On April 1, 2015, after what felt like a very long job search, I did a Skype interview from my hostel room in Cafayate. I was using a tablet, perched carefully in front of the only window in the room, to be sure of adequate lighting. The interview was for the Masiyiwa-Bernstein fellowship with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
At around 1:03 PM on April 2, I got the offer.
At 1:04 PM, I was told very sharply in Spanish to stop jumping around and get into the car, where a group of Argentines and other foreigners were waiting for me to go on a group tour of the Quebrada de Cafayate (the Cafayate Ravine). So without having a chance to tell my partner or my family, I ran off into the sunset with my bags packed.
It would be a long time until I had internet again.
After seeing more of the glorious, multicolored ravine than I thought possible, I waited by the side of the road for the one (1) bus back to Salta City, the provincial capital. As it got darker and darker, I got to chatting with the gaggle of Argentines also waiting at the un-marked bus stop in the middle of nowhere. They shared mate and wine with me, and tolerated my so-so Spanish most heartily.
An hour after the bus finally picked us up, there was a horrifying crash.
The front of the bus simply fell off. There was screaming. The driver was crushed into the front seat (alive), and everyone evacuated.
In the end, we were stuck on the side of the two-lane highway, in the dark, for a little over three hours. No internet, no cell, nothing. I quickly realized I was the only foreigner there, so information was a bit thin. I did understand one comment, though. A woman about my age, staring at the gory scene, turned to me and muttered, “Salta la linda.”
“Salta, the beautiful,”the nickname of Salta. It was a bitter, sublime, very Argentine moment.
Paramedics and police came. Professionals of some kind exhaustively photographed the scene. The highway connection between Salta and Cafayate (and points south) was shut down for hours.
Finally, another bus entirely was sent from Salta to pick us up and drive us into town.
From what we could tell, it was a piece of farm equipment left un-illuminated in the middle of the street. No one was hurt but the poor driver, who seemed to have sustained some serious sort of foot or leg injury. (A prize for the reader who finds out what happened to him, using the information in this post.)
My main takeaway is: always bring a snack with you. (And, perhaps: don’t be a bus driver in Argentina.)
When I finally got to my hostel in Salta, very late, I sent my mother one message about the events of the day.
“I got a job!”