Adventures with Selcuk

There are some people you meet on your travels whom you know, without the slightest doubt, you will see again.

It has been too long since I've opened the blog. I do apologize to my (few) loyal readers but one must understand the comings and goings of thoughts in a traveler's mind. I have fleeting inspirations that boil my brain on hikes and mate sessions by the lake but they fizzle out before ever reaching the page. Many potentially great words have been lost to the Patagonian winds. But I awoke this morning with palabras en mi cabeza that are trying to escape before the coffee has a chance to work. 

I have grown a great deal in these last few months. I feel like my learning curve has accelerated and that all of the knowledge and experience that I have collected over the past 17 months has collided into a series of "ah ha!" moments. The process really started while I was traveling with Selcuk, but I am only now able to process them into applicable lessons. After being alone for so long, I didn't realize how much of a self-vacuum I had put myself in. I imagined all of this incredible personal growth I was experiencing but didn't understand that I was comparing this growth in my entirely biased mind. I had no one to challenge me, to question me, to force me to look at the situation with different eyes. There is much to be gained from traveling alone, but there is much more value when the skills you have developed solo are put back into a group setting. All of a sudden, my serenity was disturbed, my patience was being tested, my opinions were not shared, and my ego hit a wall. 

I thought that I had achieved something greater within myself, that I had matured in leaps and bounds, that I had found calm and peace. What I didn't realize was that I was experiencing all of those things in a very particular context; that I had managed to create a world without conflict, but that this world did not include anyone else. And as soon as another human factor was added to the equation, my system started to fall apart. I found myself agitated and angry for no reason, I reverted back to my argumentative, bitchy self that I thought I had grown out of. This created a lot of inner dialogue and a lot of self-questioning; what have I really been doing all this time? What have I really achieved? Have I been fooling myself this whole time? 

Fortunately, my friends are just as hard headed as me, and Selcuk was not about to give in. He forced me to see the errors in my thought process, in my judgments, in my biased opinions and blind projections. He stood in front of me and made me look back at myself. It was not easy, but no real growth is. Looking back, now more than four months later, that was a turning point for me. I relaxed and made peace with the fact that I still had a long way to go. Yet again, life has a way of showing you that the lessons are never ending, that self-growth is a lifetime journey and that sometimes you can't do it on your own.

After we said adios to Janelle in Mendoza, Selcuk and I started plotting a little excursion to the mountains. Selcuk rented a sleeping bag, I borrowed a warm jacket and gloves, and we set out to climb the Cordillera de Plata. The mountains around Mendoza are abrupt; they explode from the dusty earth in sharp, steep walls, gaining quick elevation. We hitchhiked to the base refugio and hiked up to where we would make camp at the foot of the larger peaks that we were planning to climb the next day. It got cold real quick as the sun started setting. We cooked dinner on my trusty camping stove and I think a few flakes were floating in the air as we crawled into the sleeping bags. In the morning everything was white. We were in a foggy, snowy sock. Couldn´t see a damn thang. 

For some reason, I thought it was hilarious. We cursed for a little while about the cold and the coyote who stole our yerba mate, then piled on every article of clothing we had to wander around in the milky mist. The giants that had surrounded us last night had completely disappeared. I got lost just trying to return to the tent after a pee. Somehow Selcuk managed to find the tattered bag of mate out in the abyss and we were delighted. We drank mate and ate cake and laughed a lot.

the only sign that life continued on the other side of the fog

In the afternoon, the veil lifted just enough for us to try to find our way back down. We stumbled and tripped our way back to the refugio where we sat in front of a big fire, with a kitten in my lap, drinking mates and listening to an array of wild stories. The details of the conversations are blurred now, but there were several characters involved; the owner, a strange Spanish man, an older couple visiting, and this beast of a girl who burst in having just hiked down from the highest base camp of some crazy peak where she had been alone for the last four days (and who also just got back from an Everest expedition.) Definitely some good base material if I ever decide to write a book…

We returned to the city, defeated by Mother Nature, and consoled ourselves with olives and wine. After quite the despedida from Mendoza and almost missing our bus we made the overnight haul to Cordoba Capital for some needed family time…


 The Mariano family adopted Selcuk and I for a week. It was amazing to be at {home}, words can’t express how grateful we both were to be welcomed into the familia. It gave a whole new meaning to the phase, “Mi casa es su casa.” We had family dinner every night (but somehow managed not to get a single photo with everyone). Tour guide Vicky took us around the city, we did a little shopping and a lot of browsing and tested Selcuk’s patience, saw some cool art, went to the river house with Agus and his nephews, experienced (my first) futbol game and even got a little taste of the club scene. On May 29th, we celebrated my one-year anniversary on the road with a little weekend excursion to the family house in the campo.

 escape to the campo
PapaDukes and his right hand man on the grill
the kids, straight chillin


replica de 'las abuelas' 

Vicky had to go back to Bariloche so Selcuk and I moved in with the lovely Lucila for a few days (another amiga who I met last summer in Bari). We built fires and drank wine and visited her family’s country house before heading to San Marcos Sierra to play with the hippies. 
ah, life in the country...

the socks.............
Most of my friends would joke that I’m a hippy. Selcuk says he doesn’t trust hippies. I don’t know that I agree with either of the previous opinions, but I do know that San Marcos Sierra is weird and awesome and has a lot of hippies (and possibly aliens). Needless to say, we had a blast! Only Selcuk can really appreciate the magic of our days there. We witnessed an impromptu concert of Argentine folklore at our hostel and discovered the most unexpectedly beautiful voice born from the most unlikely of mouths, wandered along a winding creek, up a hill, and down around to the river. We got lost and were offered dried raspberries by a girl who lived with her dad in a converted bus. She invited us inside and showed us the basement which was covered in every sort of spring, string, bell, and coil that one could possibly use to make a noise.  We had wine & coke sangria with some construction workers, met a sweet old lady with her many animals and orange trees, a man whose grandfather ran one of the first freak shows in Europe gave me acupuncture, another who was just plain strange played this cool little metal apparatus with his mouth. We played singing meditation bowls until 3am and went to a ‘reggae’ concert with some real Africans and lots of barefooted white people with dreads. I don’t know how long we ended up staying, but it was much longer than we planned and I took a ton of photos. 

view of town from the mirador



"At the end of it all, we are what we do to change what we are"... hmm??
It was a perfectly weird place to end our journey together. I was broke and needed to get back to Bariloche to work, and Selcuk was headed north to explore the deserts and salt flats of Chile and Bolivia. It is never easy or fun to say goodbye to a friend and fellow traveler. But it is comforting to know that it is never the last time.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” 

Selcuk, thank you for being so stubborn with me, for laughing at me and dancing with me, for not giving in to my temper tantrums, and for listening sincerely when I needed to talk. You are a good man and a good friend. I am proud to be a part of your life and look forward to the many more adventures awaiting us. See you out there, amigo.