Come together

Puerto Natales, Chile

Mm. I think, on reflection, that isolation, exhaustion (and a hint of Pisco Sour) had reduced my ability to wield the English language last time I wrote. All a bit shoddy – and I think I even referred to ‘getting in touch with myself’ or some such. Must try harder.

Fortunately, since then we have had the joys of the social whirl that is the NAVIMAG.

One of the (usually unspoken) rhythms of backpacking is the new-in-town fiasco. It goes a bit like this. Day one, arrive at new hostel. New to city. Possibly new to country. Maybe even new to continent. See lots of people laughing, talking drinking and playing cards together. Everyone seems to know the proprietor (often, but fortunately not always a fat Australian with a beard). They all seem to have been to primary school together and very much old friends. Feel very left out. Day two, meet a couple of other unlikely souls. Conversation ensues. Go out for a drink. Make the acquaintance of the boss. Day three, ready to leave again. Lots of laughing and joking with all the ‘friends’ you’ve now known for all of 2 days. Feel like the centre of the universe. Notice a few lost souls in the corner unpacking their backpacks.

And then, you hit a new city and its once again round the circle of life. It’s an amazing experience – simultaneously hideous and exhilarating. You meet a lot of berks and a lot of fantastic, interesting people. And sometimes it takes a few conversations to work out who’s who.

You’d think wed all learn the ropes pretty quickly. But those with any nous take enough breaks from the backpack circuit – in our case to trek – that you keep finding yourself back at the beginning.

The real old lags, those who never leave the hostels, can be found sat at any table polishing up their old anecdotes for another outing. The best traveller anecdote involves something no one else has experienced – so you can’t be interrupted or corrected. Ideally, these seem to be experiences, not places, so you can regularly hear tedious monologues about the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. I’d swear most of these people have never been to any of the things they talk about – they’re just sat in hostels talking.

So, we climbed aboard the Navimag boat to venture into the Chilean fjords. 200 tourists trapped together for three days. Perfect opportunity to socialise. Instead, we stood around for what seemed like days, but was probably 30minutes, like teenage wallflowers. The things you never learn!

But we went on to meet some of the nicest people we’ve met since we set off travelling (Hi to Sophie, Jason, Rafael, Denise, Wiebe and Hans…) and had an absolutely fantastic time laughing and mucking about. Even meeting up with some of them again.

I vow not to make every journal a list of ‘you must do’ type entries… But I have to report that the Chilean fjords were truly awesome. They go on forever and the scenery is stupendous. Cliffs, tiny channels… If you’re ever passing through Puerto Montt…

We’ve followed this up with 5 hard days trekking in Torres del Paine. Again, I’m loath to make recommendations, but I’ve never seen walking country to compare – even the resident Kiwi was impressed! The park comprises huge towers (2500m) of rock, plus amazing ‘horns’ and even a couple of glaciers that feed directly off the Hielo Sur – the biggest icecap outside the Antarctic. Mind blowing.

Someone up there loves us because we got all of this – 8 solid days – in perfect weather. Blue skies all over the place. I don’t think that happens a lot down here.

And as we turned to leave the park, the mountains turned moody (Marisa reckons when you’re that big you can be as moody as you like as often as you like). Last night there was a heap of snow. By this morning the mist dropped so you could see nothing. And the wind off the icecap fair blew us out of the park. Seemed totally fitting.

So were in fantastic spirits – and tomorrow were back off to Argentina for (yawn) more glaciers. A bit of ice walking this time – see what were like on crampons.

It’s tough.

Off out now to celebrate Marisa’s birthday. Thanks to all of you who sent emails and ecards. You just made a good day better.

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