Our first impressions of Argentina
“What will you do after Argentina?” the border official asked us thorough the glass booth. We both began the well practiced reply of the lengthy list of countries to come but it seemed to hit us at the same time. There are no more countries.
We stood there slack jawed, stumbling over incomprehensible Spanish. Border officials are probably trained for moments like this. Where do you go next is a simple enough question and these gringos were blowing it.
Seeing we could use a little assistance, he asked “You go home right?” This was no good. This simply would not do. Home? Where and what is that?
While pulling up to the border we had reminded each other this was indeed, number 14, our final country. We have talked about “the end” almost since “the beginning.” We always knew we’d get here but somehow having to explain ourselves, out loud, to another human being shattered everything we thought we knew.
The formalities at the border would not be the end of our jarring discoveries. Over the last 10 months, gas stations have been little more than mud huts with holes out back for bathrooms. At our first Argentine gas station stop, we walked into an air conditioned wonder. Like heathens approaching civilization for the first time, we staggered through the convenience store, browsing through our options of cappuccino, roast beef paninis, even Little Debbie snacks.
Now pulling into town we’re faced with the option of six different campgrounds. Real campgrounds blanket the country. Even a little hamlet of a town will have one municipal campground. The options are disabling.
And the cities. Suddenly we are taking buses enabled with magnetic frequent rider cards and taxi cabs with meters. No more rice and beans, we’re lunching with steak sandwiches on the terraces of fine arts museums. After many months in a different kind of Latin America, we find ourselves in need of a transition back into this lifestyle.
For now, our days are consumed with route planning on café patios, the nights wasted away with Fernet con Colas (the national cocktail) and fine tuning our Argentine grill skills back at camp. Although we’re nearing the end, we still have five months and a whole lot of land to cover. The southern-most road is ripe with possibility, but the culture here reminds us we’re halfway home already.