Modes of transportation
I awake to flat, flat, flat lands as we drive west, presumably, eventually towards the Andes. I have dreamt of these mountains, young peaks that hint at the majesty of their parents. The Pre-Cordillera. The beginnings of the range that sew together the Americas.
But at least for another few hundred kilometers, around me, in front me and beside me is only Sarmiento’s desert. The same pampas that drove the conquerors to insanity from thirst, from monotony, from a lack of incline. Flat.
We drive. And then, is that the ocean I see? A grey mass with ripples snaking out from an invisible center-- movement, diversity, crowning the horizon…have we surpassed Mendoza and found Chile? Coastline? Could it be?
It is heat, mingling at eye level, reflecting the parched earth.
A cruel, optical illusion.
But what do I care? I’m not a conqueror. Back to sleep.
Kilometers and kilometers until the road finds the vineyards. We are close. Pockets of trees divide the fields of grapevines. Growing or dying olive trees, I can’t tell which, reach upwards like condor talons, like creatures in a Tim Burton movie.
And then, as if dropped there by accident by some careless god, I see hills. And behind the hills, through lonely clouds, I see peaks. It’s early fall but still they’re snowy.
Powdered sugar mountain tops. At last.
In Mendoza I ride a horse through these shorter mountains. Cabalgata, its called. It’s not my first time, if you count my eight-year-old self, hating summer camp and the horse I clung to who once bit me.
I linger behind the pack, transfixed by the sunlight that falls over the shrubbery and mixes with the dust, coating the terrain in silver.
“You should go faster. Rapido?”
I blink and the gaucho gives my horse a slap. I am galloping, terrified, fingers numb from clutching the saddle. I pray to the god I never believed in until now. My foot falls from the stirrup.
It’s over. We slow. The gaucho, tanned and elegant with his billowy pants and wide-brimmed hat comes over to conference. He pats my horse, Siete, and informs me I just need to talk to her. “She is complicated, like all women,” He tells me.
So I do. Because we are.
We come to an agreement: Lightening fast for thirty seconds and then an abrupt stop. Repeat.
It’s give-and-take, one could say.