Read: Patagonian Road

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My singular question about this book is the title. I’m not entirely sure why the title is what it is because the author travels solo from Guatemala to Argentina with the ghost of Paul Theroux as her only guide, so it could have been any country in between. No matter really, the book is totally worth reading. I’m guessing the author is within twenty miles of me, as we speak, hopefully sleeping. It’s early people and the Sangres just disappeared behind a veil of snow. Still and quiet.

I enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons. Selfishly I always compare the author’s experience to my own, which does give me a basis of complicency but ultimately won’t mean much to you all. My relationship to this story was a month and a half trip to Guatemala which I undertoook in 1995. It was my first real excursion into Latin America.

If you haven’t slow traveled through Latin America, or ever experienced a backpacking stage then you should pack up and go now. The author, who is a skilled writer and observer who writes honestly(she inhaled)does a solid job of taking the reader not only into the physical environment but also the sometimes fragile mental state of anyone who travels alone with no mapped out plan. The unknown varies from your best friend to your worst enemy. (PS: I smoked pot for the first time on my trip in 1995, and like the idiot I was/am took about eight hits then ended up walking a grid pattern through the streets for seven hours while trying not to freak out.)

Traveling alone is one thing but traveling alone as a woman is another. Kate McCahill leaves home under all the preconceived nightmares of her friends and family. “Be careful.” “You could die.” We’ve all heard these warnings only to land in country while being overwhelmed by curiosity and kindness from the locals. MaCahill lands in places that aren’t particular welcoming but blazes her way. Guatemala, Nicaragua(her favorite), Ecuador, Bolivia, etc.

Just to give you an idea of what a trip like this is like. In 1995, within days of landing in Guatemala I’d met dozens of other travelers. The bullshit barriers of race, gender, age, politics, all the things that keep people separated at home, fall away and you end up in human to human meetings that in some strange way form life long bonds within minutes of their conception. I’m still in touch with several of the people I met on that trip. Not to mention all the relationships with local people.

Latin America is the forgotten continent in the United States. Not entirely sure why but it is. People talk much about Europe, Asia and even Africa but outside of places like Machu Picchu you don’t hear much about Latin America. What a mistake this is.
Patagonian Road makes me want to go. Now. I could read books like this all day long and never get bored. Anxious to go myself, yes, but not bored. And I’m glad to see the author is passing her talents on to others by teaching. Get it, read it and think about taking your own slow voyage.

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