Eat What You Like

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, December 25, 2010 was originally posted on January 03, 2011.

DAY 10:  Everyone in camp was still asleep when I awoke around eight in the morning, which gave me a moment to myself.  I walked down to the overlook of the Grey Glacier to admire it, alone with my camera, as a gentle Patagonian breeze passed through.  This is nothing like I’ve ever seen before, I thought to myself.

And then, across the sky, near a break in the overcasting clouds, a grand rainbow appeared — a glacial rainbow all the way — which not only thrilled me, but inspired me to make a parodic home video.

What does this mean?

After my moment with the glacial rainbow, I went to tell the others before it completely faded away; camp was just waking up.  John went over and saw some calving off the ice sheet, with an echo the reverberated in the channel for a few seconds.  It was uneventful after that, and with both shows over, we had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and powdered coffee, packed up our gear, and head back south the way we came.

“Happy New Year!” The Colorado Girls wished us off; they would stay in camp for another night as they had more time to explore.  However, we picked up a new pair of trekkers, The Spaniards from Basque Country, Jorge and…

“What’s your name?” I asked her.

“Alaitz,” she answered in English with her Basque accent, with the Z-sound silent.  “Alaitz.  A-L-A-I-T-Zed.  Alaitz.  Like ‘a light,’” she continued, pointing up at the make-believe light source to explain the homophone.  I felt that a pun was bound to come sometime during our trek.

THE TREK DOWN THE FIRST LINE of the cursive W was just as before, an undulating path of ups and downs, the latter really doing damage to the knees, especially when you’re lugging gear and four more days of food (which was easily eight pounds).  My right knee was starting to bother me (as it occasionally has in the past when being used aggressively), but John and I used “controlled falling” techniques by running down hills so as not to put full pressure force downward into the knees and ankles at each slow step.  We made do, and the wooden reindeer branch some workers set up didn’t seem to mind.

“Hola.”

“Hi.”

We’d greet fellow trekkers along the way, trying to guess what language to greet them in by way of the brand of gear they were wearing.  Quechua usually signified French; Jack Wolfskin or Sawela signified German; The North Face, North American.  Still not much Patagonia-branded gear at all.  Gear was sort of necessary for the windy spots and the sporadic drizzle, which didn’t put a damper on us at all — especially since we had candy with us.  Florin shared his chocolate bar, along with his philosophy of food while trekking:  “You should bring good food.  When you’re trekking for so many days, you don’t want dry food [at the end of the day].  You should eat something that you want.”

With that in mind, John passed me a bag of peanut M&Ms.  “It’s the lunch of champions,” I told him.

“That’s right,” he answered.  “It’s a sweets day.”

Sweets were enough to pamper ourselves for the time being on the trail, which is lot compared to the people at the central full-amenities luxury lodge where we took a pitstop before heading around the curve towards the next ascender of the cursive W.  “Look at this gypsy,” Florin said to me as we caught up to John.  He was content just sitting outside for a rest — his knee was acting up as well.  Up ahead, clouds were looming.

“A storm’s coming in.  I don’t know if we should chill here and see what happens or try and beat it,” John told me. “Regardless, I’m fucking exhausted.”

We took a short break, stared at the people inside having beer, but resisted temptation to stay too long since we still had a few hours of hiking left in the day.

“This is not for us, man,” Florin told us, motivating us to continue roughing it.  However, I was still inspired by his earlier philosophy about getting food that you like and bought a bottle of vino for the end of the day.

“I think I’m going to get a bottle of wine,” I told John.  “I think we might say we don’t want it now, but we will when we get to camp.”

“I’ll go in on that.”

Heavy one bottle of carmenère, we moved on.  “My compass says it’s this way,” I joked, showing them the arrow on my compass that points in whatever direction to point it to.

“Into the mountains,” John said, heading out toward the Valle Francès (French Valley).

“Let’s get into that rain,” Florin seconded.  The others had gone ahead with intentions of meeting up with us at the next campsite.

THE TRAIL TOWARDS LOS CUERNOS (picture above) was fairly easily, although my knees — both of them now — were really starting to throb with pain at every step, even with the use of our self-found “Gandalf staffs.”  I figured I’d sprained both of them.  But the knees were the worst of my problems; the wind did pick up but not in a threatening way, strong enough it created waves and little tornadoes of mist in the Lago Skottsberg. The rain clouds spawned nothing more than a heavy drizzle — perfect for the day-hiking lodge tourists who sported cheap-looking panchos.  We went up and down the trail towards the next campsite, some parts reinforced with planks, some parts with creek-crossing bridges, saying our “hi"s and “hola”s along the way.  At one point we encountered a French dreadlocked hippie girl lugging juggling pins of all things. “[I juggle when there’s no wind,]” she told us.  Oh, hippies…

We trekked the generally flat trail and eventually made it over the rivers and through the woods to the next convenient free campsite, Campamento Los Italianos, whose water source was some whitewater rapids beneath a wooden suspension bridge.  We set up our tents and sorted our things, and for me I attended to my dodgy knees.  Fortunately, we were traveling with a physical therapist. 

“For a knee sprain, do I wrap it in cold or warm?” I asked Simone.

“Cold, and then warm.”

I made a cold dressing with a towel and frigid mountain water.  Simone nursed me with some anti-inflammatory drugs and Jorge the Spaniard suggested I tape my knees with the tape he had.  For a knee brace, I eventually came up with the clever idea to cut up some socks with my Swiss army knife, and use the elastic part to squeeze in my patellas.  “You’re like MacGuyver,” John told me.

With the knee at rest, it was time to satisfy the stomach with food that we like, and we did so in style, even though the bowls in our mess kit bag looks like they were covered in white dirt.

“It’s just salt,” John told me to justify their apparent uncleanliness.  (Our salt shaker had opened in the bag in transit.)  Not that I cared either way.

“Uh, I ate an M&M off the ground before,” I admitted.

To take it a step further, when I slapped a piece of ham into a sandwich that Florin offered me, the slice fell right into the sand-like dirt.  Solution: rinse it off with a bottle of unfiltered mountain water and put it back in.  Eat what you like, I thought, although “I can taste the sand,” I told Felix.  A sandwich indeed. 

Sopa de arroz y carnes followed, and for the main course, spaghetti with tomato sauce and parmesan, complemented by the carmenère — all things that would lighten the load off my back.  We were being quite civilized and accustomed to camp cooking, unlike Kay, the Japanese-Singaporean from the Upper West Side of New York, who couldn’t really get complete control of her camp stove so that she could eat what she wanted that evening, falafel.  (It was her first night out roughing it.)

“How do you guys know each other?” she asked.

“Well, I met [John] at the airport.  And [Florin] we met at the travel agency.  The Germans we met at the Christmas [Eve] party, and [The Spaniards] we met on the trail.”

“You met him at the airport, and now you’re sharing a tent together?” Kay said in bewilderment.

“Well, we were stranded together,” I justified.

Clearly, she wasn’t as trusting as me, or perhaps didn’t yet master The Art of Making Friends with Strangers when traveling solo.

With that said, we invited her to join our motley crew of Spaniards, Germans, and The Three Kings from America and Romania for our last course of the evening:  a dessert recipe Florin prepared for us, which he improvised from his mom’s recipe — farfalle boiled in milk (powdered) and topped with cinammon — which was surprisingly good.  Eat what you like, I remembered.  The French Girls, Sandra and Marion who were also in camp, were invited as well.

“I invited them for you, man,” Florin told John, acting the wingman.

The French Girls contributed a pack of chocolate bon-bons, making the whole impromptu camp dinner party quite lovely with not only good food, but good company.  Everyone had a good time, and John and Florin continued their ongoing jokes of vampires and having sex with guanacos.  The fun and food continued the next morning at breakfast when Florin surprised us with a “Christmas cake” — surprising because we didnt realized he was lugging the weight of a fruitcake on this back. 

“We had a good party today,” Florin told me as we cleaned up after dinner.

“Yeah,” I said.  “It’s like Christmas everyday.”


FUN FACT:

“You could take a picture and tell people you were in Jamaica,” I told Felix on the trail.

“Montego Bay.” 

The sunny day and the turquoise waters of Lago Nordenskjöld could have been the Caribbean when taken out of context for all we knew (sans Jamaicans).





Next entry: 127 Minutes

Previous entry: I’m Dreaming Of A Grey Christmas




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Comments for “Eat What You Like”

  • awesome post…

    you should have done shorty doing “strong bridge, strong wood” for the wooden suspension video…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  05:06 PM


  • florin is da man..holdin the piece of fruitcake like a 9mm

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/04  at  02:58 AM


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This blog post is one of nineteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Chill Out in Chile," which chronicled a trip through the country of Chile, from the central and coastal cities of Santiago and Valparaiso (plus a quick jaunt to Argentina's nearby wine region of Mendoza), followed by a trek through southern Patagonia, and a journey to Easter Island.

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