Once the trees had completed their burn out and all that remained were skeletal branches I started to feel better. The 21st of December came to an end and the longest night was over. The New Year was fast approaching, bringing with it new leaves, new you, new me. For the first time in months I could feel my mood lifting. Excitement for the coming Spring, warmer mornings, longer evenings. Starting to feel a little brighter, even about the cold, frosty mornings of Winter that will linger for several more months. How strange it is that after such an arbitrary date I, and many others, decide to try again? A little different, a little better. Trying to build something that might last beyond the end of the next summer. This year it will be different, it will be better. At least for a while anyway. I don’t know how much I believe people can change. How do you overcome a lifetime of thinking a certain way, of behaving a certain way? I don’t think anyone knows for sure. The only thing you can do is try, and try again.
2019 is as close to a big year as I’m likely to get in some time. In the Spring I turn 30. For almost a year now I’ve been thinking about what I would want to do for it. It had to be mountains, but which ones? I don’t want to climb Everest but I would like to see it. I considered the Anapurna Circuit. I didn’t talk myself out of it as much as talk myself into something else. At some point I must have made the claim that I would have visited all of the continent by the time I reach the big three-oh. It seems unlikely considering how reluctant I am about going to Asia. It’s also definitely not going to happen. Antarctica remains out of reach, but only just. The only other one left to tick off the list is South America, and why not? I can’t explain why but the idea of South America has been in my mind for a long time. Nothing specific, little more than a general interest. The Inca Trail, Aztec Gods, Chichen Itza, the Amazon. It might have been calling back to ancient BBC nature documentaries; piranhas in the river, poison dart frogs in the rainforest, the condors in the mountains. It could have been Peru with its iconic trails through the Andes. In the end I went further south, the furthest south I could go. To one of the last great wildernesses; Patagonia.
In the dying light of last year there were days, weeks even where I genuinely felt I might not make it. I’d already booked the flight, it wasn’t as though I could just decide to not go. The usual excitement I feel when booking a trip never arrived. It was too distant, existing in a future just around the corner, always out of sight. I was shocked into action when I read that the campgrounds on the W Trek were often fully booked months ahead of time. I checked the route and snapped up spots for 5 days of serious trekking. Of course it had to be a walking holiday, this is my thing now. Soon after I was back to doing anything but planning the trip. Time was running out. Something changed, desperation maybe, the idea that it would be easier to deal with if I just got it done. I scrambled together an itinerary around the central week of walking, a few nights in the city at the end of the world, a lot of time in transit and a more relaxed week looking at Mount Fitz Roy. There are still a few things to sort, like what to do before the 4am flight out of Buenos Aires, or whether there will be an opportunity to get in a kayak. Then there are the more important tasks, like being fit enough to walk 60km through the mountains in 4 days. And the most important thing, feeling optimistic about the adventure that awaits.