So this episode back tracks a little because before heading to Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay we actually spent one week in Buenos Aires (“BA”) at the start of our South America leg. We also took in another week in BA after completing the Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay loop.
So here is the best of Argentina – Buenos Aires, Bariloche, El Bolson, Esquel, El Chalten, El Calafate, Ushuaia, Mendoza, Rosario, Cordoba, Salta and Puerto Iguazu!
Part I: Buenos Aires, Bariloche, El Bolson, Esquel
Part II: El Chalten, El Calafate, Ushuaia,
Part III: Mendoza, Rosario, Cordoba, Salta and Puerto Iguazu
So we flew into BA on 30 January, exactly the same day we left Australia and in fact a few hours before we actually left Australia. All this because of us crossing the International Date Line. It was very cool to go back in time!!! The only downside was that our luggage from Australia did not make it to BA (the connection from Brisbane to Sydney was delayed, which meant our luggage could not run as fast as us between flights in Sydney!)
Before leaving Australia, Deborah and I decided that we would try to embrace the couch surfing community whilst travelling in South America. Check out our couch surfing section on our website if you are interested in knowing more about what it represents! So before leaving oz we sent several requests off to potential hosts in the hope we could meet some new friends, surf their couches and get to know more about their lives and culture. Fortunately for us we were lucky enough be offered a couch (well two beds) by a fabulous girl in BA called Maria Sol Schachter, or Sol as she is known to her close friends. Maria met us at her place in the afternoon of our arrival, handed over her keys to us and returned to her work for the rest of the afternoon. It is quite remarkable how much trust people put in you and the couch surfing community. It really is a relationship and community built on self-policing references and TRUST!
So we spent the afternoon at Maria’s place in her brand new and very modern top floor apartment. We showered, slept and waited for news on the arrival of our luggage from Australia! We feel like we were so lucky to meet Maria and can only thank her for her wonderful hospitality over the two weeks we ended up staying with her – 1 week at the start of our trip and 1 week when we returned from the Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay loop.
Day 2 and still no sign of our luggage, so we were informed to go to the Qantas office in the centro and they would give us USD 100 each per day. Nice! So we headed off to make our claim. We were staying just past Los Incas on Linear B of the Subte (subway) so we had a 15 minute walk to the station and then about a 20 minute ride on the subte (by the end of our time in BA we had done this round trip some 10 times!).
After making a relatively pain free claim from Qantas (it became a regular theme over the next couple of days – the Qantas guy would get on the phone and say “Hey Jose, por favor, traeme USD 200) we decided to get to know the centro of BA by foot. BA is a wonderful city, possibly a top 5 and definitely a top 10 for us! Although BA is very much like a European city planted in South America, it has a lot to offer from the rich architecture to football to polo to horse racing to tango to loving life!
BA is the capital city of Argentina and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America after Sao Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata and on the southeastern coast of the South American continent. BA has a population of 13 million inhabitants.
BA was first established as Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre (literally "City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds") on 2 February 1536 by a Spanish expedition led by Pedro de Mendoza. The settlement founded by Mendoza was located in what is today the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, south of the city center. More attacks by the indigenous peoples forced the settlers to abandon the site in 1541. A second settlement was established in 1580 by Juan de Garay who arrived sailing down the Paraná River from Asunción (now the capital of Paraguay). He called the settlement "Santísima Trinidad" and its port became "Puerto de Santa María de los Buenos Aires.
Under Manuel Belgrano, Juan Jose Castelli and Jose de San Martin, Argentina fought against royalist Spanish forces for independence. On July 9, 1816 an assembly met in San Miguel de Tucumán and declared full independence with provisions for a national constitution. Each year on 25 May Argentina celebrates this as their day of independence – commerating the May Revolution and first patriotic government of Argentina!
Days 3, 4 and 5 of our time in BA were spent travelling on the hop on / hop off bus which gave us a comprehensive tour around the main cultural and historical places in the city. We managed to visit la Boca neighbourhood (including La Bombonera football stadium which is home to famous Boca Juniors), the colourful Caminito area, all around the centro including Plaza 25 de Mayo, San Telmo, Avenida 9 de Julio, Avenida Corrientes and the walking street called Florida. We also took in the modern port area called Puerto Madero, before travelling past the hippodrome and world famous polo fields to China town and Palermo. We walked many parks and thoroughly enjoyed our time in Buenos Aires. What a fantastic city and highly recommend to all our friends (although don’t play the British card too loud).
Oh yes, we finally received our luggage on Day 4! Despite the frustration and having to borrow clothes from our couchsurfing host, we were USD 600 better off so all wasn’t that bad!
After leaving BA we did the Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay loop. We had left our large backpacks at Maria’s place as she said we could stay with her when we return in about 1 month’s time. What a fantastic girl!
We returned to BA about 1 month later and felt right at back at home. It was nice to take in BA for a second time and this stint was no less enthralling.
We managed to meet up with Matty Worner (best mate of our friend Dan Corden) and coincidentally (well we organized it in the end) took in a Boca Juniors match at La Bombonera (check out the clip in the video section on our website) – for those who are interested Boca lost for the first time in 36 matches and the score was 5-4 to Independiente! First real lesson in Spanish that day…the palabras “puto” !!!
After the match we had a legendary night out in Palermo with Matty and also some new friends we made at the football match - the lovely Texan couple Seth and Emily Murphy! Top night, top people and super plato of meat!
During our second stint in BA we also got to meet up with some family!!! Deborah's father Alberto was in Argentina on business so during his last few days in Argentina we organised to catch up in BA. We were so excited as it had been since October that we had seen any members of the Beran clan. We had two wonderful nights hanging out in Puerto Madero and BA central enjoying muy rico meals - thanks Albert for night one (the steak was amazing!) and thanks the second night to Dr Pachi and his wife Blanca (we enjoyed very much meeting both of you and remember couchsurfing is free!).
On our last day in BA we managed a quick trip up to Tigre. Matty, Fudgie and I set off from the central railway station in the morning and had a magnificent day. Tigre is a town in the Buenos Aires province which is situated about 30 kms north of the city of Buenos Aires. Tigre lies on the Parana Delta and is an important tourist and weekend attraction. The town sits on an island created by several small streams and rivers and was founded in 1820 after floods had destroyed other settlements in the area, then known as the Partido de las Conchas. Check out our photos.
We had dinner a few times with Maria and her friends – a few times going out for a todos carne experience and also some tasty pizza! One night we made sushi for Maria and her friends – check out the photos on our site! Delicioso and muy rico…although I assisted with the preparation (cutting the ingredients and sushi rolls), a big congratulations must go to my wonderful wife who traipsed for hours across town to Chinatown and back! Legend!
*for the record I was helping the team…updating website and sorting our couch surfing requests for going down south to Patagonia
So after BA it was a short 23 hour bus journey south on the Ruta 40 to Bariloche.
We had organized to CouchSurf in Bariloche so our host was kind enough to collect us from the bus station. Our host was a lovely lady called Lili Paris. We stayed in Bariloche for 4 days and got to know Lili, boyfriend Matias, her two sons and two dogs. We had some great nights hanging out in the kitchen, eating dinner, drinking Argentinean wine and listening to Matias and Marcelo play the guitar / singing (another CSer from Milan, Italy who crossed over with us during out time at Lili’s casa). I should also mention our marathon ping-pong sessions in Lili’s garage – her son’s are seriously good at it! It was another fantastic experience and we can only thank you for being so nice to us during our stay.
San Carlos de Bariloche is situated in the foothills of the Andes on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and is surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park. It has a population of just over 100,000 and is busy with tourism both in the summer for hiking / camping and winter for skiing.
The name Bariloche comes from the Mapudungun word Vuriloche meaning "people from behind the mountain". The Vuriloche pass was used by the Poyas to cross the Andes and was kept secret from the European for many years.
Bariloche is an incredibly beautiful place with breathtaking views and to Fudgie’s delight (and mine) great walks. Probably our highlight in Bariloche was taking the bus to Bahia Lopez (via Colonia Suiza – yes a Swiss settlement in Argentina) and then trekking to Lago Escondido, Villa Tracul, Lago Perito Moreno and finally arriving at the world famous Llao Llao Hotel! Check out our pictures of Bariloche and I am sure you will be blown away…
Next stop El Bolson…only 2 hours this time!!!
El Bolson is a town in the Río Negro Province and is located at the foot of the Piltriquitron Mountain. There are a series of valleys through the mountains of Chile to the Pacific Ocean which generally means El Bolson has an unusually mild climate for its southern location.
El Bolson area's first non-indigenous inhabitants were German immigrants that arrived to the valley from Chile as an offshoot of the colonization of Llanquihue. In the 1970s hippies from Buenos Aires migrated to El Bolson and some of them practiced horticulture and made handcrafts. El Bolson tries to be a hippy town, but it is really a poor attempt – nothing like Valizas and Caba Polonia in Uruguay!
El Bolson was an ideal stopover for a day and we enjoyed walking the town centre and hiking up to one of the cerro’s viewpoints. Fudgie found 100 Argentine pesos (about USD 25) on the walk so she was fairly chuffed!
Next stop 2 hours down the road at Esquel…
It is worth mentioning that the landscape along the Ruta 40 (equivalent of Route 66 in the USA) was definitely quite different to anything I have seen before although Fudgie said it sometimes reminded her of some national parks in the States and Canada.
Esquel is a town in the northwest of the province of Chubut in the Argentine Patagonia. The town's name derives from one of two Tehuelche words. One meaning "marsh" and the other meaning "land of burrs", which refers to the many thorny plants including the pimpinella and other herbaceous plants whose fruits, when ripe turn into prickly burrs that stick to the animals' skins and wool or people's clothes as a way of pollination.
The founding of the town dates back to the arrival of Welsh immigrants in Chubut in 1865. The settlement was created on 25 February 1906, as an extension of the Colonia 16 de Octubre, that also contains the town of Trevelin.
We had arguably one of our best couch surfing experiences in Esquel. We stayed with a guy called Alexis who is originally from Buenos Aires (according to the last census the population in Esquel is growing and it is mainly due to the influx of city slickers like Alexis and his pals). Alexis has been in Esquel for about 9 months, but his two best mates from BA have been there much longer, especially Matias. Funnily enough they are all accountants and one by one have made the move south to enjoy a much better standard of living according to them. Apparently more friends are considering the move as well!Anyway, the days and evenings were made fun hanging out with these guys, telling stories, laughing a lot and having delicious homemade dinners with beers and wines! Thanks guys for a wonderful experience – who could ever forget our “puto” pals from Esquel!
So apart from hanging out with the guys and having a great time, we managed to take in many of the beautiful attractions in the local area including a day trip to Trevelin (a Welsh settlement) and the Los Alceres National Park. The trip to the national park was a highlight as we hired a Chevrolet and drove through the national park and about 1 hour north of Esquel, which meant we got to drive back to Esquel along the world famous Patagonian Ruta 40 – magical experience driving along this beast of a route, but some hairy moments when passing lorries got a little close! It was a big day driving and trekking – we set off at 10am and arrived back in Esquel at 9pm!
Well, that is it for this edition…..
Enjoy the photos we have posted and we will be in touch soon with Argentina – Part II (El Chalten, El Calafate and Ushuaia).