Beunos Aires is indeed playing it’s part to resurrect the impression of urban life in Argentina, through our eyes at least. If travelling is a metaphor for life then life is an adventure, the passivity of comfortability is an option contra to the tatty corners of a passport. Buenos Aires is a huge city, 13 million people cram into a sprawling tangle of urbanity that is not entirely urbane. We’ve seen but a small part and we’re setting off again to head south chasing where the weather is cooler, the humans less frequent and the mountains higher; our kind of place for sure.
It’s a strange thing being in this ravenous mode only taking the best pieces off the top of the cake; we metaphorically eat a single icing encrusted cherry and leave the rest on the counter barely worth a glancing look. But that is travelling and it’s our life for the meantime, we’re ravenous beasts interested in only an undiluted cherry filled existence from the top to the bottom of the cake, no room for empty sponge. Argentina does however have an inordinate capacity for producing cherries; indulgence, decadence and amazement are routine menu items giving any traveller a fairly quick cherry hangover. By cherry I of course mean meat and wine which turns out not to be the diet plan we were hoping it might be, better to end this paragraph now.
Now is the time for sponge.
A blessed bland comfort engulfs us for our departure from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia in the south; the brochures, advertisements and dare I say it, the blogs have it wrong, life’s not all mojitos at the bar. In its own way the embracing of the mundane carries notes of indulgence of its own as a more recent development of the traveller beast takes root in us. In this state we are becoming more able to appreciate having obligation free time which is sadly quite a new concept to us. Our final cherry bereft day in Buenos Aires involves little more than hunting for ferry tickets, camera lens caps and visiting a Japanese garden. Oh and coffee, plenty of stops for coffee. We farewell Ben off to his ferry to Uruguay and the continuation of his adventure, the last vestige of home leaves us at the sound of farewells ringing out through the hostel common area.
It’s just the two of us again. For the first time in what seems an eternity there’s no ready made group of mates, friends or family from home; it’s two little soldiers with our lives in our backpacks off to see the world and all it’s adventures. A horridly early alarm thrown us into the disordered mess that is Argentinian logistics, off to the airport and a place where there is adventure at every turn if you’re of a mind to see it as we are, Ushuaia. The plane touches down and we’re less than an hour late which is amazing, our bets of 3-4 hours delay were well off; someone needs to call a newspaper, this must be a first in Argentina.
The chill of the air is like a kiss from an old friend. The humidity and heat in Buenos Aires made for more sweat and unsettled sleep than we care to mention but now it feels like home. Ushuaia is in Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire named such by colonial explorers noting the campfires of indigenous peoples centuries ago, the land on fire. This broken up spray of isles off the southern tip of the continent signals the Andes final slip into the ocean and what many people have described as the end of the world. Charles Darwin wrote that he experienced eternal nothingness in Tierra del Fuego such is the sense of emptiness beyond the final scraps of land. For us this place is less so a finish, an end, but a beginning of a new place, new adventures and a new plunge into wilderness. In the travellers exchange what defines an end to most represents a beginning, the relationship between embracing and escape now a new set of principles.
Nestled against the Beagle channel Ushuaia stares at Chile only a matter of a few kilometres away, two nations with no little amount of vexation towards each other marking their lines in this prized territory. The land here is too broken up and isolated to be of any significant value as a port but it’s from Tierra del Fuego that that access to Antarctica is granted, Ushuaia in Argentina, Puerto William in Chile. Backed by impressive mountains like the back of a shoebox in a diorama Ushuaia lays on no shortage of picturesque drama making for a first impression that is tailor made for the elevation of adventurer spirit as the Andes lose their elevation.
In this year long quest for cherries we find ourselves supping on different flavours of red delight, meat and wine keeping the traveller principle alive. Yet as time rolls on in this odyssey it seems that we’re finding flavours that never seemed to be there in the former bland. Esoteric existentialists might point to an evolution of consciousness but really it’s a bit of good old fashioned opening of mind. We so often discard the bland in the chase for the greater but like a good diet, the meat and wine might be delicious but what’s nourishing for the body needs to be gifted greater importance, if not desire. In a mental sense travelling is ushering us from a stage of mental adolescence to somewhere else. What seems so obvious now is that there is no finish, end or goal in the complex chase for balance and perspective.
As the saying goes, it’s a small world. Until you try to see it and then realise that it’s a cruel exponential unsolvable riddle that perpetually extends before your view. The more you see, chase, the more the world grows, you’re never able to reach it; the irony of the chase a revelation for us only now. Fitting really we realise the futility of a chase at the end of the world, time to look a little differently into nothingness.