Travel Thursday: Mountains of Pain-E

Took me all this time to realize a cinnamon roll is just a rolled up churro.

Like the title? Didn’t even think of Wall-E. . .

Snow was all around us, but these mountain peaks were so strangely shaped that there were certain areas where the snow didn’t stick or even hit. Receding glaciers, my analytical mind instinctively told me, even as I tried to make my camera realize these peaks had no foothills, seemingly thrusting out of the grasslands. Then switching to telephoto, the granite towers looked like they’d been carved by some drunk sculptor, or more like a chef grading cheese but unable to cut straight.
I smiled at the silly thought, and my cheeks hurt, so I tightened the scarf around my lower face and promised myself to wear the balaclava next time, no matter how spooky it would look to anyone we ran into here.
Like we were gonna run into anyone out here. . .
“You ever walk on a glacier?” Aliya asked over the churning of the snow.
“Yes. Very dangerous. Crevasses.”
That hadn’t been where she was going, actually wondering if her tourist charge would enjoy such a thing, but she let it die. You didn’t actually have to walk on the glacier to see all the birds, of which there was an astounding variety for such a cold place, as well as guanacos, an animal related to a camel but without a hump, the memorized speech in her mind told her. She figured a photographer shooting the mountains would like an animal change of pace, so maybe she’d lead him that way on the return.
As she turned to see how I was doing, she saw my camera pointed her way. She hadn’t asked me not to, but still. . .
“I need perspective against the mountains,” I grinned.
For whatever reason this made her smile hugely and fakely for the shot.
“Wow, those chompers look great against the black granite.”
She instantly closed her mouth, but remained smiling.
She was going to be fun, I grinned to himself, much more fun than I ever expected to find in the furthest reaches of Chile. . . well, Southern Chile, Patagonia area, so as not to confuse it with the desert up north. According to the almanac–or whatever they were called online–this area was 600,000 acres of deep aquamarine lakes, rushing rivers, glaciers, pampas, and fjords, but mostly known for those previously mentioned weirdly-shaped granite peaks named after some guy called Paine.
“Gimme your usual spiel,” I grinned at the gorgeous brunette, amused to see she was still holding the smile. Or else her face was frozen.
“Why? I’m sure you checked on the internet.”
“Perhaps I like your voice.”
Her grin widened, so her face wasn’t frozen yet. “You’re a very perceptive man.”
“And I haven’t heard much English recently.”
“I see.” The temperature grew even more cold, if that was possible, but she was sure I knew she was just playing. “When’s the last time?”
“Well, only once since arriving in Chile, before you.”
“Yeah. When I was driving down from Santiago. . .”
“And it was on this drive you heard English?”
“Some guy stuck his head out of his car and yelled, ‘Dude, ride the glacier!’ Which is just about my speed, so yeah, I won’t be doing any white-watering.”
“But the package price covers it,” she said impishly.
Snort. “Hell, I didn’t pay for it. Keep it.”
“Hmmm, I might have to split it with the water dude, but yeah, that works.” The impishness in her cheeks grew. “Bet you heard plenty of German.”
“Sure, but since that means plenty of schnitzel, I’m okay with it. What I haven’t heard is the spiel.”
“Oh, right!” She closed her eyes, and I saw her lips moving, but waited patiently, since I was already frozen. “In Patagonia, the elements of sky, sea, mountain and glacier come together in a spectacular display of natural beauty.”
I looked around, but couldn’t spot the sea here. There was a lake, though, so I shot a wide-angle that incorporated all of them. Though according to my map studies the really beautiful lakes were on the other side of the mountains, and I didn’t want to be on a horse that long. Oh well.
“Steep glaciers plunge into the sea, condors soar above granite peaks and the shore is cut by immense fjords.”
“Hmmm, we’ll have to go shoot that after.”
She was about to tell me that wasn’t covered under the plan, being a bit far away, but it was her fault for bringing it up, and hell, I’d given her a nice gift with the non-rafting, so she might horsey me over on the last day.
“Guided by only the best in the business–me, I added that–you explore the Patagonian wilderness on foot, by raft, boat, horse, and overland vehicle. . . well, not raft, you added, or subtracted, that. Hike below towering granite spires, camp in delightful beech forests and flower-filled meadows, then–”
“Wait, we’re camping?”
“Hey, you told me to give you the spiel!”
“But you already altered it once, or twice.”
“Oh, right. Okay, since you paid extra, or whoever did, you get to stay in a cabin. And instead of rafting you will cruise the superb fjords between the steep rock walls of Last Hope Sound.”
“Last Hope? The fjord is half empty, not half full, huh?”
“Nice. Mind if I put that in my spiel?”
“Sounds like it can use all the help it can get.”
“Moving on. . . this province is also called Last Hope, but now with the Carretera Austral, it is considered Chile’s spectacular new frontier. This region was inaccessible before the mid-eighties, but has now opened its arms by way of the new ‘Austral’ highway–I just mentioned it–that allows you to explore the natural beauty of this region. There are numerous lakes, mountains, glaciers, thermal baths and national parks where you can trek, ride horseback and fish.”
“Fish? You’re supposed to provide the meals!”
“Okay, fine. You also get to hike to volcanoes and onto glaciers, where along the way you enjoy the diverse wildlife and plantlife. You visit a natural spring, hike around lakes, camp throughout the region and ride on horses through various hill regions.”
“Again with the camping.”
“Hey, I’ve got this memorized! Don’t make me hurt you.”
“With this cold, I wouldn’t even feel it.”
“Oh, you’d feel me,” she grinned naughtily.
An eyebrow went up. “I’ve actually tried that in the snow before, and it didn’t go well, but I might be willing to give it another shot. . .”
Oops, too fast, her face said. “Don’t get your hopes, or anything else, up just yet. Or I might actually have to hurt you, and you don’t want that.”
Too much ego, I sighed, having to bring her back to earth. “You mean you might try to hurt me. Not at all the same thing.”
She looked amused. “Just what do you think you could do to stop me?”
So she was taking it to the next level. Okay. “We’re out in the middle of nowhere. If I wanted to rape you, nobody could stop me.”
“I could.”
“Hmmm. You miss my point, on purpose, for some macho posturing.”
She grinned. “Got me. Do you know what makes glacier ice blue?”
“Loneliness?” Oops, I saw that was the wrong answer when she winced. “Pressure.”
She recovered quickly. “Correct!”
“What did I win?”
“What didn’t you?” Suddenly she looked me square in the eye and said, “Boned and de-boned mean the same thing.”
I gazed back into her incredible blue orbs and replied, “But ‘boned’ carries a much more entertaining definition.”
“Really?” She tried not to grin. Now that she realized I wasn’t pushing a seduction, she was more able to forgive the wordplay. Which was only right, considering she’d started it.
I rolled my glove up enough to peek at my chronometer, a subtle enough hint, she thought as she fake-spurred the horse back into action.
I’d always liked Chile, and I was taking a trip up to Machu Picchu after this, the only reasons I’d accepted this job. And the pay was well worth the while, which was why I found myself sitting on a horse in a snowy field, surrounded by weird mountains.
Though it wasn’t till I got off the horse that I found myself at the perfect height to get just enough of the plains as foreground to compliment the weird black mountains, and despite the cold the sun was shining enough to make them glisten against the backdrop of a surprisingly blue sky. Award-winning shot, I thought, shooting to my heart’s content for the next few minutes, not really knowing how many passed. . .
(And that was the end of the good stuff–the food and lodging were too terrible to relive)



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