahead of me, so much so that he has spotted a distant rock he was going to jump off of into the glacier pool that was a giant ice cube last night. He is an idiot! Read….. broken back, out of view, dry drowning, hypothermia……… No sanity prevailed in the conversation and I will spare you the fallout, other than to say this was a low point. We descended separately I needed space to permit the glacial coolness, calm my volcanic anger. Back in camp we talked it through and arrived at a comfortable place.  

     

     

    Day 16

    NO WiFi the sign read, and underneath it said, ” But feel free to talk among yourselves.”  This was posted on the bulletin board in the community kitchen and hang out place at the campground we stayed in El Chaltén. The 700sf building sheltered the most diverse collection of humanity I have witnessed, old hippies, young hippies, overlanders, European grad students, climbers young and old, lots of dreads and languages intermingled to make a place of welcome hospitality to the weary. This was a place to forget WiFi and soak in all that cannot be delivered online regardless of the bandwidth. Even if you find WiFi in southern Patagonia it is slower and more irregular than a geriatric ward.Severing the information umbilical cord has been refreshing, not in the beginning mind you, but now it is. Disconnecting with many things helps to make me realize how much I have and how few things are essential. Life on the road is reduced by necessity and shedding the baggage of life permits space for things to happen that might not otherwise. A climber sheds all unnecessary weight to reach the summit; there is no capacity for the non-essential.  In a different context, what is my summit? What do I carry that holds me back? It is impossible to carry it all and reach one’s objective; to think otherwise is magical thinking. This Journey has permitted me to get clarity on my summit, now the shedding of baggage and the painful decisions to say goodbye to the good and embrace the best.  

     

    Day 15

    Two flat tires in one day is an accomplishment, Two flat tire incidents both involving two flat tires both times crossing from Chile to Argentina 11 years apart is beyond categorization. I can add little to Sam’s narrative of the day, other than to say I hope the Argentinian tire merchant takes the family to dinner and a short vacation on the money he made on the desperate gringos. In all fairness he was a shrewd businessman recognizing he stocked the only tires between his tire shop and the end of the earth, and he was willing to test what the market would bear. Capitalism thrives all over the world. I am happy to report the $1100 USD replacements performed splendidly the balance of the journey. day15

     

    Day 14

    WHAT WORDS?  In Revelation Saint John describes an infinite heaven with finite words. His task is impossible yet he attempts to use language to crack the door for our imagination and create images a finite mind can marvel at. While Patagonia is not heaven is does elude images and words to capture it. Images and words can open the imagination to contemplate this grandeur and expansive horizon, colors mixed from heavenly palettes, textures combined in an un-weaveable tapestry, clouds furl unendingly to the horizon and puddle like the curtains on a stage, the sun casts shadows of immense length, growing at a rate one could not outrun. This is Patagonia and should you ever have the chance to see it, do not let it pass.  

     

     

    Day 13

    PELIGRO!  Signs announcing danger for some impending doom that awaits you at the next bend are everywhere. Though the roadside shrines that moralize the death of a loved one add greater sobriety to my driving than any sign.A high concentration of these do-it-yourself memorials appear at long flat high speed stretches with steep embankments, where hitting a pothole and over correcting would put you in the spin cycle. Others are set at blind curves where the urge to pass overrides sound judgment. The shrines are in the form of small houses 2’ to 3’ tall, adorned with a cross, usually red but not always, stickers, writing, lots of votive candles, and a fence of sticks or stone clamming it boundaries. They are usually neglected, showing the effects of constant vigil in the sun, rain and snow. Some are well manicured and painted, perhaps the result of being newly commemorated. My curiosity asks, is the shrine for impatient driver or the family of 5 on their way to the Asado Festival who meet the impatient driver?  

     

     

    Day 12

    The confluence of the Rio Baker and the Rio Neff blends the purest clear blue water of the Baker with the heavily silted brown water of the Neff. The combination of these two great rivers produces a wonderful, murky blue.  The crystal and pure waters of the Baker are diminished, while the waters of the Neff are enhanced.Years ago, while driving my wife’s 93 year old grandfather back from Florida, I asked him what he considered to be the best advice that he could giver a person starting out in life. Without hesitation, he said to associate with good people. I thought “That’s it?” I was hoping for some deep secret that 93 years of living might yield. The secret, as it happens, was just not recognized by the idiot driving and showed the all the ignorance of only 32 years of life.The Rio Baker and the Rio Neff provide a reminder of this sage advice given 30 years ago, and strengthen my resolve to pass it on to my kids.

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    Day 11: Abandoned Campsite

    My standards for personal grooming, cleanliness, and comfort are slowly melting away like the glaciers hanging above us. The human capacity for adaptation is quite remarkable.

    My jeans have now taken on a patina of dirt usually accrued from lunch or changing a tire. Bathing is only for the pleasure of bathing as the effects are removed immediately. Meals usually contain a measurable percentage of non-food matter. Not that long ago, these scenarios would have been uncomfortable to imagine. Todayno imagination is required.

    When the British colonized Africa, they dressed for dinner and shaved every day for the purpose of maintaining the practices of civilized men. They recognized the  gravitational pull of the sloth, and now, so do I.

    Giving up comforts, I work hard to maintain essential practices and to enjoy my fast from Western luxuries. Here, I take in unnumbered stars as my roof, drink ancient waters yielded from glaciers, and take in a horizon so achingly wide that I imagine seeing the curve of the earth. These things allow me to witness the magnitude and grandeur of God’s creation and it amplifies me knowing that I am a part of it. To return home and not be a better man would be a tragedy.

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    Day 10: Rio Baker

    We struck up a conversation in English, with Joaquin and Benjamin,  which they spoke well with a slight British accent having attended a British Bridge School. They were friendlylike every one we have met. Joaquin and Benjamin are making their way down Ruta 7 photographing and shooting video with their drone as a summer project.  They suggested we might join them as the “talent” for their in project. Our role was gringo tourists, fly fishing with Marcelo the local celebrity fishing guide. Deliberations were short, making the unanimous consensus required. The next day Marcelo, his side kick and our new friends headed to a secret section of river only accessible with the permission of the rancher whose land we must cross.We drove endlessly on deep rutted roads, through sheep pasture, parked and started to rig up. Marcelo asked in Spanish, “What what weight rod will you be using?”  “A 6 weight” Sam replied, that is all we brought. His snicker was so obvious. Looking at us like we were barbarians he drew his Orvis 3 weight from its carbon fiber case.  What followed was legendary.  He approached the stream, crouched down and pointed to the fish he was going to catch. I could not see it but nodded as though it was as obvious as an elephant at the zoo.He took one last drag off his Kent, snuffing it in the  dirt,  gripped his rod with the same authority big game hunter might his Holland & Holland double rifle and began the stalk.He stationed himself 60 feet from the bank and there began his dry cast like a maestro warming up the orchestra. His casting virtuosity was immediately apparent. The fly was placed like a rifle shot, not like my gimme approach to casting. It fluttered to the surface with such delicacy what trucha (trout) could resist?  Not this 20″ brown. It is good to see the pros lose a fish as it takes away the god-like quality they think they possess.As quickly as the stealthy beast took the fly he was gone, fly and tippet as well. Before the end of the day a number of his kin were pulled from the stream and returned. One further notethe bad boy that got away  did not get away the second time. You see, Marcelo always gets his fish.

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    Day 9

    Every kingdom requires a constitutionwritten or unwritten, benevolent or malevolentthrough which men and kings can conduct deliberations. Our kingdom of two is no different.  On the road there are nano decisions and deliberationsif decisions are conducted without parameters, they devolve into anarchy. One can not be happy long while the other is not. We agreed that all voting must be unanimous. This will force dialog, unearth creative alternatives, and eliminate power plays.  This process is messy but is far better than miles of sulking and anger.

     


    Day 8

    Samwho is getting married this summerhas been a constant and mostly amicable partner for the journey. The tension between us resides in three categoriesmusic, vehicle speed, and campsites. You may speculate on the given preferences.Music tastes provide limited overlap and he who owns the iTunes library holds the power. So my only selection criteria is music that someone over 40 would recognize as music.Speed is more of a risk management issue. On 100 blind turns there is a 2% change of a head on encounter. I would drive as though it could happen at any turn. Sam, on the other hand, would drive as though 98% of the time it is not an issue and the other 2% are what brakes are for. Factor in that there are no guard rails and the shoulders are as soft as a loaf of Wonder Bread.As for campsites, I am happy to find a nice site with enough daylight to make dinner. Sam is happy to keep driving for the perfect place to lay his head. Time is irrelevant. Today he was trying to convince me that we should driving until 03:00. No dice, midnight is when this rig turns into a pumpkin and I get very cranky. I am happy to report that Sam’s campsite intuition has so far proven sentient.

    Day 7

    If I was a boxer and had just gained the strategy to defeat my opponent in the ring of dust and washboard roadsI have no doubt shown my foolishness in the new tricks the road hands me today. In Chile the standard correlation between time and distance is irrelevant. The exogenous variables that effect travel are unnumbered. The one thing you can expect is the unexpected. Today the road dished up numerous one way sections, washouts, and cliffs dropping so far one would have ample time to write their obituary as they tumble to the river. This might seem improbablebut a cursory glance down the cliff at the rusted hulks resting peaceably at the bottom, most likely along with the graves of its passengers, proves otherwise. The Carreterra Austral does not suffer fools and I find myself filled with regret having departing Santiago with only one spare tire. Our daily prayes have been answered for safe and mostly unremarkable travel. The journey continues.

    Day 6

    Futalafu. The word has a confectionery, bubble gum ring to it. Looking downstream it is difficult to decide if it more resembles an overgrown water park or the headwaters to the river Styx. The Futalaflu is known to release its victims upstream from where they were last seen thrashing about, illustrating the hydrological superpowers of the river. This violence is wrapped in the seductive beauty of water that arrogantly displays the entire spectrum of terrestrial blues. The sky, mountains, clouds, and trees accessorize this beautyto the envy of her sisters.

    Day 5

    The road is gravel. I find myself angry with the constant washboard shaking. Dust invades the truck’s cab, and I can taste the Chilean earth between my teeth. Do I resist or submit for the next three thousand kilometers? Resisting would feel good; surrender would be good. Not accustomed to surrendering, surrender I did.Surrender to enjoy the journey, to live comfortably at the pace the road permits. A pace that notices, and demands you stop to walk off the constant pounding. The river that you camp alongside will not mind if you’re late.

     

    Day 4

    A full day of driving landed us in Puerto Montt at 18:00 for a 23:30 ferry departure.  My expectation of a taking ferry overseas comes from what I’ve read in the news: “400 feared dead as overloaded ferry capsizes.” The vessel looked seaworthy, though not new and well-painted like the website (thank you Photoshop). We abandoned our 4×4 backpack into the “care” of men that chained and lashed her cruelly to the deck, like a prisoner that could not be trusted. Our “first-class” accommodations: four bunks in a closet.  We would be sharing our stateroom with a young family (read: crying baby). Luxury is relative; if not for “first-class” we would be spending the night sleeping like stacked cordwood on the deck with 200 new friends and a very amorous  Argentine couple.  We were very grateful for our accommodations. Day4

    Day 3

    We did not anticipate the concern I would have about our belongings being stolen from the car. The little hotel we stayed in Chillán sent me off to the land of nod with great assurances that our things were safe in the garrisoned parking lot.  After a good nights sleep and a breakfast that could qualify as only a snack we were down the road. Day3

    Day 2

    Our second day was quite unremarkable with the exception of the incredible hospitality of Sam’s friends in Santiago. We spent the day waiting for our border crossing papers. Our rental agent was getting married this weekend and his mind was everywhere except on the details of our rental truck. No second spare, no can of fix-a-flat, no loaded Wi-Fi card, cell phone not charged, fuel tank on EMPTY, no air compressor, and a yet undiscovered check engine light. Yeswe’re off to a good start. It’s always an adventure! Day2

    Day 1

    Day 1

    My cell phone rings, I stumble from bed to pick it up and I see the caller IDmy son Sam. His voice is panicked; now I am fully awake. The trip we’ve been planning for months is vaporizing before his eyes. The ticketing agent informs him that there is no ticket to Santiago under his name. It appears that his father dropped the ball.  Note to selfstick with your day job. I went online and saw the same ticket would cost $3,900.  I was now panicked looking for alternatives. A phone call to American Airlines connected me with the patron saint of travelers, Margaret. She made everything happen. When I landed in Santiago one of the first faces I saw was a smiling Sam Brown through the glass at customscrisis averted. There will be more moments like these, but it’s nice to start the trip with a convenient outcome.

    In life we plan, there’s always events that come up, pushing aside our hopes and dreams.  We can fold or push back.  Everything of value has a price. What are we willing to pay to push through the obstacles?  I am sure I will have plenty of opportunities to find out.

    Ted

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