Editor’s Note: Carol Sue Gershman has traveled the world solo for 45+ years. At 87 she is still seeking new adventures, and recently returned from Patagonia.
Carol Sue Gershman standing in front of Glacier Morano, Argentina
Three seats across on the midnight flight to Chili would have been nice but just as the doors were closing a guy took the empty seat; but got to say he was cute. He was from Patagonia so instead of my sleeping he filled me with info about his country. He owned a spa in north Patagonia and enjoyed talking to me while kissing his wife hand who sat behind us with his kids.
Santiago, Chili an old vibrant large city which I considered kind of dirty (even coming from [NYC) Later, I changed my mind watching people pick up trash with care and love for their city. I enjoyed the Ubers taking me all over the city for $3-10 bucks touring the town on the way to see what the plastic surgeons might have to offer as a trophy for my trip.
Will she or won’t she is the question?
Hostels are my way to enjoy a trip traveling solo, always a private room and always someone to meet and to learn where I am going because usually they just came back. Large hotels are coupled but hostels have all types from all over the world where friendships are made quickly with great conversation. So what if he toilet paper container got stuck as I tried to pull down the very fragile paper that ripped apart on every pull.
Stopped into Marriott for a nice swim but can you believe no outside bathroom at Marriott so did the best I could sitting in a flower pot smiling as I watched people jumping in the pool.
One meal a day/and two gelatos a day! I prefer the unknown, the experience of being completely on my own in any country in the world. Santiago has the most exceptional weather; warm and sunny every day with mornings and evenings having a small drop in temperature so to enjoy open windows and no AC. The food is mediocre but the lovely kind people are not. The city is safe and I felt comfortable the whole time.
Five days later, I anxiously boarded my flight to Patagonia where my trip was to begin. From home I had difficulty in figuring out where, how, to go but once there just followed the travels route/easy and uncomplicated. Punta Arenas was where we landed. My imagination told me I would land in the land of wonder with high mountains and breathtaking scenery. Instead, we landed in a dusty airport no mountains in site. I turned to my seat mate and asked, “Is this what you thought?” “Nooooooo it is shocking, she said.” It was New Year’s Eve so took a stroll to town asking the waiter, “What will be happening tonight?” “Nothing he said, we all go to sleep on New Years eve.”
The town felt lonely with high winds where the Atlantic and Pacific meet. The wind was so strong that it made me giggle trying to hold on while seeping in the cold and refreshing air. Made my way to a casino hotel that was quite posh where there would be a show at midnight. It was only 8:00 P. M. and I remained bored till eleven. “Go home” It was the best choice, I put on Frank Sinatra waited till midnight and was asleep by 12:01. I will put it down for the very worst New Years ever with no TV to even watch the ball drop.
The next morning early as possible took a three hour bus trip to Punta Natales where the sun shines till 11:00 p. m. A Wonderful Señora greeted me showing me my lovely room finding her to be the perfect nurse for my newly arrived cold. I was concerned about food and water in her home, as there was nothing nearby, but the next morning I was treated to a lovely breakfast spread and lots of water and tea. I was truly grateful and appreciative allowing me to stay in bed all day sneezing.
After a day I joined a tour which is wonderful and necessary that took me into the spectacular Torres Del Paine National Park realizing THIS was why I came blowing my mind. It looked like picture postcards coming alive, the glaciers turning the streams and lakes into vivid turquoise while the mountain stood completely still. At night the town had a couple of the best restaurants, home made food that was unbeatable and stayed three days. El Calafate was next traveling five hours by bus to get there on the Argentina side. We had to get off of the bus go through customs and have our passport stamped. I switched to a small hotel in town and stayed five days traveling with a group to see the magnificent Perito Morena glacier; thick awesome piece of magnificent blue ice and spending evenings in hopping town, loads of excellent restaurants and cool streets until my bedtime which was l 9:00 p. m.
The very best thing about Chili is there is absolutely nothing to buy in fact the shops are few and far between. A day trip to El Chalten, reminded me of the 80’s in Key west before there was anything. People go there to hike; the town was windy and dusty.
While Patagonia is extraordinarily beautiful, it is necessary to go into the mountains as it is not all around us. Many go trekking and sleep on the mountain which they say is an invigorating experience that I will never accomplish.
Actually between towns I felt I traveled to Mars; there is nothing but expanses of weird dry landscape extending to the horizon. After 9 days, I said, “Get me out of Patagonia, don’t you know I am a city girl? “
There are animals in the mountains to explore and lots of other lake regions farther north or traveling on to the end of the earth Ushawa, the entry to Antartica. Truly thought to go there but have decided to cross off my list; so what if I only get to see 6 continents.
Think you want to see the end of the world? When you are here it feels like it could be Utah or such; it all felt quite natural to me and having never heard of Patagonia before recent years, (was it CNN?) I simply felt that I had to go! So I did!