Friday, April 17, 2009

Un cortado doble y dos medialunas, por favor!

I left Argentina a couple of days ago! How sad! I have come to like Argentina very much. But I went out in style. My last days in Argentina were spent at Iguacu, a wonderful place. I am adding some pictures to give you an idea.
Actually about Argentina, I fell in love with that place on my very first day there. I had come over Paseo de Maule from Chile and after a spectacular ride ended up in Malargue. There, while looking for an ATM, I had my first of many encounters with ‘The Natives’. A family stopped me because they were impressed with the bike. We chatted for a while and on saying goodbye they all kissed me ‘Argentina’ style on the check and we parted like we had been friends for years. That same night I was taken in by a family of musicians. During winter they play up at ‘Las Lennas’, a ski resort. To my surprise they knew more about the Swiss National Ski Team, than I did. Turns out, my compatriots come here in ‘our’ summer to practice on the slopes of Argentina in what is 'their' winter. Within hours I had been integrated into the family and we were sitting around a campfire drinking wine!
There were days, when the curiosity and hospitality of the Argentineans could be over whelming. After all, how many times a day can you answer the ‘where are you from’ question? And I was asked that a lot! While stopped at traffic lights, while driving down the road, while having lunch, while fixing a flat, while looking for a place to stay to name just a few. But to tell you the truth, I never got sick of answering that question because I just have to love the people here!
Almost without exception right after asking you where you are from, they will go on to tell you how much they hate their government and that the current crisis is just awful. But then in the next sentence they will rave about their country and its natural beauty: ‘Ah que precioso, que lindo, que bárbaro!’ And they are right! There are wonderful places in this very, very big country: From the highest mountain in South America, Aconcagua, to the Southern Most Point on the American continent in Ushuaia there are more than enough natural wonders to gaze at. Some are overhyped, like Routa 40, but others like the Perito Moreno glacier live more than up to their expectations.
But still: natural beauty can be found in a lot of places on this planet. What makes Argentina special are the people and their way of life. They seem to always have time for family, friends and strangers.
In today’s globalized and standardized world, Argentina is refreshingly different. Why drink coffee at Starbucks, when there are local coffee shops where you can meet over cortados and medialunas? Or maybe skip coffee all together and share a mate instead. Why put peanut butter or marmalade on bread, when there is Dulce de Leche? Why eat at McDonalds, when you can have an asado with friends instead? That is not to say, that there is no McDonalds and no Starbucks here in Argentina. Unfortunately they are. But somehow it is still different here. Maybe this can be best explained with 'Malbec'. Malbec is Argentina’s typical wine. The name comes from 'Mala uva', which means 'bad grape'. In any other part of the world this bad grape is worthless. But in Argentina it is turned into wonderful wine!
There also seems to be a different rhythm to live in Argentina. Nothing goes between 13:30 and 17:00, dinner before ten o’clock is unheard of and the party does not start until two or three in the morning! How do they keep this up?
I have grown very fond of Argentina and even fonder of the people I met there. It wasn’t easy for me to leave and that is why I am writing this maybe over sentimental blog post.
But I am taking a lot of unforgettable memories with me: There is waking up in Cafayate to birds singing in the trees outside the window. There are wonderful evenings in Rosario with people who feel more like family, than just friends. There is working on the bike in Carlos’s shop in Mendoza and afterwards having a well deserved glass of Malbec (or two…) with friends. There is the overwhelming joy after many, many boring kilometers of finally reaching Ushuaia at the bottom of the continent and thinking: ‘I did it! I really did it!’ And then there is time and again having a cortado and dos medialunas for breakfast while watching Argentina!
Thank you!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Buenos Aires

I just got back to Buenos Aires after a three week vacation in Switzerland. I had gone home for my brothers wedding. The wedding was smashing and done in true Nudi&Heidi style!

I have now spent a year in South America. I explored the continent all the way down to the tip in Ushuaia and as far North as the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. There have been a lot of problems with the bike last year. Which is not surprising considering that Stybba now has more than 350'000 kilometers her back. Talking about back: I did end up replacing Stybba's frame in Mendoza a couple of months ago and she has been almost good ever since.

I know I have been a very lazy blogger of late. I will try to do better this year. I plan on driving through Brasil and Venezuela up to Colombia in the next couple of months. Should I not live up to my blogging promise, try following my journey on facebook. In the meantime, I am leaving you with some pictures of Buenos Aires.