The wind buffets me from behind and I continue to stumble forward in the heat.
Twenty kilograms of rucksack crush down on each shoulder. It is not an unbearable weight but it means that everything requires extra effort. Everything, like, thinking, smiling, suppressing sobs and trying not to be sick.
I lean forward to transfer some weight from my back onto my walking poles but a gust knocks me first from the left and then the right. I catch myself wearily, pause for a moment and remember that standing still is no easier than moving forward so reluctantly keep walking.
Ahead the road stretches as far as I can see and, according to our map, a lot further too. Behind me is much the same although I can’t see it right now because every time I turn my head, the wind whips away my hat. It was funny the first time but, on the hundredth, it is enough to lower me into an apoplectic rage so I avoid the luxury of looking over my shoulder.
A car speeds past to remind me of the utter futility of what we are doing. Why walk when there is a perfectly good bus? Why carry all of this food and water, endure this heat and be blasted by wind when there are perfectly good sheltered restaurants with air conditioning just a hitch-hike away?
My stomach gurgles and my mind wanders back to last night’s mildly fetid water. I need to empty my bowels.
Removing my pack is sweet relief but also a disturbance of the delicate equilibrium I have established in my mindless marching. It is a reminder that my shoulders are sore and that the back of my filthy shirt is drenched with days old sweat.
Even as I answer nature’s call, there is no respite. The wind fills my eyes with grit and I have to fight to stay upright. It takes two dozen tries to get my lighter working, each attempt punctuated by an agitated sigh. I piss on the embers – and my trousers – and cleanse myself with alcohol.
Laura has sought refuge behind a dip. I sit down on a thorny plant next to her (all plants in Patagonia are thorny), curse between my teeth and shuffle to find a modicum of comfort. My head continues to throb.
To quench our thirst we have chlorinated water with flies. To quell our appetite we have two hundred grams of dry crackers and a fennel flavoured salami filled with flecks of fat the size chick peas. We eat in silence.
Laura’s eyes brim as she stares at the ground. I am incapable of offering any consolation.
She nods and we continue to sit listlessly, not able to rest, not able to continue.
We get up, the wind buffets me from behind and I continue to stumble forward in the heat.