Senderos que se bifurcan: time to head south
Travel always presents interesting challenges and choices that I could never imagine before leaving home. The past week has been filled with one such challenge: deciding to climb Aconcagua as planned or taking off for Patagonia earlier than expected.
Tomorrow I´m going to Patagonia.
I spent the weekend up in Arenales with the crew. I climbed only one route, took some hikes and just sat back and reflected. It was a good weekend in a beautiful, untouched spot. I felt like I was in Yosemite Valley before anyone even thought about climbing those massive walls. Just to get to the crags, you have to pass through a military check point, register with the army and only then can you pass through. Everytime we went back to town for some beer, food or wood, we would have to politely ask the official on duty to let us through and allow us reentry. I got to know the guards pretty well after three days of passing through. The night before I left one guard even gave me money to buy him cigarettes. I was sure to give him exact change.
Today the crew took a bus up to Aconcagua. Being down here with Bay Area friends has been wonderful and I´m bummed that today it ended. However, after three weeks in country, I learned some things:
Argentina is not as cheap as it used to be and money is going to be far tighter than anticipated. The weak dollar isn´t doing me any favors. This and the cost of going all in on Aconcagua was too much to bear.
Getting to the summit of a famous high point is not as important to me as discovering a part of the world that I do not yet know. I don´t know when I´ll ever have a month and a half to explore Chilean and Argentine Patagonia with such freedom. Who knows what peaks, people and experiences are ahead of me.
Unfortunately, this meant that today my path branched off of the four others that I have been joined with for the past three weeks.
Tomorrow I take an overnight bus to Bariloche where I hope to find some climbing partners for some ascents of the volcanoes in the region. From there, I´ll cross to Chile and work my way south through the fjords and snowy peaks until I get to Conservacion Patagonica, where I hope to spend a few weeks volunteering my efforts towards the creation of Patagonia National Park.
Now that I have more time to conocer (Spanish for get to know) Patagonia, I want to think about conservation and land preservation and reflect upon how to communicate this need to a Latin American audience. What immediate threats will I see to wilderness in Patagonia? Irresponsible tourism? Energy companies and dam projects? Climate change? Overranching? Pulp mills and deforestation? I´m excited to sit back and observe so that I can approach my volunteer experience with as much knowledge of the needs for projects– like Conservacion Patagonica–as possible.
So for now, it´s time to wrap things up in Mendoza and turn my compass southward.