Well, I’ve been home now for a couple of days, trying to work through the backlog of action items already piled up on my desk from the first week of school. Not so fun. At home, I’ve been called into action as the LegoMaster, helping put together the kits my boys got for Christmas. Lots of fun. Even so, I’ve left a good part of my heart below the Tropic of Capricorn, and I’m hoping my “trip of a lifetime” does not turn out to be so singular.
A couple of brief observations from the trip back:
- Inter-city bus service in Argentina is far more comfortable than first-class air travel, with seats like lounge chairs, complete with footrests. Trying to read or use the bathroom on twisty mountain roads is a bit more challenging, though.
- Compared to Futaleufu’s frontier tranquility, Bariloche, Argentina (where I spent one night on my return journey) was like Manhattan. In Futaleufu, you have almost as much chance of being run over by a gaucho on horseback as you do an automobile, while traffic in Bariloche is brisk and most definitely does not yield to pedestrians.
- The Argentine tourist gateway to Patagonia, Bariloche’s architecture is a curious blend of Switzerland, Wyoming, and South America. I arrived at the height of a summer arts festival, as did seemingly every twenty-something in the rest of Argentina (all carrying overstuffed backpacks and filling the numerous youth hostels to capacity). The setting is spectacular—clear blue lake, lots of mountains—but like tourist towns everywhere, the main attraction seems to be shopping.
- Bariloche would appear to have a higher population of St. Bernards (complete with whiskey barrels) than Futaleufu does people. I repeatedly declined to have my picture made with one.
- Early in my stay in Futaleufu, I learned that Chilean beef is notoriously tough. Flavorful, but tough. The terrain being so rugged, Chilean cows are evidently way too muscled to be tender. Argentinean cows, I was informed, have it easy, living on the flat plains of the Pampas, and consequently make for tender beef. I tested the theory in Bariloche and had perhaps the best steak of my life for about $10 U.S.
- An observation from the plane as I flew into Buenos Aires: this is a city of swimming pools. I first noticed entire neighborhoods (even seemingly modest ones) where every single house had an artificial blue lagoon out back, and then I was struck by the number of large public pools I saw, seemingly every couple of blocks or so, each one overflowing with swimmers. (I forget where I read it, but I heartily agree with the sentiment that to fly anywhere without spending much of the time looking out the window is to effectively waste a lot of money.)
- An observation from the cab as I passed from one Buenos Aires airport to another: anyone not at a pool on this particular Sunday afternoon was out having a picnic. In every bit of greenspace around town, people had pulled their cars off the road, parked in a patch of shade, and set to serious tailgating. And I mean every bit of greenspace—if a busy highway interchange delineated a little patch of land with a nice copse of trees, someone had chosen that as a nice spot to hang out for the afternoon.
That’s it for now: I’ve got another post in the works about Futaleufu and the future of Patagonia—but I’m afraid it won’t be so lighthearted.