If travel were to be reduced to a tick-list, we would be at risk of falling off the bottom. Torres del Paine was to be that final point – a place we’ve both dreamed of and been inspired by as the ‘Patagonia’. Our original masterplan to cut straight through into the park from El Calafate was foiled by bureaucracy, so the longer way round got going with a 100km+ day despite a late start. No large prizes offered for guesses at the relative wind direction. The next day, with a change in direction and rocky surface we slump to just over 40km in 7 hours – thankfully to discover later that others resorted to hitching a lift, justifying our perception of it as sheer, unremitting slog! The difference a wee puff or two of wind can make :-)
A third and final entry into Chile ensues, together with hurried eating of a tomato and banana to avoid quarantine confiscation. Not long afterwards we’re onto our final stretch of dirt road – and trying not to think too much of all the ‘finals’ that are racking up by the minute.
With the passing days, the prospect of hitting the buffers looms larger. The night before Puerto Natales, our camp is wind-blasted again – despite more tree cover than the night before. The campsite does, however come with plentiful supply of tasty (non-hallucinogenic) mushrooms. The richness of this experience distracts us – it’s hard to ignore.
Puerto Natales is a place which seems to have achieved a better ‘feel’ to us than the unabashed touristy glitz of El Calafate and the Argentinian Lakes towns of Bariloche, Angostura and San Martín de los Andes.
Just as our last days of pedalling are threatening to overwhelm us, we gain company. A suspicion of mine actualised, Jeff Volk and Cat Magill shore us up with much, much conversation – both reminiscences of so many unshared but joint experiences down the Americas; and an infinity of potential future forays. Jeff’s adventures in northern México had guided as we were finding our feet in strange Spanish-speaking lands. He shared these particular ones with his brother Jason, our friend and compañera, Anna Kortschak, and Cass Gilbert. Oh, such a small world!
After an abortive side-trip to the penguin colony just north of Punta Arenas (shut as we’re out of season), we plod to a halt.
20 months and 28,000km – and we have finished.
For a while at least – maybe/possibly only a short one.
Time now to clean the things to be kept, discard the things that have been nursed through and way beyond their dying gasps; and work out how to sleep in the same place most nights without going anywhere new each day. My normal half-living in the plans and dreams for next weekend/month/year has been stilled by a life where I can live in the present so comfortably as it is about movement and change. The ending has already brought a return to floods of ideas for the future – though a moment of insight shows me that they are all about getting our present systems properly fixed for getting back out there – almost nothing about anything else. I do know that my music and medicine will work its way back to the fore, and only a few months ago I missed them – but not so much lately. A life in flux – best to wait and see, methinks…