I eventually managed to tear myself away from the magnificent country that is Argentina, where I spent sixteen happy months in the company of some very special people. Although admittedly I was growing tired of Buenos Aires, which made me want to leave the entire country, as soon as I began travelling round the north, I was reminded of why this is such a great place to be. It was my final month and I wanted to make the most of it, so I booked myself on a train to Tucuman, which sits right at the end of the line (a good 30 hours from the capital). On the way I befriended an old lady, who taught me card games and shared her coffee, and we chatted almost non-stop. Then, upon arrival, I hopped straight on a bus to Tafí del Valle, a pretty little town surrounded by mountains, where I stayed for three nights. Over the course of those days, I met a guy from Amaicha, another nearby town, who showed me around on his motorbike, several students from La Plata, with whom I visited the Quilmes Ruins and two brothers, one who owned a restaurant next to my hostel and the other who played there in pen̄as every night alongside a friend of theirs.
Having had such a good start to my trip, I didn’t think it could get any better, but I continued to meet more lovely people, who showed a genuine interest in getting to know me and spending time in my company. Cafayate was next, where I spent a couple of nights with a friendly girl named Flor and Alvaro, one of the brothers from Tafí. We watched the World Cup matches together, explored the town and its surroundings, cooked, sang and danced non-stop in the local bars. One day, we drove through the breathtaking Quebrada de las Conchas and made a stop at Alemanía, once a thriving railway town, where now only approximately ten families reside. It’s quite a spooky place, and the people living there aren’t used to receiving foreigner visitors, yet they too were extremely friendly towards us. Overall, my time in Cafayate was fun-filled and I have many fond memories of this special and unique place.
Throughout the trip, I encountered several musicians and began travelling with two of them, Leo and Mariano, along with a Dutch girl named Rose. The four of us walked, talked, laughed and ate delicious meals together, and each night the boys played Blues songs, which Rose and I would sing along to. I was in my element; music, food, stunning natural scenery and the best company I could have asked for. It was perfect. Sadly though, all good things must come to an end and, after a few weeks of hopping from one tiny town to the next, it was time to return to the big city. However, I decided to return to Tafí del Valle, the place where it all began, one last time along the way, accompanied by Leo. On the first evening, Leo and Alvaro played together in the restaurant and wowed the diners, who were clearly more accustomed to hearing Argentine folklore than Blues songs. We then spent the rest of the night jamming and one thing I’ll never forget is hearing the two guys and Guito, the other musician, create an incredible song out of nowhere, which they played for ages while I simply sat and listened in amazement.
Although I wasn’t particularly looking forward to being in Buenos Aires once again, I was very happy when, on my final night, several of my closest friends in the city came to an asado that I’d organised. As well as sharing a delicious meal and several glasses of wine, we reminisced over what had been a truly wonderful year and I was given some touching gifts, such as a personalised Argentinian flag which they’d all written messages on. Leaving was tough, as I had to say goodbye to a number of people that I really love, but I knew that I was returning to people I love back in the UK too.
Unfortunately, a not-so-enjoyable experience was to follow: flying home. Not only did I have to endure a lengthy stopover in Sao Paulo but, when it came to catching a second flight from Istanbul, I was informed by the airport screens that all flights had been delayed by approximately eight hours due to a storm. Groaning with despair, I rushed over to the helpdesk in an attempt to change my flight, but clearly everyone else had the same idea as the queue was endless. Still, I stuck it out, though the whinging and complaints made by other passengers, the rudeness of the staff and the overall negative vibe made it practically unbearable. Fortunately I was able to change flights, which was just as well, as my original flight was later cancelled. We all had to wait in a stuffy waiting room as the new flight became gradually more and more delayed and, despite being extremely tired, I was determined not to fall asleep for fear of missing the darn thing. Typically though, as I trudged from Gate 301, the original boarding gate, to Gate 225, which was literally at the other end of Atatürk Airport, I managed to drop my passport without even realising, until I’d almost arrived. In a state of panic, I began screaming at the nearest security guard that he HAS to help me find it, as I’ve already waited an eternity for this flight and now, as it’s finally ready for boarding, I have lost the crucial document. He simply tells me to ‘try the information desk’, and so I run there, sobbing helplessly and receiving patronising comments from the people I run past, only to discover another epic queue. This time, I simply barged to the front and, to my utmost relief, saw the passport lying on the desk. With that, I grabbed it and continued running. Despite the odds, I did eventually make it to London where, just to top it all off, I was informed that my luggage has been misplaced… an absolute quilombo, as they say in Argentina. However, two nightmarish days of travelling was all worth it for the two and a half unforgettable years I’d spent abroad.
So that is why, in my opinion, Argentina is so wonderful and, although I am extremely happy to be back, I know I will miss that country and its people every day until I finally have the chance to return.