Welcome to Barf-re-al: Hell on Earth in Barreal

Alright, the town we were staying in was called Barreal not Barfreal, but that is always how I am going to remember it. It seems that I am making it a habit of telling stories about getting sick on the road, but let’s face it, if I didn’t, all our readers would think that travel was a walk in the park and I would not want to leave anyone with that false impression.

Barreal was the last stop on our 2015/2016 Argentina trip where we pitched our tent, from that point on it was all hostels and homestays. It may sound funny, but we could both rest a little easier when we were in a tent. We didn’t have to worry about getting our stuff mixed up with other travellers’ things and the campgrounds usually supplied more than enough outlets. The disadvantage of camping in Argentina is that most of the campers are car campers. While we were told that the walk to town was maybe 15 minutes it was more like 30-45 in the scorching heat.

There were a few things we had wanted to do in Barreal including hiking, star gazing, and blow carting so there was not much time for us to sit around doing nothing. We had to incorporate a lot of walk time into our daily plans but decided that we could leave the campsite to do a short 45-minute hike, walk to town from the end of the hike, grab some groceries for lunch and dinner and still have time to make it to blowcarting at 4pm. The next day we could walk to town to buy bus tickets, Steph could use the internet and that evening we could go stargazing before getting on the bus.

As it turns out the tourist centre was a little misinformed regarding how long their hikes take and the 45-minute trek turned out to be closer to 2 hours. After a month of hiking in Patagonia Steph and I had realized that bringing two bottles of water was pointless since we ALWAYS found a creek to refill our bottle with. Of course, this would be the one time we stuck to one bottle and the one time that there was not a drop of water to be found. By the time we made it into town we had been walking close to an hour without water and stores were just about to close for siesta. We had just made it by mere minutes. We quickly grabbed, and chugged, a litre of water and then found fixings for sandwiches including some nice Chorizo. We debated how to keep the meat cool before dinner since we didn’t have access to a bidet, this time, so for safe measure, we bought a blue plastic bucket we figured we could fill with ice once we got back to camp…

A beautiful hike, but the worst place ever to run out of water.

The following morning we cooked the leftover eggs and chorizo for breakfast, but halfway through eating it I just stopped. I don’t lose my appetite often and I felt fine, but I just could not bring myself to take another bite. We needed to walk to town to purchase bus tickets and Steph needed to access the free park internet to do work for a few hours, but halfway through our walk to town, I started to feel off. Maybe it was the heat, maybe I was still suffering from severe dehydration from the day before or maybe our chorizo had gone off while we were walking with it in the blazing heat before we could cool it in the blue bucket, I wasn’t sure.

We made it to the town gas station just in time for me to get epically sick in the washroom. I could maybe make it 5 minutes before needing to throw up again. Steph left me there to get her internetting done (to be fair I wasn’t going to make her hold my hair back for an hour) and she asked me to buy the bus tickets for Mendoza when I felt up to it. The only option for the bus ticket was 3am, but I figured that whatever this was it would be out of my system by then. It was only 11am after all. I met Steph in the park to see how much longer she needed. After throwing up once on a tree and once in the public garbage can I decided I could wait no longer. The walk back to the campground (there were no taxis in this town) was the longest walk of my life. I debated hitchhiking but couldn’t risk throwing up in someone’s car. I’m sure people passing by me thought that they were in some kind of virus outbreak movie. When I finally made it back to camp, the sight of the blue plastic bucket was a great relief. We had truly debated whether or not it had been worth $5 to buy it, but now it was worth its weight in gold. I fell into the tent that was now sitting in the blazing sun and heated like a sauna. I quietly prayed for the end to come.

Our tent in our near empty campground

Our nearly empty campground

Steph returned from the park and did something only a true travel buddy would do, empty my bucket and make sure that I had a selection of still water, sparkling water and 7up to rotate between, not that I could keep any of it down.

Up until then we had been the only foreigners in the campground but a British couple set up camp next to us with a large camper and, luckily for me, the woman used to work in the medical profession and had tons of medications, however, I could keep none of that down either. So as I lay in the tent making sounds no human should probably make, Steph made friends with the Brits. They were shocked to find out that we had essentially been the only people staying in the campground since everywhere they had gone was always overrun. The two were the perfect pair to hang out with Steph while I was out of commission. They had both traded in their routine lives, he had built a sort of caravan, and they had dedicated themselves to a life on the road. Like Steph, they were perfectly content to not have children factor into their lives and Mr. Brit even commented that, despite being in the later part of his life, he had never once held a baby and was fine with that. All this time I was fading in and out with Steph occasionally making sure that my blue bucket, which I had bonded with in a way only Tom Hanks could bond with a volleyball, was taken care of. I slipped in and out of consciousness but eventually decided that I would need to get on my feet for just a few minutes.

When I emerged from the tent I found myself transported to somewhere very different. What had been a practically abandoned campground was now a sea of dozens if not a hundred tents. It was as though a music festival or refugee camp had just magically appeared around us and there were children everywhere with hardly an adult to be seen. It turns out that as I was sleeping 3 buses of children arrived and set up camp. I am fairly certain they were all given a few spoon of sugar before they were unleashed with little to no supervision. The Brits quickly took the blame as they said this happened everywhere they went.

The children were fascinated with us, pestering Steph to no end on how to say various words in English. I could not find the energy to stand and abandoned her and the Brits to fight for themselves while I curled up in the tent, but these children knew no boundaries. A toddler marched in, 5 kids stood at the door, which I needed open for air, seeing how long it would take me to throw up again and at one point a soccer ball flew at high speed into the tent followed by three children diving in after it. Surely they would have a curfew, but no, this was Argentina and the children are trained to party throughout the night at a young age.

wanting to die, but at least I have company

wanting to die, but at least we had company

By 1:30am the party was just revving up and I was partly horrified and partly relieved that we had to pack up our tent and walk to catch the 3am bus. With Steph doing most of the work we managed to get the bags packed and the tent disassembled. I debated bringing the blue bucket with me, but the Brits had supplied me with an airplane barf bag so bucket and I parted ways. Walking a half-kilometer down the road with 15 kilos on my back and not an ounce of energy was brutal and we couldn’t figure out where to wait for the bus. Luckily, a guardian angel disguised as an old woman wandering the streets at 2 in the morning emerged out of nowhere (it was slightly creepy) and was able to tell us exactly where to wait. As we sat on our bags at the side of the road under a street lamp a stray dog joined us and refused to leave our side. We had seen him at them camp and figured he was probably also trying to escape the children and was hoping we would take him with us. The bus arrived and we loaded up our bags and settled into our seats. My nausea was finally subsiding and the quiet around us as we pulled out of Barreal was deafening and oh so welcoming.

Next stop, Mendoza…again.

One thought on “Welcome to Barf-re-al: Hell on Earth in Barreal

  1. John Gow

    Reminds me of the saying “I was so sick that I was afraid that I was going to die. Then it got worse and I was afraid that I wasn’t going to die”.
    great adventure well told

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