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Out ouf Rhythm...

Time to swing that pen again. High time!
The first quarter of '08 is already past, as is a trip to Europe. Two weeks in Germany and Switzerland require three weeks on the road - traveling my way, that is. Add to that a couple of days to get organized and packed (- all more complicated and time consuming when 'embedded' in the Argentinean way of living -) and a couple of days to get back into that Patagonian rhythm and it leaves you with more than a month out of sync with regular activities. Like writing a blog.
So it was "back to the old routines" when I came back to summer after my long journey. Or so I thought. But those routines were nowhere to be found.

A couple of days in "my old neighborhood" had obviously been enough to flip a hidden switch back to its "Standard" setting. "Standard" as in "normal Swiss operating procedures", where published opening hours and time tables were not used as rough guidance but as precise criteria to organize the tasks of a day. Where one could simply buy whenever and whatever was needed and (therefore) achieve with reasonable reliability what had been planned for a given period of time. In short, my expectations had realigned themselves with the experiences, which I had gathered within the well-oiled Swiss system over more than two decades.

On my way back this change of paradigm survived two Atlantic crossings without noticeable damage. In Patagonia, however, it was confronted with a different definition of "Standard" or "normal": more than three weeks after I had dropped off my car at the shop it was still 'out of service'. I was annoyed, to say the least. It didn't matter at all, when Pablo tried to explain that my Explorer with its manual shift was a rather unique specimen and to find spare parts for it was high-level detective work. I just wanted my car in drivable condition! But now it looked like I had to go back into hitch-hiking mode again with the ensuing lack of flexibility.

Then the story with my "office furniture"..
A scant 24 hours before my departure for Europe a truck had shown up with my household goods from Switzerland! Finally, after more than three months! So now, there were things to do: assemble the mountain bike, set up the stereo, install computer, printer, scanner... and buy a table/desk and a small shelf and my workspace would be ready to go. I had seen something suitable in an office in San Martin. I went back there and asked the lady at the desk where she bought it. " Well, if you want to buy it, you have to go to Buenos Aires." she said. What? Is the señora trying to tell me, that I have to drive 1000 miles to shop for a simple office desk? Yep, that's what she was trying to - but she offered an alternative: "We had this one done by a local carpenter, takes about two to three months." Oh great!

Within a mere couple of days San Martin had dialed down my speed of living, had forced back the hidden switch to its "Patagonia" position.
It took almost a week until I had rearranged myself with the local rhythm, until I had accepted, once more, that a leisurely trot allows for a better view of roadside details than a full gallop, until I had truly arrived a second time.

Volcano Lanin

Well, there I was and realized that the quick back and forth between summer and winter had been a contrast enhancing experience. The mild temperatures in Switzerland in February should have made the transfer to the Argentinean summer easy, but the heat hit me with full blast. Not only me, the locals were complaining, too. Nobody could remember such an extended period of above 90F, the drought was t h e topic on the local station Radio Montaña. Heaven and earth assumed an almost New Mexico-like appearance: on the ground the grass had withered, whatever little humidity was left had retreated to the sky and boiled up in wild clouds. Boiled up, not boiled over: the occasional high altitude precipitation rarely made it to the ground.

gate_clouds_7617 - - - - SMA_conv-SS_7591
Afternoon clouds near the Chapelco airport - - - - - - and the evening "development" as seen from the porch

The perfect set up for what had to happen eventually, and quite "naturally": lightning provided the initiating spark and it took off from there. One evening a little bit of smoke, which seemed to have died off the next morning…then the wind picked up and in the afternoon the flames ran wild. The forest fire was about fifteen miles away but on its second day I had soot on the porch, the smell of cinder in the house and the visibility had dropped to three miles.

The fire at Lago Lolog in its early stage

Apparently, the Indians knew which dance to dance. The following day a front moved in and brought the first rain in about two months. It really poured, flushed the dirt out of the atmosphere and helped the guys at the forefront to gain control. About 2500 hectares of brush and forest had gone up in flames, all of it in the Lanin National Park; fortunately, without casualties or damage to property.

The two wet days didn't bring true relief, however. As soon as the last cloud had disappeared we were back to " high desert mode", sky clear, winds light and variable, temperatures in the high eighties and relative humidity at about 30%.

Well, this was about six weeks ago. I'm posting it anyway to maintain a somewhat coherent style - and also because I had to catch up with the "German-speaking" part of my blog - and link to new photos.