Patagonia... more than just expensive clothes

I am currently sitting in the store-wracked town of El Chalten Argentina waiting for some decent weather. I figured this would be a handy time to write a little bit about the trip.

I arrived in Buenos Aries on the morning of January 9th, and immediately I could recall the voice of my mildly-senile high school Spanish teacher drilling me on verb conjugations and useful phrases. All I could really remember was ¨Donde Esta el Bano¨, but luckily much of the rest just falls into places after clearing that initial hurdle. The airport was hot an sunny, a pleasant change from the cold and slush of Seattle.

Through one of those highly dubious friend-of-friend-of-friend-of-friend connections that climbers seem to revel in (and the general public disdains) I was able to stay for free for two nights in Buenos Aries with a guy named Rocco. While excploring Buenos Aires I came across Chocolaterias with chocolate, Pizzarias with Pizza, and this place, with...?

Rocco is a chic urban DJ to pay the bills, but a climber at heart. My broken Spanish formed the model of fluency compared to his more-broken English, but was had a good time together nonetheless and he made me a traditional Argentine barbecue called an Asado.

Like many residents of Buenos Aires, Rocco had a verdant rooftop garden where he grows trees, flowers, chives, mint, and herbs of a slightly more potent variety. Rocco´s apartment is in a neighborhood called ´Caballito´, which is Spanish for ´A Little Horse´, a apt description of one´s status after spending two days shouting at homicidal local taxi drivers.

I spent two nights in Buenos Aires with Rocco, which was two more than I had originally planned, and one more than I was told after arriving on the first day.

This delay was succinctly explained to me in a word: Brazilians. My ride from Buenos Aires to the mountainous Patagonia region was with Andrea, a Brazilian friend-of-friend-of-friend, and the 3rd link in my four person chain to Rocco. I soon learned that to Brazilians, a time zone is more a state of mind than it is a state of the minute hand. Eventually the two Brazilian women (Andrea and Simoné) arrived,
and we took of at what they called the ungodly early hour of 8:30 AM for the 18 hour drive to the mountain town of Bariloche, in the Andes near Chile. My climbing partner David had rented a hostel room for us all in Bariloche and I was eager to arrive and get some sleep.

However, my longing for expediency was thwarted at every turn by the Brazilian desire to relax, take random scenic side trips, and indulge in their sudden Maté addiction. Maté is a type of loose-leafed tea that all of Argentina is crazy about and I think looks (and tastes) like the hay bales I used to buck and stack for summer work. People carry thermoses full of hot water all day to take Maté breaks on important occasions such as the top of every hour, half hour, or odd numbered minute. Adding mate (and subsequent bathroom) stops to the baseline Brazilian slowness resulted in our arrival in Bariloche at 6AM, 22 hours after starting the drive. Since then I´ve had a whirlwind of excellent trips, climbs, and new friends. And since the weather in El Chalten doesn´t look much better in the next few days, I think I´ll have plenty of time to write all about it.

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