to desire the replica

posted on: September 22nd, 2009

December/January 2002/2003 Diary excerpt

“Walked across the boarder into Argentina and caught a bus to Salta within an hour. Not sure with what regularity contraband is smuggled into Argentina from Bolivia but my guess is a lot as on 5 separate occasions through out the night our bus pulled into a strange tiny military looking hut in the middle of no where. Everyone would vacate the bus, retrieve luggage and stand in a line to have it searched. As soon as my Canadian passport was produced I was waved through without having my pack shuffled through. At the first search while I was still in line, one of the officers pulled 2 tightly tapped up fist sized packages from a guys suitcase and calmly tossed them behind his shoulder to another officer in the hut, where they quickly disappeared. I assume it was drugs, though I have no way of knowing- what surprised me was how calm things were. The packages were taken and the man re-boarded the bus with us without any fuss. Very strange. These stops went on through the entire night.”

I love Salta- what a beautiful city. My hostel has a hammock in the sun and a communal table that is surrounded by vines and flowers. I have found a dog, or more appropriately, he found me. I have named him Nash. I have been here for 4 days and every morning, he is waiting at the hostel front door for me. He follows me all around town, including waiting 4 hours at a bus stop for me after I returned from a trip to a market at the edge of the city. He has patchy fur & fleas the size of quarters and I adore him. He has been eating well these last 4 days and asks nothing of me. Have splurged on a proper steak dinner as the Argentinian beef is supposedly fantastic. I can now officially agree. Delicious.

Am drinking a lot of beer and got pleasantly stoned chewing coca leaves. Took a bus 5o klms out to Quebrada de Cafayate- amazing red sandstone- hiked all day and stupidly ran out of water about 45 min before the return bus was due to drive by.  The hostel that I stayed at in Salta adopted Nash when I had to continue on to Cafayate. When I left he was getting a flea bath and looked quite pleased that he now had a home inside.

Spending a week camping in Cafayate. A quiet little village in the middle of wine country. The camp ground is fantastic and I am bbqing thick steaks and cloves of elephant garlic as big as my hand every night. It’s nice to stay rooted for a few days after so much bouncing around and this really is a beautiful little place. I rented a bike to peddle out to the sand dunes but ended up getting 2 flats from the vicious thorns so I had to walk the fucking bike back 10 klms in the blazing sun. Saw an old man die a few days ago- his funeral was today in the main square church. He was being doubled on a bicycle by a younger man (his son?) but rather than sitting on the handle bars facing forward, he was turned facing the man peddling. They were chatting as they zoomed along until the bike had to stop quickly at a corner. The man had no time to grab on and no leverage even if he did. He shot off the bike landing in the road on his tailbone and then slamming his head. It didn’t bounce, it just flatted against the street with a thud. It took the ambulance about 20 min to arrive while people flailed around in the street. It was very obvious by the shape of his head that if he wasn’t already dead, he would be soon. The sound of his crushing skull stayed with me for quite a while.

Am now in a campsite in Rosario recovering. Had to stop at a hospital in Tucman as it appears that I have dislocated my shoulder swinging my pack. The hospital experience was bizarre and surreal- I went to a local hopst. not a “tourist” one. Water running down the walls, crumbling ceilings, missing doors and giant holes in the floor that you have to walk around. The doctor was wonderful and with the help of my guidebook dictionary and a lot of hand signals, he made me promise that I would rest for a least a week before I carried my pack again. He sent me down for an x-ray which was given in a small room with no door and people lounging around watching. The tech was smoking through out and handed me my x rays so I could “wave them dry” in the hallway while I waited for the Dr. My pain prescription was written on the back of a scrap of paper. If I’ve made this sound like a bad experience, you misunderstand. I was so well looked after that I left the crumbling building smiling.

My arrival in Bueno Aries couldn’t have been timed any worse- it is the anniversary of the implosion of the de la Rua government and I have been warned in no uncertain terms to stay off the streets and away from the impromptu rallies that are popping up all over town. As a Canadian, I would technically be fine but the distinction is lost in a crowd as I am white and English speaking. The air in the city seems charged and the Presidential primary has been set. The $250 billion dollar World Bank Loan was defaulted on Monday and the Argentinians I meet are tense and fearful of the future. So much for long evenings in salsa clubs- I will leave the city and the panic this evening.

Camping in Villa Gissel right along the ocean amid the sand dunes. The town is quaint and beautiful and the beach stretches forever. I walked for miles yesterday and fell in love with the huge flocks of green parrots that nest in the sandy cliffs. I watched fisherman catch baby sharks and stingrays off of a massive pier in the sunshine. Christmas eve in a little bar at the campsite in Bahra Blanca. Fireworks and drinks with jolly campers and someones radio playing gentle Spanish music in the background. What could be better?

Just spent the day along the rock cliffs at Puno Tombo where thousands of penguins come before heading out to the South Pole. They are such strange little creatures. There were babies everywhere and I wanted desperately to put one in my pack like my mom did with that turtle from the Edmonton zoo when I was a kid. More poor planning has me on a bus in the middle of no where on New Years Eve. We pulled over to a little shack at midnight where several bus drivers spent 20 minutes toasting each other with giant bottle of wine while us passengers smoked in the dark parking lot. I was a bit nervous when they finished the wine and jumped in the buses to continue the journey.

Have the greatest campsite ever in El Calafete though as I’ve been camping exclusively since Salta, I am looking forward to a bed soon. The sun stays up forever it seems, but the evenings this far south are getting cold and the wind sometimes seems never ending. The Moreano Glacier is spectacular and I have finally seen a giant Andean Condor. It looked prehistoric gliding over the glacier.

I scored a flight on the LADE a military flight that sells off empty seats to civilians. And thank fuck I did. 250 peso for a 20 hour bus ride to Peurto Moreno or 70 peso for the 1 hour flight! It was sketchy, no safety video here. Landed in what seemed to be some guys front yard. Besides being “Air traffic control” he was also the cabbie and drove me into town after the plane took off again. After a few more busses and a rolling tiny ferry, I am finally in Chile. The air in Coyhaique is misty and wet and I am snuggled in a hostel in front of a fireplace. Once I start heading further North it will start getting hot again, but right now it’s strange to be wearing a sweater. The markets are amazing and I can pick up fresh fish and seafood and fruit for pennies. 2 day ocean voyage through the Chilean Fjords to Peuto Montt. Breathtaking. Cold, windy and wavy, but beautiful. Peurto Montt is a market mecca and I have to be careful to not buy more than I can carry. Have also collected a bag full of shells that are the size of oranges.

Am in Santiago and have officially run out of money. I will have just enough to take a bus from the Peruvian boarder back to Lima in time for my flight home. However, this means that to get to the boarder I have to hitch hike 1000 miles through the Atacama Desert. It’s considered a normal mode of transport through the never ending desert so I’m not too worried. It’s not safe to hitch in Peru so it’s bread and jam only so that I can save enough for the bus to Lima and a hostel for the last few nights.

Took 2 days and 3 different rides to get through the desert and this also included a night sleeping in a restaurant doorway and another on the lawn of a gas station. It was definitely an adventure. I’m hungry and bone tired and am finally on the bus that is taking me back to Lima.

My last night in the city- yesterday I went to the Franciscan Monastery which houses the most amazing antique library. I stood in there for hours. The entire monastery is beautiful but the library is…. I can’t even describe. It is heaven for a book junkie like myself. I fly home tomorrow which just seems so strange. How have 3 months already passed?

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That sand dunes photo is just awesome. I love it. Your trip sounds amazing. I did four months in Europe that were unbelievable. Didn’t you find when you got home that after the novelty of your own bed wore off, you felt restless? Like you should be GOING somewhere? That’s how I felt for weeks.

kim Says:

hahahahahha I feel like that after every trip! My longest one was a year and it took MONTHS for the “itchy feet” feeling to subside to a manageable level!

Dusty Says:

Damn woman..when you go and have one helluva trip don’t cha?

This was so fun to read..even the dead guy part. I really loved the doggie part. ;)

ps..I had to put one of my charges down this week, so it was nice to see a homeless animal find a home.

Kim Says:

awwww. Sorry to hear it Dusty.

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