So here beginneth my South American adventures... part two! With a remarkably light rucksack and even lighter heart at the thought of returning to this amazing continent, I set off to pick up the trail I started almost four years ago. A month trekking Patagonia from Santiago to the ends of the earth at Ushuaia - surely this calls for a new blog to recount epic tales of wonder and excitement, no? The drama started much sooner than expected, however, when I managed to trip over my own shoelaces three minutes from home and land face first on the pavement with what no longer felt that light a rucksack pinning me to the ground. A kind soul rescued me from looking like an awkward turtle trying to right itself, however this was not the glorious start I had imagined!
Reaching Heathrow without any further mishaps, my first flight to São Paulo consisted of being stuck for 12 hours next to a small child who seemed to want to snuggle up to me instead of his mother, meaning I got very little sleep as I kept having to remove an unwanted head from my lap. It was also severely delayed which meant I only just managed to catch my connecting flight by a whisker, but which meant my bag (henceforth to be known as my nemesis) did not. Then ensued much wrangling on arrival at Santiago airport in my exceedingly rusty Spanish over the contents of my bag (how do you explain Bananagrams in any language?!) but I managed to get a promise of delivery to my hotel for the following day. Rucksack 2 - Christina 0.
Undeterred, I hopped on a bus to central Santiago, somewhat pleased with myself that I hadn't lost all my wherewithal when it comes to international travelling. I also managed to get on the next one to San Fernando with relative ease and was already congratulating myself on my skills navigating South American public transport when I realised that said transport would arrive in San Fernando too late to catch the last bus of the day to Las Peñas. Now normally, when on South American time, this wouldn't be a problem (mañana mañana and all that) but I had only one day free before my grand tour of Patagonia began in which to get to Tumuñan Lodge.
Tumuñan Lodge is where I was working as the world's worst gaucha before Dad got ill. It is a beautiful place set against the verdant backdrop of the central Chilean Andes and I had promised myself if I was ever back in the area, I would go and visit the wonderful hosts there who made me feel so much like family when I was the other side of the world from mine. I'll just get a taxi from San Fernando, I thought, how hard can that be? Exceptionally, it appears. Asking for a taxi to take you to Las Peñas is apparently the Chilean equivalent of asking a London cabbie to take you south of the river. From Watford. But the kindness of strangers will never cease to amaze me when a lovely shopowner saw my distress (I was quite frankly about to lose my shit after hours of travelling and very Little sleep) and not only rang a taxi company on my behalf, but insisted on waiting with me to make sure I got in the right one, but also negiotiated my fare so I didn't get ripped off! I can't thank this woman enough, so if you ever come across a hapless foreigner struggling to get somewhere, I hope you do the same - it might just be the most important thing you could do for them in that moment.
So 24 hours, two flights, one lost bag, two buses and one miraculous taxi later I made it to my destination with a strange feeling of familiarity and sadness. When I left here, I honestly thought I might never return and it was a stark reminder of the circumstances under which I left. But I was overwhelmed to be treated as Will and Caolina's guest of honour, even though I had only worked there for a month or so. I had my own personal tour of the new vineyard by their seven year old daughter Lara - now ever so grown up and completely unimpressed by my inability to converse in her native tongue. I remember you being better at Spanish, she said. You were four, I said, it probably just seemed better. I spent the rest of my short time with her parents - walking in the mountains, drinking copious amounts of local wine, and chewing the fat - everything we did when I was here previously, as if the intervening four years hadn't passed. And so begins what looks as though its going to be a pretty emotional trip, finishing the journey I promised my Dad I would make.