I am the newest addition to Emma Kate Co - and believe me, when I say this has been a goal of mine for some time. Lucky for me, throughout twist and turns, the working of fate has let this little piece of magic [confetti filled, shimmery magic] fall into place.
For a long, long while, I was that girl, the one off on a seemingly endless travel adventure, only accessible through Instagram pictures and the briefest of wifi connections. My brain is full of memories and stories, it’s overflowing. Sometimes I struggle to remember them all. Times that have been so beautiful I simply want to tell the whole world - or, keep them so close, only for me and the others that were there. I guess that is Nostalgia, it’s the warmth of the sun, the damp of rain, a muddy floor, the whisper of a secret. I’ve been wearing a cloak of nostalgia for the past month, no one can see it, but it’s the memory of the Mexican sun that's been keeping me warm as I try to make it out the other end of this winter.
But now back home I am, right here with Emma and you guys.
So, let tell you the story of how I found my feet at Emma Kate Co...
It was a bitterly cold and snowy day, not far from the border between Argentina and Chile, of which the language I spoke very little of (albeit giving it my all to learn). I was having one of those days, you know the one where you are never far from the kettle (read: stove top and a pot of water), 4 cups of tea deep and down the rabbit hole of an Instagram page of a person you don’t know, but feel the knot of the smallest tie to.
I’d been following a particular writer/photographer for almost a year, I idolised her way managing to make such strong connections through a screen as small as my outdated iPhone. But on this day I went in search for others out there like her, I wanted to find a very niche kind of community, the kind of people that are all giving, all loving and all supporting. A couple of taps with my finger tips and I found myself scrolling through the inspiringly beautiful feed of Emma Kate Co. Emma’s Instagram lead me to her blog and right there at the top, her most recent post, was Emma’s call out for a little extra help with her brand.
3 hours and a little email ping later, I’d reached out in the only way I knew how whilst sitting on the other side of the world. I let my little fingers type wildly sharing the compact story of the last few years of my life and what I hoped for the future.
I was eight months deep, deep, deep into what had only been planned as a seven month trip, my time had come around, and I’d thought [pretty early, I might add], that nope, I’m not ready for Australia yet. So one scarily simple email was sent, and that was it, I’d added five months to the original seven. The interesting thing about travelling for such a long length of time, is that sometimes it is hard work, sometimes its not at all like a holiday, sometimes it’s freezing and you only packed for summer or sometimes it’s so humid you don’t know how to function, and during all of that you are constantly moving, moving so fast that the faces of all the people you meet are blurred and suddenly you don’t know what town you are in or what day it is [but this is pretty easy to do hey?]. It took a pretty big blessing in disguise to hit me blind side, for me to realise this little fact about travel. I got struck down with the flu, the big, bad, nasty flu, and I was no where near my bed, a familiar, face, or my mother. And so finally I stopped, I stayed in one beautiful little ski village for over a month, San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.
Unable to fly [I’d been scared to death about the potential bursting of both eardrums, if I even so much as walked up a hill, apparently altitude will do that to sick ears], I was stuck. Picture an endless lake, that winds around, and in out of hundreds of smaller lakes, surround by huge mountains, covered in trees that had turned yellow and then red and then bare as the snow finally settled. In summer it was a hiker, rock climber, mountain biker's paradise and in winter… well, it was wonderland. It wasn’t the worst place to be stuck but unable to sit as still as the doctor ordered [well I think that's what she ordered, we didn’t speak the same language, but that's generally the cure to the flu] and already restless on the first day of my month long slow crawl back to health I went on a hunt for a distraction.
Seven kilometres down the only street in town, tucked behind a cluster of tree’s sitting high above the lake was a little log cabin that housed Javi, 3 cats and any stray travellers in need of warmth and a cup of mate [think herbal tea, with the kick for three coffees]. It was low season [like seriously low], but for some reason [pity/kindness/craziness?] Javi, insisted that, rather than staying as a guest, I was just the person he needed to help keep his other guests entertained. And so I was employed, with minimal Spanish and at this point minimal voice, for the first time in eight months, I had a home, a bed, a room, that was mine!
It became apparent that essentially my job description was to keep the other guests company. Someone to play board games, cook dinner, have a chat or a sing along [basically a long list of doing the things I already enjoyed], the only requirement, that I improve my Spanish. My mornings consisted of bargaining with myself until I could drag myself out of bed to turn the heater on [did I mention the snow], I’d walk out of my room to the smell of freshly made bread and brewed coffee [the doing of a Argentinean angel I encentially communicated with by hand motions and laughter] and then with the pitter patter of small feet I would stroll down the dirt road and attempted to catch the bus.
Some days it was like catching a bus in Tasmania [20 minutes late] and other days it was a wonder I ever made it to class. Perpetually terrified of missing the only bus, I was always there at 8:10, every day. Some days I had company, the cute Border Colley who had adopted me, or the elderly lady picking blackberries from the ginormous bush behind my stop [secretly I think she was using me, because honestly I was double her height]. Some mornings the bus simply never rounded the corner, understandably as Bariloche was known for its' outstanding number of boutique breweries and the bus driver was definitely running on South American time, probably a little sore from the night before. But as I was no stranger of the thumb out tactic, I started scoring my rides to school in any manner of vertical that would stop for me. Now I know this sounds a little sketchy, but when everyone knows everyone, you are in pretty good hands.
Weeks later I was feeling 80% better and 110% in love with Bariloche. Surprisingly mastering Spanish, I had made friends, friends who didn’t speak a drop of English. The elderly lady knew my name and gave me a blackberry tarts, I’d acquired a semi regular ride to Spanish school, and I was finally up to testing out the variety of breweries in town. But with the arrival of my health and looming onset of a huge dump of snow, Javi kicked me out. Not permanently, just for the weekend. He gave me a map and told me take warm clothes and food, jump on the bus to here, hitchhike to there and then walk for 8 hours, nothing else [that I understood anyway]. So off I set, knowing that by nightfall I’d be in a truly spectacular place.
It was early on a Saturday, the bus empty and no one to confirm that the side of the road I’d been turfed off at was right. Already covered in dust, I figured I couldn’t go very wrong [worst case scenario, I had a phone, right?]. Wandering down the road, it wasn’t long before a car packed with climbing gear picked me up, seemingly knowing exactly where I wanted to go. Again, I rolled out of the car, in the middle of a dirt road in front of a small trail. 8 hours passed quickly, and the scenery ever spectacularly changing, always complete surrender by jagged mountains, with the tinkle of crystal clear [freezing] glacial streams near by, I’d stop to fill my water and pause to take it all in.
After scaling a some what terrifying rock face a I came to face the only person I had seen in hours. From behind me came a young Argentinean man carrying a log twice the height of him [yes up the rocks I was terrified of climbing,] after a few words, he ran off [yes, RAN], with the log resting on one shoulder, into the trees. I should mention here that I was climbing a mountain, a very steep mountain. After what must have been only an hour, he was back, running again, straight down past me. And again past me with another log. I was confused, my Spanish had not prepared me for this absurdity. Finally; hours later, one very puffed Zalie broke through the trees, into the valley of a huge glacial lake, spying the welcoming sight of a stream of smoke coming from what could only be the roof of my accommodation for the night. It finally all made sense, without any accessing roads, the young man had been carrying supplies to the refuge, everything was brought in on foot.
Squealing, I jumped into the lake, the coldness knocked the breath right out of me, the tightness in my chest remaining long after I had clambered out of the clear water. The weak afternoon sun that shined had warmed the large rocks that surround the lake, scattered with hikers reading, drinking mate, napping. No one was going anywhere fast. In a bid to make friends and practise my Spanish I wandered inside the refuge, right as a flurry of cards flew onto the floor. Blending to pic them up, I noticed they were unlike any playing cards, I’d ever seen, covered in intricate pictures of swords, sticks, gold and cups. And so began a state of confusion I didn’t slip out of for the whole evening. Truco, the game where lying is encourage and no rules apply.
Later, much later, the refuge was cosy, warmed by the wooden stove, I sipped lazily on a glass of Malbec [seriously try this wine], my nose in a book having given up at trying bluff my way in Truco. Soon the candle light wasn’t enough for my eyes and I wander up the ladder that lead to the bunk room. A sense of calm fell over me, and whilst on the floor with 20 other people, not even the snoring of the man in the corner woke me for 9 hours.
Rising with the sun and the laughter of children living at the refuge, an elderly man made a passing comment that I’d better hurry, the big snow was coming. Once safely home to my little wooden cabin, after another early night I awoke to rain and as Javi says, as long as it is raining in Bariloche, it is snowing in the mountains. Winter had begun.