I was so tired of my job. I was 61 years old, almost a year away from eligibility to file for Social Security early retirement. My wife missed traveling, something she had done a lot before meeting me on a cruise ship to Alaska in 2005. One day we were discussing retirement plans and she asked me, “What’s on your Bucket List?” Without even a pause I replied, “I’ve always wanted to see Patagonia.”
My wife, “The Count” muppet of planning (I love to plan things – mwahahaha!), immersed herself in organizing what became known to friends, acquaintances, and eventually to us as The Vacation of a Lifetime. In June, 2011, we gave notice and we sold our cars, house and furniture. We hauled everything remaining, mostly clothes and tools, to my brother-in-law’s airplane hangar in Southern California and launched a four month adventure in Latin American. We felt my Spanish was adequate to satisfy us that we could get by in foreign lands.
We picked the top five countries we would consider as places to live. Ultimately, our choices included Panama, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. (Panama and Nicaragua inspired previous posts. Uruguay and Chile are on my to-do list.)
After a week in Buenos Aires, we were ready for some open country. First stop, Iguazu Falls. Selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, Iguazu is a mile wide river splitting into 275 separate waterfalls and cascading 269 feet over the cataracts. Like Niagara, the falls need to be experienced from each side.
With the roar of the falls still ringing in our ears, we board our flight to the end of the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, and just like that it’s winter. Good thing we packed lots of extra clothes, because we used them all! The thrill of seeing the Andes Mountains up close for the first time is the fulfillment of a lifelong desire. I drink up the views of towering, snow-capped peaks as the low angle of the sun reflects off their summits. The pure, clear water of the lakes and rivers and the pristine forests are like an elixir that clears my head and buoys my spirit. The mountains are like temples of the gods. How else to explain their grandeur.
Patagonia is a region that includes part of southern Chile. How was I to know the best was yet to come? The next installment of Vacation of a Lifetime will go there.