South America – Argentina, Chile
We headed south, towards Patagonia, to reach Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia.
Arrival in Argentina was almost disappointing: along the streets the shop signs have Italian names and all have at least a grandfather that comes from the ‘Bel Paese’. The city looks like a mix between Madrid and Paris. We were surprised by the people’s descriptions of how dangerous the streets are next to the tourist areas like Caminito. Another two weeks without travelling, hosted by the lay community of the Marist Brothers: we wanted to visit their centres where they look after minors at risk, but we ended up being the ones to be protected. A very high, constant temperature made me think that I caught malaria. Actually I was worried about the bike that was late arriving and all the money we’d spent on shipping.
Finally we leave: we headed south, towards Patagonia, to reach Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia. Endless days of absolute nothingness, driving from early morning until night. But the people were happy to meet us and we often spent the night in the house of children or grandchildren of Italian migrants, with the heating always on and at a temperature close to nuclear fusion. We reached Ushuaia in the snow, and we managed to escape before the real winter came, the below zero one that brings everything to a standstill.
We slowly went up the Andes, doing hundreds of kilometres along dirt roads, under a strong a freezing wind. Surely the most difficult part of the trip, also because by now we were really tired: there is little time to finish the tour and the routine is hurting us. As we returned North the days were getting longer and temperatures were rising.
The locals who were hosting us told us about the legends of the lay saints that are very respected here: The Gauchito Gil and Difunta Correa. They are the saints of love and anarchy that the Church does not recognize but the people have decreed worthy of worship, erecting in their honour altars and shrines along the road.
People who died for love and freedom to whom the people bring offerings and gifts when they have problems. And I ask for Gaucito’s help too when bad news arrives from home: big family problems which mean we must return to Italy.
You may also be able to realize your dream, but life is always ready to ask you its due.
It’s June and I am in Italy until August, when I go back to Argentina to collect the bike and finish the tour. Peppina starts school in September and will not return to South America with me. I don’t really feel like it, but the person who’s left us has taught me that you must finish what you start.
At Joaquin’s place, the Chico de Oro that I met the same day I had to leave for Italy, the bike rests safely. I leave for the North of the country and the people change along with the landscape.
Here many descend from the Indios and live in arid landscapes, full of cactuses, anticipating the Atacama desert in Northern Chile. Altitude problems start as well, and I get used to it only after entering Bolivia.