28.04.2006 - 02.05.2006
We then crossed over into Puerto Varas, Chile, a resort town on a large lake with a big German influence. I took few photos here because it was pouring almost the entire time. In general, there is more rain on the western side of the mountains, and this was certainly the case when we were there. If you go to the following site you can see what it looks like on a nice day: http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/South_America/Chile/Lakes_Region/Los_Lagos/Puerto_Varas/photo110165.htm
We had big plans to go other places when we arrived, but the continuous damp, chilly, weather dissuaded us. The hostel we stayed in was cold and drafty, which didn't help my disgruntled mood. At one point our friends, who were traveling just two weeks, decided to spring for a night at a much more upscale and warmer place. Chile was more expensive than Argentina, and, despite the atrocities of Pinochet, the economy was in better shape. They had avoided the Argentinian economic "crisis" in 2001, and yet many buildings, like our hostel for example, were old and needed work. It was obvious that the Chilean economy had not lifted all boats.
We did take a few wet walks along the lake and to some nearby towns. We also went by bus to nearby Vulcan Osorno, though it was covered in cloud much of the time.
The weather did not improve and we all began to go a bit stir crazy. Perhaps having too much time on my hands, I began musing about "bad travel days," and the overall meaning of long term travel. Certainly dealing with the frustration of these wet days in Chile is a part of the process. You learn to cope with circumstances beyond your control, and to surrender to them. There are obviously many positive days, as you can tell from my writing, but the meaning of travel is also contained in the bad times as well. You have to learn to let go and roll with what comes your way. Before we left, everyone wanted to know what our itinerary was, and although we had a rough idea which countries we were planning to visit, the schedule was very loose. This involved another type of letting go. There is simply no way to plan a trip of nine months in advance without driving yourself crazy, and locking yourself into a plan that you will want to change later on. Not that this is easy, and it is different than the way I usually live my life.
Another challenging thing is learning to live with a small backpack of clothes, though this proved easier than deciding what to pack. It's amazing how few THINGS you really need, but how often do you realize this in your daily life. Travel is about divesting your attachments.... to things, to people you know, and to control.
Who would really want to do this? As with so many things, it is a trade-off. What you get in return is a kind of freedom that is hard to obtain in other ways. You also get to meet a lot of very interesting people of various ages, and you experience a kind of intimacy with them that might otherwise take much longer to develop, or wouldn't happen at all because you wouldn't meet them in the first place. You get exposed to amazing new experiences and cultures that you would otherwise never know, except vicariously. You learn to tolerate and deal with things that you never thought you could put up with, and yes, you do learn what your limits are since you keep bumping up against them.
In our culture, North American or Western European, it is easy to assume that we are in control of most everything in our day to day lives. This is not necessarily the case in other places or other cultures. On a trip to India, the same one I alluded to in another posting, my buddy and I stopped in a small shop in Dharamsala. It had been raining for days, and we needed to get some plastic bags to keep our stuff dry, as we were about to embark on another trek. In the States we would just go into a supermarket and buy them. Here it wasn't so easy.
This particular shop was a tiny variety store, and we asked the proprietor if he had any plastic bags.
" No," he said, "but not to worry."
He then pulled out a roll of thick plastic and proceeded to sew, by hand, the number of bags we needed. While he was doing so, we got started talking, and of course the weather came up since we had to change our plans because of the extended monsoon season. We told him about getting caught in a blizzard at 17,000 feet, and having to retrace our steps after a week of hard hiking.
"Well," he said," when you come to India, you have to put yourself in God's hands."
How true, and its not just because of the weather. Anything and everything can happen in India, and in so many other places. It more or less forces you to give up the illusion of control that we Westerners have in our nice ordered lives. Scary perhaps, but it is also liberating.
This type of travel is easier in your 20's or 30's, as opposed to your 50's or 60's, but maybe it is even more important for us old farts to challenge ourselves so that we do not go gently into that goodnight. After all, most of us know some things about loss of control, things we didn't know when we were younger and thought life went on forever.