Six hours later in the day Pedro, a retiree from Neuquen offers me a much-coveted ride to El Calafate. I am wary of accepting lifts from single men of divorcee age but quiz him a series of questions and feel safe enough to accept.
The past six hours passed surprisingly quickly with a combination of snacking, thinking and finally, as always, bad pop and a Flight of the Conchords album that poses as my best friend. These songs still make me laugh out loud despite one thousand listens or more.
We speed out into the huge Patagonia landscape of dry golden pampa. Ruta 40 is a premium here: a lazily strewn ribbon reaching into the horizon….. Ciao Tres Lagos!
I sense that Pedro is a little deaf. He doesn’t seem to understand a word I’m saying despite my best rolled “Rrrrrrrrr”‘s! which is a little worrying with a 1.5 hour journey ahead. This is remote territory with nothing for mile”’lometres and I don’t want to be ejected from this ride and forced to wait on an extremely lonely roadside….. without wind shelter, dog or a bumblebee for morale. Perhaps a Guanacho might befriend me if I’m lucky.
I realise that I’ve committed myself, there’s no turning back now. I spin a tale about a makebelieve boyfriend waiting for me in El Calafate….and a sister….and friends to encourage extra safety.
When my anxiety wains I begin to notice the landscape. Wow! Barren, yes, but the earth is a sea of golden tufts of hair and as we pass the summit of a low brow, behold: a lake of creamy turquoise. I think of Dune.
We reach El Calafate quickly. I must be adapted to these epic long journeys now that this one felt brief. Pedro reminds me of my Grandad. He tells me about his adult children and explains the meanings of their Mapuche names: Nahuel (=puma, tiger), Malen (=maiden) and Antu (=sun). He enthuses about his dream motorhome. We both cheer when we reach El Calafate! After all he’s driven nearly 2000kms over 2 days and I too have had the uncertainty of ever leaving Tres Lagos.
It seems I’m a domesticated animal after all 😀