Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So much for that plan!

Despite the fact that San Martin and Junin de los Andes both have God's own plenty of locutorios, small businesses that offer both phone and slamming Internet connections, I didn't do any blog work while I was in Argentina. I'll update some of that in the weeks to come (or I will intend to) but for now, I'll settle for a list of things I would and would not do differently next time around.
Things I would do again
  • Go back to Huechahue. The horses were amazing, the food was great, the accommodations were comfortable, and the hostess and staff went out of their way to make everyone happy. Full marks.
  • Ride every day, even when I was feeling lazy. All the slacker fumes were blown away whenever we stretched into a gallop across the sun-blasted fields.
  • Do the scary bits, including the belly crawl into a basalt cave and the vertiginous horseback descents. They remain terrifying in my memory, so I didn't exactly prove anything by doing them except that doing frightening things won't kill me. Possibly a philosophy not to be taken to extremes.
  • Have hot chocolate and churros. My pancreas begged for mercy and I would not heed, because the sugar was so good.
  • Eat steak with fried eggs. First of all, Maciej was right about the meat, and second of all, the eggs are fried in the salted lard from the steaks. Greasy delight. Add a pomelo soda and you've got the kind of meal that will make me happy to be alive with a fork to hand.
  • Get a manicure on the eve of setting out. The silliness of neatly painted hussy-red nails on a vacation that involved scrabbling on rocks, yanking on rawhide cinches, and scratching canine tummies was offset by the happiness of having someone pamper me for an hour.
Things I would not do again
  • Take Aerolineas Argentinas. The airline appears to operate on the razor edge of chaos, stories about hair-raising delays were common, and booking tickets involves a ridiculous byzantine dance that seems designed to funnel work to travel agents. In a country with buses that (a) have beds in them and (b) run every day like clockwork, it's madness to fly if you're not in a tearing hurry.
  • Camp in the mountains using borrowed gear. It's possible to camp comfortably, but it's a lot easier with your own stuff, and a Thinsulate mat is much more comfortable than lumpy horse blankets.
  • Stick my digicam in my pocket without its case. Alas, poor Exilim, the dust finished it off.
  • Go to a tango show. They're full of tourists, and unless you actually know anything about tango, one show is much like another. (To be fair, the price of my ticket covered a fantastic insalata capprese and the largest glass of wine I've ever seen poured, possibly because the waiter felt bad that I was there on my own.)
  • Buy so much chocolate. I tread on the edge of heresy as far as received wisdom goes, but the Argentine chocolate just didn't do it for me. The ice cream is a different story, and if someone can ship me a gallon or two of Freddo's malbec con frutas rojas sorbet, I will be greatly in their debt.
  • Bother bringing contacts. I went through the full song and dance to get a new set, and then it was far too dusty to ever make them worth the hassle.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Starting off

When it's a clear cold winter day and nothing seems to be standing between DC and the North Pole except, er, Canada and all the relatively flat states to the north, what is a sensible woman to do to stay warm? Or me, for that matter? There's dressing in layers (check), drinking hot coffee (double check), and running around packing up summer-weight clothing for a two-week trip somewhere warm (awesome, and check).
I started planning this trip several months ago, when the director of my journal announced that our work would change dramatically in March. I figured that taking a long, physically demanding vacation in February would set me up to come back rested and rebooted. Little did I know that her vision of said radically different work process would involve laying off me and two of my coworkers, a decision that came so far out of left field that most of us initially thought that we were being called in to be scolded for using personal e-mail accounts on the work computers. So things at the journal will certainly be changing in March, but after the end of the month, they won't be paying me to worry about it any more. Now the vacation seems like an excellent opportunity to work off some of the anger I feel about the layoffs, as well as a chance to get some sun and warmth into my bones. It's in the 80s in Buenos Aires and somewhat cooler in San Martin, but it's well below freezing here in DC, and the idea of ditching the winter blues for what Idle Words so brilliantly termed "a steakation" now seems little short of genius.
I hope to update with photos and stories once I'm there, but there will probably be a long break while I'm at the estancia. Rural Argentina is not the interwebular hotspot you might expect.
For anyone playing along at home, I'll be staying at Garufa B&B in Buenos Aires, then going to Estancia Huechahue in Patagonia, and finally staying for a few nights at Le Village in San Martin.