All in South America

Chicha in Lima

Desert silence at the edge of light's end is both exhilarating and terrifying.  Watch the sun disappear in that place and you will know the darkness of death: the black of Day One; the space beyond singularity, outside the light of known Universe; a port-a-john at a combat outpost in the middle of Afghanistan under clouded skies and a New Moon.  Two days into a four day bus ride from Puerto Montt, Chile to Lima, Peru - with a cracked throat, perceivable layer of plaque build-up, axel-greasy hair, checked-bags under eyes - and these kinds of Jim Morrison, acid thoughts started to cross my mind as I stared into a grain of sand upon a rock in the Atacama out the bus window, sitting in my sweaty, damp seat and breathing in the stale breath and farts of 50 other people.  Most of the time a situation isn't as bad as I picture it in my head; this bus ride fell into that other category.  It was in that category of "never again." Having a full bladder while wearing a tight parachute harness in turbulence represents a similar level of agony.  Desert occupied in front and on the periphery from Santiago to Lima for three straight days.  Needless to say, arriving in Lima provided a literal breath of fresh air, a shower, and a much needed full night's sleep in a completely horizontal position.

Riding the Patagonian Wave

The wide open landscapes of Chilean Patagonia beckoned us from Argentina.  In the wild but within city limits we looked forward to quieter nights with fewer street lights.  Our friend Tony claimed since last July that he planned to meet up in Patagonia; despite his commitment and persistence, his appearance in the flesh at the Bariloche airport still surprised us.  The airline losing his bags and not ours came as no surprise: an indoctrination into the chaos and unpredictability rampant south of the border.  We thought Murphy, already exhausted with us, had moved onto Tony.  That hypothesis proved very wrong.  If only the Universe was so logical, life could be more predictable; but alas, it is not; and, instead, we get excitement, confusion, pain, and the promise of discovery.  We certainly got more than we bargained for in Patagonia and became increasingly aware of our infinitely small part in it.  At some point, coming to this realization, you begin to roll with the punches.  I’m always surprised how short term this knowledge proves to be and how quickly you go back to controlling.

Fire & Ice

Bariloche only served as a basecamp for our Patagonian adventures and introduced us to some of the challenges we would be facing throughout Patagonia - namely, finding cash, finding buses, finding wi-fi.  I see it now as an opportunity to practice patience; at the time I was ripping my hair out, and when the Rentalcars.com customer service representative informed me via email that our rental car was no longer available - two hours before pick-up - a frustratingly accurate proverb from Murphy crossed my mind: if it can go wrong, it will.  But it eventually worked out and we scored a set of wheels.  Getting to San Martin alone could fill the page with blue skies, summer sun, glacial lakes, sandy beaches, unsuccessful hitchhikers, and a soundtrack of suffering transmission and rattling car parts brought to you by General Motors in the form of a mid 90s Chevy Classic - our carriage for the next four days.  We arrived to San Martin three hours late, spent two hours gathering provisions from five different stores, and finally drove to the outskirts of town, down a dirt road towards a “rendezvous” with our AirBNB host, Valeria.

Stranger Things in Buenos Aires

I watched the lightning strike outside and a streetlight turn on through a candle in the foreground.  The thunder rumbled, the sky lit up, and the clouds opened, releasing the rain in sheets. Remaining dry in our new AirBNB in Buenos Aires, the window played all this like a television.  Buenos Aires is the most cosmopolitan city in South America.  What I found amazing was the juxtaposition of European ambiance with a bold Argentinian twist.  Timeless Renaissance and Classical European buildings house large Argentinian grills cooking Choripan in a cloud of smoke; taxi drivers maintain conversation with each other through the open windows of their cabs while roaring down wide French boulevards at dangerous speeds; unmeasured South American chaos wears away at the sharp European edge.  It’s a coin at the heart with lots of European polish on one side; but the other, more interesting, ragged, and unique, still falls face up half the time.  

The Argentinian Smokey Medium

The circumstances that landed us in San Luis, Argentina seem completely impossible in a more organized version of the Universe.  To think that a chance click from my computer in Georgia and the consequent encounter with a couple running an AirBNB would find us a bed and friends in San Luis, Argentina and two fantastic craft brewery contacts months later seems a bit preordained - or otherwise, too good to be true.  But that's the way it happened; and if you asked me how it would turn out while I was sitting in my pajamas on my parents' couch last October, what I'd be doing in December, or if this trip would work out at all I'd stare right back with shrugged shoulders, hands turned up, pinched lips, and wide eyes.  I never could have predicted the path and could never have planned it so well.  Often you need the very basis of a plan to give you (and those around you) the confidence to step off and set foot on the journey, mission, etc; but most of the plan develops along with the information coming in, and as a result, you find a plan that better suits your current situation.  Eventually, after you've seen enough plans fail you come to this realization and still fight it every time.  I've gotten to a point where I think that Sara and I are completely out of our minds most of the time; and then there's an experience like San Luis, and we can smile at each other and reassure ourselves that we are not wrong about this.

The Farmhouse's Ale

Memories of Argentina will forever drown me in the Impressional blur visioned through the bottom of a tumbler looking up at the dim bar light; then, with that image in mind, out the door into a warm evening or an incredibly frigid night, wearing a thick wool jacket, the rush of comfort and deep meaning overwhelm in inexplicable ebullience.  Argentina is a feeling for me.  A good one.  And I carry it as the Ford Ranger that carried us into the country: along winding roads; up steep switchbacks appearing to end catastrophically; climbing through quiet no man’s land under moonlight reflecting on ancient glaciers. I looked back at Chile to say farewell.  The landscape slowly turned from mountains to hills to rolling plains and finally to the piedmont, at the foot of the giants, where one looks west and sees the sun setting behind the elevated horizon hours before it would on the other side.  The arid landscape was noticeable even in the middle of the night, and I alternated between staring out the window and reading a book until finally I fell asleep.  I woke up to a change in the consistent flow of driving.  A stuttering pattern indicated we were entering a town and approaching our destination: Nikko's house and our bed for the next three nights.