It’s a reality of travelling that some days are going to be effed up no matter how much you have your act together. Those days call for ice cream.
It was going to be great. It was unusual to have much free time during our tour of South America, but on this day in Bariloche, Argentina, we had a huge block of it. I was going to whip off the article I owed my editor and then head out and explore for hours and hours!
The Internet gods were having none of that. The hotel’s internet connection unexpectedly devolved into glacial mode and instead of my work taking half an hour to complete, I spent hours wrestling with a bad connection, cajoling it to work, pleading with hotel IT people. Finally I had no other choice but to decamp to McDonald’s and use their wi-fi to submit my work.
With only an hour or so of free time left, I did what any sensible person would do. I took a walk and went for ice cream.
Admittedly, seeking chocolate and ice cream is my default response to stress and frustration, but if there were ever an ideal place for me to be stressed out, Bariloche is it. This town in Patagonia is famous for its chocolate and there is a heladeria (ice cream shop) on almost every street street corner. I went for milk chocolate, white chocolate and dulce de leche, which were all tremendously satisfying choices. Plus, I conducted the entire conversation, albeit a brief one, in Spanish with no pointing required whatsoever. It’s the small victories that count.
If Andrew Lloyd-Webber ever does a musical about my travels in South America, the title song will be called I Left All My Shoes in Mendoza. He’s already halfway there because, just like Elton John rejigged Candle in the Wind for Diana, this conveniently fits with the melody of Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.
But that will never happen. There may come a time when A Nerd at Large: The Geektastic Musical brings my zany antics to the stage (cuz they totally make obscure blogs into musicals all the time), but sorry Sir Andrew, you get on my nerves.
So yeah, I did indeed leave all of my shoes in Mendoza. The wine-crazy city of Mendoza, Argentina was our next stop after the unfortunate events in Iguacu. It’s not that far between those two places, but at the last minute the airline insisted that instead of a direct flight, we needed to fly to Buenos Aires and have a three-hour layover there, and meant that travel dominated what would otherwise have been a day for sightseeing.
Our one full day in Mendoza was packed to the gills with winery tours and tastings, which I will tell you about separately because it was one of my 1,000 Things. After we returned from dinner I came back to my hotel room and set to work on the computer. It was novel to be able to work in the room and not have to slink down to the lobby to work while Roseitta slept. I was wired from all the emotions of the preceding days and, as often happens, I got carried away and stayed up very, very late.
In Rio, Roseitta and I got a withering look from the tour director for arriving at the tour bus 90 seconds late one morning so from then on I was super conscious of being precisely on time for things, and I’m obsessively punctual to begin with. The morning we left Mendoza we were to set our bags out for collection by 0730, and I was a bit under the gun after having stayed up late and left the packing until morning.
I frantically jammed things into my duffel bag and made a sweep of the room to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I awkwardly dragged it out into the hall just at the last minute, as I swore I could hear the porters on their way. While I was trying to straighten it out so that my bag didn’t occupy the entire corridor, the door shut itself behind me. I had no key card. I was locked out. In bare feet.
After suffering the humiliation of having to call down to the front desk and own up to locking myself out of the room, I sat there waiting and my neurotic side started to wonder if there were any shoes left inside the room for me to put on. What if I’d packed them all and they were locked away with our luggage? My mind got all swirly and fish custardy while I contemplated the ramifications until a smirking bellhop came and let me back into my room.
I was relieved to find my beloved purple Converse hi-tops waiting for me, and I had just enough time to put them on, and zing down to breakfast and scarf something before being on time for the tour bus, albeit covered in crumbs.
In Buenos Aires the next morning it dawned on me as I was dressing that something was missing from my bag. It didn’t feel as full as it once was, which was surprising given my non-optimal packing procedure the previous day. Then I felt around inside for my bag of shoes and realized they weren’t there. In an instantaneous flash of insight it hit me that I had left them all in the drawer inside the closet of my hotel room in Mendoza.
Shoes are the one thing I have difficulty packing lightly. I can rarely get away with fewer than four pair, not because I’m any kind of fashionista, but because different situations require different footwear. At a minimum a gal needs something dressy, something for the beach/pool/shower, a pair of running shoes for walking around and doing active stuff, and I’m sorry but I’m not going anywhere without at least one pair of chucks in tow.
I mentioned it to Marcela and she did what she could. I didn’t really expect to be reunited with my footwear, as I have a regrettable track record for losing things and have observed that once something is lost it hardly ever returns. But she had proven to be somewhat of a miracle worker so I let her do her best.
For the middle third of the South America trip the status of my shoes figured prominently in most of my conversations. Most interactions would start with “How are you?” immediately followed by “What’s happening with your shoes?” or “Any news on your shoes?” to the point where it became akin to the usual pleasantries about the weather. Outsiders observing our group could be forgiven for concluding that asking after someone’s shoes is a customary greeting among Canadians.
It took days and days to find out one way or another whether I could get them back. No one could get through to the DHL office to find out how much it would cost and whether it could be sent to any of our upcoming destinations. In the end I think they just pulled a number out of the air. It was going to cost $200 to get my shoes back and by then the trip was nearly over. Forget it. By then I was sick of talking about my damn shoes, and I hadn’t paid that much for the lot of them combined!
It’s been six months now and I haven’t replaced the three pairs of shoes I lost. I’d like to think that my favourite dress shoes have a new life tangoing away in Argentina. I do miss them, but I can’t bring myself to go shopping. Perhaps this was the universe telling me to wear chucks all the time. Or that I’m an idiot.
Image credit: Original opera singer image by FaceMePLS