“It’s a full moon here tonight, which makes me think of you. Because, I know that no matter what I am doing or where I am, this moon will always be the same size as yours, half a world away.” Let us look up to see that we are never alone, wherever we stand. Wherever we are, whoever we are and whatever we believe in … Let us not forget that tonight, and every other night, we are all here together on one planet. Nothing more than just this one place in the whole universe. Let us, if just for tonight, lay aside our petty troubles and contemplate the extraordinary beauty the world offers to us.
Argentina is without a doubt an exceptional experience to anyone who has the opportunity to visit. For most who haven’t been, it can be seen as something extraordinary and exotic, which it is, but you’ll soon figure out it is also very much like home (Europe). The way people dress, how they behave, the general demeanor of large bustling cities like Buenos Aires are often similar and comparable to European cities such as Paris or Rome … Depending on your perspective, it might prove to be attractive, or not. I for one did not come here to experience a similar culture to that back at home, I came to see something new. And I did, but not in the company of a few other million people.
Patagonia is not just about the view. It’s about the whole experience. I spent most of my time in Argentina scouring the Andes and the surroundings for the nicest hikes possible with the least equipment necessary. From the little parts that I’ve set foot in, there is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and amazement. Out here, it is the wilderness with hundreds if not thousands of kilometres of barren land – sometime peppered with a few mountains and lakes. Despite this distinct lack of life in such an expanse, there is a liberating feeling that this land is mostly untouched and has so much to offer to those who are willing to sacrifice a lot for the joy of discovery.
I have found more solace and peace here, in Patagonia, than anywhere else in the world and it feels like an eternity since I’ve had that feeling (actually Iceland also had that impact on me). But looking out onto the ever-stretching barren lands, I know that here is a place that I can think without interruption. When I’m home, I find myself often worrying about things that matter so little and that will have such a small impact on my life. Being out here, the only worry is ‘how do I get there? I really want to go there!’
I’ve found something else while out here, more important than inner peace. I found people who understand me, every part of me. Some more than others, but if everyone I meet completes an empty space in the jigsaw of my mind, then one day I might finally see the full picture myself. I have to credit Suraj Rama hugely for making it clear to me than I will never be alone – wherever I may find myself – and that someone, somewhere will come along and simply make me feel understood.
Just the thought of that makes me happy.
The little I have seen of Patagonia extends from El Calafate to El Chalten … roughly 300km. It isn’t really much but in those two places, and in between, I have breathed new air and new life into me. I hope that the pictures will give you a glimpse of how spectacular this part of the world can be (even though I can say with certainty, it will never beat the true experience of being here).
Since I left home, I’ve become increasingly more aware of how little I need in order to survive and actually be content with my situation. Currently, I have a 70L bag with clothes, shoes, various wires for my electronics, roughly 12kg of ‘stuff’ to carry around between countries and continents. I’ve also got a small 20L day bag that I use to carry my cameras, computer and other daily necessities (although I don’t actually take my computer when I go hiking). Now, most of you will think, ‘That’s not much! How can you live with so little?’, but honestly I even think I have too much! I could take out half the things I have in my bag and I would be even happier with the situation … When looking back to what’s left at home, it feels awful knowing how much has accumulated over the years and has never been sorted. But it will be!
It happens often out here that you will stand a observe whatever is around. You’ll take the camera out and just think ‘there’s no way this picture will ever portray what I’m actually seeing right now’. In a sense, that is a frustrating feeling because I want to have this view carved into my mind, something that I will never forget. But that’s not how it works … you have to see it, breathe it and remember that you’re a part of this experience now. No picture can ever capture that. Or maybe it’s just because I’m not that good of a photographer, yet.
When I look at this landscape, at this shot in particular, I can only imagine having the most amazing kind of adventure. We are walking away from the world and heading off into the wilderness, without ever looking back … it’s a good feeling – letting go of everything else to enjoy the moment.
Walking up these mountains isn’t just about being up in the quiet, pure air that nature offers us and getting away from people in general … it’s also about finding a place that can really take your breath away at the sight of it. Sure, getting here required a fair deal of hardship and persistence (the snowstorm and hail wasn’t much fun after initial 20 minutes of excitement), but the rewards were beyond words. On the way up, depending on the terrain, you either think how bloody difficult this climb is or any small thought passing by; when you reach the top, you think of nothing but the sheer beauty this place has to offer, of how hidden it is to us yet lies here peaceful and undisturbed (sort of). For some, like me, passion and stupidity kick in and try to find awesome vantage points to get good snaps (also unquestionably dangerous places to go). At that point, all the troubles of the world – petty or not – simply vanish to make space for blissful peace and quiet.
Ushuaia, the End of the World. Similar to Patagonia in its mountain ranges, but vastly different when it comes to wildlife and how it’s displayed. In Patagonia the main terrain is desert and tiny shrubberies, whereas in Ushuaia it is essentially green with mountains sprouting from the colour.
Iguazu Falls, northern Argentina.
Buenos Aires, federal capital of Argentina.
I will come back to Argentina one day, I hope it will keep its secrets well hidden until I arrive. Farewell!