Touring South America: Meeting Friends, Old and New
Chapter 15: April 15th, Mendoza, Argentina.
A few years before embarking on this motorcycle adventure, I had ended up traveling by myself around South America due to some tension with a close friend. What was interesting about it was that I was never completely alone. I always ended up befriending someone that was headed in my same direction and would end up traveling together. As soon as I was saying goodbye to one fellow traveler, I was already meeting someone else to wander with.
I didn’t do it because I felt the need to have someone by my side. It was just the circumstances that made like-minded people come together to share a part of a journey. At the time I thought that it was just lucky that I was meeting great people everywhere I went, but fate would have me joining up with others to share my travels constantly.
It was still sunny when I arrived in Mendoza and headed straight to meet one of my good friends, Pablo “Piojon” Rossi. His brother opened the front door and what happened next could only be described as one of the most awkward greetings in history. I left the motorcycle parked on the sidewalk and confidently made my way into the building to give him a hug. The weak embrace I got back told me that he had no idea who I was. To him, I was some random guy off the street in full motorcycle travel gear (hey, that’s the name of this site!) that was giving him a giant hug.
Once he realized who I was he eventually allowed me into his home. The bike stayed outside during the afternoon but the Rossi brothers convinced me to bring it into the building later. They said that if I left it outside I wouldn’t find it the next morning. There’d just be a broken lock on the ground. If that. Unfortunately, the building’s entrance was not exactly at sidewalk level. Bringing the bike up the three steps into the building’s corridor became that afternoon’s entertainment for local pedestrians. It involved some effort but with a little brute force and some 200cc engine power we got it up and in.
We spent the afternoon discussing how far away I still was from Ushuaia and the winds and cold that awaited me further south. Aside from that, I also learned that the road that would get me there was not entirely asphalted and would have almost no other vehicles on it in case I ran into any trouble. I bought a road map with all the national routes on it and it confirmed what they had told me. I was forced to rethink my trajectory. Initially, I wanted to ride the Carretera Austral that runs through Southern Chile but it seemed to be just a dirt road while I had thought it was a luxurious highway. I wrote to my friend in Puerto Montt, Chile, telling him I wouldn’t be passing through his town. Maybe some other time I’ll have a chance to roam the lake regions in Southern Chile. This time it just wouldn’t be prudent.
The next day I went looking for Emily to see the sights together. It was the second time I was in Mendoza but given that my previous visit consisted mostly of getting heavily drunk, I didn’t really get to see much of the city. I did manage to do a wine tour but that was essentially just another excuse to drink lots of alcohol. This time we went walking down the plazas and into the city center, both in search of something specific. I needed to find a place to unlock my cell phone in order to use it in Argentina and she needed some new flip flops. Towards the end of the day we both found what we needed but I had to wait an additional two hours because of some shady business going on in the cell phone shops. According to the guy working there, the police were raiding the mall in search of shops that were offering unlocking services. It was illegal in Argentina. It all sounded like ridiculous excuses to me but they had my phone somewhere else so I couldn’t do anything but wait it out.
Dropping Emily off at her hostel was a sad moment for me. She had been my travel buddy and we had visited several places and spent good times together. Now our paths diverged. She would continue on to Buenos Aires and then South Africa while I would keep riding towards the end of the world. The thought that I wouldn’t see any familiar faces at my next destination weighed on me but I knew that it was inevitable. This was a journey that I was making on my own and having found someone to share part of it with me had been a stroke of luck. Little did I know that good fortune was still on my side..