I don’t know what I’m wearing. I’ve just seen my reflection in the glass of an airport storefront and I have on some combination of a long john top, homeless pants and a down jacket, finished off with my ever-present Birks. Anthony looks just as shaggy but of course the shaggier he is, the hotter, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve just landed at Mendoza’s airport, and as we’re walking down the stairs from the plane we see rows of private planes and not a single backpack in sight. HALLELUJAH. Mendoza, I’m learning, is the Napa of Argentina. This weekend is their big annual wine festival. As we looked at everyone around us I told Anthony maybe we should clean up our act a little and he pointed out we’ve been living in the mountains in Patagonia for 6 days. This isn’t entirely accurate as we were sleeping in hotels in those mountains for 5 of the 6 nights and not some cave in the hills, but fine. It’s just the last night he dragged me to a hostel, in order to save a little money since we were leaving on a 3am bus back to the town with an airport, and therefore only spending half a night. Meanwhile he didn’t even sleep. I at least passed out for a couple of hours, sleeping on the bottom bunk of our set of beds with two guys sleeping on bunk beds across from me. I never saw more than their outlines – they were sleeping by the time I went to bed and they were of course passed out when we left around 2:30am. I didn’t sleep well – I kept picturing things crawling on me, I’m really still scarred from sleeping in hostels when I studied in Europe in college – and Anthony never even touched the bed. He stayed up all night on the computer. Also there was no way in God’s green earth I was taking a shower in that place, so we have that going for us too. But now we are in wine country and staying at one of the cutest B&Bs I’ve ever seen (Anthony’s booking — I think he wanted to make up for the hostel). Ahhhhh. I am ready for this. The hiking was beautiful. We saw two more rainbows, for a grand Patagonian total of 7, including 1 double rainbow. We also saw woodpeckers (people here are fascinated by them), more glaciers, lakes and rivers galore (we filled up our water bottles multiple times like the earth lovers we are) and forests that look like the shire from Lord of the Rings. I also saw the perfect field for another baseball game scene out of Twilight. It was all incredible. 14 hours, 40 kms and lots of steep inclines and some rain and mud and sunshine and hella wind. An ice blue river below us ran off from the glaciers in the mountains above us and green plants and berries and trees were in the middle, all around us. My favorite times were when we just stopped to take it all in. You couldn’t hear anything but the water rushing and wind in the trees. A called it meditating. I called it being still. Tomato tomahto. It was breathtaking.
And now we are here in Mendoza. People keep asking how Anthony and I are doing and are we really together 24/7. Well, yes. And so far it’s going well. We trekked 26 miles in the last two days with nary another human in sight and he only almost left me on the mountain twice. On the flip side he carried my backpack more than half of our first day out — it was windy, rainy and we were climbing forever — so it behooves me to stay on his good side. I have found out, though, that he is a gem when he hasn’t slept. I handle sleep deprivation well, I believe, thanks to my job. He not so much. Yesterday morning, in the hostel, I had just woken up at 2am, went out to the lounge to find him and he was already charging down the hall toward me, wide-eyed and bespectacled, hair everywhere, army jacket on (we were inside) over his basketball shorts and huge flip flops. “We’ve gotta get the luggage. We need a game plan. How are we going to get it all out without waking the other guys up? WE NEED A PLAN.” I couldn’t comprehend anything other than we were going to play a game with luggage. We went back into the room and in the dark he started to pull out our five bags plus random shirts and a shoe and a notebook Gameboy pair of jeans here and there. I asked why he didn’t just have everything packed together rather than separate items shoved into storage and he looked at me like he was going to cut me into small pieces. Then he dumped out his bag and repacked it in the middle of the hallway. I couldn’t watch so I went to brush my teeth and when I came out of the bathroom, I found him frantically trying to shove his large down vest into my overstuffed bag. His eyes were wide and he looked like that little squirrel character from Ice Age that can’t ever get the acorn. He kept repeating that it won’t fit and there’s no room for his jacket. I suggested maybe he open the zipper on the bag all the way and see if that works. We get on the bus and it is freezing. We had been warned that buses in South America are kept at below zero temps. We didn’t understand until we got here. He passed out as soon as the bus started moving. I sat and stared out the window — we were driving on deserted backroads in Patagonia without a light or building or another car for miles and the moon was full and beautiful and lit up the entire sky. About an hour in I looked over to see him, with two hoods fully drawn over his head, flapping his hands at the floor and nodding like a maniac. I asked what’s happening and he said, “It’s freezing. I can’t feel my legs. It’s freezing!” I gave him my hand warmers (thank you to GMA’s amazing Marty Bernstock for the lifetime supply) and he put them under his head like a pillow and went back to sleep. A little while later we felt the bus jerk and heard a loud grinding sound followed by the smell of burnt rubber. The squirrel popped his head back up and we looked expectantly at the driver for some sign of what the hell was that. Nada. More burning and grinding. 10 minutes later we pull into the station. The driver puts his arms up in the air like he just won a race and yells out DIOS!! LLEGAMOS!! LLEGAMOS LLEGAMOS!! He was completely surprised that we made it and told us he burnt out the clutch about 20 miles back. He leaves us at the bus station around 6am and Anthony wanders into town to find a taxi. I’m worried he won’t come back but he does, with a cab, and we get to the airport, he sleeps a bit more, we make it to Mendoza and this beautiful little B&B last night, and now we are headed to the wineries to taste the area’s finest. So we are wonderful, as long as Anthony gets sleep and I get a hotel. And of course, wine helps. Bring it all on please. And gracias.