After a couple weeks in the bipolar weather of Argentina’s Patagonia, I happily bussed across the border into Chile’s Patagonia in search of a change of scenery from all those beautiful mountains and landscapes. A long day of travel resulted in my arrival in the small town of Ancud on the Pacific Coast island of Chiloe. I checked into my hostel and then immediately waddled to a gringo-esque pub for a much-needed comfort dinner of nachos (Which were essentially fake Doritos covered with numerous slices of plastic cheese, canned mystery beans, and guacamole. I destroyed it.). I checked my email and was delighted to find that my new friend Graham (organizer of the previous day’s Seven Lakes roadtrip) was to arrive in Chiloe that evening as well. He joined me for a beer before I drug myself back to the hostel and into bed.
The next morning, it was pouring rain (Must I scream it from the rooftops? I need Vitamin D, world!), so Graham and I took a bus down to Chiloe’s largest town, Castro. The town is famous for its palafitos, colorful wooden houses rising out of the water on stilts. Unfortunately, due to the gloomy day we weren’t able to capture all the colors. Instead we had a long lunch, checked out Castro’s famous tacky yellow church, and got wet before escaping back up to Ancud.
The next day (only clouds–no rain!) I did what I came here to do: see some penguins! In all my travels, I have never before seen a penguin in the wild, so I was ecstatic for the opportunity to get up close and personal with the little tuxedoed birds. From a black sand beach on the Pacific, we rode in a boat up to several rocky islands jutting out of the swell, and there they were. Hundreds of adorable black and white penguins. Just standing there. Doing nothing. Unless you call staring down at the ground doing something. I must admit that I was a little bit disappointed; I mean, where were their bowties? I kept expecting them to break out in a tap dancing rendition of “Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious” at any moment but alas–they just stood there. I also hoped I’d get to hug one, too, but we couldn’t get out of the boats. Boring.
After the penguins, we checked out a few beautiful lookout points and beaches before heading back into town. By now the sun had come out (happy days!), so Graham, two other guys from our tour, and I trudged up a hill to the 2nd Annual Ancud Beer Festival. After a few brews and exposing our eardrums to really bad 80s music blaring from loudspeakers (Okay, I lie. Who doesn’t love Cyndi Lauper on repeat?), we went back to the hostel to cook dinner together. Again, that night, I found myself having a little nervous breakdown, this time because I couldn’t bear to eat another empanada. Bread and cheese and bread and cheese and bread and cheese and bread and cheese. Really, it is amazing how much weather and food can affect your moods, and being a vegetarian in small-town Patagonia is not something I would wish on my worst enemies. I think I’m coming down with scurvy. And rickets.
Now before I go any further, I find it interesting how many people read my blog posts and then write me very concerned e-mails: ¨How are you really doing, Tiffany?¨, ¨Is everything okay?¨, ¨Should I be worrying about you?¨ This was never more so than after I wrote A Girl Who Travels…
People of zee wurl, relax! –Parrot, Fierce Invaldids Home From Hot Climates, Tom Robbins.
If anyone has traveled for a long time, then they will know that living out of a backpack for months on end is no proverbial walk in the park; you have your ups and downs and one day you’re having a blast and the next day you want to go home. One day you love everyone and the next you want to murder someone. You have long bus rides and you are so bored you start dwelling on those mean things you said to the girl with the chronic red Kool-Aid mustache in the 3rd grade. Add to that having a disability. Add to that being a drama queen. Add to that being a brutally honest, self-deprecating, complicated, and analytical person who writes a public blog. It’s just not in my MO to sugarcoat things. I can assure you I have no thoughts or intentions of slitting my wrists or jumping off a building (ahem), and most of my ¨nervous breakdowns¨ coincide with my finding the humor in the situation and laughing at myself. However, all apologies if my blog posts are sometimes downers, but I’m just being honest!
**Spoiler Alert! Bear with me, because the Red Sea of my backpacking despair is parting and things are about to get a whole lot rosier! I promise!**
So where was I? Oh yes, the next morning I left Chiloe and spent a full day between buses and bus stations to make it to Pucon, Chile. Unfortunately, about an hour from town the bus broke down. We had to stand outside on the side of the road with our luggage scattered about until we were finally able to cram into another bus that eventually passed by. I made it to Pucon right at dusk, just in time to meet up with my old traveling pals from Panama/Colombia, Jove and Clare. They were in the middle of a one-month stint volunteering in a shop in town, so I figured visiting them would be a nice little recess on my journey up to Santiago. I also hoped that seeing some familiar faces would bring me out of my funk.
And it did! I immediately started feeling better. I immensely enjoyed the following few days: Pucon itself wasn’t my cup of tea (packed with college-aged Chileans a la Spring Break woo-hoo), but catching up with old friends, warm sunshine, and good food (green leafy things!) was just what the doctor ordered (See, I told you I would break out of my travel blues eventually!).
Next stop, Santiago, to recharge my city-girl batteries!