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

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Comodoro Rivadavia

Ricardo picked us up on the outskirts of Trelew, a literal two-horse town with a picturesque main drag about two city blocks long. As promised, Daniel had dropped us off at a trucker stop right on the border of Trelew, where he had to be for some mysterious reason he hadn´t elaborated on. As much as people have cautioned against walking the highway and hoping for luck (for various reasons, the most obvious being that if you are caught in the middle of nowhere when night falls, you´re kind of screwed), it seemed like it was where all of our luck was being found. So, after a few failed attempts, we started hiking down the highway, chasing the afternoon sun, and in no time we hitched a ride. Easypeasy.

Ricardo pointed out a strange looking animal he called a Guanaco. It looked like a llama, but he insisted it was different, and continued to tell us about how he unknowingly ate its meat for some time. "Delicious," he said. "But they should have told me before I ate it." He paused for a moment as he passed a truck, then he continued, grave and serious, as if surviving the brief encounter gave more weight to our lives, "Here, any food that they say is Patagonica, assume it has Guanaco meat." 

We all fell silent for some time. Maybe from Ricardo's wisdom. Maybe from the persistent drone of the unchanging landscape. It seemed like we had all fallen asleep. It seemed as though even Ricardo had fallen asleep at the wheel, and by some Argentine voodoo, he was able to continue driving with his eyes closed, weaving through trucks and slower moving cars with unnatural ease.

A British tenor singing a Spanish song in the style of opera came on and almost as if on cue, the road changed. The monotonous flatness of the countryside morphed into hills and cliffs. And in response, the once faithfully straight road turned into a snake. Dark green foliage clung to the dusty red cliff sides, with canyon-like valleys carving through every so often, allowing glimpses of the dark blue calm of the sea to the east. All of this hung on the backdrop of a light blue sky smattered with white-washed clouds. It was beautiful. 

The cliffs grew in size, or the road carved closer to sea level, making the cliff look larger by way of optical illusion. Whichever may be the case, they became more impressive and I became more and more aware of my tiny, so easily measured mortality. As we entered the boundaries of Comodoro Rivadavia, the green no longer clung to the dusty red earth. Even the red faded. The earth was just dusty. 

The city of Comodoro Rivadavia was strange. After being on the open road for so long, drowning in such an unchanging landscape, suddenly being sandwiched in a city carved between cliffside and sea felt strange. Not good. Not bad. Just strange. There was an intangible awareness suddenly forced upon me. An awareness of what, I had no idea, but I wouldn't mind finding out. The city reminded me of the video game series, Zelda. Specifically, the cave city of the Gorons. The people running about industrious and serious, dwarfed by the scale of their surroundings. 

Butted right up against semi-skyscrapers, the dusty gray cliff loomed. On its face were carved lines, like wrinkles drawn in with a ruler, zigzagging with industrial vehicles made for mining deep into the earth, sucking out precious minerals. The cliff looked pale, like a tired old woman fighting some ailment born of being malnourished. 

The streets creeped up and down steep hills, reminding me of Ankara, Turkey. It was a city clinging to a cliff so ready to unburden itself of the foreign population, ready to let everything slide off at any moment. Probably from the mines, or the fact that many of the streets were nothing more than unpaved gravel paths, even the most minute of motions lifted dust into and around the air. Comodoro Rivadavia was shrouded in a constant cloud of dust.

La Ciudad Gris, Soledad had called it. The Gray City. Having never been, and only hearing of the city, she admitted that she had no idea why. Walking through Comodoro Rivadavia, I suddenly understood why.