argentina throwback: put your cheese on the necky

note: these argentina throwback posts are migrated from an old blog. please ignore all the formatting issues that may have occurred. i don’t want to go through and fix them all. 🙂

With a holiday on April 1, three of my friends and I decided that since we had no Friday classes, we would take a mini-vacation, Tuesday through Monday in Bariloche! Bariloche is a touristy ski town in Patagonia, surrounded by the Andes mountains. So ready for a 20 hour bus ride, which might sound painful, we begin:
Tuesday: Board the El Rapido Argentino for a 20 hour bus ride. Discover we are the only passengers on the huge double decker bus except for the second driver and a policeman who gets to ride free. PARTY! We make friends with the second driver, Daniel, and he lets us watch three movies in a row. Strange Relatives. Mr. Woodcock. The Break Up. A steak dinner (airplane food style), then it was bedtime. Fully reclining seats and 8 hours later, we wake up around 10am with two hours left.
Wednesday: Two hours full of beautiful Andes mountain sights. We arrive at the bus terminal without a real idea of where we are going to stay the night. I had sort of made a reservation at a cabin, but when we had the taxi take us there, we decided to stay elsewhere along the lake. So after a 20 peso taxi ride, we walked with all our stuff 3km back in the direction we came, asking prices at places along the way. After two hours or so, we decided on a place called Bungalows La Caleta, a beautiful little establishment overlooking the lake at the perfect price…a whole cabin with 5 beds and a kitchen for only about $40/night so $10 per person. Our view:
Great to be in Argentina. We settle in and venture into town. We discover many tour guide stands and MANY chocolate places, including a small Swiss restaurant, Chalet Swisse. Overpriced, but the fondue was worth every penny.
After indulging ourselves with every fruit dipped in endless chocolate, we found a grocery store and bought food for our cabin and sandals for Katie. We also booked a rafting adventure for Thursday. Since we were on vacation, we purchased some vino (wine) and retired to our bungalow for the night. Luckily, a movie was on in English, so we curled up and fell asleep.
Thursday: Up at 8am to catch the rafting bus by 9am. Four of us and six other travelers head out on a two hour van ride to private land owned by RaftingAdventure.com. A two hour van ride full of a language barrier. The guides were great and were trying to tell me jokes in Spanish. Man oh man, humor is so hard to translate. I made friends with the girl who was the photographer of the trip. We talked about art in Argentina versus the US. Then led by Damien (a crazy Argentine guide) and some other cool rafters, we reach the meeting lodge.
We eat a small breakfast and then get fitted for our wetsuits. Yes wetsuits. We all looked like whales.
We also got red windproof (not waterproof) jackets to wear. Load into the van again. Then we are at the water’s edge. The Manso River. We piled on more and more equipment before boarding the raft with Geranamo, our guide.
We were in the English raft. Although his English was humorous at times, as I am sure my Spanish is. He taught us the commands. And taught us to put our “cheese” on the “necky” if we fell out of the raft. Necky is the name of the kayak brand (there were two kayaks who came with just in case). Cheese meant chin. We told him cheese was queso. He said he had only heard one American say it one time. Thought they said cheese. He laughed. We had way too much fun with it. We also had way too much fun with the names of the rapids…Flinestones, Devil’s Intestine, Deep Throat, Ecstasy, Relax, Vaseline. They just kept getting better and better. We were mostly going over class II and III rapids but we had one IV that was pretty amazing. After each rapid encounter, we would put our paddles in the middle of the raft and cheer. Success. We also went swimming. I happened to be pulled in by one of the kayakers who thought I looked “too dry.” The sights were beautiful. Breathtaking rock formations caused by years of water. When we went, the water was at its low. It is about 5m higher in October. It was still so fun. Water crashing over your head. Paddling faster and faster to make it over the holes and rocks. Enjoying the moments of tranquility. After two hours, we reached the edge, literally. Chile was right there. But we had to stay in Argentina, so we got out and hiked up a very steep hill, took a picture with the Chile sign, then changed into dry clothes. We got in the van and went back for a traditional asado (BBQ). Meat and more meat. Amazing! Lots of bees though. Difficult to enjoy steak and sausage while attempting to kill many bees. Full to the brim, we board the van and sleep the two hour ride back to town. We buy groceries and retire. Another English movie. Bed.
Friday: Too tired from rafting, we wake up around 1pm and head to town. What to do… we decide to get some more chocolate and explore the town a bit more. We make some purchases and discover a small market. We meet a woman from South Africa who was studying in Chile, got bored and is now traveling and selling her crafts. She was sharing a table with a woman from Salta, north of Buenos Aires. All her necklaces were made from shells and seeds and rocks. I told her I loved the natural things she used. She said that she thought I might be an artist after I told her I was majoring in art and English. I bought two necklaces from her for only $7. We went to a locutorio (internet cafe) and registered for our Fall 2008 Michigan classes, then sat by the lake. We discovered an ice skating rink, but it was small and boring looking. We book a trip to Tronador for Saturday. We buy groceries and retire. Another English movie. Bed.
Saturday: Up by 8am to get the 9am van ride. One hour ride, then a break to take pictures. One hour more, then another scenic sight.
One hour more, up and up we go. Up to the top of Tronador.
Wikipedia: Tronador is a stratovolcano in the border between Argentina and Chile near Bariloche, separating two National Parks: Nahuel Huapi in Argentina and Vicente Pérez Rosales in Chile. It is covered by seven glaciers (Frias, Alerce, Castaño Overo, Manso, Peulla, Casa Pangue y Río Blanco) and it is 3,491 meters high. It was named Tronador (Spanish for ‘Thunderer’) by locals in reference of the sound of falling seracs. It was first climbed byHermann Claussen solo on 29 January 1934, after several attempts.
Although the van tour was entirely in Spanish, so we could only catch some of the touristy facts, we did get to see some amazing sights. One: the Black Glacier. We were there to witness global warming at its worst. A chuck of the glacier fell off into the river right before our very eyes. The glacier is huge and black from the dirty water.
Two: a paradise of waterfalls near the top. About 10 different waterfalls line the mountain on the backside of the glacier. Amazing. Even though it was pouring rain, we trekked up a stone path to capture the waterfalls at their best. Green made greener by the rain. I looked up in awe at this natural paradise. Mouth open wide catching raindrops. Shielding my camera from the rain, mostly unsuccessfully. Basking in the beauty.
Then, after the best hot chocolate known to man, we board the van and sleep as we drive back down the mountain and into town. We make the worst concoction of spaghetti, spinach, white beans, peas, and not enough tomato sauce for dinner. Then, we write a song. A rap rather. It is good. We are going to make a music video. I watch American Idol results. Then we listen to music. Watch a movie. Go to bed.
Sunday: Wake up. Realize that in a fit of OCD-ness, I had ripped up and thrown out my return bus ticket. Take a moment to freak out. Clean up. Check out. Walk to town. Bum around. Buy chocolate. Best chocolate store…Mamuschka.
Drink coffee. Attempt to eat at Friends, a restaurant with a real American breakfast, but service takes way too long, so we leave and get empanadas at Crocodile’s. Get a taxi to the bus terminal. Ask the desk what to do about my lost ticket. They tell me to go report it to the police. I walk over to the police desk. It is closed. I tell the ticket desk. They finally ask for my ID. I show them it. I show them my friends’ tickets. They make a note for the driver to let me on. Man oh man…language barrier break down. When the police station was closed, I was near tears. Would I be stuck in beautiful Bariloche? Would I have to spend even more money on another ticket? No No No. I boarded the bus, and there was Daniel, our friend from the trip there. All would be okay. We get situated. I write in my journal and calm down. Explaining you ripped up your ticket and threw it away thinking it was the old one is difficult to explain in Spanish, but I survived. We drove past the most amazing cliffs and mountains and sunset and sunrise.
Monday: We arrive home to Buenos Aires at 11:30am. Home sweet home. Returning to my house makes it feel more like home than ever. I kiss my mom hello. I hug my dad hello. I unpack and rush to get to class. I learn how to use a professional videocamera to make my documentary film, then I go home and breathe. In and out. In and out. Join the gym three doors down from my house. Catch up on my 50 emails. Blog my adventures. Smell dinner. It is good to have a starting point. I feel grounded. Buenos Aires is home now. Bariloche is a vacation.
Tomorrow I start painting. Last week I started dance. It was great. A good work out. Although the choreography was a little, um, childish. It is great to be dancing again though. Classes are great. Life is amazing. Patagonia is paradise. But sometimes, Ann Arbor seems so far away…
Oh and also, I learned that even I can make Guacamole. Oh yes. Oh yes.
How I long to be back in Bariloche already…

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