As far back as I can remember I have lived in, and loved nature. As children, almost every weekend was spent out in the majesty of The Lake District, The Peak District or some nature trail on the outskirts of Manchester. Early in the morning our family would gather in the street and convoy out with our neighbourhood rambling association, led by Gerald Urey, a pillar of the community and the man who inspired in us all a love and a yearning for nature in a time of burgeoning technology and the isolation it inherently engenders in people.
Now here I was, en route to the mecca of the great outdoors.
My time for wonder would have to wait a little though, half way through a 36 hour bus journey from Buenos Aires I was awoken in my seat to a prodding at my shoulder, I pulled my wool hat from over my eyes dazed and confused, a man in uniform stood over me half heartedly cradling a shotgun (yeah that’s what he poked me with), before my eyes had even adjusted to the new light of the night, he had gone. Obviously un interested with my white face, I craned my neck to watch him do the same to every face he could not see clearly. He walked off empty handed, still with his weapon, and I checked to see if I was awake or dreaming.
As dawn broke nearing the end of this mammoth bus journey, Argentinian Patagonia began to reveal itself through my window. The great plains that flatten out the Andes rolled as far as the eye could see, lush greens frosted at the tips lay back forever staring at the expanse of the pink morning sky, the biggest sky I have ever seen. As I approached El Calafate, a small town in the south west of Patagonia, small inflections began to distort the flat horizon like ephemeral heartbeats on a fated monitor. As the minutes passed the inflections grew and grew, I had reached El Calafate, and the horizon was no more. Great snow covered hills now circled me like an icy embrace, I breathed and exhaled the biting air in this stadium of Eden. The two story town sits aslope by a grand body of water, so blue I can almost hear Miles Davies trumpet carried on every frozen breeze.
Here to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, I passed the afternoon exploring the quaint little town, eating bbq at the pretty Hostel I Keu Ken before retiring early in preparation for my next days adventure. I woke up before the sun to make the most of my one full day this far south. After a strong coffee I hurried to the bus station without cigarettes or anywhere to buy them, this already had my mood irked. As the departure time approached rapidly, the line in front of me for the ticket desk bothered me heavily, two men wholly ill prepared for such a mammoth undertaking as buying a ticket for a bus, the Israeli that simply must stand in such close proximity to me otherwise how else could he properly block the walkway off for everyone else. By the time I reached the small Argentine lady at the desk with barely a minute to spare, my life had become agitated and harried, i snatched at the blue ticket and was pointed vaguely towards the blue bus, one of only two buses in the station. What should have been a forty minute ride had taken an hour already, there’s very little anything in Patagonia, there is even less traffic, so it wasn’t that. I noticed the turquoise lagoon on the map was on the wrong side of the bus, or was i, the woman next to me confirmed my suspicions. I was on the wrong bus, bound for a four hour ride to El Chalten. A rage was born inside me, the couple that sat front of the bus with all the curtains drawn, closing off the most amazing of panoramas only to poke their phones through to take photos had my undivided rage, even the polite lady that sat next to me invoked a deep, purposeful hatred in me for her because of the way she wrote across the spine of her notepad. I clenched my jaw and sat through the four hour trip, the three hour layover, and the four hour return. My idiocy had wilted my anger, and by the time i reached home i giggled as i booked another nights accommodation and bus ticket for the glacier.
Perito Moreno is truly a sight to behold, I boarded a boat with what seemed like a thousand japanese tourists, on the river bank around ten minutes from the spectacle. I’ve encountered these groups a few times now, they are feral beasts when they have a camera in hand, so I picked a spot on the far end of the boat knowing it would eventually turn round and the wolves would be at my back.
What struck me most as we slowly broke water in front of this giant wonder, was the attack on the senses that something moving so glacially slow provokes. A stones throw from its face, I breathed in the blue and white, its high peaks and deep crevices. An incredible orchestra of enduring cacophonous groans fill the frozen winds, punctuated regularly by huge cataclysmic explosions as house sized chunks make their break from the surface and destroy the serenity of the water. The walking platforms from the boat allow a full reflection on the peace and chaos that coexist here, I am yet to find a better spot in my life to sit and ponder the world.
Time in Patagonia was now my enemy, I was on course to spend christmas with friends in Chile, I spent two days relaxing in the superlatives of Bariloche, a bigger more sophisticated town, but still very Patagonian, all turquoise lakes framed with deep green ferns along the ridges of the great white peaks that bound them.
I had fallen in love with this land, and I swore to return another day with time aplenty. I said my farewells at the Chilean border, playing fetch with the sniffer dog.
Until next time my friend.