After three full seasons of tour guiding in Patagonia and loving every single place I visited, a growing curiosity was nourished in me to get to know the ‘real’ Patagonia. But what is the real Patagonia? Does it exist, at all? I imagined a Patagonia faraway from tourists, lacking infrastructure, sparsely inhabited, with animals roaming the land towards an endless horizon. I read Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, confirming my feeling that out there somewhere was that land that was so vivid in my imagination. But I wondered, 35 years later, did Chatwin’s Patagonia still exist?
My desire for exploration was instantly fed one day by the sight of an old, red Chevrolet pick-up in a Puerto Madryn street. My imagination ran free and soon I was on the road, had a dog in the back, my faithful companion on my travels, roaming together. Which appeared a short-lived fantasy as the old Chevy proved to be exceeding a budget that I never even thought about. No pick-up, no dog, but the dream alive and kicking.
And so I met Jimi. Big, bold and beautiful, a 40-something in virgin white. It was love at first sight. An overwhelming feeling. Blinded by his beauty I could not see any possible flaws. ‘Will he make it to Patagonia…. on gravel?’, I asked a guy in Moron, Buenos Aires, where Jimi and I first met after I read his contact add. ‘Si’, he said, ‘no problema’. ‘And what about the end of the world?’ Jose looked at me, smiled his vendor smile and answered, dutifully, ‘The car is in excellent mechanical condition. You’re gonna be fine’. He could’ve fooled me. Miguel, my friend and assumed expert being on the road every day, smiled and gave me a trustworthy look. If Miguel says so…
Miguel was also the guy that tried to convince me before to buy a decent car for my desired trip, type model Renault Kangoo. I must have looked at him in utter astonishment, laughing in disapproval. ‘You don’t really think I’m gonna cruise the Patagonian wilderness in a pope mobile, right?’ Thinking now – based on today’s knowledge – maybe I offended him. His revenge was sweet.
And so I put my trust in a car sales rep and with minimal screening and maximum decisiveness I bought my first car. Putting a steady faith in Jimi, I took off in my dream on wheels. But not before I had all papers firmed and stamped, oil and filters changed and I obtained a wheel jack, which to me seemed like an obligatory weapon battling long kilometers of Patagonian gravel. That same week my object of affection got baptized Jimi in honor of Jimi ‘Bold as love’ Hendrix, over a good number of bottles of wine in his respect. Hendrix’ rise to fame started in 1968, the same year my Jimi was erected on wheels. My friend Dewa and I had a good laugh about it, saying we hoped Jimi’s success was longer lived than his name givers’. Wishful thinking.
On my first drive into Buenos Aires’ downtown area I already got to know Jimi as being eager, fast steering through traffic, keeping other cars at a modest distance. I assume it was for Jimi’s fierce looks, not my driving. I packed the car with tent, camping gear, big bottles of water, food, backpack, books and maps, then remembering that the door could not be locked. Right. Nothing to worry about in Patagonia, but it’s sure a risk in the big city. That’s probably why they have secured parking there in the first place.
So here we are, Jimi and I, a match made in heaven. Jimi being bold and savage, me free and intrepid, off on a road trip together: Jimi’s Travels, the sequel.
Next episode: one fine day, one fine.