Category Archives: Argentina

Perito Moreno

After Mt. Fitzroy, we headed south to El Calafate to view the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the view stable glaciers in the world. Though I’ve seen other glaciers on this trip, I was really eager to see this behemoth ice field and I’m so glad we did! We had wanted to book a trek while in El Calafate a few days ago, but our hostel assured us we could book the day before and be fine. Well, our bus arrived at 9:45pm and by the time we actually got to the hostel to inquire, the agency was closed and we were told their were no more trips.

The next day, we woke early and found that if we got our own transportation to the park, we could join the boat ride, as there is more room on the boat than the bus. After a busy morning of errands, we rented a car and headed towards the glacier. Along the way, we picked up two hitchikers looking to see the glacier as well. We got to the park, dropped our European friends off and had lunch by the boat. The next thing we notice is a boat full of people pulling away from the dock, with us still on shore. After running and waving arms wildly, the boat turned around for us and we were off! We put on crampons and walked on the glacier, taking joy in drinking straight from the glacier, being amazed at the beautiful blue-hued ice, and enjoying the enormity of the glacier.

We then went to the main viewpoint and were greeted with empty viewpoints and a stunning display of light on the massive glacier field. It was really impressive and I’m glad to have seen it. Unfortunately, we didn’t experience a big chunk of ice falling off and crashing into the water, but we did hear one piece, but missed the visual part as we were walking in the woods.

We’re now in transit back to Buenos Aires for the last part of my trip – New Years Eve in Buenos Aires, some really good steak and wine shopping! Happy New Year!

Hiking the Mt. Fitzroy Range

Niki and I eventually met up with Jason and Mary Kay. We spent a day running errands in El Chalten. El Chalten is a really cute, but touristy mountain frontier town. From what I understand, the town has only really been around for 16 years, as Chile and Argentina have on-going disputes for the land here in Patagonia. Argentina simply beat Chile to the race to lay claim to Mt. Fitzroy and quickly built up El Chalten. We ate good food and prepped for our camping trip. The plan was to hike 3 hours each day, making our second day very relaxing. We started hiking late (7:40pm) our first day and intended to arrive to our first campsite while it was still daylight, before 11pm. Well, we meant to do a loop, in the shape of a triangle. Instead of going along the “hypotenuse” of our trek’s triangle, we walked the wrong way out of town. By 11:20pm, we had our headlamps on and couldn’t figure out why we were walking along two lakes, so decided to just turn around and camp for the night by the lake, despite the park ranger telling us to only camp in designated campgrounds. It turns out we had a beautiful setting for our first night and I’m glad we went off course!

The next day, we back-tracked and went to a viewpoint of Cerro Torre, even though the needle tops were enshrouded in clouds. Then, we retraced our steps to our campsite, had lunch and went to our next proper campsite, which was our intended location for our first night. I had wanted to get up at 3:30am to view the alpenglow on Mt. Fitzroy, but had a cold, which unfortunately encouraged me to ignore my wake up call and sleep a few more hours. At 9, we hiked up to the Mt. Fitzroy viewpoint, which, if lacking in early morning light, was made up for by a crisply blue sky that provided a stricking contrast to the rocky spire of Mt. Fitzroy. It was stunningly beautiful.

The only thing that detracted from the experience was the constant slew of horseflies that buzzed incessantly in our ears. And so it was that hiking the Fitzroy range turned me into a villainous murderer. I felt like a 7 year old boy, taking pleasure in killing fly after fly, if only for reciprocity for the extreme annoyance that they provided all the hikers.

Niagra on Viagra: Iguazu Falls

Ahh, Iguazu Falls. Hands down, the most impressive natural wonder I have ever seen. Yes, it’s touristy, but right or wrong, the most impressive places on earth usually are – and in this case, for good reason.

I flew with Steph, who I met in Punta del Diablo, and we had hoped to go to the Brazilian side on our first day and the Argentinian side on our second day. In the end, we only went to the Argentinian side – both days. We inquired and were told we would have to pay the $150 visa for entering Brazil, and for a few hours, it certainly wasn’t worth it. Later, we talked with a German guy who told us the Brazilian side wasn’t nearly as good. Plus, what we saw on the Argentinian side was breathtaking enough.

We went on the boat ride – which takes you fairly close to the falls and that was an exhilarating, if very wet ride. The rest of the time we were at the park (we went twice, because it’s big enough to warrant about 5-7 hours there and we only had a few hours our first day), we walked on the various “trails” and just stared at the beautiful enormity that is Iguazu Falls. I highly, highly recommend checking this place out.

A video of Devil’s Throat

A few random observations

Riding on a bus in the middle of the night through the Pampas, I’ve realized how similar to the American Midwest this is. It’s vast and flat. There are John Deere stores in every town we pass through and the towns seem to have a laid-back Midwestern, albeit Argentinian, quality to them. Houses are modest, but generally include a garage and often, neatly manicured lawns. Cars are parked outside the homes in the sleepy residential areas and the vibe seems very congenial. And, of course, at 11pm, the streets are not barren of people – most people are probably just heading home for dinner!

The other thing that I love is that there are dogs everywhere! But, they’re pets, not street dogs. And in Buenos Aires, walking around during the day, I think I passed about 5 dog walkers with no less than 10 dogs each in the span of an hour. Apparently, dog-walking is all the rage in Buenos Aires. In other areas, the dogs aren’t leashed and seem content roaming freely. But, it does make me miss Wilco dearly.

This country also seems to be very family-oriented, which I like. People here seem to adore their children and both men and women are quite doting and attentive to their children.

All people greet each other with a wide grin and a kiss on the cheek – regardless of gender.

All in all, this is a very civilized and developed nation and aside from North America, Europe and Australia, is the most western country I’ve been to. But then again, one of first comments in my trusty Lonely Planet is “Forget everything you’ve heard about the challenges of travel in South America. Argentina is different. It’s easy.”
I don’t know how well you can see it, but this container of chips made me laugh – it’s American made complete with English, but they slapped a sticker on it in Spanish, and then put a yellow sticker to cover up the words “Gluten free.” I’m guessing by the amount of bread they eat here, there aren’t too many gluten-sensitive people.

Mendoza, Maipu and Malbec

Mendoza was great! If you know anything about me, you know that I love red wine, and Malbecs in particular. Spending time in the vineyards of Mendoza was definitely on my culinary (err…. booze-y) bucket list. The first day, I visited two wineries and an olive oil farm, which was more focused on the tours than the tastings. After a casual touring of the Maipu region (just south of Mendoza were the wineries are), I went back to the hostel and went out to dinner with 7 others. We went to an all-you-can eat buffet restaurant where we sampled Argentinian barbeque, pasta and salad. I’d probably say it was akin to a Ponderosa in terms of quality, but it was reasonably priced and convenient for 8 people.

The next day, our group somehow tacked on 4 more girls, and 12 of us hopped on the bus and headed south to Maipu. We rented bikes from Mr. Hugo and were promptly greeted with very healthy pours of wine. We eventually got on our bikes in search of a winery. However, after biking for 10 minutes, we decided we were hungry, and had lunch at a beer garden in the middle of some vineyards. It was relaxing and good. We finally visited two wineries and focused more on the tasting than the tours. The wine was good, the setting was beautiful – sitting on a second floor terrace with views of vineyards to the east and the Andes to the west. We finally ambled back to Mr. Hugo’s where copious amounts of free-flowing (and free!) wine greeted us. Below is a wine glass (duh) in the vineyards of Maipu.

I was excited, because we passed by a bodega (winery) called Traipche and I’ve had their wine in the states, so that was pretty cool to see a brand that I recognized. Below is a picture of the Traipche vineyards.

I’ve learned that the Mendoza region is home to over 1,200 wineries and the environment is great for grapes, as the soil is dry, it hardly rains and yet, fresh Andean water is pumped in to water the plants as needed. The city of Mendoza, though it is technically in the desert, has aqueducts running alongside every street. Given that every street is tree-lined, you’d never guess.

At one bodega, on our tour, they asked if we knew the difference between corks and synthetic corks. I correctly answered that there is no difference and that synthetic is even better as wine can’t get “corked” and can stay fresh longer. The conversation, however, reminded me of a funny SNL clip – Cork Soakers. Go to Hulu and type in “SNL cork soakers”. I promise you will laugh. Below is a picture of our assembled group of 12 at our final winery of the day.

The next day, I spent some time in the park watching the runners and walkers and bikers and regretted not bringing running shoes. Biking from winery to winery doesn’t quite count as exercise. But, I think hiking in Patagonia should right my gluttonous wrongs of the past few days. Then, I took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, my bus did not have free wifi, as my first one did. It instead provided an opportunity to download pictures, read, and most importantly, sleep!

Ahh yes, that’s probably also worth mentioning. Meal times. Lunch is typically between 1 and 3pm. Dinner is eaten typically around 11, but you can eat as early as 9pm if you want. My last night in Mendoza, for instance, I ate dinner at 11, but it wasn’t filing enough, so at 2am, a few of us went to grab a pizza across the street. I am always one of the first to bed – and I’ve been going to bed at around 2:30am. This country is exhausting me. I don’t know how Argentinians can stay up so late, party so hard, AND maintain normal working hours; I haven’t figured out when they sleep just yet.

Next up is relaxing on the beach and surfing in Uruguay!

Buenos Aires to Mendoza

I landed in Buenos Aires in the morning and decided to rest my head in the leafy, tree-lined neighborhood of Palermo, which turned out to be a great choice, as this area has some great restaurants, and Argentina has a reputation for some good food.

My initial observations are that everything here is REALLY, REALLY expensive (except the wine). Granted, I’m used to traveling in places like Southeast Asia and India, where the average price I paid for a room at night was $3 and a meal was about the same price. I’m currently on a ~16 hour overnight bus ride to Mendoza and the price for a one way ticket is nearly $100. Just a little more than I had bargained for, but I’ll make up for the prices by drinking more wine. 🙂

The other interesting thing is that roughly 95% of the population is of European descent, so for once in my life (other than while in Europe), I look like just another white Argentinian. And, if I’m not walking around with both backpacks, I apparently look like a local, judging by the number of times I’ve been asked for directions thus far.

I arrived in Mendoza and visited two wineries and one olive oil farm. As I adore Malbecs, this region is such a treat for me. I even learned some new wine facts today, such as a rose (well at least the one we sampled today) is made from malbec grapes, and has a pink color only because the skins are kept in the wine for a very short amount of time. And champagne can also be made from malbec grapes, but the skins are removed while the champagne ferments (hence, the lack of pink or red-ish tone).

I like Mendoza. It’s about as far from the mountains as Denver is, but the mountains feel about 4 times taller – literally. The city is a bit more relaxed than Buenos Aires and I really like my hostel. I will put some pictures up soon, but felt that I should post something before long.