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Left Behind at the End of the World

Ushuaia, Argentina

all seasons in one day 45 °F
View South America on RyRyGoByBy's travel map.

Alicia was moving on to her next destination; we had breakfast together then said our goodbyes. I went shopping for a proper day pack, a pack cover, and a walking stick which would have come in extremely handy hiking up through the slushy snow to the Glaciar Martial, and even more so coming back down. Sorry forgot to post these in the last blog entry:
My bunk (bottom) @ Freestyle Hostel

My bunk (bottom) @ Freestyle Hostel

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I have no idea how time seems to slip away undetected like it does for me. By the time I was ready to go to Tierra del Fuego National Park, the morning was gone and I had to book the last transfer to the park, which left at 1. As the van pulled away from the curb, the gorgeous weather of the morning vanished, replaced by clouds and rain. There seems to be a pattern to the weather in Ushuaia: gorgeous until I’m ready to head into the great outdoors than it turns to crap.
Weather when I first woke up...

Weather when I first woke up...

...and when I was ready to go.

...and when I was ready to go.


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I was the only one in the van, and told the driver where I wanted to be dropped off. He told me there was a pickup at cinco and siete. I told him I wanted to be picked up at siete, it was already late and I wanted to explore as much of the park as possible. He pointed to the spot on the map where I was to be at 7 o’clock to be picked up. I repeated back to him several times "aqui, siete, si?" pointing to the same position on the map to confirm.

The weather had already cleared up again on the short ride to the park. I got my bearings than headed to the trail I wanted to hike. It was the most difficult in the park and the map said it took four hours one way. I reached the trail head marked by a sign that stated not to start the trail after 12 pm. I looked at my watch 2:15 pm. "Well I'll just see where I am in an hour and make an executive decision at that point." I thought to myself, taking to the trail.
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As I moved over the steep trail, entangled by slippery tree roots I thought about what Vicci a friend and co-worker had told me, another coworker couldn't believe I was doing this trip because I'm not a “rugged guy”. First let me say that I have no grand illusions that I am some sort of modern day wild frontiersman. Davy Crocket I am not. Furthermore I am the antithesis of macho while still possessing the parts. When push comes to shove though I think I have what it takes. So yes I do think I possess a certain ruggedness, even if I do it with a princessy flair.
large_147.jpglarge_148.jpglarge_151.jpgWeird Tree Growth

Weird Tree Growth

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I began passing other hikers on their way down. There was a lookout point about halfway up the trail. I decided to make that my goal, and then I'd come back down.

When I reached the lookout point the sun was shining and the views were spectacular. I was satisfied, and decided to head back down. I still wanted to explore the rest of the park, and the summit was still a ways up.
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Same as the glacier trail the day before, the walk back down was by far harder. It was difficult to keep my footing with the downward slope and momentum pushing me to move almost at a runs pace.
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I stopped at the small restaurant I'd been dropped off at. The kitchen was closed, so I had a pre-made ham and cheese sandwich (limited options) and then headed on to the next section of the park. There was a trail with an active beaver colony that I wanted to see.
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The trail around the beaver colony was a bust. There was a dam but I searched vigorously and couldn't spot a lodge or a single beaver. It was getting late, and my pickup time was approaching so I headed straight for pickup spot.
The road into the park terminates at a parking area on a bay. It is the point furthest into the park. I reached it at 6:40. I looked around and took inventory of the vehicles: a gray van, a red jeep, and two park vehicles. I didn't see the van I come in.

There was a trailer off to the side of the parking lot with bathrooms. I went to use the bathroom. I came out as the two park vehicles were driving out of the parking lot, and the red jeep started rolling out of its parking spot. This was only a few minutes to 7. I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I walked over to the last vehicle remaining the gray van. I hovered around for a few moments and then as the last of its inhabitants trickled back from the trail, I pulled out the ticket for my transfer and approached the driver.

"Do you know anything about this company?" I asked showing him the ticket.
"No, this is an excursion, we'd don't have anything to do with the regular lines. I'm sure they're on their way."
"Ok... thanks." I said wearily, stepping away.

The van doors closed, and I watched as it pulled away. My face imploring those in the van to take pity and ask the driver to stop and wait, a request I couldn't bring myself to make, and apparently neither could they.

I circled surveying my surroundings. I was totally alone starring at an empty parking lot at the end of the road. The sun had disappeared, falling behind the surrounding mountains and gloomy clouds. The desolate landscape was growing darker by the minute. I looked at my watch 10 past 7. Panic began to set in. Oh my God! I've been left behind! Okay what do I do? The park closes in less than an hour, and I can't walk to the entrance in that amount of time. I can't stay put. If I walk along the road then I can't miss if the van does actually show up, it’s the only way in and out.
I shoved my water bottle and camera in my pack, breaking the zipper. I took off down the road at a brisk walk. Why didn't I at least ask the gray van to wait? When I saw the van from the same company pass at 6:30 why didn't I hail it? Well it was the same company, but a different driver and it was 6:30! I am raising so much hell when I get back, I've never once seriously considered suing anyone, but if they left me here in the middle of nowhere I will sue dammit! I’m getting my money back that is for damn sure. Wait... if I get back...

"Hello? Hola?! Is anyone out there? I need help! Por Favor!?"

A disconcerting silence was the only response. I wanted to cry, but I made myself keep it together, after all I'm rugged right?

The road disappeared around a bend up ahead, and then miracles of miracles headlights appeared. I stopped in the middle of the road, put my hands on my knees and let out a huge sigh. The van pulled up alongside me, three women were in the front seat. It was not my van! They asked which company my ticket was with and I showed them my ticket. They told me to get in and I didn't protest I just thanked them profusely. Hell I threw in a few bless you's and I'm not the blessing type as many of you well know.

We drove back to the desolate parking lot, turned around and stopped as the women admired a Patagonian fox that had jumped up on a trash can. At that point I think all of the wildlife in the area could have come out to perform the "Circle of Life" from the Lion King and I think my only thought would have still been "Can we get the hell outta here!"

We drove up the road, coming up to another pair of headlights. Finally my van! I got out, thanking the women again, and got into my van. I reclined the seat as far as it would go and lay back trying to let my mind come out of panic mode. The ride back to the city seemed to take forever, and I began to feel nauseas. Oh please don't let me throw up in this van. We pulled into the parking lot we'd left from. Everyone got out except for four people in the back, all young backpacker types.

“Are any of you staying at Freestyle Hostel?” I asked.
“No we're staying at another hostel up the hill; we're going to see if he'll take us to the hostel.” They responded.

I was feeling completely drained and nauseas and didn't feel up to walking back to my hostel even though it was only a few blocks away, and I'd happily walked to the restaurant across the street earlier. The driver took us to our hostels. I'd been picked up at the hostel and taken to the parking lot on the way out, so I think it was part of the deal to be taken back to the hostel. I was so happy to get back to the hostel that I tipped the driver even though I'd gone off on him in a fury in my mind early. I was a bit out of it, and the driver was clearly not expecting the tip, and accepted it awkwardly.

I went straight to my room and lay on the floor. I felt like shit. I laid there for awhile then got up and went to take a shower. As soon as I turned the water off and reached for my towel the nausea went from passive to active. I ran to the toilet and out came the ham and cheese I'd eaten earlier. The nausea temporarily subsided but I felt totally drained and weak.

I left the bathroom and went to the front desk. I got a bottle of water and asked if I could add it to my bill, I was sick and too weak to make it to my room and get the money and come back. The guy at the front desk said the water was on the house, and asked what was wrong. He asked if I wanted him to call a doctor. I asked how much it would cost, and to my surprise and delight he said it was free. I asked him to call a doctor and went back to my room.

I waited for awhile vomiting a few more times until just water was coming up. Finally the doctor arrived and looked me over. His assessment was that it was the water. He said he saw people all day long with the same thing, consuming bad water. I don’t know how I consumed bad water. I was only drinking bottled, and I hadn’t eaten any produce or vegetables that day. The only thing I can think of was the tea I’d had; perhaps they hadn’t brought the tea to a rolling boil? He gave me a shot to suppress the nausea and stop the vomiting. Then he wrote me a prescription for medication of some sort. The guy from the front desk came in to check on me while the doctor was there.

“Oh man, have you ever seen ‘Into the Wild’?” He asked.
“Yes...” I replied weakly.
“You look just like the guy at the end!” He said excitedly.

If you haven’t seen ‘Into the Wild’, it is a great movie which I highly recommend and I’m about to ruin it so don’t read the next part if you want to see it...

SPOILER ALERT ! SPOILER ALERT ! SPOILER ALERT ! SPOILER ALERT !

Oh great, you mean the part just before he DIES?!

END SPOILER ALERT

I was miserable the rest of the night. Tossing and turning and slipping in and out of consciousness. I also was not done throwing up. I missed my friends and family terribly. Being alone and sick and far from home is a hard combination to handle. I really need to find a special someone to share life with, this independent loner shit is getting old fast. This was the first time I questioned my resolve and ability to travel in this manner. A momentary lapse in faith.

Posted by RyRyGoByBy 17:29 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking

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