Published: December 12th 2009December 12th 2009
I share this moment with the hawks. They drift calmly and circle the early morning sky in search of a first meal. A pink line slowly takes form on the horizon, as the foreground remains shrouded in darkness. The outline of mountains are visible in the distance and a wide desert spills from their base. And I lose myself in a state of mind that feeds, or defines, my need to travel. Stirred from a semi-sleep, I pull back the curtain of my dreams and escape in the timelessness of the world around me. Right now there is no day of the week, no hour or month. I don´t have to be somewhere or look a certain way (which happens to be good, if you´re wondering.) No one is expecting me. I am not operating at the center of my universe. I am merely a spectator staring from a window on a bus. And it feels like the idea of freedom. I think.
There is a movie. With Keanu Reeves. No, not the one where there is a bomb on the bus. Nor my personal favorite in which he learns to surf in a week and falls in love with
Patrick Swayze. Al Pacino is in it. He´s the devil... in the movie.
There is a scene where Keanu is standing in the middle of what would normally be a very busy street, and he has this look like he´s trying to decide if that wasn´t more than just a fart. Well, the street is deserted, there isn´t a soul, and it becomes apparent why Keanu is so miffed.
It is Argentina between the hours of 2-5. In any city. A true, nation-wide siesta. Nearly all businesses close, and everyone disappears into the dark recesses of indifference. Even in tourist-driven districts, the possibility of increasing ones´income is second to the need for, well...rest. It is a schedule that is at once intriguing and infuriating.
Intriguing because an entire country supports the individual´s need for a daily nap. And takes life slowly.
Infuriating if you happen to be the rare individual who needs to get something done in the middle of the day. Like eating.
Starting at 5, everyone returns from whatever it is they´ve been doing, and heads straight for the cafe. There, people order the type of food that was fashionable when you were
eight-- crustless, ham and cheese sandwiches...on white bread. And mate. Sits around and talks for an hour or so, then goes back to their business, or school, or whatever.
At 9 or 10 it is time to indulge your sweet tooth. Keep in mind you have yet to eat dinner, but don´t let that stop you from getting that heaping scoop of ice cream.
Sometime between 10 or 11 is a good time to start thinking of dinner.
Go to bed. Wake up. And repeat.
Such is life in beautiful Argentina.
If you´ve travelled to, or read about Argentina, you are aware of the wine, the steak, the tango, mate, and Che Guevara. And Patagonia. I hope. Therefore, to save time and energy, I will refrain from referring to any of the aforementioned items. Just know that, yes they all do exist (Che excluded), and the steak is good and cheap, the tango is sexual, everyone drinks mate and wine, and Che´s image has been exploited in cartoonish fashion. And Patagonia...well, I don´t know...I haven´t been there.
But we´re close.
I am at the southern edge of the Lake District, at the western
A Sunday afternoon outside Cordoba
With a dead battery. The driver was our friend for the day (Alejandra), who took us to the countryside (long story).
limit of the country. It has been a five week journey from northern Chile (chasing waves), south through Salta, Tucuman, Cordoba, Mendoza, Bariloche, and now-- El Bolson.
The adventure began after an overnight bus ride left me standing in the early morning (or late night) streets of Iquique, Chile. Then I was hit by a car. But I Van Damme´d it. (Copywritten phrase.) I heard the screech of tires, turned (mind you I am without sleep), rolled off the hood, and landed on my feet (somewhat). Unlike Van Damme, I didn´t put my arm through the windshield and remove the drivers´throat. I just stood there in disbelief as the car sped away. Then life returned to normal. Sort of.
Normal is a relative idea, and doesn´t really exist when you are repeatedly on the move.
In Salta, it was normal, during the first hard rain of the year, for the ceiling of my hostel to give way, and allow a torrent of water to fill the bottom floor. It was normal to sit at the Plaza de Armas. All day.
In Tucuman, normal was cooking dinner with friends at 11 every night. Hanging out on the
roof, and trying not to move too quickly. Normal was sleep without a sheet, tango class, and six people in a tiny apartment.
Normally in Cordoba we were thoroughly confused. Elaine has a not-so-close relative living in the upscale northern suburb of this university town, and life here was anything but what we expected. Our home was a converted storage unit on the grounds of a wealthy neighbor to Elaines´family. The guardians of the property were three bulldogs. Each night we would return to their powerful (and friendly) stares. Apparently it is normal to pawn off relatives on your friends, and friends of your friends, as we were. We spent an afternoon with one of these friends, and received a localized view of the country. It is becoming normal to see Manu Chao, and Cordoba offered another opportunity to jump and sweat to the never-ending rhythms of a favorite.
Near Mendoza, we were simply normal Canadians for a weekend. There is a subtle eye roll in nearly everyone we meet in Argentina, when we say we´re American. We can quickly dispel any unfortunate stereotypes, but, I think, this was the impetus for Elaine to respond with ´Canada´, when
This city is really nice-- tree-lined streets, and cafes...everywhere.
asked by the friendly older couple showing us a cabin in Villa Caritas, where we were from. We rented that cabin. And they became our friends. (Hopefully not on the belief of our Canadianness.)
It is normal to drink wine and ride bikes in Maipu. And then to drink more wine. And more.
And finally the Lake District. Normal at last.
The mountains, lush forests, aqua blue rivers and lakes, and moderate temperature sent us directly to the local supermarket to buy our new home. That´s right. The supermarket. For $90, we are outfitted with tent, pads, bags, and the peacefulness afforded by carrying our home, and making it wherever we desire. We just returned from a journey into the backcountry outside El Bolson, where normal is sipping on microbrew at the frequent artisan markets, attending the annual Jazz Festival, and growing your hair long. I won´t use the word hippy because I don´t know what it means. But it definitely feels more like normal than any other place in South America.
Now-- a normal decision. Where to go. Patagonia? The Atlantic? Buenos Aires? Who knows?
Normally we just follow our hearts.
Deep contemplation in Argentinian fashion.
after a little nap.
There are more photos below