I fear I’m already a bad blogger. I’ve never been a natural when it comes to consistency, discipline, and non-laziness. There are just only so many hours in the day, and so very many episodes of “Law & Order” on television. Speaking of, am I the only one who suffers from panicky, paranoid fantasies/waking nightmares as a result of that show? Please tell me I’m not.
Back to the H-moon recap.
As much as we loved our stay in Buenos Aires, we were excited to get out of the hot, sticky city in favor of Patagonia’s mountains, lakes, and fresh country air — a rare treat for us. And by “treat,” I mean only so long as I wasn’t faced with any insect-related issues while enjoying this so-called “fresh air.” No really, we were psyched, and remained so until we were handed the keys to our rental car at the Bariloche airport. At this point, Matt’s face clouded over, a nervous, half-hearted smile lingering on his lips and dread settling deep behind his eyes. Of course, all the cars in Argentina are manual, and of course, poor Matty hadn’t driven a stick shift since he was 19 years old and working construction for the summer. I remained chipper and in high spirits, filled with confidence in my husband’s ability to handle this challenge with swift grace and aplomb. This based solely on the fact that he is not Jewish and is generally capable of things my family members are not: fixing things around the house, ironing, successfully putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea. As I’m sure many of you would have assumed (not you, Mom), these skills do not necessarily translate.
We piled our stuff into the tiny car, started it up, lurched backwards and immediately stalled out in the middle of the arrivals lane. Much honking, much waving, and finally when we had allowed every single car in the vicinity to pass us, we started up again. The car heaved and sputtered forward, and we were off! Unfortunately, we were soon met with a parking lot attendant, at which point we slowed to a stop and promptly stalled. After a few painfully choking false starts and many grateful gestures to the people lined up behind us (hey, tourists are allowed to be idiots at the airport, right?), we were off! Again. We began to build speed, and while the momentum put Matt at ease, I became increasingly nervous and shrill. “Cuidado! A la derecha! Please slow down slowdownslow downslowdown!” After the first two stalls, my confidence went out our hatchback’s manual windows, and I kept envisioning us missing a curve and driving directly into the ice blue lake that stretched alongside the highway. It was actually smooth sailing until we reached the center of town. We prayed every time we passed an intersection, pleading with God to arrange things so that we wouldn’t have to stop the car until we reached our hotel, 20 km away. No such luck for an interfaith couple. We came to a reluctant pause at a traffic light, and the car…didn’t stall! We held our breath and silently willed it to keep running. And then, as the light went from red to yellow to green, and Matt carefully lifted his foot to the gas, we heard the familiar wheeze, felt the dreaded shudder, and stalled to a standstill. Except that this time, when he tried to restart, we started to roll backwards. Into a line of waiting cars. He pulled the handbrake, took a deep breath and tried again. And again, we rolled back. He tried over and over, a line of cars a mile back leaning on their horns, people on the sidewalk and at their windowsills staring at us. Matt was sweating. My heart was pounding and it was all I could do to keep reassuring him and encouraging him to pretend that there weren’t at least a few hundred angry Argentinians behind us. More wheezing, violent, shuddering sighs from our car’s tortured engine, and then out of nowhere…
The car took off like a bat out of hell with an obscene screech! I flung back into the seat, let out a scream, and we shot out of the intersection and went careening down the street, hysterically laughing and nearly in tears with shock and relief. I’ll spare you the details of the next three or four identical experiences of varying levels of death-defiance, but suffice it to say that by the time we got to the hotel, Matt was trying to revise our plans to take a DRIVING tour of Bariloche and musing aloud as to how much a taxi would cost to bring us to dinner in the evenings.
I’m happy to report that the driving got increasingly better over the course of our three days in Patagonia, though we didn’t escape a few more humiliating stall-outs and we definitely burned the clutch down to a nub (note: I have no idea what a clutch is or looks like, so in my mind it was a nub). In fact, we came to like our little 2-door carro. It could have fit in our apartment’s kitchen, which was great because we’re very comfortable with small spaces. Plus, I got a kick out of hand-cranking the windows down and belting out the score to “The Sound of Music,” since the Andes look a lot like the Alps and Bariloche is full of old Nazis, too. Before long, Matt relaxed and began to enjoy driving around, and I found that I hardly ever thought about death while we were in the car.
Our days in Bariloche were appropriately outdoorsy. In addition to driving around and wading ankle-deep into fish-infested waters, we went white water rafting on the Manso River, which was my first time with the activity and I fell in love with it. The river was as clear blue as the Caribbean (though somewhat colder), we got to take our rafts to the Chilean border, and when it was all over they fed us beef and wine. The town of Bariloche was unfortunately pretty touristy, kind of like Germany at Epcot, but with fewer obese people and with more stray dogs. After holding out for a week, I finally broke down and pet a stray German Shepherd and allowed him to give my hand a little kissypoo. We named him Kevin, both after our recent favorite movie, Up, and inspired by a ridiculous poster we were reading as the whole unfortunate scene went down. Of course, Matt yelled at me and warned me of vague dangers, and after Kevin followed us a few blocks and then abandoned us for a tasty-looking puddle, I spent the rest of the evening convinced I’d contracted parvo (again) and fleas.
Here’s a fun fact: I neglected to mention that Matt and I both suffered from horrendous sunburn in Uruguay. Every time I looked at Matt I started to hum the theme to “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” By the time we got to Bariloche, his face had begun to peel off nicely, and we (I) considered attempting to preserve it in one piece. I, on the other hand, had been experiencing an insidious rash that traveled to a different scorched part of my body each day. It was sort of a fun game: Where in Nina’s bloodstream is the sun poisoning today? But the best was saved for the grand finale: the night we had the most beautiful dinner at our hotel, my ankle became so red and inflamed that it swelled up to the size of a can of pineapple juice. We were forced to take half a bottle of wine back up to our room where I could drink and elevate my foot at once. Of course, we maintained our priorities. It wouldn’t be a successful vacation if I didn’t contract at least one bizarre and humorously exaggerated affliction.
Stay tuned for the next very special installment of “Luna de Miel” blogging!
Part Tres: In Which I Learn to Love Frogs
Wine Tasting and Swimming Pools: A Cautionary Tale