The secret agent dash for cash draws to a mind numbingly slow close as the bus window television stuck on one channel takes its rightful place in a fading past. Loaded up with US dollars we are slowly re-birthed into this adventure on a breeze rising anticipation. We’re heading to a border crossing back into Argentina and the exciting road ahead but not before a last minute dash. We stop in Puerto Natales, Chile’s last border town. With less than one hour I pull on the running shoes that look remarkably like hiking boots and do the Usain Bolt into town like a panic stricken bank robber fleeing the scene. Money changers, banks, broken ATM’s, money changers, ATM’s, cards not working, shit, a working ATM, hooray, Money changers and a taxi crammed into one foul sweating high pulse rate half-hour sees me saunter back to the bus station. I attempt to abolish the warped panic look on my face; I think I failed. None the less, a valuable last addition of USD punctuates success.
Finally the distracting spectre of calculated transactional necessity can be left behind like roadkill in the face of the bounties of travel; the romantically unresolved set to erase the recent journey of pursued resolutions.
It’s a subtle change this landscape shift, the tussock grass is there, the barren-ness and eternity are also; but. The landscape outside the bus window doesn’t so much become new as we journey north into the grander spaces of the Andes but swells from underneath. The progression to El Calafate is a layered experience with visual awe lifting up from the ground in a progressive revelation; it’s not a sharply changing environment but an evolving one building on its more passive origins. Viewing the passing world outside the bus is more like a teasing storyline, the plot builds with an inevitable twist we know is coming yet we can’t predict it’s device. It’s this feeling of dawning awareness that presents itself as our bus crests a rise and reveals a valley below, this bus ride now blissfully more of a story than modish transport.
The golden green now accompanied by dusty blue plant-life drops away from us as we skirt the reaches of one side of an immense valley. The distance is disorienting, cities would be swallowed in this valley space as the transition from hill to mountain comes as a slap in the face. Phones and cameras are passed around the bus to join the enlivened faces that adorn the right side windows, this plot twist is lost on no-one. Like any good story the twist is quickly backed up by another, the largest lake in Argentina glittering a bizarre turquoise in the last throes of the days light, glacial melt water offering that all too unreal colour. And it keeps on coming, the town of El Calafate appears on the border of the lake backed by mountains, those mountains; wow. The peaks sharply thrust from the earth in the appearance of an ever reaching surge for the sky emanating a halo in the pre-dusk light that would draw scolds from Charlie as I edit photos of being ‘too unrealistic’. But they’re all too real, photoshop-esque beams of sunlight slice to the earth in sharp blades to complete the scene of seemingly artificial grandeur.
We were excited to get back into the more romantic and fun mode of the holiday, El Calafate has indeed delivered the grandest of entrances to jolt us back out of reality and into travel, whatever that may become. The recent chapter of this trip started as a factual account, a faux accounting text book but in the turning of a single page we are thrown back into grand fictional fantasy. Flipping forward the pages ahead are stark and blank, an unresolved storyline to be created page by page. This page delivers promise and the urge to read; create more. Bravo to the author, we’re enlivened to turn more pages but we’ll stop on this one for just a little longer.