Argentina is A-MAZ-ING for all manner of outdoor activities. I’d started off down at the very tip in Ushuai (the world’s southern most city and just a nautical stone’s throw from Antartica) and by the time I reached the twee but lovely Bariloche in the Lake District, I’d been abseiling, mountain biking, horse riding, ice-wall climbing, trekking on a glacier and completed my first Tyrolean traverse over a raging river.
Despite doing all that, the most danger I was knowingly in was on an overnight bus. When we set off it was during a torrential rain storm and by the time we were on the outskirts of the city we were wading through floods that came up above the tyres with water beginning to seep into the floor of the bus. Having made it as far as the motorway we were scuppered when a couple of youths lobbed a slab of concrete in through one of the top deck windows. The passenger who was hit by the glass and the missile was badly hurt and had to be taken to hospital. I was slightly freaked out to realise he’d been in the seat I’d swapped with before departing.
One of the loveliest discoveries in Bariloche, however, was their artisan chocolate and I ate my own body weight in the stuff in just one sitting. With only a couple of weeks left of my two month Patagonia trip, it was time to work off the chocolate binge and squeeze in one final risking of life and limb with an afternoon of paragliding off the top of nearby Cerro Otto.
As soon as the wind conditions were right, my instructor had us both run towards the edge of the mountain and jump off.
The bird’s eye view of Nahuel Huapi Lake is absolutely stunning. The city nestled on its shore soon gives way to unbroken countryside with not a soul in sight nor sound to be heard.
I’m not sure how long we spent gliding but with the sun now low in the sky, it was eventually time to descend. Coming down into a huge, open field, we made a dignified landing only barely breaking the quiet as we gracefully brushed the grass.
I was serenely relaxed after the experience and although I could have happily just sat for a while easing myself back onto terra firma, there was work to be done. We had to retrieve the cloth and pack it all away with the harnesses along with everything else that had somehow helped us defy gravity. The instructor got on with the job silently and not even the sound of birds pierced the still air.
It was bliss.
Without warning, a man appeared. I couldn’t say where from; the first I knew of it he was standing behind me.
Both the instructor and I jumped but smiled and returned his greeting.
He told us he’d watched us ‘fall out of the sky’ and was curious to see what kind of contraption we’d been flying in.
The instructor seemed a bit distracted but politely answered his questions.
Before long they got on to where they were both from; neither was from the region and for some reason this was very significant.
Turned out, they were both from the same tiny village hundreds of miles away.
Turned out, there was bad blood between them.
As they picked their way nervously through the minefield of questions to establish for sure that they were both who they suspected, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. It seemed they hadn’t clapped eyes on one another for about 20 years but when they had last met there was a dispute over a girl that hadn’t been resolved.
And to my horror they seemed to be intent on resolving it right then.
Things quickly escalated and I found myself having to get in between them to break up the fight – tricky when still wearing a harness.
We’d dropped out of the sky into an empty field and managed to land feet away from an old enemy from the other side of the country, but as punches flew around my head I was nonetheless aware that this definitely counted one of my more surreal experiences.
For an afternoon that literally started on a high, it certainly ended very much on a low.