25 May 2009

Plowed, Argentina

When the snowplow broke down, so did I. Its vice was a fallen tree. Mine was laughter. The hilarity of trying to cycle, fully loaded, on a road buried under shin-deep snow caused me to forget desperation and buckle with chuckles. Had I considered the situation from a survivalist´s point of view rather than a humorist´s, I might have panicked. Soaked to the bone, body and gear alike from days of grinding through pounding rain threatened to sieze me in a gauntlet of hypothermia, trenchfoot, or frostbite, but the novelty of the situation kept me warm with laughs. For awhile.

Soon, the survivalist in me kicked in. Laughing wasn´t going to build a roof over my head, and camping was out of the question, given the compounded cold induced by the treacherous pattern of a hovering phase change. But with nothing open in the off-season, where was I supposed to find shelter in the middle of a national park? Neither I nor the snowplower knew, so I did the only thing I could think of: frantically run through the snow, pushing my bike in the frozen tire track until I found something. Adrenaline was on red alert.

Earlier that morning, as the tent grew a lighter shade of gray, I had no indication that the rain had turned to snow overnight because the beachside spot I had chosen was comfortably tucked underneath a giant coihue tree that filtered the solidifying precipitation, sending it splashing onto my tent. So, when I finally managed to peel myself from inside the cool, damp confines, I was surprised to find a bleached beach. Just as things were packed, the snowplow went by, so for the first few kilometers, I was able to warm myself by spinning a few hundred revolutions. But then, the damned thing ran into a tree and my wheels became a burden.

Fresh footsteps leading through a gate left slightly ajar was my ticket to salvation. There, knee deep in galoshes, hunkered by the fire under six sweaters was Miguel. Astonished to see anyone out and about, much less on a bicycle, he sprung into action, seeing my convulsive shivers. There, tucked in a clearing, deep in the forest stood a huge dining room used by the flocks of campers in the summer. He threw the doors open, cranked on the heaters, pulled a picnic table in front of one, and sat me down. There I thawed myself and my regiment. For two days.

At what point will I reach my capacity for adventure? Each thrilling episode is somehow outdone by the next, feeding itself in a self-stoking cycle. As of yet, no challenge has been too great to overcome, but when that event presents itself, what then? Every time I demand the most of myself, I emerge feeling recharged to the degree a drug addict could identify with. Is this a healthy exploration of limits or am I in need of therapy?

09 May 2009

Aquatic Bodies, Argentina

Airbound aggregate that normally limited visibility in the early morning was too cold to show. In its absence, unobstructed clarity prevailed. Alpenglow faintly warmed the frozen landscape until the sun finally broke over the sweeping horizon, illuminating fragile, crystalline edges on everything, giving them a holy aura usually reserved for saints or tabernacles. I nearly fell prostrate at the sight of a seemingly burning bush. Actually, I thought more about making toast than worshipping.

Still liquid, the lakes hovered on the brink of freezing. These aquatic bodies glowed cerulean in the acutely angular light - sparkling irises of pristine composition backdropped by brilliant white summits and vibrant fall foliage. In between the imperceptible gusts that softly rustled the canopy, the scene became doubly magnificent in the undisturbed surfaces.

Well below zero, the red tones radiated by ancient oaks warmed the atmosphere to a bearable degree. So, fully threaded with every stitch I had, I braved the added cold of windchill and saddled up, stopping often to shake the blood back into my digits. The araucarias gave me courage, seeing their massive appendages flexing upward in masculine exhibition of strength, despite the cold. Expressions of awe were retarded by frozen face muscles, but if one could have read lips in slow motion through a snotstache, mine would have said ¨wow.¨

For good reason, this region has gained celebrity status in nature´s gossip. Softly banked corners dive in and out of thickets, often exploding into panoramas of muted colors. Purple mountains dusted in streaks of snow plummet through dense forests into huge bodies of water, and, contrary to its namesake, there are far more than Seven Lakes.

This time of year, the days feel like they're continually beginning or ending. It's hard to tell when it's actually arrived because at that point, it's already leaving. Anticipation grows as the clouds congregate, knowing that with a fraction more saturation, the particles would gain critical mass, but haste evaded me in favor of an idleness encouraged by the awesome consistency.Urgency in the air, countered by stillness of mind, balanced well.

Pucón, Chile

Upon reentering the Andes from the smog-clogged valley, white, conical incongruencies in the horizon perforated the division of heaven and earth; at times, when the light was just right, the two united. In between these divine synapses, ancient arboreals draped over the undulating terrain like a tattered tarp. Water collected in the depressions, trimmed with black-sand beaches around which only the occassional flock of birds perched. Somewhere under the tarp (the green part), among the hundreds of cabins tossed like dice across the forest floor, was a weighted pair that won me a fortune.

Pull came from an encounter years ago on the opposite side of the Pacific at the outset of a different trip; not surprisingly, the bicycle served as the catalyst (the magic in these machines is undeniable). Contact was reestablished on occidental shores at which point I learned the nomadic Chilean family had returned to their roots after eighteen years spent scattered across all seven continents. There, tucked under giant evergreens, they opened their doors to a road-weary, spirit-dreary pedal-pusher. Actually, they gave me my own doors.

Respite came in plentiful portions, served up with heaping garnishes of love. Breakfast huddled around a stovetop toaster, percolated coffee, and dinner simmering in cast iron on the crackling fire provided the material medicine, aided by the waning wine rack that grew leaner with each evening we spent captivated in converstaion. A Polarity session immediately reacquainted my body with itself after having destroyed it with poor nutrition and overexertion on the superhighway. My mind realigned as well after a few days ambling around the mighty Volcan Villarrica on an unloaded rig. Two-wheelers regained presence.

If magnetism hadn´t teamed up with gravity, we would have flown. Good company, both humane and tectonic, reconstituted my vitals with positive energy, propelling me into a heightened awareness that had been obscured for quite some time. The potential I felt was exceeded only by what molten substance bubbled beneath the white, conical nozzles. Until the next time planets align along dual, radiating axes, which, if experience dictates frequency, won´t be far off.