Lately, this sort of questionnaire is popular among travel blogs: a Travel ABC, where a travel-related question is asked for each letter of the alphabet. I’ve been nominated by my fellow blogger Stephen at Monk Bought Lunch, so here’s my go at it!
A: Age you went on your first international trip
The very, very first time, was to Chamonix, France, with my parents, when I was about 10. It was actually only a few hours as we were spending a week holiday on the Alps in the north-western region of Italy, Valle d’Aosta. The indelible memory of those few hours (and also the only one) is my father speaking French to someone from the car window.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
Beers are really pretty bad where I come from, so this leaves me plenty of choice abroad. One of the nicest beers I have ever tried is a Belgian beer called “Zinne Bier”. It has some very unique taste to it, it’s not too heavy and, cherry on the cake, “Zinne” means “boobs” in Italian.
C: Cuisine (favorite)
(Bias alert!) Is there another possible answer to this question than Italian? Too often, Italian cuisine is very badly represented abroad. I regularly stumble across stuff I have never heard of back in my home country, or recipes that are too much adapted to the local taste. Italian cuisine is much, much beyond what everyone thinks it is. Any town, any little village has its own thing, delicious in a different way than anywhere else in the country. Oh God, don’t even get me started. (Bias alert finished.)
This is the story of our journey back from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Punta Arenas, Chile. We didn’t know that the Chilean Patagonia was prey of a massive strike against the government proposal of rising the gas price of 17%. Getting to the airport turned out to be A LOT more complicated than we expected. I have written an article more focused on the politics behind it, find it here (in Italian).
6 AM, Time since departure: 0 hours
We’re lucky, the bus stop in Ushuaia is just one block away from our hostel! Departure set at 6:00, the driver has forgotten his sunglasses and the rising sun goes straight into his eyes, so I decide to lend him my sunglasses. I’m going to sleep anyway.
7:30 AM, TSD: 1 hours, 30 minutes
Breakfast break. The pastries are good, the coffee is awful, the driver struts around with my sunglasses, which makes me afraid he likes them a bit too much. The break is too short.
10:00 AM, TSD: 4 hours
We arrive in Rio Grande, where we have to wait a few hours for the connection. The bus station is pretty lame, so we take a walk through the nearby cemetery. It isn’t a rich one: coffins are exposed (yes) and holes are dug the old way.
Day 3, the end
Chile. Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park. Third day on the trek. Guido and I walked the last 23 kilometers of the trail to reach to the bus stop. We could trek for one more day and complete the “W” circuit, but Guido’s mountain boot is broken beyond any repair. We tried our best so far, holding it together with a big rubber band, but more gashes are appearing on the sides.
Walking and camping for three days in the Torres del Paine National Park has been demanding but beautiful, a true immersion into a well preserved mountain environment. Today we are able to spot a lot more birds: they seem to feel more confident, or maybe they just want to reward our perseverance.
Day 2, the breakdown
Chile. Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park. Second day on the trek. We are only at the half of today, but Guido’s boot shows the first sign of strain. A small cut opens on one side. We wonder how long it can hold, but hey, we’re optimist!
The views from today’s walk are breathtaking, on sceneries that can only be seen in Patagonia, the closest point to icy Antarctica.
Today’s problem is the path itself. So rocky, and damn hard to walk on. At some point we miss one turn and get lost, and spend the next two hours making our own way through bushes and rocks prone to landslides, before having lunch in the shadow of a big boulder and heading back.
At night, the usual meal: tuna and beans. The two forks that we used were an important part of the meal. Two days earlier, we had bought all the food for four hiking and camping days, but only on the bus to go we had realized that we didn’t have any cutlery. In Puerto Natales, a bus connection for the park, we had lunch in a miserable and smoky restaurant where we waited one hour for two sandwiches. An hazardous thing to put customers through, especially when they are in need of new silverware!
Day 1, the glacier
Chile. Patagonia. Wow, we just arrived in Torres del Paine National Park! Ahead of us, four days of pure trekking and camping! To be honest, Guido’s boots don’t look like proper mountain boots at all, but he reassures me that they’ve behaved flawlessly when he trekked in Turkey. He seems indeed to master the path, albeit very rocky!
This is only the first day but we are rewarded with incredible sceneries! We reach Lake Grey, created by the meltdown of Glaciar Grey. The sky is gloomy and dark, the light is cold. Massive icebergs float on the lake, and the strong wind whistles through the trees. Such an apocalyptic scenery feels like the end of the world.
A few walking hours later, we reach the viewpoint on the glacier itself (image below). It’s gigantic, impressive. The geological layers are all exposed and very twisted, reminding us of past upheavals of tremendous destructive force.
The comeback to the campsite is long, 11 more kilometers to test our legs. Ah, the Everest times seem so far! Luckily, some Pisco Sour will cheer us up. Guido’s boots seem to hold just fine.