Sunday, January 14, 2007

Antarctica Journal day1 - January 14, 2007

I get a glimpse of another dream as we take off from Santiago into the sunrise.

The Andes are epic. They rise from the Chilean Plateau in dusty blue waves each more jagged than the last. In the summer sun (Yeah the toilets down here do flush the other way and since the sun is to the north it moves west to east) the largest peaks glint with snow pack. The tops are ragged blown out cones. No ridge line hiking here; no old rounded peaks.

Like Alaska, this is a young raw land of snowfields pocked by crevasses, braided rivers and steaming calderas. From 37,000 ft you can see a dense blanket of clouds far to the west hanging above the Amazon rainforest. As we head south we fly over two hydro-dams and a swath of clear cutting. We are on the milk run: Puerto Montt, Puenta Arenes then Mt. Pleasant, altogether a 7 hour jaunt.

Quite suddenly the helter-skelter of nature below turns into the straight lines and squares of civilization. Farms are giant rectangles of brown earth. Roads cut across valley and river. I always feel safer without lines and fences. As the sun washes across the coast we approach the Fitzroy Mastiff, a pink, orange, kaleidoscope hunk of rock and ripped peaks.

Then we fly over Beagle Channel-named for Darwin's boat - the alternative to Cape Horn - the roughest patch of seain the world. Through the cloud cover I can see the brown ridged backs of serpents, submerged in a roaring sea.

There be dragons here...

No comments: