Tuesday morning we boarded the gypsy train in their slow paced journey towards Mendoza. Despite the hangover and crippling mess i become on too few hours sleep, I could feel my soul relax and breathe a deep sigh of relief with every km we drove out of BA. My thoughts slowed and my smile real, undrunken, unsleazy, unoffensively happy.
The gypsy train is a group of fellow backpackers who met in Colombia and decided one hungover morning that they should buy a bus and drive around south America. Skip forward 9 months and the people we are now travelling with are the three remaining owners. If you want to check them out, their website/blog is here: http://www.thegypsytrain.com/.
The last 4 days we have spent on the bus have been amazing. Camping out every night, eating amazing (home made - well...bus made) food and enjoying the, generally unvisited by tourists, small towns in between BA and Mendoza. Last night, with the promise of hot springs, we stayed in a small town that looked like it had been abandoned by 90% of the humans that once resided there - and had almost been entirely taken over by dogs. We rocked up to a campground/park where the hot springs were advertised to discover that it wasn´t really what we were expecting. A hotel had tapped into the springs and made bedrooms (which are for hiring by the hour) that contained something that was the mixture between a small pool and a spa bath and a single bed. What we think was happening is that they fill up the pool/spa with water from the hot springs, but who knows? We were mildly convinced that it may be a ´love hotel´, and had many laughs at the prospect of what exactly was going on.
The whole idea of drinking strong green tea out of a wooden cup, with a metal straw (with a filter at one end), may sound peculiar to some. But in Argentina this is a national pass time - along with queuing and saying things to gringo girls as they walk down the street. At any place that there are Argentinians - there will be mate (pronounced Mar-Tae). With friends and families alike bringing all the necessary equipment (thermos, tea leaves, wooden cup, metal straw etc) to share mate amongst themselves. One cup and straw is shared amongst the group, with each person taking turns to drink this bitter herbal tea. There is something distinctly communal and relaxing about the mate drinking ritual, and it has been something we have been enjoying during our last few days on the gypsy train.
As we headed towards Mendoza - our last stint of driving to get there - we passed around mate. Zach was our dedicated refiller, ensuring the cycle wasn´t broken and that the order it was being passed continued - with a chain of people handing the small wooden cup up around the bus in some form of mate relay. Aside from the mate each of us were lost in our own thoughts, when out of no where it happened. After driving for the better part of 4 days and seeing nothing but flat landscape our first glimpse of the Andes just seemed to pop out of nowhere in front of us. They were still enough in the distance that their snowy white peaks could almost be mistaken for clouds.
´Holy Shit´ i exclaimed when i saw them - upon reflection i wish my initial reaction had been much more eloquent. But it was really like it had just been placed in front of us. How could the world's longest continental mountain range just appear like that? and be surrounded by hundreds of kms of flat, flat land? But there it was.
BB and i decided that we have not had enough time on the bus. With this in our minds we have decided to stay on the bus for as long as we can, until a) they kick us off, b) we have to be in Peru for the inca trail or c) we decide that being hippies and never showering isn´t actually for us at all and that we want to return to city lifestyle. Personally i´m betting on option b. But who knows, could be a combination of all three.
I´ve been happy travelling, but now, i´m much happier. Loving the simple, cheap, jaw dropping life that we have been living. Not ready to give that up yet.