(4) Argentina: Santa Fe
I asked at the hotel if there was a good restaurant nearby.
"Do you want fish?"
The Rio Paraguay went right through the city, separating Santa Fe from its sister city Parana. I had not even thought of fish.
"Yes, I like fish. Is there a good restaurant?"
"It is not close, but with your moto it is no problem."
"I don't want to ride at night. I could take a cab."
"Sure. It is the best fish restaurant. It is Quincho de Chiquito. It is about 7 km from here. The restaurants in town offer fish but they do not compare to this."
It had better be good I thought to myself, as he wrote the name on a piece of paper for me. I didn't know what I was getting into, as I stepped onto the street and hailed a cab. 8 pesos later I was at the restaurant. Any earlier and I would have been too early for their opening. It was 8:15 PM.
As I walked through the door everyone was busy setting tables, getting ready for an evening of business.
"Are you open," I asked the waitress.
"Yes, why do you ask?"
"It looks like I am too early. You are not quite ready."
"We are ready. Sit where you like."
I picked a table for 4 and settled in. I ordered a drink and waited for the menu. It did not come. It was a fixed menu. I did not know that. It was strictly fish. That was their business...fresh fish.
Presently the waitress returned with the first course. A bread basket, fish balls, a hot fish empanada and two salsas. I silently wondered if she was taking the liberty of ordering for the gringo.
When the plates were emptied she returned with the second course...a lightly breaded and fried piece of Surubi. That elusive fish that I had tried to taste "On the Road to Villamontes."
Soon that was gone and the third course arrived...a Chubuci...a sort of fish soup with large chunks of tender fish, potatoes and fish broth. I struggled through that large bowl but finally completed the task.
I settled back in my chair for a well deserved breath. The fourth course arrived... a thin filete, lightly breaded and pan fried in garlic...excellent.
I was close to the limit. I had eaten my fill and more. I relaxed and perused the city map of Santa Fe. There was movement at my table. I glanced up. I was shocked. The waitress had returned with an 18 inch platter. The fish that accompanied it, barely fit within the edges. I looked at her in amazement. Surely she was mistaken. Surely this was for someone else.
"No," she assured me. It was for me.
"But, but...How much do you think I can eat?"
"Eat what you can," was all she said, and then she left.
I didnīt finish it but I made a darn good attempt. "WALRUS DREAMS OF FISH," was foremost in my mind.
I paid my bill and ordered a taxi.
Every now and then you meet someone who has a real appreciation for what is happening here. A taxi arrived for me at the fish restaurant. We started talking and he opened with the standard question.
"Where are you from?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Travelling around South America."
"Travelling around South America. I started in Santiago Chile." I am travelling by moto.
"What!!!" He turned around in his seat to get a better look at me. The car continued forward at a reduced pace. He studied my face for a few more precious seconds and then extended his had to shake mine. He could not believe it. We talked some more.
"I have been travelling for just over 2 months...northern Chile, Peru, Bolivia and now Argentina. In a week I will exit for Brazil. I have come 15,000 kilometers so far."
He slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand, then turned around and shook my hand again. We both laughed. He just shook his head in disbelief.
"I have another 25,000 kilometers to go, more or less."
We both laughed again.
It was fun to finally meet someone who appreciated the gravity of the trip...had some respect for what was happening...had a feel for the magnitude of the project. It wasnīt like reading a comic book or a $2 novel. It was a project on a grand scale, and he knew it.
As I exited the cab he shook my hand one more time and wished me a safe journey. We laughed together one last time and then he was gone. He disappeared into the darkness of the night.
Did you ever wonder why there is so much wrought iron in Latin America? Balconies, window grills, door grills etc. etc. Just as I thought...No you hadn't. Well what would be the point of answering a question that was never asked? It would just be a total waste of time. There is no curiosity, no interest, no desire and therefore no answer...class, Class!, CLASS!!
Posted by Robert Bielesch at June 13, 2006 02:22 AM GMT