Notes from a large Continent

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May 20th 2012
Published: May 22nd 2012
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final route

So after 32,000 kms travelled by air sea and land, (4,500 km Punta Arenas-Cusco direct), 72,500 words typed out with one finger on my I-touch and uploaded into 49 stories I find myself sat at a Starbucks cafe in Lima airport with a tall mocha and cream typing out my 50th and final tale. Destination -London and then onto the west country and home for a decent bath and pint of real ale.
I have just flown into Lima from Cusco and have 5hrs on the ground before next flight. It was a choice between a $50, 26hr uncomfotable bus ride or $120, 70min smooth flight. No contest really.
I have spent the last few days resting after the Inca Trail hike and have used that time wandering around Cusco visiting buildings and museums to gain a better understanding of the Inca civilization that built the city and empire. I also hopped on a rickety old bus to the village of Pisaq over the valley. Wandered around the market and old buildings.
Yesterday (Saturday) I spent the afternoon in a packed out bar watching Chelsea lift the European cup. I was the only English person in a bar full of German supporters, some of whom were season ticket holders for Bayern Munich. My cheers bring drowned out, two lads from Portugal came onside to support me. When Drogba scored the goal that evened out the game, and then the last penalty in the shoot out that followed, the tears flowing from the eyes of the Munich supporters were louder than our cheers combined. So congratulations Chelsea but with Southampton now back I the premiership we too could be in Europe soon, if we write a good enough song!
Despite the touts and spivs that roam Cusco, it is an amazing city. There is an energy and vibe here that is hard to describe. Like a magnet it has drawn those whom I have bumped into in the past three months together. All travelling different routes and at a varying pace.
Doug from the USA who I bumped into and shared a pint with at Erratic Rock cafe, Puerto Natales in February and Kiwi Paul who worked there just before my arrival. The couple from Fulham who had the tent next to mine at a campsite on Torres del Paine. Karina from Australia who I met on the Navimag ferry and again in Pucon. Karina and Astrid from Holland who I landed next to on the beach in Iquique when I paraglided off the mountain. Just wish I had been wearing a tuxedo under my flying suit. Like James Bond, take of the flying suit, adjust the bow tie, acknowledge the two girls, make an amusing, throw away comment and order a Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred from the beach bar.
Rich and Stacey from Canada. He's a lumberjack ( and still ok). They should be on the Peruvian coast somewhere but because of rioting by miners in that area they diverted to Cusco instead. Henny from Holland who I met in Arica and became dizzy with at 4,500 meters above sea level at Lauca National Park.
A real positive energy field surrounds Cusco. The centre of the universe? Maybe, maybe not but there is definitely something in the mountains, river and buildings that bring a real connection in this ancient capital city of the Incas.

But from all those I have met along the way, and some of whom I have forged a lifelong friendship, my permenent companion for the past three and a half months has been the magnificent Andes mountain range.
From the raw beauty of Patagonia to the magical city of Machu Picchu, Los Andes have left me spell bound . The tricks, secrets, stories and majesty revealing themselves as I tramped on by. My permanent companion sitting quietly in the background as I made my way slowly north from the bottom of the world, 'Between Extremes'.
I have experienced my companion as a grey, cold and forbidding mistress, capable of turning a perfect day into a brutal one and back again in a heart beat. I have witnessed her dusty,arid, hot, and barron where on first sight it appears no life can survive, and yet where nature will as found a way of breaking through. She has been green, warm, comforting and lush, the food and wine basket of the continent. I have witnessed my companion turn through red to purple in the sunset of the Atacama desert, a brilliant orange and yellow in Torres del Paine, and every other colour in the spectrum from white to black along the way. The majesty of the sun rising above her from the East, bringing warmth to my face and life to the plants and animals that live there such as the magnificent Condor catching the thermals soaring high above her. I have observed snow and ice on the highest peaks turning to fire as the sun crushed her setting in the west.
I have bathed in her thermal pools, ridden her on horseback, driven over her in a 4x4, sailed through her fjords, flown over her in an aeroplane and paraglider, and have walked and trekked her ancient trails with a rucksack on my back. She has inspired me to write a poem about her. I have sat in silence in Torres del Paine and listened to her talk to me, the powerful sound of the mountains surrounding me. I have gazed in complete awe at the wonder of the night sky and of a trillion stars that make up our galaxy from her.
I have felt the ground on which I was stood tremble and shake and I have seen with my own eyes her power when angry, tearing an island in two and sinking a forest into the sea. We are the 'Stars' Tennis Balls' indeed.
I have seen the residue of ash in the air as she erupts with fury, spitting fire into the
The AndesThe AndesThe Andes

night sky. I have been pulled by her magnetism, unable to resist her power.
I have sat quietly staring at her glaciers as they slowly carve their name into her landscape, and at the deep canyons created by them a millennia ago and which have now reduced to fast flowing rivers as the ice age recinded. I have seen how she balances nature stretching as she does along the spine of this vast continent. I have seen her stripped bare in the relentless pursuit of minerals and wealth. I have seen her understood by a civilization far more advanced then than we like to think we are now. Living in harmony with and acknowledging her magnificence, I have been overcome with emotion at the lost city of the Incas built upon her.
Her final trick?
The one permenance in my travels and yet everyday changing.
Los Andes. Gracias mi amiga.

It was my colleague and friend who first suggested I write a diary of my travels and I am grateful for that advice. I have had great fun recording my haphazard tales of adventure though an amazing continent and hope I have in some small way captured the essence

A well earned pint
of the here and now, the unique nature of this landscape, the people who live in it and travel through it and finally the laughs I have had along the way.

Viva Chile, Viva Peru & Viva Sud America.

Until next time.

Me gusta tu trabajo.

Disco out

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