Lesson from Patagonia: Think twice before discarding the heel of bread

Cerro Torre by Angik Sarkar on 500px.com

Cerro Torre near El Chalten, Argentina

I have been fortunate to experience an assortment of delicious, sumptuous dishes in 2015. However, the meal I cherish most consisted of a heel of stale bread with a packet of ketchup at Buenos Aires airport. Let me explain.

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The sleepy town of El Chalten, Patagonia

On New Year day, my wife and I woke up in El Chalten, Argentina, to a majestic view of Mt. Fitz Roy glittering in the early rays of the sun. However, in true Patagonia style, clouds rolled in as soon as we got out of the hostel. Dejected, I walked around town to buy backup food supplies for our trip to Iguazu Falls later that day. I should have been concerned when I couldn’t find any store/restaurant open. Instead, we skipped the breakfast of bread, butter and jam to hike up Condor Mirador and wait for Mt. Fitz Roy in vain.

Fitz Roy on a cloudy day by Angik Sarkar on 500px.com

Mt. Fitz Roy on a cloudy morning

My prayers were answered; as we were leaving El Chalten for El Calafate airport, Mt. Fitz Roy and the entire mountain rang magically appeared to bid goodbye. Noticing my shooting frenzy, our shuttle driver pulled over to let me out and shoot the scene. I couldn’t believe my kismet. Little did we know that seeing Mt Fitz Roy was our last lucky break for the day.

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Walking up Condor Mirador, El Chalten

There were a few restaurants at El Calafate airport. However, having suffered security check hassles earlier for carrying my carbon fiber tripod, we foolishly decided to search for food after security. There was just one small cafe with little food inside the secure area. We had no option but to appease our stomach with meager snacks and wait for dinner aboard Aerolineas Argentinas.

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View en-route to El Calafate

Our flight departure time approached; but there were no announcements. The gate agents looked nonchalant. When we we approached them, they casually informed us that the flight was delayed. They had no idea about the expected departure time! Surprisingly, the lack of information and achievements did not bother other passengers. Goes on to show the level of punctuality of Argentinean airlines.

When the flight finally departed 4 hours later, I was looking forward to the an airplane dinner for the first time in many years. However, we were soon informed that the flight was operated by Austral Líneas Aéreas and there was no food served on board. In Argentina, there is a tradition of clapping when the pilot makes a landing. When our flight landed at Buenos Aires, I lacked even the energy to clap.

I had pre-booked a hotel in Buenos Aires. However, there was less than 5 hours before our next flight; so we decided against going to the hotel. Airside, there were nice sofas to sleep and we were only souls in the entire terminal; but it was too late for restaurants and stores to be open on New Year’s Day. There were restaurants open landside; but there were hordes of people and nowhere to rest. Tired and jaded, with a long day ahead of us, we decided to sleep airside with an empty stomach.

I hadn’t gone to bed this hungry since I was a cranky teen. I sat up and explored every nook and corner of my bags for scraps of food. My efforts paid off; there was a nicely wrapped plastic containing heel of bread in my camera bag. The bread was probably five days old; but I was willing to take my chances with food poisoning. Searching the length and breadth of the terminal with renewed vigor, I found a few ketchup pouches outside a closed deli to garnish the bread.

We were exhausted; nevertheless, it was a great impromptu date: a cozy booth in an empty terminal with the best thing since sliced bread: stale heel of bread, smothered with generous amount of ketchup. I don’t think I can ever discard the heel of bread again.

Related post:

One or Two weeks in Argentina: Suggested itinerary

Note: Do not use any photos on this site without written permission from the author

Some other photos of El Chalten, Argentina

The majestic Fitz Roy by Angik Sarkar on 500px.com

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