I want to tell you two stories about yesterday.
There’s the story about the lousy bus connections and dodgy weather. About the hostel with mediocre, overpriced food. The steep, muddy path that meandered up and down for six miles and climbed over 2500 feet into a badly marked scree field, and the clouds that poured in at the last minute to quash any hope of glimpsing the park’s eponymous towers at the end of the trail. Of the rain, and the rush back against darkness, the twisted ankle, the snoring roommates and disorganized staff that got the time wrong for the first bus out of the park the following day.
But there’s also the story of a bet laid against the weather, a bet that paid off in flat light shimmering off of jagged, snow-covered peaks tearing at the sky. Of two charming and brilliant (and, I have to add, beautiful) young Portugeuse doctors with whom I got to trek through deep forest and breathtaking vistas while we discussed Camus, Ebola and the advisability of rabbits as pets. Of the otherworldly amphitheater at the top, perched between tumbling sky above and frozen lake below, where every rockfall sounded like the heavens collapsing around us. And of gentle snow in the evening light on the first day of spring as I limped, spent but victorious, back through the the threshold of the hostel to a warm fire, a hot meal, and a bottle of wine shared with new friends and fellow adventurers.
Both of these stories are true, and I could tell either of them. I guess I tend to just tell the latter, which has the effect of convincing casual acquaintances that I’m either charmed or lying. But Devon’s traveled with me enough to know that it’s not intentional; I just have a habit of seeing the gold and forgetting the dross. And she’s mercifully discreet about helping me remember that some details are more likely to be overlooked than others when I go off on one of my epic recitations to unsuspecting listeners (“Yes, but don’t forget that we also missed the bus and had to sleep in wet clothes that night…”). She understands.
Really, though, it was a charmed trip. Yes, there were some awful bits, but on the whole, every downturn was followed by a delightful twist that made it all worthwhile. Yes, I missed the first bus back to Puerto Natales, which meant I got back to Punta Arenas uncomfortably late at night. But on the stroll I took while waiting the five hours until the next one, I ran into Carolina, a warm and wonderful Chilean (aren’t they all?) living in Brazil. And we spent the morning talking about everything while following Rio Ascencio down to where it emptied into the baby-blue waters of Lago Nordenskjöld. The fact that she speaks as little English as I speak Spanish only added to the adventure, turning our excursion into a two-way language lesson guided by increasingly creative pantomime. There’s no way I can reproduce it right now, but the pinnacle of my achievement was when – briefly – I was able construct the Spanish wording for “You have to say ‘Nordenskjöld’ as though you have marbles in your mouth.” Trust me, it was a glorious moment.
Anyhow, you get the idea.
It’s now evening, my last night in Chile. Ahead of me, I have almost 24 hours in airplanes and airports before I pop back out of the rabbit hole in San Franciso. And I really do promise that I’ll stop blogging now. For a while, at least. I need to get back to working on That Damned Novel, and there are a passel of short stories from this trip scratching at my feet, whimpering and begging to be finished. So I’ll do my best not to have any more adventures for a little while. I mean, unless….