Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thoughts from two months in

We’re two-thirds of the way through our time at Desierto now so I thought it was time to run an update on how day to day life goes around here and how I’m finding it. At this stage thoughts are starting to lean towards what I am going to do when I finally get out of this place. The boys spend a lot of time talking about what we are going to eat when we get back to En-Zee. Also a good percentage of our conversation revolves around the merits of the female anatomy when in peak physical conditions, and the ways in which we would like to appreciate said anatomy. The seeming inability to get the internet going here and (relating to this) the way some of the Chileans can’t seem to find their asshole with a guided map and a set of instructions to follow is also the subject of some discussion.

My days are fairly repetitive. At 7:45 I wake up. It’s dark. I eat oats and toast and drink coffee. No one talks much. I write a 10 minute email, brush my teeth and get my gear together. By 8.30 we are heading to the river to cross. Crossings range from calf to waist deep and vary in temp from tolerable to glacial.

The moon was still cranking after I arrived at work.
Then it’s up the climb to work. It’s a pretty brutal ride. The first part is designed to be a downhill track I think (there will be access to it up the way via a swingbridge later) and then later there is a brutal series of switchbacks and straights at a good gradient. We built a good chunk of the climb and have been building the descent for a couple of weeks. The descent is a whole lot of fun, we are meant to be building tech xc and although I think it’s a bit wide and smooth to be called that there are some good tech sections and some fast and loose bits. The track is a loop and we are about a day away from connecting up. (Note: This track is now finished. The new to work ride is a shorter flatish ride to a river flat in a valley.)

Anyways, work runs for nine hours a day and we have two breaks. Much of my time is spent on the mattock but I’ve also spent a fair chunk of time on the chainsaw now as well.  I’ve also been able to build a few bridges and other features which breaks up the monotony of moving dirt. The lunch is pan, a flat-bread sandwich filled with marginal meat, too much butter, a slice of cheese and a heart attack of mayonnaise. They are mostly terrible. Some days we toast them to make them edible. We are provided two a day but I opt to swap my second for a jam sandwich. There’s also some fruit and some very unhealthy snacks.

After work we ride home by 5 and then try and find things to do. It’s hard. Three nights a week a few of the boys do some core exercises. They are torturous but keep me away from the snacks. Speaking of which, every night we after work we get to have a kid’s party with chips, biscuits and fizzy drink. I’'s all pretty unhealthy times on the food front. Meat, simple carbs, sugar and fat tends to dominate meals.

Some of the boys. The crew is full of good sorts
 and makes the trip bearable.
If we don’t do core exercises there isn’t much going on. It’s basically dark when we get home and after this long here I don’t feel like riding. There’s no internet. The t.v. gets a bit of a thrash and I read a bit too. But it tends to be boring and it’s a long time until tea which tends to drop at about 7.30. Then after tea we tend to watch something from someone’s hard drive on the flat screen. Entourage has been a favourite for the boys and we’ve started watching Sons of Anarchy too. Then it’s time for bed a bit later.

And then it repeats six days a week. That’s about all I’ve got going on at the moment. I love my job but the lack of anything else going on is a little bit depressing. Having the internet would really make things more bearable. (Note: since this was written we have gained the internet. Huzzah!) I want to know what’s going on in the outside world and what’s been happening with friends and family. I also wish I could start planning my trip, enquiring about things I want to do and booking stuff.

I didn't expect to enjoy using the saw,
but I'm comfortable with it now.
But I have no doubt in my mind that this is the right job for me. I’ve really enjoyed the job and I love being in the Patagonian wilderness. Even on the bad days, I still think the work is alright. The experience has solidified a lot of things for me. I know what I want to do with my life with greater clarity now. I’ve met a bunch of great people who have become great friends. I’m fired up to get into a whole lot of new things from listening to the lads talk about their passions. I feel a lot more self-sufficient, more competent and more confident. It’s been a great experience in many regards and I’m looking forward to the last month (although I’m equally looking forward to this month being over).

 My time here has really taught me to take the little things for granted. We have it so good in New Zealand, everything is at our fingertips. Out here nothing is easy to get. When we get a good pan day or an afternoon of sun, I’m a very happy man. I think living this simply has been very good for me mentally. It’s great to be away from all the bullshit that was cluttering my life before I left. It’s great to have a bit of time to think. It’s great to change and grow. I’m lucky to be here and I’m getting as much out of it as I can.

So overall Desierto is a bit bittersweet in places but I am glad I made the choice to come here.

When it's good here, it's pretty bloody good.


  1. If you want any help planning stuff, like working out the spanish or whatever, let me know. Got friends some places in south american too if you wana crash there and meet the locals.
    I can totally feel you on the boring repetitiveness thing with this nanny gig, its like 8.30am to 8.30pm with breaks when the baby sleeps and it can be so mind-numbingly boring. Silver lining that you got people around you though? I get excited when I go to the supermarket and the person serving me is aged between 4 and 40!!!
    Glad you can see the value in it though xo

  2. Nannying would be a good one to get onto the resume, and it's a pretty sweet chance to live in a different country. I've been following your adventures with interest.
    I would be very keen to meet some locals around SA if it isn't a hassle, cheers. Hopefully they speak a bit of english though, my Spanish is pretty poor still.

  3. haha yeah. Probably the only ones that you'd find interesting are in Venezuela, Peru and Argentina, or if you get further up, in Panama and Costa Rica. Look into couch surfers too though, that thing is sweet, coz Latin American's are really friendly and welcoming and make an effort to show you round and stuff. And its free. That's how I'm meeting people who live here now.