When in Rain

By Madeline Blasberg

For the past month my mind furiously debated the pros and cons of traveling to Patagonia.  Patagonia the southernmost region of South America and arguably the most beautiful, home to glaciers and mountains, forests and lakes and an entirely distinct side of Argentina.  The problem was deciding if the trip was something I could actually pull off…

Pros: Once in a life time experience, chance to get into nature, Patagonia will never be closer than it is right now, hiking and trekking, lakes and trees, and a chance to get out of Mendoza for a bit.

Cons: A pricey bus ticket for a 22 hour ride (the price is unpleasant, but the trip could be fun…) and the ever diminishing total sum of my bank accounts.

I couldn’t imagine leaving Argentina without traveling to Patagonia, but in equal measure the pragmatic side of my brain couldn’t imagine forking out such a daunting pile of pesos.  Enter peer pressure.  When several friends approached me with the idea of traveling to Bariloche, a town in northern Patagonia and the chocolate capital of Argentina, I bit the bullet and bought the bus ticket.

By extending Semana Santa — a four-day weekend — into an entire weekend of travel, our itinerary had us spending several days in the land of chocolate, and several days in El Bolson, a town two hours more to the south.  Bariloche, as any crunchy granola eating hiker will tell you, is an outdoors lover’s paradise.  You can ski, hike up stuff, camp, ride horses, raft a river, kayak and mingle with the dred-locked-baret-wearing locals.  Overall, a very good time.

And El Bolson, our second destination, promised much more of the same, according to my handy guide-book.  According to the good book, El Bolson is a hippie town, nestled in the forests and rolling mini-mountains of Patagonia, offering one of the best artisan fairs in hundreds of miles.  We had arranged our schedule to accommodate for a day at the fair, buying beautiful things and filling ourself with handmade heart attacks waiting to happen (aka Roquefort stuffed empanadas).  What we did not accommodate for was a torrential downpour.

The weather channel had warned of an imminent downpour, but experience has taught that “imminent” in Argentina is better interpreted as “possibly potentially maybe” and should not be taken too seriously.  This was, unfortunately, an exception to that rule.  For nearly 36 hours God dumped and dumped agua on El Bolson, crushing our hopes to visit the market, and foiling our elaborate trekking plans.

This was, a rather upsetting blow.  I love to trek.  Stick me in a forest with a trail of some sort and I can be the happy camper.  But, plop me into a flea market and I can create magnificence.  I’d literally salivated over the idea of the Feria Artisanal ever since I bought the bus ticket.  How could it be that on Easter weekend the heavens decided to be so devastatingly unkind?

After half an hour of disbelief and disappointment, a new plan needed to be formed.  Our posse of travelers donned rain gear and flip-flops and headed out into the flooded streets of El Bolson.  We wandered the plaza where the feria was to be held, chatted with the few miserable vendors who braved the weather, ate the most obscene waffle in the world (topped with dulce de leche, whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and two different kinds of chocolate sauce), and spent the rest of the day baking cookies and playing cards in the comfort of our hostel.

Patagonia is hard-core.  It tests you physically on the side of mountains, in gorges, on rocky slops and in apocalyptic rain storms.  But it is also a mental challenge, one that reminded me that attitude really is almost everything.  I am still disappointed that horrible weather sat on top of El Bolson for the one weekend in my life that I will spend there, but there is more to the picture than rain drop streaked windows and sopping wet jeans.

For example.  I can now light a gas stove without fear that I will explode in a blaze of glory.  I met some awesome travelers, tromped around town in sopping wet clothes and moppy wet hair, and I ate delicious impromptu chocolate chip cookies and watched Glee with spanish subtitles.  The Patagonian experience I expected wasnt exactly what I got — at least not the final days — but when in rain you have to do as the Argentines do: disfrutar.  Enjoy.  Your never too old to play in the rain, bake cookies and snuggle up.  Enjoy whatever it is that life has dumped in front of you — Patagonia, flash floods and all.

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