What did I dread? Here´s what I wrote in my journal yesterday in Buenos Aires as I prepared to board the airplane for the small town of Ushuaia down at the end of the world, just a hop and a skip north of Antarctica:
“Well, the “dreaded” trip is finally here. Dreaded due to the anticipation of cold weather. It´s bright and sunny here in Buenos Aires and on a warming trend again after some cooler temperatures and wind yesterday. I checked the weather channel and Ushuaia might not be so bad as it seems to be in the mid-forties (13C) now, after being 6C, or 38 degrees the last time I checked. Partly cloudy today and tomorrow with sunshine Saturday and Sunday. So, I´m hoping that the old maxim: “That which one fears, never happens” will hold true this time too.”
Throughout my four months on the road, traveling all over the Andean side of South America, I have fretted a bit about my determination to get all the way down to the tip end of the spinal column in my wacky idea of comparing this cordillera to the human backbone. Most of the time spent at high altitude was just plain cold. I´ve been wearing layers of sweater, pants, long underwear, double socks, a neck gaitor, and sometimes, hats, gloves and scarves. I´ve even worn that to bed when my hostel room never warmed beyond sixty degrees. Bogota, Quito, and Cusco were too cold for my blood, even in their summertime. What was it to be like way down there so close to the South Pole?
In Puno, I bought a colorful wool jacket; in La Paz, a heavy fleece jacket. In Buenos Aires, a pair of mountain-climbing pants and finally, some gore-tex high top boots added themselves to the winter clothes I´d been buying all along just to survive. Still, I anticipated high winds, deep cold and maybe even snow. It is, after all, off-season here and the equivalent of mid-October, well into their Fall season.
My blood is Florida thin by now, even though I have previously lived in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in Aspen, Colorado. But there, I was well equipped to deal with it. What was I to do with only the supplies I could carry in my backpack? I was really thinking along the lines of those fur-rimmed parkas and a sled pulled by huskies, though of course, Lonely Planet didn´t describe Ushuaia that way. It did speak of its high winds and low temperatures though.
I wondered who would want to live there year-round. But, there they were, gamely holding up the necessary businesses at the “End of the World…” Fin del Mundo.
Ohmigosh! I love this place! It was warm and sunny today and soooooo much like Aspen with its ski lodge style airport terminal and its world class shops, hotels and restaurants. Absolutely charming and beautiful and the FOOD IS GOOD! But not cheap. I can eat snow crabs every meal, if I´m willing to pay for the privilege.
This is a year-round attraction, with lots of skiing and winter sports as well as summer trekking! Gorgeous. More later as my coin-fed computer is timing out. Just remember: “That which you dread……..”
A monster named Ike roared over Galveston in the night, and in the morning, everything was gone. The sand spit had returned to its original status with almost no trace of the population that had partied all this summer. News channels now describe the calamity as “apocalyptic” and, indeed, “the End of the World” does seem like a very appropriate appellation. It certainly was the end of life as many citizens there knew it, though the future of the area is anybody’s guess right now.
Every one of us can imagine the shell-shock we would feel to return to a place we thought we knew well and to find it a completely different landscape…maybe more like a moonscape. We all would walk about like the blind, hardly registering the implications.
Weirdly, those unfortunate Texans have become a symbol of the shock that millions of Americans, still safe in their well-appointed homes, are registering today after a different sort of a monstor roared across their own lives in the dark of the night. Would you name that monster Lehman, or just plain Collapse? In the raw light of dawn, jobs, bank accounts, stocks, companies, secure futures, college plans…have all been obliterated. Yesterday, they existed. Today, they do not.
Those of us watching from afar, wonder what the shakedown will be and if, and how, this tragedy will spread its tenacles to places that we have always thought of as enclaves of safety. “Is this a malignant cancer?” we ask ourselves with trepidation? “Probably,” comes the echo within our own skull as we look around at familiar surroundings with new eyes, suddenly stripped of blinders. And that simple basic question repeats in our quaking heart, “Will it spread to me?”
But what about those millions of Americans who have just had a double sucker-punch, here in the middle of a lovely September, when back to school and football games are usually front and center? They have lost all of the above if their home was dismantled by water and their finances just went up in smoke because of simultaneous, but unrelated, calamities? Everything that once appeared solid has proved to be a chimera, instead. The dream life became a nightmare while they were sleeping.
That crazy old professor was right. Remember, the one who refused to take off his snowshoes, even in the house? He had seen too far into reality and understood that the molecules were actually not connected to each other but moved loosely around inside of matter. So, he was afraid of falling through. Everyone believed that he was crazy.
I think that, today, a Texan would understand the way he felt.