Of all the places I’ve been of late, South America certainly has been the most exotic and adventurous. But once again, where to begin?!
The much anticipated reunion with Andrew in Buenos Aires was dampened by my 2 delayed flights, and my eventual loss of luggage (again), meanwhile stressing Andrew had given up waiting for my arrival as I had no means to contact him. Nevertheless, he was patiently waiting 4 hours at the gate, and it wasn’t his open arms I first noticed, but his golden tan. And from there on, the competition began to outdo him.
I had absolutely no expectations of Argentina, except I went in with 2 aims: 1. Like above, get a tan, and 2. To consume an entire Argentinean cow.
We initially spent the first 2 days in B.A, seeing the sights and feeling the summery delights. We then took a flight down to the southern region of Patagonia. Andrew had warned me it could snow. But my response was “pfft, dude, I’m coming from winter in London, I am quite confident I can deal with a summer in Argentina”. As we flew over the flat dark dirt of Patagonia, with its windy milky aqua rivers, I felt we were heading for the middle of nowhere. I was right. In amongst this nothingness, lay a little town called El Calafate, famous for being the nearest civilization to Periot Moreno Glacier. And then I felt the silly one, as I stepped off the plane to freezing conditions, in a mere singlet and shorts, while somehow everyone had been given the memo to deck out in snow gear.
The town was quaint… sprawling with ski shops, and crawling in inbred dogs, who had all obviously mated with the same short species, as even the labs were wandering around on sausage dog stumps.
We did a day trip to Cerro Fitz Roy in El Charlten (6 hr round trip, but AMAZING scenery). We walked for 24kms through stunning valleys, up hills, across fresh Puma tracks.
For my Christmas present, we also did a day trip to climb the grand Periot Moreno Glacier! Photos and words will never do it justice, but this “chunk” of ice, was spectacular. The waters below were a deep aqua colour, with bobbing icebergs. As you stand there watching the growing beast, you can hear from deep within it, creaking and cracking, then a thunder, as the side will just fall off, and plunge into the cold waters. It also glowed an electric blue, which we were told is just a trick of the light. We took a boat around to the base, and put our ice-hiking shoes on, and commenced our exploration. We had to jump over trickling streams, and avoid deep crevasses of glowing blueness. Then, before the decent, they served us whisky on top, with fresh ice from the glacier 🙂
Christmas Day was a little different to my Gunnedah tradition, but equally enjoyable. We went flamingo spotting and steak of course was on the menu.
We spent 7 nights in El Calafate, before flying north to Bariloche. Again, spectacular scenery, something I would have expected in Switzerland, not Argentina!! We managed to be there right over the top of their cold summer snap, so coupled with El Calafate, I was doing poorly in the tanning department. We filled our days with climbing Cerro Catedral (higher than Mt. Kosciuszko, we got pummeled by snow and wind, and I nearly froze to death on top the peak), bike riding around the lakes (uphill, I don’t recommend taking me anywhere on a bike that involves uphill), taking a chair lift up Cerro Otto, and horse-riding through the rugged mountains for my Birthday. Oh that’s right, I also turned old.
After 6 days of strenuous activity, we took a bus ride to Rio Cuarto. An 18 HOUR BUS RIDE! But they have this cool concept in Argentina, where the seats stretch back, so it’s like a bed. Still, not fun when you’re me, and get bored and impatient easily.
In Rio Cuarto we stayed with Andrew’s friend from exchange in Sweden, and were delighted to be apart of a real Argentinean backyard grill! The Aussie bbq doesn’t even rate compared to this stuff. We had a good time, despite the massive language barrier, but Andrew’s been brilliant in picking up Spanish quickly.
Next we took another bus ride.. This time, 29hrs in total before we reached our next destination, in Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay (it means ‘Headland of the Devil’). This “sleepy seaside village”, as described by Lonely Planet, was a real jewel.. Sand roads, thatched roofs, houses made from whatever washed up on the beach, and draped in fishing nets with buoys still attached. The beaches are wide, and beautiful, with fishing boats strewn along them. The locals wander slowly, and aimlessly, obviously zapped by the blazing heat, or stoned from the constant smoking of marijuana. But as night begins to fall (around 10pm), the beaches begin to fill, and the town comes alive with literally thousands of youngsters. A better description would be a ‘sleepless seaside village’. But great fun! So much fun choosing where to eat, and finally not caring if it’s unhygienic, as everything over there is!! And SO cheap.. a meal for two, plus drinks comes in around $15-20. But one disturbance was the fashion. Girls in bikinis deliberately giving themselves a wedgie, with a mug of local tea (mate) with a silver straw, and a large thermos in the other hand.. even despite the 35-degree heat, they still think it’s cool to drink hot tea on the beach.. crazy. We literally spent 5 full days of learning how to relax.. Sleeping in, lunch, read on the beach, ice cream, dinner, repeat… Needless to say, I did achieve my tan, although I got a little more than I bargained for!
Afterwards we headed to Montevideo for a night, then onto Buenos Aires, where we met with another of Andrew’s friends from exchange. We went to La Boca with all the colourful houses, and the famous soccer stadium. And of course, we ate more steak. I feel so healthy and strong now!!!
Before I knew it, I was waking up to the blankets of snow in London. The snow is nice, but the rain is not.