Backpacking in Patagonia with a Ukulele

By Rob Underill May 23, 2019

Customer Rob Underill recently took a trip to Patagonia, a remote region of South America filled with vast mountains, plateaus, glaciers, rivers, and lakes. The area is shared between Argentina and Chile. Rob made sure to bring his KLOS Ukulele along. What follows next is his account of the journey.

Patagonia is at the end of the earth (South America anyway). The weather can charitably be described as changeable. I was going trekking there for two weeks with a 30lb pack. Did I really want to add a couple of more pounds by bringing my KLOS ukulele? Heck yeah!

I'm a hiker and Patagonia has been on my radar for some time but I couldn't convince my wife it was the best idea ever. Then one of her friends went, told her it was spectacular, and suddenly she was all in!

Patagonia is a region that stretches across southern Argentina and Chile. It is home to the third largest glacier field on the planet behind Antarctica and Greenland. We headed to Torres de Payne National Park in Chile and the Fitz Roy region in Argentina, some of the continent's most isolated areas.

Half the adventure was getting there and back, so my ukulele went through a lot. Six plane changes in overhead, four rides in underbus, a couple of car rides in the trunk, and a mad dash across Buenos Aires (who knew it had two airports?) Not a scratch on the uke but a few dents and dings on us.

Travelling with your uke is interesting because it is a magnet for other musicians, especially other players. Warning, you will be mistaken for a violinist. I've met Kiwis with Kamakas and Samoans that want to talk about music and tattoos (my wife has some awesome ones).  Hawaiian music and hula come up often. I met a guy from the Netherlands, turns out everyone plays there!

They don't travel with their delicate instruments because of FEAR! Trauma, accidents, heat, cold, too much humidity, not enough humidity, constantly planning around it. My KLOS goes where I go. No worries.

Patagonia is a breathtaking and inspiring place. The photos are phenomenal and still don't do it justice. The people are warm and friendly. I was warned that I'd never understand the Argentinians but I actually could!  My Spanish, as always, is a work in progress. It got me where I wanted to go, I could understand conversations, and we were never served banana slugs and twigs when I meant steak and potatoes. I only slaughtered a few words and phrases (that I'm aware of) although some people seemed to think I was exceedingly funny when that wasn't what I was aiming for.

Our days started early, usually with a spectacular sunrise and a quick breakfast before hitting the trail. Each day brought something new and wonderful.

One day we passed by towering granite walls—the next, a steep valley through mountains with alpine glaciers that moaned and groaned and boomed like a thunderstorm.

We drank out of glacier-fed streams and the next day hiked across those glaciers.  I even saw a puma ( I got the picture ) and nobody ever sees a puma!

Next it was showers, dinner, and pisco sours—the go to drink in Chile. After a long day it was so nice to peel off my dirty hiking boots and socks and slip into the music of my ukulele and the people it drew together.

The weather lived up to its billing. We had freezing mornings, warm days, cold days, rainy days, and wind-that-would-blow-you-sideways-and-backwards days. Clothes were layered on, layers were stripped off, layers were added back on. Definitely not for the faint of heart. My KLOS ukulele only got one layer and it did great.

Already planning my next adventure and I will of course, make a little extra room for my KLOS.

The best thing about travelling with a ukulele is the joy it brings, the ice it breaks between strangers, the conversations it sparks. It always puts a smile on peoples faces. If everyone played the ukulele the world would be a happier place.


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