The following post details the Nowhere Men’s journey from March 25 – March 27:
We hustled back into Argentina, over the crumbles of mountains that lay between these two southernmost neighbors. Pulling into Bariloche by the time darkness had settled in, it happened to be Good Friday, which reigned in hordes of tourists seeking a respite to conclude Semana Santa. Eric’s dad had highly recommended a parrilla (grille) restaurant in town, going so far as to fund the dinner. “You can live like kings for a reasonable price,” he lauded. We took him up on the offer.
El Boliche de Alberto looked like just any other restaurant as we strolled in. It had tables full of tourists and a friendly wait staff that eagerly seated us. What set this place apart was its grille. Centered amongst the bustle of the restaurant, in the scattering of tables and chatter, a giant grille the length of two grown men lying head to toe lined the back wall. The chef himself took our order, making sure to cut out any potential miscommunication the presence of a waiter might have made.
We ordered whatever it was we were supposed to, the ojo de bife al punto (ribeye cooked just right) and a set of other prime cuts. Having resisted eating a complete meal since breakfast, we’d readied our bellies for this one. When our chef confidently delivered our perfectly prepared slabs of cow, we gawked at it with the fervor of a recently released inmate. The pink and red flesh cut like butter and carried a taste beyond compare. It was no hyperbole when we agreed it might have been the best meat any of us had ever had. It’s no shock, then, that three weeks later on our return to Chiloe to sell Velita we drove through the night to arrive promptly during business hours to get another smack of these edible gems. Oh, and a third time en route to Buenos Aires to fly home when it was all said and done.
A refreshing early fall day set the scene for a calming hike in Llao Llao national park. From downtown Bariloche we circumvented the picturesque lake, lined with a tremendous green mix of trees, spotted with auburn and brown-tinged streaks, indicating the commencement of seasonal change. Watchful mountains outlined the route, completing a fully phenomenal setting. As the New York Times described the road to Llao Llao, upon President Obama’s historic visit to the region, just 2 days before our own,
“The presidential motorcade wove down winding roads flanked by steep grass-covered hills and a deep-blue alpine lake, delivering President Obama and his family to the trailhead of a hike through the lush woods of one of Argentina’s most spectacular regions.”
And so with our cameras in tow, we promised to document the drive to Llao Llao as Obama certainly did not.
Healthy trees lined the trail, providing shadow through which warming rays could shoot. We calmly sauntered on past happy families and tranquilo day hikers, exchanging an hola here and a que tal? there.
We found a gentle lakeside viewpoint to practice ten minutes of meditation. The light ripples of the water reflected the broad shadows of greenery-plated rocky hills. Undisturbed fauna passed the day serenely in this idyllic fountain of life. We took in the moment and connected with our surroundings. Soon enough we walked on back and returned to Bariloche’s preserved colonial streets, admiring its likability and respecting its status as a presidential tourist attraction.
The mountains maintained their amazement on the short drift down to El Bolson. There, we wandered without intent about the laid back buzz of the local town market. Here the hippie reputation came to life. Funky art vendors intermixed with mate stands, each merchant showcasing their own hand made work. We could hear the “shhh” sounds flying through the air, common interactions abounding between locals and out-of-towners in that typical Argentine tongue. We were simply curious extranjeros allowing our eyes and ears to indulge in the atmosphere.
We eventually decided to buy our own Mate cups to try to acculturate ourselves with an Argentine custom that is as much a habit as a symbol of the lifestyle. Common sense reminded us that it made little sense to buy our own Mate set, including cup with metal straw, yerba tea, and thermos; we will invariably choose coffee over tea whenever the moment might call for a caffeine boost. But, at the very least our Mate cups could be fun souvenirs that might sit on our desks back at home and collect dust over time from lack of use; or, more optimistically, we could carry the custom back with us to NYC. As it turned out, we opted to put our Mate to work over the coming weeks winding down the Andes southbound. We discovered it was a worthwhile activity to help pass the time while our water boiled for those nightly pasta dinners. As they say, “When in Argentina, do as the Argentines do.”