In Junín de los Andes, Ernesto and Alberto run into some friends of Alberto’s, which means they have the luxury of spending the night in a real bed. They take a day to fix the motorcycle’s mechanical problems and reminisce together about past exploits. At dinner, the friends treat them to an elaborate Argentine lamb barbecue.
When they meet bourgeois people from their past, Ernesto and Alberto depart from the rugged life of the road and return to living as middle-class students. However, unlike with his visit to Chichina, Ernesto doesn’t depict this as a romantic or alluring sojourn. He isn’t tempted to remain.
Ernesto and Alberto continue on to Carrué Chico, a lake surrounded by mountains. They set off to climb the highest peak, but since they don’t have enough food or the right gear for the winter weather, the hike is freezing and perilous. It takes them until after midnight to hike down the mountain, by which time they are soaked through and sore. Despite the difficulties, Ernesto is impressed with the solitary and undisturbed landscape. By spending time in a wild space unmediated by human presence, he feels he has reached a true communion with nature.
Ernesto feels an intense and almost spiritual connection with the land, which is deeper than many of his personal relationships and persists through material hardship and difficulties. That Ernesto is increasingly drawn towards nature and isolation shows his drift away from his bourgeois upbringing. His increasing impulse to think spiritually and philosophically shows a realignment of his values from his dissatisfied, impish youth.