Last year, I visited the ghost town of Villa Epecuén for the weekend with a couple of friends. We had the pleasure of meeting the town’s last remaining resident, Pablo Novak, who fled along with everyone else when the town was flooded back in 1985, but chose to return once the flood waters had receded. Pablo had proudly shown us articles based on Epecuén’s story, and demonstrated his collection of photos of the town, past and present. His loyalty to Epecuén touched me, and inspired me to write an article based on our experience there, which I wanted to send him. However, Pablo lives without electricity and I don’t even think the post reaches his small house in the woods, so before I left I asked him how I’d be able to show him what I’d written. He then told me to contact his grandson, whose name was Christian, before scribbling his email address down on a scrap piece of paper for me.
A week or so later, I wrote my article and sent it Christian’s way, along with a note explaining who I was and why I’d chosen to write about Epecuén. To my delight, Christian was really excited to receive my message and thanked me profoundly for my words and photos. We continued to talk over Facebook and at one point he offered to host me, should I wish to return to Carhué, Epecuén’s neighbouring city- I decided to take him up on this offer. Christian picked me up from Buenos Aires on Tuesday March 18th and drove me to back to Carhué, along with his father and, throughout the journey, both quizzed me on my opinion on, well, pretty much everything! I was asked what I thought about Margaret Thatcher, Rolls Royce, French perfume, the Argentine president, mate, Benny Hill, Rover, some Italian motorcycle brand I’d never heard of, the Falklands War… by the end of all the questioning, I was exhausted and passed out in the back of the car.
As I awoke, we were just pulling into Carhué. Christian showed me into his house and insisted that I took his bed, while he slept on the sofa. Part of me was reluctant to do so, for I felt it was a bit unfair that I should have his nice comfortable bed after he’d done all the driving, but the other part was very grateful for such luxury. We both enjoyed a cup of tea at his kitchen table before saying goodnight to one another and heading bedwards. I felt like my head had barely hit the pillow when I awoke to the sound of karma karma karma karma karma chame-le-on blaring out of the speakers. It was morning, my first morning in Carhue, Christian was making breakfast with 80’s songs playing in the background, the sun was shining and I felt very content.
Over the course of the next two weeks, I met all of Christian’s friends, went on lengthy walks, joined a tennis class, swam in the salty lagoon, played cards, ate copious amounts of meat and drank copious amounts of mate. Two backpackers, who had previously visited Carhué as part of their trip, returned and they too were welcomed into Christian’s house. The four of us enjoyed many meals cooked by the other residents of the city, sunsets on the beach, music at all hours of day and night and soaking up the relaxing atmosphere that came with this beautiful, special place. One day, we were invited to an amazing house in the countryside, where we ate asado in the sunshine, trotted around on horse-back and explored the seemingly infinite grounds.
My last two days, however, were perhaps the most special; I had met a Bolivian woman the previous week when asking for directions and we had begun chatting, then she introduced me to her two children and we spent some time together, before I told her I had to move on. After she urged me to return, I made sure I did so, taking the remains of an apple crumble I’d made the day before with me. Seeing the joy on this woman’s face when I went back to see her was really touching; I hadn’t expected my visit to mean so much to her! She welcomed me into her house, where she served fresh fruit and wonderful home-made bread, and we chatted some more, while the children ran about the kitchen excitedly. I stayed for a while, helped the elder of the two girls with her maths homework (though I think she was more capable of multiplying fractions than I was) and then bid farewell to the family once again. On my last night, I cooked a spaghetti bolognese for Christian and his friends, and we ate, drank red wine and reminisced about the past days spent together, all of which had been very happy… and it was all thanks to that one article! And Christian’s good, kind nature of course. To all the people from Carhué who read this, gracias por todo y espero verlos pronto! Besos, chau for now!