‘Sup homies. We have a shitload to get through. I have been in Chile since April, and Nikki and I arrived in Ushuaia on 16 March. I am desperate to tell you about life in Santiago (ups and downs, smog, jazz, salsa, beer, work, dominating the Spanish, fiestas, friends), to show you Perito Moreno glacier, and Valle de los Lobos, the night in Bariloche’s terminal, and Mendoza for the weekend (my heart broke a little) and the hike around Puerto Varas. Not in that order.
Oh and big news, my sister gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy in the world. Welcome to the world Ryan Thomas Kusel, I think about you every day.
I also want to find a way to write about personal growth without coming off trite or glib. Small words for a big challenge. Things have happened in my life, in my heart, in my head, with people here and with people back home. Ties have been strengthened, others have been severed. Some developments have been incredible (Claire and I have been friends for 10 years, and yet we manage to become ever closer despite knowing each other like the backs of our hands; Skype sessions with Celeste, Jim, Marty and Brendan a couple of weeks ago lifted my spirits beyond what I could’ve anticipated); other developments have been pretty kak.
I’ve had to have a really hard think about forgiveness. I’ve had to take a hard look at myself and my various hypocrisies. About what I am or am not willing to accept from people. Whether I have the strength of character to live what I preach. To be someone my parents and friends can be proud of.
It’s been difficult to deal with some changes back home from here in South America, without being able to look people in the eye (or punch them in the face, context depending). I’m paranoid and needy at the best of times. But it’s also been liberating. The absence of little dramas make way for real progress, for acceptance; the distance has made the pain of some wounds a little easier to cope with. It’s also made making the decision whether or not to return to South Africa a little easier.
Physical and metaphysical travel go hand in hand, I guess, otherwise you are doing it wrong. Or, to put it another way, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Gahd, don’t you hate it when people are vague about their issues? This is like the longest subtweet ever. I apologise.
Nikki and I woke up in Mario’s truck early in the morning on 16 March. Actually, I woke up first and hopped out with my camera to take advantage of the morning light. We were at a service station a few kilometers from the centre of town, surrounded by mountains on one side and ocean on the other, an icy chill in the air, my breath making its own clouds as I exhaled. It was cold as I expected it to be here at the southern tip of the world. The sea and its smell made me smile. Still couldn’t really believe what was happening. Thought about my mom and dad, excited that I was about to walk down the same streets they did.
Mario offered to drive us to town and buy us coffee and medialunas. He also walked with us as we found the most convenient hostel – warm, inviting Hostel Yakush on the main drag. I’ve never been to Switzerland, but Ushuaia looks how I’d imagine a Swiss mountain village would. Lots of colourful wood and pointy rooves. Nikki and I spent an entire day taking photographs of the town, I’ll show you soon. But first:
All I wanted to do when we dropped our bags at Yakush was have a third-degree-burn shower (I want to but won’t describe the aroma), put on something else to wear, let everyone know that I was alive (not that anyone had asked, oh narcissism), put my feet up, have some warm tea, maybe a siesta, just be comfortable. I was wired and dizzy from the days on the road, felt that weird strung-out, transit-hangover disconnect.
But it was a clear day and Veronique the French lady had warned us that the weather was really shit when she was here. She could only go hiking on one of her five days here; rest of the time it rained. Nikki insisted that we take advantage of the good weather. I resisted a little, but deep down I knew she was right. I’d kick myself if this turned out to be the only good day for a hike. I was so very grumpy about not having my wishes fulfilled but swallowed the negativity, knowing that A) the shower would still be there afterwards and 2) the post-exercise euphoria would be the cherry on top of the amazing (-ly long) journey to this magic corner of the world.
One of the many things I love about Nikki is how she kicks my ass into gear. She’s an enthusiastic trekker, and spending time with her got all my gears going. We spent so much time outdoors while we were together, and I will never forget those great days in the wilderness.
As I write this, I find it so weird that Nikki and I didn’t really know each other back then. It would be the first of many treks together (Ha! I learnt a lot about her that day, not least of all that she ain’t got no time nor patience for slow walkers) and by the time we saw each other again, months later in Santiago, we were extremely close friends. In no time at all Nikki’s wormed her way into my Top 5.
You and me and that roadtrip through the USA, girl. Before we’re 50.
We opted to hike up the mountain behind Ushuaia on our first day. Behold.