I Fell In Love In Argentina
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Where I stayed
1004 - Hostel
The best part about my room was it had a huge TV, there was about 8 blankets on the bed, Free WiFi, and the bathroom was right across the hall
In the morning (Wednesday July 29th) I am the first to wake up and I hurry to the bathroom in deperate need of a HOT SHOWER. I wait in the cold watching my breath form in clowds of smoke waiting for the steamy loveliness to rise. 7 minutes later the steam started to form and I rush to get into the shower not knowing how long the water would be hot. These are the moments that I miss the USA, where the water is hot and the HEAT is Centralized. I sing a little song and am swept away in my own thoughts. I think of the week that has just passed and the rest of the week yet to come. I think I was just prolonging getting out of the shower and back into the TUNDRA. Unfortunately for Lisa by the time she got in the shower other people in the house had woken up and now there was not hot water. We get ready and go downstairs to have breakfast
At the Bus Station we look for our bus and the Conductor waves to us to get on the bus, as if he knows that we are going to Bariloche. We say we need to go to Bariloche he says, "Yes Bariloche." We look at our ticket and see that it is the correct bus. The bus is so warm and comfortable. The entire time the Conductor is flirting with me, it is so funny and proof that Argentine Men are real BIG FLIRTS. In no time we are at the Border and have to get off the bus to go through customs. We have to fill out a customs card and show our Passports. Lisa and I have no problems getting through customs but the old man in front of us is having a hard time with his paperwork. Apparently he looked questionalbe to the custom's officers. Outside a our bags have been taken off the bus for the DOGS to Sniff and Search. I am kind of nervous because I still have an orange and some chips in my backpack. Of all the thousands of people that a caught trafficing DRUGS I don't want to be detained trying to smuggle fruit across the border. Ironicly I was not stopped but Lisa was and all she had in her backpack was a bra and a pair of panties that she could not fit in her carry-on bag. She was so embarassed that the guards had to pick through her UNDIES
We talked to the old man that was having problems in customs and found out that his name was Luis and he was from Spain but has been leaving in Argentina for the past 30 years. He asked where we were from and when we told him he asked if we were Monkas ,which is spanish for Nuns. Now I have been asked a lot of questions in my life but no one has ever confused me with being a NUN. He said that his sister is a nun in Africa and he thought we might be here in Argentina on a mission. We told him NO and had a little laugh. Then he asked if we were Mormons and we were even more shocked by that question because we didn't know there were black Mormons. Come to find out that all of his brothers and sisters are either priests or nuns in countrys were there are not many Spanish/Latin people so he assumes we were here for religious reasons. We told him that we were teachers in Chile and were just on vacation. He gave us tips to be safe but said that we should not have much to worry about because Bariloche was pretty safe but to remember the tips incase we wanted to go to Buenos Aires (it is really dangerous there).
Driving through Argentina was like living a novel while it was being written. Winding roads, snow covered hills and sloping valleys materializing like fresh thoughts on paper. This was the moment I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE ANDES. Oh sure I have seen them from the road in Parral, or traveling the to Petrohue but I was unaware how truly magnificant this mountain range was until this moment
We arrive in Bariloche and it is like being in Swedish town. The architecture and the layout of the streets is not what I expected but the chatter of travelers in spanish let me know that I was indeed in Argentina. The Hostel was called 1004 and a representitve from the Hostel was there to meet us, at the bus station, and drive us to the hostel. In the ride to the Hostel we met a man from South Africa (Kevin) and a young lady from Germany (Meriam) who had come to Bariolche to ski. "We don't get much snow in South Africa so when I am in South America I come to Bariloche to ski and have a little fun." Kevin said in his thick rustic South African (he pronounces it Efrican) accent.
I would have to say this was the best Hostel ever on the Face of the Earth, or at least the best that I have stayed in since I have been traveling in South America. First of all they had an elevator, which I was beinging to think had been outlawed in this country
The Manager, Anna, gave us a tour of the hostel and showed us our room. I could not help that every room seemed to have a view of the city. We settled in and decided we would go downstairs and buy a ticket for at boat ride for the next morning. The cost was $200 Argentine Pesos ($50 USD) for an 8 hour excursion. We would take a boat and sail across Lake Nahuel Hualpi (pronounced Naw-well-wah-pee), to Arrayanes National Park, have lunch and then a tour of Victoria Island. In the Mapuche language (the native language) Nahuel means Tiger and Huapi means Island.
What a great day for a boat ride (July 30th) and picture taking. After we recieved our preliminary information from the tour guides we were released to go top side for photos. A flock of sea gulls was in a high persuit of our vessel. I realized later on the top deck there were several people feeding the sea gulls leftover bread and crackers. If you have ever been around sea gulls you will know they are greedy little buggers and will do anything for food. I drink in the atmosphere and wish that my family and friends could be here to share this experience with me
After 30 minutes of travel we dock at Arrayanes National Park. The park has an area of 17.53 square kilometers and covers the Quetrihué Peninsula (pronounced Kay-tree-way) on the shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Arrayan is the name of the trees that grow on this pennisula. These trees cover a great part of the peninsula (there are other types of tree such as Evergreens and Cypress) and some are are from 300 to 600 years old. The park was created in 1971 to protect its forest of rare arrayán trees. To protect the soil and the roots of these fragile trees, a wooden path has been made for the tourist to enjoy the view of the cinnamon-colored trees with twisted branches. The bark of these trees are so thin that it is very cold to the touch. It is said that this forest inspired Walt Disney for the scenography of the movie Bambi.
I talk to several of my companions from the boat and find that most of them are from Brazil
Forty five minutes have past and it is time to get back on the boat and head for Victoria Island. On the island we have lunch and I was so glad to sit down at this point. We had walked up and down rocky hills and my feet were killing me. Lisa and I had bought food for lunch the night before so we did not have to wait in the long line for lunch. A good tip: It you are traveling and want to save money go to a local market and by food and spent that money on other things. If it were not for wind coming off the lake we would have eaten outside. It was such a beautiful clear day but the warmth of the cafeteria was calling to us. Inside we found seats in the back, and our table was right infront of a picture window. Most of the grounds could be seen from this spot. I started to imagine what it would be like to live on an island such as this. To have a lake and the mountains in my back yard
After we had our fill of lunch we decide to walk off our meal. There was a 300 meter path along the lake, and we were told to remember to keep the lake to our right side. We walked and the more I saw the more I was falling in love with the Andes. Its reflection in the crystal blue water was heavenly. I could hear the call of birds and other wild animals like a chior singing out an untamed lullaby for all to enjoy. Me make our way to the shore of the lake and sit on a log relaxing and collecting our thoughts. Often when I am alone with my thoughts I am taken millions of miles away. At this moment I am transfixed, paralized in tranquility not wanting to breath with fear that time might regain its momentum and continue to move forward.
Time slips by, as if riding on a breeze and before long it was time to meet with guide and tour the island. There were 2 course options, a 4 kilometer and a 2 kilometer version
The great part of the tour wat the guide Marco, told us to stay close to him because we were the only English speakers on the tour. He would tell us information and translate it to the rest of the group. One of the interesting parts of the tour was the Sequoia Trees. I did not expect to see these trees here because I know they are native to Califorina. Known as the California Redwood, these trees have been known to live up to 2,200 years, and this species includes the tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to 379.1 ft in height and 26 ft in diameter. The guide said these trees were brought here because they wanted to reforest the island and they needed trees that had good wood. Without a natural preditors the growth of this tree would grow faster on this island than in the USA. A height that would take the tree to grow in 40 years in the USA would only take 20 on Victoria Island. Unfortunately seeds of the trees are locked in a cone, and the cones need heat (FIRE) in order to release the seeds
We contine to walk and the guide informs us of the origin of one tree and then another and all of it was very interesting, and the 2 things that will remain in my mind is first, the highest peak that can be seen from victoria island. I can't remember the name because I forgot to write it down but it is said that is you look close, and have a good imagination you will be able to see the face of a man. And the other thing I will remember is this tree that was planted on the island 30 years ago. It grows very slow and will take at least a 120 years to grow to full height. I stand next to the tree and see that I am barely taller then the you sapling. If Charlie Brown were here even he would shake is head, is in disapproval, at the diminutive stature of this tree. As frail as it looked it can withstand icy cold weather and torrential rain. This flimsy little weed could hold its own, up against the likes of the giant sequoia. Standing nearly the same height, and 34 years old I found comfort that everything will reach its full potential in its own time. Only 86 more years to go, if I hang in there I could even grow another inch or two. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen
After the tour we board the boat and set sale to our original location. It has been a long day and is time for us to go back to the main land and get something to eat. When we get back to the hotel we walk around and look for a bite to eat. We find a little shop and stuff ourselves with pizza. I have to get back because I will be going back to Chile in the morning. We return to the hotel to find we have new roommates. The room has 3 bunk beds and 2 of the girls that were there lastnight are replaced by tall blonde young man, that looked like he should be on a beach in California with a surf board under his arm. He was speaking in perfect spanish with his female companion. I ask him were his is from, in spanish, and his answer was clear, "Austin, Texas." Lisa and I crack up laughing, of all the things we expected him to say Texas was not one of them. I am glad I did not say anything rude about him, thinking he could not understand English. His name was Kyle and he was in Argentina as a graduation present to himself. Our other new roommate was Daniel, a husky Argentine with a very animated face. With every word his face became an complete theatrical performance; a seperate character/personality within itself.
I wake up the next morning (July 31st) and catch a bus for Orsorno. I give Lisa a kiss goodbye, she will stay one more day because she wants to take a Tango lesson; now the 2 become ONE!! Before long it is 11:30 am and I am in Orsorno and when I go to buy my ticket to Parral I find out the next bus for Parral will not leave until 11:40pm. With 12 to walk around the Excessively Polluted Malodorous city of Orsorno. I ran out of batteries so I did not get a chance to take any pictures and I wasn't going to spend one peso, of my last $10Mil peso, on batteries to take pictures of this Arm Pit of a town
We talked for hours about our travels and our experiences living in Chile. I look out the window and notice the Andes are following me back to Parral, which is good because I could not bare a day without them. The next thing I know I am in Parral and Raul is at the bus terminal waiting for me. It would seem like years since I have seen him and Eliana. He gives me a big hug and we go to the house where Eliana is still sleeping. I run and jump on the bed and she wakes up laughing and hugging me as if her life depended on it. It was great to travel but ever better to be home. Later that day they have a big BBQ to celebrate my return home.
Thanks for taking this journey with me and I will type to you soon. Remember home is where your heart is and family is transcends genetics. THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!!