Work in this context means helping out on a small guest house/ organic garden. It is in the small town of El Bolson by the Quemquemtreu river, which is the native name for the sound of the river over the pebble river bed. The family we are staying with total eight, but on a daily basis we interact with four of them; our line manager 🙂 Augustin, his wife Laura, daughter Paz and her partner Mateus. Paz and Mateus run the guesthouse/ hostel. Cleaning, changing the rooms round, managing bookings and cooking fantastic food in the evenings. Augustin runs the building projects and is the overall owner of the estate. He moved here in the 70s, almost a true hippy, except he got married (apparently for reasons to do with travelling). Most of what is here today was planted or built by Augustin, Laura or their children. There is a small herb and veggie garden which also has a pond full of tadpoles and a home built polytunnel.
On arrival we were shown to our lovely little log cabin, asked for a list of vegan food supplies that we’d like and given a brief tour before being asked to chill out for the rest of the day. After a great nights sleep we promptly get ready for the first working day. Assignment number one is to give the overgrown garden a good haircut and weeding. Perfect for us in the warm climate, with a beautiful blue sky and view of the snow capped mountains. We work together, enjoying the peace and quiet as well as the ability to get fully absorbed in the task. Come 2pm it is time for a siesta, work begins again at 5pm so until then we can chill out which is very similar to the way we feel about weeding and cutting the grass. I guess it is time to chat, write, learn some spanish, learn to play the card game, Truco, practice the uke, skype, or just eat and sleep. The hours pass by slowly and then it is back to the garden and poly tunnel. The final task of the day is is watering, this seems to involve spraying everything with water for a couple of hours. At 7:30 – 8pm the working day is over time to cook dinner, drink some Argentinian wine (at £1.50 a bottle, and it tastes great). The Ingredients for dinner involve our vegan supplies, supplemented by whatever we fancy buying ourselves; we add some milk, cheese a small chorizo and of course dulce du leche, the vegetables are fresh and make a welcome addition to our diet.
The following day’s work is very different, Rachael ploughs on with the garden, clearing more of the beds, removing unwanted plants from around the crops, for company she has a small army of frogs, my work is to plank out a yoga platform using old wooden palettes. These vary in size and thickness so it is a bit of a puzzle to get the best fit, additionally there are some bits of wood the Augustin doesn’t like, they are ugly or too much like a banana. It takes longer than expected but by siesta time most of the palettes are down. After siesta they will need securing and the gaps will need filling. Minutes have become hours, days will turn into weeks, the hippy way, there is no rush. Rachael gardens away, occassionally helping with cutting some wood or building the wooden wall for the restaurant. I make things out of the recycle pile and get to do some rudimentary carpentry.
Evenings and lunchtimes sometimes include a stroll into El Bolson, but it’s hot in the afternoon and cold in the evening, plus it is so peaceful here we don’t feel the need to leave for the town centre. So we play Truco with Paz and Mateus, and chat with the guests staying over. There are lots of interesting stories about the adventures people are having and we have the unique position at the moment in that we are neither travellers nor settlers.
On Wedesdays and Sundays the town centre gets more lively, there are two markets, one local market with cheaper essentials like clothes and food, oh and the noisy man selling cds, the other is an artesanal fair. Produce here is top quality, there are some very fine knives, wooden utensils, beautiful silver jewellery and very tasty homemade breads, cheeses and alfajores. We buy food, some for now and some for Christmas which we will be sharing with a german couple. it is delicious, which is reflected in the price. There is live music at the fair, I think they are just muscians who have met up for fun, luckily they drown out the noise from the cd seller.
There are a lots of great things to do here and the great thing is that you can generally do what you want to do as long as you keep on top of the things you have to do, like watering. This morning started with yoga, led by Laura, a very beautiful way to start our day. We are now about to take a quick siesta. Tomorrow we are heading off for a two day trek in the refugio cajon del azul, it’s our weekend break and a chance to plan our Christmas time.