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Welcome to Patagonia, they chortled.

I set up my tent to a chorus of laughter. Chuckles turned to cackles, then built into contagious, breathless hilarity that shook the trees and rattled the windows of the houses around the lawn. It spread across the street, into the next yard, until the entire flock of black-winged jesters exploded from the tall pines, struggling to stay in the sky, guffawing and flapping with their joke around the corner. Ibises. They nest in the pines near my hostel in Puerto Varas, and laugh at the sun when it rises, and hoot and holler it down in the evening, mocking it for being trapped in its fixed trajectory across the sky, whereas the birds are free to loop and dive and lug their bodies between trees and rooftops in short, ungraceful flights. From my seat on the back porch of the hostel, I look across the backyard, where my tent dries in the sun, and watch the birds heckle each other as they struggle to fit on the narrow peaks of the metal roofs. Puerto Varas is a touristy town on the southern shore of a massive lake. Morning fog wraps the cafes, restaurants, and waterfront in gray cashmere until the sun’s insistent nudging opens the soft, wet shawl to expose the region’s treasures: translucent water and snow-capped volcanoes. I’m officially in Patagonia!

I arrived on a night bus, last Sunday morning. 12 hours from Santiago isn’t bad, as buses go, but I’ve never been good at sleeping sitting up. I dozed, listened to Cold War Kids, TV on the Radio, and thought of other trips, in other countries. A waxing moon yellowed near the horizon and kept me company for a time, but I dozed off before it set, and woke to blackness. I’m happy to be out of Santiago, in a place where trekking pants and fleece don’t draw stares. Happy to greet Orion’s starry belt and the Southern Cross in a mostly dark sky. I’m tenting in the back yard of the hostel to save money, but it feels like an upgrade to a private room after three weeks in a dorm in Santiago.

Work has slowed, a bit. Leaving the city makes me feel less anxious to GODOMORENOWFASTER, but I’m eager to move farther south, and I’d rather do the intensive researching before I get there so that I can enjoy the new and wild and different Patagonia, the one I haven’t seen yet. I did a short hike a few days ago with an older man from the U.S., and I’m doing most of my reading and writing from the back porch. It stays light until 10pm; it takes a concentrated effort not to work until then.

It’s nearly Christmas! And all of my gifts are coming early! The little fundraising bar on my Spot.Us site is speeding towards $2,000 faster than I could have hoped for! Since my last post on Nov. 29, ten days ago, I’ve jumped from 15% to 48%! Thank you, friends! It’s actually a bit overwhelming, the support that you all are heaping on me. I’m not entirely sure how to express my gratitude, other than to say, again, THANK YOU, to Aunt Jeanine and Uncle Larry, Jeanine Newell, Jill Duffield, Jeremiah Schwartz, Kat Altieri, Alison Jeannette, Karen Johnson, Claudia Gerard, Katie Byrd, Melissa Davis, Aunt Ann, Matt Strine, Wade Permar, Karen Ryman, Mia Fuentebella, Ruben Ortiz, Bryan Rennekamp, and Alex Jahp. Wow. I’m almost halfway there.

A couple more things to check out, if you’re interested:
Recent update on my research and the dams.
Pictures of the trip thus far!

1 comment to Welcome to Patagonia, they chortled.

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