Last pictures

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

http://picasaweb.google.com/maia.rauschenberg/BarilocheToBA#

Things to bring home

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 

This time, BA doesn’t seem so busy– probably because I’m seeing it from a bus seat, not from a speeding Renault. Or maybe because I can more or less understand things, questions, buses, etc. We go from one airport to the other at a snail’s pace. Which is good. I’m already sentimental about leaving Argentina. I have a little handmade bracelet of blue and white, which is supposed to remind me when I get home about this place. I love it here. It’s like home in the mixta, the vibrant young energy, but it’s laid back and far more forgiving. F once told me, “I could be happy with two pesos in my pocket” and I believe him. And I think about that a lot, how our North American culture values objective achievement, and the pressure to succeed just weighs on me, an unemployed houseguest-of-friends-and-relatives, sheepish eater of other people’s peanut butter. I’ve never been good at achieving. Objective things, I mean. I’d like to just live like a Patagonian. Where if you have a mate and a friend, it’s a good day.

So tonight, we wait for our red-eye home. We are drinking away our last few pesos, which doesn’t go far in this airport bar. The sky is blue and white.

Bariloche

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 

Bariloche is a different Patagonia. A busy, stone, alpine Swiss Patagonia. With a chocolatier and fondue haus on every block. It’s green here, with wildflowers in bloom everywhere; retana, lupine and poppies. The lake is blue. Its windy and rains often. European-style ski huts line the roads out towards Cerro Otto and Cathedral. The artesans in the square sell more wooden spoons and gnome figurines than mate cups. It’s beautiful here, breathtaking, but doesn’t feel remote in the least, doesn’t feel like wilderness, or rawness, or liminality.

I’m going paragliding. I’ve wanted to do this for years. I have these dreams every so often where I take off flying, and it’s my favorite dream, until I realize I’m flying and start falling. That’s the most vivid part, I see trees and land getting closer, bigger. I know it’s going to hurt a lot, feel helpless limbs which are not wings.

We have to go the day after Ruta 40. I am still recovering from the trip, and have a cold, but this is the only day the weather will be good enough, E says. So after much confusion and coffee, we load up five into a tiny Puegot which nonetheless can still do 130 uphill, and take off to El Bolson, where the winds are lighter. What a day! The sky is blue and nearly cloudless, the sun is just warm enough. And this land is so green, I still can’t believe it after all the desert. We drive up the side of a mountain, just shy of treeline. We can see Otto towards the north, and are surrounded by perfect snow-capped picturesque Andes.

I don a turquoise flight suit, strap up to Federico, and we wait for the right gust. When it comes he jerks the wing into the air and we simply run off the mountain. I’m airborne!– but it’s not like in my dreams– here, you can feel the mechanism, the wing and the wind moving you. Not quite like an albatross, more like a plastic bag. But still! There’s cold wind in my face, and I am off earth! I can almost kick a treetop once, we sail back and forth up the mountainside. Then we are over the valley, 1000 meters up, and I suddenly feel vulnerable for the first time. It’s a long way down. We go there, slowly– shout “ciao!” at all the people who wave– and come to a tolerably graceful landing.

I spend the rest of the week feeling displaced. These Eupropean-style buildings, the verdant mountains, the liederhosen. Drivers not only lock their cars but have car alarms, and cashiers give (mostly correct) change, and we can’t walk to open space. Still, it’s lovely. We eat ice cream and chocolate and lake salmon, and visit some of the microbreweries.

Bariloche

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 

Bariloche is a different Patagonia. A busy, stone, alpine Swiss Patagonia. With a chocolatier and fondue haus on every block. It’s green here, with wildflowers in bloom everywhere; retana, lupine and poppies. The lake is blue. Its windy and rains often. European-style ski huts line the roads out towards Cerro Otto and Cathedral. The artesans in the square sell more wooden spoons and gnome figurines than mate cups. It’s beautiful here, breathtaking, but doesn’t feel remote in the least, doesn’t feel like wilderness, or rawness, or liminality.

I’m going paragliding. I’ve wanted to do this for years. I have these dreams every so often where I take off flying, and it’s my favorite dream, until I realize I’m flying and start falling. That’s the most vivid part, I see trees and land getting closer, bigger. I know it’s going to hurt a lot, feel helpless limbs which are not wings.

We have to go the day after Ruta 40. I am still recovering from the trip, and have a cold, but this is the only day the weather will be good enough, E says. So after much confusion and coffee, we load up five into a tiny Puegot which nonetheless can still do 130 uphill, and take off to El Bolson, where the winds are lighter. What a day! The sky is blue and nearly cloudless, the sun is just warm enough. And this land is so green, I still can’t believe it after all the desert. We drive up the side of a mountain, just shy of treeline. We can see Otto towards the north, and are surrounded by perfect snow-capped picturesque Andes.

I don a turquoise flight suit, strap up to Federico, and we wait for the right gust. When it comes he jerks the wing into the air and we simply run off the mountain. I’m airborne!– but it’s not like in my dreams– here, you can feel the mechanism, the wing and the wind moving you. Not quite like an albatross, more like a plastic bag. But still! There’s cold wind in my face, and I am off earth! I can almost kick a treetop once, we sail back and forth up the mountainside. Then we are over the valley, 1000 meters up, and I suddenly feel vulnerable for the first time. It’s a long way down. We go there, slowly– shout “ciao!” at all the people who wave– and come to a tolerably graceful landing.

I spend the rest of the week feeling displaced. These Eupropean-style buildings, the verdant mountains, the liederhosen. Drivers not only lock their cars but have car alarms, and cashiers give (mostly correct) change, and we can’t walk to open space. Still, it’s lovely. We eat ice cream and chocolate and lake salmon, and visit some of the microbreweries.

Photos

•November 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

http://picasaweb.google.com/maia.rauschenberg/CalafateChaltenRuta40Bariloche#

Ruta 40

•November 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 

It’s a big desert– or if not a desert, arid plains, and steppe-land, and thousands of kilometers of gray brush, sand, and fenceline. We ride through so slowly, on this behemoth bus with a cracked windshield and leaky hubs. Come to a halt at every cattle-guard, for every imperfection in this gravel road. Ruta 40 is in constant detour for paving, a national project.

 

It gives a person a sense of scope, to drive for two days through this place. We get away from the tourist traps and the beaten path, pass through towns that see just 2 buses a day. All dirt roads, and high schoolers walking home in uniforms. Here, there is no myth of Patagonia, only people trying to make a life in this dry land, Santa Cruz, Chubut, up towards Rio Negro. Off the Cordillera.

 

The drivers screeches to a dusty halt to jump out and run down an armadillo. He brings it back to the bus so the curious can take pictures. I never knew their undersides were so fuzzy. He tries to dig to escape, and wheels in air, and then when released runs in circles around our legs until he finds an exit and takes off in a cloud of dust. The next abrupt stop is so the driver can cut the tail off a newly dead fox. This is Thanksgiving Day, for me.

 

The coolant begins to leak. We limp into Gobernor Castro, and the divers dirty their shirts fixing the punctured line. I drink OJ on a curb and watch a policeman help some schoolkids across the road. One says “hi” to me, how precocious! The others say “hola” and file past.

 

More bumpy hours. After 26 hours of desert, we ascend a pass and cross into a valley. Suddenly there’s the scent of water in the air. And green things everywhere, and snow-capped mountains rising abruptly. It’s all green and blue. Lakes, pines, lenga, alpenglow. El Bolson and Baricloche seem like oases, alpine Edens after desert.

 

 

Calafate, Chalten, second time

•November 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 

Sunshine, pink flamingos. We explore an arroyo, and drink mate, drink mate in the sun. The hostel is on a hill. The wind blows the broken window open sometimes. The view is blue sky, green lake, white mountains. Brown earth. Orange and yellow sunsets, and the Southern Cross.

 

The hiking is simply epic in Los Glaciares. The clouds blow off Fitzroy the afternoon we arrive, and the mountains stay clear for two days. We go to Loma, and are rewarded with insane views of Cerro Torre, Poincenot and Fitzroy simply shining against a deep blue sky. The wind is moderate, quite a change from my last swing through, and we eat crackers and salami for lunch looking down on Glacier Grande.

 

The next day I actually get sunburnt, hiking to Poincenot, Madre y Hija and down. I know its happening, but decide some things are worth it. This is the first objective warmth I have felt in Patagonia, and my body drinks it up like this is the spring after winter although summer was just two months ago for me. And winter is just a week away.

 
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