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.


~ by maiapatagonia on December 3, 2009.

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