Saturday, May 14, 2011

in one tiny dusty town... with some enormously big hearts

The 45km to Junín de los Andes was possibly the best leg of the trip yet.

The sun was brilliant. The Alamo trees waved. The arid landscape gently rolled. And the positivity radiated.

Junín de los Andes is a tumble-weed town. A dusty town sliced in half by the highway. You might even drive through, staring straight ahead, and never give it another thought. You might have other, more important, more happening, more aesthetically pleasing destinations to head to. You might think back, many years from now, and remember that there once existed a little town named Junín. You might not.

I love this town.

I have met so many wonderful people. From the security guard at the supermarket to the gentleman working at the fishing supply shop. From every single gas station attendant (at various stations on various time shifts) to the friendly hippies in the leafy green plaza. Even a woman at the volunteer fire station. Each person went out of their way to help me out. And for them I am very very thankful.

María lives in a humble green house a block from the highway. I met her in the fire station. She took pity on me and allowed me to pitch my tent in her back yard. We ate pizza and watched trashy reality shows. That night was very very cold. Every so often I woke up, rolled over, shivered and fell back asleep. Over and over until morning. That next morning there was a nice layer of frost on the tent. It’s getting cold around here.

The next day left me out and about with my overloaded bike. With no where else to go, I sat in the plaza and ate some yogurt.

Ailén spotted me from across the plaza and walked over. Soon I was sitting with her and a few others sharing mate and singing Manu Chao. She invited me to stay with her and her nine-year-old son Walter. Having no other real option, I graciously thanked her as we walked to her house.

Ailén is my age. Which means she had Walter when she was 16. It really makes me think about responsibility, pregnancy, life, and fate.

I love these two. Both super sweet, mature, responsible. We spent the whole next day barefoot across the banana bridge in the park playing card games, talking about life and eating fruit. Their kindness has truly touched me.

Roque works at the fishing supply shop. He was skeptical of me at first, but I eventually won him over with a smile, my story, and my nonexistent knowledge of fishing. He went out of his way to construct a fishing contraption, show me how to use it, and give me advice on not getting caught by the park patrol. I told him I’d email him a picture of the first fish I caught.

And so, after spending 5 glorious days, 4 very warm cozy nights here in Junín… with the forecast smiling rain… I take off again. This time towards Aluminé. A beautiful countryside and 80km of gravel await!

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