The final chapter: Argentina, drawn from memory

And so I’d left Bolivia to find amazing Argentina. Still alone and missing home, I arrived in the city of Salta. Similar to Villazon, Bolivia, I felt like I’d landed on the set of a spaghetti western, a good feeling; if only I had spurs on my boots like ‘Billy the Kid’ who was killed not far from here.

I checked into a small hostel, which was so quiet I tried not to knock too hard while getting the receptionists attention. While I was checking in, the lady whispered ‘there’s a place on the corner if you’d like to party?’ Is it that obvious I’ve been dancing for the last 8 months?! Anyway, the idea of dancing didn’t really appeal, am I sick? Yes probably, homesick.

So I made my way to Buenos Aires rapido, feeling I needed to settle for a while, a few craigslist searches later I had a sweet flat in the trendy Palermo district of BA, living with an Argentinian rock and roll band(!). The flat was on the corner of Scalibri Ortiz with a nice accessible roof, complete with turret dome type thing (where my Landlord, the bass player of the band slept) I now had a place to call home, whooop whoop!

The World Cup was in full swing, Argentina were hot, I watched the games at the pavilion on the big screen, and joined the crowds as they hailed king Maradonna as he orchestrated some amazing wins. But in the end the bubble burst, and I felt a million hearts sink.

Couchsurfing.com was again kind to me and I met an awesome gang of ultimate frisbee players from different bits of the world, we played every Saturday, the green spaces of Buenos Aires were delightful, especially in the warming sun whilst scoring a frisbee touchdown!

I was settled and felt at home, I was cured!

A happy month went by in the flat, hanging out with Augus (on the bass) and a group of excellent Colombians whom I’d met, but it was time to travel again, to Patagonia!

It’s whale season and there are Welsh communities there, this is the reason I’ve had my Grandma’s recipes for Welsh cakes and Bara Brith laminated and stowed safely with my passport the whole trip. I’d had plenty of practice baking Welsh cakes along the way, using them as currency, gifts and educational tools (Wales isn’t in England by the way, eat that). And so I cooked the ultimate batch and jumped on a bus to Patagonia.

The bus was comfortable and they served tea, whiskey and champagne, it was a 22 hour journey and so I decided to take the time to think, the road was pin straight and seemed to go on forever, but strangely the end came too soon. I’d realised by now that being forced to stay in one place, be it bus or plane or days on a slow boat is the only time in my life when I stop and reflect, a type of forced meditation I suppose, and I think it’s very important.

I was here in Puerto Madryn, 1 hour from Trelew, the area which is home to the majority of the remaining Welsh speakers. The place was vast, flat and somewhat baron, although it was sunny, it was freezing and the average colour of the view was definitely gray. I imagined racking up in a boat having rowed all the way from Wales, back when there was nowhere to get a warm coffee, and shuddered at the thought. It was the original Holiday from Hell, but although it wasn’t quite what the Welsh expected, they still irrigated an almost impossible area, cultivated crops and built a community which lives on. Pleidiol wyf i’m Gwlad.

I arrived in Trelew late and got goosebumps as I saw Welsh flags blowing in the wind. I walked into the first guest house I saw with a welsh dragon on, ‘Ty Nain’.

“Yda’ chi’n siared Cymraeg?” (“do you speak welsh?”) I asked the short happy lady,

“dos minutos” (“two minutes”) she replied and went to fetch someone…

“Croeso!” (“Welcome!”) exclaimed a new tall lady with a beaming smile.

She asked me how far I’d come and how I was doing, in Welsh so pure I thought of my Welsh literature school teacher, surreal! I tried to get over it and although she had no room at the inn, she hooked me up with a place to rest down the road.

 

Susan had invited me to return for tea the next day, and so I went at 3pm armed with a box of home-made Welsh cakes, the laminated recipe card and an appetite. I presented the cakes and recipe whilst she served me a platter of baked goods along with a pot of strong tea. It turned out Susan was one of 5 Welsh chefs who had recently been sent to North America, representing Wales at a global food conference.

She enjoyed my welsh cakes, noting the subtle differences that time and distance had changed. We had a nice chat, I continued through the platter although I feared sweet bakes would soon be coming out of my ears, it was like a mixed grill made of cakes. Included in her grateful farewell was a gift, a signed copy of her recipe book, a token of appreciation she said, for sharing our recipe, she rules. Wow.

Overwhelmed, I got the bus back to Puerto Madryn and met an amazingly friendly Argentinian couple at the hostel, they kindly adopted me, and we spent a few days driving around the main wildlife observation points, drinking mate, the Argentinian tea, picnicking and imitating the sea lions.

The Whales need a shallow 3m of sea to mate and that’s why this beach is perfect for them and us, the way the water dips suddenly to 3m at the shoreline, means you can observe these magnificent creatures up close. We ate asado sausages, watched the courting beasts and listened to this… Aphex Twin – Cliffs

Harmony!

The next few days continued the theme of amazing smiley Argentines and wildlife, but also with new found celebrity status, the Welsh dragon patch I had pinned to my rucksack ignited passion in the locals, “…your people built this city” said an Italian panini making man with a look of total respect.

It was time now, I had completed the only real mission I’d come away with, and with incredible luck, mucho suerte. Trading smiles and Welsh cake recipes with a world famous chef, and, don’t tell customs but, I had a sample of the goods in some paper for my Father to taste test, must get home before it goes stale…

“Iesu mawr, llawer o flas arna nhw, ma rhei fi’n well!” (“Crikey, not much taste to them is there!? Mine are better”) – Dad

Arriving home I realised two things, I missed seeing my family so much and Dad may be biased when it comes to Welsh cake competitions. =)

Thank You kind World.

xx

In other news:

  • While in Trelew I spent some time hanging out at the Welsh museum with the really interesting dude there, I served Welsh Cakes to the visitors that came from worldwide as I had a good supply, and the owner thanked me for adding another layer to the experience.
  • I met an amazing person on a language exchange who’s made my stay incredible, happiness. Amor.

— — — — — —  — — —  — — —  — — —  — — —  — — —  — — —

End of transmission & trip, but this isn’t the end.

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