Villa Cerro Castillo
I finished a simple breakfast of herbal tea with some slices of bread with plum spread and butter. I payed for my stay in the hostel and headed out to what would turn to be quite an eventful day. This little village is at the foot of one of the most stunning views in all of Patagonia, Cerro Castillo (Castle Peak).
It was eight in the morning and the sun hadn’t come out yet. After a week of non-stop rain, my hopes of seeing the sun weren’t too high.
I had been told that a path leads to a camping site that is closer to Cerro Castillo, so my plan was to walk that path, find a good place to camp and spend a chilly night by the beautiful sight.
With all the enthusiasm, I had forgotten to get food for the day and I was already a couple hours into the path when I realized that all I had with me was a liter of water and my toothpaste (yes, this one is edible). I decided to go on and try to find some food along the way, maybe one of the farmers around would have some bread.
It was beautiful cloudless day. After 5 days of rain I could finally see the sun. By noon I had made it to where the path starts heading uphill. There was a little cabin right by the pathway, so I decided to try luck, knock on the door and beg for food.
A gaucho opened the door. He was wearing a typical poncho, hat and holding a cup of yerba mate in his hand. His dogs approached me and smelled every single inch of the backpack I had set on the floor. I asked for directions to Cerro Castillo and some bread. He came out with a little yellow plastic bag that contained two little buns of bread and three sopaipillas (sweet, fried pastries). He told me that the way to Cerro Castillo walking along the river for at least two more hours.
I picked up my pack, thanked him and set out to follow the path. For the next two hours my life would be miserable. It took me no longer than 15 minutes to get to the river to realize that the path ends. There was no way to go along the river. I could walk through the rocky shores of the river or follow a smaller path that involved holding onto trees to climb up a rocky mountain that would hopefully lead me to the real path, if that even existed. I decided to try the climbing path. For half an hour I tried my best to make it through. I scraped my arms with thorny bushes, slipped several times, all with a 40 pound backpack making my back sweaty, to find that the this “path” led nowhere.
It was decision time. I could either keep pulling through this illusory path to nowhere, through thorny bushes and slippery rocks; or try to walk along the river. I decided to head back. It would be impossible to try to make it up this “path”. As I head down, scraping my arms again and holding onto trees not to fall, I noticed a little path I had ignored in my rush to go up. It seemed well defined and it went uphill, just where I wanted to go. I decided to follow it. It took me through some beautiful forests and I could tell I was going the right direction. 30 minutes into the walk I found a great space to set my tent and camp, but my adventurous spirit told me to keep walking. It was only 1:30 in the afternoon, and I knew that it would get dark at around 5. So before I went on, I decided to have a humble lunch that consisted on a bun a bread and a sip of water.
I kept walking, tired, sweaty, but with the hope that the best was yet to come.
And then my worst nightmare started coming true. I saw clouds approaching and felt some tiny drops of water hit my hands.
Decision time again. Should I go on to the unknown at the risk of being trapped in the rain, or should I go back to that friendly camping spot I had just walked by.
This time reason kicked in and I decided to head back and set camp. I set my tent, laid out my sleeping bag and laid down for a nap. As soon as I was ready to sleep, the rain started getting worse and it wouldn’t stop. By now it was four o’clock and the cold started to get into my tent. I wrote in my journal.
4:00. I’m starting to get worried. I hope the rain stops. Its really cold and I don’t think I can make it here through the night. I’m tired and damp from the sweat. I’m here because I wanted. It was my desire to camp in the rain, in the cold, in an unknown place. I’m thinking to head back down to the house of the man who gave me food. But its raining.
4:30. It’ll get get dark in a hour. The cabin is 20 minutes away. I still have to put my tent down. Also, I don’t even know if the man will be there or if he will let me stay there. I”ll go out and see how’s the rain.
Well, the rain is pretty bad, and I don’t think it’ll stop any time soon.
4:40. I decided to pack up and try luck in the cabin.
And thats what I did. I packed my things and headed down to the cabin. By the time I was done packing it was already dark. I was getting wet and the cold was really getting to me. It must of been around freezing. It was a dark way down. I was afraid that I wouldn’t find my way down to the cabin.
But I made it. There was no light inside the house nor was there any smoke coming out of the chimney. I started to worry. I jumped up the fence and headed towards the house. The dogs started barking. I shyly knocked on the door. No response. I walked around to make sure that there was really no one in the house. No one.
The door was locked.
Decision time again. Should I try to break in the house or walk all the way back to the village, 3-4 hours away, in the dark rain?
I decided to break in. Using my pocket knife, my driver’s license and some technique, I forced the lock and walked into a warm two-room cabin. It was all made of wood. One of the rooms, the main room, had a table, a cabinet, a sink, some dirty dishes two benches, two cats, and a fire place, that also served as a kitchen, with some ashes that were still warm. The other room was a bedroom. One bed, a chair and a table. By the things I saw, I could tell that the man actually lived there. There was a pot with recently cooked soup, that day’s newspaper, the bed wasn’t made and there was a cup of tea with the tea bag still damp.
I assumed that he had just left and that he was coming back.
On my way to Patagonia, on the ship, a man told me that people from Patagonia are very gentle and full of hospitality, but when drunk, they get extremely aggressive and violent. The worst thoughts run through my head.
He might have gone out with some friends to drink and would come back drunk and kick me out, maybe even shoot me (I found some rifle cartridges that triggered this train of thought).
Or he might just come back not drunk, but angry because I broke into his house.
But my hope was that he not come back at all, which was at a miracle level because he lived there. Why wouldn’t he come back?
So with all this fear I somehow decided to stay and make myself at home. I started a fire, heat up some water to make myself some tea, ate the second bread I had, took off my wet clothes and hang them by the fire for them to dry.
I sat on the bench and wrote in my journal.
I just started the fire and gonna make myself some tea. Its almost 7. I can’t find my gloves.
It started to get warm, but the sounds of the rain, the cats constantly moving, the crackling of the trees and the house, were all sounds that made me think that he had come back and was about to open the door, and find me there, using his cup of tea, sitting on his bench, using his wood to keep me warm.
An atmosphere of fear succumbed my mind and took me into an abyss of pain and stress. Every sound gave me goose bumps of fear. I felt guilty, like I was taking advantage of someone, wet and cold. I felt miserable. But, as the warmth from the fire set in and I chanted some mantras and took control of my breath, I remembered what Krishna says the Bhagavad-gita: “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”
I had fallen into my own religion of fear. I was immersed in thoughts of the worst situations possible, but I hadn’t given time to think on how all of this had been planned by God. I had ignored his signs.
An then I reflected about all the signs I had ignored.
I had forgotten to get food.
All the different paths that lead nowhere, that kept damaging my body and agitating my mind.
For a moment I had become deaf to the voice of the divine telling me that I wasn’t doing the right thing, that I should go back. One of the purposes of this trip to Patagonia is to find God through his beautiful creation and listen to his call in this beautiful parts of the world. But I had become whimsical about my own achievements. That “I must walk farther”. “I must make it all the way there, no matter what”. “It doesn’t matter if it rains or snow or if its freezing cold, I have to go on walking”. I was trying to get to the castle of “success” or “achievement.”
My unhealthy spirit had taken over and I wasn’t listening to the messages God was sending me. In the Taoist tradition, people try to be as connected to nature as possible, that way they can better hear the will of God. I was in the wild, there was no one around, but I still couldn’t listen. I had to be brought down to the darkest depths of fear in order to hear the whispering voice in my heart saying: “You’re not alone”.
Suddenly that castle of so called achievement had turned into a dismal castle of despair and finally crumbled, and all I had left was a cabin of humility and surrender, heated by love.
And thats when I surrendered. I gave up all thought of fear and surrendered to the will of God. I wrote in my journal.
I’m not alone. God is always with me. He’s always been here. My fears must go away because I know that God’s love is within me and that all of this is God’s plan to bring me closer to him. The rain, the empty house and hopefully that the man doesn’t come back.
At 9:30 I decided to fall asleep, or at least attempted to fall asleep on the bench by the fireplace. I woke up every couple hours to the smallest sound that suggested him walking in, but I wasn’t as afraid as before. By 2 am the fire had already gone out and I was cold. I tried to start it up again, but I had ran out of paper. The man hadn’t come back, and with the cold I decided to move into the bedroom. It was warmer and way more comfortable, but my fear grew stronger. If he came back he wouldn’t only find me in his house, he would find me in his bed! But then again, I tried to center myself and remember that I am under God’d protection.
I woke up at 6. Got out of bed, changed, gathered my things, tried to leave the place as I left it and made my way out. Before I left, I wrote a thank you note and left some money for the things I had used.
As I walked out it was still dark and there was an inch of snow on the ground. Thank God, literally, thank God I didn’t spend the night outside and that I could find shelter in that little cabin.
I jumped the fence and started making my way back to the village. I raised my hands, looked up and thanked the Lord for taking me out of the depths of fear into the shelter of his unlimited love.
I walked all the way back to the little village. I was there by 10. I got some bread, cheese and water. I then took a bus to my next destination.
It is my prayer that I can better listen and ultimately surrender to what God has planned for me. I still have three weeks to go on this trip, but I have learned so much already.