Solo Uno (a tale of two Jacks)

30 hours on a bus is liable to give you something to write about, yea? Well I downloaded 9/13 episodes of what looked to be a potentially strong binge worth show, Designated Survivor, to my phone. Not 9 consecutive episodes mind you. But unless the 4 I’m missing are profoundly better, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the show. Well, maybe if you find yourself on a bus for more than a day, then it’ll do. In addition, I threw On The Road on the kindle, since I finished Americanah, which was profound and amazing. Similar to Dharma Bums, I can’t honestly say I really like Kerouac. He strikes me as a bit of a ingenuine, arrogant, and a womanizer. I guess you could call my bus ride “The Tale of Two Jacks.” (Jack Bauer and Jack Kerouac). 26 hours into a bus ride and it turns out, between the wild mountains and lakes of Patagonia, is desert. Crazy. 

Post Torres Del Paine – two days of cleaning gear, hot meals and genuine intent of going out on he town only to succumb to going to bed before 11, were great, aka “not lit.” 

No open beds at our hostel in El Calafate forced the issue and it was time to move on. Without any planned busses I decided during breakfast to hitchhike up to El Chalten. Not looking at a map, just knowing it was the next main town north, it seemed easy enough. 2 hours northish, I figured everyone would be heading there and hitching wouldn’t be too difficult. My first ride did come relatively fast and was much nicer than expected. An empty tour bus consisting of the driver and Chilean companion snagged me just as they were exiting town. Misunderstanding them, I interpreted their situation as needing to retune their bus to El Chalten. Perfect, I just scored a ride all the way. Turns out they were just going past the turn off for El Chalten, only about 30km outside of town. Dropped off at an intersection for the notorious Ruta 40 that bisects Chile and Argentina, I was exposed in the Patagonian desert sun with 188 km remaining. I think my optimism lasted for about the first 4 hours and began fading as my water ran out and the sun began to set. Reality of sleeping on the side of the road without water was doable, but not exactly what I had hoped for. I probably saw about 20 cars in 5 hours. Most of which had children sleeping in the back, with parents in the front giving me sympathetic shoulder shrugs. I learned a shoulder shrug gets me about 0 km down the road. With the sun fading I reluctantly returned to the other side of the road to see if it would be easier to get back to El Calafate, my origin. In 5 min I got a fun ride with a couple of fishermen quite buzzed off an unknown drink amongst other things. Where I waited:

Tail between my legs, but happy to be out of the desert I rewarded myself with a brew at the local spot, La Zorra. Found myself a cheap hostel for the night and a bus ticket to El Chalten the next morning. God dammit, that last passage was definitely a crap version of something Kerouac would write. 

I got to Chalten about noon the following day, found a bathroom to change into hiking gear, a panaderia for a quick bite and hit the trail for a few days. At that point all I wanted was to get out with everything I needed on my back. No need for finding hostels or rides anymore. To understand Chalten and where I was, I recommend checking out the short climbing film “Line Across the Sky.” Like Across The Sky

The alpine climbing community and evnironment is palpable everywhere here. From chalk lined routes along the cliffs, to the gear shops in town and massive peaks just begging to be climbed by the best mountaineers in the world. It is the center of the alpine climbing world. 

My trail was no first ascent by any means, but it did give me access to the Fitz Roy range and a few days of solitude in Patagonia. I made camping around an hour before sunset and enjoyed my Patagonian staple dinner, ravioli and salami for dinner, under the Fitz Roy. Dessert was week old rum and chocolate. I traded dreams of going out on the town to sleeping in, in a tent the first night. Sleep lasted until about 4 am before it was too damn cold to sleep. I waited until dawn with hourly swigs of rum, strictly for warmth.

The thought of getting out of my sleeping bag into the cold air is always far worse than reality. Had a pretty sweet morning consisting of my breakfast speciality – oatmeal, raisin and a liberal spoonful of dulce de leche. I also put to use one of the tea bags I had smartly snatched in Chalten. 

My time backpacking around here was a repeat of eat, try to sleep, hike and repeat. Making time in the afternoon to read and relax. You are treated to different luxuries when hiking alone. Mainly getting to do whatever you feel, whenever you feel. The solitude definitely helps me feel more present in my surroundings. I originally thought solo camping would lead to profound thoughts throughout my hiking. But ultimately most thoughts fade to the background and I become more present in my surroundings. Oddly enough, this lack of thought ultimately leads me to more clarity. Under thinking is often more beneficial than over thinking. BOOM. 

The last morning I woke early to catch sunrise at the Fitz Roy. About an hour hike up a frozen stream under a full moon. Probably the greatest sunrise I have ever seen. It was fleeting with only about 5 min of sun illuminating the Fitz Roy, before fading behind clouds. 

I returned to town that evening more excited than ever to see friends. Solo backpacking has the profound effect of feeling more comfortable on your own, and more appreciative of time with friends. Standard post backpacking meal of burgers and beer that evening. Spent that night at probably the absolute worst hostel of my life. Mainly due to the weirdo running the shop. It was 120 pesos, or about $7, so I guess you can’t expect too much. But is a toilet seat and toilet paper really too much?? 

I returned back to El Calafate a day later to start my week of Asado training with El Chacho. (Read next blog). In avoidance of some really introspective shit about things I have learned about myself through solo adventure, I think I will end this post now. But if you wanna get deep sometime when I’m back and hear about the often more interesting stories in between the lines I write, let’s do it. Remind me to tell you more about the ride with the fishermen too. 

Foregoing this posts featured person, because it would most definitely be me. No need to ramble on any more about me. Food lately has consisted mainly of empanadas and more empanadas. Breakfast has been delightful at hostels with breads, cereal and coffee. Dinner has been lots of meat or cheap pasta. 

Alfajores, empanadas, super pancho and 0 (going on the bus was not an option) More pics below!

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