The streets were absolutely deserted. There was only the reflection of the street lamps in the puddles while we lugged our backpacks and obnoxious cameras back the place we could reasonably call home on Isla Navarino. As expected, there was absolutely no-one in the refugio, but it was considerably cleaner than when we had last seen it. This may be due to all of the mud we always schlepped in…sorry Cecilia. We built a fire and made a shopping list. I was craving Alfredo pasta (the food, not the person, although repetitively hearing his name may have contributed to my desires), and Alfredo just wanted juice and wine. What a typical chileno...However, our solitude was not to be. The ferry arrived early that evening and brought with it to the refugio the German couple, Markus and Luisa; four South Africans, Paul, Corin, Shaun, and Ralf; and the lone Frenchman, Ronan. I was rather excited at the thought of four of my South African countrymen on the Isla Navarino. However, their presence was more of the problematic kind.
This elderly quartet had just completed two major treks in both the Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, and therefore were rather "cagado" (see previous
blogs). Argentinian Airlines had canceled one of their flights and had placed them on a flight home for a later date. They were therefore left with a little extra time. They decided to come to Puerto Williams from which they were hoping to catch a transport to Ushaia, where they would start their homeward journey. Little did they know, or seek to find out, that the transport between Ushaia and Puerto Williams had already closed down for the season. So they really "cagaron". Cecilia was unable to understand their odd South African English, so I happily translated. All the while pumping them full of mulled wine, Cecilia and I assured them that we would figure something out. One way or another, they would make their flight from Buenos Aires back to South Africa. It took a LOT of wine to get these guys calmed down. In Patagonia one MUST go with the wave. You cannot try to force anything or you absolutely will be frustrated. These guys had yet to learn that, or at least two of them really needed to drink more wine and embrace this philosophy. You would think Africans understood the importance of not expecting everything to
work out perfectly. That’s half the fun! With sufficient quantities of mulled wine, I found out that Corin lives in the same small beach town as my grandparents and Ralf knows my father. I said this would become a theme...
The next day was spent hatching plans to transport the Africans to Ushaia, i.e. a job translating on my part. We even stuffed them full with crab to placate them. In an effort to have our nervous friends enjoy at least a little of the island, Cecilia and I took them to the botanical garden. During this trip, I found out that Paul's wife, the dear Mrs. Watson, was my brother's 8th grade science teacher and his eldest son was my brother's classmate. I thought he looked the most familiar of the four. We spent the rest of the day talking about Bridge House, the English private school I endured for a year. I paint this with a hint of suffering, because back in the days when I went to school here, it was a school for rich, snobby, English kids and my family is by no means rich. I was never more an outsider than I was then.
Although, admittedly, I am always an outsider. I was happy to learn that the school is achieving its dream of becoming academically focused rather than financially focused institution.
Again, the day gave us yet another fantastic sunset. I was grateful for this sunset in particular, because this was my last Isla Navarino sunset. Once the light bid adieu, I collected my laundry from Rosa for the very last time, I bought my last ferry ticket for the 8 AM departure, I made my last stop at Simon & Simon, I had my last round at the yacht club, and, and, and. Cecilia even made one last crab chupe (stew) for me. Ronan, Cecilia, and I chatted well into the night at the yacht club even though Ronan would be leaving on my failed trek to Lago Windhond with Markus, Luisa, and Alfredo in the morning. Belen even served homemade sushi to us that evening. My goodbyes were bittersweet. I was feeling a little cynical at this point, indicating that it was time to go, but I was also so grateful for the people I had met here. The island is truly gorgeous, magnificent, amazing, add more words here, but it is her people that really warmed my chilly heart. At 7:30 the next morning I served a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, and Argentinian pastries for Cecilia and me. And at 7:55 we kissed goodbye. I stepped up to the ferry with a heavy heart, but also knowing that my time to leave had finally come.
I like the word in Spanish for goodbye - despedida. If my knowledge of etymology serves me right, it's something like the separation (des) of requests (pedir). But I don't care about the origin of this word. It is its sound. Despedida. Try saying it out loud. It sounds epic. It has a hint of nostalgia but a suggestion of a future reunion. There is something about how the air leaves your throat when you say it. Your breath continues to flow even though you have ceased making a sound. The goodbye lingers. And that was it for me. The despedida from Isla Navarino.
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