#2 Argentina, Feb. 3, 2005

Dear Everybody,

The Sun is in the North! One day when I came up from the subway in Buenos Aires and consulted my map, I had trouble orienting myself. I lurched and jerked awhile and finally found my direction—the map didn’t seem to make sense, looking at the sun. It was two days before another person told of having walked miles in the wrong direction based on the Sun/South! How weird—of course it’s in the NORTH!

On Sunday morning my little cafe wasn’t open so I headed downtown and then to the pedestrian mall, Florida, where I bought a Carlos Gardel CD. I looked for a coffee shop, but nothing was open so I decided I had to settle for McDonalds. What a surprise! Just inside their door was a little area called McCafe that made espresso and sold small Danish pastries. Yum! Roberto, maybe Italy’s McDonalds could do this.

When I did email that same morning, two American ladies came in and were trying to insist that the clerk accept an American dollar bill–he wouldn’t. They were starting to leave when I called to them to wait, and I gave them two pesos (78 cents) which would allow each of them a full hour on the Internet. I suggested that they might like to get some pesos, but they said that they were going home the next day, and they hadn’t needed any before today.

Sunday night, my last night in BA, I went to dinner and a Tango show at El Querandi restaurant. I was seated at a small table for two at the best place in the house, right next to center stage. This never happens to a single woman diner, especially in Latin America. I noticed that they didn’t remove the second place setting because—? because they seated a man at my table. He turned out to be Irwin, a man from Minneapolis, born the same year as me (and the same year that Carlos Gardel died, which is how it came up). Then out of about 25 choices, he ordered the same dish that I had already ordered. We had a nice chat over a rather good dinner, and the show was also first rate so it was a very successful evening. I walked back to the hotel, about six blocks, in the rain—I didn’t see any taxis and I thought that surely rapists wouldn’t be out in the rain.

 

 

 

It rained steadily for two days. I was beginning to feel like Sadie Thompson. On one misty afternoon I had coffee with Steve and Hillary, whom I met through Lonely Planet on the Internet. We coffeed for much of the rainy afternoon, trading travel stories.

On Monday (still raining) I got my flight to El Calafate which is far south in Patagonia. I had spectacular views of the Andes from my plane window. I checked into a hostel in a four bed room (bunks) with its own bathroom. All three of my young roommates (two women and one man) came in after I was in bed, and left before I was up, with huge backpacks with bedrolls—clearly hard core hikers. I imagine they would be sleeping that night in a refugio up in the mountains. Me—I just took a bus/boat tour the next day to the Moreno Glacier, which was more than spectacular!

You know, when I studied electricity in an electronics class one time, I understood about the flow of electrons, but I could never Really understand how it worked—it’s like magic. And yes, I know about glaciers—the melting and compacting of the snow, the weight of the ice, gravity that pulls all that weight downhill, but I don’t really GET it—it’s like magic. This huge river of ice (1 1/2 miles wide, 55 meters high, and 30 miles long) moves about 2 1/2 meters per day. The noise was thrilling—like gunshots and thunder combined. On the boat we saw two ‘calvings’ as big icebergs broke off the face of the glacier into the lake, creating a tiny tsunami that rocked the boat some. When the sun shown full on the glacier, the WHITE was blinding, and there appeared to be bright blue streaks in the crevasses. On land a sign warned not to go closer to the glacier than the viewing platforms, as 32 people had been killed from 1958 until 1988 by flying chunks of ice. The huge variety of tiny wildflowers were fun to sort out in the areas near the glacier.

Yesterday I took the bus to Puerto Natales, Chile. During the ride I had beautiful Andean views as well as a lovely chat with JuanLuis of Spain who was taking a year off from lawyering to travel, think about his life, and recover from a lost love.

Patagonia rarely has a clear sky and the wind rarely stops blowing. This makes for dramatic skies and tousled hair! The temperature has not been cold, but a light jacket is comfortable. Economic conditions seem pretty poor here, with main sources of income from the summer tourist season and sheep. From the bus I saw wild rheas (sort of like a small ostrich) and black-necked swans, and lots of sheep.

What is it about Minnesotans and traveling? This morning over breakfast I chatted with two men—one from Germany and one from Minneapolis!! I have only met three Americans (not counting the ladies with no pesos) and many Germans, two Canadians, some Argentines, one Spainerd, two Hollanders, besides Steve and Hillary who I had prearranged to meet, and out of those three Americans, two were from Minneapolis! This man (John) had ridden his motorcycle all the way from Minneapolis to southern Patagonia—12,000 miles. As we chatted I mentioned that I had a daughter who once had a motorcycle and made my hair turn gray. I also mentioned something about her being married to a Mexican. He said, “There was this couple from Minneapolis that were in jail in Mexico—?” Oh yes, he had followed the story in the newspaper and was glad to learn that they were out, as he hadn’t heard that since he had been traveling for four months.

Today I have made all arrangements for taking a public bus to the Torres del Paine Park tomorrow, and staying at a hotel within the park for two nights. I hope to do a little moderate hiking in the Park. Then I bought my Navimag ferry ticket that I will use two weeks from now going north up the Chilean coast for three days. And for Monday, a bus ticket south to Punta Arenas. Got all that? I hope that I do. JuanLuis had quite a surprise on the bus yesterday to learn that it was not Thursday, his day to board the Navimag ferry as he thought, but only Wednesday. The days do get to be a bit of a jumble.

I sent postcards off to the grandchildren from El Calafate, remembering to print as the oldest ones can read now. And I hope they arrive in MN and WI from this tiny, distant Argentine town sometime soon.

Hope you’re all fine—Carol

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