February, 2010

Feb 10

Up and atom

So tomorrow we move to Italy. Hmm. How does that make me feel? Absolutely terrified.

Reality hit about mid last week and all of a sudden I became aware of a strangely familiar uncomfortable feeling growing in my stomach. Like someone you disliked in school and haven’t seen in a long time. I’d actually forgotten what it feels like to be anxious and stressed. Seriously. Our bodies have this amazing ability to forget negative sensations, like pain. You remember the idea of them of course, but I would venture to say that actually feeling the memory of the sensation is impossible. Enough of this. I’ll stop being a chicken. Up and at them.

We have just had one of those wonderful weeks, filled wih family and friends, that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. To all of you who have been a part of it, thank you. We have missed you all dearly, and will do again when we find ourselves suddenly gone from here. Each of you are special and precious to us. With all your warm welcomes this week, we have felt like the luckiest people alive.

We will be keeping this blog up and running while we make the move to Italy. It has been a lovely way to keep those that care in the loop, and for us to pause and think about where we are and what we are doing. But a blog is nothing if nobody ever reads it, so thanks to those who have been following along with our journey. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far. 🙂

Feb 10

The beans are back in town…

People have asked if it is bitter-sweet coming home from our travels, but I think we both agree: there’s nothing bitter about it. And yes, returning to Virginia feels like coming home to me. One of two homes of course. What a wonderful, magical feeling – coming home. It fills me with a warm sensation, like hot chocolate in my belly. Everything familiar is a treat. Our cosy bed, my favourite jeans, the cheese I love that Asia/South America apparently do not… and the pleasure of savouring dinner and a glass of wine in the warm company of my in-laws.

By the time we boarded our plane in Buenos Aires, Jeff and I were well ready to be back with family and friends. With our upcoming relocation to Italy fast approaching, reuniting with folks back in Virginia is doubly special because we know our time with them will be brief. Watching the snow from the plane window as we came down to land in DC made me think of Christmas and all the excitement that surrounds it. Crisp cold air rushing up my nose as we step out of the airport under bluebird skies, like liquid contentment filling every part of me. Home sweet home.

It’s funny though, usually when you return from a long holiday you are thrown back into your “normal life”. This time there is no “normal life” for us. Our journey is merely on pause for a few days. Such a delicious pause. But nine more days and we will be back on a plane. Headed for Italy. Soon to be Home Number 3.

Watch this space.

Feb 10

The Luckiest

We lay in the tent in the fading light of dusk. Every so often a freight train tore through the tree tops above. The noise of each passing gust precluded any reading outloud or talking – all we could do was lay there, listening and wondering. I looked at my watch again. We had lost altitude, only a few meters, but a step in the right direction. The pressure was rising.

All climbers know the meaning of the word Patagonia. No matter that the real definition refers to a massive area of southern Argentina and Chile; when you are speaking to climbers, the word has one and only one meaning. Some of the best climbing on earth, situated in an area renowned for some of the worst weather on earth. It is a word that inspires awe and fear in a single breath.

The lore that surrounds these peaks has held me in a trance for years now. The legends of climbers and summits, snow mushrooms and rime ice had gelled into a knot of emotion in my stomach. A sort of reverence for the powerful extremes present in this landscape. So I had been prepared for the overwhelming sense of awe but it was the minute beauty of the place took me completely by surprise. The lenga, gnarled into natural bonsai by the ceasless wind; the small racketball sized birds, with feathers sticking out at odd angles and mohawks raised in defiance to the weather; the way that constant wind can become a tangible object – like cotton shoved into your ears or a brace to lean on while hiking. My dreams that night were filled with trains, jet planes and birds circling around while I rappelled down frozen “shrieks turned to stone” (as Maestri so aptly described Cerro Torre).

Dawn was shrouded in silence. No freight trains, not even the rustle of leaves. It had been a cold night: Gina had reported snow on an early morning trip to the bathroom. I looked again at my watch, we were 180 meters lower than we had been last night. Could this be right, I wondered sleepily? I dragged myself from the tent to make porridge and was hit squarly over the head with a blunt object. Appreciating the minutiae would not be necessary today. Monte Fitzroy, flanked by Cerro Poincenot, stood sentinal over our campsite, wrapped in ice and fresh snow. Needless to say, breakfast was quick.

When the clouds finally do part in Patagonia it creates a sense of panic deep in the pit of your stomach (at least it should) and you just keep thinking, “This could be the only time I get to see anything!”. Forty-five minutes. We had done the Lago de los Tres trail in half the suggested time. My lungs felt like they were bleeding, my breaths came in ragged, shortened spurts. But the view more than made up for it.

The high pressure lasted for two days. Nearly half our time trekking in and around the Fitzroy massif was in clear weather. In addition to the frosty view of Fitzroy, we watched the sunrise on Cerro Torre and spent our day hiking back to town throwing glances over our shoulders at the entire range, standing in clear relief against a cobalt sky. The significance of this is best illustrated by the first comment we heard upon returning to El Chaltén: “It’s been almost a month since we’ve gotten any view of the mountains.”