Travelling around South America to Antarctica and back. The journey through Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, from 35°C to -2°C and back to 35°C. Two continents, six countries, three oceans or spaces gathered in one travel program... The meeting and the feeling of five elements – earth, water, air, fire and ether!
This was one of those journeys that you “come up with”, without knowing why. The journey for which you decide quickly, subconsciously feeling that it may bring something that you are expecting deeply inside. Challenge accepted. The choice was to fly from east to west to Santiago de Chile for 28 days, sail from Chile across the Pacific ocean along the coast of Chile and between fjords, canals and the island of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and then to the south across the South ocean (once called the South sea) to the peninsula of Antarctica, and then to the north across the Atlantic ocean to the Falkland Islands, and north along Tierra del Fuego to Montevideo and Buenos Aires, and then back to Europe by plane!
While sorting impressions and trying to put them in some cassettes, files in which my thoughts and emotions are gathered and stored, I realize I did not even imagine how deep, multilayered, multidimensional marks would that journey have on me. It was, above all, my first cruise trip. I used to say that I don’t understand clearly the reason, nor the purpose of the cruises – travelling through the areas across the water, as it is, in fact, the illusion of movement, because staying in a comfortable, luxurious space filled with different programs, you actually just merge a little out of your own way and you can see a few more miles, some places, some scenes… And after the return, I feel that the cruise travel is not my way of traveling, but it meant a lot for me. I realized, among other things, that when you don’t believe in something and you have certain prejudices – there is always room for a new experience, feeling, joy, only if you are sufficiently indulged in the magic of journey.
As I was standing on the dock of the huge port of San Antonio, looking toward the big ship Zaandam, with one foot on the boat, with another still firm on the ground, my thoughts and questions in my head were accumulating. Why am I here, where do I go and what do I want, what do I expect? Much more than ever before, I wondered why I chose this journey when I prefer the earth more than the sea, when I prefer to place my hands on the soil, touch plants, stone or water, than just to watch, smell, listen to them? I felt that not only enigma to reveal what is it like at the end of the world pushed me on this journey, but much more than that. I felt that this moment for me meant some kind of secession for the stability of the past life, the security of the ground, the life on it, and the flight to something more freely, without barriers, without roads, restrictions... And I must admit: I felt some fear: from the size of the ship, the large number of strangers from all over the world in an enclosed space, fear of the cabin, from myself and my ability to feel, breathe, and seize that freedom to sail - water or air.
With these thoughts, visibly excited, I entered the ship with 1.400 passengers, 600 employees, a ship with a large concert hall with about 1.000 seats and several small spaces where one can find a corner for classical music, rock, dance or some other music, reading and research in the library or learning different skills. It was possible to walk on an open deck, observe sailing from multiple decks, different spaces, listen and talk to researchers who have transmitted their experiences on a daily basis, and eat plenty of various types of food. I was frightened, observing this from the perspective of a house embedded in nature, on the shores of a lake, in which I would like to live. And then, during the trip, I slowly, seamlessly, carefully unplugged and disregarded my fears, frustrations, disbeliefs. Gradually, I absorbed more of what I enjoyed, which aroused me, made me laugh, and freed me, so I stood away from things I didn’t like. At the end of the journey, even now, when I slowly gather all of that inside my head, aware that on this journey I have moved, grew, found out, met, and learnt, more than ever before. I have inhaled.
Scientists, researchers and writers are still arguing about whether the name of Patagonia originates from the Big foot (Pata Gonias), since gigantic people lived in this area, or the name was given for some other reason. But, whatever it is, Patagonia is a space on the globe that was preserved, which succeeded in defending itself against the intrusion of the people who settled there, not because they felt at ease here, but because they wanted to take from the land, water, air everything that could contribute to hopeless accumulation of money and fame or the power that goes with it. How Patagonia defended itself? By its wilderness, impenetrability, inaccessibility, its ability to open doors only to the chosen ones, and to show its beauty. Patagonia was largely preserved, but, unfortunately, the people who lived there and who loved it, understood it and respected it – didn’t endure. They are almost completely gone. They were expelled, enslaved, killed and apprehended by others who only cared for the Patagonia’s treasures. A few of them managed to stay alive. There are only a few thousand of them left from a certain tribe. They were the people who lived in Patagonia wandering around in their own footprints or floating by fjords, straits, canals and lakes, always finding healthy food and comfortable places for a simple life. They were the tribes of Tehuelche, Selk, Nam, Haush, Teushen, Alacelufe, Yaghan… Today, there are not even 40.000 of them throughout Argentina and Chile. We know very little about them, even though they lived there until the 20th century. Other people had no interest in them. They took their knowledge, skills, and lifestyles with them to some other worlds, and they still do it. Human sin in this region is unimaginable and indelible.
From the perspective of the visitors, traces of ancient cultures of 20 or more thousand years ago – are not visible. Nowhere. There is only a small object in a local museum or a wooden mask of an artist.
Today, Patagonia attracts visitors with its beautiful wild, rich and diverse nature. They take turns according to the natural rules of forests, steppes, pampas, rivers and lakes, glaciers, seas and fjords and make a magic mixture through which you can wander, walk, sail. My little experience is very deeply engraved in my mind. On the mainland, Patagonia is clean, clear, alive, not only from plants, but also from the diverse animals that live there. The simplicity of living in sufficiently large-small wooden houses and a modest selection of products is felt in the small settlements of the present inhabitants. People are peaceful, alive, they meet in the streets, at cafes and restaurants. They are kind and friendly. Each place has its own market where the most diverse fish and seafood are sold, which, unfortunately, reigns even more than it can be sold, and exports and transfers to the larger markets are not well organized. The markets are very interesting for the visitors, where local people sell their handicrafts from leather, alpaca wool, sheep and guanaco wool, then semi-precious stones, of which the most valuable lapis lazuli is here - a beautiful gray-blue stone. Domestic residents are a mix of all the European nations and the others who inhabited this area for the last hundred years. It is no rarity that they have heard about Serbia, but even before Yugoslavia, because in some places, such as Punta Arenas, for example, almost all of the inhabitants originate in the countries of former Yugoslavia.
Looking from the sea, the experience of Patagonia is even more powerful. The simplicity of nature made by the water and the sky and very sharp, steep forms of mountain wreaths and peaks is felt while sailing through narrow canals and straits, and going into the bays and bypassing the islands. The places we visited and where the ship stopped are the famous places of Puerto Mont, Castro on the big island of Chile, after which to the south you go into the world of game of water and earth, with countless islands, from which rise very wild and sharp forms of mountains, peaks, volcano tops, divided by straits and canals where small settlements such as Puerto Aysen and Puerto Chacabuco are located. Throughout the year, there is snow on high peaks - the birthplace of numerous waterfalls. This is a landscape in which the glaciers spread like a dormant frozen river. Some of them reach the ocean. These glaciers have blue snow, they act like huge sleeping beings waiting to be awaken. In such a case, in the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, the first in a row, we approached ourselves quite close enough to feel his strength, eternity, peace. An exciting experience. By the way, the Torres del Paine National Park is a part of the Chilean National Forest Protected Areas, an area of approximately 182,000 ha, which makes up about 51% of the total territory. The park is one of the 11 protected areas of the Magalan region and the Chilean Antarctica.
To the south, we sailed through the large and significant Magellanic passage, which was the main link between the Pacific and the Atlantic until the construction of the Panama Canal. Today, it represents a paradise for sailors and lovers of cruising, sailing and wildlife. The South of Patagonia ends with Ushuaia, the southernmost settlement, which, to our grief, was only observed from the ship due to the very strong wind. From the ship, we greeted the Cape Horn who was wrapped in the fog. Cape Horn, in the far south of South America, symbolically represents the union of the Pacific and the Atlantic. South is just the South Ocean, whose waves took us to the Antarctica. After the Antarctic, sailing north on the Argentine side of the Atlantic Ocean, we visited the Falkland Islands, a strategic point in the midst of the oceans for which many fought for domination. The Falklands are essentially a beautiful, stepped and low grass-covered area, forgotten in space. There are only 3.500 inhabitants in this place, as well as some very large and rich colonies of penguins. The meeting with the royal penguins in one of the colonies was really interesting, filled with different emotions.
It is difficult to put in a few sentences all the impressions, moments, sighs, grief, enthusiasm, all the moments of waiting for the encounter with whales, dolphins or penguins, moments of enjoying the flight of various smaller and big albatrosses, or just moments in which I am standing on one of the decks of this great ship, dipped into this infinity. It is hard to describe, because my experience of Antarctica is not figures, names, dates, data... They are certainly interesting, important, historical, scientific and cultural, ecologically and morally valuable. But, what remains deep inside of me are not the facts. I am filled up with an unseen beauty. I covered and petted sharp rocks with my eyes, as well as high peaks, the ice sharp tops of the surrounding mountains, the hills that existed for centuries in Antarctica. These ice forms firmly cover and squeeze everything that is Antarctica. After listening to the essential and well-presented scientific and research knowledge and knowledge about Antarctica, its ancient past and the tumultuous and still unknown present, in lectures that were organized on the ship (which by the way, contributed to an enormous quality of the travel program), I feel it's as if I realized that the ice consciously keeps Antarctica safe. It keeps a huge country and its inner treasures, water, oil and who knows what else, from curious people. From individuals who would do everything to speed it up, take over, take control. I admired the calmness by which the whales were diving and swimming on the surface, puffing their little geysers, without big waves, without a lot of noise, as if they did not want to ruin the crystal clear and peaceful surface of the ocean. And I felt them and saw their fins floating lightly and then I shared the deep peace of the iceberg with them. Or I was looking forward to the little penguins standing in the floating ice in groups, arriving as if they were playing hide and seek, and then suddenly, if they felt or heard us from the ship, they cheered one by one in the water. And the sunrises in the 2 AM, and those not less turbulent, painted in red colors, sunsets at midnight - were moments of admiration. For, to observe the whole horizon, 360 degrees colored with purple, red and yellow, is a flickering in a flame without burning, but warming up. I immersed in the infinite shades of gray, blue, turquoise, white and silver. It was a very deep sixth-sense feeling that was experienced by the fifth element - ether. The immersion into ethereal and floating for 10 days is my deepest experience. And then, in the moments of immersion, I knew that this a trip, this experience – was my comprehension of all five elements: earth, air, water, fire and ether.
The expectation of meeting the glaciers with the ocean and me with them. It's early in the morning. The ship is sailing slowly. The sun hidden behind gray-white clouds leaves enough light for us to see the deep gray-green colour of the bottom of the ocean and the blue-and-white colour of the clouds above us. I am standing on the bow of a large ship that slowly sails approaching the glacier. To the one of many of them, slipping from the surrounding hills and mountain peaks, leant their powerful, thick, blue-and-white body on the cold water of the ocean. I'm watching. Inhaling. Everything is quiet, as in some anticipation. I do not notice many people who with the same enthusiasm absorb the beauty of these clean areas. Far to the south in the waters of Patagonia. Between the floating islands covered with snow.
I observe. I allow the cold flow of air and the thin rays of light to reach the depths. I'm looking at the blue-white rough body of the glacier. The blue colour comes from the bubbles of the air caught between the drops of water during the icing process. It's magical. Colourless air and water merge into the blue glacier. It's as if someone spills ink paint or dark blue from the depths of the ocean. An unreal colour. I'm not blinking. Do I know what I'm watching, what do I see and what do I feel? In looking for the answer to that thought, I just closed my eyes. The answer came. And before I managed to lift the eyelids, tears are already flowing down my cheeks. I open my eyes wide, I look at myself and see the centuries standing in front of me. I see the symbiosis of water, ice, air, plants, earth. Right in front of me. And I'm so tiny in that eternity. If I could I would hug the glacier that is so peacefully standing between two hills, two mountains. In front of us are the pieces broken from the mainland, dispersed. They swim a little over the surface. Like the stars in the sky. Like white flowers in a meadow. Like sheep in the pasture. Like tiny white stones on the sandy shore. Are these pieces shattered by the eternity - the steps that I can take to reach eternity and drown in it? Tears and chills I feel say: yes.
My hands are on my chest. Thank you, thank you for this beauty, for this opportunity to be and feel like a part of the unity. As part of the beauty of life.
Excited about the beauty of the big blue glacier. On the bow of the ship. Antarctica. December 28, 2018.