The dreaded blue box . . .
A plane full of backpackers chatters as we barrel in our silver bullet from Santiago to Punta Arenas. Many were headed to Antarctica.
My blood pressure begins to calm since the teenager in the airport aggressively demanded to assess the size of my (and everyone else’s) backpack at the plane door by trying to put a blue box over it. Shoutout to LATAM airlines, the biggest bunch of bag-Nazi-fun-police I’ve seen in 43 countries. You people need a physics lesson that a bag exactly the size of the allowed dimensions will not fit into a blue cardboard box the exact same size. “You’re not getting my backpack”, too mad to even try my Spanish, I told her. It takes a lot for me to raise my voice in public. She slapped a sticker on it to check it. We blew by her and shoved our backpacks into overhead compartments where they easily fit with room to spare.
I digress by saying my backpack is a CabinMAXX. The brand says it’s directly made for the cabin with perfectly designed dimensions to fit exactly on an airplane. Don’t try to take a backpacker’s only possessions 7,000 miles away from home.
Half expecting to be thrown off the plane by the Chilean fun police, I then realized how small of a problem I’d gotten mad over and felt slightly embarrassed for making a scene when I spoke to one of the most incredible humans I’ve ever encountered. He was on a journey to climb the tallest summit in Antarctica. All of his gear had been lost by the airline. All he had were the clothes on his back. But he was still going.
Yeah, you aren’t getting my backpack.
Patagonia greeted me with a rush of Antarctic wind. Backpacks and all, we were ready for mountains and llamas. Was this real life? Was I really in Patagonia? Would it live up to my expectations?
The answer was undoubtably yes. Within an hour of being there, I’d seen all of the wildlife I’d expected to encounter. The roads were in fantastic shape. Day one was shaping up to be a pretty good day.
Each roaming pastureland seemed to have a bagualero in his traditional beret. Sometimes he passed a concerned glance at the Chevy D-Max. Most times he raised his arm to gesture a wave with three dogs in tow.
Lambs by mothers doted each hill. The sun played in the underbrush of grass. The tranquility abruptly came to a halt when panic ensued. A flock 1,000 strong crossed the road to be sheered.
Patagonia was much flatter than I imagined. There were more sheep than people. But the grasslands had their own sort of beauty.
Torres translate directly to towers. And towers are what they appeared to be as Torre del Paine snuck into the horizon. Paine (pronounced pan-yay) was used by the indigenous tribes to describe the blue of the peaks. Being in their shadow somehow amplified every other color. I began to see a hint of purple in the grass, a glint of green in the rivers. That was my favorite moment of the entire trip, the brief second when sunshine made the illusion of color seem exactly that– an illusion.
I refuse to say bucket-list because it’s cliche. I’m somehow coming to terms with the fact that I’ve been to the #1 place that I’ve wanted to visit for so long. It’s that feeling of “Okay, so what now?” “What can top this?” In the meantime tune-in for The Patagonia Chronicles Part II.