My friend discovers a location for a 'spa day', a little place embedded in the Los Alamos Hotel, which thanks to the low season, comes across as relatively affordable and only a few blocks away from the hostel.
An afternoon of relax begins, sheltered under a tall structure made of oak tree in which the strong sunshine breaks through big glass windows and smells of incense and wet wood invade the ambiance, carefully caressed by warm water jacuzzis and a nice swimming pool, a bit of rest for the muscles after demanding days of hiking and a bit of rest for the mind after days of overstimulation with amazing landscapes.
The holidays blues become recurrent in our minds, emails start invading my inbox and drastic measures are needed. Starting with two bottles of cheap and amazing quality Argentinian Malbec and a dinner of copious amount of the best beef, deer, chicken and sausages (with a bit of salad) you could get around to smother the end-of-holiday sorrow.
In the morning ,the long return journey begins when being transferred to the space station-like airport and a sharp departure, just before doing a fly-by over Mount Fitzroy and Lago Argentino. A mental postcard stuck in my mind forever.
Three hours later, the sight of a hectic Buenos Aires marks the end of the trip to the Patagonia, landing in heavy crosswinds and almost gliding over the city centre, Puerto Madero and one of the largest slums in Buenos Aires, clearly divided from the rich Palermo area by a wide railway, adding a dramatic touch of a social paradox to our arrival.
Once in Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, a local friend of mine is waiting for me at the Arrivals Hall. Her shiny and warm smile slightly dim the idea of the end of my holiday and the good-bye formalities with my Uruguayan friend who is connecting immediately to Montevideo.
It's a day for enjoyment and, rocketing through the wide tree-lined avenues of Palermo, we reach the city centre for a cheeky commemorative picture in front of the Obelisk at 9 de Julio Avenue and a hearty lunch of even more fabulous Argentinian steak overlooking Puerto Madero.
A quick visit to Casa Rosada (Pink House) where Argentinians keep the memorabilia of their local heroes and a quick coffee in Starbucks is had only minutes before being driven to the airport for the second leg of the return trip. No sad good-byes this time.
I clear immigration and leave Argentinian soil in the middle of the night, flying over the Rio de la Plata with the lights of Gran Buenos Aires behind and the Uruguayan coastal city of Colonia in front of us.
A quiet, empty and almost red-eye flight which lands in the misty Rio de Janeiro at nearly 1:00am local time.
Dark, humid and somehow daunting. Although visited many times and very familiar with the complex urban layout of the 'carioca' capital, a decision of staying at the airport until it get bright is made and I spend the next hours wandering around both terminals, laying on the floor and using as much wi-fi as I can.
The first air-conditioned coach leaves at nearly 5:00am and fellow sleepy travellers join me in the adventure through the polluted Guanabara Bay, to the run down city centre and derelict (yet charming) port area and to the luxurious and particularly iconic landscape of Botafogo and the beaches of Copacabana where another friend of mine lives.
With misty weather conditions and a clear lack of sleep, plans of paragliding are cancelled and, after relaxing in the golden sands of Ipanema shaking off the cobwebs, my friend and I walk through the bustling beaches, dodging a combination of topless runners, skaters, people on bicycles and tanned swimmers to finally reach Leme, where we hike up the favela (slum) for a typical food meal.
Rio de Janeiro saw a transformation in security, envisaging the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. Transformation particularly focused on the slums located next to high-end residential areas (a contrasting landscape which is very common in large Brazilian capitals).
Measures taken particularly saw the military taking over the problematic areas with heavy patrolling and an agreement with the residents not involved in drug cartels, ending confrontation and bringing some sort of still state-of-alert peace to the hills.
For us, it meant that tourists can enter the slum, feel perfectly safe, learn about the slum culture and enjoy a typical meal in any of the simple yet colourful botecos (restaurants).
Contradicting my beliefs on 'slum tourism' , as we walk around the slum, the idea sinks in my mind and comes across as something that actually benefits the community. Not as a 'window to the poor' but more as an income earner.
My short Rio layover ends as I take the air-conditioned bus to Galeao International Airport. Tired, I fall asleep only to be awoken as we reach the terminal. Nobody to say good-bye to this time. I check in, face the long immigration queues at the sound of a frustrated Brazilian complaining about their government lack of planning skills and a full-house Air France 445 flight leaves Ilha do Governador on time.
Movie, sit-com, dinner, movie, sleep, breakfast, Coast of Southern Spain and we prepare for landing at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Once turning on my mobile, reality hits me with four missed calls and three text messages from my boss. Holiday is over, I am back in Europe and in need of a change.
For my surprise, once again transit happens smoothly and I board my little Avro Dublin-bound with no hassle, landing in Dublin two hours later with the summery weather of late May.
I am greeted with a 'Welcome Home' for the first time from the Irish immigration officer. It surely is!
Back to the apartment for some laundry and some planning. A big change is urgently needed. New adventures are due to come.