By Madeline Blasberg
Every so often you hear that a place is too beautiful for words, and I’ve always kind of thought that was a pathetic copout. Until now. Because as it turns out, Patagonia can’t be done justice in words or pictures. If you asked me to describe it to you I’d stare at you bug-eyed, arms gesturing wildly, mouth moving up and down producing not a sound, like a fish underwater. And then maybe I’d be able to form a word or two…
It’s just so….if you only…and the mountains…you just can’t…there is no way to…and ooohhhh it’s soooooo…and what’s the word for…can’t you just imagine it?
And this debacle could go on for hours, after which you’d demand to see my pictures, but I’d tack on several thousand disclaimers about how they don’t do justice to such splendor. And they’d all be true: the camera’s not the best, I don’t actually know how to work it, sometimes it’s in the wrong setting and the lighting is never quite right. And it’s always a thousand times better in person.
But such is life. And so, in the wee bitty pixels of this blog post, and in my broken stammers of amazement I will try (futilely try) to do justice to all that is Patagonia.
There’s a good amount of debate circling this subject, but some say that the Shire, of Lord of the Rings, was based on Patagonia. But no matter what, the resemblance between the two is kind of impossible to deny. And here is where my journey began.
Bariloche, our base camp, is not only a mecca for outdoors men with terrifying dreadlocks and a particularly authentic pine aroma, but it is also a major ski destination. And in the off-season, the ski lifts are utilized for a little sight-seeing. You ride them up the mountain, marveling at the height and how thankful you are to be surrounded by green, and on the way down you overlook the lake and the snow-capped peaks of Patagonia.
And then there was the pesky problem of accurately assessing distances and how far two legs can carry on person in a day. I´d like to blame the metric system, which has been scrambling my mind ever since I got here. But that would be unfair, because I know that the majority of the problem is not that every distance is in Km; the problem is I like to think that hiking 40 or 50 Km in a day is easily doable, and can be quite a lovely stroll. Yeah. Wrong-o. But if studying abroad has taught me one thing, it would be that when you find you have kind of hosed yourself up, you will find that you can usually find a way to untangle your own mess. Sometimes it means admitting defeat and hiking home a little ahead of schedule (Day #1), and sometimes it means hitchhiking up a mountain (Day #5).
And when times are had, and the budget minimal (which lets face it, it usually is), you learn to pack your lunch before you leave the hostel, and when ham and cheese doesn’t do the trick, you learn to find berries and live off the land. Yum!
And finally, as luck would have it Bariloche (stop number 1) and El Bolson (stop number 2) are the chocolate and beer capitals of the world. And so, when in Rome…and I’m pretty sure you can guess the rest.