Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bariloche is totally sweet.

It is like Tahoe with a tenth of the people, and no sunburned, bloated ski boat driving hicks blasting Creed. Also, there are chocolate shops everywhere, some as big as your local supermarket (no exaggeration, all chocolate, all the time), which no matter how cheap or wierd the chocolate, is always better than listening to Creed.
Andrew and I really like our hostel. everyone is great, it´s really comfortable, reasonably priced, the food is good, etc, and the weather lately has been perfect. BTW, for all of you in Seattle, I went from [look out your window] to the sun going down at 10 and 75 degrees every day. who wouldn´t like this?
So yesterday I was all pumped to climb this mountain, Cerro Catedral, which is also a ski resort and has these sweet teeth on the ridge that make it look, well, really badass. It is just a walkup, and since you are basically walking up a ski resort you can´t get lost, and if you do, just follow the chairlift down. so I walked/hitchhiked/took buses to the base and started going. To make a long, infuriating story short, I got blisters (new vocab opportunity: Ampollas). New boots and improper blister gear and a steep ascent are a rough combination for your feet.
It is amazing how much of your reality has to do with the state of your feet. I ended up taking the cable card down since I was almost starting to bleed, after trying everything else...second skin, duct tape, tying laces differently, walking differently, wishing them away, telling myself to be tough, thinking about non-blister related subjects like dancing bears and talking midgets, swearing creatively and profusely and in multiple languages... You know, everything.
When I got to the bottom this lady literally chased me down and told me I had to pay (JEW HOFF TO PAYEE, JEW HOFF TO PAYEE!!) 24 pesos (8 bucks) for the ride down and then marched me to this kiosk to do so. It felt like I was in grade school getting taken to the principal´s office. Maybe it was the most exciting part of her day, but it would have been nice to know that I had to pay before getting on the damn thing. Trust me, I looked for a sign. Welcome to latin america.
So I was all pissed off at my feet hurting, getting skunked barely halfway up to my goal, and the whole indignity of the crazy grade school secratary lady, so I decided to bust out the iPod and listen to two songs that can´t not put one in a good mood. Yes folks, anyone who knows me can guess: Erotic city and Canned Heat. They are like a magic bullet. It was hard not to shake my ass at the bus stop which may have made me some new friends, but I just listened and it put me in a much better mood. I would recommend it for you too. Have you ever seen anyone frowning to Canned Heat? Yeah, I thought so.
The bus here was like going back to high school. right after getting on the stereo played Stairway to Heaven and Wish you were Here back to back, on top of being surrounded by women I had no chance with romantically because I had no clue how to talk to them. Yep, Just like HS. Also, the bus is like 30 cents, and all the mirrors are trimmed with either fake fur, fringe (a la a Surrey or the lead singer´s jacket from the ´88 RATT tour), or something else dangly. Mind you the drivers are Latin Men, never short of machismo, or in this case, danglies.
Town was fun-the aforementioned supermalls of chocolate, and cheap everything else. I went to this family friendly restaurant, and by family I mean over half the women inside were pregnant, including the waitress. And I am talking swallowed-a-television pregnant, maybe-there-are-two-or-three-babies-in-there pregnant. Apparently when you are pregnant in Argentina, you head straight for the Empanada joint. I cán not blame them, they were fantastic. My favorite was spring onions and cheese...think of what you want a really, really great omelette to taste like, then wrap it in buttery pastry instead of eggs, and imagine you quit your job and are in the middle of summer. Yeah, they are that good.
Today on the other hand, was pretty much exactly what I hoped for. Andy and I went on this huge adventure with this 50-ish couple who speak basically no english (great for my spanish). She is from Uruguay but her father is italian, he is from Italy and grows spumante grapes but spends his off season in uruguay, and they have been maried for five years and are very charming. They took us on this tour of these rivers so giuliano and Andy could fly-fish (didn´t catch any), and Sylvia and I hung out. On the way out we stopped at this roadside shack, for lack of a better term, where they claimed Eisenhower had visited, among other celebrities, and had my first truly sketchy mystery food experience. I stayed away from the "probably-tripe-but-regardless-covered-in-gelatinous-substancë" plate, and stuck to the bread and cheese.
We took what was basically a geo metro on roads better suited for a 4x4 for about 60 or 70 miles, but saw some amazing stuff in the process and had a lot of fun. I took the time to learn a bit more about my camera and took a lot of photos. This one place we stopped for lunch-this "town" Villa Traful that was 30 miles down a dirt road, mind you- and I snuck back in the kitchen where they were preparing an entire lamb for Parilla (argentine BBQ, which everyone does, all the time, everywhere).
I took some photos of the cook doing his thing trimming and splitting the spine to spread this lamb and he asked me all about cuisine where I was from and I told him about Alaskan Salmon. They were totally into it and super nice, like everyone else in this country.
So everything was super beautiful, our friends were super nice, and we had a great time. The only bummer was that I left my Schoeller hiking pants at the first place we stopped, and when we went back they were gone, so I have to find some more. too bad, they were just perfect for the outdoors, and I have been up several mountains with those. Why is is that I can not travel without someone stealing pair of my pants? Matt knows what I am talking about. Note to the people: If you ever fall asleep drunk in a grody red-light district amsterdam hostel, either wear or lock up your pants.
But the country folk out this way are pretty cool, except for the pants thieves. On the way back, Andy and I said to each other "you know, if this were america, these people would be totally cracker-y rednecks with gun racks in place of social skills, but these people are great!"
Anyway, the geology was beyond words, the sunset amazing, and then after a quick shower we went back into town for dinner (I had to wear my ski pants to dinner since my jeans were at the laundry), which was of course Parilla, which translates roughly to "The best way to get rid of vegetarians is to starve them."
So, I ordered the tenderloin (lomo) and they basically brought me a filet no less than 20 oz. Mind you, a tyical restaurant filet portion is usually in the neighborhood of 5-7 oz, so I was, needless to say, more excited than a Republican Senator playing 18 at Augusta courtesy of some indian tribe. Wait who cares, let´s have another scotch and get some hookers on Abramoff!
ok, pardon the political outburst. If you know andy waterman, you´ll understand how it came to mind.
Anyway, the first course was this local sausage, and the second course was a cutting board PILED with meat. The little Uruguayan-Italian lady? she threw back a 20+ oz Ribeye without even blinking. Like I said, this is a great country. so the steak was huge, the wine was great, and the bill for all of us (2 bottles of wine, a small mountain range of meat, side dishes, dessert) was around 60 bucks.
Like I said, this place is totally sweet.
Hasta Pronto, Adam

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