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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

In Patagonia Day 25

March 16th, 2018

In Patagonia Day 25
Chilean coast on The Eden

At some point in the night, The Eden dropped cargo at Port Eden, the only human habitation of this long route. The village of 60 souls doesn’t have a proper pier, so transfer of goods and people is done by lowering the stern ramp (where the trucks drive on when in port) while standing off the town in, one hopes, calm weather, and loading a smaller launch which returns to dry land. This was all effected while I slept, though I wish I’d been able to watch. Puerto Eden is an intriguing corner of the world, just about as isolated as a place can be in the world today. In yesterday’s briefing, our resident polymath warned of this afternoon’s passage, as this was the one part of the voyage where the boat headed out into the open ocean. Given that there is little else going on (no news, sports, or any other outside diversions), impending 7 meter seas, the sturdiness of our old boat, and the relative merits motion sickness drugs were constant topics of conversation.

The morning was bright, and I visited the bridge which looked like a computer lab— no big wooden wheel, or that metal crank on a post that marks “all ahead full” —just some monitors, joysticks, without even a person who seemed to be standing the helm. I had the chance to lunch with an adventurous Australian couple who has been on some wild treks on the Patagonian coast to generally unvisited glaciers. We were soon joined by the older American woman, and the conversation turned to America’s obsession with firearms. Of course she turned out to be a gun-toting, Fox News watching, border wall building nut. I watched as a sense of dismay spread across the faces of the Aussies, showing utter disbelief at the level of paranoia they were witnessing. They, along with two other Australian couples later questioned me seriously (as I was the only other representative of the USA on board), wanting to understand how pervasive the nuttiness really is. Sometimes I find it difficult to answer that question as I feel the same incredulity as they.

It’s a good thing the woman had not brought her shotguns, as just after lunch the sun brightened and we all found ourselves on deck watching albatrosses skim, soar, and drift in a wind that was strong enough to tear off my hat and glasses. Amazingly beautiful birds that were either following or leading our poor vessel into the teeth of high winds, waves, and a possible storm. There I was, on my imaginary tramp steamer, preparing to round my imaginary Cape Horn, and,

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hail’d it in God’s name.

Nobody shot the albatross, the storm held off, but as we progressed into the bay, the swells did swell, Soon the ship was being tossed about and many passengers (drugged or not, I’m uncertain) disappeared to do a little tossing of their own. The rest of us remained on deck as long as the weather permitted, then I repaired to the lounge where the vinyl leatherette couches lurched from port to starboard, waking sleepers and smashing thumbs (mine). Walkers staggered like drunk sailors and loose objects flew about like this morning’s albatross (though not as gracefully). The crew managed with aplomb (surely a regular occurrence on this route), served dinner with little mishap (an unattended tray or two were launched across the space). The passage was to take more than twelve hours, and fortunately the movement was slow enough that it didn’t bother my stomach. I was able to read through the afternoon, and went to bed early (though using the head as we pitched about was a challenge) and at some point in the night woke to calm seas. We had re-entered the canals, navigating in the dark I’m guessing by computers and not by following albatrosses.

T. Hugh Crawford