Wayward Travels

Friday, June 23, 2006

Los numeros de hoy son...

Alright, today´s entry will begin with some very special numbers... "numeros con pares" (even numbers). They are 4, 2, 6, and 8. A bit of background... we arrived in Ushuaia two days ago. We took a cramped flight on which I had with a "window" seat with a complete and entire view of the engine (and nothing else), and then took a taxi from the airport to the hotel (which is really another cabin run by a couple as a sort of Bed and Breakfast). Our cab driver was loco and totally impressive. I was filled with terror as well as awe as he speedily navigated through icy streets, pattern-less traffic, and hills like San Francisco. To remind you, Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, and since most readers are in the US now, I would like to point out that (a) our heads are pointing in different directions ...think of us on a globe, and (b) it´s freaking winter here! So, yesterday we went hiking in El Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego. We tromped through a freshly snow-blanketed trail along the southern coast of the island, overlooking the Beagle Channel (so named for Darwin´s boat) and the islands beyond. It was a wonderfully calm, peaceful, magestic, and beautiful hike. The only catch was that it was a bit hard to find the trail every so often (what with the snow and all), and at one point we had to turn around for lack of any visible marked route. Since the days are so short (about 9:30 am to about 4:30 pm), it was a bit of a race against the sun to make it back to the road. Fortunately, following our own tracks back was easier than navigating untrodden powder. Totally randomly, we saw a family of wild horses (which eyed us suspiciously). I must say, it was really good to be outside, doing something physical, and doing something not at all expensive or touristy.

Today we went to "the valley" for "winter activities." We elected to "esquiar del fondo" and try "un tríneo de perros." But back to our numbers. Do you remember what they were?

Four: This is the number of limbs the average person has. This is also the number of long, awkward implements one must attach to those limbs when cross-country skiing. Now, to coordinate four limbs is tricky at best (have you seen me dance?), but to navigate all this with skis and poles protruding from those limbs at right angles is downright near impossible. We made an attempt at cross-country skiing today and I must say, I am pretty much awful at it. I had a great time and can fairly claim that I have improved. For those out there who would like to try "esquiar del fondo," read on for advice.

Two: If four is the number of awkward extension from your limbs, then (and experience has proven this), you must keep in mind what I call "the rule of Two." No two of those extensions (skis or poles) must ever cross each other. If your skis cross each other, or if your pole should end up between your skis, then you will end up with the next number...

Six: The number of times, in one hour of skiing, that I fell down. Falling down is not really the problem at all. In fact, it is pretty comical (I learned to laugh, eventually), and since it happens so fast it doesn´t hurt at all. The tricky part is getting back up. Remember that magic number four? Well, the poles you can let go of... but the skis are oh-so-firmly attached to your feet. I´ll leave the rest to your imagination, but let me remind you that knees are only designed to bend in one direction.

And so I have tried cross-country skiing. I wish I could tell you the scenery was amazing, but mostly what I saw were the tips of my skis, as I was giving each glorious gliding motion my absolute full attention. One more number...

Eight: This is the number of huskie dogs that pulled the bobsled ride we took after lunch! Like Antarctic explorers (did you know that Argentina has a claim on a wedge of that icy continent?), we went trotting through the same path we had skiied (in about one-fifth the time, including pee breaks for the dogs). At this point I had the chance to really appreciate the wintry landscape, which was flanked on each side by incisor-like mountains. The mountains aren´t big, but they are pointy and jagged and close and magestic, and I kind of felt like I was inside the frigid mouth of a giant and very rocky shark. Very, very cool.

Okay, one more number. Three is the number of flushing experiments I have done to investigate this Southern Hemisphere business. The toilet in our cabin flushes clockwise, but that is primarily due (I am pretty sure) to the way the water flow is set up in the bowl. (Have I mentioned that here, as in other Latin American countries, one does not put TP in the toilet, but rather in a separate little trash bin... the septic systems can´t deal with the TP.) Unimpressed by the toilet, I filled a big pot of water and dumped it into the sink. As the water began to drain, the vortex formed did in fact spin COUNTERCLOCKWISE. I have no idea how this compared to the Northern Hemisphere, but I did it three times with repeatable results. There you have it.

Thanks to those who write and post comments. Even if I can´t reply individually to each of you, know that it means a lot to read your words.


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