I flossed today.
I flossed today.
We will soon be leaving El Bolsón and making our way to Valparaiso, Chile: partly to frolic in the other ocean, partly to take care of our pesky visas. We are incredibly excited to be back on the road and to see what other wild and beautiful adventures Argentina has in store for us. But it will be incredibly hard to leave El Bolsón: this funny little town has become a home to us, and we will miss the many amazing characters here who have become true friends, and our faithful haunts where we spent many lovely evenings.
So we present to you: Our ode to El Bolsón!
El Plaza Pagano: Home of many incredibly talented artists, food vendors, fire jugglers, and half our WWOOF hosts.
(Oh yes, and the uncomfortably forward gypsies. They told me my sin was the love of work, and then tried to sell me a magic lotion.)
The five of us: Our former hosts and their car.
¡Hay buena onda en El Bolsón! 🙂
Situated about twenty minutes from the centre of town, La Casita is our host Esther’s home that she’s transformed into a hostel and campground. It’s a gorgeous area, sitting beside the Río Quemquemtreu and nestled at the feet of the Andes.
Josh and I take care of any concerns the guests may have, look after the grounds (things such as fixing the fence so the neighbour’s chickens stop sneaking into our yard!), build fires to heat the water tanks so guests can have hot showers, and clean La Casita (the hostel guests share the indoor kitchen and bathroom with us), as well as the camping’s outdoor kitchen and bathroom. Changing bed linens while dancing to Argentine cumbia music is a very fun way to earn our keep!
It’s been an amazing experience to be hosts instead of guests, to have the chance to make people feel as welcomed and at home as so many other people have done for us since we’ve been in Argentina. It’s also an incredible opportunity to practice our Spanish – our host, as well as the majority of the guests, speak no English, so we’re getting used to conversing in Spanish even when it’s just the two of us! I love the chance to truly feel at home somewhere, and to make a neighbourhood “our own.” It’s so fun to know the family who runs the corner store, and the old man who has the kiosco down the street, and to walk around el centro and run into a half-dozen people we know every time we go out.
However, it’s been a sobering experience to work with people in the tourism industry, and realize how dependent one’s livelihood is on so many events that are out of your control. Last May, there was a volcanic explosion in Chile, and the Argentine news reported that the entire Patagonian area was affected by volcanic ash. In reality, there are only tiny areas of the region touched by this catastrophe, and the vast majority is unaffected and beautiful. However, because of this misconception, tourism is down by over 50% compared to other years, and it’s individuals like Esther, or like our artist friends who work in the feria, who are suffering. Josh and I are doing our best to spread the word via other travelers, and to post on travel forums and different travel blogs the reality of what’s happening in Patagonia. Although it was the most we could do, we felt like these efforts weren’t actually going to amount to much… But then, two Canadians (woot!) called to reserve a place in La Casita, and when asked how they had found out about it, they said they had read a review on Lonely Planet – a review just posted by one saratreetravels! 😀
On New Year’s Eve morning, we said goodbye to our WWOOFer family, ate one last strawberry, and caught the bus back to El Bolsón. Our next farm was not actually a farm at all, but a tiny hostel-campground in El Bolsón where we were expected to manage the campground, keep everything tidy and clean for guests, and provide fireside guitar concerts as needed.
We arrived at La Casita and had just enough time to meet Esther, the owner, before we ran back to town. For New Year’s Day, Esther, Josh, and I made plans to hike to the Río Azul, but for New Year’s Eve, Josh and I were planning to Skype with both our families and then to find a place with live music to ring in the new year just the two of us.
We got to town and made for our usual wifi haunts, but all of them were closed. The cervecería, the restaurant across the street, the YPF… Each of them were dark and empty, or else shutting their doors just as we arrived. I ended up Skyping my mom from a bench outside of a closed restaurant who had left their wifi on, while Josh scoured the town for ANYTHING that was open. He finally found Bolson Burger, a family-run burger joint with reliable wifi, delicious ice-cream, and it’s cheap! All of our criteria!
However, on New Years Eve, even Bolson Burger shut down by 9:30 pm. Apparently in Argentina, everyone stays at home to welcome in the new year. Literally every single business was either closed, or weirdly closing just as we walked in the doors. We wandered the entire town, dejectedly passing one dark restaurant after another, and one rowdy backyard asado after another, hoping some friendly family would invite us in.
Finally, at 11:40 pm, we stopped at the one open kiosco and bought some drinks from a very friendly old man, went back to our salita at our new farm, and counted down the new year with just each other. We were toasting each other at midnight when suddenly, the world outside exploded.
We ran out to the street, and from every single backyard, people were shooting off massive quantities of fireworks! So we stood in the street, watching a crazy 360 degree fireworks display, and welcomed in 2012.
I woke up the next morning, ready to go hiking with Josh and Esther – and Josh was wretchedly, abysmally sick. Our hike was, obviously, cancelled, and we rang in the first day of the year by lying on our mattresses, sleeping all day. Josh’s fever finally broke the next day, but he remained sick for the next three days. It wasn’t exactly the first impression we were hoping to make on our host! 😦
(Note from Josh: after the third day spent mostly in the bathroom, I declared to the world that I was never going back to Bolson Burger again. On the fourth day, however, we really couldn’t resist the cheap food and reliable wifi, and lo and behold, I was healed! I don’t know what all you gastrointestinologists out there have to say about that, but that’s how it happened.)
Thankfully, he’s now completely recovered, and we’ve been able to put all our energy into our new roles as hosts and experienced locals to all the guests of La Casita.
(More to come soon… Josh is too busy enjoying solid food to think any more! :P)