I had that feeling that I was missing a day. Perhaps in my inarticulate descriptions f these bandit encounters, guns fights, kidnappings and other peculiar and unrelated badlands events I’ve given the wrong impression. One that says that Ernesto and I are quite familiar with the concept of being caught up in such shenanigans. Nothing could be further from the truth. We represent the young, lower middle class in Argentina, both still somewhere in our studies and likely to be life long at the present rate. Ernesto is still training as a doctor and is in his third year, he is most interested in tropical diseases and respiratory problems. This is due to his mother contracting TB when he was a teenager. He has decided that. As part of a year away from the college and formal studies he will travel the country, this great dusty landmass and reconnect with the people and culture(s) - for no fee or reward whatsoever. He is also, in his heart committed to Claudia but that’s another story for another paragraph.
My career plan is quite different, first of all I do not share any of Ernesto’s social concerns. The noble peasants, workers, administrators, politicians, students and passengers that make up this land are all the same to be (and not in a socialist sense). They are items and baggage passing along in some surrealist carousel known as “life”. I do not pretend to understand it but for no good reason I remain interested in observing and documenting some aspects of this absurd and dangerous sideshow as it trundles by. I also respect their noble path and their stoical determination to try to improve “things”. You may see that as an naive and selfish approach to living and knowing better would expect me to grow out of it. Well to be honest I wish I could but every time I think I’m about to turn concerned again I hear some self serving politician or arrogant General spouting forth on the TV and go back to my dismissive and defeatist views. So, in this self destructive mode I will observe, possibly document, marginally interact and occasionally have a good time bogged down in this Latin and European contaminated mire. Meanwhile Ernesto will fix it, if he can stay awake or away from Claudia long enough.
Our chosen mode of transport is a Ford Cougar, it was all we could find. Well; it was passed onto me in part payment for a longstanding gambling debt. I’d resigned myself to never seeing the money and the offer of the car seemed like a decent deal. I had considered selling it but at best I’d only have gotten a few hundred dollars for it and when the road trip idea was born one drunken night, the Cougar seemed (almost) perfect. We’ve done some maintenance work on it and had (well had almost) grown attached to it’s idiosyncrasy, lack of fuel economy and relatively high standard of comfort. It also seemed quite tough and I considered that it could be another valuable surreal experiment and challenge to see how long a highway car would last for in the rough terrain of the mountains. At the moment it is still with us and healthier than either of it’s regular occupants.
I had a beer hangover. That dry mouth, fuzzed head, concrete brow and bloated stomach thing. Mornings should be my time of creative mountain climbing, my rested brain in it’s strongest and most agile position of the day, ready to pour forth wisdom and document observations critically and pointedly interpreted. Sadly most mornings are dull affairs, trudged through in this pathetic and crippled mode. The sun pouring in through the slats of the blind only made it worse, tiny sparkling beams of solar brilliance alight with life countering my head’s dull, almost clockwork thud and the black hole of alcohol induced brain death I sat amongst. As I looked around I realised that we were still ensconced firmly in the bosom of the backpackers hostel. The good news was I was alone and could begin this day, whatever it’s name was, in personal slow motion. I resolved to do that and so became a time traveller in my own way.