"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."

"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."- Sir Thomas More's Utopia

Friday, April 26, 2013

The beginning of the trip.

Lyndon and Carlos discussing strategies to conquer Patagonia

As per last blog entry, I have embarked on a journey to Antarctica. Maybe. Thusly inasmuch heretofore my blog entries will be about hitch-hiking (read, trying to survive) Patagonia. Mostly. Maybe.

Author's note: I apologize for the weak photo-to-word ratio but I am blogging from a mobile app that confuses the bananas out of me. I promise to try to add photos when I get my act together and figure out this fancy technology.

Anywho, without much further ado, I present to you, The Beginning Of The Trip:

"What do you even want to do with that?" Carlos asked. Even in the thick darkness of the abandoned building, I could feel his right eyebrow raise as his right hand lifted to rub his left forearm, one of his ticks. Something he does as an attempt to make silence more tactile, less threatening.

We were standing in a room that Jorge Luis Borges himself had frequented, the office of the President of a printing press. I was holding acetate pages of a book, or a "pre-book" - the negatives of pages once printed here. I felt like I was holding ghosts, or at least, something truer to haunting phantoms that I'd ever come into contact with.

"I don't know," I replied. "Borges..." I trailed off. I wanted to say something profound. Somewhere along the lines of these being artifacts of a past suspended only within the vaults delineated by these abandoned walls. Something profound. But, I kept quiet instead, letting the heavy silence speak for itself. I've been doing that a lot lately. Letting the silence speak.

It's like the night sky. I imagined all that space getting jealous of the stars and all the songs that get sung about them. I imagined my silence was like the blackness of space, allowing the stars to standout. Either that, or switching between so many languages was beginning to render me mute.

"Well, here," Carlos picked up another book, it's plastic pages plastered together from the hot humidity of Porteño summers stacked one on top of the other. "You can take this and no one will probably notice." He pulled out a few pages from a nearly solidified block of plastic pages. I took the treasure into my hands, trying to wipe off what looked like dust, but must have been dried ink.

We climbed onto a back terrace and there, in between two buildings crumbling brick by brick, on cracked terra-cotta tiles next to some vines of ivy creeping across rusty railed windows, we lit up. Bellies full of wine and lungs full of smoke, we spoke about our insanity. A trip through Patagonia with winter quickly coming. We discussed hypothermia and frost bite and sunburn. I asked to borrow Carlos' identification documents, maybe it would allow for easier passage through the south. He said no.

"Thanks, Carlitos. I thought we were friends."

We walked back to Chanta's apartment in Balvanera. The Buenos Aires air was chilly. I pictured a world map in my head. Buenos Aires is by Brazil. Brazil is hot. Patagonia is the last stop before Antarctica. If I'm cold now, how will I survive this trip with hot island blood in my veins?

Back at Chanta's we drank more wine and filled up on the left-over chicken biryani she had cooked up earlier for our despedida. We played music from two different phones, listening to see where two completely different songs would briefly intertwine, causing chaos into harmony. We made music from music and fell asleep on couches.

It was early afternoon by the time we woke up. Chanta was brewing coffee and packing us cookies she had hidden the night before from Carlos' grubby hands. Carlos complained of a stomach ache and Chanta yelled at him for turning into a two-year old around freshly baked cookies. We sipped on the leftover wine as Chanta and Carlos continued to wonder if Lyndon and I actually understood the concept of how cold grows colder as you near Antarctica. Sipping on warm wine and cold coffee, we lingered in this close-knit friendship that had somehow formed for as long as we could. We checked our bags one more time and we headed out.

Chanta had to go to work so she hugged and kissed us goodbye at the door. "Don't leave me," she whined, slightly hunched over and hugging herself as we started to walk away.

"See you later, Chanta!" I replied, waving off the gravity of goodbyes.

We waited at the stop for a bus to Estación Constitución. Carlos laughed and said something along the lines of, "The train station at Constitución is probably the most dangerous part of your trip." We waited and waited. Buses passed but not the one we needed. Carlos laughed again, "You can't even get to the train station to start your trip!"

"You're just full of jokes today, aren't you, buddy?"

The bus finally came. A few more hugs exchanged. A little gift from Carlos, "To make the horrible train ride a little less horrible," he smiled. We awkwardly boarded the bus, obviously still acclimating to the weight of our packs, and we were off.

"We're actually doing it," Lyndon said as we sat on the train platform, waiting to board. "No turning back now."

"It hasn't hit me yet," I replied, trying to decipher his grin. Where does one journey end and another begin?

We boarded the train, Pullman Class, the most expensive. Not exactly a luxury sleeper cabin, but neither was it a cargo car. I didn't want to imagine how the more "economic" stagecoaches looked like. I've been in worse, I thought, as we heaved our backpacks onto the railings above the seats meant to store luggage, thinking back to that 18 hour train ride from Bangkok to Chiangmai.