February 19th, 2013
The Effect of Emptiness
Before I get to the day’s events, I will make you all suffer some philosophical waxing. If this idea bores you, skip ahead. For the rest of you, and you know who you are, read on.
I have always found the desert to be an amazing place. Many people find it monotonous and boring. Others find it inhospitable and intimidating. I find it neither. Patagonia is an expanse of nothingness that is even a little awe-inspiring for a hard-core western state traveller like myself. There is truly nothing here. And the wind blows, constantly. Sitting in the van last night, as the light faded away from an absolutely amazing sunset, the sky turned to a gray palette. The earth was a dark gray, the sky a lighter gray and a line ran between the two that was almost white. The sound of the wind howling was a fitting sound track for the image.
I admit it. I am not a city person. Given the choice of sitting quietly on a windy night in the middle of the desert or going to a bar in Buenos Aires, I’ll chose the desert every time.
It is so big, so lonely, so uncaring that you have to find comfort in yourself. I love to sit and imagine the eons that the cycle that I witnessed last night repeats itself over and over, slowly changing the world each time. The details of the desert are subtle, but if you look there are spectacular differences. They just take a lot of time to see. For me, the desert is about introspection. My experience in Patagonia so far has shown me that this is a good place for that.
I asked Susanne what she liked about the desert and she said “the silence”. I think there is a lot to that as well.
Ok, on with the day.
We woke up to another cloudless sunny morning. The weather pattern seems to have settled into “sunny in the morning, cloudy in the evening”. The plan was to head out to the petrified forest and then boogy on down to Monte Leon National Park on the coast.
We drove the 15 km back out the petrified forest and took the 2 km walk around the fossilized trees. The ranger dude, who had kicked us out of the park the night before, gave us the tour of the museum. He was very engaged and clearly took his job seriously. The various fossils and stuff they had were surprisingly good, especially the pine cones.
On the wall was a map of Gondwana. Ha!! Geologist Unite!
The downed and fossilized trees were pretty cool and the vistas were pretty good. It looks a lot like the Book Cliffs near Green River Utah. Just bigger.
We headed out and drove the 50 km of gravelly rough road to the highway were Susanne took over. Luckily the wind was not blowing and the traffic was pretty light, so the driving was relatively easy. We ate lunch on the fly and that is one nice thing about having a connected cab; you get to go back and get the supplies from the frig while on the move.
We got to the main ranger station about 3:15 to check in. The dude gave us the usual yakkity-yak about the park. There was a young guy from France hanging outside with his backpack and when we left, he asked us if we would give him a ride into Monte Leon. Having received many a ride in my life, it just seemed like it was time to put some money back in the Karma bank. We piled his gear in the car and headed out to the park. He was from Lyon, France and was travelling around South America for year picking up odd jobs as a Spanish/French translator. Susanne said his Spanish was excellent. It sounded good to me.
The park has a formal campground with 10 sites in it. We took site #10, the farthest away from anyone. We’ve got a nice view northward up the coast. This is the first time we have had to pay for a camp site, but there is no other choice in the park.
We settled in, grabbed a bottle of wine and headed down to the beach to just enjoy the view. The beach is quite rugged and reminds of the beaches of Oregon and northern California. A couple of Guanacos came down to the beach and I raced after them with my telephoto. They gave me the finger and eventually wandered off.
Food has been a bit of challenge here in Patagonia. It has not been a gourmet’s delight by any stretch of the imagination. It is a beef country. It has been hard on Susanne because she is both gluten intolerant and she hates beef. Dinner tonight was less than stellar L Also, all the stupid agricultural checks have made it tough to get decent food as well. We have tried to stop and eat veggies for lunch, but gourmet this trip has not been. Maybe the food will be more robust in Chile.
We got our first flat tire today too. Luckily, it happened on the way into the park. I had to change it at the campsite, so we now have no spare. Changing a duelly tire is a pain, btw. We had thought about spending a down day here tomorrow, but now without a backup tire, we’ll probably head down to Rio Gallegos and get the tire repaired before we head to Puerto Natales and then on to Torres Del Paine.
Ciao for now!