Monday, April 2, 2012

I thought I left Arizona

When Angela left me in Buenos Aires I had about 2 weeks to kill before Justin was going to get here. Really, that's how it felt and I was left with the challenge of trying to figure out how I was supposed to fill that time. Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be all pumped that I am wandering around without any responsibility or agenda, and it IS a pretty sweet gig, but the thing is, there is this boy, and I kind of miss him. So not having any plans really makes time drag. So what is a girl to do with almost 2 weeks in Argentina?

I had a bunch of ideas...but it seems that this portion of my trip is about things not really falling into place. That's ok. It's not ideal, but let's be honest, it's not like I HAVE to do anything really. I thought about making a whirwind trip through the very north of Argentina into the massive salt flats of Bolivia. I've had my eye on that region for a while and really wanted to get up there. I had a nice route planned too...and then I saw that the weather had been rough up there and a bunch of roads and railroads were closed due to heavy rains.

Oh yeah, it's rainy season up north.

So I had to scratch that. I'm still not sure when I am going to make it to those salt flats. I really want to go, but they just aren't on the way to anything. I guess that is something to mull over later. Meanwhile I had to make some decisions. As comfortable as it is just posting up in Buenos Aires, I really need to get moving. It was far too comfortable there in that nice house...and if I didn't get going, I might just stay there. So what to do?

Well...I knew I had to be in Cordoba on the 29th the catch a flight to Lima. But what is kind of along the way? What should I see? Well, I hadn´t been to Mendoza, and I heard that was nice, even if I'm not into wine. Apparently the landscape around is supposed to be really pretty - similar to the southwest. Like Bariloche, I was considering trying to find some winter work around there for maybe, just maybe, working somewhere during the ski season. Las Lenas is supposed to be world class. If I worked my way back to Cordoba from Mendoza I could possibly get to see a couple national parks that they say are like a little Monument Valley...and one of them has Dinosaur tracks.

So that's the plan: Mendoza to San Luis to Cordoba and then Lima to see about this boy.  That should make even 2 weeks go by quickly. Lets be honest, everything in Argentina is far away and I would be spending a third of my time glued to a bus seat watching terrible movies and trying to sleep. But at least I would be doing something, going somewhere...and watching those days and hours tick by.

I had gotten careless in my planning. I got used to just showing up at the bus terminal and buying a ticket for the next bus to wherever I wanted to go. But then I forgot for a second that I was still in Argentina, and Argentina it seems, is always on some sort of holiday. It was a holiday weekend, which I didn't know, and my host family was very concerned that I wouldn't be able to get a bus. I told them it should be fine. I checked the website the day before and there were all kinds of seats available, but for whatever reason I couldn't buy my ticket online. But that was the day before.

I needed to travel today. So I got back on the website, and everything was sold except one seat on the very last bus. How did that happen? My wonderful host mom swept in, got on the phone and called to reserve me that last seat. Don't worry, she told me, you'll get to Mendoza. She was right, I did get there. It was an uncomfortable and hungry propositioin, but I did get there. Night buses man, I am really starting to hate night buses. I did however, get to Mendoza.

I soon discovered that I was probably the only person there who wanted to so something other than a wine tour. This was crazy to me, as there is all kinds of stuff to do outside of drinking wine in Mendoza; hiking, river rafting, climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding...and the region boasts one of the tallest mountians in the andes if you are into mountaineering. There was one downfall though...everything, I mean everything, makes you go on a tour. Have I mentioned before how much I dislike tours? Especially on hikes. Come one man, I can follow a trail. Worse are car tours, you just sit in a car and look at the world pass you by....and they are expensive. But I had no choice. It was either suck it up and go with a tour or don't go anywhere at all.

So I went on a tour.

Minus the being stuck in a car for most of the day, I did get to see a lot of the beautiful desert scenery. I was blow away by how much it reminded me of Arizona. I also found it hard to believe that this area is completely covered in snow in the winter. Covered in enough snow to ski. But it is so...desert. The next day I headed back out on another tour. This time to go river rafting. In retrospect I recognize I was trying to make up for the experience I was too cheap to pay for in Pucon. I really should have done this in Pucon. But I did it in Mendoza. It was fun, I wouldn't go so far as to call them rapids. After that I was ready to move on. No more tours in Mendoza...I was burning through money way too fast.

Off to San Luis! I was optimistic to see the national park: Parque Nacional Sierra de las Quijadas. This is where the famous dinosour tracks are supposed to be. I wanted to see some dinosour tracks. I had also read that this was like a mini monument valley. These were all good things. I was determined to do this not on a tour. So I took a public bus, and got dropped off on the side of the highway. This was a good start. I paid my park entrance fee....and then was told that if I wanted to see the dinosour tracks I had to pay for a was like $50! The trail is clearly marked. This is garbage. What the hell?!

I get all the way over there just to find out if I want to see anything I have to take a stinkin' tour? Are you kidding me? I will not. So I wandered around the upper trails, the parts that I could access without a guide and looked longingly a the trailhead that would take me to dinasour tracks. I considered just going for it and taking my chances. I could just insert lost confused tourist face if I get caught. But I am so bad at breaking rules and even worse at lying. The view from the upper trails was good too...and it was a lot like the American Southwest. I wouldn't say it was a mini monument valley, but it strikingly similar to the region.

Because I took a local bus gettting out there I had to wait for the local bus to get back. Which for me meant a lot of standing around on the side of the highway. After about 40 minutes and about half a dozen semis had signaled to pick me up I was starting to regret having pre-bought my ticket back to San Luis. I totally could have hitched this road...and now it was getting dark and still no sign of the local bus. I told myself I would wait for 20 more minutes, and if the bus doesn't show, I'll flag down the next semi and be on my merry way. By  then the mosquitos were having a feast on my naked legs and I was already pretty hungry. The local bus did finally show up, so flagged it down and climbed on in. Yes, you still have to flag the bus to stop. It's not like I'm in a town or anything...really, it's not all that different from hitchhiking.

By this time I had managed to kill just shy of a week. Only a little more than one to go until Justin was getting here. So my dubious plan was working. Next stop before Lima was Cordoba. I was going to try my luck couchsurfing again. But this time it was with just one guy, not a house full of guys. Plus he was an architect, and I seem to have good luck with architects.

He said he would come pick me up from the terminal in Cordoba. When I got off the bus, there he was waiting for me with a big smile on his face. It was helpful that he looked just like the picture on his Couchsurfing profile. He has the face of a boy, full-round cheeks, shaggy brown hair, big toothy smile. I liked him right away. His name is Gonzalo, and for some reason that is a very difficult name for me to Rodrigo. Something about them, they just don't roll easy off the tongue. He said it was ok, I could just call him Gon. It worked out. Like a gentleman he took my backpack. I warned him that it was heavy...I don't think he believed me until he put it on. His eyes bulged out bit and there was the familiar huff that happens to taxi drivers when they try to take my pack. I stiffled my laugh as best I could, but I DID warn him.

We got to his apartment. It's a funky little place right in the middle of town. You could tell right when you walked in the door that he was an architect. But his real passion was music. The living room was full of all different kinds of guitars, bass guitars, drums and even a tamborine. He had this cool design on one of the walls, with a series of small metal bars creating a pattern. I asked him what it was. It was the pattern from a music box wheel that he had as a kid. I think we are going to get along real good. And we did. I had a great time in Cordoba with my awesome host. We didn't do anything crazy, just a lot of hanging around with his friends and family. We cooked, shared music and stories, and he took me to see his first project...a house he designed and built for his mother. I nicknamed it the Yoshi house, and we sat in the living room with his mom and shared mate all afternoon.

And somehow it happend, it was time to fly to Lima. Only 3 more days and Justin would be there. I was looking forward to seeing him, and really looking forward to spending my next few days with my great hosts in Lima. I didn't know how Laura and Steve could possibly top my last visit, but it wouldn't matter. I would be with familiar faces and then...get to see my favorite familiar face.

So, yeah....those two weeks, they went by. Just like 6 months has.

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