They could almost call it Ruta Che. It’s Argentina’s North-South highway which stretches from the flat lands of Northern Argentina all the way through the rocky hills of Patagonia and the beginning of the Southern Cone. Ernesto “Che” Guevera lent fame to this road during his epic motorcycle trip through South America, but there is so much more to this highway than history. It has a magic to it that is inexplicable. As my bus cruises south out of the town of Bariloche on the way to El Calafate, I dream of a sort adventure registered by perhaps the most famous Argentine in history.
The bus winds through a green valley spotted with a variety of trees that lean in the opposite direction of the powerful winds that seem to constantly howl. On the most fertile soils of the valleys cattle are carefully raised to perfection. Through the yellow grasses of the sloping hills richly coloured rocks protrude and impressive peaks which seem to glimmer when the sunlight is just right. Bright pockets of white snow sit proudly near the top of the mountains. The shadows of the white clouds race amongst one and others along the inclines of the mountains as if they are late for dinner. There is something about a mountain landscapes that is both humbling and inspiring at the same time, these great peaks are no different.
As the bus continues its twist and turn through the scenic highway, I being to wonder whether Che felt the same sentiments I do when I embark on long journeys. There is a certain tranquility to it. It’s as if it is an escape from the world that doesn’t give us a break. We are often too distracted to take time to ourselves. When we push ourselves onto the travels of our world, whether it is in the form of a mountain trek, a motorcycle ride, or even a bus ride, we are forced to stop and be at peace with ourselves, because we have nothing else to divert the path of our mind’s true thoughts.
Suddenly the bus turns a corner and pulls itself free of the grasp of the deep mountain valley and a vast flatland presents itself from seemingly nowhere. It’s a diversity that is striking and possibly even confusing. To travel from the tall rocky peaks of the Andes to a vast dry landscape almost seems impossible. Along the flats a desolation exists, much like that of the other great South American deserts. Despite the small bushes that grow no higher than ankle high, life just seems unimaginable here on this soil. Parts of dust covered rocks lay strewn over the landscape as if the gods simply tossed them down in angst; however, the beauty of the region reminds us that no angst was felt in the design of this terrain. Over head, great birds float gracefully reminding us of the powerful natural existence that now sits off to our side.
As the road finds home in a sunken valley my thoughts again to return to Che. I wonder if it was this type of trip that gave him the space he needed to form his thoughts, his dreams and his ideals. I remember sitting on the roof of a bus when I was in Nicaragua, and it was in that moment that my views of life, my social ideals were shaped. I took a spot on the top of the bus due to a lack of tie downs on the top and the fear of my bag flying off the bus down the highway. However, as the old school bus that read “Fort Worth” along its side bumped and jumped its way over swollen rocks and potholes, I looked out on the houses on the side of the road. A small boy wearing nothing sat in a pool of murky water and played with nothing more than a ball of rubber as flies circled his reddened skin. The thing that struck me was the smile that glimmered from his rounded face. He did not know anything better, and he could have cared less if he had a toy car, a play station, or a rubber ball. The sight will forever remain burned into my mind. And it was because of that journey, and having nowhere to escape to, that it will always be a part of my mind. We continue to make our way south along the bumpy gravel road. As the bus pulls its way up an arid hill and turns around its peak, a bright blue lake settles calmly within a dimple of the earth’s surface. The icy blue glances a warning of its cold glacial beginnings, but teases visitors with its gentle beauty. A cold wind scrapes the surface of the lake and spills through the open crack in the bus window as if to add caution to your natural escape. An innate rawness stretches my imagination as I image wandering deeper into this rich Argentinean landscape.
The rocky road slowly returns to pavement I am warned by a street sign of our near arrival after the past 28 hours of road time, I can’t help to wonder what Che was thinking when he arrived to this vast and largely inhabited part of the world. Did he feel the loneliness that I felt? Was he ok with it? Did it inspire him like it did to me? You see in this world we often encounter situations where the world seems to big. Some people, upon this realization crumble from the pressure. On the other hand, others note these situations and realize that in order to change the world for the better we need to overcome a huge world. Che must have used this feeling, regardless of whether or not you agree with his methods or ideas, as inspiration to change this world. And because of what Che did, and because of the feeling that I get here, I too hope to use this great land can inspiration to change the world.