18 August 2008

The Gravitational Pull of Humanity


For a country that's known in no small part for their mountains, it can be awfully difficult getting into them. It's sort of the inverse of the crab in a bucket theory: rather than the rest of humanity pulling you back down to flat land as you try to escape into the mountains, it often seems that you are in competition with the rest of humanity to travel up the one or two roads that will take everyone to freedom.

Carloads of crabs fly past as you make your way up the narrow mountain road only to slam on their brakes ahead of you as they fall into line behind the other thousand carloads of crabs. Some crabs are so impatient that in their faulty haste they hurl themselves off river embankments, spin-out on dry asphalt, or stall traffic as they pull over to install snow chains still some three-thousand feet below the snowline. No doubt, life in the bucket is stressful and I can't blame all of them (me included) for the desire to escape. And if the maddening pace of bucket life isn't enough to make you want to escape then a perfectly clear day with ninety new centimeters of snow certainly is.

No, there is no blame. But it often feels like you're trying to run up a down escalator: yes, you will get to the top eventually, but is all the effort and time worth it? The mañana attitude that pervades in other Latin American countries is absent here. Chile certainly displays the drive and ambition of their far northern neighbors and European cousins. The problem, ultimately, is that the infrastructure is not quite ready for the clambering hordes of would-be recreationists. At times, it's enough to take a deep breath, turn up the music and fall in line with plenty of paciencia. Other times, it makes more sense to return home and go for a long run on muddy but very deserted trails.

(If you can't see a small, blue square and triangle that resembles a play button, go here and follow directions. Installing this will allow you to read and listen to music at the same time--like a real live multitasker!)

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