11 February 2008
I realize I've so far written more about the landscape and the accomodation than about people. That's not right, since I met a lot of very nice people in the way. Marita and Aldo in Junín de los Andes, of course; but also Ana behind the counter in Malargüe's hostel, who got us one more day of stay by juggling with reservations; a certain backpacker and his girlfriend in Lake Huechulafquen, who gave me useful pointers and pleasurable conversation after a whole day of walking alone; a couple of guys from Buenos Aires, another couple of guys from somewhere else; a biologist from Córdoba named Gonzalo who taught me a couple of things about those curious birds I was trying to get pictures of; a girl from Quilmes (Carina) who pushed my lazy ass around in San Martín de los Andes and got me to see the Mirador Arrayán and Chapelco, as well as handing me the pamphlet that led me to my last hostel; Patricia, a girl from Spain, residing in Ireland, who must be still traveling around South America after three months away from home; a guy named Raúl and a girl named Josefina in San Martín de los Andes, who walked with me to Mirador Bandurrias on my last day there; Esteban, a guy from San Lorenzo (a mere 20 km from Rosario) who made and cooked pizza and empanadas from the basic ingredients, just for fun, while in the hostel; and others that I can't remember or whose names I can't recall.
I need to say this, because otherwise I might give the impression that it's OK for me to walk around shooting pictures and do nothing else. But the novelty of marvelous sceneries eventually wears off, and in the end it's often more satisfying to come back to wherever you're staying and have something for dinner while chatting about your adventures with people who may not have been there, and trying to describe what you saw to them, or with others who were there before and don't mind comparing notes, so to speak. Even better if you join others, or get others to join. Conversation for the time being, contacts for the future, at the very least; and the joy of sharing those things you (re)discover when you're on a trip.
I had so much fun during this trip. I also found myself, as they say, a couple of times — and as usual it wasn't a pleasant finding, but one always learns from these.
On Wednesday, January 23, I said goodbye to the people at Ladera Norte, and took a cab to the bus terminal. With me went Esteban ("Esteban the Cook"), who by sheer coincidence had not only bought his return ticket on the same day and the same bus as me, but also on a seat on the same row as mine, and along came Josefina, one of my trekking pals of the previous day, who had to exchange a ticket and wanted to wave us bye-bye in person. We departed San Martín de los Andes at 1:45 PM.
I slept long stretches, stared at the changing landscape, ate cookies, drank water, read and re-read Susan Sontag's On Photography (that Marisa had lent me), chatted with Esteban when we were both awake, got off the bus on every stop to stretch my legs. The trip to Rosario lasted almost 25 hours. When the bus entered my home city, I realised I'd missed it. At the same time, I saw it briefly as it was under the summer sun — large, sprawling, sun-scorched concrete; dirty sidewalks, very green trees; kids on wooden carts pulled by horses, sweaty joggers along the avenues. I stepped down from the bus, spent. It was asphyxiatingly hot, not nearly as hot as it had been while I was away, they told me later. I took a bus home. I felt weak, a bit sick. Maybe it was the heat, humidity, air pressure. I slept and slept, even though I'd slept maybe 16 of the last 24 hours.
I think I came back, truly, a week later.