The Patagonian bus to the Chilean border is packed with young travellers from many lands. I look around, wondering where they’re from, why they’re here.
The couple opposite carry a bag with a logo: IIHF Junior World Championship, Toronto, 2015.
Ice Hockey? Canadian imaginations captured by this vague, vast territory spread across two countries?
Everyone is eating.
Chilean border police strictly forbid fruit, meat and dairy products; enforcing the ban with sniffer dogs and fines.
We must lose our contraband ham-and-cheese toasties, prepared by our bubbly Ushuaian landlady.
Fellow passengers share bananas, yoghurts and travel tales. Nice to note because often there’s a dog eat dog scramble among these travellers. ‘Chuile dhuine ag tochailt ar a cheirtlín fhéin ‘
While they discuss art, I eavesdrop on the conversations around me.
‘The water is so pure in the rivers, you can drink it, no need to bring your own’, enthuses a young Central European girl.
‘Perito Moreno Glacier is incredible, magical. You hear noise like thunder as bright blue ice breaks off and crashes into the lake.’Definitely a North American twang.
‘Make sure to trek in El Chalten,stay in rancho Grande’ says an American but not native accent.
I’m intrigued by the languages and accents and try to guess nationalities. I can make out English. Spanish, German and Hebrew. The couple across switch seamlessly from French to English. Definitely Canadian, I decide.
No doubt they’re guessing our nationality too.
Since leaving Buenos Aires, we’ve spoken only Irish. It’s Nan and Darragh’s first language but not mine.
Usually ,I’m the weak link, the first to slip into English. But recently I’ve been better, now that I’m only speaking Gaeilge or Spanish.
Many travellers don’t even know there is an Irish language, thinking Gaeilge is just English with an Irish accent. They tell us they’ve met many Irish and nobody spoke Gaelic.
There are a large group of young Israelis travelling on the bus and all speak Hebrew and English fluently. It’s interesting to see how strong Hebrew is now, considering the language was nearly dead as a spoken tongue.
Nearly everyone on the bus speaks more than one language and can switch easily depending on the audience.
On this bus it is unusual to have just one language.
The bus conductor moves down the aisle dispensing coke in plastic cups and Chilean immigration forms.
‘De donde son? ‘ where are you from? he chirps and pours.
Good man I think, you’re getting the answers for me.
I strain my ears as they answer
Poland, Canada, Argentina, Israel……..