Monday, January 20, 2014

Expatriating, The Nomadic Way: So, Now What?

article from December 21, 2010
By Jamie Douglas

In the previous installment, I described my wife and my departure from the USA and arrival in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is what happened next.

After the first couple of days of living diagonally across the street from the Federal Police Headquarters, watching the armored personnel carriers and water canon trucks come and go, with fire trucks literally shooting out of a garage in the middle of the block, we decided not to continue our nightly disturbances, opting instead to move right into the center of town, two doors down from the intersection of  Avenida de Mayo and Avenida 9 de Julio, to the charming and surprisingly affordable, Hotel Reina.

Everything was within walking distance from our location right on the main avenue that leads from the Casa Rosada to the Palacio del Congreso, assuring almost daily protest marches from a large cross section of the population. Nothing ever turned violent, but the armored personnel carriers and water cannons were there, just to make sure. The obelisk was  a couple of blocks away, and we often strolled the pedestrian-only mall on Florida, where there were Tango performances at night, street vendors galore, mostly selling handicrafts from Peru and Ecuador, stores and ice cream shops, and a sufficient tourist police presence that made us feel fairly secure.

But after so much Tango, a fiery Flamenco festival, many great cafés and restaurants, and walking dozens of miles all over the city for over a week, we remembered why we came to Argentina – and it was not to be in one of the world’s largest metropolises. We had read on the Internet about this cute little hippie town in the Andes called El Bolsón.

To get there, we first had to endure a 20-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to San Carlos de Bariloche, which was brutal. Our attendant was a complete douchebag – about as inattentive as you can get – and we, as unknowing yanquis, had thought that “first class” would mean that there would be plenty of food and water on board, so we failed to stock up. Very Important Note: When taking long distance public transport – anywhere in the world – do yourself a favor and bring your own water and snacks. Our attendant would   disappear for hours, not caring about the well-being of his guests. Finally, at around 11 pm, after seven hours on the road, he delivered the worst form of packaged meal you could imagine. I will spare you the details.

We finally arrived in Bariloche the next afternoon, got a room in a hostería, grabbed a decent meal, and crashed in a quiet room overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi. We spent a few days there, but it was so touristy that we were more than ready to head on to El Bolsón, which is a few hours to the south, right on the 42nd parallel south.

After booking one night in a budget hotel that lacked the usual facilities but had a fabulous restaurant across the street, we decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, even though it was only cuatro de Mayo, in Patagonian style, with an early dinner of great food, a bottle of Malbec, and for dessert, we couldn't resist a splurge on the spectacularly artful tiramisú and chocolate mousse.

Then we went to the tourist office to inquire about renting an apartment, or a cabaña, for a month or so. The helpful fellow behind the desk recommended a place called Los Girasoles that came complete with Internet and cheery restaurant, but when we got there, most unfortunately, we found that they were booked up. Dejectedly, we began to walk back to the tourist office, and within less than a block, we saw a lovely hand carved wooden sign announcing the Don Celestino Cabañas – a turn of fate. We knocked on the door, met the proprietress, Marina Losada, and her companion Miguel, who speaks some English, and were shown a wonderful, new, yet rustic, two-story apartment by these friendly people. We immediately booked for four weeks.

When we returned to our east-facing room back at the other end of town that evening, we were treated to one of the most astounding sights, as the full moon rose above Cerro Piltriquitrón. It was a truly magical day.

I will have to leave it there until the next installment, when our skin, or at least our cameras, are saved by a broken ladder.

Until then, continue to live your dreams.
Jamie Douglas

Don Celestino Cabañas, Avenida San Martín 3430
Tel 02944 498521 or Cell 02944 15 591069

[All photos by Jamie Douglas]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

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