Well folks, we are well and truly on the road now, as I write this from the celebrated and historic Argentinean town of Mendoza. Some epic travel legs, a punishing crash course in speaking Latin American Spanish and a chronic course of insomnia has all added to what should be a stressful beginning to my 113 day backpacking adventure. Fortunately, I´ve discovered a cunning coping mechanism: releasing the hippy within.
Mendoza has great cultural significance for South America, as it was a key battleground in the struggle for independence from the Spaniards. While some fantastic museums display this rich history, the city these days is basically known to tourists for just one thing: wine.
Well, perhaps not just the one thing. The place also has the feel of New Zealand´s Queenstown, complete with hordes of backpackers engaging in multitudes of mountain-related activities. But the wine is what the people come for, taste, and generally engage in far too much of.
Santiago was a great place to start the trip, and hanging out with Tritty gave me a good grounding to get started. The Spanish has been difficult, but not impossible, and the logistical roadworks have been challenging, but manageable. And having only a handful of clothes, one pair of shoes and very skint toiletries has certainly taken me out of my comfort zone.
But I¨m not worried (and please excuse my tying on this Argentinean keyboard at 6am). I´ve embraced the backpacking lifestyle, have started ´hotelling´it with full vigour, and have become far less concerned about personal hygiene and dealing with irregularities to my plans. Time has started to stop mattering, days of the week even less so, and I´ve taken a Zen-like approach to the many challenges I face on a daily basis.
Can I keep this up for another four months? We´ll see. But there´s no point pondering just yet; right now I have to prepare for a two-hour trek through the Andes, a 45 metre absail down one of the rock faces, an afternoon soaking up the thermal springs, and then teaching half the hostel staff how to play chess – in Spanish, naturally. So I have to get moving if I want to grab a shower before the morning rush.
Or then again, maybe I´ll skip the shower. What´s another day, right?