The desire to escape to somewhere remote is never greater than when you’re squashed cheek by jowl in a crowded São Paulo metro carriage.
Patagonia is an incredible place where nature overpowers you instead of concrete skyscrapers and milling crowds of people. It’s one of my favourite places to trek and get outdoors, along with the Himalayas. You can trek for hours along glaciers without seeing another soul and the sky opens out above you with almost limitless expanse.
The land of Patagonia forms the lower half of South America, shared by Chile and Argentina, and eventually peters out in the island of Tierra del Fuego and the city of Ushuaia. One of the highlights of the region is the Glacier Perito Moreno and a four hour bus ride north of there takes you to Fitzroy (also known as Cerro Chaltén) where there are some spectacular treks to be done. When I finally made it to the base of the peak after a full day walking, the wind was so strong it was almost impossible to stand upright to have my photo taken. A distinguishing feature of Patagonia is the bizarre shape of trees bent almost to the ground by the force of the elements.
Last year I walked the Singalila Trek, a six-day route which follows a ridge along the border of India and Nepal north of Darjeeling. I was there in March just a bit before the main season and it was going to be expensive to do an organised trek, so I opted to go it alone. I was told I would need a guide and a porter, but in fact I managed to get away with contracting just a porter who also led the way.
We stayed in small primitive hostels along the way, sometimes pitching in to help the hosts make “momos’ – a Tibetan style dumpling. On day four we arrived in Sandakphu to find the place shrouded in fog and clouds. The following morning it wasn’t easy to get out of bed before dawn in sub-zero temperatures, but a possible sighting of Mt Everest beckoned, so there was really no excuse to delay. As the sun rose and slowly illuminated the highest mountain in the world, it was hard not be awed.
It’s moments like that which I try to recall when I’m stuck on the commute to work.