Eventually I managed to make it out of Buenos Aires. I retreated to Córdoba, smack dab in the middle of the country. There, with the help of a good friend and the lazy atmosphere that permeates everything in a small town on a hot summer day, I planned to take it easy for a while before continuing to Chile to start the motorcycle trip.
A few years ago, I studied for a short while at UNC (that is, the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. Sorry, Tarheels fans), so I had a familiar face waiting on me when I got to Córdoba. When I studied at UNC, Anto, short for Antonella, was a student volunteer who helped foreign bozos like myself practice our spanish and get acclimated to the city.
After obligatory empanadas and a good night's sleep to recover from the bus ride from the capital, Anto took me to Carlos Paz, a small town west of Córdoba. We hung out at the river all day.....Seriously, that's it. Just swam and hung out on the sand and ate snacks. Nothing else. It was perfect.
I don't have a picture that could capture it, but the sand is quite mesmerizing in the rivers around this area. When I first stepped in the sand, I was worried to find that the sand had pieces broken glass all along the river. Within a few seconds, I remembered to turn off the alarms of First World Perception and realized that the sand wasn't full of broken glass. Fortunately, Anto's parents are both geology teachers, so she was able to explain that the sand contains a mineral called mica. I've never see anything like it, but you can find it throughout the area as dime- to quarter-sized flakes of rock, as thin as paper and all shimmering in the sun like fish scales scattered all around. The the mica creates a surreal effect; thousands of little reflections as you walk along the sand by the river as if you were walking under a discoball, except outside in the middle of the afternoon.
The next day we went to Anto's hometown about an hour away from the city. The trip took us up over the sierra to the northwest of Córdoba. Anto's hometown, Villa Giardino, is in a valley on the other side of the sierra nestled among a few other small towns.
Outside of the city, the summer days were hot and the activity in the small towns seems to stop by mid-afternoon with the exception of people going to and from the river. I felt hemmed in by the green mountainsides of the sierra, but I was welcome to serve my sentence at the river with a cold drink in hand. I didn't feel the need to attempt an escape just yet.
In Villa Giardino, I stayed with Anto's family. Anto's parents have four children, and I am the second oldest of five in my family, so it was easy to fit in. Of course, it didn't hurt that Anto's family are some of the funniest and most kind people you could ever hope to meet. I've also realized that "Josh" is not only very hard for Argentines to pronounce, they'll probably assume you mean "George". So, in the casa Pappalardo, my name was "George de la Selva".
If you are ever in La Falda or Villa Giardino, GO TO EL BOSQUE. No matter what you're doing, stop and ask anyone where El Bosque is and go there. With any luck, one of the Pappalardo sisters will be working. Just tell them Josh (or "George") sent you. You won't regret it.
After a few relaxing, delicious, and beautiful days with the family Pappalardo, I had to catch a bus to Chile. Motorcycles and Patagonia were waiting for me.