On December 3rd, 1965, Larry Zelinsky and his best friend Arnold Weismann graduated from The University of California at Berkely. They both received Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Political Science and had applied and been accepted to attend law school at Stanford the following fall.

To celebrate their graduation, acceptance to law school, and their subsequent draft deferments, they planned to take a long bike ride across Patagonia with their girlfriends Lisa and Carmen at the end of January.

When they had broached their plans to their respective parents, they all grudgingly approved, especially after considering the less acceptable other alternatives the kids could be planning. At that time, regular anti-war demonstrations and rioting were going on throughout the bay area, and they were now amidst the wild hippy free love generation.

Their girlfriends, who also went to Berkely, were both underclassmen. However, their parents had talked it over with Larry and Arnold’s parents, and they had both reluctantly agreed the girls could take off a semester so they could go on the trip.

To get into shape for the trip, they had been routinely biking together across the Golden Gate Bridge and up and around Mt. Tamalpais and back. To help them with their Spanish, Arnold bought the Rosetta Stone Spanish language course on tape, which he, along with Lisa and Larry, had been using diligently in the evenings. Their ace in the hole in that respect was that Carmen’s family had immigrated from Cuba only a few years earlier, and Spanish was her native language.

Arnold and Larry were both twenty-one years old while Lisa was twenty, and Carmen only nineteen. Arnold was lanky with spiky red hair and an inch shy of six feet tall. Larry was about a half a foot shorter but much better built, and had wavy black hair. Carmen was extremely attractive, and only an inch or two above five feet tall with a darker skin befitting her Spanish heritage. She had long, straight black hair and unusually blue eyes. Lisa was a cute slender blond with short-cropped hair, and being two inches taller than Larry, she always wore flats when they were together to avoid embarrassment for him.

Their plan was to fly to Santiago, Chile, and take a bus down to Puerto Montt and start their ride from there. When they finally crossed Patagonia and reached Las Grutas, Argentina, on the East Coast, they would take a bus up to Buenos Aires, spend a few days sightseeing there and then fly back home.

During the months before the trip, the two couples spent a lot of time in research, how far they needed to go each day, where they could stay, and what clothing and gear they needed to bring. The costs were not an issue as both boys had received significant cash gifts for their graduation, and Larry’s parents had agreed to fund the airline tickets for all of them as Larry’s graduation gift.

Larry’s father was a prominent surgeon, and his mother was an attorney so they could easily afford to be generous. While Arnold’s parents were not as wealthy, they were also reasonably well off as Arnold’s family owned the largest men’s wallet and belt factory in the United States.

Both boys had grown up not lacking for anything but had turned out to be good kids and not nearly as wild as many of their friends at Berkely. Yes, both couples had been intimate for some time, but only with each other.

When they made their travel arrangement, the best flight they could find had a few hours stopover in Mexico City each way. They booked their airline reservations to leave San Francisco on January 23rd with an open return from Buenos Aires. They also made hotel reservations in Santiago for their first night after arriving, but that was it. They figured they would just work out the rest as they went along.

On the flight from Mexico City to Santiago, Larry and Arnold were sitting across the aisle from each other when Arnold leaned over and worryingly told Larry, “We have a problem.”

“What’s that?” answered Larry.

“How in the hell are we going to get from the airport to our hotel in Santiago? The bikes won’t fit in a taxi, and I doubt if there are any local buses available that will take the bikes or even go near our hotel.”

“Oh shit, I hadn’t thought about that.”

“Well, we damn well need to. Although the bikes are all boxed up, we still might need to have them shipped down to Puerto Montt.”

“We’ll figure something out,” replied Larry reassuringly.

“Sure!”

Carmen, Arnold’s girlfriend, was sitting next to him, and she was awakened by the interaction and asked Arnold, “What was that all about?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to wake you. It was just that I realized we had a problem.”

“What’s that?”

“I am worried about how we will get the bikes from the airport to the hotel, and from there to Puerto Montt. The bikes won’t fit inside a taxi or a bus.”

After thinking about it for a while, Carmen said, “That’s not a problem in Latin America, things are different there. At the airport, we will just hire someone there who has a truck to take us to the hotel. On the trip to Puerto Montt, they will load the bikes into the luggage rack on top of the bus. They might charge us extra, but that is all.”

“Thank you, that makes me feel better.”

Arnold leaned back over to Larry and said, “You are right. Carmen doesn’t think there will be any problems.”

“Good.”

When they arrived late in the evening at the Santiago airport and cleared immigration and customs, Carmen went over and had a lively discussion in Spanish with a security guard. When they were done, the guard went over to a telephone and called someone. After a few minutes of animated conversation, he hung up and came back over to Carmen and told her something.

Carmen then came back and said, “See, no problem. The guard’s brother will pick us up in his truck and take us to our hotel. It took some bargaining, but for $20 US, he will take us to the hotel tonight and pick us up in the morning and drive us to the bus station.”

“Is that all he wants?” asked Arnold incredulously.

“I told you things are different in Latin America.”

Sure enough, the brother, whose name was Renaldo, showed up at the airport and drove them to their hotel and in the morning to the central bus station. The only negative was although there was room in the cab with Renaldo for the girls, Larry and Arnold had to ride in back with the bikes. They also learned from Renaldo they did not need to change money as everyone in Chile and Argentina liked American dollars more than the local pesos. Fortunately, they had been pre-warned by Carmen’s father about that and had bought $300 in new US dollars.

Carmen was right again about taking the bikes on the bus. After a little confusion, they located a bus that would be leaving in a little over an hour and stopping in Puerto Montt on its way further south. The bus driver was leaning against the door of the bus and smoking a cigarette while engaged in lively conversation with a young woman. Carmen approached the driver, and after apologizing for interrupting them, asked the driver about taking them and the four bikes.

The driver looked over where they were standing with the large cardboard bike boxes. After a bit of haggling, Carmen reluctantly agreed to pay the seemingly outrageous sum of ten dollars US for each of them, which included taking their bikes in the luggage rack on top. 

Carmen came back over and told them her agreement and that they would have to help the driver load and tie down the bikes. Arnold told her, “You are absolutely amazing, Carmen. Without you, we would be totally lost in trying to bargain and arrange everything.”

“I have to admit bargaining is second nature for me,” said Carmen. “In Cuba, you never paid the initial price. You were expected to bargain. It really upsets people when I do it in San Francisco.”

“Does it work?” asked Larry.

“Surprisingly, much of the time, it does. American’s just don’t seem to know how to bargain, or are too embarrassed to try.”

Fifteen hours later, it was dark when they arrived at the small bus terminal in Puerto Montt. After unloading their bikes from the bus, they stood around, not sure what to do next. Finally, they decided the best thing to do was to unpack, assemble the bikes, and ride around looking for a place to stay for the night.

Two local men who had been sitting in front of the terminal smoking cigarettes while intently watching them as they worked, got up, and approached them. One of the men asked them in Spanish if he could have the bike boxes. He said he had a good use for the cardboard.

Carmen told him they would be happy to give him the boxes as they had no idea what to do with them and did not want to just discard them there. Carmen also asked if he knew somewhere, they could stay for the night.

The man pointed to a brightly lit building less than one hundred yards away he said was a hotel that took in transient bus passengers. He told Carmen they should take their bikes into their rooms overnight as it might not be safe to leave them locked outside.

Carmen thanked him profusely, and the man admitted cardboard was of value, and he could sell the boxes for over a dozen pesos each.

They had no problem getting two rooms for the night. The only problem was the rooms were on the third floor and lugging the bikes and all their gear up and then down in the morning was a bit of work.

Before going to bed that night, they studied their maps and agreed they would not try and push it on the first day and only ride to Frutillar, which was a distance of 32 miles.

In the morning, they began their ride up Hwy 5 toward Frutillar. As they rode, they were all fascinated watching the smoke rising steadily from the large snow-capped Mt. Calbuco volcano that was about 10 miles away on their right. During breakfast at the hotel, the owner told them it was one of the more active of the numerous volcanos in Chile and had erupted only three years before, and when it did, the road they were now riding on was covered with over four inches of ash.  As they rode further, they also had a clear view of Mt. Orsono, another towering snow-capped volcano that was now dormant and, from what they were told, had a ski resort.

After leaving the city, the countryside was mostly rolling green hills with farms scattered about that could have been any place in the world. The only noticeable difference was that the farmhouses were almost all German-style wooden buildings.

When they arrived in Frutillar, they noticed that once again, almost all the buildings were of German-style wooden architecture. The town was absolutely charming and was located on the western side of a large lake with black sandy beaches. Within only a few minutes of riding into the town, they found a picturesque inn with a restaurant that was facing the glassy lake and had vacancies.

Not surprising, the restaurant specialized in German cuisine, and they all enjoyed delicious pork schnitzel dinners and strudel before turning in for the night.

The next day their destination was Entre Lagos, which from their maps was 47 miles away. An easily doable distance for them. Except for fewer trees, the terrain and buildings were similar to the day before.

Entre Lagos also bordered on a lake but didn’t have near the charm of Frutillar. They decided to once again have dinner at a local restaurant, but to camp out that night in a little grassy park, they spotted at the edge of the lake.

The next day they would start their climb into the Andes and officially enter the Patagonia Fjord region. The only town along the way before they reached Puyehue Chilian National Park was Anticura, which was 24 miles away with a gentle climb up to it of about 600 feet. From Anticura, they would steadily climb an additional 1300 feet as they rode through the national park. On the far side, they would cross the border into Argentina and then continue on to the resort city of Villa La Angostura, which was 500 feet lower in elevation and about 48 miles from Anticura. As there was a lot to do in Villa La Angostura, they planned to stop and relax there for a few days.

When they left Este Lagos, they stopped in Anticura for lunch. From there, they continued on into the national park where they planned to camp out for a day or two along the way as, from the information they had, there would be several campsites along the way.

Their trip from Anticura to Villa La Angostura, with their stopovers, took them three days. While the ride was strenuous, it was also amazingly beautiful and enjoyable, except for their having to stop twice to fix flat tires. The mountains in the park were as majestic as the foothills of the Rockies but dry and treeless. Until they finally crossed the border and dropped down into Villa La Angostura, the terrain, while picturesque, and amazingly surreal, was almost entirely barren.

In Villa La Angostura, they located a campground/hostel near the center of the town that was incredibly cheap. When they told the camp host that they would be paying in US dollars, they were told they could stay in a shelter there for one dollar US each per night, which even included a hot breakfast.

On the second day, in Villa La Angostura, after they each had finished calling their parents to let them know they were okay, Arnold said, “I want to ride tomorrow up to Puerto Arauca. It’s about five miles north of here.”

“Why do you want to do that?” asked Larry.

“It’s a favor for Professor Dalton, who was my advisor. He and his wife stayed at a fancy resort there for their honeymoon eight years ago, and his camera was on the fritz. Except for a few pictures taken of them indoors and out on the terrace, he found all the rest of his pictures were out of focus.”

“He wants you to take some scenery photos there for him?” asked Lisa.

“Yeah, and some of the resort, although it probably has changed. When I told Professor Dalton where we were going, he asked if I might do it for him, of course, I said I would try.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Carmen. “It sounds like fun.”

“How about you guys?” Arnold asked of Larry and Lisa.

“No, I think we’ll stay here tomorrow. I promised Lisa we would visit the Artisan Fair and go to the Spa afterward. She wants to get pampered.”

 “Do we have time to go with them to the Artisan Fair for a while before going to the resort?” asked Carmen. “I would like to get a little something for my parents.”

“No problem. The light for photographs would probably be better around noon anyways. We’ll just meet back here afterward for dinner,” said Arnold.

The next morning, the two couples spent almost three hours wandering around the Artisan Fair, which was within easy walking distance of the campground. They ended up buying only a few small trinkets for gifts as they realized they would have to carry whatever they bought for almost another 500 miles.

At about 11:00 AM, they returned back to the campground, and Arnold and Carmen started on their ride up to the Cabanas Puerto Arauca Resort. They had just reached the outskirts of Puerto Arauca and were about two miles from the resort when Arnold’s front tire went flat.

            When they pulled over to fix the tire, Arnold got off his bike and exclaimed, “Crap, I didn’t bring a tire repair kit. It’s in Larry’s pack.”

“So, what are we going to do?” asked Carmen.

“I guess you need to ride into town and see if you can find a tire repair kit to buy. Surely someplace will have one. I’ll wait here for you.”

Carmen was about to leave when a weather-beaten stake body truck pulled up alongside them. The old man who was driving, asked, “Can I help you?”

“Thank you, but that is not necessary. I’m just going to ride into town and get a tire repair kit. We forgot to bring one,” replied Carmen.

“Where were you going?”

“We’re heading up to the Cabanas Resort to take some pictures for a friend,” answered Carmen.

“Then let me help you. Put your bikes in the back of the truck and come with me. I have tire repair tools at my house, and it is just three kilometers (2 miles) north of the resort.” He glanced at his wristwatch, “Since it’s getting close to lunchtime, why don’t you join my wife and me for lunch. She’s a wonderful cook.”

Arnold, who had been understanding the gist of the conversation, said quietly in English to Carmen, “Sounds like a good idea.”

The old man overheard him and asked, “You are Americans?”

“Yes,” replied Arnold in Spanish.

“Even better then,” said the old man.

“We can’t put you out like that,” replied Carmen.

“Nonsense, Eva will be thrilled to have some young people join us for a change, and I know she would be delighted to have some Americans to talk to.”

Carmen looked over at Arnold, who apparently understood and nodded back to her in the affirmative. She then replied, “Okay, if you insist.”

“Good, put your bikes in the back of the truck.”

After they had loaded their bikes, gotten into the cab of the truck and started driving, the old man looked over and said, “Please excuse me. I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Martin. Martin Berne.”

Carmen then introduced herself and Arnold.

“From your last name Arnold, I take it you are Jewish?” Martin asked.

Carmen had to help translate for Arnold, who afterward replied in broken Spanish, “My parents are, but I am not sure what I believe now.”

Martin did not respond.

In less than ten minutes, they pulled up in front of an attractive, very large stone and log house. When Martin stopped the truck, he said, “Welcome to Casa Inalco, that is what I named it.”

“This place is huge,” exclaimed Carmen. “You must be quite wealthy?”

“No, I’m not,” replied Martin. “It was given to me by a rich Argentinian friend after the war.”

“Must have been a damn good friend,” Arnold blurted out in English.

“Yes, he was,” replied Martin.

“You understand English?” asked Carmen.

“Only a little,” answered Martin.”

When they got out of the truck and took their first good look at Martin, they noticed he was a few inches shorter than Arnold and had only a wisp of black hair remaining. He also had an upright military bearing, which they thought was unusual for a man who must have been well into his seventies.

“Come, let’s go inside. I want you to meet Eva, and then we will repair your bike while she makes us lunch.”

“Do you think I can help her while you men fix the bike?” asked Carmen.

“You’ll have to ask her yourself, but I am sure she would like that.” They followed Martin to the front door, which he opened and then invited them inside.

Eva must have seen them drive up as she was waiting just inside the doorway, and warmly greeted them when they entered. From what little they could see, the house appeared to be immaculate and was furnished in an attractive Alpine style, like a fancy ski lodge.

Eva was a good looking middle-aged lady, probably in her fifties, and at least twenty years younger than Martin. She was about four inches shorter than Martin and had medium length wavy blonde hair.

“Eva, these are two young Americans, Arnold and Carmen. They had a flat tire back down the road. I offered to help them fix it, and I hope you don’t mind, I also invited them to stay for lunch.”

“Of course, I don’t mind,” replied Eva. “I am delighted to finally have some company that isn’t old and decrepit.”

“Thank you, that is very kind of you,” said Carmen.

“Do you both speak Spanish?” asked Eva.

“I speak a little,” answered Arnold in his best Spanish.

“How about German?” asked Eva.

“I’m afraid we don’t,” replied Carmen.

“Since I don’t speak any English,” said Eva, “ – Spanish it is.”

“We’re going to go out and fix the bike tire,” stated Martin. “Carmen said she would like to help you prepare lunch while we do it.”

“That is wonderful,” replied Eva. “I would love the company.”

After the men had left, Carmen asked Eva, “What are you going to make for lunch, and how can I help you?”

“I was going to only put on some soup, but now that I have company and –  your help, I think I will make a more wholesome meal.

 After thinking about it for a few seconds,  Eva said, “I’m going to start off with Koenigsberger Klopse. That is meatballs in a white sauce flavored with lemon juice and capers. We’ll serve that with Gurkensalat, which is a fresh cucumber salad. I grow those here in my garden.

“Afterward, for dessert, we’ll have Quarkspeise, which is a simple fresh-cheese dish, that is slightly sweetened and served with fresh fruit.”

“Sounds delicious, please show me how I can help.”

About twenty minutes later, Martin and Arnold came back in and went to the kitchen sink and washed up for lunch. By the time they were finished, Eva had announced the food was ready to be served.

During lunch, Martin asked a lot of questions about US politics and, in particular, how the people of the United States had dealt with the aftermath of JFK’s and his brother’s death. Eva seemed to be much more interested in learning all about hippies and the concept of free love. She seemed disappointed to learn Carmen, and Arnold didn’t practice it.

Carmen asked, “From your accents, and the food, I take it you both came here from Austria or Germany?”

“Yes, we did,” answered Martin. “During the latter part of the war, things were so depressing that afterward, we jumped at the chance to leave and settle somewhere quiet.”

“What did you do over there if you don’t mind me asking,” asked Carmen.

After a brief moment of hesitation, Martin replied, “I was a businessman.”

Carmen was about to ask what kind of business he was in but figured he would have told them if he thought it was appropriate.

“Was your friend who gave you this beautiful house, the one that helped you come here?” asked Carmen.

“Yes, he and several other good friends I had here in Argentina.”

“You were very lucky to have such good friends.”

“Yes, we were.”

“Arnold, are you understanding most of this?” asked Carmen.

“Yes,surprisingly, I am.”

Later, after finishing their lunch, Arnold and Carmin thanked Martin and Eva profusely and left on their bikes for the Cabanas Resort, which they had passed along the way driving up to Casa Inalco.

After almost an hour at the resort, taking pictures and wandering around, they got on their bikes and rode back to the campground to join Larry and Lisa.

By the time they arrived at the campground, Larry and Lisa had already returned from the spa and couldn’t wait to tell them how wonderful it had been. After Lisa waxed eloquently about all the amazing things she had done to her, Larry admitted he not only had a massage and a manicure but also even had a pedicure.

Once they both finally finished rambling along about how great the spa was and what Arnold and Carmin had missed, Lisa asked them, “How was your trip to the resort?”.

Arnold replied, “It went well. The only problem we had was I had a flat tire on our way up, and I stupidly realized the repair kit was in Larry’s gear. Fortunately, a nice old man picked us up in his truck and took us back to his house to help me fix the tire. His wife even made us a delicious German-style lunch while we were there. Afterward, we went to the resort, and I took a whole roll of pictures for Professor Dalton.

“Doesn’t sound too exciting,” said Larry.

“It was actually quite enjoyable,” stated Carmen. “The man and his wife were charming, and their home was unexpectantly large and attractive.”

“Okay, so what’s on our agenda for tomorrow?” asked Lisa.

Arnold got out his notes and replied, “We have an easy downhill ride from here to Dina Huapi, which is 42 miles from here, and about a thousand-foot drop in elevation. It is also on a lake and will probably be our last stop near any large bodies of water. From what I have read, the only thing memorable to do in Dina Huapi is to fly kites.

Arnold was right. There were no more large bodies of water after Dina Huapi; in fact, there was almost no water. Just finding a place to fill up their canteens and water bottles each of the eight days riding from there to Las Grutas became a challenge.

After leaving Dina Huapi, the landscape became progressively dryer. Initially, they traversed about one hundred miles through increasingly barren foothills, which then became a roiling hilly wasteland. Although the latter part was picturesque, it was absolutely barren except for the occasional irrigated farm or vineyard.

Other than the three small vineyards they visited and the two homes where the people insisted they spend the night, the rest of their trip was uneventful, except for having to stop and fix a few flat tires. However, because of the steadily rising temperature, the trip became increasingly less enjoyable. By the time they reached the beach resort of Las Grutas, the daytime temperature had risen to the high nineties, and they all were thinking about maybe stopping riding forever.

When they arrived in Las Grutas, they luckily found a nice beachfront hotel to stay, where they rested for three days enjoying the cooling, refreshing water, and numerous bottles of the local beer. While they were there, Larry was approached by someone who wanted to buy their bikes and offered, after a little haggling, what Larry thought was a reasonable price.

After checking with the others, the deal was made as they all agreed it would be much easier, and maybe even cheaper, to sell their bikes now rather than going through the hassle of bringing them back.

At the end of the three days, they packed up and took the morning fifteen-hour bus ride up to Buenos Aires. When they arrived in Buenos Aires that night, they hired a taxi to take them to the Recoleta district, where Carman’s father had recommended they stay. On their second try, they found a charming boutique hotel that had two rooms available.

In the morning after the included breakfast, they made airline reservations to return home three days later. They then called their parents to let them know they were okay and their return plans. Over the next few days, they went shopping, sightseeing and even went to two tango shows the desk clerk had recommended.

Their last day they were not flying out until late in the afternoon, and at breakfast, Arnold said, “My father told me he and many other members of our synagogue have been contributing toward the building of a Holocaust museum here in Buenos Aires, and he strongly suggested we go see it. So, how about we do that this morning?”

They all agreed, and Arnold found the address of the museum with the help of the friendly hotel desk clerk. They took a taxi to the Museum, which they could clearly see when the arrived, was still partially under construction. Fortunately, several portions of the museum were open, and there was no charge to enter.

After wandering through the museum for a while, Carmen stopped and was staring intently at some of the photos of people. When Arnold came over and asked Carmen, “What’s so fascinating?”

Carmen responded by asking, “Did you, by chance, take any pictures of Martin and Eva Berne?”

“No, why?”

“You’re going to wish you had. Take a good look at these pictures.”

After studying the old photos for several seconds, “Oh, my God!” Arnold loudly exclaimed.

When Larry and Lisa came over to see what had disturbed Arnold, Arnold said, “Remember in Villa La Angostura when you kept going on and on about how wonderful your trip was to the spa?”

“Yes, of course,” answered Larry.”

“Well, we got you beat.”

“How is that?” inquired Lisa

“We had lunch with Hitler!”

END

Elliot Actor is a retired IBM marketing executive and did not take up creative writing until very late in life. Almost all his previously published writings were limited solely to articles and reports that were technical, marketing, or business-related. His first book published in 2015 on Amazon was based primarily on a fictionalized accounting of his memoirs while serving in Marine Corps Recon as a sniper in Vietnam. That novel for personal and legal reasons he published anonymously under a pen name. Although no advertising was done this novel has sold quite well, and Elliot learned he enjoyed writing, especially fiction, and had a talent for storytelling. To improve his writing skills Elliot took several online fiction writing classes and joined weekly writer’s groups. The Forgotten Bomb published on Amazon in 2018, and the follow on novel DESPOT, published in 2019 are a direct result of those efforts. His latest action/adventure thriller The Exiles published in 2020 is a further culmination of the development of his fiction writing skills.

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