Taking pause in Patagonia
Time passes swiftly when filled with the demands of workday life, not in an unhappy way, but sometimes it can all seem too hectic. Travel provides the opportunity to set your own pace. So why have I rushed around during overseas holidays, trying to fit in highlights that have been so carefully researched? Well, that has all changed after an epiphany of sorts during a multi-day hike in the mountains of Patagonia.
On the bus to the trail-head in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, my wife and I chat with fellow hikers. We are all particularly keen to view three immense granite towers, the Torres of the park’s name, but are aware that winter’s grip has barely eased and the risk of impassable conditions and poor visibility is high. Of the eight groups that set out, only we and another couple from Israel have provisioned for more than the minimum four nights.
Predictably, the weather is bleak. Thick clouds hang low over the valleys and the precipitous peaks we have marvelled at in travel guides are obscured. Then it snows, heavily. For four days we and the Israelis camp in ancient beech forest, down from the Torres, hoping for the weather to clear, while other groups leave disappointed.
Those days could have been dull, but with time on our hands we are able to create a rudimentary hide from which to spot the creature that leaves fresh prints in the snow early every morning (a Patagonian fox as it turns out) and find the closest position to view the magnificent condors that fly low through the valley.
We work up the courage to bathe under a half-frozen waterfall; fashion chess pieces from different coloured stream pebbles and play a long Australia v Israel game that dissolves into laughter after too many red wines (yes, we have lugged some robust Chilean cabernet) as we forget which pieces the stones symbolise. All the while warm friendships slowly develop.
On the fifth day, the sky clears and we crunch through fresh snow to see the Torres in all their glory. But, when we recall our trip to Patagonia, those unplanned days spent camping in the forest inspire the fondest memories, all due to taking time to embrace the here and now rather than rushing to meet a predetermined schedule. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: [email protected]tralian.com.au. Columnists will receive an elegant Cross Classic Century Medalist Ball Point Pen, in production since 1946, with a polished chrome casing and 23-carat gold-plated trim; black or blue ink; $89.95. More: luxurypens.net.au.