The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

If I never see a pair of hiking boots again, it will be too soon! I am physically and mentally exhausted! It is worth noting here that I hadn’t read the itinerary and that there was another long hike after only one day’s rest. What sort of masochist devised this itinerary? But at this point, I am blissfully unaware of this teeny weeny fact!

We awake to an incredible sunrise over the three towers. They and their surroundings glow bright orange and it looks like a movie set. They are much clearer and more visible than when we hiked for 5 hours to see these pointy prima donnas. I am left wondering why we hacked our way up the mountain the day before. We should have just sat in a deck chair and waited for dawn!

The bus won’t start. Some bloody idiot has gone on the bus and turned all the lights on. I suspect they come from the land of the free but I have absolutely no evidence to back this up! And before you ask, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t up in time! While there’s lots of uming and ahing, I take the opportunity to take lots of photos. The Delightful Danes are always doing those ponsy instagram photos. You know, the ones where you jump in the air with your arms out and your legs kicked back. There’s probably a ponsy name for it. It looks as if it will give you a hernia but even so, I round up a group of youngsters because I think a ponsy instagram style photo will look good in the blog. How wrong can one be? I recruit someone to take the photo. One is the operative word here, not the crowd that gathered to give unwanted advice and take their own photos of me looking ridiculous. Well, as I’ve suggested, it turned in to a freak show! The girls pushed me to the front (probably didn’t want to be associated with me) and we all jumped on three. The unwanted audience informed me I was jumping too soon. After about ten more goes and lots of laughter, the unwanted audience suggested it should be three, two, Jayne, one! As we were about to do this, there was a call to push the bus and I was left without my instagram perfect picture, just lots of pictures of me (not just on my phone) looking totally ridiculous with my mouth open in everyone!! I’m going to look in to the law on image rights!!

The bus had to be pushed back to reposition it and then pushed forward before it would start. A very difficult operation! Before anyone who looks at the photo asks why I wasn’t pushing, it’s obvious! Someone had to supervise! It reminded me of the time the bus got stuck in sand on our trip to the red centre of Australia in 2005. There it was the Canadians who got us out. Julie, Derrick, Cynthia, Bruce, Sandy and Cliff were all stars of the show thanks to their experience of dealing with very difficult icy conditions in Canada. Who would have thought that sand and snow could be so similar. The Brits just stood around like spare parts! Rain is clearly not similar!

Once the bus was up and running, we were on our way and continuing to enjoy the spectacular views for many miles. We were soon at the border and passed through the Chilean side without incident. The immigration officer, as with the many others I have encountered as I’ve hopped back and forth over borders on this trip, was very obliging, putting the stamp in the corner I requested. Stamps in South America seem to take up half a page each and I am rapidly running out of space for visas which require a full page. Now those of you who know me well will know that I am not at my best when I am tired!! Okay! To put it mildly! At the Argentinian border when I was politely asking for the stamp to be put in the corner, the fascist git started banging on the window. He aggressively grabbed my passport, did that bit where they put it in some reader thing and then he stamped it right in the middle of a clean page. I saw red at this point but I was very restrained and resisted calling him a Fucking Bastard. I did, however, say, “Did you do that on purpose?”

“Yes!” he said, and was awkward about giving me back my passport. Poor Jazz, the guide, was in a cold sweat at this point. “Oh, God, Jayne! He’s going to refuse you entry!” He stuttered something about me being his ‘amigo’ and got my passport. He then told me I couldn’t cause a fuss at borders. The thing is Jazz, both the Fucking Git and I know he can’t refuse me entry because I asked if he put the stamp in the middle of the page on purpose. Okay, maybe if I’d called him a Fucking Bastard but I didn’t, well only in my head and that is no grounds!

Outside, Ruthless Rachel came bouncing up to tell me she’d defused the situation by congratulating the Fucking Bastard! On the bus, The American Man wanted me arrested. In fact, I think that if he had had a pair of hand cuffs, he would have performed a citizens arrest on me and I could see that he was taking great relish in picturing me being thrown in to the back of a prison van and driven off to high security facility in Buenos Aires! We’d already had a spat over a caracara bird (the posh chicken!). Just don’t ask!

I don’t think The Fucking Bastard can be Argentinian because every other Argentinian I’ve met has been delightful. I know if I was banged up in high security in Buenos Aires, Brigitte Jones style (hopefully with Mark Darcy to represent me), I could rely on Silvana and Ricardo to visit me everyday; Jesi to be my translator and little Zoe to give me big hugs; and Rosa would visit with supplies of herbal tea etc!

Total number of disputes at borders: 1,286 (3 so far this year)

Total number of arrests and deportations: 0

Mind you, it reminds me of the time I was nearly arrested for caviar smuggling in 1990 in The Soviet Union! There was this scam going on. People approached you in the streets and sold you jars of caviar. As soon as you entered the airport, and before you checked in, they x-rayed all your bags and told you to take out the jars of caviar because they hadn’t been bought from an official shop. They let you keep one third and confiscated the rest. No doubt to pass it back to their mates on the street to resell to unsuspecting tourists. I was so furious and told him so, so he just took the lot. The vicar and his wife in our group were very worried I was about to be arrested! Every time Richard has toast, he still reminds me that he could be having it with the two jars of caviar we would have been allowed to keep if I hadn’t ‘kicked off’! Ironically, they weren’t giving out Soviet Union stamps in passports as it was the dying days, but I sarcastically said ‘Please can I have a Soviet Union stamp?’ and much to my surprise, he dug around, found one and stamped my passport with ‘Soviet Union’. I have the last ever Soviet Union stamped passport framed on my wall now so you see, some passport stamping stories do have a happy ending!

It made me realise that although I had bonded rapidly with this group (well obviously with the exception of The American Man) over a long hike and a camping trip, I had only known them for just over a week.

They don’t know:

Jayne the Mum

Jayne the Wife

Jayne the Friend

Jayne the Sunday School Teacher

Jayne the woman with a fetish for Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Ice Cream!

Having been in the wilderness for five days, we suddenly got internet access! Well, we should have stayed in the wilderness! It’s armageddon! The outside world is in meltdown. America has declared a state of Emergency, Europe is closed for business and there is a worldwide shortage of toilet roll! South America seems like a good place to sit out this Coronavirus.

The news from Scottish Christine’s island is that the baby has been born. She got to 26 weeks and mother and baby are doing well, under the circumstances, but won’t be returning to the island for the foreseeable future.

I had a chat with Richard and what with the tiredness, global crisis and the small matter of the border dispute, I felt really tearful. I skipped lunch and stayed on the bus where I had a good old cry. When Aussie Heather got back on she could see I wasn’t looking or feeling great and she gave me lots of tender loving care! Thanks, Aussie Heather! I may only have known you for less than two weeks but it was just what I needed!

We got to El Chalten where we stayed in a very nice contemporary hostel and Aussie Heather and I went for a very strong cocktail.

South African Amanda gave me a big hug. She didn’t have to say anything but I know she heard me crying on FaceTime when I spoke to Richard earlier. This kind of support from the wonderful older women on this trip is keeping me going! South African Amanda knows she is lucky because she is there with her good friend Irma. They have known each other for 17 years and are like sisters. They are very supportive of each other as well as to the rest of the group. I chose to do this trip alone but it is hard not to have someone you are close to when you feel low.

It was like the song

‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,

Here I am in Camp Granada’

because the next day we awoke to a sparklingly beautiful day. All my troubles and cares were washed away. We even had a lie in! The Dragoman truck dropped us at the start of the walk and we wandered along a gentle track past stunning mountain scenery that literally forms the logo for the famous ‘Patagonia’ brand. It was like being on a conveyor belt because the scenery constantly changed as you moved along the track. There were iconic peaks and glaciers galore, all set off by the blue sky back drop I so craved. My energy levels soared and I literally felt on top of the world. When I got to the steep climb which was not just 15 minutes but 1 hour and 30 minutes, I felt as if I could get my ‘Andean Fit’ Certificate.

Mind you the signs are lying bastards! The one at the bottom of the trail up to Mount FitzRoy said one hour. Yer right! If you jog up! Aussie Heather had already warmed me of this outrageous discrepancy!

The view at the top was unbelievable! It made you glad to be alive! Near the top everyone coming down was cheering us on and giving us encouragement with ‘You can do it!’ and ‘You’re nearly there!’ It was like being in The Mile High Club. Well, perhaps not! I don’t want you to get the wrong idea!

The Delightful Danes gave me a big cheer as I arrived at the summit. Well strictly speaking, not actually the summit but within spitting distance and, for once, I wasn’t last!

A very tame caracara bird wandered past us and we went down to the lake before heading back. As we weren’t on a tour with guides for this hike, we could go at our own pace and I, again, enjoyed wandering along, getting lost in my own thoughts. I managed to compose a whole song entitled “The Wheels on the Dragoman Bus Go Round and Round!” Not hard for a mother of three, I know but I am a bit out of practise as they are all in their twenties now!

Just as I thought I’d come up with a solution to all our Brexit woes, one of my fellow travellers quite literally jumped out of a bush and accosted me. She claimed she’d been having a bathroom break but I think she was lying in wait. She asked me if I would watch the sunset over the mountain with me. I agreed because I think she would have done it alone which wouldn’t have been safe. Bamboo Rick came past a bit later. He’d gone for a swim in the glacial lake which would have been like going in to one of those plunge pools at a posh spa! She asked Bamboo Rick if he wanted to stay to see sunset but, unfortunately, he declined because I think she would have upgraded to Bamboo Rick and I could have been on my way.

We had to wait 40 minutes until sunset and during that time I got the low down on her love life over the years. It was full of drama. I am pleased to report that she is in a new relationship which will hopefully go well. When she asked me about my love life, it all sounded rather boring. Met over a leaking washing machine when we were both 23 years old, married 31 years ago and had 3 kids.

Sunset was impressive but by the time it had finished it was going to be a race against the clock to get off the mountain before dark. I was worried that my sunset companion would just leave me but she did stick with me. The fact that she stopped to take photos every ten seconds of every rock and blade of grass helped me keep up. At one point, she took a photo of clover! I pointed out that I get that in my front garden and I’m sure she does too!

As we emerged in to the town, an hour an a half later, I thought I heard Jazz’s voice. I just knew at that point that it was a search party. He and Aussie Heather were asking a group of people who were just ahead of us if they’d seen me. Wonderful Aussie Heather had realised I wasn’t back so went to tell Jazz she was coming to look for me. Equally wonderful Jazz insisted he went with her. They were about to call the National Park Rangers, quite literally, when we turned up. No one had realised my sunset companion was missing! Many thanks to Aussie Heather and Jazz for coming to my rescue. You are my heroes!!

When I was singing Aussie Heather’s praises for sending out a search party, South African Amanda realised we had become friends and would probably stay in contact after the trip owing to shared experiences. I think she got a bit confused because she asked if we lived near each other. “No!” we said, “Jayne lives near London and Heather lives in Queensland! It’s Christine who lives near Jayne, well about a 10 hour journey as it takes 2.5 hours just to get to Christine’s island off the coast of Scotland!”

When I sat next to Emma, one of the Delightful Danes, on the bus she decided to read my blog which I was proof reading. I said she could help proof read it and be my editor. I’m afraid, however, that I had to sack within 20 minutes because she kept going on about commas.

‘Jayne, there should be a comma there!’;

No there shouldn’t, Emma!’;

‘Well there would be in Danish, Jayne!

Well you might not have noticed, Emma but it’s not written in Danish! Plus, I have taught English for 35 years which does include knowing where commas go!’

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