Betwixt part II

-For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints
                                                                       Robert Louis Stevenson

What leads to fear? many believe it to be the unknown. But for me it is the knowledge of my own limitations. The excitement in the act of aggravating this fear drives people to watch horror movies, drive faster than they really should, infidelity, gambling, an array of activities to give a sensation of fear. inexorably linked to excitement of the act. It is primal. You only have to watch the face of an infant as it is tossed into the air by its parent only to be caught in an instant. Their face, a simultaneous look of sheer terror and exhilarated joy. We are born with this, it is unique to our species.
 When Mallory was asked "why climb Everest", his answer was simply “because its there”. and that for us is a good enough reason. Mallory was chasing fear, exorcizing inner demons and he died in his pursuit. Without this fear life would be meaningless..........

Not long after crossing the boarder we were lost, tiredness and confusion began to take hold. We alleviated this by eating some wood-fired bread and chorizo we had illegally smuggled over the boarder. Only industrially processed and properly labeled foods are permitted to cross the frontier, understandably so, but the idea of living on dried pasta for 7 days while walking 80 kilometres over mountainous terrain did little for the spirit. Our food inventory consisted of homemade fruit preserves, cured meat, abandoned polenta, commandeered rice, freeze dried milk and wild honey. Suplumented by whatever we found en route. All illegal. Fruits, preserves and jams, un-labeled natural foodstuffs, loose opened grain, dairy in any form and apiarian goods are a NO.
After re tracing our steps Ed found a gaucho who showed us where military boarder post was and cacheing our illegal food stores in a nearby bush we presented ourselves at the Carabineros outpost. "Welcome to Chile" said the surly guard. We were clearly the highlight of his day.
We had been given permission to enter as journalists, I as a writer and filmographer and Ed as a famous English t.v. presenter, or so we declared on our arrival forms.
Our excitement overpowered any anxiety we may have had about the difficult nature of our trip, our lack provision or our inexperience.

That night we camped down by the river, surround by driftwood and broken tree trunks, damaged by floodwater. Ed turned to me after we had eaten, to apologise that he had in fact lied about the amount of provisions we had. While I carried nearly 20 kilos of camera and computer equipment, Ed carried almost all of our food. My worst fears were about to be realised, we had at least 3 days left to cross what is possibly the longest mountain range on earth after which we had to walk to Cochamo not knowing if we could even resupply there before making it to Puerto Montt. Ed then produced a bottle of coffee liquor and 2 chocolate alfajores which he had kept as a surprise since leaving Puelo. We each put a dram into our powdered coffee and gorged ourselves on the alfajores.
Suffused with dulce de leche and coffee flavoured whiskey we drifted off to sleep to the refrain of the mighty Manso cascading over rocks.

The next morning I awoke to the call of nature, and with my morning constitutional complete I returned to camp to discover Ed in an excited mood. He had just met a young boy riding a horse on the trail above us, and being impressed at our chosen site to bivouac without the use of a tent, opened his leather saddle bag and handed Ed a trout. Freshly caught that morning. Catch of the day!

With our food stores somewhat replenished we got on the trail again. Climbing higher into the Andes.
We had left the course of the Manso, our travelling companion for the past 3 days. We were sad to see that it continued south, to run its course out into the pacific ocean without us at its side. Our path became more like jungle. Becoming difficult at times to find trail. We camped the night by Lago Vidal Gormaz, by the isthmus of a small stream of fresh water, with jagged snowcapped peaks to the north of us and the great lake itself stretching majestically to the south. We barbecued the fish over coals after the fire had died down. We had tried eating dried polenta and hated it, so we were not too upset when our kilo bag split and we lost its entire contents to the dirt.

 For the first time on the trip sleep had become difficult. The night was very cold, we were at altitude, with no tent, no cover from the north wind which blew down from the peaks above us and out across the lake. We were exposed. I watched the night sky in time-lapse between moments of sleep. The milky Way arcing through its aureole like a giant cartwheel, I had begun to tell the time by its librations and knew how long it had been since witching hour and how long until dawn. Lying there, looking at the stars, in the in the cold night air, I began to think about the coming days. We had two days left, maybe three, with our ravenous appetites we had enough food for one more day after that we were on water. Our limits were about to be tested, and our fears perhaps, realised........

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