April 19, 2006

Al Fin del Mundo

Okay, I´m getting a bit lazy about this blog thing, I know. Ive been pretty busy for the last ten days or so. Once again, I left Santiago and took a bus, this time to Puerto Montt in the lake district. It was cold and grey there and I was glad to be just staying one night. Far from a picturesque place, it looks like what I imagine a small Alaskan fishing town to be. The local people looked a lot different from their fellow countrymen in the North - it seems that the further south you travel here, the whiter people´s skin in and they have longer facial features.
Anyway, before I go off on a tangent about faces, the following morning I was up bright and early to catch the NAVIMAG ferry. In hindsight, this was an excellent decision and well worth the money. Over the course of the three day trip, we passed some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, saw whales, dolphins, otters, shipwrecks and lots more! On the first and third days, the ship was navigating through narrow channels, which meant that the water was quite calm, and so it was pretty pleasant. The second day, however, we were out in open sea and there were lots of green faces and projectile vomiting! On this day, the boat docked at a tiny little town called Puerto Eden, which was interesting because 15 of the 200 inhabitants are pure-blooded Kawesqar people. They look completely different to the CHileans, looking more like Asians. It was a strange little place and seems to be really cut off from civilisation.
Then something completely random and unexpected happened! I was chatting to this aging American hippy called Jeff about matters Irish, when the guy sitting beside us decided to put in his two cents. The minute he opened his mouth, it was obvious he was Irish, so obviously we struck up a conversation. I thought I vaguely recognised him, but couldnt put my finger on where I might have seen him before. Anyway, after about an hour of conversation, he mentioned that he was meeting some friends of his down in Patagonia. Something clicked in my brain because I knew one of Brian´s friends was going down there, so I said to him "Youdont know Dave Nevin, do you?" To cut it short, it turns out that this guy Fergal was in my brothers class in college and they share common friends. Its funny how small the world is really. As I was also heading to Ushuaia, we spent the next few days travelling together and it was great to meet up with Dave.
Ushuaia is absolutely amazing and is exactly what the end of the world should look like! It is surrounded by huge mountainous towers which lend it a very dramatic feel. The town itself is small and very touristy but not in an unpleasant way. We stayed in a great hostel there, one of the best Ive been in so far in South America. Proving yet again, how small the world is, I met an Irish guy who knows a friend of mine quite well and then a girl from Newmarket on Fergus who knows my cousins! There were a lot of Irish in Ushuaia, which was interesting.
Myself and Dave climbed a glaciar and had a great laugh slipping and falling all over the place. Another day, I got on a boat down the Beagle Channel which I hugely enjoyed. We were blessed with good weather for the days we were there. I didnt get to see any penguins, unfortunately, as the feckers have all migrated at this time of the year. Its getting very cold now. I did see lots of sealions and king cormorants though, so that kept me happy. Our guide on the boat was excellent and I found the history of the area fascinating. For example, 6,500 years ago Shamana people used to live in these tiny little huts on the islands of the channel. They didnt wear clothes - can you imagine being naked all the time 1000km from Antartica!! The females of these tribes were the ones who swam searhcing for food (naked) - typical! The men sat in the boats tending fires which were lit on a mound of stones in the middle and waited for the women to swim back with food. The Beagle Channel is divided right down the middle bewteen Chile and Argentina and is bio-oceanic, opening to the Pacific on one side and the Atlantic on the other.
Due to some bad research on my part, Im now stranded in a place called El Calafate. I took a flight up here yesterday, foolishly assuming that I could continue by bus on to Bariloche and then on to Santiago from there. People warned me about the lack of good transport down here at this time of the year (the minute the summer months pass, everything starts shutting down here) but I didnt heed their warnings! This morning, I found out that I cant fly out of here - all flights are full for a few days and I cant even fly on to Buenos Aires! So, the only remaining option is a 36 hr bus journey to Bariloche leaving at 3am. Yuk! Its looking like thats what Im going to have to do.
Normally, none of this would bother me as I have as much time as I want, but during the week I was called for a job interview in Santiago and I promised the guy I would try to be back within the week. He was pretty understanding, given where I was at the time (Ushuaia) but I got the feeling he wouldnt wait forever either! so I need to be back in Santiago by the wknd. Ive made up my mind at this stage to discard my wokring visa for NZ and spend the year in Chile instead. Working in NZ is probably just going to be like working at home really, and here I get to continue perfecting my wobbly Spanish and experiecne a different life. So, Im praying that this job works out.
So, the travels are going to be put on pause for a year, and hopefully I can pick up where I left off after that.

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