The idea of traveling through Patagonia came from a random google search looking for my next destination after Europe. Ever since I put the name into Google image, I couldn’t get this spectacular place out of my mind.
It’s not been an easy journey, full of challenges both physical and mental. Almost daily overnight road trips heading yet further south followed by miles of challenging hiking, interspersed by weekly bus rides lasting more than 24 hours. The concept of hot food for lunch was merely a distant dream for multiple weeks on end thanks to the geographic isolation of my sunlight hours.
Even though Patagonia is renowned as the heaven for hikers, in order to protect its natural beauty and prevent it from being spoiled by too much footfall, the Chilean and Argentine authorities maintain its isolation by limiting public transportation options and charging high prices for them.
I did the road trip for the whole time starting from Santiago, the first stop is the vacation town called Pucon. Traveling in Patagonia is heavily dependent on the weather and during my 3 day stay in Pucon, it rained heavily non-stop. None of the agencies are allowed to organize volcano tours in these conditions so I gave up my dream of hiking the Villarrica volcano and headed to my next destination, the town of Puerto Varas 5 hours away, home to the most famous volcano, Osorno. Unfortunately, weather conditions remained unfit for hiking, with a mountain landslide highlighting the perils of ignoring the weather. After waiting for another 2 days, finally, on the last day, the sun emerged from between the clouds. The tour groups, however, were still not offering volcano trips so, after talking with some of the locals and weighing the risks, I made the decision to go by myself.
Because of the mountain slide, the bus had to stop 10 miles away from the start of the hike. If I walked that distance, I won’t be able to complete the hiking in one day, so I decided to try my luck and hitchhike the rest of the way. Luckily the first car I saw stopped, I was welcomed inside by a group of friends from all over South America traveling together, and they gave me the ride to the base camp.
The weather was still nice when we reached the base camp although quite windy. Whilst my new found friends decided to stay at the café to have a drink due to the wind, I set off alone on the climb. The temperature dropped sharply just 1000 meters higher, and after a while, the weather suddenly changed, with gusts so strong that I couldn’t even stand still. I tried to find something to grab onto as an anchor but the barren surface of the volcano offered no assistance. In order to keep balance I could only sit down and I was quickly faced with the decision to either keep going to the summit or give up and turn back. I thought to myself that if I kept climbing, conditions would only be windier and there was a good chance I may get blown off the volcano without anyone even noticing. I saw a menacing bank of dark clouds advancing aggressively towards me, and despite my still unattained dream to take some awesome pictures from the summit, my natural instinct took over and fear guided me to turn around and head back to the base.
A couple of days later whilst talking with some hiking trainers, I realized I made the right call at that moment since every year, Patagonia has many people that disappear after getting lost or stranded on the volcano in severe weather.
Sure it is a pity that I couldn’t make it to the top and I was disappointed at the time, but I didn’t regret it. I realized that the purpose of climbing the volcano is not about taking one epic picture, it’s about the process of conquering, both the volcano and fear. A lot of times we care too much about the result and forget to enjoy the process.
I also had the experience of getting lost in one of the national parks in Patagonia while hiking. At first, I was scared, worried that no one would ever find me since I had absolutely no signal on my phone. Realizing that panic wasn’t going to help me make any decisions, again I sat down in order to calm myself and meditated for a short while.
I took stock of the food in my bag and found a river to fill my water bottle, getting ready to find my way to get out of the mountain. I didn’t speed up since I thought I already got lost, and the good side of this was that I was going to see the scenery other people hadn’t discovered, so I enjoyed the scenery and took photos along the way.
We seemed to rush into everything in our life. When we were kids, we wanted to grow up quickly since adults have so much freedom. When we grow up, we rush into marriage without even understanding what’s love. We focus on making a lot of money without any time to spend and enjoy it. After we rushed through everything, the joy of those achievements seems not as much as we used to imagine. Then we start to wonder why. Why we are still not happy. Life is a journey, we will spend most of the time on the road, but most people only keep their eyes on the destination far away, always thinking that happiness is at the end. But the truth is, the scenery along the way is way more wonderful than the destination itself, and you could not experience it unless you slow down and experience it with a full heart and concentration. You are chasing the goals because you are not satisfied with your current situation, and when you are unsatisfied, how could you be happy?
What I suggest is that you should live everyday attentively, look around you, find the things you value and appreciate at this moment. Live in the moment with no strings to the past and no anticipation into the future. Fully experience your life. In Tantra there is a saying that everyone has the third eye in the middle of our brows, the mind’s eye, and only when you close your eyes can the third eye see clearly. If you find yourself confused at the moment as to what makes you happy, just close your eyes, meditate. The peacefulness will bring you to the answers.
Cherish the moment and be happy!