I knew nothing about Patagonia before coming here. Well, I know nothing about most things, but although I had read a few things several months ago, endlessly researching a place leaves a little left to the imagination. Besides, having your own vehicle means I can go where the hell I like and what speed I like and sleep where I like. . .its the freedom taken for granted by overlanders. It doesnt always work out though. . . my uncle and I "slept" last night in conditions that can be best described as blustery as a motherfucker. There were such huge gusts of wind I felt seasick in the Landy. In my uncles tent, the poles bent. I can usually hear his rabid, end-of-days snoring from thirty feet and beyond a waterfall, but he was quiet last night. And thus, has been sleeping most of the day in somewhere with solid walls. Instead, I drove for 250km. And then in the afternoon, drove another 160km. However, I cannot survive for many days with only a few hrs sleep. I simply cant do it. No matter how many gurus tell me to get up at 4am and get out there to start my day, leaving my laurels unmolested, I need a minimum of 6 hrs. I was delighted when heard that Tim Ferris gets 9hrs a day. What a hero!
Check Your Lids For Holes
My uncle, who retired to bed 6 hours ago and will stay there until tomorrow morning when I wake him, is some kind of napping champion. He'll nod off during a chat. Then wake up and kick off the conversation with something inane. "Ohh a river!" But hes 82 and has to listen to me blathering on all day, so Id probably pretend I was napping too. Did you know that 'patagonia' actually comes from the first European explorers thinking all the indigenous had big feet and were giants? And snooze....
I remain my worst critic. Although my uncle would happily give it a shot on my latest adventure I think I give myself the hardest time when things go wrong. The first inclination that I have screwed something up brings out the demons and I’m unrelenting. I’m not sure how I conquer this, yet I have developed a set pattern that does help gain perspective.
Initially I find that something has gone wrong and it’s my fault. If it’s someone else’s fault this helps immensely! But alas, it’s not always the case. Sometimes you have to take the blame. Next step is finding out root cause, working out the best path forward, or sometimes just a way path forward is enough. Once that’s established, I set to work on developing that path and set full tilt for it. Sometimes it’s not the best option, but it will usually get me the fastest results and get things moving in the right direction. Once things look like they’re on the right path, I can relax slightly. However, during that period of relations that I have completely cocked something up and final resolution where I can walk away with the new solution all developed, that’s when the demons come.
I will most certainly lose sleep over it. Voices in my head (oh the voices, sons of bitches!) will devour every thought and I will castigate myself in every way I know how, sometimes even new ways I didn’t think were entirely welcome or necessary. Sometimes I’m a little mean to myself. Compassion for others I have plenty of, compassion for myself remains sometimes elusive.
The Sun Will Rise
Often during that night or several nights of losing sleep, I will try to placate my mind by believing that things will be ok in the morning. And generally, they are. As a good friend of mine said, probably when he thought I wasn’t listening, the sun will always rise tomorrow. To paraphrase the wonderful Spike Milligan, nothing gives hope like the dawn of a new day.
The next day usually yields rationalisation and understanding that it wasn’t all that bad, that the solution will work, and that a path onwards will inevitably work, one way or another. But by god, there are times there where I wish I could control my own demons. Yet, I have found a way through, and dealing with it. Probably not in the healthiest of ways, and yet I don’t turn to drink, drugs, shouting at people, blaming anyone else but myself. The problem is how much blame I place on myself . . . at the risk of quotes running rampant, there is a lovely song called ‘wear sunscreen’. In it the narrator says “keep all your love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Remember the compliments and forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, show me how”.
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Am fortunate to once again be on holiday, this time a five-month adventure from South to North America which you can read more about at my other website antipodeanadventure.com. Today I left the capital, Santiago, picked up my uncle from the airport and took the bus out to Valapariso on the western coast. What became clear though during the travels was that my Uncle didn’t have the same gleam in his eye that he used to have when travelling in North Korea, The Stans and China, where we often romped with triumph and disaster. And extensive bus travels which broke bottoms.
I admire many things about my uncle, though his ability to adopt common sense when standing outside a busy-airport in 25 degrees still wearing his winter jacket from a snowy London isn’t one. I can’t believe he wasn’t melting. His greatest asset of all I believe is his sheer will: his attitude of achieving what his heart desires goes beyond his sight which is failing him, his age which he continues to defy, and now his body. Vala is a city of many steep hills, cobbled streets and alleys glittered with graffiti, all intertwined between a spider-webs of staircases i.e. bloody hostile territory for knees.
I take great pride in introducing him as my uncle to almost every bewildered traveller that cannot believe someone of his age still stays in hostels, still travels with his nephew and still whimpers if beer isn’t served at least once during the day before 4pm.
Although he may not be a great navigator, can’t take up his share of the driving (or can, but we’ll both die quite quickly) is useless at Spanish and snores like a throaty walrus, his heart and head is all what’s needed. And that’s probably true for all.
Writing and writing...