Argentina: Dear John

Dear John,

Sorry you got sick on your giant trip of awesome wherein I was terrified you wouldn’t have fun.  But hey, the worst happened.  You definitely weren’t having fun.  Here’s what we did while you were running a fever, hemorrhaging snot, and struggling with wanting to be asleep but being too miserable to manage it.

We had our last day in Buenos Aires for a bit.  You didn’t really like Buenos Aires, so that was okay.  We went to check out the planetarium but it’s really just an omnimax theater and the movie was only in Spanish, so that was no good.  Instead we went to the botanical gardens, which was quite pretty.  I took a bunch of pictures.  Then we got on the overnight bus to Bariloche, and I continued my enthusiasm for street graffitti.  You see dirty sings of bad maintenance, I see fantastically surreal, quality art.

The bus was fantastically comfortable.  Better than first class on a plane level of fantastic.  You were pretty far gone at that point.

Me: John, there’s a dinosaur out our window.

John: Huh?

Me: A dinosaur.  On the side of the road.  Out the window.

John: I have no idea what you’re saying.

Me: It looks hungry.  They have hungry dinosaurs stalking the highways out here.

John: I’m going back to sleep now.

We made it to our hotel in Bariloche, which was fairly nice, and put you to bed while I scouted around town.  I was right, you would like Bariloche.  Maybe you’ll get to see it some day.

 

You still weren’t feeling well the next day, so I did what all supportive friends/travel buddies do: I went and had adventures without you.  This involved sleeping in as late as I could and still get hotel breakfast, then wandering around Bariloche until I found an afternoon tour I wanted to take.

 

Bariloche is cute.  It’s definitely a tourist town – you don’t get that many shops selling kitsch and chocolate otherwise, but there’s a real town under it.  The town is quaint, the setting gorgeous, and the chocolate is quite good.

 

I wound up booking a boat tour that would go out to Los Arrayanes park, and to Isla Victoria.  They offered guides in Spanish and English, but since you were sick in bed, I decided to conduct the day in Spanish.  This confused the hell out of a couple from New York who seemed to assume that since I was alone and American, too, we’d be best friends.  They wound up finding a pair of sisters from New York who went on at length about travelling around the Turkish isles on the family boat of a friend from business school.  And about how New York is the best place ever, ever.  I’m sure I regret playing native rather than having that conversation.

 

The boat ride was quite nice.  I was on a boat called the Cui Cui which, if I understood the tour guide correctly, is the native word for goose.  It’s a really good thing I could mostly understand the Spanish since the tour guide on the boat generally went on for ten minutes in Spanish, then in English did the, “Be back at the boat by x time,” part of the spiel.

 

I’m finding the internet to generally suck at providing information about Patagonian flora which is frustrating since it’s visually fascinating and I’d like to know more about it including, in some cases, what it’s even called.  You can get a bit of information about Arrayanes trees on wikipedia.  I’d describe them as South American birch trees.  Their trunks have the same smooth texture and narrow shape.

 

When we were in Iceland there were parts that were very Middle Earth, especially Mordor.  Argentina hasn’t triggered the same impression nearly so much, but this forest is definitely in the running for Lórien.

 

This part of the tour was a nice walk, fairly short, over quickly, and back onto the boat.  One man in a bright orange coat stopped, looking very confused and in Spanish asked, “You speak Spanish?” to which I answered with my standard, “Yes, a bit.”  “Where are you from?” “The United States.” “Oh?  Where?” “Wisconsin.”  “But it’s cold there!”  He then ran off to tell the lady he was with that the sunburned girl was from Wisconsin, where it’s cold, and she speaks Spanish.  This was my first clue about how very conspicuous I was.

 

As you’ll recall, I think, we were both rather sunburned from walking in Buenos Aires, despite staying in the shade.  I glowed a bit.  You blamed your early fever phase on sun exposure.  I have not yet seen other sun burned people here.  I think everybody else in this country may be smarter than us.

 

Isla Victoria was gorgeous.  There was more tour guide guidance for this leg, and so I got to feel smug as the guide talked about different fungi growing on the trees, the history of the settlement of the island, and the different approaches to conservation that have been used since the park was created.  Smug, because I more or less understood it all.  You can eat the little red fungi, but they aren’t sweet.

 

One thing I noticed across both legs of the tour is how much less maintained these forests seem than what I’m used to.  There are fallen trees and downed branches everywhere.  I’d thought at first that it was just a consequence of the bit of logging they do to cull the forest on Isla Victoria, but this is just a feature of the woods all over the place.  There are tons of very old trees, but there are also tons of trees that just keel over.

 

Back on the boat I was hanging out, having a good time, when I hear a nice middle aged lady comment, in Spanish, to her friend, “Look how sunburned that girl is.”

“It happened in Buenos Aires,” I said.  “We thought we were doing a good job of staying in the shade.”

“You speak Spanish?” the woman said.

“Yes, a bit.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.  We’d have been talking to you, but we didn’t think we’d understand.  Where are you from?”

 

We chatted the rest of the way back to the harbor.  They were a group of friends, all from Argentina (somewhere north something), visiting Bariloche because it’s a nice town and that’s what retired people in Argentina do.  They agreed that the sun in Buenos Aires is pernicious.  They were very sorry you weren’t feeling well, but hoped I’d had a good time without you, and that you’d feel better soon.

 

And this is a picture I took from our hotel window, so you’ll always remember the one part of Bariloche you did get to see!  No need to thank me; I know I’m the best 🙂

Love,

Me

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