Chapter One, Verse One
In Buenos Aires, the Paris of the South. In many ways the capital of South America and a good place to start this tale. Some in-flight musings from my journal; "writing the preface closed at 35,000ft. A day of jumping out of planes and jumping onto planes, both promising me the same thing. Setting my watch to the new time and chapter as the flight slowly weans me off English".
When you travel you silently seek out your vibe. For me, it’s not heaving hostels full of cookie cutter backpacker promiscuity or downtown megatropolis traffic outrage. In this case it was the groovy little neighbourhood of Palermo, in northern BA, where leafy streets shade sleepy cafes by day and bounce to thumping bars and restaurants by night. And when you travel you quietly crash into the people you are supposed to meet. There's the usual ego-aussie-Anna and gapyear-brit-Tom, but just sometimes you are blessed to find a soul-searcher-Lucy or a down-to-earth-Jon. And before you know it you have yourself a little temporary travel-family around you, and it feels real and lasting even though in the scheme of life it's all magically ephemeral.
2 Wheels Good
Two wheels have always felt good to me, and at this point in my adventure it didn't matter if those two wheels were powered by distilled down dinosaurs or by my own legs. On a push-bike in a new city you experience an instant increase in your patrolling combat radius and there’s something inherently gratifying about weaving through the grid of a foreign city’s cobbles, stopping by whatever takes your fancy. My only companionship on many of these rides was Samantha, my rental-bike. Who while being a little rattley was still a good ride nonetheless. I looked into joining either a language-school or getting a private-tutor in order to get my best possible Espanol-start. Hablo solo un poco but that was all about to change.
One day the temp-family also all hired bikes for a trip out sightseeing together and I took the opportunity to trade-up at the bike-rental place to Victoria, who was a smoother and classier ride, and who I thought was a better fit for me. Days trickled by. Tango lessons, Salsa lessons, the Buenos Aires nights start getting longer. The morning bakery staff got to know my usual order and the late afternoon pizzeria staff almost started getting worried if I haven’t been in for snacks by 5pm.
The Nature of Things
There's this old parable of a sickly snake nursed back to health, only to turn around and bite the hand that healed it. Because that is just the nature of the snake. In a similar way you don’t go blaming the City when it steals your rental-bike, because you should have known that's just the nature of the City. Well, if I didn't know that before, I sure as hell know that when the lamppost I chained Victoria to is empty when I go back in the morning. Some hostel-friends graciously translate for me at the police station and at the rental-shop where I compensate the boys for their loss. Ironically, they give me Samantha my original bike back as a replacement, and she’s clearly pissed I took off with Victoria and rattles way more than I remember last time. Again me and the travel-family take off for a mission-ride downtown, past parks, savouring the sanctuary of the newly installed cycle-ways throughout the city, gacias. But something is clearly not right between Sam and I, and after one revolution too many that rattle goes clunk and Sam shits her sprockets and chain on the pavementover the whole affair. I try to talk sense into her at a bike-repair-shop on the way, but we’re informed by the bike-counsellor she's unsalvageable. I can’t drag the Family any further along today’s bad-karma-ride so they set off on the original heading, while I reverse-bearing to walk back with a broken-down Samantha, back to the apologetic rental-boys, who despite my tenuous Spanish manage to communicate the same thing I’m feeling; These are the days that must happen to you.
So if you want a vanilla surprise-free chronicle take a Contiki Tour. Despite a stolen bike, a broken down bike, and falling off a bike, I knew I was right where I needed to be. You accept the conditions of the ride when you sign-up and take the ticket. The night of the breakdown, we all went out and ate Argentinean steak as we raised glasses of Argentinian red to Victoria who I paid for but didn’t own, and to Samantha who I should have originally stuck with, who took me back anyway, and then ditched me in a fit of velodramatic revenge. Fuck. Didn't see that coming.