Sweating my way through the afternoon, as I walked through town to pay my climbing permit and pick up the last pieces of gear, I marveled that while today’s 36 degrees has me moving at a snail’s pace, a few days from now I’ll be back into the freezing temperatures. Again at this pace, but altitude-induced.
Truthfully, it’s time to go. I’m here to climb a mountain, and while the couple of days down time to recover from travel has certainly been good for me physically, my mental state is becoming exasperated at still being in town. It’s time to shoulder my pack and start trekking! And after 3 days of more or less solitude, I’m feeling a bit lonely and looking forward to the camaraderie found in the mountains.
Not to say it hasn’t been good; I had my first “blue” money exchange today (not black – I was in an official change office), I’ve eaten some great food and even splurged this evening on a glass of Malbec Reserva. But I’m sweaty and hot and it’s time to move on.
The money exchange was interesting, not all that exciting. The Blue Market is pretty standard in Argentina – although officially illegal, definitely a part of everyday life. As I approached the exchange office, there were a few guys loitering about outside asking if I wanted to change money. I asked the rate and one guy answered with “13”. The going rate is as high as 13.6 (but you’re not guaranteed to get that). The official rate is 8.6. Had I only wanted to change $50, I probably would have helped the guy out. But given the large quantity of cash required for my permit, I decided to first check inside – assuming the likelihood of getting any counterfeit bills would be lower, and avoiding an exchange of large sums of cash on the street corner for all to see. Inside – despite the posted official rate – I asked at the counter and was told they’d give me 13 to the dollar. Same as on the street, which I found interesting. They are surely making a killing, buying pesos from Argentines at some rate (14 to 1?) and then selling those back to me at 13 to 1. In any case, I wish I had planned more effectively and brought more cash; everything becomes much more affordable at a 13 to 1 exchange rate. Pulling money out of ATMs and using credit cards of course only gets you the 8.6 rate.
The other big news of the day was our briefing session and meeting my team mates. I was informed a couple days ago that it would be a small group – me and two others. At 15:00, the other 2 had not yet arrived. So Bernardo (my guide) and I did the briefing alone, did an equipment check and made the permit. After all that, the others still had not shown up and I started getting pretty excited. A private tour? A private tent, perhaps??!! J Just as I finished up the previous paragraph (at 10:15pm), my hotel room phone rings and it’s Bernie. Apparently we still don’t have the pre-booked two Americans, but now somehow have an Italian guy joining. Who still need to rent equipment, so we’ll be starting later than planned tomorrow. Bugger that – more waiting, and now I have to share a tent with an Italian guy. Guess I’ll be going to bed a bit sad tonight after letting my expectations get out of hand.
Of course, I haven’t met the guy yet. Maybe he’ll turn out to be great and I’ll be glad to have a partner on the mountain.