You're here for a good time, not for a long time.

You're here for a good time, not a long time.

November 24, 2011

Good Winds

Things are really shaking out and shaping up these days.  Mom and I knocked off Mendoza and Buenos Aires and are now settled back in Uspallata for the next two nights.  She's got under one week left down here and after that I will be on my own for the foreseeable future. 

Two nights in Mendoza was plenty, especially after I had slouched around there for most of a week already.  Friday we took a tour through the wine region visiting two wineries and one olive oil factory.  The wine was good, I even appreciated it, but I'll still take a micro brew any day.  That evening we came back, had a meal, and hit the sack.  Saturday was mostly stuck in limbo.  Our overnight bus to Buenos Aires didn't leave until 7:00pm and the hotel kicked us out at 10:00am.  We spent most of the morning wandering around town looking at ski shops and touring the big shopping centers.  In the afternoon we walked out to Mendoza's massive park on the northern side of town.  It was a fantastic spot with a lake, a zoo, and plenty of green trails.  When our feet finally gave out we wandered back to town for McDonald's and then hopped in a cab to the bus station.

I had dreaded riding the bus up until this point.  Stepping onto a bus feels like getting neutered after eight months on a motorcycle.  Worst of all is being on someone else' schedule.  I remember some jerk at a hostel giving Charlie and me shit for leaving late one morning after we said we'd be gone before sunrise.  Charlie looked at him smiling and said 'that's the beauty of bringing your own transportation... it leaves when you're ready!'  And vroom, we left him in the dust. 

Saturday's bus turned out to be quite a plush ride, though.  Mom and I had the front seats on the second floor.  Perfect for viewing the driver's insanity.  They were leather recliners, bigger than airline first class.  We were also the only people on the second floor.  There were probably five passengers total the whole night.  The waitress served us a hot meal, two cups of wine, and then a nightcap of whiskey on the rocks.  I put my feet up on the window and watched the miles tick by, indulging in someone else finally doing the driving.  Sunday morning I woke up still pretty tired, but finally in Buenos Aires. 

I knew the city was big.  At thirteen million souls it's the second biggest in South America.  Buenos Aires is huge, though.  Not only is the entire metropolis expansive, the downtown itself must be the size of Seattle.  The 'tourist area' stretches for miles in every direction.  Mom and I ended up in the San Telmo bohemian district.  Lot's of old architecture for her to crane over and plenty of entertainment to go around.  Of course our hotel couldn't check us in at 8:00am on Sunday so the first thing we did was to go Plaza de Mayo, the biggest plaza in town.  Each side of Plaza de Mayo is adorned with monstrous buildings that look like they belong in Rome or Florence or Barcelona.  I walked into Casa Rosada and marveled at it's art collection and looming ceilings.  The National Bank building was bigger than a stadium.  And the Catholic church was greater than any I'd seen in Europe.  Columns, arches, statues, gargoyles, it's all there.  The streets jut out from the plaza in a spoke and hub formation so looking West from the plaza you can look down two at the same time.  The magnificent buildings continue as far as the eye can see, each one trumping the next.  It looked like a movie set; like I'd get a block down the street and then walk into a big blue wall with clouds painted on it.  After coming through Quito, Lima, Cusco, and La Paz (all of which were built of cinder block and rebar), Buenos Aires is heaven on earth.

As soon as the room was ready I checked in and took a nap.  Mom still had tourist exuberance, but I've been doing this eight months and I needed my beauty sleep.  She went to a flea market while I took a nap.  That night we drank plenty of wine over a nice steak dinner and got to bed pretty late; we're on local time now.  Monday we were determined to see the city so we hired another bus tour.  This tour was cheaper and more reliable.  Still not my favorite activity being at the mercy of a bus company, but it wasn't too bad.  We saw all the neighborhoods, most notably La Boca and Palermo.  La Boca is cute and antique looking, but very touristy.  After ten minutes of sleazy street solicitors I was ready to leave.  Palermo was a good distance away and has a distinct feel to it.  A little more upscale and clean than San Telmo, but not overrun with business either.  I liked it over there and never got to see enough of it.  At the end of the tour we were exhausted.  We probably walked five miles that day skipping the bus ride between certain stops.  Another steak and a few more bottles of wine did us in.

Tuesday I was tired of the tourist sprint.  I went out with mom to visit the last of the 'must-sees' in the morning.  These were congress, the theater, and the subway.  Congress and the theater were both inspiring.  Buenos Aires is unique in that there are plazas every few blocks and each one has an architectural masterpiece presiding over it.  And the surrounding buildings are impressive in their own right with intricate balconies and stonework leading eight stories up.  It's desensitizing.  With those out of the way I had seen enough.  Eddie and Lizzie were coming into town that evening and I didn't want to crash beforehand.  I went home and took a nap while Mom took a Tango lesson.  She loved it.

That evening we both went over to Eddie and Lizzie's hostel and together we all put down some drinks.  Then Mom and I went out for steak; we finished dinner around 11:30pm so she went to bed and I went back to the hostel.  This was my last night with Eddie and Lizzie.  Mom and I were scheduled to bus back to Mendoza the next evening and within two weeks the Aussies will be off touring Europe.  So I had to make it count... and I did.  It was a great sendoff from those guys and I'll miss their company.  Regardless, I'll be seeing them again soon somewhere around the globe.  I wandered back to my hotel at 5:00am and crashed hard until 10:00am for checkout.  I managed to wake up with the shits and a crook stomach much to my own undoing.  Luckily the hotel gave us a very extended checkout and a few hours later I was able to walk normal and hold liquids.  Part of it was obviously a hangover, but Mom was crook all day too, so I was apparently waging war on two fronts.

Wednesday the only thing I got done was dropping off Al's shock at a nearby hostel for him to pickup and getting us to the bus station.  Alex won't be to BA until Saturday, so sadly we won't be seeing each other again until we're both stateside.  He's selling his bike to a committed buyer in Buenos Aires and then shipping out early December.  Meanwhile Charlie still has three weeks with Andrew and Greg; he also has made plans with his mom to meed in LA early January.  I haven't gotten details out of him yet, but I would imagine he'll start the shipping process real quick once he gets back to Santiago if he plans to leave the continent three weeks after in the height of Christmas season.  Ty and Jill are out of the picture and living happily ever after.  So that leaves me and my bike and a whole lot of opportunity down here. 

There's a Horizons Unlimited meeting in Viedma, Argentina starting December 8th.  Horizons Unlimited is the most respected adventure travel website around.  At this meeting I would find scores of bikers heading in all directions.  Plenty of stories and inspiration.  Viedma is 1,000 miles from Santiago and I'd have one week to get there.  It's well within the realm of possibility and is starting to look like a brilliant option for me.  Before I commit to anything I want to hear Charlie's plans though.  We've been on the road for months now and it would be blast to knock out one last leg together.  I might even link up with him and his mates depending on where they are.

Like the last eight months my future's all up in the air right now, although it's finally starting to come into focus.  I've decided I'll be coming home in January, the earlier the better.  I want to give it just three more weeks and see Patagonia before I go home, but with Christmas prices eliminating the prospect of air travel for me, I'll just ride a little further and kill some time in my tent down there.  One last push on a well-tuned bike in the decency of Argentina and Chile under one of the world's most amazing backdrops.  I'm expecting a lot of distance and solitude.  However it unfolds, it will be enlightening, a solid end to such a liberating adventure.

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