“I’m worried about you guys,” said Serge, as he left last Sunday afternoon to go back to the Bay Area after a week’s visit with us in Buenos Aires. “I can’t believe you don’t have plans yet for Tuesday onwards…”
Tuesday was the day we were to leave the apartment we’d rented for a month in Buenos Aires, where we became wannabe porteños* and became experts at getting around everywhere by bus**; and learnt to make ‘sh’ sounds where other Spanish-speakers make ‘y’ sounds, as in “Me shama Uzbekcelia”, instead of “Me yama Uzbekcelia.”
We luxuriated in not having to pack our clothes in/out of the backpacks. We luxuriated in having mod cons of a dishwasher, washing machine and centrifuge*** in the apartment. We consumed copious amounts of steak, red wine**** and ice cream. We took lots of naps, watched lots of TV, surfed the net. I read the Complete Sherlock Holmes, plus reread almost all of Jane Austen’s works (there were lots of books in Spanish, English, French and German in the flat). We were sedentary, there were days we didn’t leave the flat, except to go out for our daily ration of steak, wine and ice cream.
We played host to Linda for two weeks, and Serge for one week. So we took them to La Boca and Uruguay.
I didn’t blog at all in that time. . .
Monday morning we woke up, looked at the map and decided we should go to Patagonia, as opposed to Medoza or Bariloche, since it would get more ‘crowded’ as the season peaked.
Monday afternoon we went to buy plane tickets at the airline office in downtown (the only branch that takes cash***** payments.)
Tuesday: we flew to El Calafate. Had patagonian lamb for dinner.
Wednesday: we visited the Perito Moreno Glacier in the southern part of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We lucked out with decent weather, but quite windy. Had patagonian lamb for dinner.
Thursday: we took a 2 hour bus ride to El Chalten, gateway to the northern part of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and did a 6 hour day hike to see Mount Fitzroy. We lucked out, it was not windy nor cold, and Fitzroy was clear, even if there were high cloud cover. I had patagonian lamb ribs with calafate berry sauce for dinner (It was called sweet and sour lamb on the menu!)
Friday: we did a 6-hour day hike to see Cerro Torre. We lucked out, it was sunny, not windy nor cold, and Torre was clear. Fitzroy and Torre are what’s on the Patagonia clothing logo. Had patagonian lamb . . . and chicken for dinner.
By the way, both the Fitzroy and Torre day hikes are relatively easy, and reward you with such incredibly stunning views. We decided we wouldn’t need to go to Parque Torre del Paine on the Chilean side of Patagonia.
Saturday: we did a 16 hour bus ride to Ushuaia. We had to cross in and out of Chile to get back to Argentina. I saw some guanacos, which are related to llamas. Ate centolla (king crab) for dinner.
Sunday: we did a 6-hour day hike along the coast in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. We lucked out: it was sunny, not windy nor cold. We saw lots of llao llao, also known as pan de indio, which looks like an orange ping-pong ball of a fruit, is edible, but grows as a fungus on trees. I didn’t try any. Instead, we had more centolla for dinner. Joe is going through steak withdrawal. He also sprained his ankle while jogging towards the end of our stay in Buenos Aires, so the two of us are hiking much slower than usual. (Or maybe it’s due to our age, or the fact that we’ve worn out our hiking boots so much in the past 5 months.)
Anyways, we are definitely rolling on the road again . . .
* Porteño is local term for a person from Buenos Aires
** There’s now an app for it, course, but the old school transportation geek in me loved the convenience and DIY challenge of the little Guia Transportes booklet, which has an street index, a Thomas Brothers-type grid map, and a turn-by-turn description of of every bus route so your could figure out how to get from any address to any other address in Bs. As. I don’t know why other cities don’t have the same. Maybe London A to Z has similar details, but not for riding the bus?
*** Centrifuge: Argentinians don’t typically have a machine clothes dryer that heats up. Instead they have a centrifuge, rather like the ones in the swimming pool locker rooms, where you put in your sopping wet swimsuit, and push the lid down for 5 seconds, and it emerges damp, but dryer than hand wringing. A largish one for an apartment operates by a switch, and the most common brand is “Koh-i-noor”
I was talking to a taxi driver about this and told him Koh-i-noor was the name of an Indian diamond that the British took when they colonised India and stuck it in a royal crown. “Ah the British . . . they are always such pirates . . .” he said. The
Falkands Malvinas War is still a bit of a sore subject around here.
**** When Serge was here, the three of us would usually order a bottle of Malbec (red wine), and comfortably finish it without getting too buzzed, i.e. 250 ml per person is good. (Linda is mostly a diet Coke person.) After he left, we realized that splitting a bottle between 2 of us was a bit more than we should drink: 375 ml per person takes more effort. But we don’t like wasting wine/leaving wine left on the table. . .
***** The official exchange rate is about 6 Argentinian pesos per $US 1. That’s what you get if you withdraw cash from an ATM, or use your US-issued credit card. However, the ‘blue market’ exchange rate is 9 to 1. It’s so widely accepted that both the official and ‘parallel” exchange rates are actually printed in the daily newspapers. You get this rate by changing greenbacks in person. So to get 30%-40% more bang for our bucks, we changed US dollars for pesos and paid for everything in cash. We have never used an ATM in Argentina. It’s long story, but has to do with the economic situation and the government’s clumsy policies to deal with it by putting more restrictions of foreign currency flows, rather than letting it float to the equilibrium in reality.