Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
To whomever is still reading our blog, we sincerely thank you for sticking with us through our incredible journey and sharing in our experiences. This is the final blog post about our travels, a bit delayed (as we’ve been back home in London for a couple of weeks now), but better late than never. We slowed the pace down quite a bit in the last few weeks of our trip, mostly because we were exhausted but also because we actually managed to cover quite a lot and found ourselves with some spare time before our flight home, so it was really nice to just hang out and watch the world go by.
After our magnificent experience in Easter Island, it was time to fly south (and by south I mean we were practically in Antarctica!) to the wonderous region of Patagonia. It’s not just a popular brand of outdoor wear, in fact Patagonia is a vast region covering the southern parts of Chile and Argentina, known for its mountains, snow, ice and even more beautiful scenery! The world just keeps on giving, and we are eternally grateful for being on the receiving end of it.
After a quick stop over in the city of Punta Arenas (take a look on a map to see just how far south this place is), we took a trip into the famous Torres del Paine National Park, a place which in my opinion should make the top of list of the most beautiful places on Earth. The park is known for its “towers”, a set of jagged peaks towering ominously over vast expanses of creamy blue lakes, golden grasslands, monstrously majestic glaciers and any number of rare species of wildlife (including yet another relative of the llama – guanacos). This is one of those instances where words really can’t describe how beautiful the place is, but thankfully one of us Resignated Survivors knows how to press the buttons on a camera with immense skill and competence, so do please enjoy.
That marked the end of our stint in wonderful Chile, as we took yet another bus across the border into Argentina, our final country of the trip! Staying in freezing Patagonia (OK, it wasn’t actually THAT cold, but still colder than we’d been used to), we headed to El Calafate, gateway to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier. Most normal people choose to go and view this glacier from the comfort of a viewing platform that makes the thing easily accessible and provides stunning views of the vivid blue chunk of ice from afar. Often, the Resignated Survivors don’t like taking the easy way, so we opted in addition to actually hike ON the glacier itself! Madness! We strapped on our crampons to our boots and off we went, learning first how to navigate the treacherous terrain, before finally being confident enough to look up from the ground to realise how uniquely magical our surroundings were. I felt like an explorer trudging through the Antarctic to plant a flag at the South Pole! To top off the magical scene, the heavens opened and it snowed, coating everything in an extra layer of pillowy white and providing a scene reminiscent of north of the Wall (for those of you who don’t understand this reference, WHAT?!). As an additional treat, our guide went off with an ice-pick, and came back with a bucket full of shards that he placed in glasses and topped off with deliciously smooth whisky. A wonderfully novel treat that rounded off our experience perfectly.
We weren’t quite done with Patagonia yet (we were rather enjoying the cold having been sizzled over the previous months), and we travelled slightly further north to El Chalten, a tiny little “town” with a population of around five, but gateway to the infamous Mount Fitzroy and its surrounds. You can’t easily climb the mountain itself, but we chose to do some hiking around the area to take in the views, the lakes and to risk our lives on slippery and icy terrain for fun. It took us around three hours to reach the Laguna de los Tres (which really isn’t that close to Mount Fitzroy), but it was so windy and snowy and slippery (not to mention it was so cloudy that we couldn’t actually see the glorious peak) that we decided to turn around and go back before one of us slipped and broke a limb in the snow, or in case we didn’t make it back before dark (and we didn’t want another quicksand incident happening!). Nonetheless it was a wonderful day of hiking, the views along the way were most certainly not disappointing and it was great to be out in the fresh crisp air.
Our final stop in Patagonia was the quaint Swiss-style town of Bariloche. What a fantastically cool place, and a chocolate lovers dream! Every other shop is a chocolate shop, offering all manner of flavours, shapes and designs of the sweet stuff, it was like being one of the lucky children in Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Because we’d done so much travelling and hiking over the past weeks, we thought we deserved a bit of a treat and helped ourselves to all the hot chocolates we could get our hands on (my favourite was from the famous “Rapa Nui” chocolate shop, but Mr RS’s was from Mamuschka). It wasn’t the worst disagreement in the world to have, all the stuff was downright delicious! We also hired a car for a few days in Bariloche, where we drove around the area taking in the views, eating delicious food and enjoying the wine. We also took a day trip out to El Bolson, which is known for El Bosque Tallado, a creepy forest perched high up on a mountain where various artists have carved sculptures and statues into burnt-out tree stumps. I say creepy mainly because we were the only ones there, even the ticket booth was completely deserted and so we were left up to our own devices. Needless to say, we had a quick look at all the spooky but impressive art work, before traipsing swiftly back down the mountain to the sanctuary of our battered old VW.
Continuing north (and getting ever closer to our final destination of Buenos Aires) we landed in Mendoza, known mostly for being the principal wine region of Argentina, producing barrel upon barrel of the juicy, ruby red Malbec wine that we all know and love. After spending a couple of days wandering around the somewhat bland city centre, we headed further into the Maipu Valley to the beautiful Posada Verde Oliva, a gorgeous guesthouse which was previously the residence of a famous local winemaker, and our home for the next five days. We were lucky enough to have the entire place to ourselves, nestled in amongst vineyards and olive groves, and spent our days sitting by a roaring fire, sampling the local wines, biking around the wineries and eating basically everything unlucky enough to cross our path. It was so good we extended our stay twice, and we couldn’t recommend the guesthouse enough for those of you contemplating a trip to Argentina’s wine region.
Thoroughly relaxed and at least a couple of stones heavier, it was time to go to our final destination – the behemoth city of Buenos Aires. We holed ourselves up in a studio apartment in the bohemian district of San Telmo (conveniently situated only a couple of minutes’ walk from the San Telmo food market), and bided our time before it was time to say goodbye to the RSBA for good. We strolled around the city, experiencing the eclectic mix of districts from La Boca to Recoleta, watching a tango show and of course, experiencing the food in one of the world’s best capitals of gastronomy. In particular, one must try the choripan (Argentina’s answer to a hot dog), the empanadas, and the dulce de leche (of which we discovered there are many flavours). On Sundays, San Telmo hosts a fabulous antiques market, and we spent hours mooching around the endless stalls admiring in wonder at all the cr*p people manage to accumulate throughout their lives. Marie Kondo would surely have a field day! Beyond the city itself, we also took a couple of day trips to Tigre (which is perched on a delta and is great if you like things to do with boats and water), and to Colonia, an old colonial-style town in Uruguay which only takes an hour or so to reach by boat from Buenos Aires. The latter isn’t really that interesting but a great way to kill time if you find you’ve allowed yourself too many days in the big smoke, and you want another stamp on your passport.
We spent the final day of the RSBA hungover, thanks to some friends we made in Argentina who like wine as much as we do, but it was a fitting end to a life-changing trip for us weary travellers, as one of the best things about travelling is meeting and befriending people from all sorts of places and backgrounds. Although sad it was over, we were rather looking forward to landing back in dreary London to catch up with family and friends, to sleep in our own bed and to eat copious amounts of vegetables. We’ll follow up with another post in a couple of weeks once we’ve had chance to process this ridiculous thing we’ve been doing for the past nine months, with our final thoughts and advice for those of you contemplating following in our well-travelled footsteps.
The Resignated Survivors
Highlight of the week: Walking on the Perito Moreno glacier was one of the best things we’ve ever done, ever.
Other notable things: We visited the Trapiche winery in Mendoza, where we treated ourselves to a seven-course tasting menu with wine pairing. By far one of the most luxurious meals of our trip and undoubtedly one of the most delicious. Don’t miss this if you’re in the area.
Lessons Learned: Perhaps something learned gradually across the whole trip, but this city mouse really does feel her best when at one with Mother Nature.