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secrets i’ve been keeping

Have you ever read the Stephen King novel, Cujo?  I haven’t, but I know it’s about a dog.  And as it’s a novel by Stephen King, I imagine that the dog turns into a monster, or is a monster in disguise, or is some sort of portal by which monsters are able to enter our dimension and begin to wreak havoc in subtle yet devastating ways among the inhabitants of a small town in Maine.  Probably Castle Rock.  I envision a red-eyed beast with lips curled and a snarl rolling in its throat.  It’s hungry.  It’s always hungry, and the more you feed it, the more its appetite grows.

This blog, I sometimes feel, has become that hungry beast.

It began innocently enough – I could whip off a light, informative entry in about fifteen minutes, a half an hour if I was being thoughtful, an hour at the absolute maximum if I’d been slack in reporting on my travels.  You all read it, and wrote wonderfully encouraging comments.  Once stroked, my ego began to purr, and I started putting a bit more thought into each entry.  Themes emerged, and I got excited about organizing my updates around ideas instead of events.  Reader reviews (bless you all) were positive, and the beast began to grow.  Once informed that I had something good, I wanted it to be better.  And better.  I needed substance, depth, details!  Internet sessions became longer and more expensive, and entries came fewer and farther between.  The pressure began to build.  Weeks now pass between entries as I struggle to find the time and energy to tend to the beast which will no longer be satisfied with quick updates.  This creates both a backlog of events on which to report (with feeling and wit) and a certain sense of suspense among you all, faithful readers.  “Where are you?  What’s happening?” you ask.  I’ve begun to avoid my email account guiltily, but I can still hear the blog-beast as it paces, testing the hinges, ready to break out.

The following, therefore, is the hiss of the safety valve as it vents a jet of steam, relieving some of the pressure.  Quick and artless, but effective.  I’m letting the beast out the back for a run.  Apologies if it eats any of your kids.

So, back to the place where I fell off the track…
There was the curanto.
Then the Navimag.


Then the Parque Nacional de Los Torres del Paine, the jewel of Chilean Patagonia.  I hiked for the first three days with Angus and with Clementine, Ben, and Jerome from the Navimag, then went my own hardcore way.  I trekked for ten days in all, in the hottest, clearest weather in Patagonian history, then came back into civilization (Puerto Natales) and took the job at the erratic rock hostel.


The job at the rock led to a trip to Cabo Froward, the southernmost tip of the American mainland – visited by the Pope in the early 90s – accessible only by boat or by a two-and-a-half day hike along slippery beaches and through vicious, sucking turbal (peat bogs) and across freezing, chest-deep rivers.  There were eleven of us, all self-sufficient and keen trekkers, but despite our high spirits and determination, were turned back a half-day from our destination because of dangerously high rivers.  Instead of succumbing to disappointment, we spent an evening drying our underwear on sticks over the campfire and bonding as “Team Toasted Panties”.

Another month of work at the erratic rock followed before I could start counting down to the Circuito de Los Dientes de Navarino – the Teeth of Navarino.  It’s the southernmost trek in the world, and it’s the only thing I knew about in Patagonia before arriving.  I arrived in Puerto Williams (the tiny town you’ll recall from my last entry), made a stir as the crazy gringa, then disappeared into the wilds for eight days.  The hiking was rough, the weather rougher, and I emerged on the other side of the eight days with a whole new respect for the word “remote”.  I do have a proper update in the works with details of the trip.  It’s three-quarters written, and it’s a story I don’t want to skip.  It’ll get here…eventually.  Photos exist as well.  Stay tuned.

After the Dientes, I crossed the border into Argentina and spent two weeks between El Calafate and El Chaltén, two dusty frontier towns built up for the sole purpose of serving the tourists who descend in droves to either 1) visit the Perito Moreno glacier or 2) hike in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.  I did both.  I spent a week and a half in El Chaltén, a town still under construction (est. 1985), sleeping in my tent and going on day hikes, seeking out new and exciting vistas of Cerro Torre and Monte Fitzroy (the two showpieces of the park).  Winter arrived about the same time that I did, and for the last five days of my stay I was hiking and camping in the snow.  Beautiful, but I think it’s time I moved on from Patagonia.  I’ve been in South America for nearly four months, and three of them in the deep south.  Time to check out some new places.  Therefore – I’m off to Peru.  I fly from Puerto Natales to Santiago tomorrow, then get a 26-hour bus to the Chile-Peru border, then through another series of buses and towns will arrive in Cusco, Peru on the 16th or 17th.  It’s going to be epic.  When I get to Cusco, I’m going to be tired.

Hope this fills in the gaps.  In the meantime, here’s this piece of unrelated news: the film “Ice People” (documentary about life in Antarctica filmed while I was working at McMurdo) will be premiering at the 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 24 to May 8.  If you’re in the Bay area, check it out!  If you’re not, but still crave a taste of the cold, you can still enjoy the trailer.

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