January 4th, 2010

Coming into Puerto Natales, we were greeted with hale. As we waited to get off of the Navimag, the weather changed 3 times between sun, wind, and hale. This was in the course of 40 minutes. Welcome to Patagonia.

I still hadn’t found anyone to hike “The W”, a 5 day trail in Torrez del Pine National Park. By now there were several couples who I had considered tagging along with, but I prefered not to be 3rd wheel. One couple offered me to hike along, but they were surely out of my league since they were considering a 9 day route. I went to the free lecture that my hostel put on in search of information, but even more importantly companions. I sat in the back of the room, observing 20-30 people sitting in front of me. I looked to see if anyone was alone there. I began visually sorting the couples and it didn’t look good. I thought I could just use math to find someone to hike with (at this point I was counting the room and looking for an odd number. Much to my dismay, it was even. The moment had come.

The lecturer said “Does anyone have any questions?” I raised my hand in the back of the room. “If anyone is looking to cut down on cost and weight of equipment, I am hiking alone tomorrow and am interested in teaming up.” 15 couples all look back at once with a “Don’t look at me.” Glance.

Yuck, I just realized that Patagonia is stricken with couples. This might take a little self-inviting. If this were anywhere else that I had been, I would have a 8 person power group of lone travelers. While we are here, I might as well go over the different types of couples that exist in the world of traveling. It wont take long. There are only two types. Those who are happy to chat with other people (these are the folks who will invite other travelers out to dinners, excursions, and even the next vacation. These are the folks who can be found at opposite ends of the room, having independent conversations with new and exciting people.) And then there are the scum. Those folks who would prefer it if there were no other humans on this planet. “We are just trying to have a personal experience.” These are the couples who you will see, sitting next to each other (looking particularly unhappy) and usually micro planning out the next 60 days of their trip in the common room. With an enormous map spread out across the expanse of the only table in the room, they look annoyed that people are even in the same room. Sure they will talk to you, but just enough to get you the hell off of their back. These are the folks who also have to be touching each other at every second of the day. New people are surely a cancer to their most important goal of building their insecure relation-shit through “travel”.

Ok, that took a bit longer than I promised. Moving on. Carrying a tent, stove, food, pots, and clothes all alone is wildly inefficient (and expensive). I came up with a masterful plan (that I would be teased about for the rest of the trip) that I would bring a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food, and gas with me but then rely kind hearts for the use of a stove and pots to cook with. I figured that EVERYONE in the park would be fully loaded with gear, so if I brought a bunch of Coup-a-noodles with me, I could just barrow someones gear to boil water. No clean up, just a hot meal in under 10 minutes. I brought only dry food. Cereal bars for breakfast, cookies and chocolate for lunch on the trail, a bunch of bread buns to stay sane, and coup-a-noodles for dinner. I got a bunch of people in the hostel telling me that I didn’t have a balanced diet. I asked them how that was (loving the notion that even a rocket scientist usually hasn’t a clue when it comes to food science.) “Well, you don’t really have any protein in your diet. What about fruits and vegetables?” I would reply with, “I’m just going away for 5 days. And I am hiking the whole time. Truth be told, I just need fuel. I need as many calories as I can get my hands on. This is the only time that cookies and chocolate are a good thing. Oh, and there is protein in the noodles. Thats what they are made of, eggs and flower. Eggs are protein last time I checked. And the fruits and vegetables are just in a diet for the nutrients that they contain. Your teeth don’t fall out from scurvy for at least a month. Come to think of it, I could eat Jello for the next five days and live just fine. Actually, I could eat nothing as long as I drink water, but who wants all that pain.” (I’m writing this post after the hike, and believe it or not, I am alive :)

I rushed all around town, scrounged up a pair of long johns, gloves, and a beanie. Oddly enough, in the center of the trekking universe, there were only a few, very poorly stocked, outdoor shops. Stress began to pump through my veins for fear of the weight on my back for the next 5 days would be huge. I had never been backpacking out in the wilderness before.

As it turns out, I managed to fit everything in my pack on the very first try. Then the crucial moment came when I slung the pack onto my back……. it was lighter than it usually was when I walk around from city to city. I felt victorious! I had survived packing for something that I had never done.

I felt so relieved “I feel accomplished enough. Who needs to hike now?”

for part two, tune in tomorrow!