#6 Argentina, Feb, 28, 2005

Dear Everybody,

In Bariloche I went for a walk along the lake one morning until my knee complained, so I slowed down and then turned back. On the way back I popped into the Cathedral which is new (1946), large, and very Protestant looking. Most of the Catholic Cathedrals I’ve seen in Patagonia are very plain, and built along Protestant designs, I think. Compared with Mexico and Peru, these are really plain janes. Of course most of them were built in the 20th century compared with Peru and Mexico’s 16th and 17th century buildings.

That afternoon I took a bus to the cable car and took it up a mountain. There was a gorgeous view of the town, the lake, and the beautiful mountain but I’m always nervous on those things. Apparently this project was carried by an Argentine with Italian roots. In the building on the top there were exact copies (in plaster) of Michaelangelo’s David, The Pieta, and Moses. Then there were also about 20 photographs of his work. Quite bazaar, but interesting!

The next day I took an excursion to the ´Black Glacier.’ We 14 passengers were in a minivan and all but me were from Argentina. The aquamarine lakes (copper from the extinct volcanos) with the lovely mountains and pretty wildflowers clamored for too much picture taking. A short hike to a pretty waterfall and constant views of snow-capped Tronador mountain along with perfect weather made the day memorable.

The Black Glacier is just that. A glacier high on Tronador apparently melted when the volcano erupted, the water mixing with the black lava sediment and then refreezing again making ‘black ice.’ Black icebergs had fallen off and were floating in a small lake that was milky with sediment.

The people were mostly my age and were so nice to me, speaking Spanish very slooowly and clearly so that I could understand them part of the time, anyway.

When we were ‘coffeeing’ at the foot of Tronador, I happened to be watching when a chunk of ice ‘calved’ off a highup glacier and made a big explosion when it hit a rocky outcrop. It seemed to break into a million little pieces that hung in the air for some seconds so that I could photograph it. Un buen dia!

When I flew back to Buenos Aires on Friday, I had one of those experiences that rarely happens but that everyone fears. When I got to my Hotel Victoria about six PM, it was full. They recommended another—full; I tried another—PIT CITY!; tried another eight or so at random—all full! I was walking, carrying my 28 pound pack and it was pretty hot. This had taken me an hour and I wasn’t getting anywhere! I got a taxi and asked him to find me a hotel. He tried four, including the HUGE Intercontinental and they were FULL! I decided that I would go back to the Victoria and see if Erik the Norwegian was there—perhaps he would share his two-bedded room with me for a night; failing that (I knew he was planning to go horseback riding in the mountains and might be gone) I would have to go back and take the PIT CITY hostel, which had the lovely name of Carlos Gardel Hostel. And that place was essentially about 15 beds in a room that looked like a storage shed—unmade beds going every which way.

On the way, we passed yet another hotel and the taxi driver asked if we should try it, so we did and voila! I got a nice room in the nice Imperial Park Hotel. Well, all’s well that ends well!

Saturday afternoon I saw some tango dancing in the Plaza Derrado while I drank a beer, watching people and dodging fly-over pigeons. The tango is like another language, as an acquaintance observed.

I had chatted with a woman at breakfast Saturday who was from Washington DC, but grew up, guess where—Minnesota! (Deer River, near Wadena). We agreed to go together to La Boca on Sunday which we did. While we were waiting for a public bus, a young man from Washington DC joined us and the three of us spent some hours at La Boca. This is an area near the docks, which Italian immigrants settled, which has very colorful buildings. We walked a long ways along the docks where old brick dockside buildings have been gentrified into lovely apartments and restaurants.

This morning I took a ‘first class’ bus to Rosario, about 4 1/2 hours. The seats really did recline and had padded leg rests so one could sleep pretty easily.

I’m now in the pampas which are(?) is(?) Flat and Green. One can see why horses and beef cattle do so well here. In fact in Colonial times, cattle and horses had been introduced by the Spanish who later gave up their settlements to go to Paraguay. Many cattle and horses were abandoned but on their own in the Pampas, multiplied like crazy. By 1619 when the Spaniards resettled the area, they harvested untold numbers of cattle for hides and salted meat and captured and broke many wild horses for their use. This was the beginning of the ‘gaucho’ life, which still exists today, to some extent.

Rosario has many lovely flowering trees on the boulevards making it very pretty to enter on the bus. I shall explore it more over the next couple of days. A pretty apartment building is also the birthplace of Che Guevara, of all people.

Carol

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