Tag: Argentina

South America – The Numbers

Ok, so it’s been a while since we’ve left the South American continent, but here are some interesting numbers to tell the story of our time there.

  • 4 – Months we spent in South America
  • 68 – Number of beds we slept in
  • 5 – Countries Visited
  • 12 – Number of friends and family visited (Two of them in two different locations!)
  • 24 – Number of deeply discounted or comp’d hotel nights through Ted’s tourism connections
  • $6460 – Value of comp’d tourism industry activities through Ted’s tourism connections
  • 6 – Number of overnight buses (2 in Bolivia, 4 in Argentina)
  • 182.5 – Number of hours on a bus (that’s 7.6 full days on a bus)
  • 1 – Number of computers stolen
  • 2783 – Number of photos taken (and kept)
  • 7 – Number of flights
  • 1 – Number of big ships

South America well exceeded our expectations, and we’re on the hunt for ways we can get back for an extended period of time down the road.  Check out our Best Of pics from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile for some highlights.

Iguazu Falls

The spectacular waterfalls on the border of Argentina and Brazil (and very close to Paraguay) are one of those things that you’ve just got to do if you are traveling around South America (or so we were told by everyone we met who had been). Though certainly not convenient to get to from anywhere, Ted and I went out of way to check them out.  And, it was definitely worth it.

Iguazu Falls

Ted getting soaked

From BA it is a 19+ hour bus ride to the falls. We left the city on a Sunday afternoon and arrived in Iguazu just before noon on Monday. We dropped our stuff off at the hostel and caught the transport to the falls. When we arrived around 2:00 pm we had the place nearly to ourselves. The weather wasn’t ideal but the falls were absolutely fantastic. Breathtaking, awe-inspiring, thunderous, etc. I could not believe how massive they are – they appear to go on as far as the eye can see. The boardwalk and pathways throughout the park are extensive and they even have a little train that you can hop on and off to get to various destinations throughout the park.

Lower Falls


Our favorite spot was a section of the falls called the Devil’s Throat. You have to walk on the boardwalk over the river for about a mile to get to the very top of the falls where the river drops over the edge. The power of the water is incredible and mesmerizing. We stood there watching the water moving until the very end of the day when the park staff came to tell us the last train back to entrance was leaving.

Devils Throat

Devils Throat boardwalk

Since we had a short day the first day, we decided to go back to the park the next day as well. The weather was absolutely perfect and we essentially retook all the same pictures but this time with blue skies and sunshine in the shots. We also took a hilarious jet boat ride that takes you right up next to the falls and gets you totally soaked. It is quite a thrill to be right at the bottom of the falls and be surrounded by the thunder and the mist.

View from the boat, about to get totally soaked...

Overall, Iguazu did not disappoint. I had never seen such impressive waterfalls before and I’m not sure if there are any out there that can compare. After our second day at the falls, we caught another 19+ hour bus ride back to BA and had one more afternoon in the city and South America before we had to get to the airport to catch our flight to Cape Town!

Picture of the Week

Iguazu Falls – certainly one of the natural wonders of the world

Iguazu Falls


Matte and Bombilla

Argentines (and Chileans to a lesser extent) are obsessed with matte tea. There is an entire culture surrounding the consumption of matte. The most important part of drinking matte? Looking cool while you do it.

Here’s how it works. First, you have to get a cup and straw. The cup, made out of wood or a dried pumpkin or other type of gourd, is actually called the “matte”. The straw, generally made out of metal, is known as the bombilla, has a filter on the cup end to keep small tea leaves out of your mouth. Next, you need a portable thermos full of pretty hot water (but not boiling hot, as it will burn the tea). Finally, you need the yerba, or tea. You fill the matte cup with dry yerba about 2/3 full (no tea bag), and then soak the yerba with hot water from the thermos, filling the matte to the top. Then, you’re ready to imbibe, enjoying your tea through the straw.

Drinking matte is a social affair, with up to 4 people sharing the same cup. The yerba stays fresh for a good dozen refills. Each person drinks all of the liquid out of the cup for their turn, finishing up with a loud and proud sucking noise as the water runs out of the straw. Refill the matte cup from the thermos, and pass it along to your friend.

What did we think of matte? Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste.

This is a hot water machine, designed specifically for matte thermoses. We found this at Iguazu Falls National Park. Gotta look cool at the falls

Fuerza Bruta

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Fuerza Bruta (Brute Force) is the name of a theatrical performance that we went to go see in Buenos Aires. It was recommended to us by our new friend Ninon so we thought we’d give it go, but it’s like nothing we have ever been to before and I am not sure if I should even try to explain it.

Fuerza Bruta

Wall running

It’s not a concert – though music is being played. It’s not a play – though there are actors and perfomers. It’s not Cirque du Soleil – though similar elements are there. It’s bizarre, it’s crazy, it’s unique and it’s entirely entertaining.

Slip and slide

Slip and slide 2

After the show I looked it up online and noticed that performances are put on throughout the United States. If you happen to live in or visit one of these cities and are interested in doing something a little bit different one night, check it out and let me know what you think.

Oh, and don’t wear heels and consider bringing a raincoat!

Fuerza Bruta - near you?

An Argentine House Party

When we were in La Paz, Bolivia, we had the opportunity to meet some family members of our good friend Estefania. Estefania is Bolivian but had been living in Colorado for many years. When she heard that our travels were taking us to her home country, she generously offered to introduce us to her cousin Ale. Ale was a super fun gal and invited us to her little sister’s first communion brunch where we proceeded to meet more of Estefania’s family including other cousins, aunts and uncles and even her grandparents.

Well, as it turns out, Estefania’s sister lives in Buenos Aires, so we were once again hosted by her family. Ninon is Estefania’s younger sister and we met her over at her apartment in the energetic Palermo neighborhood. Ted and I went out to dinner with Ninon and her friend to an amazing parilla (steakhouse) in her neighborhood – it was one of the best steak dinners we’ve ever had.

I was curious to where the night might take us after dinner, as BA has a ridiculous nightlife scene with crazy clubs that don’t close until 6am or later. Since I had never met Ninon before, I wasn’t sure if that is what she had planned for a Saturday night or not. Ted and I are not big clubsters (big surprise there), though I was willing to give it a go if that is what Ninon had in mind.

Well, as it turns out the club was not in out future and we instead headed over to a house party of one of Ninon’s friends (phew!). Though there are a lot of differences between our people and counties, the good old fashioned house party is surprisingly familiar anywhere you go – everything from not really knowing anybody, to the majority of people congregating in the kitchen; from a few guys hanging out around the keg in the backyard, to folks in the living room dancing to 80s music. To their credit though, a house party is not immediately over in Argentina once the place has run out of booze and the dance floor had a much higher percentage of men dancing than we see at home.

And though we didn’t think we were up for a 6am night, it was certainly after 5am by the time we got ourselves back to the hostel. Thank you Ninon for showing us a fun time!

Sadly, we did not bring our camera this night, so no photos of Ninon or the party :(

Wandering the Big City

Buenos Aires (BA) is gigantic. Over 1/3 of all the people in Argentina live in or near BA, and that is an incredible statistic considering the large size of the country. Like all cites, BA has different neighborhoods that each have their own character and feel. The wonderful part is that, in general, the city is very safe and quite easy to get around. We spent our time in BA seeking out different neighborhoods each day to try and get a feel for each place.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we stayed in the San Telmo neighborhood which is a laid-back part of town with an alternative, artsy vibe. We spent a number of days wandering the cobblestone streets and markets of this older, classier section of town.

San Telmo

Another day we walked and walked for hours. We past governmental buildings, plazas and fountains; we crossed the widest street in the world (14 or 16 lanes across); we walked through the busy and popular pedestrian mall and shopping area on Avenue Florida. And when we couldn’t walk no more, we popped on the cheap Subte (subway) and 20 minutes later we were back at our hostel.

Cruisin the streets of BA

Flor de Metal artwork

One of the nicer neighborhoods in town is called Ricoletta. They have a famous above ground cemetery there (similar to New Orleans) where Buenos Aires’ elite have been buried for centuries including Argentina’s much-loved Evita (Eva Peron).

Ricoletta Cemetary

Old theater-turned bookstore

On a Saturday morning we headed over to Palermo where BA’s beautiful, wealthy, and fabulous go out to brunch. After coffee and some people-watching we wandered over to an area where there were some indoor and outdoor markets selling everything from clothing to food to artwork. The indoor markets were very cool as they were set up temporarily within the walls of popular bars and nightclubs that weren’t open at that time of day. It was pretty unique to see individual artists displaying their work among booths and drink bars.

On our last day in town we headed to Boca which is known for its colorfully painted buildings and outdoor art displays. Though the section of town was pretty to photograph, it has lost a lot of its charm and authenticity. It is now a cheesy tourist trap in a 2 block by 2 block area. The ‘real’ part of the Boca neighborhood is apparently unsafe for tourists to wander freely.

La Boca

La Boca

So, the city is huge and diverse, and there is no way to possibly see it all, ever I could argue. Though we just scratched the surface of this big, energetic place, we can hands down say we saw enough to love it but left plenty to see for a future visit.

Paris of the South

We had some pretty high expectations of Buenos Aires (BA). Everyone we talked to about the city had nothing but good things to say about the place. We are now those people.

After spending several weeks in Patagonia where cities are non-existent and large groups of people are few and far between, I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed when we first arrived. I’m not a city girl by nature and walking through the popular pedestrian mall full of shops, restaurants, buskers, children eating ice cream cones, teenagers flirting, people walking their dogs, and the slowest, laid-back walkers anywhere – I was exhausted from just navigating around everything!

European Influences Abound

However, that buzz and energy is what this city is all about. This city doesn’t sleep. No one eats dinner until after 10 pm and if you are going dancing, don’t think about it until 2 am at the earliest. The people are beautiful and well put together at all times. Everyone from 12-year-olds to grandmas are wearing high-heel shoes and decked out in trendy outfits. Hair is done and make-up is on even if you are just pushing your two-year old in a stroller at a park. We were certainly in awe and would stop sometimes just to sit still and people watch.

San Telmo Antiques Market

The neighborhood where we stayed was called San Telmo and is famous for its Sunday antiques market. We are not particularly into antiques but in addition to the stores, there is also a central square surrounded by cobblestone streets and a variety of great restaurants and other shops. We had a beer on the square and watched some free tango dancing in the street one afternoon. Tango dancing is everywhere and there are plenty of opportunities for tourists to take classes or go to dinner and a show where tango is performed. We opted for the free shows put on around town (usually associated with a restaurant) which simply required a tip for the dancers when the show was complete. Tourists and locals alike would stop to watch the dancing as the beauty of the movements and the dancers themselves were always worth a look.

Street performers

Tango dancers

Picture of the Week

Southern Patagonia has been a wonder of nature.  Here’s a nice shot of Cerro Torre peak, from the trails near El Chalten, Argentina.  Go there.

Cerro Torre

The Super Trek

When our brief stint of luxury was over, we headed back to El Calafate and then back to the bus station in time to catch the afternoon bus to El Chalten. Wonderfully, our new friends, Bern, Dave and Jesse were on the same bus.

El Chalten is a hiking and climbing mecca. The famous Fitz Roy range (the range the Patagonia clothing logo is designed after) towers over the quaint town of Chalten. The little town’s population soars during the summer season as people come from all over the world to check this place out. Though El Calafate is a proper tourist town with all the restaurants and souvenir shops to prove it, El Chalten feels more like a frontier town with many of the roads still unpaved.

El Chalten

The hiking around town is extraordinary and you can literally walk from anywhere in town to the trailheads. There are two very popular hikes that people do and we all planned to do one the first day and one the second day, depending on the weather. The weather in all of Patagonia is notoriously unstable. We had been warned about rain, clouds, cold temperatures and wind being the norm and sunshine being an exception to the rule. We had lucked out in Torres del Paine, we had lucked out visiting the Perito Merino glacier earlier in the week, and we once again lucked out in El Chalten.

As the five of us headed out on what was meant to be a 6 hour (roundtrip) hike to Laguna Torre with a view of the majestic Cerro Torre peak, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. Even the ever-present wind was taking the day off. We were very appreciative of our luck and had a great hike to the view of Cerro Torre where we had lunch. On the way down, we got to talking and the group decided to take advantage of the amazing weather and press on towards the second popular hiking destination. The clouds can be so thick that they completely obstruct the view, so we decided to keep walking on the blue sky day.

Hiking to Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre, up close

Our hiking crew at Laguna Torre

The path we were on conveniently connected over to the other path and rewarded us with spectacular views of the Fitz Roy mountain range and a crystal-clear blue lakes along the way.

Hiking in the park

Rest stop

At another junction, the boys decided to head all the way up to Laguna de los Tres – the high view point for Fitz Roy. At the thought of an additional 3.5 hours of hiking on top of what we had already done, Jesse and I decided to head down.

We got back to town around 6:00 pm after a 10-hour, 16+ mile day of hiking, feeling pretty good about ourselves. We both got cleaned up and met for beers at the local brewery to wait for the guys. Little did we know that they wouldn’t roll in until just after 10 pm and 25+ miles of hiking! Luckily it stays light until after 10pm in Patagonia at that time of year because I wouldn’t have felt okay about them wandering in the dark. Jesse and I had just started to get worried when they arrived at the brewpub famished and exhausted.

Bern, Dave, and Ted

Laguna de Los Tres (covered with ice and snow)

The beginning of a LONG way down

We later learned that the full hike the guys did is known as the Super Trek. Needless to say the next day was a sleep-in and relaxation day.

For our last night in the area we decided to cook a big dinner at the hostel and drink some wine with all the fun new people we had met. As the night went on, we found our table growing larger and larger and before we knew it we were next door at the local tango bar! There were professionals on hand who were quite impressive, and many Argentine men who were happy to lead, and then there was our group that managed to have quite a great time with little to no tango knowledge whatsoever. It was a hilariously fun night and a great way to celebrate our last night in this amazing part of the world!

Family dinner and drinks

The Tango Party

Addendum – Our friend Dave is not a huge hiker, and the Super Trek basically broke his soul. Read his hilarious account of our day on his and Jesse’s blog.

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