Tag Archives: Argentina

The Argentina Roundup

28 May

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  43

Cities/towns visited – Mendoza, Bariloche, El Bolson, Esquelle, El Calafate, El Chalten, Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Salta, Humahuaca, Purmamarca, Cafayate, Angostaca.

Number of different lodgings – 12 hostels and a couchsurf

Flights – 1

Bus journeys –  26

Combi/collective/taxi  rides – 9

Bike Rentals – 1

Days of rain – 4

Budget

Total US dollar amount spent – $5522.62

Average cost per day, per person – $64.00

Argentina is not as cheap as it used to be.  Our ‘Local Travel’ category of the budget was by far the biggest chunk of spending here – long distance buses are triple the cost that they were in 2009, and flights are as expensive for foreigners on the domestic airlines.

Average lodging cost per night – $15.35 per person.  Hostels were pricey in Argentina compared to other places in South America.  We ended up in dorms often, though we went for a double room, even with a shared bath, in a few places.  You could do cheaper, especially if you are willing to stay in the party factory dorms, or sacrifice location or cleanliness.

Most expensive lodging – Reina Madre Hostel in Buenos Aires – a private room with shared bathroom was $23.25 per person.  The second most expensive was the Freestyle Hostel in Ushuaia which was $20.50 per person for a DORM.

Least expensive lodging – $9.30 per person for a dorm room in a little hostel in Angostaca.  We got stuck there overnight while on a road trip through northern Argentina.

Average food/drink cost per day (per person) – $14.30 – We consumed an obscene amount of cheap empanadas, usually for lunch.  We often cooked dinners in at the hostels because of the high cost of eating out.  We did go out for dinners sometimes though, or ate at the hostel when they had an asado night.

The Best

Empanadas!

Hostel Empedrado in Mendoza.  They have private rooms as well as dorms, clean bathrooms, TWO kitchens with plenty of cookware, a small pool, hammocks, free glass of wine every night, free empanada making class, good wi-fi…and FREE LAUNDRY!!!  It’s just an overall winner.  It is a little bit outside of downtown, but not more than a 10 minute walk.  You can book online, and if you’re headed there in the summer make sure to ask for a room with air-conditioning since some only have fans.

Hiking up to Fitz Roy in El Chalten. Looks like a fake background…but it’s not, it’s just a bad exposure!

El Chalten – Yeah, the town.  If you like mountains you will LOVE El Chalten.  There are multiple day hikes that get you way out into the hills with some of the most spectacular mountain scenery we’ve encountered.  Take your time and spend more than a hot second there, you won’t regret it.

Big Ice Tour in El Calafate – Even though we got ripped off by the travel agent who sold us our tour, this still goes down as one of our favorite activities.  It really was worth it, especially if you’ve never been on a glacier.  If the cost is too steep for you, look into a trek on the Viedma Glacier out of El Chalten.

Taking a break from biking in Bariloche

Biking around the Circito Chico in Bariloche – We haven’t gotten around to posting about this ride, but it’s a 25 kilometer ride around beautiful meditteranean colored lakes just outside of Bariloche.  You can rent a bike for the day and set out at your leisure.  There are many places to stop along the way for picnicing, swimming, or just gawking at the scenery.  The bike rental will only set you back about $18 and you can get there with public transportation.  Your hostel should be able to reserve you a bike, otherwise any travel agent in town can also, just make sure they don’t charge a commission for it.  You’ll get a map from the bike place, but don’t worry, it’s a loop and basically impossible to get lost.

The Worst

We really loved almost everything in Argentina, and the one major exception was Hostel Pudu in Bariloche.  We heard that it was fantastic, and perhaps it used to be, but now it’s just run down despite the bright and shiny website.  One of the hostel owners spent more time getting high with the guests than doing other things…like cleaning the bathrooms, which were disgusting.  There was a pretty high price tag for a dorm room, and I have to admit to sheer laziness or we would have moved after the first night.

Photo Friday – Family Pictures in Buenos Aires

18 May

Buenos Aires has a fantastic Sunday antiques market, the Mercado San Telmo.  We spent an afternoon wandering around among the stalls and we came across this box of old family photos.  When we find relics like these I’m forced to wonder, “Who were these people?  Why have their photos ended up here, selling for 5 cents a piece to strangers who know nothing about them?”  I am both fascinated and saddened by this because I think of my own family, and wonder what could have happened that all these family photos have ended up for sale here.  There are years of memories, vacations and celebrations jammed into this box, their stories lost somehow and leaving us only to wonder what might have been.

Photo Friday – Hornocal Mountains in Northern Argentina

4 May

Way more than 7 colors….click on the photo to view it in a bigger size

In March we embarked on a whirlwind road trip through northern Argentina with our friends Kristin and Bryan from Happy To Be Homeless.  Purmamarca has it’s share of fame for the ‘7 Colored Mountains’, but I had heard rumors of a more spectacular hillside located somewhere outside of Humahuaca.  We set off with nothing more than a hand-drawn map the owner of our hostel made us, and a few hours (and a few breakdowns in our beater of a car…) later we made it!  The mountains were just as stunning as I had hoped, and completely devoid of other tourists, except for one truck whose occupants looked at our tiny rental car as if we were insane to be driving such a little tin-can up the side of a mountain with…less than ideal road conditions.   You’ll need your own car, preferably a 4-wheel drive.

Blown Away in Patagonia

4 Apr

The title pretty much says it all.  We had heard that we should expect some ferocious winds during our time trekking Torres del Paine in Chile and in the Parque National Los Glaciers  in Argentina.  We sort of thought people were exaggerating when they said you might literally be knocked down sometimes, but that’s exactly what happened to me on more than one occasion.  The winds can supposedly reach speeds, in bursts, of 180 kilometers per hour!  We didn’t feel anything that strong, but there were times when it was strong enough that we had to just give up for a bit, sit down, and wait it out.

So far, hiking in Patagonia has been one of the highlights of our trip.  We love the feel of the small mountain towns, and just when you think the scenery can’t get more spectacular, it does.  We’ve got lots to say about each of these parks, but for now we’ll leave you with a video of some of our windiest moments.

Photo Friday – 7 Super Shots

23 Mar

We’ve decided to try and be more diligent about sharing pictures of our journey, so from here on out we will have a regular Photo Friday post.  We’re starting with a nice little travel meme, “7 Super Shots” started by HostelBookers and passed along to me by Nod ‘n’ Smile travel blog (check it out, they are in the final stages of the planning process and will be heading out soon!).  This meme is very straightforward – select 7 photos that fit into 7 categories and then nominate 5 others to share the same.

Since we are on the road, we’ve chosen only from pictures that we’ve taken on this journey.

A photo that…

1) Takes my breath away

Justin in the Andes at Macchu Pichu, Peru

We had gotten up long before dawn to make our way up to Macchu Pichu before the sunrise.  As day broke, the mist that had settled in the valleys overnight began to shift, rising and flowing up through the Andes.  It was a moment of such unexpected beauty that it really did take my breath away.

2) Makes me laugh or smile

Dianna Arroz. Of course.

I mean, how can you not laugh or smile at this?!?! We were grocery shopping in Bariloche, Argentina when we came across this marketing gem.

3) Makes me dream

Sunrise at Deception Island, Antarctica

I still cannot find the words to describe how incredible Antarctica is.  It really is the most beautiful, almost magical place we’ve ever been.  We got up at 4am so we could witness the sunrise on our final day of landings.  Watching the sun break the horizon that day, I felt like anything was possible.

4) Makes me think

Local woman near Maras, Peru

We took this picture on our way to see the salt ponds of Maras, in Peru.  The juxtaposition of this woman with the beauty salon advertisement, in the background (notice that the model is a blonde woman) makes me think about what happens when the modern and the new crashes into the traditional.

5) Makes my mouth water

Olives at the market in Arequipa, Peru

We LOVE local markets.  We can spend entire afternoons wandering around and sampling food, eating little bits of everything there is to offer in lieu of a real meal.  These olives were so perfect that I can almost taste them as I’m typing this…

6) Tells a story

Shaman during a wedding ceremony in Ollantaytambo, Peru

We were blessed with the chance to attend a local wedding during our stay in Ollantaytambo, Peru.  The traditional ceremony was performed by a shaman, and while we couldn’t understand the language much at that point, the beauty and the purpose of the ceremony came through very clearly.  At this point, a young girl had just come into the ceremony site with a bag of fresh milk.  The bride and groom’s families took turn offering the milk, and some wine, to the four directions, after which the wine was poured by the bride and groom and shared with all in attendance.  It was one of the most mystical things we’ve experienced, and we feel very fortunate to have been a part of it.

7) I am most proud of (a ‘National Geographic shot)

Glacier in Paradise Bay, Antarctica

It was hard to not choose pictures entirely from Antarctica for this challenge because it’s just so easy to take great photos there!  For me, this one just leaps out every time we sift through the tons of images from that trip.  Our zodiac cruise around Paradise Bay was one of the highlights of the cruise because we had absolutely perfect weather and, as you can see, totally still waters.  As our zodiac made its way closer to this ice hunk, a piece of it collapsed and sent huge chunks of ice crashing into the ocean, a reminder of the ever-changing landscape in Antarctica.

And now…I’d like to see 7 Super Shots from

Happy To Be Homeless

Fluent in Frolicking

Ric and Roll

Adventures in Nature

Click. The Good News.

Moving Box Bet – Argentina AND Uruguay!

7 Mar

If you are unfamiliar with our Moving Box Bet series, check out Justin’s first challenge from Peru, and his second challenge from Chile.

It took a long time for us to find a suitable food challenge for Justin in Argentina.  This mostly has to do with the fact that just about everything we’ve come across here is delicious!  Argentina has a lovely mix of Spanish and Italian heritage, and as a result you get some great pasta, pastries, and meat.  All of these we love, so you can see the dilemma.

In Argentina, people eat a lot of meat.  A lot.  Parillas (place that cook meat on a grill) are a dime-a-dozen, it’s an Atkins diet dream come true.

One thing we discovered in our quest to get better at reading menus is that people here eat every part of the cow.  Seriously.  Every part.

This diagram is missing a few key elements...

It is not uncommon to find sweetbreads or other organ meats on the menu.  Lonely Planet even lists ‘ubre’ (udder) in the food glossary, which mean you must be able to find that in at least a few establishments.  We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would simply have to find a place that could grill up some good thymus gland and that would suffice for Justin’s challenge, despite the fact that it’s really not all that unusual.

That was before we met our couchsurf host.

We had the pleasure of staying with a fantastic family for most of our time in Buenos Aires, and we shared the concept of the Moving Box Bet with them in the hopes that they could point us towards a reputable place for Justin to complete the challenge.  Much to my delight, our host exclaimed that there were way more unique parts of the cow that could be cooked and eaten.  Parts that she in fact knew how to cook.  Parts like the brain.

Until this point I was totally unaware that you could waltz into a butcher and just ask for a brain, but apparently you can.  Our first few attempts at locating this precious item were unsuccessful and we had resigned ourselves once again to the thymus.  On our second to last night we were heading out to dinner with some friends of our host’s daughter and we happened to pass a butcher.  We popped in and low and behold, the man had not one, but TWO brains available for us to choose from! Jackpot!

The brain was frozen, which was ideal since we were on our way to dinner and didn’t have time to run back to the apartment before we were due to meet the rest of our party.  Our host’s daughter simply had them double bag it, and she casually popped it into her purse as if it was no big thing to be carrying a frozen brain on your way to a restaurant. I was giddy over the whole situation and kept bursting into laughter at the thought of the brain just chilling in her purse during dinner.

Tragically this was the ONLY NIGHT we have ever forgotten our camera in the last 4 months.  Go figure. I could not get over our luck at finding the thing, and our sheer stupidity for not having the camera to document the moment.

The next day, true to her word, our host expertly cooked the brain (just a tip, you have to soak it in vinegar for about 15 minutes, remove some sort of filmy outer membrane, and then you can boil it) and had it ready to go for dinner that night.  There is a long history of people eating brain in different parts of the world.  In Italy they used to chop it up and use it as filling for ravioli.  You can also slice it thinly, bread it, and fry it, like Milanese.  The possibilities are endless.  For the purpose of the challenge, I requested that it remain whole, you know, so Justin could see it for exactly what it was before he ate it.

We actually shared a lovely full meal with the family that evening, and brain wasn’t the only thing on the menu.  We had decided that since we’d only be in Uruguay for a short time, and since the menu is very similar, that Justin would eat TWO things that night and one of them would count for Uruguay.   If Lonely Planet can lump them together into one guidebook, then we can lump them together into one challenge. We decided on something you can find easily at every parilla in Argentina and Uruguay – morcilla, or blood sausage, to round out the evening.  In all, I consider it a spectacular success.

Bikes. Wine. Empanadas.

17 Jan

Obviously we went to Mendoza for the wine.  What we didn’t expect was to stumble upon a great little hostel, the Empredrado, which offered not only a free glass of wine every day (hello amazing!) but also a free empanadas making class!

We have completely fallen in love with empanadas, in all of their forms, so we were super excited to be learning how to make them on our first night in the city.

My first empanada!

As it turns out, they are ridiculously easy to put together, especially when you can buy the dough, pre-cut to the perfect size, in any grocery store in Argentina.   Basically, you prepare your filling, which traditionally is meat with onion, part of a hard-boiled egg and a piece of olive, though really you can fill them with whatever you want.  Once that’s sorted out you put a little bit on one side of the dough, fold it over and crease the edges together.

Place the ‘raw’ empanadas on a baking sheet, brush with butter, pop them in the oven and voila! Perfect empanadas!

The first tray is finished. Don't put them too close together or you end up with siamese-empanadas.

The next day, full of energy provided by my new favorite snack food and with some new-found friends, we headed out to sample some of the local wine.  It’s incredibly easy to rent a bike for the day in Maipu, just outside of Mendoza, and just peddle yourself around some of the local vineyards, stopping to sample wine or grab a bite to eat along the way.   You can take a city bus out to the town, and then walk around the main square where you’ll have your pick of bike rentals.  Prices seem to be around 30 pesos per day at this point, but there is definitely a little bit of room for haggling if you are there in a slower season.

Maps in hand we set off down the dusty road.  Our plan was to ride out to the furthest point on the map, about 12 kilometers away, and then make our way back while sampling along the way.  I’d highly recommend this route as it seems that cycling 12K after a day of drinking might be less than ideal.

It’s easy to see the similarities of this area with parts of northern Italy, especially with the abundance of Cyprus trees that lined our route and we were thankful for the shade in the near 100 degree heat.

There were way too many wineries for us to be able to hit them all, but we made it to Vistandes, Carinae, Di Tommaso, and Vina el Cerno, with a stop for lunch before the last tasting.  The cost for a tour and tasting ranges from about 15-30 pesos per person.

In the cellar at Vistandes

Our least favorite was Vistandes, which was unfortunate because it’s a relatively new operation with a lovely building and a great tour guide.  What made it our least favorite was that they served us bottom of the line wines, and only two of them, for the tasting.  Why would we buy something when you give us the worst of your production after putting the best of the bottles out for display on the tasting table?

Carinae had astronomy themes running through their wines.

Carinae offered a few different flights of tastings, and for a few pesos more we were able to sample some of their reserve wines.  We also ordered some cheese to snack on and it came with their own olive oil, which was some of the best I’ve ever had.

Original wine tanks at Di Tommasa

Di Tommaso was a lovely place with some antique casks and an incredible cellar.  They keep a bottle from every year that they’ve produced and you can can view the ever-growing stack in the private cellar. They gave a wide variety of tastings, and will deliver any bottles you purchase to your hostel for you the same day so that you don’t have to ride around with them in the hot sun.

Vina El Cerno was a clear winner, if for no other reason than that their ‘tasting’ was really 4 nearly-full glasses of your choice from their selections.

I mean, sometimes it takes 8 or 10 sips to get a proper taste....

After El Cerno we took a detour into an olive orchard and spent some time leaping about, which really, after a great day of sampling Malbec, is the only logical thing to do.

Wine! Hooray!

Nature is Speaking To Us.

8 Jan

Mother Nature seems to be telling us to go away.

Our first clue was that Torres Del Paine, the national park in Chilean Patagonia that inspired this trip, was set ablaze just before Christmas and the whole park was closed. It is starting to open back up, so we have hope that we’ll get down there as planned for our treks, but hearing about it just 4 hours after we bought plane tickets to the area was wildly irritating.

Last week we arrived in Bariloche, Argentina to find a town shrouded in volcanic ash.  The volcano is actually located over the border in Chile, but the wind is blowing all the ash right into Argentina.  What is normally a spectacular view from our hostel window…well…it was a 50/50 chance that we  were staring out into pea soup.

Bariloche, Argentina on an ashy day

Bariloche, Argentina on a clear day. Same spot as above.

More ash.

Clear! Same spot as above.

We took a short hike one day and ended up ankle-deep in ash on some parts of the trail.   Partway up, the view was looking clear and we took the picture below.

The standard view of Bariloche's lake area on our way up the mountain.

By the time we got all the way to the top (which was just 30 minutes later) well, the view was totally obscured by ash.  The next picture is taken in the exact same spot an hour after the first.

Same hike, same spot, one hour later.

Dust clouds with every step.

There is ash everywhere.  It piles in the gutters on the streets.  It creates a haze on all the windows.  It settles in your hair.  Hiking on ash covered trails proved to be a dusty endeavor as every step produced a huge ‘pouf’ and we were thoroughly filthy by the time it was all over. Washing our clothes out in the hostel sink that night was quite a chore and it took us each nearly 30 minutes to get the water to run clear through our clothes.

Finally, we left Bariloche in search of clear skies, and we heard the place to be was El Bolson.  We arrived to a town shrouded in haze from yet ANOTHER FIRE.  For real.  El Bolson is located in another gorgeous valley, surrounded by rocky mountain peaks.  If the wind is quick, you get a chance to see the mountains.

Clear evening in El Bolson, Argentina

If the wind is taking a nap, you can barely make out the peaks through the haze.

Smoke in El Bolson, Argentina

We can’t seem to escape Nature’s heat!

We’re heading back into Chile today, and as we went to buy bus tickets this morning we were told the road was closed last night because the fire is encroaching.  As of right this minute it seems to be open again, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it stays that way.  If all goes well our next post will hopefully be about what an amazing time we hope to have rafting in Futaleufu, Chile!

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