I feel nervous, stories flood my mind, stolen bags, being held at knife point, my mind wanders. I sit in the departure lounge and will shortly board the plane. On boarding the plane I will finally be able to let go of all the things swirling in my head. I will step through a door where I will literally time travel, walk out the other side in a new country, with new surroundings and new challenges. There have been lots of struggles over the weeks leading up to my departure. I had to change flights because gear that I ordered online did not arrive on time because it had been held up by customs. I sat at my computer and watched money just evaporate from my savings account each day, $1000 for flight changes, $1,000 for postage, $1,000 for extra food, lots of hidden costs I had not accounted for.
I was taking more than my body weight in equipment on this trip and had no way of carrying it all single handedly. As I stood at the new sci-fi Air New Zealand check-in I was surrounded by chaos, people stressed and frantically moving from place to place. I was facing a $200 excess baggage fine and waiting on a clerk to let me know whether I would be allowed into Argentina given that my return flights were for longer than the allowed 90 days. My head started to swell and I started questioning the trip. I wondered whether I should have stayed at home and saved the sixteen grand that the trip had cost so far. Forty minutes later and after temporarily losing my boarding pass it is all sorted. I flew through security and waited at the boarding lounge.
I arrived in Buenos Aires after a 11.5 hour flight, exhausted from all the travel and the days leading to this point. The airport felt safe and I flew through customs without any questions and arrived in my hostel a few hours later.
Screaming, singing, shuffling of feet and constant chatter all thought the night kept me up, I didn’t sleep. One more flight and a 6hr bus ride, I finally arrived at a campsite in El Chalten, I had finally made it! Three years, thinking about Patagonia and I was here.
Wind and rain persisted for the next 5 days and my tent started leaking. The wind threatened to blow it down or snap the poles with every gust as I lay in my tent trying to sleep through the roaring of the wind and flapping of the tent fly. I felt like I was trying to sleep in the engine room of a boat.
Everything felt hard, you got blown from building to building and sand blasted by the dust on the streets. Communication was especially difficult, I wished I had spent a few more hours on Duolingo learning Spanish before arriving. Rain, rain, wind and more rain and wind. I was not sure if I would ever see the mountains let alone get a chance to climb them. Little did I know that this was to be worst month for climbing in Patagonia in 15 years…
My daily ritual was to wake, head across the street to a hostel where I knew the wi-fi password and check the weather, hoping that something would change and that the pressure would start to increase, the first sign of improving weather.
Everything is twice as expensive as I was expecting, the cost of food and accommodation came as a big shock and I am not sure how I will survive for three months. I ate pasta, crackers and bread for the first week, some days managing to make a packet of crackers last the whole day.
I was starting to lack excitement for Patagonia, the weather and lack of nutrition was wearing me down. I heard stories of parties racing up routes in really small bad weather windows and I wondered if I should be doing the same thing, but I am not willing to take the same risks with little to no margin for error.
These are the things that adventures teach us, things we could not plan or know how we would react to. I have two choices stick it out and try to change my attitude towards the situation or remove myself from it. What will it be……..
New accommodation – I move to a hostel and say goodbye to the tent life
Eat vegetables – I start cooking and eating better
Friends – Lukas and Ed come to visit for one month
Life in Patagonia seems brighter by the day……