Skills Exchange member travels through Patagonia and posts his experiences in our mutantspace blog
We all like to believe that travel brings out our wild side. Ever since Star Trek forever smeared into our conscience the curse of the most infamous split infinitive and its seminal pledge, ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’, human kind has scrambled to the most peculiar of crevices, laying itself bare to the vagaries of meteorology, the delicacies of custom and the whim of mother nature. From pole to pole, abandoned but free, baby have we left ourselves go, or what?
When the seed of a voyage first takes root in the brain’s ‘wild’ compartment, we incline towards ‘whatever comes my way man!’ Ground rules exist, of course, but only to secure our personal liberation. As a guide, when in doubt, assume kamikaze. Allow me to present the Zen Commandments:
I shall walk barefoot in the jungle, in the way jungle people do
I shall discard stockings and other irrelevant western possessions, and let my sandals direct me beneath the deep foreign sun
I shall engage with Irish people only sparingly, for this is the tribe responsible for shrinking my intellect to its present sorry size
I shall embrace the locals, and feed off the wisdom they have designed for me. Mountains are to be scaled via ‘alternative’ passages, and timed so that summits are reached only at dawn. When I do need to wear my Penneys trousers,
I shall carry a small notepad and pencil in the leg pocket at all times, so that my most recent spiritual awakening can be recorded not a moment too soon
I shall sit cross-legged for supper, and on the beach, where I shall scorn behind their backs anybody I see reading the ‘Da Vinci Code’
I shall espouse core socialist values at every opportunity, leaving free-market capitalism, an illusion and the curse of mankind, in the dock where it belongs
I shall allude, over and over again, to the world’s economic implosion as the ultimate proof of socialism’s supremacy
When at a crossroads, and confused, I shall follow the energy
If my reason ever supersedes my instinct, I shall return home at once
And above all else, I shall, at all times, be cool.’
It is to Buenos Aires I head on February 4th, then on to Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, hot on the heels of Che Guevara, naturally enough. That guy thought he was hardcore. He had no idea.
But already, there is something sinister bubbling in my blood. I first felt it at the doctor’s surgery last week, as the nurse stood over me with two needles of venom – one for typhoid, the other for Hepititis A. She was intrigued by the scope and ambition of my assignment; I played up the brave and lonely journalist, foraging manfully into the darkness. “I shall be embedding myself” I told her. Thing was, I think we both appreciated what embedding really meant. That face of hers knew too much.
Truth be told, in vaccinating, really I was buckling under the irresistible urge to blend in, to conform. I was already living on the safe side of life. I hate admitting it but that’s when the chink in my wild armour was carved. Those jabs poisoned me with the travel safety bug, and it has been an ugly spiral ever since.
As I write this, behind me on my bedroom floor I have neatly folded many of the essential tools for the journey. A thin cotton sleeping bag. Pocket-sized torch. Layered clothing, leg warmers for the mountains. Fleece. Power converter. Rain gear. Diary.
I’ve already wikipediad ‘Buenos Aires’ in Google, to get bearings in advance. Christ, I feel like I’ve already been to the place. I bet before I leave I’ll book the first night’s accommodation online, from the safety of my bedroom. That will cushion my arrival nicely. When I get there, having taxied my way around the beastly public transport, I’m sure to genuflect before the high summer, and invest in factor 30 Ambre Solaire sun cream. And dare anybody speak to me during any of this, I can always take cover behind my Lonely Planet.
Already I cut a pathetic prospect of a journeyman.
As sure as bacon partners a sausage, to prepare for my first tailor-made trek for goofy idiots through the Patagonian wilderness I’ll duck into a corner store to purchase jacks roll. For those unscheduled loo stops. Let’s face it, I am bound to go safely where plenty of men have gone before.
I’ll even be persuaded to buy travel insurance, on the good counsel of my mammy. Just in case, because she knows best.
Now for a wild boy like me, that would be the ultimate capitulation
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