felicidades, from the end of the world

View outside my tent. Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia
View outside my tent on New Year’s Eve. Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia.

“So you’re staying here for vísperas de Año Nuevo?” asked the wide-eyed young lady working at the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego information desk after she realized our requested dates to camp in the park sandwiched New Year’s Eve.

Michelle and I looked at each other and back at her. We nodded. She shook her head.

“No.”

No? As in there is no camping available? The park is closed?

“You can’t do that. So many parties in the city! Here, let me give you my number. I need more papers! I give it to so many visitors today. We start at 2 de la mañana del un de enero. We put on dresses and there will be boys and music. And maybe someone can drive you back here?” She jotted all of her information down, clearly feeling sorry for the two American travelers with no place to celebrate NYE.

We politely accepted her information and drove off to set up camp. What she didn’t know is we were exactly where we wanted to be, crossing into 2014. At the end of the world.

I spent my best New Year’s Eve to date grounded at home, playing endless hours of Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo with my little sister. Instead of dwelling on all of the totally awesome things I was missing at some freshman high school party, I threw all of my energy into collecting 9,600 bananas so King and Diddy Kong could welcome 1996 with exactly 96 lives at midnight. Midnight struck, 96 glowed on the top right corner of the screen, Tessa and I high-fived and hugged, congratulating each other on our strategic banana collecting. In the years to follow, I would realize that was my NYE peak. Later Eves began with high hopes, followed by unmet expectations, incoherent squabbles, drama and hangovers. I now leave the country to welcome each New Year, because hey, even if the night sucks, at least the night sucks in Ireland. Or Oaxaca. Or Iceland. Or the End of the World.

We spent December 31, 2013 horseback riding through the mountains of Ushuaia and hiking up Martial Glacier. We picked up some terrible whiskey and some weird Argentinian champagne that we still aren’t entirely sure contained alcohol, and drove out-of-town to the End of the World and our tiny green tent.

At camp we played a few games of Yahtzee and Pass the Pigs, sipped on crappy whiskey, shared our New Year’s resolutions, and popped the champagne. We missed the actual turn to midnight as we wondered if we’d hear people countdown diez, nueve, ocho, and sang along to Auld Lang Syne playing softly from my iPhone when we realized it was 12:01.

Michelle and I have spent the last couple of New Year’s together, sharing the famous NYE kiss. But we had just shared the Patagonian experience, one I will never be able to arrange words beautiful enough to give it justice. We hiked up mountains, through mountains, around mountains. We stared in silence at lakes so blue I’m not sure the color actually exists, and at giant, colorful, growing glaciers of ice, listening to the loud crashes of growing pains from afar. We gazed at southern hemisphere stars at 11:30 pm when it was actually dark enough to see them, confused that we could still see Orion’s Belt. We trotted on horses across a rocky beach and watched the sunset that very day.

I shifted in the tent, thinking about the amazing events of the past few weeks. “Michelle, don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think we should do a New Year’s kiss this year.”

She burst out laughing. “I was just hoping for a New Year’s hug.”

We settled for an awkward New Year’s pat on the back and were sleeping by 12:15, happily exhausted from the day, and all the days of 2013. Best New Years ever. Second only to Donkey Kong.

Felicidades.

Talk to me, Goose.

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