To get from El Chalten to the next town on my itinerary, El Bolson, required a 22-hour journey by bus. The options were either a non-stop bus or one that had an overnight stay along the way; I went with the latter, made sure my Kindle and iPad were juiced up, and luckily snagged the front row seat on the bus.
Riding through Patagonia over the course of the next two days was exactly as I had imagined it. Lots of greys and browns, expansive blue skies, craggy low hills. I even saw a few llamas (and maybe some alpacas?) scampering across the road. It was a peaceful ride–if you consider a bus careening through muddy gravel roads peaceful–and I read an entire novel in the process.
On the evening of January 20th I arrived at my destination: El Bolson, a hippie village snuggled in the green hills of northern Patagonia. I checked into my peaceful hostel nestled next to a river a few miles out of town, and crashed in bed. The next day I had a much-needed leisurely day wandering around the grounds of my hostel, taking in fresh air and enjoying the marginally milder weather. That evening I joined some others from the hostel for a communal dinner.
The next day, I took a rickety bus into town (and for just a few minutes was taken back to the chicken bus days of Central America!) to check out the famous Saturday Artisan Market. Filled with Argentine hippies selling handmade jewelry and tasty-looking but not tasty-tasting vegetarian treats, I quickly grew bored and a couple hours later worked my way back to the hostel.
It was about this time that I was going through some serious inner turmoil (Shocking, isn’t it?). Every emotion from the last few weeks started to coagulate, from going home for Christmas and feeling like a loser to starting to worry about where my life was headed at the end of the trip to suddenly feeling very alone and lonely not to mention the fact that I could be a poster-child for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder…I need my Vitamin D!). And then I read all these articles blowing up the web on why we girls who travel are one screwed up bunch of people, and well, I guess I started losing my marbles a bit (another shocker, I’m sure). So my mind was working overtime and I couldn’t relax until I finally typed out my frustration and wrote the most difficult blog I’ve ever written: A Girl Who Travels.
Once I released all my pent-up loconess on virtual paper, I felt loads better, but I still had some more demons to battle. Namely, the intense desire to throw in the towel and quit traveling. Push through!
Feeling better and ready to move on, I took a bus two hours north to the tourist haven of Bariloche, home of hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. It was Super Bowl Sunday, so I tagged along with two American guys from my hostel (and the most arrogant jerks I have ever met while traveling) to watch the most boring football game in history at a German Pub. In Argentina. Push Through!
The next morning I went for a walk around town before plopping down on a black sand “beach” by the lake. I realized that the emotional roller coaster I’d been on was only continuing to be powered by my itinerary choices. I love the mountains, but I can’t exactly do anything with them. I can’t hike. I can’t climb. I can only look at the scenery and remind myself what I can’t do, and it depresses me and bores me. Add to that crappy weather, and you better put me on an IV of Prozac! I decided I needed to stop sulking, to stop analyzing things, and to just bloody enjoy myself! So I went back to the hostel and booked a whitewater rafting trip for the next day. Push Through!
However, that evening, while hanging out in the common room of my hostel, an English guy announced that he was renting a car the next day to tour the region’s famous “Seven Lakes.” He was immediately swarmed by three people, and I had a few minutes to weigh my options. I could go rafting anywhere, but opportunities like this seldom present themselves. I canceled my rafting reservation and joined the group.
The next day we five roadtrippers and complete strangers–English Graham, American Ignacio, Germans Julia and Simone, and I–climbed into a teeny little rental car. We had a glorious day driving though the beautiful countryside, along unpaved roads, past waterfalls and mountain villages. By lake #3 we were bored of lakes, but we–um–pushed through! We ate lunch in a lakeside campground and eventually made it up to the village of San Martin de los Andes for a coffee. It was a long day on the road, and we eventually got back to Bariloche at dusk just as the rain began to fall. We cooked a celebratory dinner, guzzled wine, and exchanged email addresses. I’ve always said that my favorite part of traveling is the people I meet, and I was glad to form some new friendships, if only for a day.
The next morning I had to catch an early bus that would take me across the border to Chile. Don’t worry, Argentina. I’m not done with you! Pushing Through!