If you’re already clutching your pearls, rest assured, I am still very much with Ike.
Ben had a beat-up 40 year old Citroen; you read that right, four zero! It was a beautiful, parrot green amie-8 model complete with all its original meters and gears and resin seats. I loved it instantly. I named it Lorita (after Loro or parrot in Spanish). Ben picked up me at the lake house at 3 pm and we set about to explore the 50 km circuito Chico that passes through a few of the seven lakes in the region and the beautiful llaollao hotel. Ben asked me if I lived alone in Hong Kong which was a nice way of asking if I had a boyfriend. I told him about Ike.
The route was spectacularly beautiful, mountain in front of us, the colors of fall adorning the foliage on either side of the road and nahuel huapi always nearby. We entered the llaollao parque and soon stopped the car to check out the sign that pointed to lago escondido (hidden lake). We walked through the colina trees and i suddenly became aware of how deserted the place was. Ben could rob, rape or kill me here and noone would know. But he didn’t and soon there were other people there. It was beautiful, like a postcard.
We continued driving to Bahia Lopez and lago Moreno, where we stopped to drink some Mate. Mate, for the uninitiated, is technically a green tea/herb beverage and more broadly, a social norm and a symbol of amidstad. I often get asked if I have been offered because to be offered mate is to be treated like a friend or family. We shared a mate on the banks of bay and to the sounds of nothing more than mild waves breaking on the gravel beach. It is ridiculous how transparent he water is here, how the clouds reflect. Everything was perfect.
There is a dinosaur park here but contrary to what I thought, it is not a collection of fossils but rather some silly large replicas .
We continue driving to the highest point on the circuit which was ridiculously scenic complete with this massive bird of prey that I need to look up.
We spent a few moments there and headed back towards the city to reunite with my Argentinian abuelos.
On the way, Ben started acting a bit strange asking if I wanted to stop by the lake house for a bit. I didn’t quite read between he lines so I said sure if he wanted to take a break from driving, that was alright by me. He then said that he didn’t know how my culture was and if I had an open relationship or whether I was the more faithful type. Okay now I get it. I couldn’t really find my words but I managed to simply say “hay que ser leal, no?” which means “one has to remain loyal”. He said that I had put it nicely. Obviously it was a bit awkward but I had never misrepresented or misled him; he knew from the getgo that I was spoken for.
It would have been quite another thing had I been single or in a miserable relationship and been propositioned by a strong, boyish 25 year old lumberjack in a foreign land but at least this time, I felt more offended than flattered by the attention. (For the record, I do feel slightly flattered; I still gots it!!)
Later that evening I was feeling tired and telling Ben how it would be nice to nap but that it was too late (nearly dinner time) Ben and fen lived next door to my abuelos ( renting their second flat). Ben invited me over to show their flat. When I went over, he showed me his woodcarvings (he likes to make chess pieces) – what interesting hobbies people have.
And then came the second sexual advance, a more explicit one I guess. Jups why don’t we get under the covers, it’s warm and we can chat and maybe you can rest a bit. I laughed rather nervously “no I’m good thanks I think I’ll take a walk around the city and maybe get myself a hot chocolate. “
And so I took a rather morose walk towards the lakeshore where the sun was now setting. I saw lovers kissing on the beach and felt a a bit crummy so I started walking towrds a stone bench where I could sit by myself and watch the sunset. There, against the wall of a pierside restaurant was some right orange graffiti that spelt out, you’ll never guess this, Ike (well his real name!). Of all the places in the world, what are the odds? I took a selfie with the graffiti in he background and sent it to Ike “look Ike you’re always with me.” I then told him the events of he day because I wanted to be honest even though I feared he would get mad at me. He replied a couple of hours later with a simple “aww all the Latin boys have the hots for my chick”.
Fen accompanied me to the lake house that night. He was meant to sleep there so I didn’t sleep alone . Ironically I would have preferred to be alone without the fear of another unwanted advance. Fen ended up being a total gentleman. We took the colectivo together and got off at the wrong stop, walked a kilometer in the starlight, then hitchhiked a ride with some young bloke the remaining two kilometers. I made him some fresh mint tea (plucked from the wild), we smoked half a joint, watched the stars, chatted about exes and present loves and then headed to our respective beds.
I am still immensely grateful to Ben the strapping lumberjack for his kindness in showing a total stranger around even if he may have had an ulterior motive.
Today my abuelos made me breakfast (thats four homemade meals) and helped take me to two different airline office and hen to he airport because my flight was delayed and I would end up missing my connection. They even bought me a box of frozen chocolate-dipped raspberries to eat on my flight. Hen the helpful folks at aerolineas Argentinas let me take their flight even thought I had a ticket with LAN so I wouldn’t miss my connexion to Lima.
My entire time in Argentina the altruistic kindness of strangers has helped me and moved me. they have welcomed this lonely traveler with open arms and it is something I will remember long after I forget what the lakes and trees look like. Que barbaro!!*
*barbaro comes from barbaridad and means barbaric literally but it is actually slang for when something is stupendous or extremely nice or ridiculously beautiful, all of which incidentally Argentina is.