(Written Xmas day but uploaded Fri 26th Dec due to rubbish wifi connection).
Seasons greetings from Argentina. We were curious about how they would celebrate Christmas here and it is different. The thing that has struck us most over the last few weeks is the lack of commercialism that we’re so used to in UK. On the rare occasions we see TV there are the odd adverts for perfumes etc but that seems to be about it. There is no particular change in the shops and people put just a few decorations up, mostly in the last few days. Here they have their celebration day on Christmas Eve with a family meal in the evening (quite late) and then opening presents at midnight. There’s also a few fireworks at midnight but not too many – apparently it’s illegal to set off fireworks here but most people just ignore the authorities and let them off anyway. None of this is to say Christmas isn’t important here, it is; they just do it differently to us. We have been told that on New Year’s Eve quite a few people fire guns into the air and every year people get killed or injured by what are called ‘lost bullets’ – we assume that’s in major cities but we might just keep our heads down wherever we are!
For the first time on this trip we ‘booked ahead’ to be sure we had somewhere to stay over Xmas. Down here in the south there’s a lot of Cabanas and if you think ski chalet but on a smaller scale & a tad cheaper you’ve got it. It’s really comfy and at £27 per night good value. We also have a gas cooker and oven and yesterday Jenny magic’d up a roast dinner – wow, I was chuffed to bits and it was really nice to sit down to a traditional Xmas dinner – so glad I brought her with me when she begged me to let her spend a year living off a motorcycle! Anyway, it’s been nice to chill out and today we were able to email and Skype family so all is well with the world and it’s nice to get updated news from home.
Only a few days ago we were stuck in Puyuhaupi waiting for a landslide to be cleared and not knowing where we would end up or when.
Since then we’ve enjoyed a really lovely ride up here to El Bolson via Futuleufu and Trevelin. Futuleufu is a world renowned white water sports area (in the top 5 apparently) and made a good overnight stop. We wanted to buy US dollars whilst there ready for our hop back into Argentina but turns out they won’t sell them to you unless you are local. In the end it wasn’t a problem as a nice guy and his girlfriend we met took our Chilean pesos and went to the bank for us to get the dollars.
Crossing back into Argentina and the chance to spend a night in Trevelin, another town with Welsh roots and an off-shoot of the Welsh communities in Trelew and Gaiman (where we stopped on the way down to Ushuaia).
From Trevelin a ripio road took us via Lago Verde north to El Bolson for this Christmas stop. And what a ride it was, possibly the best days riding so far. The scenery was beautiful and there was even a water splash to play in. Video here: http://youtu.be/kigaj-DlOZ0 A fishing lodge on the lake shore provided a great coffee stop, and as we sat there we realised we were listening to Led Zeppelin on the sound system. Odd we thought …. So we chatted to the 22 year old girl manning the bar and the music was off her collection on her smart phone. Also on there was Cat Stevens, Chris Rea, Deep Purple, Emerson Lake and Palmer and many others of that ilk.
We’d never met a youngster with such amazing taste in music – apparently her mum put her onto it all. Shortly after north of Cholila we found (after some searching) the cabins that Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and Etta Place lived in from 1901 to 1905.
Although deserted and not yet open to tourists for the season we were not to be outdone after 11,oookm so we climbed the fence and walked the few hundred metres to get to them (past a field with a mean looking bull and his girls).
El Bolson is a smashing town. Walking into town today for an ice cream (on Xmas day!), some youngsters sat next to us and wanted to ask all about us – we find genuine curiosity everywhere we go.
They spoke some English and so we were able to have a good chat, they wanted to know where we were from, where we were going and how. Nice bunch of youngsters out for ice cream and enjoying the sunshine.
So here we sit in a Cabana in El Bolson, comfy and chilled out and eating Pan Dulce (sweet bread) made with walnuts from the tree outside our front door and donated to us by our lovely hostess, Roxanne. Perhaps we’ll dally just one more day – it’s so easy when you’re comfy to ‘not move on’ and laze around but on Saturday we will move on, ever northwards with the aim of one day reaching Alaska. We’re fortunate to be on such a great trip however we’re not naïve and we know there are big challenges ahead – so far we’ve only visited Argentina and Chile.