Moving onwards, Ernesto and Alberto are charmed by San Martín de los Andes, an impoverished lakeside town surrounded by majestic mountains. Ernesto stresses the material scarcity in the town with the richness of the “densely wooded mountains” that surround it.
The rich natural landscape shows the region’s potential for prosperity, while the impoverished town shows that current political and economic circumstances haven’t lived up to that potential.
Both men are so captivated by this region that they flirt with the idea of returning there as doctors one day. They could build a laboratory and a clinic in the town, which lacks local medical services. However, although San Martín appeals to the “sedentary part of ourselves,” Ernesto says that it’s his “destiny” to travel. He resists the idea of settling anywhere permanently, no matter how idyllic.
Ernesto and Alberto think about their futures in terms of their ability to help others, which they believe they can best do as doctors in underserved communities. However, Ernesto is already convinced that he is meant for something else besides a traditional career. Although this conviction manifests now as a youthful desire for adventure and refusal to grow up and settle down, it foreshadows his development as an itinerant revolutionary.
In exchange for provisions for the next stage of the trip, Ernesto and Alberto agree to help a local man host a town barbecue. At the party, they play a complex prank conceived by Alberto, pretending to be drunk in order to steal bottles of wine when they go outside to “vomit.” When they finally go to collect their ill-gotten gains, they find someone has caught onto them and taken all the bottles. Dismayed and amused in equal measure, Ernesto relates this escapade with relish.
Despite their high-minded aspirations for the future, Ernesto and Alberto are still young men with a tendency towards mischief and pranks. They’re willing to steal from people who help them, which shows their underdeveloped empathy and their immaturity.