I spent my first couple of weeks in Argentina in two places that couldn’t be more different. First, Buenos Aires with all of its culture, gritty glamor, bustle, heat, and humidity and then one week later flew to Ushuaia or ‘El Fin del Mundo,’ the main port of departure for cruises and expeditions to Antarctica. In one day I went from barely wanting to wear a sundress to four layers of clothing, including rain gear and a down jacket. Both places have been truly unique and wonderful in their own ways and it has been a fairly leisurely introduction to the country, which is really how you should see Argentina.
This city is big and busy and beautiful and dark and totally loco for tango! I was so happy to be able to stay with my friend, Allison, while I was here. It is one of the biggest cities I have ever been to so I felt pretty overwhelmed at first. Her experience as a 4 year BA resident and tango insider was indispensible. While I was in the city, I ate so well and watched tango in several non-tourist settings. Each day while Allison was busy teaching, I took in the city at an easy pace, maybe seeing one sight or going for a long walk then sitting at a cafe to read or write or taking a long 2 hour lunch. In the evenings around 10pm, we would go for a nice dinner and drinks, meet up with her friends, go out, or watch tango. It was a total trip one night to come back to the apartment to take a nap at 11pm so we could get up at 2am (when all the bars are closed in Seattle) to get ready and hit the town just as things are getting started…at 3am.
This was all a nice change of pace after my monkdom in Peru — waking up at 5 or 6am, hiking most of the day, not really drinking alcohol, eating mostly trail food, and hardly ever going to bed later than 10pm. (One night on the Santa Cruz trek I was actually in my sleeping bag at 6pm and asleep by 7pm because it was so cold and rainy and I was so tired).
Reconnecting with Allison after so many years was amazing too and it was great to have a break from hostels and spend some time in one place after such fast travel through Peru the previous few weeks. I really enjoyed my time and got to do nearly everything I really wanted to do:
- Visit the Recoleta Cemetary where Eva Peron and many other famous Argentines are buried in the most beautiful crypts you will ever see
- See Teatro Colon with its over the top mingling of French, German, and Italian architecture
- Bike around town to La Boca and the parks in Palermo
- Shop at the amazing San Telmo market
Oh, yes and sleep in and eat delicious food and watch tango almost every night. I think my favorite memory is watching queer tango in a small plaza in San Telmo. The three male dancers had such great chemistry and it was interesting to watch them change roles (from leading to following) back and forth so seamlessly. When they finished their final dance, the best part was watching the crowd go wild with cheering. It made me so happy to be from Washington, since we are finally (almost) as cool as Buenos Aires because same sex marriage is now legal!
After such a great week in BA, I finished my final night staying up way too late and kicking myself for booking an 8am flight. I made it, but when I got to my hostel in Ushuaia at noon I went straight to bed for a long nap. Before I left BA though, Allison had introduced me to a tango friend of hers she had heard was traveling to Patagonia, and coincidentally her friend was flying to Ushuaia the same day as me and staying at the same hostel. (Patagonia is a HUGE region so this was a pretty amazing coincidence). Asiya (Allison’s friend) is Russian, but has lived in San Francisco for 14 years and is now living in Buenos Aires for tango. The two of us hit it off right away and met up with her friend, Carlyne, a French woman who is also a tango dancer. Through her we met Stefanie, a super cool German girl. We were like the traveling United Nations and the four of us had so much fun together in Ushuaia — sharing great food, hiking, and sightseeing, but at a slow pace. You can do that here since it is daylight out from 3am to 11pm (Are you jealous, Seattlites?) and never gets truly pitch black.
Every day we would get up for breakfast at 9am and just see what we wanted to do based on the weather (which is constantly changing so you have to dress in layers and be prepared for anything). Then set off around 11am or even later and come back in the evening to relax. My favorite memory was the four of us joining a Dutch guy and a couple from Germany who had made a big pot of mulled wine and cookies for Saint Nicholas night on December 5, an important day during the Christmas holidays for them. We all sat around, talking, laughing, and playing games together. It was so crazy that we were all from different places, but got along so well and the night just flowed along naturally. It was one that I will not soon forget. So in short, for travel companions, Ushuaia has been really wonderful and I haven’t even talked about the scenery yet!
It is so beautiful here with mountains and ocean surrounding the city and sea birds everywhere (it probably sounds like home, but it is much more spectacular). While I have been here I have done lots of hiking, wildlife watching, camping, relaxing, eating, and enjoying the cheapest and best Malbec I have ever tasted. The landscape is so amazing and Asiya kept saying we were like the 4 hobbits walking through Middle Earth. My favorite part was camping in the Tierra del Fuego National Park for half of a week. It was so quiet and peaceful. The area where we were camped had mountain views you’d have to hike days for in Washington, with a stream winding through that was so clear and clean you didn’t even need to filter the water. It was also a prime bird watching spot with many species I have never seen before. We got to watch birds skimming across the water’s surface or paddling around and eating from the stream bed. There were also birds of prey swooping down and harrassing some of the smaller birds. It was like watching Animal Planet during dinner. And it was a free place to stay too (Argentina is expensive)! The nearby woods were magical and almost made me feel like I was in a Japanese garden with their delicate flowers, small scrubs, picture perfect streams, and twisted trees. They were wild, yet ordered in a way, and so serene. It was a bit jarring to come back to the city after such a quiet couple of days.
The last few days I have felt a bit antsy to move on since there is so much ground to cover in Argentina and you really have to plan your time and book things ahead (not like Peru where you can make it up as you go), which has stressed me out a bit. However, I have also really enjoyed some nice down time here (you definitely need to give yourself some days off from being a tourist) with Stefanie, who is finishing up her 6 month trip in only a week and returning to Germany. The two of us are so silly together and I think she is one of my favorite people that I have met. We have had a blast just hanging out at the ‘cheap’ cafe, taking walks, eating good food, or just being lazy at the hostel. Tomorrow we will part ways and she will fly to Buenos Aires and I will head to Punta Arenas with a pit stop in Tolhuin to camp for one night. It is crazy to think I will be in Chile soon (a whole new country). From there I will be meeting my friend, Jen, who I will be hiking the Torres del Paine with over Christmas.