The calm after the storm

Posted by on March 19, 2013

Anyone who has kept tabs on my Facebook page knows that I went through a short struggle last Tuesday with losing my wallet and all of its contents (including my debit card).  I also endured final exams and found a woman trapped in an elevator within the same span of two days.  After all the bustle and business of the first half of the week, I needed a descanso from the norm that weekend.

What better way to destress from the intensive period than to pack a duffel bag and leave town for La Cumbrecita?

So Thursday afternoon, this lovely lady, Sasha, and I hopped onto a colectivo and rode an hour-and-a-half to Villa General Belgrano, a tourist town with German influences near the base of Las Sierras and on the way to La Cumbrecita.  It’s a good thing that both of us were looking for a relaxing weekend with no real plan or schedule, because we missed the last colectivo to our destination and ended up spending the night there!  We checked into a very comfortable hostel with a private bathroom and two rooms…all for $22…not too shabby.  The owner of the hostel gave us a dinner suggestion, and since it was still fairly early, we decided to walk the main street and visit some of the artisan shops to pass the time.  Some of the artwork was beautiful (and the Toms-like flats that we found were especially tempting!).  Dinner consisted of a strange blend of Argentine and German food at a buffet-style restaurant, where we paid based on the weight in kilograms of our plate.  Finally, to end the night, bought some chocolate chip cookies at the only open kiosk and watched Definitely, Maybe in Spanish on the hostel television.

 

The next morning dawned bright and early.  We left the hostel around 10:00 to stop at a panadería called Café del Sol and grab a coffee and media luna (“half-moon”), a warm croissant drizzled in honey, on the go.  We reached the bus terminal just in time to catch the next colectivo to La Cumbrecita.  The scenery we saw on the way was absolutely stunning:

 

 

Once in La Cumbrecita, we hiked a narrow trail to Hostel Planeta and met our fellow guests, four guys in their late twenties.  The rest of the morning was spent walking the streets as we had done in Villa General Belgrano.  The town is beautiful and has the same German feel.

View of the fresh market and some shops from the other side of the river.

After lunch, Sasha and I pulled out our map to find a hiking trail.  Our tentative plan was to walk to La Cascada Grande (“the big waterfall”) via a dirt path instead of taking the road there; what happened instead was an accidental excursion into Paseo Alto (“high pass”) for the next three-ish hours.  It was absolutely worth it.  Within the hour, we had a panorama view of the town and surrounding mountains and could hear next to nothing of the usual city sounds.  After two hours, we were up so high that the scenery was shrouded in an ethereal fog that stopped us in our tracks multiple times just to admire the creation around us.  Both of us had mixed sentiments throughout our hike – at one moment, all I could do was run ahead and excitedly climb the highest rock in the vicinity to just soak in the immensity of it all.  At another, we each claimed a rock and just stared in silence for about ten minutes.  It was like being in another world, surrounded by green and water and tranquility…

I don’t think either of us really cared that it had started to rain and we could only see the ground in front of our feet.  We would have continued on forever if we hadn’t run into a few friends on the mountain:

Just in case you can’t tell, there are two cows in this picture. It was two different ones about two hundred feet away that stopped us from continuing.

More striking were the wild horses a hundred feet away as we started our descent. We moved quietly, so as not to startle them, but our silence felt more reverent than cautious.

There really isn’t a lot more to say.  La Cumbrecita soothed my worries about the wallet incident and reinforced the feelings of peace and joy that I had discovered the week before.  That night, we dried our clothes by a wood stove and hashed out life philosophy — in Spanish — with the other guests at the hostel over a few rounds of mate.  Sasha and I walked to a convenience store and bought the remaining nine empanadas and a jar of peaches to eat for dinner.  Halfway through dinner, the hostel owner changed the music playlist to Johnny Cash, and I taught one of the guests how to waltz.  Being honest, this weekend felt more like todo fluja than any other experience I’ve had thus far.  I enjoyed every minute of it and relished in the freedom to unwind and simply admire the beautiful naturaleza around us.  I know that I will be returning before my five months are over.

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