Saturday, 2 January 2010

Memories of the past, dreams for the future. Part 5

Ingeniero Jacobacci
(* indicates place named on map in part 2)

As we headed west the balmy 25ºC spring temperatures began to descend, and by the time we arrived in the town of Ingeniero Jacobacci* it was 5ºC and a dry, icy wind was blowing strongly and steadily.   It’s a small, sleepy city of some 6,000 inhabitants, where its young people sometimes refer to it as Jacobacity… in 2009 one of the destinations of the Dakar rally, with an attractive railway station...  (front & back)

(Google image)

(mine)


… shops whose signs tell you they open at 9 a.m. and start to show signs of life at 10 a.m., with a brief pause for siesta between 1 and 6 p.m., and where the only place to get a late drink is at the casino.  It’s also the starting point of the tiny “La Trochita” (narrow gauge) railway...

…made famous by Paul Theroux in The Old Patagonian Express, and which travels 400 km south west to Esquel.   

The people we met were kind and welcoming, and it felt as though all wanted to open their homes to us, which I found very moving.  We were treated like celebrities everywhere we went, though at the small hotel where we stayed the royal treatment was sometimes of the more tabloid variety. 

Reservations had been made some time in advance by telephone, and on checking in, my travelling companions Carlos and Ramón found that they had been given a room to share.  Ten minutes after I had been shown to my room there was a knock on the door and I opened it to find the old crone standing there:  “Er – I was just checking to see that you had been given your key” she said, standing on tiptoe slightly and looking over my shoulder.  Not discreetly – she looked over my left shoulder first, and then moved her head to look over my right shoulder as well. 

I refrained from asking her whether she thought I was a midget limbo dancer and had gained entry by sliding underneath the door, and later on told the men.  We wondered if this was why they had been given a room to share, so that each would keep an eye on the other and not go a-wanderin’ at night…  To my alarm, they hatched a plan to get her to repeat the performance, while in advance they would both hide under my bed, in a deliberately poor attempt at concealment, and as she looked over my shoulder they would both grin and wave at her in unison.  Fortunately this plan didn’t get very far, and my ‘reputation’ was saved… 
However, the two men subsequently derived some amusement from conversing in deliberately loud voices in the presence of the two ageing guardians of their hotel’s reputation, about the “high level meetings” being held with a mysterious “property tycoon” who wanted to build a “large hotel with many rooms” nearby, and I had a hard time keeping a straight face.  Every time we came in from anywhere they would ask them if the “property tycoon” had called. 
In all fairness I should add that their food was excellent, their manner unfailingly polite and they dealt promptly with my disaster with a bottle of cologne, which I dropped in my room and it exploded spreading shards of glass far and wide.  I had only myself to thank thereafter for the powerful lingering stench of lily of the valley that greeted me every time I entered the room, and the old crone probably had nothing to smile about anyway.

That freezing wind never stopped, despite the brilliant sunshine and blue skies, and consequently we tended to scurry everywhere so as not to be outside for too long.  We were unprepared for this icy spring weather, and hadn’t brought enough warm clothes. 
The purchase of such items for an overweight person is always fraught at the best of times, since you always end up underestimating the size you need – and in Argentina the news still hasn’t permeated through that overweight people need larger sizes.  In Buenos Aires you get surprised looks from store attendants when you ask for anything larger than the equivalent of a British size 16 – and you imagine their pitying glances following you as you leave the store. 

Here in Jacobacci our hotel hostess pointed us in the direction of the one smart clothes store.  The counters were lined with nicely made up ladies willing to help you, the shelves choc full of woolly jumpers…… sorted by colour and texture.  This made for a pretty display, but a nightmare as pile after pile were brought before me, with the attendant indicating how the gorgeous pale blues would match my eyes, and the soft sage greens would set off my light coloured hair…  as with increasing despair I burrowed through them looking for size tags.  Purple stripes and polka dots would have been fine – all I wanted was something in the right size to keep me warm.   When I realised that there were now three attendants on the case and we still weren’t getting anywhere, my morale started to plummet in the way it had before the lapband.  I had to call a halt and march out of the store with head held high, though I didn’t feel it.  We’re a self-conscious lot, aren’t we?

We found a very modest shop on the other side of town with much simpler merchandise and cheerful country folk running it, and suddenly I was in my element – and found myself buying a cosy large cardigan, hardly noticing that it was brown, a 70’s colour I normally detest, plus gloves, black and white scarf and brown woolly hat.  We were all laughing together as we tried things on – what a difference in approach.  I’m afraid I shall never be a city person, despite having been brought up in Buenos Aires, one of the biggest cities in the world.


With the weekend between now and the final presentation at the Centro Cultural on Monday, the head teacher of the local school had organised what turned out to be two most surprising and wonderful journeys.  She knew I wanted once again to see the farm, Estancia Huanuluán*, where Mollie Robertson had spent 4 very happy years as a child from 1918 to 1921, and this is where we headed on the following day. 

I'll tell you about it in the next post - I took loads of pictures. 

-oOo-

4 comments:

THE DASH! said...

I tell you, Caroline, reading about your adventures makes me want to travel more than ever. You have had some real experiences that I bet you wish you could bottle.

Love this series.

Zanna, travelling tart said...

Had a good chuckle about the hotel hostess checking you out - take it as a compliment that she thought you young and sexy enough to be up to a few shenanigans!! I'm such a little devil I'd probably have encouraged the men to set up their scenario. Once again - such an enjoyable read Zxx

Simone said...

Great reading about your travels as always Caroline....I loved the "men hiding under the bed" idea....you do have a great sense of humour :)

Carlos Espinosa said...

Caroline... qué esmerada prudencia la tuya, para contar el episodio con "la vieja arrugada" del hotel de Jacobacci... pero no contaste nada de nuestras bromas con el pobre Tono...

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