Colombia was a wonderous place but I was now on my way to Argentina. Flying from Cartagena through Bogota to Buenos Aires, I felt a bit uneasy. I had become so comfortable in Colombia and with Vanessa that even though it would only be 1 night on my own I immediately became fearful. I wasn’t sure that I’d have the courage to meet people, being that I’m a shy person. A lot of self-doubt crept in during the first few days. I went to my hostel and walked through an eerily quiet city. Because it was a Sunday, nearly all stores were closed and the streets were lonely. Being from the greater NYC area, a city that really never sleeps this was a strange experience. I walked down several blocks and didn’t cross a single person’s path. While the city ended up being a bit more interesting than this first impression, it didn’t seem very unique. The one unique aspect that did arise was that it seemed far more European than any other city I’d been to in South America. It was an interesting mixture of South American city flavor and European city charms.
The next day my mom arrived and we saw each other for the first time in over 2 months! It was a wonderful reunion and I was definitely happy to see a familiar face with my lonely first day in the country. We spent the next few days exploring some of the typical sights of this huge city. We saw an interesting cemetery that was filled with rows and rows of incredibly ornamented tombs that looked nearly like a miniature walled city. With no chance at being able to see every tomb, we skipped through the blocks to observe at some of the highlights.
After spending the rest of the time exploring parks and scenic areas of Buenos Aires, we woke up our last morning before we’d head to Bariloche and the surrounding lakes district further south. But, we had a bit of a hiccup. My mom woke up sick and we scrambled to get her feeling better before the afternoon bus. Being the tough mom that she is, we made the bus with only a confused taxi driver slowing us down. Oh, and the bus being delayed by about 4 hours too. We sat in the terminal for quite a long time but thankfully the bus finally rolled in and we boarded.
It was a 22 hour bus running from about 7pm that night until 5pm the next day. While that sounds incredibly uncomfortable, I actually slept like a baby overnight. From midnight til 8am, I never woke and barely stirred lying on a synthetic cloud. My mom didn’t sleep quite as well but managed through it. I give her plenty props for getting through that ride not feeling well, I know it wasn’t easy! But we had finally made it. And it was gorgeous. Slowly as we left the pampas and approached the beginning of the Andean mountain range, hills rose while lakes fell below them with pine green and hues of blue filling the views. We weaved alongside the lakesides sweeping up and down the sides of those rising hills until we finally emerged into a huge open lake area with wide views of rock topped mountains, the entrance to Nahuel Huapi national park.
As we pulled into the station and stepped outside, the crisp air and light breeze complemented the strong sun amazingly. I had been waiting for this weather for a while. Being from a temperate climate, I look forward to each season (yes even snow!) and had been anxious to feel some cooler weather that I missed on the Caribbean coast of Colombia and in Buenos Aires where the temperature was easily 85 degrees and higher. Taking a taxi, we labored up the rocky steps to a place I would end up calling home for 6 nights over 3 occasions. It was a great home that brought us friends and a comfortable shelter. Being that we were only in each city for 1-2 nights before bussing to the next stop on the itinerary, we made the most of all the first days in each place. In this one, San Carlos de Bariloche, we explored the city walking up and down the main street and gazing through the windows of succulent chocolate shops, quirky gift stores, and sugary ice cream parlors. We enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal at the hostel and readied ourselves for the hike the next day. We would take a bus crammed with tourists and locals alike to go to Llao Llao hotel where the trail started to Hidden Lake. It was another beautiful day. We shuffled along the lightly trodden trail, a refreshing experience compared to the hiking in NJ where it can frequently be difficult to pass gas without a crowd turning a corner the same moment. Here we could explore the place mostly uninterrupted and gaze at the crystal clear blue lakes served up along the forested mountains.
I am not afraid to admit it, along the course of the following 10 days, my mom outpaced me in our hikes. She is in greater shape than I and was easily pushing through the trail as I nursed joints and muscles weary from anything other than solitary states. But this didn’t prevent us from enjoying all that these places had to offer! We toured through Villa la Angostura, San Martin de los Andes, and El Bolson, each place offering something unique and different. Though all of them were incredibly beautiful by any standards.
Bariloche was like the parent to all of them, larger and more citylike while still holding great views. Angostura was the richer town, much more local and filled with expensive shops and restaurants. Bolsón was a hippy town with lots of flavor and interesting people. Its extravagant crafts market of only handmade products and food was a great place to meander through on a sunny day, stuffing crispy fries down my throat. But San Martín was my favorite. Nestled between two mountains at the end of a windy lake, it was also one of the scenes depicted in Ernesto Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries. A wonderful read or movie to watch for anyone interested in South American history, vivid travel writing, and profound mind being curated by his changing environments.
We also lived quite modestly, cooking meals that honestly were just as good if not better than some of the meals in those expensive restaurants. I missed vegetables and fruits more than I realized until we made our own meals. It’s something I took with me after my mom left as well, cooking for myself and I was much better off both health wise and money wise.
I cherished the conversations me and my mom had throughout this trip. It has been over 4 years since we both lived in the same place and 8 since we lived together for more than a few weeks at a time or a summer between semesters. During that time, a lot has happened and many stories have been told, but most of the time they have been told over a semi weekly dinner with little opportunity to get into details. This was the perfect chance and we wasted no time in sharing those detailed stories. On one occasion, we almost lost track of time on a long hike in El Bolson as we shared an ice cream on a dusty summer day. I’m very thankful to have had these conversations, beyond all the wonderful views and people we met. It was also a nice luxury to have another person traveling with me who knew Spanish. Buying bus tickets is much much easier!
As we made our way through each of the cities finally returning back to Bariloche for her final night, it began to dawn on me that I’d be partnerless for the remainder of the trip. A remainder that would last for over 2 months. Pushing those fears to the side, we spent the last morning rising early for a view of sunrise down on the waterfront. It was a nice moment just reflecting on the trip and wishing that it wouldn’t end. But all good things must come to an end and that was the fate of this trip as well. I’ll leave this post with a thank you to my mom for accompanying me on 2 fun weeks through Argentina! It wouldn’t have been the same without you. Up next, the first chapter on solo traveling through the wilderness of Patagonia…