Communion Of Dreams

Jim Downey and the Federation of Silver.
November 10, 2008, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Argentina, N. Am. Welsh Choir, Patagonia, Travel

Part Five: OK, this is what I came for!

After spending the bulk of Saturday sitting in the hotel pub, sipping beer, making notes, doing a bit of quiet reading, things got busy.

That evening, the choir was giving a performance at one of the Catholic churches in downtown Buenos Aires, in honor of Dr. Edgar John Hughes, the British Ambassador to Argentina, who happens to be Welsh.  They all left for the rehearsal at the church about 4:00, the rest of us following at 6:30.  Of course, this being Argentina, nothing started on time – the concert got going about 8:30, and was quite enjoyable.  Following the performance, there was a brief reception, and then we went back to the hotel, arriving about 10:30.  Not too bad, right?

Well, except that we’d not had dinner.  Remember, no one eats dinner until starting about 9:00.

Not such a problem, eh?  I mean, plenty of restaurants were open, this was Saturday night in downtown Buenos Aires – the night was just starting!

Er, except that we had to be up at 3:30, in order to make our flight out of the Buenos Aires domestic airport, to Bariloche.

No, I am not kidding.  Well, actually, I am a bit.  See, Buenos Aires was changing over to Daylight Savings time, so the clocks had to be set forward Saturday night.  We needed to be up by 4:30 in order to make our flight.  Except that was 3:30.  And the place where we were going – San Carlos de Bariloche – was not going to change.  So, as far as our bodies, and the rest of the schedule, was concerned, we had to be up at 3:30.  Yeah, it was built into our schedule that we would have a maximum of five hours sleep.

I’d still like to find out what idiot came up with this idea.  I blame ‘Ferguson’.

And of course, that five hours maximum was really not possible.  Because we had to repack our bags before getting to bed.  And that, after persuading the hotel bar staff to come up with some sandwiches before we crashed.

Why not pack our bags earlier?  Good question.  Because there was a 15 kilo weight limit for the domestic airline.  So Alix and I had scaled back what we brought on the trip, by a considerable amount.  This was not a bad thing, overall, except that it necessitated packing in a certain way.  Specifically, in a way which required the more formal clothing we wore to the concert to go into the bags *first*.

Ah, well.  We survived.  Got something to eat – basically, I ordered the sandwiches as soon as I walked in the door, and then the check as soon as they were brought – and then got packed and crashed.  Up ungodly early, had a light breakfast (rolls, coffee, juice) in the hotel lobby, then climbed on the bus for the airport.

The domestic airport in Buenos Aires is as nice as any airport I’ve been to in the States.  Security was somewhat casual, but still substantial.  Got our bags checked, then up to wait for the plane.  And of course it was late – we could have easily slept in at least another hour, and still had plenty of time to spare.  The flight was two hours, with another light breakfast en route, along with the sort of absurd officiousness to be found among airline crew everywhere.

We landed in Bariloche, at a small airport about the size of the one here in Columbia.  In other words, getting off the plane, collecting our bags, getting out took no time to speak of.  Cold there – with mountains in the not-too-far distance!  Ferguson kept telling people mixed up and confusing things, but we got into buses OK, then set out for a bit of a tour of the area around Bariloche – effectively, a tour of Nahuel Huapi National Park.

It was absolutely gorgeous!  Simply stunning.  Early spring, into the mountains.  Take a look at the images on the Bariloche tourism site, but keep in mind that they are no better at capturing the beauty of these mountains than any photos of mountains anywhere are.  I was reminded more of the Swiss Alps than the Rocky Mountains, if that helps.  And it is little wonder that the area was largely settled by Germans/Swiss and Italians.  Which shows very much in the style of the architecture and in the culture of the town. We stopped at several junctures, just to get out and enjoy the view.  I was hooked – this is what lured me on the trip to start with!

The local guide for our bus, Frederico, was very knowledeable about not just the culture of the area, but also of the local geography.  Young, smart, relaxed, and with a much better command of English than Ferguson, it was a real pleasure to listen to him as we toured the countryside.  I would have loved to have traded him for Ferguson for the rest of the trip, but my karma is not that clean.

Finally, mid afternoon we rolled back into Bariloche proper, and went to the hotel.  (Whose website is yet another example of the god-awful preference they have for flash-design in Argentina!  Gah!!  Particularly given the poor condition overall of the internet infrastructure down there, especially outside of Buenos Aires, you’d think they wouldn’t want to run such a bandwidth-heavy design.  Makes me crazy.)  It was a complete debacle at the hotel, trying to get checked in and getting to our rooms.  Oh, the hotel staff was friendly and helpful enough, but it was like they were totally unprepared for the mass of us to arrive there, and good ol’ Ferguson just kept confusing everyone by standing up and loundly trying to ‘clarify’ things.  Madness.

Eventually, we got into our rooms.  Tired, hungry, we went out to seek something resembling a decent meal.  Turns out, this was the day that Argentina celebrates “Mother’s Day”.  Meaning that every restaurant had done a huge business for the normal lunch crowd, and we were arriving at the tail end of that.  But Alix and I were able to join another couple on the tour for a pleasant meal at the Familia Weiss – something of a local institution specializing in smoked meats, wild game, and handmade pastas.  I ordered some wild pork – which arrived as four large medallians, thick and juicy, and absolutely delicious – and easily more meat than I would normally eat in a week at home.  I think that it was at this point in the tour that I made the conscious decision to scale back radically on how much I was eating – in an effort to enjoy everything, I was over indulging.

It was also here that I discovered that there was a handcrafted – the Argentines translate it as “homemade” – label of the national beer Quilmes called “Patagonia Amber Lager” which is excellent.  Much like any decent microbrew amber ale you’d find here in the States.  And comes in a nice quart-sized bottle.  Yum.  That helped moderate my tiredness and aggravation at having to listen to Ferguson back at the hotel.

Following our leisurely meal, we wandered back to the hotel in the rain.  Got settled in.  Napped.  Alix went down for a social function with everyone in the lobby, but I decided that I was full enough, and tired enough, to just stay and snooze.  It was also evident at this point that I had the beginnings of a cold.  Ah, well, to be expected, I suppose.

Jim Downey

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[…] of Dreadnoughtus schrani, the massive dinosaur found in the Patagonia region of Argentina (been there!), which in addition to being notable for its size is also notable for how much of it was […]

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