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reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

In Patagonia Day 26

March 16th, 2018

In Patagonia Day 26
Chilean coast on The Eden

Early on in Moby-Dick, Ishmael is speaking with Peleg and Bildad about shipping on the Pequod. After some slapstick humor about Ishmael’s time in the “marchant service,” Peleg asks him to go aft and tell him what he sees. As I recall Ishmael’s answer is just water and perhaps a squall brewing on the horizon. Peleg then again asks why he wants to ship, as that is the same view he will have for the next three years. Today we were never out of sight of land, but the view out was constant—a misty driving rain with slow rolling waves. A day for reading books. Tomorrow weather permitting, we dock at Puerto Montt.

In Patagonia Day 2

February 20th, 2018

Day 2

Restless night, still adjusting to time change, then over coffee I finished reading Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, and after, a quest for a battery power brick. Unbeknownst to me, the Wellington airport baggage team removed my Anker power brick—one that had taken me around the world—as new airline regulations do not allow them in checked bags. I use my phone with offline maps to check hiking coordinates and will be out in the bush for many days at a time, so a power backup is imperative. My understanding is that Latam Air (next airline I fly) allows them in carryon, so after more wandering and some absurdly humorous pantomiming in a camera store, I found a Chinese brick which I hope will do the trick. The Voyage of the Beagle was fascinating; I had forgotten how much of it is about geology, which would contribute to his gradualist sensibilities. His speculations about the buildup of coral atolls inspires some more travel one day, but his complacency about the British Empire’s improvement of the unimproved world was disconcerting to say the least. Coffee midday at But First, Coffee was pure pleasure. A narrow shop with a sliding window open to the sidewalk where customers queue for expresso or ice cream. The other half of the space, separated by glass windows, is a barber shop. The sound system plays jazz (with large video screen) and the baristas alternate with the barbers, working with their appointed customers— each with their own perfectly trimmed beards. Generally everyone dances as they move between spaces. Spent part of the the afternoon working out my itinerary for the next few days, then wandered aimlessly about Lastarria—an amazing neighborhood—before arriving again at the Utopia Cafe, just watching the world pass by while the customers at the neighboring table commented (in jest) on my pale gringo skin. Spent evening eating in the restaurant district, reading Lucas Bridges’s Uttermost Part of the Earth (a story of Tierra Del Fuego) and watching the crowd ebb and flow. Tomorrow it is on to the southern reaches of Patagonia.

T. Hugh Crawford

In Patagonia Day 1

February 19th, 2018

Patagonia Day 1

Left Wellington on the morning of the 18th, with a long layover in Aukland, then 10 hour flight that put me in Santiago early afternoon on the 18th. That dateline crossing thing is disconcerting, and my phone daily steps app parsed them oddly. Settled into a comfortable flat in the Lasterrria district— I decided to indulge myself before diving headlong into trekking culture. The area is very hip, many restaurants, small galleries etc. Took a walk out toward the river and then down to the Mercado Centrale, a large old-fashioned market with a soaring Victorian iron-framed roof housing fish stalls and their associated restaurants. Had fried fish, rice and a beer — simple but delicious. Wandered a while in the park of the Castillo Hidalgo and in the neighborhoods. As it was Sunday, people were filling the restaurants, and the street venders were out in full force, very festive with a lot of music. Was hot which may explain why the Chileanos love their helado. Lack of sleep got me, so I took a nap, waking to drift out into the evening to sample Patagonian beer at the Utopia cafe. Chile has not fallen into the IPA world just yet, so I’ll have to be content with lager. Austral which tastes great in the heat, but, like all lagers, is thin (apparently Patagonian beer is brewed by German immigrants which explains a lot). The server brought a great plate of bread with some spread to go with the beer— guess I looked famished or maybe pitiful. Just now beginning the transition from being a teacher in New Zealand to becoming, I hope once again, a careful observer— to learn again to slow impressions, focus on the minute and mundane, empty out triviality, and see place and people in their place, among them. A simple but difficult goal—that old Thoreauvian chestnut—simplify, engage, understand.

T. Hugh Crawford