Monday, 14 March 2011

Patagonian dreaming

Buenos Aires is addictive but a wee break to the South of Argentina comes as a welcome relief. Things I don’t like about Buenos Aires: you can drink the tap water but it tastes like bleach; it is situated right by the sea but you can’t swim in it (such a torture!); and then all the unoriginal city gripes: the traffic, the pollution, the poverty, the dangers (see previous blog entry about that). A relatively small list for such an overwhelmingly large city.

So, a holiday within a holiday with madre and madre’s other half.
Two days in El Calafate (trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier is stunning), two days in El Chalten for some lightweight trekking (for which I have put aside vanity and bought my first ever trekking shoes) and then two days on a bus heading north to Bariloche on Ruta 40. The name sounds grand, but the road most certainly is not. Mostly gravel, it means the drivers can go at the average speed of a milk float, slowing further at one point to allow an armadillo to bravely cross the road in front of us.

As we lurch up the highway on day one I wonder when the next food and toilet stop will be, the only respite from the relentlessly grinding open road. We eventually pull into the aptly named ‘Siberia’ cafe and toilet stop around lunchtime. Hunger draws us into the restaurant area where we are met with a groaning pile of fried meat empanadas, ham and cheese wedge-like sandwiches and cubes of cake. Fruit and vegetables have clearly not reached this remote back of beyond place. Ok, ham and cheese sandwiches all round then. Madre lifts the top slice of bread looking inside hopefully, willing there to be lettuce, tomato, mayo, butter, something. Nope this is minimalism incarnate, albeit with food.

We arrive in Bariloche late on day two (narrowly escaping scurvy) and drive around the lakes for the next two days. Sadly the sky is crowded with clouds and drizzle falls from the sky on both days. Well this is the Lake District and so it fittingly resembles my childhood memories of the Lake District in England. Just bigger: the roads, the mountains, the towns, the cars, the clouds, all magnified.

Now alone in a new city, a new country: Montevideo, Uruguay. Keeping my fingers crossed the sun will shine enough for me to enjoy the beaches further north.

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