The Argentine Experience

Argentine Patagonia Sunrise

What a country! One month was just enough to really get a feel for Argentina; and yet not enough. It’s a place you miss as soon as you leave. You feel like that part of your soul has been denied a crazy, yet beautiful romantic journey.

The seductive tango, the gritty streets filled with young hipsters, the unbelievable quiet in the almost abandoned country, and the gorgeous regal mountains and glaciers earned permanent places in my heart. Such is the spirit of this Italian infused Latin culture.

It really seemed to be two trips; the cosmopolitan Buenos Aires and the absolutely stunning Patagonia (for the purposes of this review, includes Tiere del Fuego region). I spent roughly two weeks in each part, so I will split my narrative accordingly.

Buenos Aires

La Flor del Planetario

The trip included two stints in Buenos Aires; five days alone before Patagonia and nine days afterwards with Caitlin. I can safely say Buenos Aires is a town for lovers, and not the best place to be alone sans your spouse or partner (unless you are looking for wild nights). After a few days, I welcomed fellowship with some ex-pats I had met. Speaking of, it seemed like Americans were everywhere.

San Telmo Street Fair

The art can be good, but this is not what Buenos Aires is about. Instead think experiences! First of all, it’s a city that’s meant to be walked with gorgeous landscaped parks, beautiful people, and a gritty nature. While well tattooed with graffiti, the primary neighborhoods of Palermo, San Telmo, Recoleta, Puerto Madero and Microcentro are pretty safe so nights can be enjoyed, too.

The people of Argentina bestow kindness. The people tend to be very fair in complexion and look Mediterranean, showing strong European roots. There’s an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and corruption, and a healthy fear of the past amongst the people. But they go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Anti-American sentiment runs relatively low, though it’s still present. Like most foreigners, they hated George W. Bush.

The Tango

You can’t miss the tango culture in Argentina. Tango seems to mix Latin sound with Italian opera, a fitting mix given that 60% of the BA population has Italian roots (Even the Spanish is spoken with an Italian accent). The sounds of tango subtly weave their way through the streets. Dancers, street artists, clubs and shows revolve around tango. The romanticism of tango is well earned; it’s a sensual dance that pulls at your heart even watching from afar.

The food? Well, traditional parilla made me long for my childhood. Natural grass fed beef really does taste better, and so do milk products like ice cream. Speaking of, this is the best place in the world to get ice cream. Seriously. We found the local soul food joint – greasy empanadas! Man, were they good. Coffee was certainly better than most countries, though Starbucks has invaded. And the legendary caramelesque Dulce de Lece was outstanding.

The rest of the food I could do without; especially the Argentine pizza which pails in comparison to NY or real Italian pizza. And hit or miss service made eating out a variable proposition.


Guanicos in the Chilean Patagonia Mountains

For me, this was the real jewel of the month. Patagonia’s just stunning. All of the words cannot tell you the beauty of this place. But luckily, I took lots of pictures, so many that I will be editing Patagonia shots for weeks! The photos in this post are just a couple of early examples. Still here are some thoughts…

The region is somewhat dry, filled with desert air and a strange kind of tundra. It looks like Utah to some extent with wild wind and glacier cut landscapes. Crowning all of it lies the majestic Andes mountains, which have a blue hue to them. The forests are ancient, stunning you with their magical essence and invoking memories of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring.

It’s so peaceful out in the woods skirting the Andes. There are few people outside of the parks, and on legendary Rt. 40 we had periods of hours where we might see one or two cars. The 18 hour days and glorious, brief star-filled nights have such an amazing air of grace and serenity to them. It’s hard not to feel nostalgic whims about the great forces that created it all.

Monte Fitz Roy

By far, the best park with a fantastic set of views was Glacier National Park, just outside of the quaint El Chalten. Not visited by many, this place still has an air of rustic beauty to it, and the weather was permitting so I got some incredible photos of Monte Fitz Roy (above) and Monte Torre. It was during this segment that I got to walk on a glacier, which is a pretty crazy experience!

Perite Moreno Glacier

Speaking of glaciers, the Perite Moreno glacier (above) is everything it’s said to be. Sixty meter high and a couple of kilometers wide, this glacier is HUGE. Neighboring town El Calafate is a big tourist trap so look out.

Chilean Patagonia Sunset

Next was Chile, and the famous Torres del Paine park, some jokingly call it Earth of Pain. The W circuit trail goes through the valleys surrounding the two mountains above. It certainly can be painful, let me tell you. OWWWW! Unfortunately, we did not get good weather here, experiencing some of that true Patagonia wind and rain. Chileans seem much more business like in their park, which had pluses and minuses to that. Most notably, high costs and many more people. Neighboring town Puerto Natales was really neat and quaint.

Finally, I visited the End of the World, Argentina’s Tiere del Fuego and notably, Ushuaia, which sits on the Beagle Channel. At the Southern equivalent of Alaska’s Juneau, Ushuaia is the southern most city in the world. It’s port at this time of year features regular crises departing for the Antarctic peninsula.

Magellan Penguin

Just miles away from Cape Horn, this is a strange and mysterious part of the world. The Andes end here, literally descending into the placid Channel, crowning the body of water with snow caps. These waters are home to penguins, king crabs, seals and other unique forms of life. The weather was stunning, so we had great photos in the local National Park.

I hope you, too, get a chance to visit Argentina. I know this trip changed me, beyond giving me an opportunity to rest and reflect after the Livingston start-up and acquisition. It filled me with a desire to see even more, from completing U.S. Park visits to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons to dreams of new trips to yes, the Himalayas and New Zealand. And yes, maybe return to Argentina for a second visit.