Kilometer 2014, Ruta 40, San Carlos de Bariloche

I like to think I didn’t find Peuma Hue, but that Peuma Hue found me.

My week there, was arguably one of the best weeks of my life. I say that with caution, because I firmly believe the best is always yet to come. It’s cliche, but damn, is it true.

Let me rewind a bit. Back to the end of January. I was reaching my month and a half mark of living in Buenos Aires, and I was starting to feel the wheel of monotony slowly spinning. Granted, I loved (and still do) tanning in my grandmother’s garden, burning through each book I brought from the states, and drinking mate everyday. What a life, right? In many aspects, I came to BA for simplicity, peace of mind, and nothing to worry about but the sun on my face and my feet dangling in the pool. To read and write leisurely. To make up for lost time with my grandmother and grandfather. To explore the city my mom and dad grew up in. I did all of these things, without hesitation and complete satisfaction. But after a several weeks of repeating the cycle, I started to feel restless. I thought about flying home early to start working, even asked the airline how much it would cost me to come home. Well, an eight hundred dollar quote and a firm “no” was what I got instead. I was utterly frustrated, I felt stuck. Trapped. But then I realized it wasn’t that I wanted to return home, but that I wanted to explore more.

That’s when I booked a flight to Bariloche, and single-handedly changed the direction, meaning, and experience of my adventure in Argentina.

It’s a blessing and curse to have your entire family dispersed throughout the world– on the one hand you don’t have the privilege of seeing them everyday, but on the other, you do have the privilege of traveling to some incredible places. That is how I found my way to Bariloche. My mother’s cousin happened to be living and working at an estancia (ranch) in Bariloche, and welcomed me with open arms (Ronnie, if you’re reading this, this is for you). Ronnie picked me up in his twenty year old, cooking oil-fueled Volkswagen at the airport, and zoomed me through the Ruta 40 to Peuma Hue. I had only met Ronnie a handful of times as a young cucaracha of a little girl, so this was more or the less the first time really meeting Ronnie. Again, staying with relatives you’ve never met in incredible places is an unexpected blessing to have, and damn, was I lucky to have Ronnie.

After twenty kilometers of driving on Ruta 40 with nothing but the VW’s head lights guiding the way, we turned onto a dirt road that climbed it’s way through the Nahuel Huapi National Park to the Estancia Peuma Hue. It was utterly, serenely quiet; a complete change from the symphony of dog barks and garbage trucks that made up living in San Isidro. Silence. It struck me, and I realized that maybe I hadn’t actually gotten a complete peace of mind I thought I did back in BA. I was in the country now.

I dropped my bag in Ronnie’s man cave and headed to the staff house, where I met some of the kindest, funniest, like-minded and unique group of individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was worried, actually, that I would spend most of my time alone– I had spent so much alone time in BA that I almost expected it. But that’s part of Peuma Hue: lifting the veil of life for me. I learned that these individuals were wwoffers at the estancia, many of them staying and working there to experience, work and live in Patagonia. Almost all of them experienced backpackers and serious outdoors aficionados. I felt as if I was meeting myself through some of these people, and it was my connection with them that pushed me to the edge of finding myself. Corny, I know. But hear me out.

I woke up the next day (and every day of that week) giddy with the promise of adventuring the incredible trails, estancia, and lakes I was surrounded by. Felt like I really took a page out of Emerson or Whitman’s books. I was completely engulfed by nature. How can I explain the feeling of inhaling crisp fresh air so deeply that my lungs were drowned in pure O2, so deep it flooded my entire body with modicums of bubbling energy and refreshment? The feeling of drinking fresh, unadulterated water from bursting waterfalls? The feeling of losing yourself in the masterpiece that makes up the sky of infinite stars, comets, and dusty milky way, much less sleeping under it? Or the feeling of jumping in a freezing fresh water, aqua blue lake with friends you made not a week ago, your laughter an uncontrollable and wild stream of happiness? These are the moments I will forever try to describe and eternalize in my mind. Because for me, that’s what I was looking for, even when I didn’t know I was looking for it.

I spent the next week trekking up incredible trails to breath taking views, making asado with friends, and falling in love with not just Peuma Hue, but with myself, and my life. It’s a humbling experience, really, to find yourself completely content with where you are and who you are. I found that in Peuma Hue. Or, rather, it found me. I peeled away the layers that made up my personal baggage; my anxiety, my PTSD, my parent’s divorce–everything. Somewhere in between everything that had happened in my life the last two years, I had lost myself. I forgot who I was. And it was in Peuma Hue that I rediscovered myself, amidst the trees, floating on Lago Gutierrez, and gazing up at the stars. I woke up.

So, like I said, I spent the week unraveling myself, savoring the sweetness that is self-acceptance, sucking on it like a lemon drop. I was hiking with a close friend one day, and he said to me,” We can take the yellow trail or the pink trail. It’s your decision.”

I responded passively and said,” I can do whatever.”

“No, you can’t just do whatever. You have to decide. I want you to decide,” was the response I got. And that got me thinking: I didn’t know what I wanted to do, because for so long I had fallen into the trap of not deciding, living in indecisiveness and passivity. I was rusty in the department of being decisive and vocal. I was used to taking a back seat in decisions, going with the flow, appealing to others before myself. And it took another person to call me out on it to realize that. I’m so grateful for that (you know who you are).

There is an inherent, cosmic, almost primitive healing quality nature possesses. I think people take it for granted. I know I did. I’ve always loved and appreciated nature, but at Peuma Hue, I realized I was a part of it, too. A feeling of belonging. Initially, it felt peculiar, as if meeting an old friend after many years, followed by recognition and gratitude. I felt it when I trekked up Refugio Frey, as I threw myself into Lago Gutierrez, and while being nuzzled by curious horses as I read “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a hammock.  An incomparable feeling, second to none, except to hugging my dog.

It was hard to leave Peuma Hue. I didn’t want my adventure to end. But that’s the beauty of it: the very fact that it ended is what makes it so beautiful and special in the first place. And once I got on that plane, and watched the white caps of the Andes Mountains fade in the distance, I realized my adventure wasn’t ending, it was just beginning, again and again with each day. That’s what I would call a revelation; completely and irrevocably irreplaceable.

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