From Caviahue a lady who was an expat in Norway picked us up. She was quite optimistic about her upcoming business plans in Argentina. Hearing her expectations, I was full of doubt but I think this is the difference between me and an entrepreneur. From where she dropped us a guy with his wife and little kid, followed by another car with two very young guys took us to his car. He was going up to Chos Malal. Our arrival time there was getting late so he suggested that we should put our tent in his sister’s garden which we happily accepted. Unfortunately we were too tired to spend time with them for the rest of night and fell asleep as soon as the tent was up.
View from the fort in Chos Malal
The next day he told us that we wanted to visit his brother and family who were living in a village somewhat close to where we were. He asked us if we wanted to join and if we do, afterwards he could drop us to a good hitchhiking spot at the edge of the city. The only thing was we were supposed to say that we support Boca Juniors when we meet his brother. We agreed. We wanted to see a bit of places where normally we wouldn’t be able to travel to. Before we left we made a short tour of the city where there is an old fort where the old Argentineans used to establish their order in the land by killing the local population of Mapuches. He told that when he was a child this story was told as a glorious victory and now times have changed and it is being told as a shameful display of murder. Along with the “nunca mas” campaign going around the country which is trying to recover and confront the military rule not long ago, I think Argentina is trying hard to make peace with its past. At least internally, because as of yet I was not brave enough to ask about the Malvinas, or as the rest of the world calls them, the Falklands Islands.
The two youths also joined us on the road where we have seen a strip of road where the electric cables along the road were either cut off, or damaged. With the poles were still standing, it looked abandoned. He clarified us that the village close by gathered some money among themselves and invested in a wind tribune. Now they were producing their own electricity and didn’t need to buy from the government. It was so successful that they were even selling electricity to the next village.
His village, called Huinganco, was a mining village somewhere on the mountains so remote from civilization that there was no mobile phone coverage and limited landlines. The main method of communication was the radio. Not the two way radio but the radio broadcasting locally. When someone needs to tell someone something, they call the radio, leave the message and hope the other one hears it. So between songs you can hear announcements like “Carlos Fernandes, come next to the fence around three o’clock and they will pick you up from there.” Still, more functional than asking for a song for a loved one.
When we stop abruptly and got out of the car in a hurry, which turned out to be for catching an armadillo, or pichi as they call it, I did not at first understand the reason. He then told us that they eat almost everything here and this was supposed to be lunch if they had caught it. I was glad that they couldn’t, though I have experimental tendencies for food, this could have been my limit. On the roads of the Atlantic coast they would never suffer from hunger where there is a roadkill every 20 meters.
Anyway, we reached to the village where he is from, where his family were and where he wanted to spend his retirement. He had ten siblings. One of whom had autism, who was the main reason that we came to visit. They took turns in taking care of him and the parents. As soon as we arrived we were asked which team we were supporting and of course we answered as Boca Juniors which made the brother extremely happy. There were lots of Boca Junior themed souvenirs around the room with the brother’s picture among some of them. They asked us to join lunch with them and we did. After lunch most of the family left and left the two youths with us. They were very curious about where we come from, how our life is, how we travel, where and what we have seen. We tried to give them as much detail as possible and they were amazed or surprised at each detail we told them. After a couple of hours there, we started back to Chos Malal again. On the road he told us that he was working in a charity that looks after underprivileged or orphaned children and tries to give them a better future. He had a lot of hope for these two lads and he was trying his best to lure them in to education and now that their age was getting risky, as away from drugs and desperation as possible. Our lives as examples to them was a part of this approach, to awaken curiosity in their minds to travel, and to show that they don’t need to be rich to travel as well. This really was a completely different face of Argentina.
A village on the road that I don’t know the name of.
I think I will never understand why a relatively poor village would want to spend money on such a big statue. How could this be a priority?
This guy, who had a heart of gold, who thought “when you start enjoying the color of trees in the change of seasons, it means you got old” was a great person but what nagged me about him was him allowing these underage kids to drive without license. Himself, his wife driving without seat belts and in the front seat with his baby which horrified me for concerns on safety. This was like calling a tragedy. A very good human being or his loved ones could be lost to basic safety negligence. And afterwards would be commented how god is great and works mysteriously and how god tries us etc.
You can just look the other way instead of thinking and worrying too much
By the time he left us it was quite late to reach anywhere but we still thanked him for all his generosity and hospitability and started hitchhiking towards north as much as we could go before the night. A guy who told us that he was a police but turned out to be a security officer at someplace picked us from there and dropped somewhere on the road with a nice view of Volcano Tromen, where we camped for the night.
The camping spot