A Travellerspoint blog

Sunsets and Stories of infinity

Excerpt from Gloria

  • *Disclaimer** Another entry from Gloria. This one was requested (though she doesn't know it yet) by Gessi. Its her sort of entry, but I hope you all enjoy it.

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Sat 20th March

I am scribbling away in Gloria as I take my 22 (in total) trek across Patagonia in hopes that I can transcribe it later in digital form. If you are reading this people, it means I have accomplished this feat. Time is a funny thing for me here. I never seem to have enough, yet have no restrictions, limitations or demands on it. Not sure if that’s this place, or just one of the odder things of travelling.

Patagonia is itself a strange place and demands strange emotions of it. The endlessness of it. To inhale feels like you can fill your lungs with infinity, then breathing out is like puffing smoke rings into a wildfire. The scale is amazing. Like the Canadian prairies or the Mongolian Steppes, it just goes on forever. There is a fable told by the Welsh about the creation of Patagonia that geos something like this:

Once upon a time, the God of the Sun and the Moon grew bored of the world and decided to create a new land of wonder. He began first in the East and sculpted a long coast, with high cliffs and azure waters. He made beautiful stretches of beaches and populated them with fantastic animals; seals with elephant’s trunks and minature flightless birds. He then created the Western frontier. He rose immense mountains, carved them with ice, and frosted them with snow. He settled large glasslike lakes at their bases, and painted the slopes evergreen. After all this work, the god was exhausted. He decided then that he would sleep and with his dreams he would construct the middle. He slept for what seemed like eternity, and upon awaking was horrified to see that he had dreamed nothing at all, and so that was what lay in vast fields between his precious creations. Vast Nothingness. Weeping with frustration, he made a pact that all who pass through this dreamland and sleep, will have their own dreams fulfilled in return.
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The Welsh got it right. The myth is apt for the place. Patagonia feels like it goes on for eternity. It makes your mind wander off into distant, mystical places. The sheer scale of the freedom is almost oppressive. Like you cradle the whole crushing weight of infinity just by being there, alone, in the emptiness. Its magical. The sun is setting now over the plains, preparing for his second job as the moon, and the fulfiller of dreams. I will be going to sleep soon on this 17 hour trek through the foreign God’s dreamland. Let’s hope for positive dreams and not a whole evening of nightmares.
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Posted by 4ccamacho 14:33 Comments (4)

Perdido in Patagonia; A Safari of Penguinos

Excerpts from Gloria

  • *Disclaimer** These are direct excerpts from my notebook, Gloria, to give you an idea of what I write while I am in buses to and fro in the wilderness.

Thurs. 18th March.

--Missed the tour this morning for Pennisula Valdes (the Nature Reserve). Went back to catch some zzz's that I desperately needed. Decided it would be a good chance to see the area by bus. Went to see the Welsh settlement in Gaiman, a vllage a bit into the Patagonia desert. 2 hours later, having missed the stop (drove right through the town without knowing it was the town), I ended up in a remote hamlet called Dolavon. Walked around the one avenue along the river (little more than a drain) and had a beer in a seedy bar with a pair of locals who laughed alot and spoke in rapid spanish. I laughed too. I had no idea at what though. I am sitting here at the bus stop on a swing set waiting for the bus to come back to take me to civilisation...I see a group of young girls. They range from 8-13. I wonder what they do in this town on a weekend. I wnder if there is a similar gang of boys who they are always at odds with. Its like the small towns of Americana narratives. Funny.
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--I am amazed at the landscape of Patagonia. There is nothing but rock and thorny shrubs. I wonder if it ever rains, and almost like magic we drive through a torrential storm. The inside of the bus is now drenched from having the windows down, and the roads have flash flooded. The air smells amazing though.
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--Reached Gaiman, took a long walk through the country to find the Welsh teashop. The landscape here is so different. Apparently along the rivers of Patagonia lie a series of lush oasis from the harshness of the rest. It reminds me of an English countryside. Probably why the Welsh managed to stay. Had tea with a pair of American journalists from Portland. Tea was amazing. Unlimited cakes and scones and tea. I am calling it dinner. Hitched back with them to the bus station. Heading back to Puerto Madryn now with the sunset. A day well spent. Safari tomorrow.

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Fri. 19th March.

-- Finally made the tour to the Reserve... 3 days later. The Penninsula is gigantic, and is a mini version of the Patagonia I saw yesterday. Lots of great wildlife watching, but like all safaris, seen from the bus, with tourists clicking away. Guanacos (like llamas but bigger), foxes, Rheas (like ostriches but smaller), deer-rabbits, armadillos and the like. Along the coast the penguins were molting and being rather lazy. The Elephant seasl were almost all gone. No males left, so no noise. Lots of sleeping. Disappointed.
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-- I chose this tour as compared to the penguin only one because I was told that there was a 2% chance of seeing one of the rarest sights in the animal kingdom: Orca hunting in the surf. We got to the seal beach and within minutes Orca appeared. The whole group let out a communal gasp of excitment. Watching them patrol the shoreline with anticipation I could almost FEEL everyone praying in their various languages for carnage. Very seldom will that many animal lovers all offer up a plea to their gods for seal infanticide. Unluckily for us, but luckily for the (albeit cute) baby seals who were learngin to swim, the Orcas never attempted the hunt. I was strangely relieved, but also dissapointed.

--Puerto Madryn was a good time. I like the opening up of Patagonia. Bought a cheap jacket today. Heading south! 17 hours across the never-ending landscape. Adventure awaits!

Posted by 4ccamacho 14:24 Comments (0)

Las Pampas

As I sit in the small cubicle to write this entry, I am greeted by the smell of dirt, dried sweat, and salt. My face is burnt and my hair is matted. I scratch my beard (its coming along nicely) and fine flecks of dust are set free by my fingersnails. In short, I have become a true vagabond... and its awesome.

I set off from BsAs with the best of intentions and a feeling of finally being on the road. Thought I would cut my corners and go by train the first distance like the locals. I spent 45 pesos for a 10 hour ride overnight to a town which turned out to be an intersection of 2 roads in the vastness of nothing. I had no idea where I was going or what the plan was once I got there. There was a mountain, and I was going to climb it. That's as far as my logic got. Luckily, after being saved from a drunk hooker in the BsAs train station by a burly cafe waitress (Short Story: she kicked the crap out of her, then got her arrested for bothering me), I met the guy who would sit nxt to me for the train ride and who turned out to be from this particular intersection of roads in the vastness of nothing. He was very helpful with understanding the maze of the station and the train itself.

The train was... awful. No insulation and cracks in the windows and gum on the seats. Barrelling southwards in the middle of the night at 12 degrees is a horrendous experience. I shivered for hours, drank every cup of coffee they passed around, and hid for a long time in the back with some Argentine students smoking and chatting (and chattering) about the schism of the Americas. Never, except that one time during the North Coast hike, was I so glad to see the sun rise.

Getting off the train at our stop were three people. The local, me, and a French backpacker. Bonding immediately, we decided it wasn't worthwhile paying the 20 peso fee to get from this 'village' to the park to hike the mountain, so we walked a couple of km into the open fields and stuck out our thumbs and hoped for the best. DSC00318.jpg This is cattle country, so trucks are numerous, and we were successful pretty soon.

A bit about Argentinan geography: South of BsAs, before the harsher landscapes of true Patagonia, lies a huge expanse of undulating, boulder strewn fields extending for hundreds of miles in all directions. This is La Pampa.DSC00332.jpg It is EXACTLY like Rohan (for those who understand Lord of the Rings references). The entire hike up Cerro de la Ventana I felt like if Peter Jackson was behind me with a camera, I would have been a perfect extra for the film.

Cerro de la Ventana, named such due to the hole in its peaklarge_DSC00336.jpg, was a fairly easy climb in an of itself. 2 hours either direction, 1500m, plenty signage (see the photo gallery for more on that). The summit had some amazing views of Las Pampas: endless fields of brown and green and yellow, and every now and then an escarpment or knoll folds out of the flatness. It looked just like someone had crumpled a giant piece of paper, then attempted to flatten it back out, with the valleys and creases remaining. It was beautiful.DSC00363.jpgDSC00380.jpg

I hiked down and hitched back to another little village with a pair of portenos who had hiked with me. From there, headed to Bahia Blanca, a big industrial city, from which (after a quick splash of water to the face and pits) jumped on another overnight bus to my current location... Puerto Madryn, home of the Nature Reserve and my chance to see wild penguins, elephant seals, whales and whatnot. Actually taking a night in a real bed today, having a real shower, and heading out again tomorrow for further South. It might seem rushed, but it actually feels quite slow. Lots of downtime in buses and wandering around villages. Besides, in the race against winter, I have to ensure that I am the one who is winning!

Thats all for now folks.
Salud.

Posted by 4ccamacho 06:44 Comments (5)

Ciao BsAs; la pasé buenísimo

Farewell BsAs; I had a great time

It has begun. Those beating wings of excitement bouncing around with the half-digested sausage in my stomach.DSC00303.jpg The constant adrenaline one gets when being on the road; the terror and anticipation and wild freedom of being totally and blissfully unfettered and carefree. Its like being a domesticated bird and having the cage door swing wide open. This is the beginning of the real 'travels' and I couldn't be more excited!

My last week in BsAs has been an excellent sendoff. Franz Ferdinand concert; pub crawl; BBQs; and the final (almost) tearful farewell from school. I enjoyed my time in this city thoroughly but I am ready to move on. Alone. Into the wild.

So the plan... well... its pretty planless as of now. I am hoping to get as far as the Glaciers in the south, but fighting against an approaching winter with nothing other than a thin sweater and sneakers that are made for wamer climes is a treacherous undertaking. So for now... Southward bound to see some penguins and whales along the coast, until I hit my temperature limit, then I will scurry back north along the ridge of the Andes.

Thankfully the bus system in Argentina is top class, so I plan on having no trouble managing the 16 hour trips in comfort. I also plan to do them as overnights, so as not to have to pay for hostels as well! The down side: no hostel, no shower... after hiking volcanoes and frolicking amoungst shitting penguins, that bus is going to be smelling pretty ripe! (I can see your face right now, mum! Don't worry though, I promise to bathe as often as possible... its the one thing about travelling even I dislike)

While I will be alone on my travels until Bariloche at least, I am taking along my 4 1/2 special Guys (and Girl) with me... George, Gabe, Gloria, the Gospel according to Danny... and Oxford*.DSC00305.jpg These, along with the Mate cup that I got as a 'graduating' present from the clases I was taking (which I will use frequently), make up my travelling comrades for the next couple days, and I am guaranteed no griping or groaning out of them. Maybe out of Gabe, but all he does is groan regardless.

As this is my last time to be assured of internet access for a while (I will try and upload stuff along the way when possible) I bid you all, my readership, ciao ciao for now.
Wish me luck!
xx

  • My 4 books consist of Jorges Borges's 'Complete Fictions' (absent from this pic) in English; Gabriel G. Marquez's 'Cien Años de Soledad' (i am trying to read this epic in Spanish... its slow work); Gloria is the name of my copybook full of notes and words and doodles; and the Gospel is my nickname for Lonely Planets Guide to South America (Danny being the name of the chief editor). Oxford is my dictionary, and though small, more than carries his weight!

Posted by 4ccamacho 12:22 Comments (1)

Un dia de la vida de Cristobal, porteño

A day in the life of Christopher, resident of BsAs.

Its morning. The sun filters into my dorm room without bothering me too much. Years spent living in an attic with windows without curtains and naps on couches wherever I can find them have immunised me to the stimulant effects of light. Its 8:30, and Santiago, the only other permanent resident of this room jumps out of the bed next to mine cursing loudly in Spanish. He is late for work...again. Good for me. He acts as a human alarm clock. I groggily get out of bed, hoping he doesn't get fired today, more for my own sake than his, and apologise to whichever german/autralian/american/etc. occupants call this room home today on his behalf. A quick complimentary breakfast of croissants, and coffee that hits like a train and I am off to class.

Its only a block away. Depending on the time, I might stop in the Chinese-run corner store for a banana or peach. I worry about the level of vitamins I am missing from my meat heavy diet, and I also like to ensure that I've got the fibre necessary to keep my baño trips nice and regular. I climb the stairs to an old hotel that now acts as my school, and mull around in the living room with the other extranajeros (foreigners) and chat about how rough our nights were, and comment friendily about how the other looks like shit, wearing the bags under our eyes like badges of honour.

Class is run in Spanish...completely. I somehow managed to enter an "intermediate" level, where we are conjugating any and everything in all tenses and voices, and we barrell through material in unflinching spanish with terrifying speed. I catch enough to function and voraciously write down words to try and figure out later. I am improving, quickly, but I am still lacking the confidence to speak clearly, and when confronted directly, freeze (Gessi, think Manuela... I TOTALLY understand selective mutism now. lol). Class over and I wish my classmates Hasta Manana, and beeline for lunch.

My choices are pretty open. Empanadas from the panaderia downstairs; Choripán (sausage sandwich-so goood) or a hunk of beek taken off the grill from the street meat vendor on the corner; or my personal favorite, a full 3 course meal for 8 Pesos (2 USD) consisting of soup, what seems like half a cow, fries and a desert of jello from the Socialist Assembly Restaurant. BA_G_s_camera_170.jpgI notice they also have 12 and 14 peso meals, which I am convinced are traps to weed out capitalist pigs, and that the only addition to the set meal is a healthy amount of spit and a smattering of curses. I go for the 8. The man scratches his thick beard and nods wisely. I think I made the right choice. Its actually really good.

I head to the hostel and consult my Bible, Lonely Planet's guide to S. America. Seen all the touristy spots by now: The brightly painted artist slums of the Boca; the old streets and buildings of my own barrio (neighbourhood), San Telmo; the wide, tree lined avenidas of Palmero, where porteños walk around in high fashion shopping in boutiques, lazing in their enormous parks under the shade of their massive monuments, or sipping coffee in some aptly-named cafe. Maybe I'll rent a bike and ride through the Nature Reserve along the river? Maybe tomorrow. Today I'll go to my bookstore and do my homework upstairs in their little cafe before heading back to take a siesta when the bells from the cathedral next door strike 6.

Wake up at 8:30... again. This time its night. Alyssa (my current travelling partner), and I go for dinner somewhere. Pizza most likely. Italian heritage makes for a city of great pizza. Pizza and beer. Or pizza and wine. Excellent choices. BA_G_s_camera_262.jpg Come home to the hostel with some more drinks and await the jam session that will inevitably pick up in the common area. Brazilian, Argentine, Dutch, American... they will ALL know how to play Bob Marley and Oasis. Guaranteed. ¿Son universal, no? Those who are primed and pumped head out, around 1, to a bar and wait until 2 or 3 drinking until the clubs 'get good'... home by 7. Its a schoolnight, so maybe I just do the bar thing. BA_G_s_camera_247.jpg Head home and hit the sack. I notice, with amazement, Santiago isn't in his bed... again... so I go to bed happy knowing my alarm clock will set himself off at the appropriate time in the morning. Perfect.

Posted by 4ccamacho 14:51 Comments (6)

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