Photos by Karla and Ivan
Text by Ivan Kashinsky
After near starvation in the Altiplano of Southern Bolivia, the thick juicy steaks slid down my throat with ease. It’s not easy to find a vegetarian restaurant in the Land of the Gauchos. Gauchos, Argentinean Cowboys, have all but disappeared except for a very special one named Gaucho Gil. Apparently, Gil stole from the rich and gave to the poor. This Gaucho went from Robin Hood to Sainthood. For the folks of the argentinean countryside he is more popular than Jesus Christ himself.
About every five miles we came across shrines dedicated to the belated Gaucho. Amongst dozens of red flags people left everything from human hair to glasses of wine to soccer shoes, all in hope that the Gaucho would protect them. They also left small figures representing him. One day we found an old figure, his face worn out by time and decaying in the harsh desert sun. We decided to be mischievous and robbed him from his rightful place by the shrine. BAD THINGS BEGAN TO HAPPEN. We pulled over at the next sacred spot and left our little Gaucho with his red flags and piles of offerings. The universe began to re-align itself and things went back to normal. Don’t fuck with the Gaucho.
They don’t call it “The Paris of South America” for nothing. In the late 1800’s when Buenos Aires was rolling in dough, from all the beef they were exporting, the city was torn down and rebuilt to look like Paris. But I wasn’t sure where I was when I was wondering down the streets of the city. It could have been New York. In San Telmo, a famous bohemian barrio, I had the feeling I was in Havana. It was as though a place that was once incredibly wealthy was now slowly decaying into the sidewalks. Old men with thick glasses studied their newspapers as well dressed waiters brought them cappuccinos and the morning light poured through the old glass windows and bathed the checkered floors in light.
To kill the boredom that crept over our souls as we drove day after day through the cold monotonous landscapes of eastern Patagonia, we sipped on mate. Screw coffee. Mate had become more than a ritual. It was a way of life. Without it we simply could not be. For those who don’t know, mate is an herbal mix that you pour into a small dried out squash. You add hot water, which you then suck out with a metal straw, called a pajilla. Sounds weird, but it’s awesome. The warm traditional drink accompanied us all the way to the Strait of Magellan, where we boarded a ferry and crossed over to the land of fire.