El Chocon

21 Jan
This morning I woke up with a view that made me smile.  Damn I’m lucky…
view from my balcony

view from my balcony

The camera didn’t capture it, but this was the truest blue I’ve seen in a long time, though I’m comparing it to the brown waters of Buenos Aires, and the grey waters of New York.

Grudgingly and still half asleep, I made sure to sample the complimentary breakfast.  Then upon checkout, I was pleasantly surprised to see my room’s fee lowered to just over $20 USD.

Just a few days ago, when I called into the hotel to book a reservation, I had hit it off with Patricia immediately, who I thought was a receptionist, and who lowered the price from over $90 to $60.  We had drinks at her place last night, along with her partner (business or life, I wasn’t sure), and we had a great time.  I found out they lived in Orlando for 7 years, and recently leased the hotel to use as their own.  I cheated on Maverick with their three dogs, one of which was blind and kept licking me, and other who knew how to sing.  Apparently it was the only command he knew, and after hearing “sing Hercules,” he would howl into the night.  Anyway, guess they liked me since I woke up to a much cheaper tab than I anticipated.

Then again, maybe she was making up for scaring me to death the night before.  I was walking home from an utmost difficult dinner with Juan and his family, a bike tour operator who knew no English, and with whom dinner seemed long and awkward at times.

It was past midnight and I was walking home, feeling a bit paranoid about the darkness and the howling wind, when a car driving in my opposite direction suspiciously slowed down.  My pace quickened.

The car drove past, and I temporarily exhaled some relief.  But apparently undeterred, it started backing up, and I almost broke out into a run.

Turned out it was Patricia though, whom I hadn’t met yet.  I had chatted with her daughter who was eager to practice some English, but hadn’t seen the face on the other end of the line from a few days prior.

Anyway, feeling especially pleased that the hotel turned out to cheaper than anticipated, I headed towards the lighthouse and the lake front area downtown.  I should mention though that downtown in these parts consisted of something even smaller than Geneseo; a pedestrian walkway of about 5 shops and a dinosaur museum.

I rented a sea kayak there and took it out immediately.  It was really wobbly at first, and I opted to come back ashore and let the tour operator hold my camera.  But after a somewhat rocky start, I was doing quite well, and took off my life jacket in hopes of catching a tan, and evening out the abstract art that has  started to take place on my back.

I explored the lake to the east first, but I was constantly met with inlets, and dead ends.  Eager to see more, I reversed course and headed towards the open lake.  The color of the water seemed to change a bit, and I passed over what looked like a gulf steam, a vacillating stream within a lake.  The wind picked up as well, and the waves had gotten obviously bigger.  And I was somewhat discomforted with the sound of waves hitting the cliff to my right with some alarming force.

Just a moment ago I was worried enough about capsizing that I abandoned my camera, and no fewer than 20 minutes had passed that I considered myself pro enough to paddle through these waves, without a life jacket nonetheless.

Every few strokes or so, I would start to wonder whether I should turn back.  But what would Che do?  He’d paddle as far as he could, until he got an asthma attack, and he’d climb Lanin, no matter how many attempts it took him to get to the ascent.

So I went a bit further, and then a little further after that.  And eventually, I did decide to turn back, though I told myself it was because the rental was due, which was mostly true.

After cautiously turning around the kayak, with the waves seemingly eager to turn me over, I spotted my tour operators.  Apparently, they had seen me make the turn outside of the inlet, and had been asked by the owner to come grab me.  They were also incredibly unhappy at my refusal to put on the life jacket, and were forced to chase me and hold my kayak until I did so.  Those Americans, always causing problems…

The owner later explained that swells? or what I interpreted to be large wave have been known to swallow up unsuspecting kayakers and throw them against the cliffs that lined the lake.  I aksed him at what time of day the current was known to get aggressive, but I think he said it was random.

He was a cool dude, and it turns out his grandfather was from Russia.  After the rental, he invited me back for some mate (which I always take as an honor), but I had a bus to catch in a few hours, and didn’t feel like making the walk again with all of my luggage.  Also in the back of my mind was the difficulty I was having speaking Spanish,knowing that once I used up my little army of verbs, I would be in a similar predicament as last night’s dinner with Juan, and I opted to read a book back on the hotel’s terrace instead.  Though in retrospect, I guess I could have enjoyed some mate on them, especially after their rather pricey kayak rental.

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