Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Cookie Incident and How I Got Over My Fear of Strangers

In general, I am a very independent girl.  I don’t like to have things done for me and I like to think I’m self-sufficient.  Even when I was a baby I refused to eat unless I could hold the spoon myself because I just don’t like asking for help!  This has certainly caused me a great deal of trouble in the past, especially with school, and is something I’m trying to work on.

So, at first, hitchhiking was naturally very hard for me.  I felt like I was soliciting people for charit-ous rides.  In reality it is nothing like that, but my fierce independence was left stubbornly struggling with the idea that people were really giving us a ride out of the pure goodness of their hearts.  One man we hitchhiked with from Cruz del Eje to Deán Funes put it like this (in Spanish):  “I actually don’t pick up hitchhikers for any humble reason at all.  It’s purely selfish.  When I was younger I hitchhiked all of southern Argentina and now, picking them up is my rare opportunity to relive that now that I have a family and am settled down.”  A lot of people who gave us rides had actually been hitchhikers in their youth and therefore felt more inclined to let strangers into their cars.  Others had never picked anyone up before but were bored and wanted someone to talk to.  Each driver was a unique and incredible character; the next time I go I’m going to make a point of at least taking a picture of every person we ride with to visually document their stories.  They all contributed to my picture of Argentina’s warm, social culture and diversity.

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^^taken from World Inhabit

Despite our first few lucky rides, though, I still felt uncomfortable verbally asking people for rides.  I much preferred standing on the side of the road with a sign and letting people stop out of their own curiosity.  The problem is, that’s not always effective.  This was the case for us once we got back to Carlos Paz after Playa de los Hippie.  We managed to get a ride really quickly from the trailhead of the playa by a couple (or a brother and sister, I couldn’t tell) who were going back to their hometown of Carlos Paz.  They were sweet and talkative, but Maxi and I were totally brain-dead tired and with caras de culo (mad at each other) because of the cookie episode after hiking out from the beach.  I’ll tell you what happened, but I can’t promise I’m not still ‘opinionated’ about the incident:

After only a few hours of sleep on the beach, a little bit of a hangover, and a long hike out under Cordoba’s stifling blanket of summer heat, we emerged at the top of the hill on the road back to Cuesta Blanca as a pair of ravenous, sweaty backpackers.  The fruit stand I told you about was open and busy with tourists chatting over a beer or fellow hippies refueling with snacks.  We flung our things to the floor, I took my shoes off (greeted by many awkward glances, but it felt marvelous so I didn’t care), and Maxi sat down.  He bought food the last time so it was my turn.  I had eleven pesos, which wasn’t much, but we just planned on buying a couple of apples or peaches.  I waited in line for what seemed like forever and was about to abandon all dignity and lay down on the cool tile floor in the middle of the store when my number came up.  They were out of fruit.  ;agsoiahsgoihwaegih Rawr.

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Well, thinking on my feet and looking behind the counter I chose an economical bag of cookies that would at least hold us over until we got to a real supermarket.  I was positively starving and beat as I got back to the table and slumped into the chair across from Maxi.

He just shook his head, “No, we can’t eat these.  They have meat in them.”  If you didn’t know, both Maxi and I are vegetarians.

“Uh…?”  I was kind of just gaping at Maxi, lacking the energy to even bring my jaw to close.

“Yeah, they have beef fat, read the ingredients.”  I scanned the ingredients and sure enough, the twentieth ingredient or so was “grasa vacuna.” I lazily dragged my eyes back up and stared at him.

“See? All of the cookies here have it.”  I looked back down at the tiny font as if I’d missed something.  Nope.  Still there.  I’d never realized that the cookies I’d been eating for months had beef fat in them.  Suprisingly, I haven’t died from them yet.  Looking back at the line for food though, now twice as long, I almost did.

“Ok, well,” I sighed, “we won’t buy cookies again, but… I already bought these and the line is going to take forever again and…I dunno.  Can’t we just make an exception this one time and eat them?”

Maxi raised his eyebrows.  “No…I won’t eat them. It’s not about making an exception; it’s about the cow that died to make the grease for those cookies.  If I made exceptions all the time, I wouldn’t be a vegetarian.”

Now, I love Maxi.  He was a great trip companion and he put up with a lot from me…but in that moment I’ll tell you what I wanted to do: I wanted to tear open the bag of cookies, stuff three in my mouth to momentarily satisfy my growling tummy, and take another handful to crush and crumble in his hair all while releasing a near-inhuman snarl of frustration.  Here’s your stupid beef fat cookies!!! I had just walked a long way uphill with my heavy pack in the heat, waited in line for twenty minutes, and I just wanted my f*****g cookies.  But I didn’t do that.

Instead, I swallowed, took a deep breath and aimed one of my well-known teeth-grinding glares straight into Maxi’s eyes.  He just innocently asked if I could go find something else to eat as if my glare had no effect on him. Verbally making it clear to how unhappy I was about this, I melodramatically got up and all but stomped back over to the counter (as best I could barefoot.)  I managed to cut the line after a couple of customers and trade in the HUGE bag of cookies for two alfajorcitos, not even the size of my fist, that lacked sufficient dulce de leche and tasted mildly stale.

Consequently, I was already in a sour mood when we were going back to Carlos Paz, to say the least.  When the man and woman (I don’t want to call them a couple if they were brother and sister…it feels weird) dropped us off, we got some real food and parked at a gas station, researching how to get to our next destination.  I held a sign for a while to get out of the city, then Maxi held it, then me again, then Maxi…and so on.  Eventually Maxi suggested we start asking individual drivers who were filling up and see if we could convince them on a more personal level.  I already felt weird holding a sign and accepting rides from strangers—asking them directly was like selling myself or…I don’t know, but I didn’t like it.  I refused and instead sat unhappily with all of our things while Maxi went and did the dirty work.  Maybe I was being bitchy, but I just felt like it would come across wrong for a girl to ask a ride from random strangers.  It went against the core lessons of everything I had learned in preschool.

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I went to the bathroom to change and rinse my face in the sink.  When I came back, I found Maxi using his broken Spanish to try and convince a young couple in their thirties to give us a ride.  The man’s girlfriend looked extremely skeptical about the whole thing as he tried to convince her that it wouldn’t be a big deal to just drive us to at least the bus station.  That’s where I stepped in. 😉

I told them that we had been sitting there for a couple of hours trying to find something and we had just resigned to taking a bus—that we’d been traveling for a few days and were exhausted.   The girlfriend seemed to warm up to the idea a little bit seeing that Maxi was traveling with a girl.  Remember, girls aren’t psycho axe murderers, we’re little innocent lambs who smell like flowers and love puppies.  During the ride they both relaxed considerably and told us it was the first time they’d picked up hitchhikers.  Even though they weren’t really taking us more than a few kilometers, they warmed up to the experience so much that by the end of the ride they told us they’d have invited us to dinner if they didn’t already have tickets to a theater show.  As we got out, the man gave us the rosary from his rear-view mirror “for our journey.”  Even though I’m not really religious, the gesture was touching and I still have the rosary hanging in my room to remind me of the kindness of the people we met on the road.

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As I had more and more positive experiences with hitchhiking and discovered both the selfish and selfless reasons that drivers had for letting us tag along, I became more comfortable asking for a lift.  I still don’t feel completely at ease going up to a truck driver in a gas station and asking where they’re headed, but I don’t feel like I’m asking if they want a little ‘company’ either.  I would say that hitchhiking can be explained like many people explain the irrational fear of snakes (that I personally feel I share with the other sane people of the planet…):  They’re more afraid of you than you are them.  It’s true.  Just like the average person would be scared to hitchhike, the average driver (at least in the US) would be scared of picking one up.  Once you draw away the curtains of fear you find that the sun is shining and it’s a very positive experience.

P.S.  The magic of the river at Playa de los Hippie magically cured my rash.  Turns out I wasn’t stung in my sleep by a lethal scorpion!  Hooray!  Sure did give me a scare though…

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Autumn’s Official 5-tip Novice Guide to Forging and Maintaining Healthy Relationships Based on What She’s Learned So Far (**Not Necessarily Based on Experience)

Ok, I know you clicked on this thinking, “Ooh, this oughta be good!”  I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy this post but if you know anything at all about me you’ll know that I’m more of a “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” person.  I rarely choose my head over my heart and emotion nearly always trumps logic.  This leads to some fairly irrational and impulsive decisions…and some gnarly anecdotes.  As I said to Sol yesterday, “La vida sería taaaaan aburrida sin nuestras fuerzas para complicarla” (Life would be sooooo boring without our tendencies/methods? of complicating it.)

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^^May be hard to understand but this is one of my many brilliant ideas gone wrong; least we look happy!

You may have noticed that I’ve already been back in Buenos Aires for spring semester for over a month and have hardly written anything about school or how my life has been progressing here.  I have (sorta) been expending all of my efforts and free time on writing about my epic summer trip.  It really was quite the expedition and I’ve barely even begun to recount it, but I feel the need to briefly return to the present and catch you all up on my recent whirlwind of shenanigans and social faux pas.

Now I know I haven’t told you all much about my dating life here but I’m gonna let slip just a little bit.  Since my ex-boyfriend just made his new girl Facebook official, I feel a little less awkward about publicizing these more delicate parts of my life on my blog.  Yeah, I know, I’m still totally hung up on him (let’s hope he doesn’t read this), but the reality of it is that I’m here in Argentina and he’s in the USA and those two worlds are very far apart.  Besides, I’m going to pretend that I have not gotten myself into any of the following situations and have been behaving myself quite nicely 🙂  I may have to kill you because I’ve told you.

Tip #1—While a successful couple will probably have many things in common with one another, it’s obligatorio that they share their country of residence.  Seriously.  Duh.  You’re welcome.

I’m not saying long-distance relationships don’t work—just that long-distance long-term relationships don’t work.  When I was in high school and was casually discussing the color we’d paint our master bedroom with the love of my life (at the time), the distance between Loveland and Fort Collins seemed to problematically drive us apart (25 miles.)  Then he moved to Indiana, we decided maybe maroon was too cold a color for our walls, and we began to grow apart.

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^^….We were disgustingly cheesy.

After a year of trying the long-distance thing, countless hours of Skype, and an uncomfortable episode that led my mother to remove the office room door, we finally cashed in the pieces of our hearts and called it quits.  I think that any type of relationship is really hard to maintain from a distance.  Once you aren’t sharing experiences, the conversations become a scripted version of what you do during the day and I-miss-you’s.  Hardly keeps the passion alive.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been able to maintain some friendships for years over distances.  My best friend from fifth grade is still important to me.  We don’t talk very often but we still have inside jokes and catch up every once in a while.  Whenever I do get to see her we can hang out like I never left (although we don’t crush gravel on the playground anymore….)  Being six thousand miles away from so many people that I grew up with, love and care about—people I’ve shared my entire life with—is not ideal.  Skype and the crappy app that I downloaded on my smartphone to text them are tedious and incomparable to a real-life hug.  I knew that relationships would fade with time when I left and that I’d miss a lot by not being there, but knowing that didn’t really do much to prepare me for it.  It’s not worse than I thought…it’s the same—it sucks.  I love everyone back home so much but, I’m here now.  I can only spend so much effort on holding up my social circle from my old life and spreading myself too thin is not an option right now.  So distances are kind of a buzz kill on any relationships, and a deal breaker for romantic ones (eventually), just sayin’.

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^^Me with my best friend from Middle School and her little sister 2 years ago

But whatever, my friends and family will always love me and I’m rambling.  Moving, on:

Tip #2—In a world where your reputation is nonexistent, clean slate, try not to sabotage it by dating a classmate, then his best friend, then his other best friend, then making friends with the second guy’s ex-girlfriend, then flirting with her new boyfriend, then…you get the point. (Ok, I didn’t do this, but maybe something kind of sort of similar…..maybe….)

I am a total drama queen, but not in the “Oh no!  I broke a nail!!!” way; more in the “Let’s get myself into the most uncomfortable, complicated, telenovela-esque situations possible” way.  I recommend against that.  While I’m all for the whole powerful, sexy, bold woman BS, I don’t think sticking your tongue down several different guys’ throats at a party really generates an “I’m-looking-for-a-relationship” vibe…  If you’re not attempting to generate that, more power to you.  Just make sure these aren’t people you see every day.  If this happens to you, just move on to a new circle of friends and try not to work your way through them….that stuff just gets awkward.

Tip #3—Dating people you live with, roommates, etcETERA is usually a poor decision.  That is, of course, unless you were dating them before and subsequently moved in with them, blah, blah, sittin’ in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G, blah.

If you are irresponsibly dating someone you live with it’s going to get complicated and you know it. Doing this in the first place is also probably indicative of your tendency to create drama behind the scenes while maintaining the innocent, helpless façade that almost everyone falls for.  Stop fooling yourself and everyone else.  You are insidious and conniving.  It’s ok.  I know you well.  However, barring the potentiality of an incredibly rare romance-novel ending, this is not going to be a very healthy, nurturing relationship.

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^^This picture has nothing to do with any of these tips.  I just like the picture.  I’ll talk about this next blog 🙂

Tip #4—Secret relationships are a no-no.

Ok, who ever thought of this?  Really?  I mean, this is just plain uncomfortable and stressful.  Sure, it may be fun at first when you feel like a highschooler again sneaking around your parents, but seriously?  What are you? Twenty? Twelve?  Being unable to be yourself in a relationship is a huge problem, but being unable to be yourself outside of it is worse.  Admittedly there are reasons to start secret relationships. So what, if there’s a good reason to begin them that way, but it’s going to cause legitimate problems down the road not to mention a few miserable hours of migraines if they continue to stay hidden.

Tip #5—Trust and honesty and all that cliché stuff is important, but so is attraction.

Before you start gettin’ all up in a tizzy about how looks don’t matter, hear me out.  Girls: How many of you have had that friend that you adore and get along so well with and vice versa, but are just totally unattracted to?  Or maybe not totally unattracted, but there’s no spark when they try to kiss you and it’s suddenly very clear you aren’t into them?  I’m betting that we’ve all been there.  We’ve all been in the position where we wish we were attracted to that friend, but we just…aren’t.  I honestly wish I weren’t this shallow.  It is just a fact of life though; a healthy relationship is primarily built on character, but some of the bricks used are attraction and it’s hopeless to deny it.

These situations totally suck.  If you’re like me, then you know it’s hard to admit to yourself, let alone the other person that you’re Imagejust not into them.  You should be into them.  Everything points to the two of you being seamlessly compatible but it’s just not there.  In these situations it’s best to put a lid on your ego, muster up some compassion and confidence and tell this person you don’t want them.  (Clearly I haven’t quite mastered the tact yet…)  If you let it keep going things get tricky and neither of you end up happy, at least not if you have a conscience.

So, there.  This is my euphemistic way of telling you how I’m managing to crash through my dating life here 😀  Right now I’ve managed to stir up quite a bit of trouble for myself.  It’s like playing Jenga and I’m pretty sure my tower has got to tumble down at some point.  I won’t say I haven’t got some pretty darn entertaining stories so far, though.Image

Caipirinha in Pipa da Praia, Natal, Brazil

Hey guys!
Look–my photo got shared on The Tipsy Nomads blog 🙂 It’s from my two and a half weeks in Brazil, which I’ve still yet to write about. Marketa and I spent the entire week lounging around the beach and enjoying the sun. Such a great trip =D

The Tipsy Nomads is a super creative idea to share pictures of drinks from around the world. Check them out if you have a chance!

The Tipsy Nomads

Caipirinha

Autumn Standing from the travel blog Standing In Argentina has sent in this fabulous picture from Pipa da Praia, Brazil. It is at the Praia do Amor, which means ‘Love Beach’. She is just lounging around on a February day and drinking with class.

The drink is a typical Brazilian drink, a Caipirinha.

Sooooo much lime.

The Tipsy Nomads: What a wonderful shot! Love the lines and vectors in the picture, as well as the drink which is taking centre stage. Thanks for sending it in Autumn, love it.

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Peace, Love, and Fernet

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The sunlight softly feathers across my skin.  Mmmm warmth.  No, this is uncomfortable.  I hazily drag my blanket further into the shade and continue to snooze.

I roll over, sweaty and sticky.  Time to move again.

We followed the shade all the way up into the trees, 30 meters from the beach and slept in until ten.  That’s a difficult thing to do when you are sleeping outside and the light starts to harass you at 5:30 in the morning.  I managed though, considering the night that I’d had.  Maxi, luckily, had slept through the entire episode of me crying, yelling, shivering, and sitting in burning embers to ease the freeze that had enveloped every inch of me.  No fair.

After the man with the flashlight had gotten way too close to our camping spot for comfort, I stealthily army crawled back over to Maxi in hopes of waking him again.  No such luck; but being diligently quiet and discreet effectively concealed us anyways.  I spent the rest of the night dozing off only to wake up every fifteen or so trembling with cold again and repeatedly singing my clothes in the fire to stay warm.  The sun was a very welcome guest in the morning, but only for a half hour or so before I felt suffocated with heat.  Funny to think how I would’ve given anything to feel that way only four hours earlier, but I digress.

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We rounded up our stuff at around noon.  I bathed in the river for the first time since the hostel in Rosario—three days without a shower.  I was hoping that would be the record for the trip. Hahahaha, yeah right.  Maxi chided me for using shampoo and conditioner but my hair was so disgusting. 😦  I learned not to care eventually, but the first few weeks I had to learn to ease up on the hygiene.

The desert climate was in full blast by eleven thirty as we tried to obscure the remains of our campfire.  Families were coming to the beach to lounge and spend the day away from the city on the weekend, so we needed to get a move on and figure out what we wanted to do.  I had no desire to spend another night of misery freezing my ass off on the beach but we decided to talk about it over lunch.

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As we were putting the finishing touches on the campfire cover-up, an official-looking guy came up to us asking if we’d spent the night there.  Do I play the innocent, naïve yankee who doesn’t speak Spanish?  Do I run?  Running was pretty much out of the question since Maxi and I still hadn’t perfected our psychic communication and all speed would be lost with my multiple bags involved.  Innocent, naïve yankee it was!  He told us that it was illegal to camp on the beach but my wide baby eyes kept him from giving us a ticket.  Instead he was actually very helpful.  He told us about this beach that people usually camp on called “Playa de los Hippies.”  Beach of the Hippies.

I peered down at my orange, pink, blue and white flowy bombachas (kind of like harem pants but with light fabric) and insane flip flop tan.  Yep, sounded right up our alley.  We gathered our things and went to the bridge to follow the man’s directions.  I figured out who the mysterious flashlight man was.  Apparently we weren’t the only vagrants on the beach that night.  Two guys, around their late twenties, with dreads, guitars, and backpacks were pushing sand over what used to be a fireplace just meters from our crime scene of last night.  It might have been cool to spend the night with them but too late.  Hippie Beach here we come!

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^^Our campsite at Hippie Beach 🙂

As we crossed the bridge and took the turn off for the road that we were told to follow to the trailhead for the beach, a woman in an orange vest stopped us.  She was a kind of tourism coordinator and handing out maps and pamphlets to the people around.  We got another warning about the illegality of camping by the side of the river here but she was also really nice.  She gave us a pamphlet and told us to be careful…there were scorpions around here.  While beginning our walk I skimmed the pamphlet.  There were two types in these parts; one that was super poisonous and would kill you within a few hours, and one that was capable of ruining your next couple of days depending on where it stung you.  Both were characterized by a red bumpy, itchy rash, potentially followed by swelling, dizziness, vomiting, and of course, death.  I suddenly became hyperaware of the itchiness of my skin and looked at my arms only to begin to panic in earnest.  Red bumps seemed to be popping up all over my arms.  I looked at my shoulders, my chest, my legs…down my pants.  Yep, there too.

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^^Hard to see…but they’re there 😦

Oh my God.  I was going to die, I was sure of it (clearly, I didn’t.)  Max said it was probably just irritation from the sand.  They didn’t itch that badly anyways…so I agreed to hold tight.  I am a hypochondriac after all…and I slept on the ground in the sand with a crappy airplane blanket the night before.  I put the scorpion pamphlet away and tried to focus on how miserable the heat was to walk in with my heavy pack.  Distracting enough.

The beach was about two and a half hour’s walk from the river…uphill.  Luckily we got some girls to give us a lift most of the way to the top of the hill where the road ended and the trek began.  We bought some fruit and water for the way and hiked in.  So much for my rinse in the river that morning—by the time we could see what was probably Hippie Beach we were both drenched and smelly.  I tried to keep the whining down to a minimum but really, there’s only so much I can restrain myself.  I was definitely ready to take the first campsite available when we got down to the river again…but Maxi was more in the mood to explore for the perfect place I guess.

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^^Me NOT whining

There were old campers, young campers, families out for the weekend, and even semi-permanent residents (some people seemed to just live their summers there…) It really was incredibly similar to Fort Collins’ landscape by the Poudre but with an even more relaxed vibe.  After Maxi and I finally spread the tarp out in our “perfect” camping spot we did the only logical thing—strip.  And get into our swim suits of course 😛  While I was relieved to be out of normal clothing I was positively alarmed by the amount of ‘bug bites’ I had.  I knew they weren’t bug bites.  It was some sort of rash.  Most likely caused by lethal scorpions.  Big red welts all over my legs and stomach and arms and everywhere—EVERYWHERE—decorated my skin.  They itched too, but not as badly as mosquito bites.  I showed Max again and he repeated I should probably hold off on worrying for at least a couple of days.  There was nothing we could do anyways except let the cool river water heal me.  I promised myself to stay hypersensitive to any waves of nausea.

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Splash.  Total relief.  Harsh heat and frigid cold seemed to be the weather’s only two settings here in Cordoba, but cool water, alcohol, friends, and camp fires helped make it bearable.  After a short swim I went and washed my clothes in the river while Maxi napped and explored.  It wasn’t too crowded really and it was amazing to be out of the city, away from roads in the peace and quiet.   We relaxed and ate our fruit.  Just thinking about our day makes me close my eyes and yearn for that kind of carefree relaxation right now.  Such bliss.

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As the hours flew by, I decided to gather as much dry firewood as possible.  I would keep the fire going as long as possible tonight to avoid a repeat of the anterior.  Mala suerte.  There didn’t seem to be dry wood ANYWHERE.  I did find a small dead tree like half a mile away that I drug back to our tarp, but it turned out to be surprisingly little firewood.  Instead, Max and I cooked dinner and decided we’d just go join someone else’s campfire with a peace offering of fernet.  Hippies are all about peace, love and sharing right?

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Yup!  We ate our dinner in the dark on our tarp.  There were loud questionable moans coming from down the hill so we didn’t dare venture away for fear of who’s free love we’d walk in on.  Instead we laid low for the next twenty minutes or so…  Awkward.  But at least we were able to laugh about it.  When I finished my last bite, I layered up and followed the light of campfire down the hill.  We met Franco, Nacho, and Diego who were all university students from Cordoba capital; we played the guitar and drank fernet and crappy wine and laughed and talked while enjoying the fire.  Halfway through the night some drunk old men who made a habit of camping on the beach and mooching off the tourists’ liquor and smokes joined us and it was officially a hippy fest.  I’m pretty sure I remained the only girl all night, but I officially let my hippy side take over.

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It grew colder and colder.  Not even the fernet could keep me warm by the time sleep got a hold of me and the boys offered us their extra tent.  I brought my airplane blanket in with me, even though I didn’t quite trust it anymore as my rash was growing worse, and crashed.  I couldn’t sleep past nine AM as the sun conquered the night’s freeze and determined to prove its superiority by cooking us.  Note to self: Take vengeance on the sun for never being there when I want it to.

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Maxi and I had decided to spend half the next day in Playa de los Hippie before hiking out and hitching back to Carlos Paz and onward.  We wanted to make it to La Rioja, a little tourist city in the mountains, for New Year’s.  After we ate some bread and washed any last dregs of hangover off in the river we decided to explore the river and found the dique.  We were able to bring Maxi’s camera with us through the water in my Otter Box that I got free at CSU!  Below are some of the cool fotos.

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