I wish I could toss and turn. There's not enough space for that. I am stuffed in the back of the type of van that the world outside the U.S. uses for trade, essentially a cart with an engine. It's good, but it's several inches too short to lay flat in. I wasn't supposed to sleep in it. My camping gear is here, falling on top of me. A "Puelche" (ridiculously strong wind from the east) is blowing and setting up a tent and keeping it together would be nearly impossible. Plus, all the camping areas in the national park are closed because it's winter. So I am parked on the side of the road lower in the valley. There are a few flat spots I may have been able to camp at; but they are so full of trash – soda bottles, plastic bags, used condoms, always plastic, always – that just walking through the area makes me feel like I am going to get hepatitis. It's depressing. I stop by a local lodge. I ask about a room. 25,000 Pesos – about US$45. Let's take a look. As far as I can tell they have purchased a mattress used at a Ruta 5 brothel and stuffed it in a closet. The kitchen and dining area in the common space is full of dirty dishes and lingering cigarette smoke. Puelches always blow for three-days or end in rain. I can wait it out, but it will be filthy.
Why am I here?
I often think of the Spanish verb Luchar. You can look it up on the interwebs; but if someone was to do some sort of interruptive dance or something you would say, "Oh, you mean, try, try and try again until you are extremely frustrated, realize you will never succeed and then give up to live a life that is likely somewhere between resigned and bitter. Got it. Luchar – I'll remember that one." It's a way of life here.
I am getting my ass kicked. When you come to South America it is easy to envision gentleman on horses, drinking mate next to fires, fresh bread, red wine and asados, beautiful, uncrowded mountains and all sorts of "simple-life" experiences. We come to escape the hectic pace of our busy lives at home. But that's not always the case. Just like anywhere, there are forces bigger than we are as individuals. And often, they are just too difficult to understand.
Traveling is supposed to make us better humans. My travels to Chile have given me some perspective on the struggles we face in life. I am beginning to create strategies based on who or what is presenting the challenge. Because I want to persevere, but I don't know that I want to struggle. Here are some thoughts: If nature is kicking your ass, patience is probably the best tactic, because you've got no chance of changing the situation. If it's another person, try empathy. If it's you, be forgiving. If it's a business, money is your tool, specifically withholding it; don't buy crap or pay for bullshit and don't waste your time thinking you will convince them to do or make something better. If it's a government, I don't have a clue, but at this point we know logic and reason are not the solution. It's probably better to take a step back. If it's macro-economic forces, no one has a clue. Better to take a couple steps back.
I struggle with all of these forces while I am here. I am frequently shut down by wind and storms; by people who don't share my vision; by large businesses who block access to the mountains; by government policies not designed for the freedom I look for in the mountains; and by economics which seem to shatter logic. It can be frustrating. The easiest solutions are to either fight harder or to give up. Both are immature as well as fruitless.
Life is a struggle – una lucha. This brings me to another expression – vale la pena: worth the trouble. When I think of the reward, I no longer think of deep powder turns or dramatic summits. Honestly, that's not enough reward anymore. The true reward is resilience. The ability to bounce back, get back up, live to fight another day. To keep moving and learning. Because without a doubt, life is going to throw more obstacles in the way.