MEET THE WRITER
Cathy Brown moved from Michigan suburbia to an organic farm in northern Patagonia in 2009. She splits her time between traveling the globe writing for Lonely Planet and CNN, working with Indigenous rights in the Brazilian Amazon, and hanging out at home in her garden and hosting permaculture and medicinal plant retreats.
When was the last time you were in Bariloche?
Three days ago, as I was traveling from my home two hours south of Bariloche to the Brazilian Amazon. Bariloche is my main home airport I fly in and out of.
What drew you there?
Zero exaggeration -- it’s honestly like living in a fairy tale. I wake up every morning to a spectacular sunrise over the Andes; my land has a fresh-water stream, native forest, and a colorful explosion of mountain wildflowers; my days are spent writing, gardening, and working with medicinal plants; and the community is very 1950s -- grandmas can hitchhike to the store, kids can hitchhike to school, and barn-raising parties are still a thing among neighbors.
What was the most surprising thing about the place that you didn't expect?
That it would have the power to turn me carnivorous. I had been a strict vegetarian for 12 years before moving here. Then goat and lamb somehow creeped into my life, and now I love nothing more than a red wine-fueled asado followed by a long siesta in a hammock.
What's a favorite anecdote from your time there?
Hiking to the cabin house of a famous Argentine painter and sculptor, who now lives like a hermit deep in the Andes. He invited me for lunch, and every detail was pure art. Homemade cheese he retrieved from a hidden trap door in the floor that led to a secret cellar, getting tipsy on the most beautiful rose-colored elderberry flower champagne, there was a thunderstorm, and he was playing Astor Piazzolla tango on cassette tape -- we talked art and philosophy all afternoon. That day he showed me what living every moment in a state of joy, wonder, and gratitude really looked like.
Number one can’t-miss recommendation for a visitor?
Eat the chocolate. All of the chocolate. And don’t leave before trying Rapa Nui’s FraNui. They are local raspberries dipped in white chocolate then dark chocolate, then frozen. In the summer it is the most decadent treat imaginable.
How easy is it to get around the city/country for English speakers?
Even if English is not spoken someplace, Argentines are notoriously warm and friendly and will go out of their way with charades, drawings, or tracking down their cousin’s friend’s friend who speaks a bit of English.
What’s your top piece of advice for someone going for the first time?
Expect certain things to make zero sense, and do not expect anything or anyone to be punctual. The gas station just might not have gasoline, and they have no idea when they might get some. The shop that says it opens at 10am might still not be open at noon. Roll with it and laugh, as resistance is futile.
What's the next big trip you have planned in 2020?
My middle daughter just graduated from high school and will take off on some pretty epic solo international travels -- the Amazon, Guatemala, India, then Greece are her plans for 2020. I will meet up with her in August in India for a month or so of curious wandering with no set plans. She’s my favorite travel buddy as she shares my love of randomness.
What's your ultimate bucket list destination you've always wanted to visit?
Siberia, to learn firsthand more about their strong history of shamanism and to collect some of their incredible heirloom seed varieties.