I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. to catch a 6:40 flight at the Santiago airport after going to bed around 1:30 in morning….maybe I’ll remember to not just take the cheapest flights
When my Uber arrived at 3:00 a.m. to take me to the airport my driver started explaining something that I didn’t quite understand but he said there was a problem and he kept saying the word ‘policía’ and that Uber cars cannot drive to the airport. The conversation was choppy at best and this guy spoke the most slurred and slangy version of Chilean Spanish I have heard yet. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t understand much more and we came to an unspoken agreement that the conversation had reached an impasse.
He had some kind of radio app on his phone and kept asking people if there were police at the airport and it started freaking me out. What the fuck crazy taxi had I gotten myself into? Usually I feel incredibly secure in an Uber because of the digital trail that is left behind if something bad were to happen but I was starting to doubt my safety on this very early morning. The lack of sleep and normal stress of traveling only added to the confusion — I was starting to get the fear.
Now on the highway to the airport about 10 km outside of Santiago he told me, in words I could finally understand, that he could take me to the terminal but I had to grab my bag and exit his car as quickly as I could. I said okay but my mind was racing. Is this guy a fucking felon? Is he some kind of wanted man, blacklisted from the airport? Jesus…
As we pull up to the national departures terminal he motions for me to take off my seatbelt and says “Rápido, rápido!”
I can’t wait to get the fuck out of this car so I do as I’m told and grab my two huge bags and open the door all in one motion as quickly as possible. He is already driving away as I close the door behind me.
What just happened to me?
I laughed to myself later in the airport when I rated him 5 stars with the preloaded optional compliment: “Great conversation…”
Fuck my Spanish.
By 3:40 I am through security and waiting at gate 28 for my flight that begins boarding at 6:10. I’m way too early but with all the bullshit I’ve dealt with already I’m glad I’m early. I think if I was even close to being on time I think I would have started to freak.
Sometime around 4 a.m. I read a few news articles about a massive anti-Uber protest just one month ago led by pissed-off taxi drivers that jammed the road to this airport and ended with one person dead, dozens of delayed flights and thousands of unhappy travelers.
Now it’s 5:20 a.m. and i still have an hour to kill and I can’t stop yawning. Maybe time for a nap before….
I wake up on the plane to the pilot saying something in French for some reason and my patience is rewarded with broken English.
“In 10 minutes we will be flying over Argentinian Patagonia and to your left you will see Perito Moreno Glacier and Fitz Roy.”
Fitz Roy like knives jutting out from the earth and it was the most incredible natural sight I’ve ever seen in my life. As the plane flew by everyone stood up to look at the amazing series of mountains. It’s strange to see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and not have anyone to share it with. It keeps happening on this trip. Ty called it ‘profound loneliness’ and I really understand it this time. I can’t believe my eyes. A tear runs down my cheek and the morning sun bathes my face through the airplane window. What a world.
Something clicks and I feel ancient again like an animal come to life, like I am the earth after millions of years finally waking up and staring at myself in the mirror and rubbing my eyes in disbelief …is this what I really look like?
Am I just chasing this feeling around the planet? If so I don’t even care, it’s a worthy endeavor and an incredible life in a beautiful place. There is a lot of pain and suffering here, most of it caused by humans. But there is nothing like that here now, only purity and beauty and timelessness. All of the pain of my body and self-doubt disappears and it’s bliss for a moment. And all this through an airplane window with my sweaty butt and cramping legs.
The tears stream down my face but I’m not ashamed of them. A snow capped mountain range with enough patience to wait around for millions of years of suffering to finally board a plane and look at itself from above. Truly spectacular. An infinite universe that is constantly waking up from and falling back into a deep slumber — a dream that lasts a lifetime. Consciousness is such a strange expression of universal energy, so potent and pointed. So singular, but containing all realms and all timespans that have ever existed. The universe looked upon itself and smiled this morning and for once there was peace and calm.
Maybe I’m just delirious from all this traveling and no sleep.
No matter, a view of a lifetime for sure and even though there are pictures and words to remember it, this too will fade with time and eventually to sand and rock and water and space dust and just nothing nothing nothing — floating around for another million years waiting to wake up into another moment’s dream.
A second that lasts a lifetime, whatever that means…
All of time stretches out before me in these vast white glaciers and brown mountains and glistening jewel-blue lakes and the clouds and sky forever and ever as far as I can see. There is nothing but this moment, but this moment moves forward and already the feeling is passing. A shame.
Come back, can’t you stay a while longer? Can’t I just hold on to this for a bit?
Finally there was peace and righteousness and emptiness and pure love and pure being. But it slides away into the clouds and this tiny plane slips past eternity and then descends down to a little town at the bottom of planet, back into the world of suffering and time and loss and death. It glides beneath the clouds and back to ‘reality’ — but the other universe is still out there and in here and in the hearts and minds and spirits of every living being.
Everything vibrates with such-ness and energy and life — a stone, a wave, a glacier, a mountain — all clamoring with being. And in fact they are me and I am them, I know this now. Please let me remember. I am the tree and the glacier and the mountain and it is all disappearing from this world just like I am. So there is no reason to worry about it and I can just let it happen in time, the way it always was going to, and enjoy the beauty and the power and the majesty and the mystery for what it is.
Each moment will live forever in the next, and on and on and one until…
…that I don’t know anything about and I’ve already forgotten about forever as our plane dips and drops back to the earth and tray tables up and wheels down and seatbelts on and language and time and busy-busy planning and plotting comes rushing back. It never stays for long why won’t you just stay…
Off to the next.
Another crazy taxi today, this one 25 km from the airport to the bus station and a driver approached me saying if I could find three other people that want to ride for 3,000 pesos each he would drive us to the bus station in town. Somehow we found three people who needed a ride, two guys from Ireland and a girl from England and we loaded into his car and somehow I ended up as the translator (??) and we were speaking Spanish and he started telling us about how this is a nice town and quiet compared to Santiago where we all flew from.
He was in the Chilean version of the marines for seven years and took a bunch of martial arts and competed around South America and drank a lot… and then something about how he crashed his car after he got out of the service because he was drinking too much and now he hasn’t had a drink for 7 years and one time a group of people surrounded him and pulled a knife on him and took his money and just as the knife started to go into his neck he used a jiu jitsu move and took the knife and stabbed the assaulter in the leg and took his money back and the guy begged him not to kill him and then he called the cops and left… wow this conversation is going strange places.
But that was back when he was drinking and fighting a lot and now he has a small seven year old daughter and he doesn’t act like that anymore and I’m wondering how I managed to pull the craziest fucking taxis today and hoping that it ends here too.
We get to the bus station and I buy a ticket for the 1 p.m. bus and it’s just past 11 a.m. now so I sit for a while and then go to a grocery store to buy some water and snacks for the bus and walk back to the bus station to wait for the Buses Fernandez 3-hour bus to Puerto Natales.
Punta Arenas: the cutest little city at the bottom of the planet until I get to…
Puerto Natales is fantastic, another little trekking town at the end of the world but with a lot of western amenities and Diego’s Hostel Last Hope is fantastic.
He studied in culinary school for four years then worked as a chef for three years to save up money. He and his girlfriend originally wanted to start a restaurant here in Puerto Natales but then they started this hostel instead.
The adventure continues and I spend my time planning for Torres del Paine, though no amount of gear or research can prepare me for what is about to happen…