Chapter 13
March 9, 2017, 5:02 pm
Filed under: Adventures, Travel | Tags: , , ,

” I thought maybe I’d left you behind”, Ulf said with a smirk as he came out to meet me in the driveway.

“Is this Tres Lagos?” I said as I unstrapped my dusty bags from the side of my bike.

He nodded. “Tres Lagos must mean ‘Five Houses’ because I see no lakes here”.

He helped me unpack my bags and lug them into the room he’d reserved for us. Next door to us were a group of teenagers, some of whom were coming out of the bathrooms as I walked in.

“We saw you out there on the road”, said a boy with Shawn from Boy Meets World hair.

A black girl with short curly hair walked up behind him in the small dark hallway and confirmed his allegation. “Yes we could not tell if you were a man or a woman with your helmet on.” She pointed at my badly disheveled beard: “We thought your beard was long blonde hair coming out of your helmet!” she laughed.

The boy with Shawn hair smiled and agreed, “But your shoulders were so big we thought maybe you were a very big woman.”

Both of the kids had heavy Dutch accents and must have been eighteen or nineteen years old. I had seen some kids out by the road with their thumbs out earlier in the day. I’d slowed down and motioned that they get on the back of my bike, a joke I make every time I pass a hitch hiker, out of desperation for human interaction.

So trying not to seem too desperate in this moment, I laughed along with them and hurried into my dorm room, before I exploded at the chance to talk in English with someone younger than sixty-five.

I emptied my pockets onto the night stand, changed out of my motorcycle boots, and pulled out my road-weary patagonian guidebook–a shoddy, road battered pamphlet made out of a larger guide book that I’d torn out and then stapled back together to save on space and weight.

I flipped through the pages to the small entry on Tres Lagos to see if there was anything to eat. I’ve found that usually if a place is a dot on a map it will at least have a gas station and a restaurant–usually.

Ulf and I walked down the dusty street, which was empty except for dogs and one busted down economy car with a duct-taped side view mirror and a hood that was held on with bungee cords, in search for the only restaurant in the six block wide town.

Tres Lagos looked like it had been air-dropped from a passing plane. Or like it had sprung up in the middle of the desert in a puddle of water like one of those foamy dinosaurs you’d get in your easter basket as a kid. There was wide open blue sky above us, which was greying in the twilight, and desert everywhere beyond those six blocks– like the shittiest oasis you’ve ever seen.

The resturaunt was a ramshackle addition to a nice enough adobe colored house. There was a fence with a dog, and a garage with an old man working on a scooter, and a nice tended yard, and a concrete slab with four wooden walls which was obviously an afterthought. Ulf and I hesitantly pushed open the wire mesh door and stepped into the drab cafe that had five dining room tables and a bar.

I looked at the hand-written menus for fifteen minutes before making some sort of decision. Not because there were so many options, but because I had no idea what any of the options were. I finally settled on pointing at a blackboard where “Carne con Huveos” was written as the daily special and a ordered two large Quilmes for myself. Ulf ordered the same, for convenience’s sake, without the beer, saying that he was already “too tired” for a beer.

We sat there for about thirty minutes before our food arrived from, I assume, the kitchen in their house. I also assumed the man working on the scooter was also the cook. I also had drank both of my 24 oz beers and was working on my third by the time the food came. I still have no idea what kind of meat it was, but it could have easily been pork.

As our plates were sat on the table, the screen door opened and in walked the two dutch hitchhikers plus two. The woman proprietor seemed a little frazzled as she started to speak to the four of them in spanish, telling them that all that was available was the carne con huevos. She didn’t even bother giving them menus as they sat down at the table next to us.

“But yo no comer carne” pleaded a blonde girl with a tiny mouth and a tinier voice.

The woman looked at her blankly.

“you’re in Argentina, sweetheart” I said at her, “They don’t have vegetarians here”.

She conceded to eat the eggs and the side of peas, but would forego the carne.

Ulf and I chatted with the three Dutch teens, and their older dread-locked friend with crows feet and an accent too thick to understand, while they waited for their food.

The boy with the shawn hair, and the nice teeth I might add, was a galley worker on a cargo ship that had sailed from Holland down to Ushuaia, where he met with his friends. He went on talking about cooking with a big Swedish woman who had shown him the ropes, and how difficult it was to appease the tastes of their ship, which was manned by Vietnamese and Sudanese sailors.

“I’m envious that you got to cross the equator on a boat,” I told him, after a swig from my fourth quilmes.

“You must have crossed the equator too,” he said.

“Yeah but its not the same. I did it on a plane. I was probably asleep. You know, you should get a turtle tattoo. That’s what the sailors did back in the day. God I wish I could get a fucking turtle tattoo.”

Ulf, who looked absolutely exhausted, chimed in, “you can still get one russ. No one will stop you.” He started pulling out his billfold and motioning for the old black haired woman behind the counter, but I stopped him.

“Put that up, Ulf. Ahh’ve got ya.”

He thanked me and excused himself, saying he’d let the young folk have the night to themselves.

I wasn’t feeling especially young, though. I watched the Dutch kids, and their friend who probably was my age, and also looked tired as hell, goof and laugh and chow down on their goopy eggs and “carne”, telling me about their, “how do you say it in english, gap year,” and how they were all trying not to think about what they were going to do with their lives as adults, and I just kept drinking. I felt like I had been so wound up all day long, with my hands white knuckled and the dust in my eyes and the wind barraging me for hours and the storm threatening my measly life, and I just needed to un-tie  a hundred knots in my shoulders and my brain, and that Quilmes was the swill to do it.

The boy with the shawn hair was lamenting that he hadn’t been with a woman since he’d left Holland.

“Not that I’m trying or anything, but the women down here don’t seem to be interested in me. I mean I have a woman back home in the states, but it’s nice to be noticed by the opposite sex anyhow, you know? Especially after a long day on the road.”

The black girl spoke up, slowly to get it right, and pedantically, as if she spoke for all womankind: “The reason that most South American girls do not find you attractive is because you look dangerous. It is very western to think that danger is sexy. These girls are in actual danger from time to time. They don’t need a man to make them feel unsafe. They are unsafe.”

“Yes. you look like a character from a Coon brothers film,” the dutch sailor said.

“Coon brothers?” I asked, still trying to wrap my head around what the girl had said before.”

“Yes, you know, The Coon brothers. The Dude? Fargo? No Country for old men?”

I suppose that was a compliment. I’d had five twenty-four ounce shitty lagers and I had been yakking these Dutch kids ears off for hours. I bet they wanted to relax back into their native tongue. So I left them to it, shaking their hands and wishing them safe travels.

The wind finally died down to a calm as I walked drunkenly, one flat foot in front of the other, down the streets of silent Tres Lagos, silent but the sound of barking dogs. I was feeling good, feeling high, feeling hopeful for the Dutch kids and their gap year, and for Ulf and his retirement, and for me and the whole damned world and feeling good that i’d beaten Ruta forty, for now, even though it had broken me a little inside.  I’d made it alive to walk down the dusty streets of “five houses” beneath a desert moon, wondering how many more gap years I’d need before I was an adult, too.






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