“Amazing trip you made, mate! Was it your honey moon?” that’s the most frequent question I was asked during last weeks. No, it wasn’t my honey moon. Many people travel the world in very special occasion (like honey moon indeed) due to costs, job duties or unwillingness (to travel for the rest of their time).
For me, travelling is one of a few pleasures I’m still willing to pay money, spend time, exploit resources.
That’s it. Everybody’s got a passion (and if you don’t have one, please find something): someone likes cooking, someone likes playing music, someone likes expensive techonologies. I like travelling.
I got a huge map of the world in my room. Last february my flatmate got in to ask for something; we started chatting and suddendly he stared at the map taking a look to the places I have been, marked by little pins.
“You should go to South America, my friend” he said. So that’s why I chose Argentina. Easy. Isn’t it?
I started planning the whole trip back in April and I made it to Buenos Aires on November 25th. Baires is a huge area of Argentina and the most inhabited one. La Capital Federal, is the heart and capital city. It looks like a blend: some roads remind me of Madrid, Puerto Madero area is a rich place next to river La Plata, with skyscrapers and a “Miami-Looking” style. All over the place is easy to recognize some South American Colonial Style buildings as well, but I must admit, I’m not really into big cities so, with my two friends Marco and Maura, we leave on Sunday, catching a surprisingly comfortable night bus and heading north to Corrientes Province. 1000 km, 12 hours and one night to reach Resistencia, early in the morning. Marco booked a car at the airport car rental over here.
The roads are gravel and unpaved. All of them. We’re far from the big city reality of Baires. We’re in the middle of green vegetation, next to the huge Paranà river that divides Argentina and Paraguay. Wild nature and poor and tumbledown villages surround us. That’s where I want to be.
We reach the international airport of Resistencia by taxi. There’s only two cleaning guys waiting for us. Nobody else. “That’s because we don’t have any flights today. We only have two flights on Sunday and Wednesday.” One of them says.
Thank god, Emilio, the guy from the car rental, reaches us around 9 in the morning. We arrange the rental while Maura escapes from a huge Dogo Argentino wandering around the corridors of the small airport. Poor dog, he was just looking for food.
While we try to reach the little village of Mburucuya, famous for being the town in which they celebrate the greatest Chamame Music festival of Argentina, in the middle of Esteros De Ibera area, we are obliged to travel across a mud road and we got stuck with the car in the middle of nowhere. That’s because it’s been raining in the north of Argentina during the last two days. My friend from Buenos Aires, Sandra, texts me telling that it hasn’t been raining for the last fourty days. It just started as I landed in Buenos Aires. Shame on us.
I start laughing: Iceland, Scotland and now Argentina, I always experience a few troubles with rented car’s tyres.
The only way to get the car out of the morass, is to ask for help. Luckily, a campesino is passing by. I approach him and start talking in Spanish; his name’s Omar. He is really surprised to meet a tourist over here and most of all he is really surprised to meet an Italian.
“I’ve never met an Italian in my whole life” he says “please leave me your number. I’d like to stay in contact!” he tells me before I even get the chance to explain what’s my problem.
Omar and Armando, another campesino, end up helping us to get the car out of the quagmire. They chat in guaranì language between them and I can barely understand what they’re saying.
At last, we thank them and continue to Mburucuya National Park where we get a chance not to see, but to hear the strangest animal calls ever. Frogs, Carpinchos, Monkeys and an immense number of birds live in this wild area.
We take a long walk around the park at dusk, with a pink sky fading to the black of the night and end up drinking yerba mate with the park guard.
The following days we keep travelling on Ruta Nacional 12. On the right, the green forests of Misiones’ Province, on the left, river Paranà and Paraguay.
We get the chance to visit the ancient Jesuit Missions of San Ignacio Mini and Loreto before heading to Brazil border and meet the magnificent Iguazu Waterfalls.
A wall of water coming from the river Iguazu divides Argentina and Brazil. The most stunning experience is the noise of the water falling down. The power of nature is just in front of us. Iguazu is alive. You don’t feel like you’re visiting a place. The waterfalls are dynamic, they produce they’re own sound. This is not a location, this is a living being, one of the most amazing living beings in the world, with his own soul and voice that transmit a sense of power and peace at the same time.
The climax of the trip, the right moment to wave goodbye to my friends Maura and Marco, who are going back to Paris where they live. I’ll keep traveling on my own, down to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. I’ll move from a 40 degrees Celsius area, to a 10 degrees Celsius one.
Wasn’t easy to pack my bag actually.
I stop by in El Calafate to visit Perito Moreno Glacier. In my hostel I meet two roman guys, a Venezuelan, an Israeli, an Australian and a Belgian girl. They’re all traveling for longer than 3 months. They all quit their job. We decide to have Asado and cook it on our own. I must admit we made quite a rough but funny and delicious meal.
The following day I go to the glacier. So, from the wall of liquid water of Iguazu, I reach the wall of ice of Perito Moreno. I wander around the place with a Latvian girl I met on the bus. She never stops asking me to take pictures of her. Nadja is funny and was a pleasure to meet her, so we decide to keep in touch and we’ll meet again in El Chalten.
Perito Moreno Glacier as well, like Mburucuya and Iguazu, is a sound experience. The noise of the 170 feet high glacier breaking in front of me and the big ice pieces falling into the water of Lake Argentino, is something I won’t easily forget.
To reach El Chalten, the Hikers Paradise, I catch a bus for the legendary Ruta Nacional 40. On the bus I meet Emanuele, another Italian guy who’s traveling around South America. He quit his job as well, caught a cargo ship in Hamburg, traveled for 28 days through the Atlantic Ocean and reached Baires a few days ago.
Like every person I met from Livorno, he’s funny and friendly.
Me, him, Nadja and another sudtirol girl who’s staying in my room at the hostel, Kathreen, hike together for 40 km in two days to reach Laguna Capri and Laguna de Los Tres where we get an amazing view of Fitz Roy peak. It was a shame we had a few clouds, anyway the trekking was exhausting but stunningly beautiful.
For me it’s time to leave Patagonia. Under the shadow of two condors flying over El Chalten we exchange our phone numbers with the other guys. I only have a few days left in Argentina, all the other guys are travelling longer and further than me.
I reach Ushuaia on Wednesday. I must admit I’m a bit tired. It’s been more than ten days wandering around the north and the south of Argentina, so I decide to visit the city, the famous “End of the world” prison and take a ship through the Beagle Channel where I am so lucky to see a beautiful whale swimming from the Pacific to the Atlantic. I got the chance to visit the Harberton Estancia as well, the southest ranch in the world, where I see penguins nesting on the small Martillo Island.
Being here feels so remote but still so beautiful. I’m far from the metropolis, far from routinary, daily life. I’m exactly where I need to be, at least once a year. Far from the screen of your working laptop, far from those people who you don’t really “appreciate” that much, far from the traffic jams of my crowded city.
While in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego I noticed I couldn’t hear a car horn. Amazing experience for a city raised guy. In my hostel I share my room with a French guy and a young mate from Kansas, Ben.
Ben graduated last year and he’s travelling south America before going back to Emporia. The French guy he… well yes: he quit his job as well and he’s travelling around the world, looking for hiking places.
During our stay I become friend with Ben, Frane, a Croatian guy and Mally and Tina, a couple from Hamburg.
She’s german while he’s from North Ireland. The most funny guy ever.
Staying three nights in Ushuaia, meeting these guys, cooking our dinner together everynight, is a warm experience.
I met people coming back from Antarctica and listened to their stories while eating our meals.
The most emotional one was the story of Thomas, a swiss guy who not only traveled to Antarctica, but to South Georgia Island as well, one of the remotest places in the world I got the chance to see on some Sebastiao Salgado snapshots.
Wildlife and nature live together, free. South Georgia is a place where human beings can’t arrange a way to disturb the natural development of life, at least not anymore.
I will go there one day. I want to. Not now… definitely ( a last minute booked cruise costs around 5.000 USA Dollars), but one day… who knows.
I wave good bye to my friends on December 9th. I ask Thomas what is he going to do when he’ll go back to Switzerland.
“I quit my job. I’m not thinking about what I’ll do once back home” he answers me with the smile of a free person.
I spend my last night in Baires at Mariel’s house. She’s a friend of mine. We met through Couchsurfing and she and her family live in a quite place in Martin Coronado, out of Capital Federal.
Her father and family are so warm and lovable with me. He spends the evening chatting about Peronism in a fast Spanish which I can barely understand, but in the end I find it quite interesting.
On the 11th is time to go back home in Rome.
I feel like having been here for over than two months; it was just 18 days.
I wonder if one day I’ll be able to travel longer and visit wonderful places like these without the pressure of time.
That’s what Nadja, Emanuele, Mally, Tina, Frane, Thomas, Kathreen and many more are doing. They keep sending me pictures of places in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina through WhatsApp. I keep asking them for more.
Beautiful experience it must be to quit your job without the pressure and fear of the future. Beautiful experience it must be to travel the world without knowing what’s your next stop, when you’re going to reach it and who you will meet on the road.
Will I ever quit my job and do something like that?
I leave Argentina with this question in my head. Everytime I go back home from a far off place, I ask it to myself. That question that divide the routinary safe life of a simple employee from the life of a courageous traveler who choose to leave everything, pack a bag and go.
Both in the same person.
For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us unfulfilled. The open road still softly calls like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. We invest far off places with a certain romance. This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Hermann Melville in moby dick spoke for wanderers in all epoch: “I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas”. Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still.
Travel is broadening. It’s time to hit the road again…
Pale Blue Dot – Carl Sagan