cuídase, hermana

i left calama at 10 this morning and crossed the atacama for only an hour and a bit into san pedro de atacama where the salar is (salt flats).
imagine a desert with snow capped mountain peaks in the background. imagine the peaks no longer being peaks but actual ginourmous mountains looming over flat, arid desert lands, with the salt flats scattered here and there. i say imagine because my camera´s battery died about 5 km outside of san pedro and i have only but a few pictures to show for my journey.

then we got to purmamarca, a UNESCO world heritage site, and i understand why.. when we got there it reminded me of the road out of andorra into france -- clouds scattered so closely i could reach out the window and feel them in my hands, i could barely see the andes around me, and saw just grey nothingness when i looked over the side of the road. when we finally managed to emerge from the clouds what i saw was breathtaking -- literally, we were at almost 5 000 m for most of the trip and breathing by that point had become quite difficult, and i could feel the fatigue taking over me as i could barely keep my eyes open -- mountains of all of the colours of the rainbow, overlooking a valley of pastures, vinyards and ranches, their peaks hidden within the clouds. blue, turquoise, red, purple, beige, grey, my god i could name them all but some of the colours i saw had no names that i knew of. i don´t think i´ve ever seen something as beautiful as the purmamarca, i swear. and of course i´ll never forget it because it feels like the images of this place have been burned into my eyes, but you´ll never get to see what i saw because my stupid camera decided to die as i was taking pictures of the snow capped mountains overlooking the atacama. but imagine the pyrenees crossed with the grand canyon and the garrigue of provence in the valley, with cactus dotting the slopes of the mountains. absofuckinglutely beautiful. never seen anything like it.

i decided to get of at jujuy instead of salta because i didn´t feel like arriving at 1 am after 27 hours travelling, and jujuy seemed very "hustle and bustle". i walked around looking for a bus to buenos aires -- one company asked me for 350 pesos (more than 100$US): i looked at him and said ¨SOY GRINGA PERO NO SOY ESTUPIDA! LADRON!" (I might be a tourist but i´m not stupid, thief!). then a company offered me 160 pesos (about 50$US) to go to Cordoba tonight and then BsAS in the morning, but I said no because my guidebook says between 20-30$US maximum. finally i found a company that offered a semi-cama plus almuerzo (lunch) for 80 pesos (about 25$) that is holding on to my luggage that leaves for BsAs at 5 this morning, meaning i arrive at 3 am. so i accepted.

for what i´ve seen of argentina up to now, it really is enchantingly beautiful, and compared to chile and peru no one even notices me, i blend in to the settings seeing as there are so many mixes here. i still get the occasional ¨aie no te duele¨?" but i´m used to that.

i made a phone call to bsas and then sat down in the cafe to have a dulce de leche sundae when a little girl who was selling flowers came up to me, i told her no, lo siento, but thank you. then the tv in the cafe started showing the simpsons and she sat down to watch but the owner told her to leave. the little girl was pleading with her saying she just wanted to watch five minutes. so i bought her an ice cream so she could watch the simpsons -- it was only 50 cents, and if only you could have seen the smile on her face.. she was so cute, i couldn t say no. nothing to do with the glue sniffing, gringo hating peruvian street vultures..
stupid rechargeable camera batteries, ecofriendly maybe, but hella stupid when you need a camera to remember something.

then i walked into a restaurant and when the waiter asked what i wanted i said "dame algo de barato, rico y local, y una cerveza, la mas grande que tienes" ie: give me something cheap, good and local, and the biggest beer you´ve got. i ended up with some sort of mystery meat schnitzel with avocado salad (MMMM) and fries and a 40. all for 7 pesos - 2.50$. not bad. i think the beer cost the most though. oh well. alcohol kills bacteria, right?

then i met victor or ´boli´, an ambulant street vendor who tried to sell me needle and thread, lo siento pero no le necisito, gracias, and he just fell in love with my piercings and my hair, que me encanto eso, me encanto quiero los mismos que tu! i bought him a beer and then he went off, telling me he had 3 kids and a ´novia gorda´ (fat girlfriend) to feed.

i still have 4 hours to kill and i don´t really know what to do with myself, jujuy is a small town, i don´t want to wander too far off from the bus station but i don´t wanna sit around it all night either. i wanted to go to a peña but the entrance fee is a bit over my budget (130$ just for transportation from lima to bsas total, still not so bad considering it´s almost 3000 km)

i feel like a new woman, a new person. i´ve been here for 13 days and in those 13 days i ´ve been to 3 countries and 1500 km, i´ve met people, i´ve laughed and cried and danced and gotten drunk, i´ve tried new foods and seen landscapes that have left me in awe. i´ve learned a new form of juggling and been playing the accordeon a lot. being here has made me tap into my creativity pool and rekindle my inspiration to learn and love and live, but especially to be and create and keep my eyes open at all times. there´s something about being in sudamerika that makes me so happy, i don´t know what it is -- is it because i´m finally here after longing for it for so long, "no sueñas tu vida, vivas tu sueño", or is it because it´s a change of atmosphere, of culture, of landscape? i can´t say i really know what it is, but i can feel a change in myself, a change for the better. my survival instincts are back and i´m aware of my surroundings, constantly observing and writing furiously in my red notebook in chickenscrawl while travelling on bumpy roads across the everchanging andes.. the andes. my god.
i used to think the pyrenees were the most beautiful mountains ever. and now, it´s the andes. jungles, deserts, glaciers and fjords, these mountains change every 300 km and i can´t get enough of them.

this cybercafe, as many down here, does not have a cdrom drive so i can upload pictures, the only one i´ve uploaded is the one you see on your right: me looking lovingly at this continent with my finger on arica, city of the eternal spring, where i met people who could melt the entire icy winter of canada with their smiles. i think that´s what i love most about people here is their smiles.. maybe it´s because they´re so dark and their teeth so white, or maybe it´s because when they smile it´s from oreja hasta oreja, i don´t know, but every single person i´ve met here has been so kind and amable it´s uncanny. why have we lost that in the western world? why are we so afraid of eachother? we should embrace our differences!
i´ve gained a new love for life that i´ve never had before while being here.. people are so different, they don´t look at me like a circus freak.. eres distincta, the cop at the border told me, and i´m the only one he smiled at. like el marcel told me, tienen mas miedo de tu que tu tienes miedo de ellos, y por ese la gente te respecte, pero cuidase, hermana, y tienes que ser preparada a toda eventualidad -- they´re more scared of you then you are of them, and for that they will respect you but be cautious and be prepared for everything.

and i think of the card that la kimy wrote that said never i´d have imagined having a french girl, a french girl and not a gringa, in my house, and i am so happy to have met you - thank you for being who you are, and don´t ever change, don´t forget us, and remember you always have a home in chile.

tomorrow i finally arrive in my "promised land", buenos aires, where i hope i will be able to do some street performance to give my visa a breather, before i continue onto patagonia where i will sleep under the most beautiful sky i have ever seen.. we can see orion´s belt in the north, but have you ever seen his bow? there are so many stars it´s incredible, you can see the milky way and magellan´s cloud (the galaxy, puxa!), but you can´t take a picture of it, believe me, i´ve tried... soon patagonia, il n´y a que la patagonie, la patagonie qui convienne a mon immense tristesse.. and then, like in my favourite song, l´autre bout du bout du monde, tierra del fuego.

cuidase, mis cariños, pienso en vs y siempre estais con migo en todo este camino.

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