We're all just ships...

Each one of us is the captain of our own ship. And on the journey we let on various passengers and crew. They get on and off, come and go. The influx of passengers is a daily activity. The trick is to not get stuck, don’t toss out the anchor. Keep on keeping on… Maybe the ship gets capsized or moves slowly through icebergs, where you end up only inching along for a while. But someone will get on to help fix the leaks and you’ll steer your way through the icebergs and keep moving forward, if your anchor’s not down.

We had this great little talk with a handsome young 21 year old we met during our trek. He works and basically lives completely in the campo and is saving up money to study art in France. When he was 15 he died for about 20 minutes and watched everything from above his own drown body (I already mentioned the lack of swimming knowledge in Magallanes, right?) His energy was pure and deep and calm and beautiful. Marijke and I were doing the big circuit, which takes you behind the Torres del Paine. In a complete circle. We met him on our first day out, and perfectly, again on our last day in the park.

There were so many people we met, and it just felt so good to be in constant motion… I had a lot of time to talk with myself. My anchor’s been down, but I’ve been reeling it up, especially the last week hiking. I think Marijke and I both finished the big O different people. And me, I’m more at peace than I’ve been in ages, maybe ever? I feel like it’s overflowing. I wish I could put it in a bottle for use when I’m not feeling so llena de paz. But I’m sure I’ve got a few extra bottles of it laying around somewhere among my vital organs. So here we are, back in Natales. I’m not sure yet what’s about to happen, but I know it will be right and that everything will be OK.

The Paine Circuit

December's paper just went to press yesterday morning, and I definitely feel like I need a bit of a rest after it. So tomorrow after a long time without visiting the park, I'm heading into Torres del Paine tomorrow morning. It'll just be me and my Dutch friend Marijke doing the big circuit, about 8-9 days. The first night we'll be staying in Ecocamp where Roberto works, and I think he'll be there that night, too. We'll see. I haven't really been doing any exercise since I've been in Natales, so I think I might be more out of breath than I'd like, but super looking forward to it. It's still closed because of snow on the biggest pass, etc., but mostly it's closed because the government park organization can't get its ish together to open the refugios and make repairs to the rope ladders and what not. Anyway, that just means that we have to be careful. Anyway, I'll take lots of pictures and hopefully upload all my end of the world pictures some time soon. I think I stopped uploading pictures somewhere in mid-Bolivia.

Nos vemos when I'm back from the park! xoxoxo

Another November beginning

It’s springtime and windy as all hell. To me, it’s pretty cold to be spring and my bare skin hasn’t seen the light of day in way too long. About a week ago or so, we went kayaking with some friends on Lago Sofia. It was a gray day but still lovely to see (what we could in the fog and low clouds) of the mountains from the water. Nobody in the region of Magallanes knows how to swim, because, even though they’re super close to two oceans, the water is freezing and it’s just not water that people swim in. And it wasn’t until the last couple years that the region got its first swimming pool. So, for example, even the army, when they’re choosing people to do whatever kind of special mission where swimming is a required skill, people from around here are excused from knowing how to swim, because it’s known that nobody knows how.

Home for the holidays?

My dear friend Lydia pointed out the alarming trend of one blog entry per month, gee that’s pretty bad. So here I am with my first blog entry of November, but it shan’t be my last. The whole computer situation is about to change, I really am planning to get internet and should sign a contract to work next week. I need the contract to stay in the country and to show that I’m capable of paying a monthly internet bill.

Anyway, the best part about this contract I’m about to sign is that it’s with Black Sheep instead of Cascada. Yep, that’s right. I quit my other job. I really liked the people I was working with, but hated traveling to Punta Arenas every day, well three days a week. So tiring. 6-8 hours of pure sitting in the van. Leaving way too early in the morning, and often without breakfast because some of the drivers would arrive earlier than I was expecting them (meaning we got different information from the office). Most of the time we’d arrive to Punta Arenas an hour or so before we’d even have to pick up people, and would have to just wait in the car outside the hotel or airport until the magical hour arrived. Man, I’ll stop complaining, but I was crazy to think I’d actually enjoy all that. Plus, who am I kidding? I’m just not an early morning person. I still might help out with their web site, but I’m waiting to hear how much they’re willing to pay me.

So, yeah, Black Sheep, writing, editing, traveling (to fun places) in order to write reports or interview people, the possibilities are endless. More my pace, passion, onda. Yay. Very happy about all this. Plus overall I’m meeting more people and feeling more comfortable, inviting folks over for dinner, and I even have some friends who I can speak English with. The people I work with in the BS office (a bunch of people from Oregon and Holland) say they always have a big holiday dinner for the folks here, all without family, but really, there’s no reason for me to stay here for the holidays when I miss my family and friends so much. So… I’m coming home! I arrive around 10.30 on Christmas morning. That was the cheapest way. And I’m so so so happy and relieved to know that I’ll be home.

Looking good

You know I must be homesick when I'm happy to find news of Britney Spears on the tele. Poor Britney. I think I just have too much time on my hands right now. But pretty soon that will all change.

I start working (6 days a week) on the first of October. This weekend I'm going to Rio San Juan, which is south of the middle of Chile (if you count Chile's antarctic territory). It's also big fiesta days for the 18 de Septiembre, to celebrate fiestas patrias. I'm hoping to catch some cueca, the national dance of Chile. Evidently you can only really see cueca in September.

Then next weekend hoping to climb Cerro Tenerife in la Cordillera Pratt, with a couple of medicos. Unfortunately, a couple of climbers have been lost near there for a couple weeks now. There have been helicopters, search crews, and psychics looking for them, but, so far, to no avail.

In between days…

…of dancing my tush off at ugly, dark bars, restarting my habit of running, and joining a sad little gimnasio to lift light weights, I’ve been hard at work. Well kind of. I hiked and climbed up to Monte Thar a weekend or so ago with a group of doctors and friends. It was beautiful, but we didn’t have crampons and the higher up we got, the icier the snow was. And it was all snow for the most part, even patches of it down at sea level. We were just 20 meters away from the top, but it was impossibly slippery to climb without crampons, so we didn’t actually make it to the tippy top peak, but close enough, I’d say. I think my favorite part was sliding down on the icy parts on my arse, and laughing.

That same weekend we went with the medicos to Andino, a place to ski and snowboard just outside of Punta Arenas. The snow wasn’t any good, but that meant fewer people and an easier time for me to relearn how to snowboard--it’s been so long!

Oh, and I found a job! It’s in Puerto Natales. It’s an office/pick-up-tourists sort of job, so I won’t be in Torres del Paine. I’ll spend about four days a week (out of six) in a van, driving the three hours south to Punta Arenas to pick up tourists, and then talking to them during the trip back to Puerto Natales. No, I won’t be driving. So that’s my job, talk talk talk. And the days where there aren’t tourists to pick up, I’ll be in the office, working in Excel, and we’ll see what else.

What I Miss…

My family and friends and how pretty California is
What I’m missing out on, like seeing Nic’s belly grow and hearing (in person) all the gross parts, seeing the baby James and the girls grow grow grow
Talking to Earon on the phone for hours at a time
Dancing at Molly’s
Late nights working with Lydia, and watching Girls Next Door and Kendra’s wretched laugh
The kitties
My quiet sunny mornings with The Merc
Zeitgeist and that lovely bloody Mary
Poetry classes and talking about poesia
Talky talking with David, poetry books work kids soccer trips life
Boogaloo’s on Tuesdays
The New York Times
Claire’s back porch and girl talk
Mikey’s cubicle and girl talk…
And Dave’s occasional prairie dogging
The Spark meetings and Oh, the laughter
Clayton’s muffled laughing while watching apparently hilarious videos
All my work friends… I don’t miss work per se J but I do miss a lot of little things about it

Welcome to the jungle, baby!

Good news! I am not infested with parasites, eaten by piranas, or bitten by an alligator. A baby alligator nibbled on the finger of one of the Israeli tourists; Chaim will have a zigzag scar, which is great for those fish/amphibian stories, you know where the one that got away, gets bigger and bigger with each retelling.

Overall the pampas portion, which touted itself as ecologically sound, wasn’t every eco at all. The guide was machoer than most, with the muscles to prove it. In fact I can’t even think of him without the theme song coming to mind (Macho macho man, I wanna be a macho man). The first night on the way back from watching the sunset at the Sunset Bar (known for its cold beer) we were shining our lights from our canoe out into the dark river to catch the red glow of alligator and black caiman eyes… When suddenly our boat halted. And Macho was knee-deep in the river stalking an alligator -- a niña we later found out when he turned her over and spread apart the thin slit beneath her belly to reveal: no testicles. Anyway, he explained alligators to us for a while and passed the poor lass around. This is when she snapped her jaw shut on the Israeli’s finger. Nacho, er… Macho wasn’t too worried. After all, she was just a baby alligator, and the moment too opportune to not start in with the big alligator story. The one where Nacho gets his forearm chomped by a papa alligator, and needed 100 stitches to sew up the rip. Needless to say, Nacho’s scar is bigger than Chaim’s will be.

What else? The Pampas was interesting, lots of animals: capybara (the world’s largest rat that looks like a giant guinea pig), alligators, black caiman, eagles, hawks, water birds, paradise birds (one of the world’s oldest species of bird), squirrel monkeys (yellow, cute, but people were feeding them bananas, sigh), anaconda, cobra. Oh, and I went piranah fishing (one of the piranah’s bit Nacho’s finger) and then my favorite part: swimming in brown water with pink dolphins. One of them touched my foot with its head. In the end, it was like going to the zoo. The park is even called zoologico natural.

In the jungle, everything was really so much more natural. The guide grew up in the area and knew a ton about the plants, animals, sounds, uses, and stories of the forest. I did a five day tour which took me a little deeper into the jungle than the shorter 2- or 4-day tours. We chased after wild boar -- dear god how they stunk. We fished and bird watched (toucans, parrots), we tiptoed after monkeys (squirrel monkeys and cappuccino monkeys), drank water from the uña de gato tree, made rings out of miniature coconuts, painted our faces with some red juice of a very green plant, and night hiked to look for night animals -- where we saw wild jungle deer and the one species of night monkey that I can’t remember the name of.

Rurre, Let me count the ways

It wasn’t easy to get here, but I’m glad to be in Rurrenebaque. It’s the dry season, but it’d been raining in Rurre for days. The planes to get here are old and driven by vision, so when it’s raining or difficult to see, all flights are canceled. Also, the airstrip on the Rurre side is grassland, so if it’s muddy, the plane can’t take off. Anyway, loads of people basically waited at the tiny military airport for about a day in hopes of catching the next flight. It was bumpy ride in a 20-seater plane, ending with one of the flight crew pulling out a metal pipe, shaped like the beginning strokes of a digital number 5, attaching it to a hole in the roof of the plane and spinning it round and round. The stewardess (ooh so non-p.c. of me) searched frantically for gloves to aid the man in his spinning. I’m not sure what it was. A mini survey tallied two votes for depressurizing the plane, one vote for lowering it’s wheels. But it turned out that every time the airplane was about to land, it caught the wind, which lifted the bugger up so we couldn‘t land (even thought I think we all paid tariffs for having luggage over 15 kilos). Whatever the guy was turning so arduously made it so we wouldn’t catch the wind. We landed suavamente on the grass strip with applause and laughter.

Anyway, I love it in Rurre. Rurrenabaque. In the hostal with the wobbly fan whirring. The night birds yowling. Cicadas and crickets. Dogs barking. Mopeds mowling. Born to Be Wild sounding out from Moskkitos, the cozy discotheque. All just a bug screen away from my ears.

Everything is warmer here, including the people. The general reception I’ve encountered in Bolivia is, well, tentative. A withholding of information and eye contact. Signs everywhere warning: Cuida sus pertenencias. Not warm at all. Could be the cold weather. One chatty hombre in the bus on the way to Pelechuco said as much. He worked as an explorer and said, waving his hand toward the window, “Just look at it (snow, glaciers), so so cold. In the jungle, everybody is warmer and they talk more.” But maybe it’s the dog-eat-dog ambiente in the cities and pueblos of the altura. Everywhere you go, somebody’s telling a lie and ripping someone off. So people are weary and approach it all with caution. And of course perspective. Some might pin down the lack of eye contact as a tendency to lie or some minor disrespect. I met an architect from Belgium who just thinks the vendors in La Paz are just timid. I don’t know, in the end it’s a chicken/egg situation. Por ejemplo, papel higenico. Toilet paper is so rare, you can’t even find it in hotels. Did Bolivians stop giving the luxury of toilet paper because it was always running out (getting stolen)? Or do people steal the toilet paper--when it’s there--because there’s never any toilet paper?

Viva Bolivia Hacia El Mar

Bolivians love to party. Last time I got back to town the party was for San Pedro (I think; it’s hard to keep all the saints straight). This time it’s another saint or independence or something, but the party’s been going on since Saturday, and today’s a feria day with more parades, singani, and meat in the streets. The goings on are spectacular. Oh and a movie’s being filmed near the hostal (Austria) in Plaza Murillo.

I just ate huevos rancheros with real honest to goodness corn tortillas. Mmmm how I miss tortillas, I’ll have to somehow coordinate cooking lessons with Elena so she can teach me how to make tortillas. If anyone knows how to do this, Elena does.

So the hike from Pelechuco to Charazani in the Cordillera Apolobamba was beautiful. I wish I could upload pictures onto this thing, but it takes way too long. I added some pics to my Flickr account from my California trip. They’re not in order, but you’ll notice a lot of crotch shots. This is what happens when Drew or Lydia get a hold of my camera… I love these “special” surprises.

Anyway, everything I read about the trek said it should take about five nights, but we did it in three nights and four days… the second day was killer. Supposedly we’re in the dry season, but there was hail and there was snow. We heard that it even hailed in La Paz, unheard of this time of year. It was cold, but since we were walking up up up to 5100 meters (16,700 feet), the temperature and weather all evened out. When we made it up to the 5100-meter pass, I cried. It was almost like marathon tears, but I can’t remember if I cried or not when I finished my marathon. I think mostly I was just confused and needed to use the bathroom.

Aside from my acclimatization problems (it’s just not happening as seamlessly as I’d hoped it would, guess I’m a sea-level girl), one of the hardest parts of the trip were the bus rides (12 hours to Pelechuco and 8 hours from Charazani back to La Paz). Motionsickness? Maybe. But there are so many people crammed into the bus with their wares, 100-lb bags of rice or other grains, oranges, and other craziness. Everything in the aisles, bags, abuelos, babies, you name it. And bathrooms, forget about it. Luckily the conductor of the Charazani-La Paz bus didn’t stop to pick up more people every five minutes. On the way to Pelechuco, we must have stopped 50 times, including to let all the hombres off to piss (sissies).

Wifi in La Paz!

I'm in La Paz at a little pub with free wifi... Can you believe it? I can't. It's solyluna-lapaz.com -- somebody make sure this bad boy is in the Directory! Here's the skinny version of what I've been up to, trekking and relaxing more or less. Spent about a week in Sorata, a beautiful valley town, super tranquilo, but there was a bit of a bread controversy. "No hay pan, no hay pan." The first day I arrived, everything was closed on account of protests. Folks protesting the cost of flour to make bread, evidently. And for this reason, all three hornos (ovens) were closed and not making pan. From Sorata I hiked up to Laguna Chillata (4200 meters) and Laguna Glaciar (5038 meters) in the Cordillera Real -- without bread for sandwiches, mind. Even with acclimatizing in La Paz (orgullosamente 3600 meters), reaching Laguna Glaciar was hard! I met an Indian girl from Kenya who was also looking to do some trekking and ended up hiring a guide and mules, which costed us about 50 bolivianos each per day, including food -- about 6 bucks.

Tomorrow I'm going to take a micro (tiny bus) about 12 hours to a small town called Pelechuco to trek the Cordillera Apolobamba. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful treks in all of Bolivia and off the beaten path a bit, I think because of the lack of decent transportation to reach it. Most of the hiking will be above 4000 meters with 5 higher passes. The hike is about 4 or 5 nights and 5 or 6 days.


Bombera (Firefighter woman)

When I was about 19 years old, I saw a jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Iridescent and glow-in-the-dark blobs, such grace lighting up the deep black sea. In the sea's deepest parts, scientists still hadn't figured out the function of these jellyfish. According to the exhibit, they didn't really serve any purpose, just inched about in the deep illuminating it from time to time. I decided that maybe that's where we go when we die. All our dead loves ballooning and lighting up the complete dark of the sea, for no reason at all.

The second night of camping on the Choro Inca Trail, reached the subtropical forest and it was all fireflies. The weather was pretty much like a humid like midwestern dusk -- the times I can recount seeing fireflies. Aside from the fireflies the campsite had mini firepits in the shape of a tiny two-burner stove, perfect to boil water for mate and a spicy concoction of mashed potatoes.

Anwyay, if you're like me and every little light makes you think of love, these bichos could be tiny miracles. Our dead loves as fireflies? The only thing is I don't think you have to be dead anymore to offer light. It's obvious, sure, but the longing of light from where you allegedly can't get it, can be so too strong. We all need that little light from time to time, and perhaps it's just a bit easier to look for it beyond the grave; they won't hurt you anymore than they already have for leaving.

So it was a beautiful night with a double flame. And even though everytime I touched the fire it went out, there was plenty of light and fire to go around. The food tasted delicious, especially eaten by candlelight -- which I safely lit.

A Funny Aside About Cubicles

So I got this email from a friend who shall remain unnamed, and it was too good not to share.

"On the first day you were gone, I went into your cube to grab that box of kleenex I said I needed. So M sees me go in your cube and says...

M: Give it up dude, she's gone.
Me: (I chuckle a bit, grab the box of kleenex and leave your cube)
M: You're taking her box of tissues?.... What kind of fetish is that?"

This kind of stuff actually makes me miss the culture of cubicles... :)

Just too cool for me

We decided to start the big acclimitization trek tomorrow. There´s a guy in the internet cafe talking so loud via Skype to his family in the states, so I can´t concentrate. Evidently he´s in great shape hiking all over the cordillera and when he´s in the harness climbing the icy parts, it´s too much of a pain in the arse to pee because you have to take off the harness plus it´s super cold, so you just don´t pee for those 7-8 hrs. Just thought you might like to know. Anyway, starting the trek on Monday and will take lots of pics. Lovey.

Hi Ho Silver!

Just kidding, Everything´s going great here, but Lydia was right about me not being able to keep my secret SOS password a secret. I've been hanging around La Paz for the last couple days. But I´m still in a haze of what I didn´t get to finish before I left. Plus I felt wretched the first couple days. I think because of the alitude. (3600 metres, 11811 feet) It´s also one of the most fire resistant cities, in case you were wondering. Anyway I´m feeling much better today drinking a ton of juice from the street vendors without incidence. I met a girl on the plane who´s biking all over the cordillera for about six weeks. I don´t have a good backpack for that right now, but she gave me some good ideas. La Paz is a pretty city, but loud with cars and kinda smelly like most big cities. Today, though, there was an amazing procession in honor of the santisima Virgen del Copacabana. I have some pretty cool fotos, just no means right now of downloading them.

Tomorrow will be my first Bolivian trek, so I´ll see how well I´m acclimatized and how I fair with my mochila gargantuan that, when full, I can´t actually put on by myself. It´s only 38 pounds but it´s awkward and it was top heavy. It´ll be better packed for the trek for sure. Anyway, it´s the Camino Inka del Choro, you can see pictures of it here... The trek is about 4 days and 3 nights, with the first day getting pretty high up there, starting at 4600 metres, climbing up to almost 5000 metres. That means I´ll be out of touch for a few days but will write and check email when I´m down from the mountain.

I used to know it, but now I forgot

Ok, here it is, my blog. Thanks, Mikey, for giving me the push and being the top-notch nag that you are. Too bad your blog name suggestions (WundrWomn, HighHoSilverGirl, BlondsRntDmb, Yahoo4ever) were already taken. Lydia and I toyed with some others using various rock band name generators: the lost unborn fish, one-eyed kilt wearing dreamer, shakespeare's feet, send in the capricorn pigs, wandering invalid popes... But they were all too cool for me. Then there was a quote I thought would be nice... and well, as soon as my mind got its meathooks on it, I forgot it.

Tonight's my penultimate night in California. I started the car donation and overseas sea freight processes; is it too much to expect that things'll finish up by tomorrow? I had a yummy Italian dinner with my family tonight and started to pack my backpack. The first aid and mess kits already weigh six pounds not including my special mate thermos. Not so light. Wish me luck tomorrow.


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