I backpacked in the Argentine side of Patagonia a couple of months ago. Here are some handpicked photographs from the trip.
Patagonia is a breathtaking location and it is impossible to return without being awed by nature. Throw in some charming strangers for company and it becomes an unforgettable experience.
I don’t have a travelogue this time around. I have one short story that I was hoping to expand into something resembling a travelogue. That never happened because I continued travelling after Argentina. So all I have for you is this short story. Enjoy:
“Do you think it’s possible?”, I asked the flight attendant, more curious than hopeful. She wasn’t sure about the answer. She huddled with another flight attendant and the pilot, who had by now stepped out of the cockpit sipping a cup of hot coffee. She narrated my request for a few seconds in Spanish and paused. I looked for some–any–positive reactions.
The pilot very cool-ly nodded his head in a classy way that only pilots can and went, “Yeah. We can do that.”
Now I had to make a final decision, and quick. The flight crew in all likelihood hadn’t encountered very many requests like mine. They were a bit excited as well, I could tell. One of them egged me on, “This is the southern tip of the world!! It’s a very beautiful place.”
I knew that latter bit. I was watching the landscape below as the plane circled around the airport waiting for clearance. It was indeed a stunning location. Ushuaia, a small city by the sea, right at the foot of the slopes of splendid mountains covered with ice and glaciers. I hated myself for not having included this town in my trip.
Just a few minutes ago I was talking to L as the plane was waiting for passengers from Ushuaia to board. I had casually mentioned to L, “It would be amazing to stay at this place. I wonder if it’s possible to hop off.”
L was an incredibly charming fellow traveller and travelling solo like many others, including me. She was one of the only two Americans I met in Argentina. (The rest were all from Europe or Australia.) A doctor from Denver, she was overly expressive and an often talkative person, unlike a stoic demeanor many doctors are known to have. I’d only met her a few days ago when we shared a dorm room in a small, happening hostel called America del Sur in El Calafate, a small town in the Argentinian side of Patagonia. Backpacking in Patagonia was the purpose of my trip this time around.
She had been a delightful and entertaining companion during the times our paths had crossed, which were a few. Most backpackers often traced a similar route so it was normal in this part of the world.
Out of curiosity I asked a flight attendant if I could get my checked-in baggage should I decide to alight at Ushuaia. I could, the pilot had declared a few seconds ago.
“Would you be interested?”, I asked L. I was hoping she’d agree.
“I’m really looking forward to Iguazu. But you should do it. This looks like your kind of place.”
A tad disappointed, but if Ushuaia was anything like the rest of the trip had turned out, I’d have another darn good adventure on my hands.
“OK. Get my bags off.” I handed over my baggage tag from the boarding pass for the crew to locate my backpack.
I turned around to L, who was likely a bit amused by the entire set of events that happened in just over a minute, one last time, “You know, you can always go to Iguazu three days later. You’ll still have time on your trip to see the falls.
And I’d really like it if you came along as well.”
She took a couple of seconds–it felt much longer–shrugged her shoulders, threw her hands in the air succumbing to the opportunity, “Alright, let’s do it.”
L and I were on a flight from El Calafate to Buenos Aires. The flight we were on went through Ushuaia, often known as the southernmost city in the world. A roundabout way to get to Buenos Aires for sure, but this was the first flight we could get out of El Calafate on that day. Our plan was to get to Buenos Aires and onward to Iguazu falls. We didn’t have any bookings for the rest of the trip; this was itself a flight two days earlier than both of our original itineraries.
And now we were hopping off the plane just as passengers were about to start boarding. This would have been close to impossible in most countries, not the least of it because I was a middle-eastern looking guy with a beard indicative of the length of the trip. If this were the U.S., I bet I’d get a, “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to go back to your seat.” Indeed, a bit more than a week ago, I was asked to step aside at the Miami International Airport for a “random” check just as I was about to board my flight to Buenos Aires. The brown-guy-with-a-beard look had set off their intelligence sensors. I had almost missed my flight while *five* TSA agents wasted their time and mine interrogating me–because, you know, potential terrorists are rather conscious about their image and don’t want to be mistaken for harmless citizens.
But I wasn’t in the U.S., and indeed part of the reason why travelling in this part of the world is such an exhilarating experience. Unexpected events both of the good and bad kinds are more frequent.
This was just one of many.
As we almost sprinted towards the terminal in our excitement, I kept wondering where this would stack up in the list of crazy things I have been a part of. The highest on this trip, for sure, but that’s only because the otherwise considered crazy act of backpacking by myself in a new country was to me by now, at the risk of humblebragging, banal.