A Travellerspoint blog

Ushuaia

Fin del Mundo

We left the steamy tropical rain forest and headed straight to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia. Ushuaia is at the tip of Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego. It is situated 1000 meters from Antarctica. It is known for its unpredictable weather and having four seasons in a day. We lucked out and had rather nice weater.
The first day we hiked to Martial glacier. We took the chairlift to the top for a spectacular panoramic view of the Beagle Channel.
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We tried to follow the trail but it was covered in snow and a fellow hiker warned us that a river flowed beneath. Without a guide we figured it was safer to turn back.
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The following day we took a boat ride through the Beagle Channel. We cruised past sea lions lounging on rocks. Incredible being so close to them. IMG_1007.jpg

We sailed past the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse which is often confused with the lighthouse at the end of the world.
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We disembarked to see the penguin colony. It was nesting season so all of the mother penguins were guarding their eggs and newborns from the predator birds. It felt like we were in a Discovery channel special.

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Ushuaia is a whimsical fishing village. There is far more to do there than I would have expected at the end of the world. Due to its location, the sun only set at 11pm and there was always a small portion of the sky that was never completely dark. Very strange experience.

We visited Tierra del Fuego National park and went for a beautiful hike along the lake.

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Ushuaia is one of my favorite places that I have seen. I am happy that we went there despite everyone saying to skip it in favor of other parts of Patagonia because it is "boring"

Posted by jackiekslp 16:06 Comments (0)

Iguazu Falls

Christina and I met at afternoon tea at Justo's house. I was having a conversation with someone when the cute Italian girl sat down next to me. A few minutes later we discovered that we both intended to go to Iguazu and then to Patagonia. We made the bold decision to travel together having known each other for all of 5 minutes. Was it a coincidence that she sat down next to me or was it the universe working its magic again? She and I made wonderful travel partners having so much in common.
After a short trip to Porto Alegre, Brazil for the weekend, we left Buenos Aires for our adventure. We took a flight to Iguazu and spent the night in the Argentinian side. Had we known better we would have seen Iguazu in a day/ day and a half tops rather than having 3 days there. The is very little to do in the actual towns.
The Argentinian side takes more time. You follow a train and walk along the falls.
The Brazilian side while more theme-parky has spectacular views facing the falls. The roar of the falls is deafening when you are right up next to it! You inevitably are drenched but it is welcomed in the intense heat. We took a boat ride under the falls which was fun and we were soaked!!.
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Posted by jackiekslp 06:44 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

I arrived in Buenos Aires on a gray rainy day. The taxi driver who picked me up at the terminal tried to scam me, but little did he know he picked a savvy new yorker. I only had 100 peso notes from the ATM. When he pretended I gave him a 10 and owed him more money, I called him on it. He took my bags and put them on the sidewalk. I refused to leave the vehicle until he returned my money and kept one leg in and had the other leg out so he could not leave. Some business men came to my rescue and demanded that he return my cash. I even profited from it as I had the 10 pesos he handed back to me.

Moral of the story...Don't mess with a chick from NY.
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I stayed at my friend Justo's place in Recoleta the first few days. Without Justo my time in BA would not have been the same. He found me an amazing apartment to rent near Plaza San Martin
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and introduced me to so many incredible people. Justo is a photojournalist who works for human rights in Kenya. He and his fiance Mechi will marry at an estancia (ranch) in the spring. I am truly thankful for everything they did for me while I stayed there.

Buenos Aires did not live up to my expectations. It's a nice enough city, but I had difficulty finding the pulse. It lacks the charisma of other great cities. But that is just my opinion and I will meet a lot of opposition to that opinion. People's impressions of a city are based largely on the people they spent time with and experiences shared. In that respect I had countless wonderful experiences and met SO many interesting people.

While there I did all of the necessary tourist things.

I went to Recoleta cemetery. Gigantic mausoleums, costing more than most homes, house important historical figures. I found it a bit creepy and felt very uncomfortable taking photos of people's graves.
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I went to the opening match of the 116º CAMPEONATO ARGENTINO ABIERTO DE POLO. Polo is an incredibly beautiful sport. The horses are majestic. The main event of the polo however often has nothing to do with the match. People watching seems to be the preferred spectator sport. The sport attracts hoards of beautiful and influential people.
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La Bomba de Tiempo: Every Monday night at Centro Cultural Konex
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there is an incredible Percussion group. Its crowded and hot but the rhythms are infectious. It was at La Bomba that I met Melissa (New Orleans) and Deborah (Belgium)
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who I ended up spending a lot of time with. I love percussion and even took a djembe lesson with a lead percussionist in the group, Cheikh Gueye. I am happy I took my friend Melissa with me since the lesson was in a sketchy part of town. If I had more time I would have joined his dance/drum troupe.
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Boca Jrs Match: We went with an organized group to a Boca Jrs match. Boca is the most popular football (soccer) team in BsAs. We sat in the cheap seats which are known for rowdy hooligans who taunt opposition fans with bags of urine and other shocking things. Gimnasia was no match for Boca, they lost 4-0. The match was more civil than I expected. We had to wait an hour after the match to leave so all the opposing fans could exit safely, riot prevention.

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San Telmo: Every Sunday in San Telmo is the famous market. There are many artisan jewelers hawking their wares. I was a big fan of a Chilean couples work in bronze and local stones and became their best customer.
The air is filled with the sounds of talented street musicians of different genres, including a tango milonga in Plaza Dorrego.
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There is an amazing bakery in San Telmo on Chile street. You wouldn't even know it is there since there is no sign and is not visible from the street.
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It is a tiny artisinal bakery with wonderful empanadas, quiches, tortas, pizzas, media lunas and other pastries. Everything in there was amazing. I brought a bunch of fun girls that I met there. Jen, Pia, Djeneba, Djokie, Melissa, and Deborah. We ordered one of everything and shared, eating on the curb across the street, attracting a lot of attention for our squeals of delight.
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Tango: My new Ozzie friend Cara and I went to a Tango milonga at Confiteria Ideal, one of the oldest and most beautiful places to see the tango. were impressed by the couples that came out for the afternoon, many clearly professionals. Most were older but dressed up and in heels none the less. We took a tango class there as well. She and I both prefer salsa over tango. We then went to a salsa party with an amazing cuban band.

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La Cabrera: THE most succulent steak in all of Argentina, quite possibly the world! Both times I went we ordered the Lomito. Those of you that know me know I don't really eat red meat, but for this I'll make the exception. It sliced like butter and melts in your mouth! It comes with so many little delicious sides, paired with a nice Malbec and you're in heaven!
It is also the only place with any business sense. While other places will turn you away from a seemingly empty dining room because it is "reserved". La Cabrera has chairs outside, and gives complimentary champagne and chorizo for the inevitable hour and a half wait.

I had my hair cut by Marcos Roman, stylist to the stars. I was in the company of some famous young Argentine singer who was getting a blowout for a video shoot.
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This was the first time I have been away for Thanksgiving. The holidays this year are not the same without my brother. My dad sent me beautiful flowers and I was able to speak to the family which was really nice. I organized a Thanksgiving dinner at Kansas restaurant with about 12 of my new friends. A traditional menu was served, turkey with all the fixings and sides. Our group was a melange from around the world. For many people it was their first Thanksgiving. At our table were 2 girls from Canada, 2 people from LA, a girl from Kenya and one from Ivory Coast, 3 Argentine guys, a Dutch guy and an American girl. We all took a moment to say what we were thankful for. It was a really special night.

Estancia day: Justo organized an Estancia day for us. He hooked us up with his cousins who have a ranch and hour and a half from BA. We ate asado, went horseback riding, had a sing-along, and I had a polo lesson. I have great respect for these athletes after trying to stay on the horse and hit the ball...not so easy.

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Christmas in Buenos Aires just didn't feel right. First off it's HOT. I have never been anywhere warm for Christmas and it doesn't have the same vibe without the chill in the air. I arranged to meet my family in Fort Lauderdale since getting to NY was crazy expensive and I didn't have any cold weather clothes. Also an opportunity to dump all the things I have accumulated and swap in some new clothes.

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After a month in BsAs, there are certain things that I wont miss...

Getting dripped on: by everything, trees, air conditioners, it seems you cant walk a few feet without some nasty wet surprise.

Dulce de leche: Portenos put this gooey caramel is EVERYTHING

Their inability to change 100 Peso notes

Raggaeton : in every club, bar, gym, taxi...the same 5 songs

Mullets and ratails

Back to the good ole USA...

Posted by jackiekslp 05:56 Comments (0)

Salta, Jujuy, Tolar Grande

Journey to a prehistoric planet

-31 °C
View Jackie's Journey Around the World on jackiekslp's travel map.

Aside from spending time with Carlos, Nadja and the Kaplan family, Cordoba was unremarkable. I was there for too long but maybe there was a reason. I thought I would be traveling to the north of Argentina alone but as fate would have it, Jenny, the Ozzie girl whom I met skiing, was going the same week. We arranged our plans to travel together. We met in Salta city. Salta is a quaint city with beautiful architecture and a charming plaza lined with restaurants.
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We arrived on a Sunday so everything was closed. Big mistake. We couldn't book any of the tours so we lost an entire day. A few hours intown are enough The north of Argentina is very poor. During a meal, there are always children who walk up to the table, placing socks, or pens or cheap objects, in hopes that someone will buy them.
We spent the entire day Monday consulting with every tour operator in search of something different than the cookie cutter tour. We arranged a tour of both Salta and Jujuy, and decided to extend the trip a few days, missing Halloween in Buenos Aires taking a chance on a little known, remote desert bordering Chile.
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Our guide picked us up in the morning. The first words out of her mouth were I don't speak much English. That set the tone for the day. We cursed Christian, the smooth talking, salesman with the toothy grin, as he had promised us someone who spoke really well. He also hadn't communicated to them that we weren't interested in the typical tourist circuit and had hired a private tour so that we could see the things we wanted. We specifically said we did not want to go to handicraft markets. We were incensed at the mere mention of buying them. We set off on our journey in silence. We first headed south to Cafayate in the Calchaquí Valley . There we hiked and dazzled over stunning rock formations like the Aphitheatro and Ganganta del Diablo.
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Our guide was so lazy and disinterested and we missed the best photo opportunities including the sunset we waited all day for.

We went to the town of Cachi, a small Spanish Colonial city with white Adobe homes.
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We explored the cactus (cardones) desert. IMG_3358.jpg

The next day we traveled back north to Purmamarca. We spent the night there in a small adobe town.

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Left with nothing else to do, we explored the handicrafts market. At this point I had reached my saturation point for ponchos and alpaca socks but Jenny found something she liked.

We got an early start to see the Cerro de los Siete Colores ( Seven Colors Hill ) which although very beautiful, was a disappointment as we only got out of the truck to take a photo from the road and continued on. Mountain of 7 colors (Jujuy)

Mountain of 7 colors (Jujuy)



We stopped in Salinas Grandes, the Argentine salt flats, which doesn't hold a candle to Uyuni. The salt has a yellowish tinge making it appear dirty. The contrasts between the sky and salt are less magical. Our guide again was in a rush to get home and flat out lied to us when we asked if we could drive across the desert to a more remote section. She told us that it was too dangerous and that we could sink.. As she was saying that a large armored truck made its way across. Lazy.

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We finished our tour in a dank little town called San Antonio where we were then picked up by our Tolar Grande guide. Instantaneously the trip turned around. Our guide was super enthusiastic, spoke English very well and was a lot of fun. We drove through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Puna. The driest desert in the world, we were fortunate to experience a rare occurrence of rain. Jose stopped for a sunset photo shoot in the stunning Desierto del Diablo in the Labyrinth.

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We stayed at the Refugio Municipal Afapuna, which (thankfully)was nothing like the one in Bolivia. There was heat, electricity and it was really clean. Jenny and I had the whole female dorm to ourselves.
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The village is tiny, but quaint. The locals take great pride in their village, they even constructed a lovely town square. We dined at the homes of the locals who were incredibly hospitable.
Tolar Grande

Tolar Grande

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I couldn't resist playing with the 3 year old girl, despite the language barrier, I was able to entertain her with the universal game of "which hand am I hiding something in".

Tolar Grande has only been on the tourist map for 2 years. I feel privileged to have been there before people discover it and ruin it.

We went to see the Ojos del Mar, turquoise pools in the middle of the salar which are rich in micro-organisms. Scientists are now studying these pools as they may contain some of the oldest known organisms.
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We hiked beautiful dunes at El Arenal which gave a stunning panoramic view. 
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80 Km away from the town, We hiked across oddly textured salt to see Cono de Arita, a perfect cone of black lava sal at the southeastern end of the salar of Arizano.

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Flavio was proud to tell us that he had won the race across the salar. Walking on the uneven surface was challenging so running across it is an impressive feat.

Tolar Grande truly is a place like no other. With such peculiar landscapes you feel like you are on another planet. It is so desolate you expect dinosaurs to go roaming by.

Tolar Grande is also home to Llullaillaco, the second highest active volcano in the world . In 1999, an expedition uncovered 3 naturally preserved mummified bodies of children that were sacrificed by the Incas 500 years ago. The mummies are astonishing and can be seen in the archeological museum in Salta. If you are interested here is a great article about Los Ninos. There is also a national geographic documentary which features many of the townspeople that we met during our stay.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/science/11mummu.html?_r=1

Posted by jackiekslp 12:59 Archived in Argentina Tagged educational Comments (0)

Update:

Hey everyone

Sorry I've gone missing again. I have fallen way behind! I am working on catching up so stay tuned!

Since my last entry I have been to Cordoba, Salta, Jujuy, Tolar Grande, Buenos Aires, Puerto Alegre, Iguazu falls and I am currently exploring the magical lands of Patagonia. Check back soon and I will have updates and photos.

I've been busy glacier trekking, kayaking fjords, hiking, horseback riding and enjoying nature and new friends. All is well and every day I think how lucky I am to have this opportunity.

I hope you don't all assume I've given up on this blog..

I promise I'll have something for you soon!

xoxo

Posted by jackiekslp 18:25 Comments (0)

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