I might add that once we were heading into the sierras, it started hailing- when you're sitting on the top deck of the bus at the very front (like I always do so I can see everything when traveling), something like hail slamming into the roof of a fast moving bus makes for some ear-shattering pleasantry. And, despite the curatins, I couldn't escape the strobing lightning. Anyway, I made it to San Juan, and again aquired hardly a few hours of sleep on the damned bus.
After missing the bus back to San Juan, I was effectively stranded.
Next day I rented a car, since I didn't want to have to rely on lengthy and sometimes unreliable busses to where I needed to go. This was kind of expensive, but was worth it in amount of time saved.
I guess everyone in Argentina knows the police and the politicians and the high-up business people here are in with the ranks of drug cartels, but most choose to ignore it. This is the opposite of America, in that there is a lot of corruption in the government and businesses, but it is much more hidden and censored by our media, so people DON´T KNOW or DON´T BELIEVE it, rather than KNOWING and CHOOSING TO IGNORE it. ¿Viste? The literacy rate here is 97%, which competes with America, and so far it seems like these people are a lot more musically literate as well. That is good for me. But I digress, again.
We passed through the beautiful town of Calingasta, filled with trees everywhere and families walking or biking along the roads. Upon reaching Barreal, the view was nothing short of ''Wow.'' The nearby mountains are some of the tallest in all of the Americas, peaking at over 6,000 meters. The first part of the town that I thought was Barreal was simply a collection of houses, so upon driving far enough, I reached the real thing.
The girls borrowed the car for heading to the nearby river to relax, whilst I headed up into the quedabra with Maxi and his way-older-than-me daughter, Judy. This place is filled with amazing colors, which contrast brilliantly with the super-deep-blue sky. Literally, I have never seen a bluer sky anywhere in the world than here, which is probably due to lack of pollution and the Andes Mountains cleaning up the air. The landscape was pretty lunar-like, and as we stopped into a nearby abandoned mining camp, I picked up a couple souvenirs left behind several decades ago.
So, after leaving Barreal for San Juan up a long and winding series of paved and unpaved roads, the dark night sky was once again a reality, as the stars shone through the windshield.
I took a bus just yesterday to Mendoza, which is the same as San Juan, but with more trees, more wine and generally a more classy feeling place. I tried 4 new kinds of empanadas, which I have a craving for right now actually. Morcilla (black pork sausage), cabrito (kid goat), some other kind of meat, and another kind of goodness. These were paired with a glass of super smooth Malbec red wine. Normally I'm not big on wine, but this wine was super-fine.
I am now off to Valparaìso, Chile, to see the Pacific once again, and hang out in this bohemian, chaotic, beautiful city, situated in rolling hills right on the ocean. Can't wait for some excellent seafood temptations, such as king crab and monger eel. I think I will stay there through Friday morning, head back into Argentina to here (Mendoza), and, depending on my interest in adventure, might take a trip 6 hours south of here to Malargüe, to see some awesome volcanoes and more lunar landscapes in Las Payunias. From there I will head back to Mendoza, with a final destination for Buenos Aires. But we'll see.
UPDATE 28 Nov 2009 : PHOTOS POSTED!
All for now, more for later. Until then, you know who this is... or do you?...