05.12.2006 - 11.12.2006
The last little while has been pretty low-key with mostly ¨you had to be there¨ moments that are difficult for poor writers like me to describe.
Crossed into Argentina about a week and a half ago and hit up a couple small tourist towns - El Calafate and El Chalten. Calafate is famous for its proximity to the Perito Moreno glacier but we skipped that in order to do some actual ice climbing on some other glacier in Chalten. You can only spend so much money to see so many friggin blocks of ice. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong one. The trip was cancelled shortly after we reached the glacier because the winds were too severe. At one point the wind kicked up all these small rocks off the ground and pelted us in the ass and neck with them. That stung almost as much as the disappointment of not getting to hang off ice sheets with pickaxes.
One more quick note about the wind. It´s wicked, it´s wild, it´s Patagonia defined. Chalten was ridiculously as such. At night, the howl completely penetrates the walls, keeping you awake and mystified. I´m not sure if that´s why so many roofs around here are shaped like the ones below. It takes a while but after you embrace the wind, you feel more calm than unnerved by it. Zen-like I tell you.
Been taking the long scenic road up Ruta 40. The landscape for the most part was flat and desolate, occasionally giving way to a low backdrop mountain or blur of light shining off the water.
And sometimes the bus driver would abruptly stop the vehicle to chase after armadillos.
The most recent stop was Perito Moreno, population of 1700. The bus that goes through here only does so every other day. And it only stops because it gets in late at night and the driver has to rest. The attraction is a nearby cave with paintings of hands. Not exactly a must-do on most people´s agendas. Therefore everyone left with the bus the next morning. For whatever reason, we decided to stay for 2 days...and we didn´t even bother seeing the stupid hands. So what goes on in a wannabe tourist town with no tourists? More than you think (or less depending on how easily amused you are).
There was a disco that was closed on Saturday night. Apparently Saturday is not a convenient night to go out around here.
Sunday was pumping though with the local rodeo. Sketchy guys in funny hats getting booted off horses while everyone else drinks beer with wind blowing dirt into your face.
At night there was a town party, complete with live music and fireworks that were being set off by 5 year olds, I kid you not. And I don´t know the reason for it but I´d like to think it was to celebrate our arrival.
The only thing larger than the men in Perito Moreno are the women. Sorry no pictures, just trust me on this and use your imagination. The tourist ¨lady¨ had a beard. The construction ¨girls¨ were heftier than the machines. And the internet ¨woman¨ who hated Andrew with a passion could not fit through the door.
But if you´re anyone in this town, you´ll have a beat-up vehicle and do laps on the main street at night, circling past the same 8 blocks on first gear for hours on end. Apparently the crappier and more broken down the car (or dump truck), the greater the street cred. This is officially where automobiles come to die.
At first we were confused by this local pasttime. Then amused. Then intrigued. Strangely, by the end of the two days I found myself aimlessly walking laps of the main street, much like the cars themselves. No purpose, no destination. Peaceful as the Patagonian wind. Like I said, you had to be there.