E-mail From My 300th
Day on the Road...
It’s my anniversary…

Of 300 days on the road!

In honor of this, I am sending you all an email of my past couple weeks. It’s my anniversary
and you guys get a gift. Haha…

Anyway, I have been having a great time zig-zagging through Chile and Argentina since you
last heard from me.

I have seen some of the great outdoors (something that being on the road for 300 days has
made me quite fond of) and some of the not-so-great indoors (I am referring to numerous
hours on buses).

I was able to spend a couple of final days in Ushuaia with friends I made on the boat. While
I did make it out to Tierra del Fuego National Park, the rest of my time was spent lingering
around in town while detoxing from wine (did you ever think you would hear those
words??? Who knew so much drinking would be done while in Antarctica???) and sampling
my way around the different chocolate shops in town (Patagonian chocolate is oh-so-tasty).

I made my way into Chile just to immediately make my way back into Argentina. I can only
attribute this to an extreme lack of planning on my part and not having a clue as to the most
rational order to do things. Silly me.

But in my mind, it all worked out. If I didn’t do things this way, there would have been a
chance that I would have missed one of the most amazing things that I have seen: the
Perito Moreno glacier. I probably polled 20 people on my Antarctica trip to find out if this
was worth the trip. Everybody said ‘yes’ though they weren’t sure how impressed they
would be after being in Antarctica and being surrounded my ice. I decided to hop on a bus
to El Calafate to see this. It was incredible. Yes, it is impressive in itself of just how massive
it was. One of my favorite landscapes I have seen was in Capadoccia (in Turkey). Certain
parts of the glacier looked like an ice version of this. But that wasn’t what made it
‘incredible’. It is beyond active. You hear sounds of thunder as a piece of the North Face
break off. Then it sounds like a gunshot when the ice hits the water. And this keeps
repeating itself. The Grand Finale was when a piece the size of an office building collapsed
into the water – people were literally screaming and applauding. I should say this was just
the beginning of the Grand Finale. A couple minutes later it looked like a whale was coming
out of the water. But it wasn’t a whale – it was the large ice mass that had broken off
minutes earlier. Then another piece of ice the size of a building broke off and a minute later
ended up making its way to the surface. And then another. All of a sudden three new
massive icebergs in different shades of blue were formed. Seriously, there was nothing else
like watching this.

I made my way back into Chile in order to venture out into their natural wonder known as
Torres del Paine National Park. I wouldn’t get to spend nearly enough time here as I needed
to make my way up to Santiago by the 27th. But I was able to do a 3-day outing. Because I
am not really of the ‘camping’ kind – especially when it means carrying all of the gear on my
back – I opted to stay in the refugios (basically a dorm bed with a roof that is next to the
campsite). I figured this was allowed being that I am such a trekking rookie and all (most
people would have known beforehand what those sticks and rolled-up mats are used for).

As for the scenery… Let me start by saying that I am a bit hard to please at times. For
example, I always thought I was missing out on never going to Yosemite despite living
rather close. One holiday weekend a friend and I decided to go. Yeah, there were some
waterfalls. And other things that I could see that people would like. But the water was a
murky grayish-brown. I was happy that I had seen it…though I could not say that I was
impressed in the least. Now comes along Torres del Paine (TdP) which everybody along the
way had said was ‘amazing’, ‘stunning’, blah blah blah. Expectations were getting high and I
was scared that they couldn’t live up to the hype. Each day I grew more and more in awe of
the place. Whether it was watching a Don Quixote-type of dude on horseback crossing
through a narrow river with about 12 other horses following. Or if it was seeing llamas of a
certain breed grazing in the landscape that was in the foreground of the Cuernos mountains
that were partially capped with snow. Or if it was while going through turquoise blue waters
on a ferry. Or if it was watching the sun reflect onto a mountain in the early morning
causing the mountain to almost glow. Or if it was running into a friend from my Antarctica
trip while trekking. Or if it was accomplishing the climb up to the ‘Torres del Paine’ with
nothing more than my New Balance (I couldn’t find a place to rent hiking boots
beforehand). Or if it was making the trek out to the Grey Glacier and seeing it in all of its
glory. Or if it was seeing other lakes in shades of Smurf-blue (ahhh, I love any time I can
make a reference to the Smurfs).

I was impressed. And I didn’t even see so much else of what the place has to offer. Anyway,
I think the Yosemite-lovers of the world should get their butts out to TdP. I can say that I
would go back and I would even be open to doing it the ‘true’ way next time around. For me
to make a statement like this says a lot.

After a great last dinner with my friend in Puerto Natales, it was time for an early morning
rise-and-shine session so that I could hop on a 30-hour bus ride to Puerto Montt. True to
form, this trip would weave its way in and out of Chile and Argentina and all of the border
crossings. In the end, I was wrong about it being a 30-hour bus ride – it turned out to be 35
hours. But who’s counting at that point, right? Prior to this, my longest bus ride was 17
hours and I thought that was quite a feat. Ha! I feel like I have moved a bit into veteran bus-
rider territory now. I saw many o’ movies dubbed in Spanish and some that were in English
but had subtitles (a 9:00am viewing of Basic Instinct 2, anybody???). I read a book cover-
to-cover (Inheritance of Loss which I would highly recommend, if anybody is interested). I
even managed to sleep a lot. It’s amazing how capable I am of getting a full-night’s sleep
while sitting virtually upright.

And now for things I have found out from crossing numerous Chilean borders:

  1. They love their 80s music. And they know how to make a mean mix for people to
    listen to while standing in line.
  2. Apparently they like watching Spin City while stamping passports.
  3. They are adamant that no Argentinean fruit, cheese, etc makes it across their border
    (hence my slamming back a tomato on bread while waiting in line). This also applies to
    unopened bottles of Argentinean honey.
  4. They have a female president whose poster greets me each time I make my way into
    their country.
  5. The officials click onto their Gmail accounts and do Google chats with people in
    between stamping passports.  

Anyway, I am now in Puerto Varas which I am enjoying. The comforts of a warm and cozy
bed. A nice hot shower. Sitting down to a nice breakfast to start the day. See…long bus rides
are a good thing. They make you realize how good you have it for every waking moment
when you
aren’t on a bus. In hindsight, though, it really wasn’t that bad. Bad? Yes. But that
bad? No.

In a couple days I hop onto a 13-hour overnight bus ride to Santiago. Amateur stuff. I don’t
even flinch at trips like this any more.

Stay tuned for my next email which will contain details like:

Did I end up getting a Brazilian visa issued to me?
Did I end up finding a flight for under $2000 to go from Ecuador to Brazil?
Did I end up meeting up with a friend’s friend in Santiago?
Did I end up going wine tasting in Mendoza?
Did I end up taking much-needed Spanish classes?

I know. I know. You are now just on the edge of your seats waiting to hear what will
happen. Hang tight. You will find out soon.

There is just one thing left to say…