A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on an unfamiliar bicycle--winding through cars on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil. As we went over a narrow bridge, my couch surfing host shouted back at me, "watch out for the motorcycles!" They were splitting the lanes too, and a force to be avoided.
I arrived to Southern Brazil after Argentina and Uruguay. After a couple weeks in Buenos Aires, I hopped a bus up to Montevideo, Uruguay--where I spent a week. As quickly as I fell in love with the people, the culture, the herbs, and the Fainá, I was off NB again. I had 2 days to bus 2,000 km up to Rio de Janeiro. There was no bus that went the entire distance, and bus companies in Brazil require Brazilian IDs to purchase tickets online. So I bought a ticket to Pelotas and crossed my fingers. When I arrived, the bus to Rio was sold-out, but I just bought a ticket North, and--after a few transfers--I reached a station in Florianópolis with a straight-shot to Rio.
It was a bit intimidating stepping onto the street out of the bus station when I finally arrived (well, after chasing down my bus--banging on the side to let me re-board; I had forgotten my jacket in the seat pocket). Brazil, and Rio especially, is known for both violent crimes and petty theft--both on behalf of the poor and the police. This is a country with vast resources--one of the most powerful emerging economies in the world--yet there is still massive class disparity and corruption. In fact, the streets were still tagged with spraypaint condemning the political coup 5 months earlier that saw the ousting of Dilma Rousseff (from the Workers' Party).
After a week in Buenos Aires, my injuries sustained by 10 days of backpacking in Patagonia have mostly healed. I initially only intended the 123 km circut at Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile to take 7 days, but complications with rangers, a blizzard, and increasing pain in my ankles, feet, and--worst of all--my knees slowed my journey; fortunately I over-packed food.
my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
After 3 weeks in Santiago de Chile, with a brief weekend visit to Valpariso and Maintencillo to visit friends, I woke on Saturday--the first day of my 2 week vacation--at 05:30 to catch a plane to Punta Arenas. I had a rough sketch of plans from the time my plane arrived in this southern Chilean town until the time I was to arrive in Buenos Aires 2 weeks later, but my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
I arrived to the airport with a overly-stuffed backpack full of instant, no-heat, vegan, dehydrated trail food (couscous, instant potatoes, raisins, mixed nuts, tortillas, peanut butter, oil, and various soup & spice packets). My pack was bulging with two gigantic ever-running holes on the critical sides along the main zipper. My couchsurfing host amazingly had a half meter of webbing to give me just before graciously driving me to the airport, but I hadn't time to sew my pack before the flight. I hastily pulled out my ~50ft of paracord, and tightly bound the pack with the entire length. I waited in line with all the other backpackers headed for Patagonia, sacrificed a lighter to the airport security, and boarded my plane.
After my arrival to the Punta Arenas airport, I searched for a bus to get to Puerta Natales--the gateway town a short 3 hour bus ride from the Torres Del Paine National Park. The information desk told me the inter-city busses picked up at the airport, but required tickets purchased in advance. I awaited one of these busses a few hours later, standing in a line with backpackers more prepared than I. When a bus arrived and my neighbors presented their pre-printed tickets, I asked the bus driver in my broken spanish if I could pay for the ride now. There was no issue; I was told to get on the bus. Moreover, I somehow blended-in with the group, as the ticket man walking up & down the isle demanding ticket proof never approached me.
After a sleepy ride on the bus with more comfortable chairs than the plane, we arrived to Puerto Natales' main bus station. I previously searched for the cheapest hostel online, and walked there with my fingers crossed. They had a 13.000 CLP bed in a mixed dorm, and offered cheap luggage store during the trek for 1.000 CLP. I separated my items, leaving my electronics and some superfluous clothes & toiletries behind. I spent the rest of the night sewing long patches of webbing to pack's critical rips. I ate dinner and went to bed early.
The next morning, I had a fast breakfast, grabbed my webbing-patched pack, and was on the bus to Torres Del Paine by 07:30. The scenery was mostly the same--Patagonia is mostly large, empty fields with cows--with only the occasional mountains & glaciers, to which I intended to immerse myself in shortly.
we had to ford a river...I stubbornly didn't want to remove my boots, so I decided to jump...While I was able to jump to the sandbar without issue, I did so immediately after I had thrown my backpack directly into the water
We arrived, stood in line, paid for entry, and watched a bilingual video about the rules of the park. Their biggest concern was wild fires, as careless tourists from Czech Republic & Israel have tragically burned down nearly 500,000 hectares in 1985, 2005, and 2011. Personally, I didn't even have a stove. Everything I had could be rehydrated cold--though I would never do this again where the water source is glacier melt and the temperature is regularly less than 10 degrees!
We awoke to the sound of a marmot under our mini-van shelter atop Hatcher Pass. It was my last weekend in Alaska, and S wanted to take me outside the Anchorage bowl--where I've been living the past month. We ate breakfast as we gazed upon the snow-capped mountains in the distance, then grabbed our packs and climbed up to the ridgeline, stopping to appreciate the fine view of Mount Denali--the highest peak in North America.
I hosted S as a couchsurfer in my temporary "apartment" in Anchorage, but we initially met in an online form; we were both searching for a travel companion to split the cost on a ship from Anchorage, AK to Vancouver, BC.
3 months ago, S left her office job in Zürich, flew to Vancouver, and bought a mini-van named Bourbon. Living in Bourbon, she drove through BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and west into Alaska. I hosted her a few times when she passed south through Anchorage down to Homer, then again West to Valdez. Our last weekend in Alaska, we took one last trip outside Anchorage before she sold Bourbon
After climbing down from the ridgeline above Hatcher's Pass, we drove through the valley down a long gravel road to the Reed Lakes trailhead. 4 miles and much climbing later, we arrived at the most pristine, glacier-fed lake I've ever seen. A local told us it's the best lake in Alaska, and that the glacier that fed this lake (just over the ridgleine) was called "bomber glacier", as a crashlanded (world war 2?) bomber plane could be found atop the glacier. If we had more time, gear, and food, it would make a glorious multi-day weekend hike to Bomber Glacier--perhaps for my next visit to Alaska.
After I graduated college, I sold or gave away most of my possessions. As a young US American following the footsteps of many before me, I headed west to California.
ho·bo / ˈhō-(ˌ)bō / (n.) a migratory worker
With just a few duffel bags of cargo, my 21-st century move from Florida to California lasted only a few hours on an airplane. My destination: San Francisco -- where, in a few weeks, I'd begin a new job as a software engineer.
During my time living in California, I visited Yosemite National Park and went on my first-ever overnight trekking trip. This experience taught me much about self-sufficiency and packing light--something that I later refined to an art.
I was in San Francisco for just over a year, but I never spread my roots too deep. Before my second year, my feet were itching for something new, and I found myself on a plane again -- this time destined for New York. With Guthy's voice singing through my earphones, I flew from the Redwood forests to the New York islands.
After some time, I was off again, heading down the US east coast back to Florida, and I hopped a plane to the furthest city in America that had an international airport -- Santiago de Chile.