Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Blowin´ in the Wind

Well, it´s official, the romantic thrill of being in Patagonia is starting to wear off slightly. Actually, it´s being eroded away little by little by the wind. Today at the Argentina-Chile border crossing (a stop in the middle of nowhere, exposed to all the power of the wind sweeping down off the Andes and across the pampa) my foot was nearly blown out from under me as I stepped out of the building. It would be so embarassing to trip over air! Luckily I didn´t actually fall. But then I had nightmares of my freshly-stamped passport being blown out of my hand and lost forever in some Patagonian prickerbush, and later eaten by llamas. So I clutched it tightly as I hurried back onto the bus.

The second trekking expedition (this time in El Chaltén, AR) didn´t turn out exactly as planned. I had met up with my friends Celia and Sylvine again, and we planned a three-day adventure: camping three nights with some moderate hikes in between, an early morning for the "sunrise of fire" at Mount Fitz Roy, and the highlight, a one-day glacier trekking adventure, including ice picks and crampons. The first night, we woke up at 3 AM to the sounds of the roaring wind, and of tent flaps slapping back and forth, with the tent completely bent and folded over on itself. Sylvine was windward, and (besides occasionally being smothered by the tent) took a beating from the flimsy tent poles, which were actually bent around inwards. By some miracle the tent didn´t actually fall apart, but continued for the rest of the night to flap around in the wind. The situation was absolutely ridiculous, but we managed to get back to sleep; unfortunately the next day the glacier trek was cancelled because of high winds. If this wasn´t enough, then it started to rain. Ugh. We were now faced with the idea of plan B: packing up the tent, and hauling it through the wind and rain to another campsite, in order to get up the next morning and catch the sunrise (if it wasn´t hidden by clouds) then hauling it back for the re-scheduled trek (if it wasn´t cancelled again). Instead, we decided to abort the mission, and straggled back to town, wet and grumpy, with sand and grit in everything from our backpacks to our cooking gear to our socks and our teeth. This left us with several unexpected free days, which we spent exploring the booming metropoli of El Chaltén (population 500) and El Calafate (slightly larger and happily equipped with several very nice ice cream shops and chocolate shops). It was actually fine, and it turned out Sylvine knows how to play Spit, one of my favorite card games, and she taught me a new game, amusingly called Crapette.

Anyway, I´m off to Santiago tomorrow to meet up with my mom and her boyfriend Dan, who are coming for 10 days vacation. I am so excited at the thought of putting on summer clothes again (and dare I say, possibly going to the beach!?), I can´t even express it (it´ll be nice to see them too, of course).