But first, the Beach!
Mar del Plata is a sunny beach city five hours south of Buenos Aires. We stopped here for a few days to lay around on the beach – something I'd been dreaming about since Bariloche. I could have stayed in Mar del Plata forever. We spent our days wandering the streets or the miles of beaches, going to movies, eating ice cream, people watching (oh, the people watching! the bathing suits! the plastic surgery!), eating seafood: pure indolence. At night, we cooked dinners in the hostel kitchen. Our roommates, four British guys who were partying hard, kept inviting us to the bars with them and each time we'd agree at first and then wind up staying in and having a quiet night. The Argentine children were more lively at night than we were. One night, we were wandering around after dinner, at around 1 am, and the carousel at the park was crammed with children. During the day, it had been empty; a ghost park. The night brought it to life, apparently. On the street corner there was a garishly decorated party bus for kids, with Disney mascots running around, bright lights, blaring music and kids with manic expressions hanging out the windows.
We moved on to Buenos Aires for our last week together. And spent it pretty much in the same fashion as our lazy beach days: cooking, eating, wandering. Our hostel was in an old apartment with a sketchy elevator that made my heart stop every single time it started to move. We did a few of the requisite touristy things. We visited the creepily cat-filled cemetery where Evita is buried. In spite of the impressive marble statues and intricate mausoleums, Yuval much preferred the nearby butterfly sanctuary. We also visited a museum that used to be a very rich family's house, the japanese gardens, and the Buenos Aires Zoo.
On Valentine's Day, I didn't realize that it was V-day until the day was almost over. No one seems to care about Valentine's Day in Argentina, which is awesome. Even still, our inadvertent Valentine's Day date rivaled anyone's; we couldn't have planned it better. We spent the morning wandering the artist's fair in San Telmo, watched tango dancers in the street, had a nice steak lunch in a beautiful courtyard restaurant, and then went to another pretty little cafe and shared a chocolate volcano cake. Eat your heart out, Hallmark.
It was a perfect week, and a perfectly nice way to end five months of traveling together, if more than a little melancholic.
On the 20th of February, I said goodbye -again, and with lots of tears - to my travel partner and boarded the last bus I would take in South America: three days from Buenos Aires to Lima, Peru. I headed back to where I had started, traversing what had taken me five months to travel in three days, in a bus full of friendly Peruvians. My seat companion was a rather large man who kept giving me food, insisting that I wasn't eating enough. It was strange to not have Yuval in the seat next to me. And it was a long, long bus ride.
I reconnected with Sergio and Cathy in Lima, and we spent my last day together taking a boat cruise around some islands off the coast and picking up last minute souvenirs. And then, just like that, I was at the airport again: Canada bound.
I met an old man at the airport who lived in Lima and was traveling to Miami for work. We made idle small talk while we waited to board the plane. When we said goodbye, he squeezed my shoulder and told me that he was happy I had had such a good experience in his country, and that when I go home I should find work that I really enjoy, and he wished me a very happy life.
Gracias por todo, Sudamerica