Las Lajas, Argentina (#11)

All right. Things are good. If you’ll excuse me I’m just kind of settling into my chair here. Just kind of getting ready for the day. Still kind of waking up. Had a vitamin B12 this morning, but haven’t had any caffeine. The reason I haven’t had any caffeine is because I’m playing soccer today, and last time I played soccer with no caffeine before and with also taking a vitamin B12 (there were other factors at play!) I felt amazing. So I’m trying to replicate that day. Because the adult league on Bainbridge means a helluva lot to me. More than it should.

The picture at the beginning of this post is from Las Lajas, Argentina.

And here, on the map, you can see where Las Lajas is. It’s somewhere in Argentina. One might call it, “the middle of nowhere,” though one might also call it, “smack dab in the middle of everywhere.” The choice is yours.

To get to Las Lajas I hitchhiked from a town on the Chilean side called Lonquimay. At the border between Chile and Argentina I spent about an hour chilling with the border guard in his little hut, drinking mate and talking about random shit. It was wonderful. He had a heater. He told me I could chill there and we could just ask everyone who came if I could get a ride with them into town. Then he gave me spaghetti. Apparently a lot times truckers won’t be able to bring meals with them across the border, so they’ll just give them to him. We drank more mate. I told him a bit about the journey was on. Sometimes it’s really, really, really nice to speak Spanish.

Eventually a dude he kind of knew came, and that dude agreed to take me to Las Lajas. But not only did he agree to take me to Las Lajas, he insisted on asking around until we found the AirBnb I’d reserved. We drove up and down the main street at least three times before finding the place. But he insisted on helping me. People are amazing.

Later on that trip I took the above photo. This is the bus station in Las Lajas, Argentina.

After Las Lajas I took a bus to Zapala, and then another bus to San Martin de los Andes. I love these parts of Argentina. There are no tourists here (except of course when you get to San Martin). But in a place like Zapala? There are just Argentinian people. It’s an Argentinian small town. You get to see how Argentinian people actually live, something you don’t often get to see in a place like Buenos Aires or Bariloche. I could’ve walked around Zapala all afternoon, or I could’ve tried to hithchike, but I decided to cough up the 16 or so bucks for the bus (if I remember correctly).

In San Martin I got drunk. I don’t know exactly why. One night I just thought, “I’m gonna eat a shit ton of empanadas and get mildly intoxicated.” And that’s what I did. I stayed in a beautiful chalet style house — wood beams, wood joists, all that — in San Martin. I walked around a bit. And then the next day I headed off to Villa La Angostura, where that picture from a few posts back was taken. This was at a time in my life when I was still teaching English online. I don’t teach English online anymore. I’m on sabbatical.

After Villa la Angoustura I tried to hitchhike back to Chile and ran into this French/English kid who was studying in Santiago but since the teachers on Santiago were on strike he decided to take a trip. Then we were joined by ANOTHER kid, also trying to get to Chile, this time Chilean, and the three of us successfully hitchhiked with a trucker who wanted to know all about our lives. I remember the Chilean kid, who had a beard, said something that I thought was interesting and might’ve inspired me down the road. He pulled out his little brick, non-smart phone about halfway into the trip and said, “I got out of the machine.”

The French/English kid got dropped off at some hot springs. I got dropped off in a town called Osorno, where I then made my way to Puerto Varas, where I again got kind of drunk.

That was all a couple years ago at this point. But for some reason this morning I felt compelled to talk about it.

-W

Trying Too Hard (#8)

I think I might be trying a bit too hard on this blog. I say this because on my other blog, dedicated to American soccer phenom Christian Pulisic, I don’t try hard at all. I just have fun. But for some reason on this blog I feel compelled to make the writing good, which of course only makes it bad. There was a famous Sportscenter commercial where Kenny Mayne is hitting golf balls into the satellite dish behind the company offices. The guy helping him says, “Hold it like a bird. Not so hard that you crush it. Not so soft that it gets away.”

Ahhh, these metaphors for life.

The above picture was taken by my right arm outside Villa la Angostura about two years ago. The girl in the picture had some kind of exotic name with syllables where they shouldn’t have been, and as I usually do, I briefly fell in love with her on our walk. She had a boyfriend. She was very clear about that. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying a nice hike together and drinking mate in the mountains of Patagonia.

But what does this have to do with anything?

It has to with mate because the reason I’ve been trying hard on this damn blog is because I want it to be something. I have no idea what. I want recognition. The other day I heard that someone had said about me, “I got caught up on Mark’s blog. Sounds like he’s still traveling around, still drinking mate and talking about how much he loves the waitress. But, like, nothing’s really changed, has it?”

I was of course deeply hurt by this until I realized that the reason I was hurt was because it was completely true. That’s been the last 10 years of my life. Traveling around. Drinking yerba mate. Falling in love but now really. And then moving on the next day.

Which is actually completely fine.

But then I made a promise to an 80-year-old Chilean woman that I would stop doing that. So I moved back to Seattle. I bought a boat. And now I live on said boat, and it’s where I’m typing these very words, listening to the rain outside, wondering where I might be able to travel to next, and also wondering if it’s time to boil water and drink a little mate.

-W