I landed in Buenos Aires on a spring morning, to enjoy a break from my workaholic behaviour and get over my unfinished postgraduate degree. I had a very clear idea of what I needed: to hit bottom! And there I was, on my way down south.
According to the map, the “End of the World” is located at the Argentinian Patagonia. Arriving there can be a quick, easy flight or a long-exercise-of-patience bus ride. Choice made: At the Retiro Bus Station, I started my 20 hours-long trip, going through narrow Patagonian roads that would take me further than ever…Alone.
Trelew was my first destination, a town in Chubut province that I became aware of by watching Francis Mallmann´s cooking shows. As soon as I stepped out of the bus, Sebastian and Diego screamed they were “¡re contentos, che!”. My first friends were two twitter users who, for months, sent warning tweets about how the Patagonian winds push you in all directions. I kept wondering where such inclement wind would end up pushing me. After all, I had no direction!
My First Argentinian @Friends
After having a busy agenda as a communications director and postgraduate student, days felt in slow motion. I tried my first ‘Mate’ and must say it was not my cup of tea. Although, the actual ceremony of serving it and sharing it with friends was really fun. Then I met another twitter user, @Celeste. She introduced me to Gancia and Fernet…and again, not my type of drinks, Argentinians really do love their bitter flavors!
What I did enjoy very much was the “asado”: five men fighting to be “the asador” or the guy who actually prepares the meat. Meanwhile, the rest of them kept glasses full of wine flowing and music playing: Los Redondos, Pappo, Charly Garcia. It was a full Argentinian treatment and I loved it!
The next morning I went to visit the one and only big thing in Trelew: the Paleontological Museum Egidio Feruglio. It was my hangover remedy of choice and surprisingly, it worked. The museum was built in 1999, to preserve local archaeological treasures. It is both highly valuable and attractive. Shortly after seeing those huge long-gone specimens, I decided it was time to meet an equally famous huge specimen, but one that was still alive. I went whale watching in Puerto Pirámides!
Meeting the Patagonian Animal Kingdom
Having three 50-ton Southern right whales around a boat, with their calves facing at you can be a little overwhelming. Especially when you hear the guide say: “Maximum approach, people, please let’s keep calm and silent”. Whales get closer, people start getting nervous. “This is a rare situation, ladies and gentlemen, whales don’t usually come this close to boats”. One of the bigger whales swims under us…and we all hold our breath. What’s with the excitement guys? It’s only a huge specimen that could flip our boat in a blink!
A few days later, I went to visit the cutest species in Patagonia: Magellanic Penguins. The Nature Reserve of Punta Tombo, which is home to over 300,000 penguins and a wonderful place to go to. I arrived very early in the morning and found them sleeping standing over their eggs, so still. My first impulse was to take as many pictures as possible, but the quiet and beauty of the landscape got me thinking about my journey, how far I had gone looking for that kind of silence, looking for something that could leave me speechless. Then the noise started: hundreds of penguins cleaning their tiny feathers and running to the sea to find breakfast.
Seeing humans as their guests, the penguins tend to be very curious and walk near people. However, guides warned us that those cute little animals can make very deep and painful wounds with their beaks, so I had to fight the urge of holding one for a picture.
The Newly Found, Brave Diana
That night I went to bed with a crazy idea: I’ve always been afraid of water, so if I had to die under the sea, it should be in an exotic destination like Puerto Madryn instead of nice old Caribbean beaches. Next morning I jumped on a boat for a scuba diving baptism with the Scuba Duba crew and 3 other guys who were one dive away from their professional certificate.
We arrived to the Naufragio Albatros, a sunken ship for advanced divers, where – lucky me! – I’d take my diving baptism. I hit the water and the agony started: it took six attempts just to check the mask worked properly and when my guide was about to lose her patience, I finally had the guts to go down to find fish and seaweeds dancing with the current, in a silence that made me feel at peace. I was so submerged in my own thoughts that barely noticed when Carolina (my guide) let my arm go. All I felt was my body floating, weightless, free…Going right into the Albatros!
After I survived my diving adventure, and back in the windy beach, it hit me: I had gone so far away from my family, my friends, my old life, to find silence. I had been surrounded by people telling me what to do – or NOT to do – for so long, that I didn’t remember what I wanted or needed. I was so used to being told who I was, that when Bichi told me “You are so brave, you went down in the Albatros like a professional” I laughed. Was I really that brave, or adventurous, or spontaneous or crazy?
I didn’t know, but for the first time in my life I was going to find out, by myself, with a little help from the uncontrollable Patagonian winds.