We spent over a month in Argentina and fell in love with its diversity, food, wine, and amazing scenery. What an amazing country! The multicolored hues from Purmamarca up in the north impressed, and the horseback riding and white water rafting of Salta were fun diversions. Once we entered wine country (Cafayate and Mendoza), we found ridiculously cheap bottles of wine from vineyards and super markets alike. Bariloche, El Chalten, and El Calafate stunned with phenomenal scenery so beautiful it took our breath away. Ushuaia, famously known as the end of the world, was as picturesque as ever and we enjoyed our Emerald Lagoon tour while there. Puerto Madryn was a nice detour as we got to swim and play with sealions. Buenos Aires wowed with incredible night life and a vibrant city scene. And lastly, Iguazu Falls amazed us with its sheer size and scale. There are so many superlatives that can be used to describe Argentina but suffice it to say that we consider this to be our top South American country thus far and wouldn’t hesitate to return for another visit. Hasta la proxima vez Argentina!
La Casa Encantada, Purmamarca – campsite near the central square of the village. We set up our tents in the back yard area. There were 3 shared toilets and showers (cold water) for all of us. WiFi here was very slow and we had to gather near reception to get any signal. The bathrooms were a mess when we first arrived so we had to ask staff to clean them for us. This was a very basic campsite that was OK for 1 night.
Camping Xamena, Salta – a campsite approximately 6 km from the center of Salta located next to a massive empty swimming pool. Toilets and showers were inconveniently located near the entrance to the campsite, which meant we had a long 10 minute walk to reach the facilities (unless you could cut across the pool but staff yelled at you for doing that since it was against the rules). The bathrooms/showers were locked from midnight until 8 am (cleaning from 7 – 8 am). Hot water showers here were a nice bonus. No WiFi here. The campsite felt secure enough even though there were dozens of other campers so we didn’t leave any valuables in our tents. This was also a very spartan campsite but one of the cheapest options in Salta and fine for 3 nights.
Salta Rafting, Cabra Corral – a campsite located in the grassy yard of Salta Rafting, a whitewater rafting company located on the Las Conchas River. Wifi available here, but very weak and unusable. Seperate men’s and women’s shower/toilet facilities, although water was turned off overnight. This campsite was our worst one in all of Argentina because of the biting gnats, which left festering, itchy bites all over everyone’s exposed skin (especially ankles and fingers). We had to retreat to our tents to get any relieft from the bugs and they didn’t react to DEET. We were very happy to escape from this campsite first thing the next morning!
Camping Luz y Fuerza, Cafayate – a campsite located just over 1 km from the center of town, within easy walking distance. There were numerous camp dogs that adopted us here and escorted us to and from town. No WiFi here. The men’s and women’s bathrooms were seperate, and there were about 6 toilets and showers in each section, with hot water. There was a swimming pool but it had no water, which didn’t help in the heat. This was a comfortable and safe campsite to sleep at for 2 nights.
Los Colorados bush camp – not technically a bush camp because a man on a motorbike chased us down the dirt path and forced us to backtrack to pay a park fee for “Los Colorados” rock formations, which was where we ended up camping for the night. Zero facilities here and all trash had to be carried back out with us. Lots of prickly thorns to be aware of.
Camping Suizo, Mendoza – an oasis in Mendoza. Located a taxi ride from the city center, this campsite was cheap and cheerful. The staff was very friendly and helpful, offering up use of their plastic chairs and tables. Our tents were set up under grass hut canopies, and there were ample power points for our electrical needs. The bathrooms were seperate men’s and women’s, with hot water. WiFi here was decent and reliable. The staff put on movie night every night near the bathroom (with a white sheet and a movie projector). There was a swimming pool filled with water that we could use although the water looked a bit dingy. This campsite was a treat to sleep at for 3 nights.
Camping Petunia, Bariloche – a very nice campground a bus ride away from town. There were power outlets for our tents, and segregated facilities for men and women. Lovely hot water showers and lots of bathrooms so never a queue for the facilities. There were seperate sinks for laundry and dish washing. WiFi here was slow and only available near the reception. Above the reception was a warm and cosy lounge to hang out and party (to not disturb the campers). Camp dogs kept us company here.
Canadon Caracoles bush camp – this bush camp was in a beautiful spot, overlooking the mini salt flat down in the valley below. Enough coverage for a bush pee/poo and lovely to sleep under the stars here (a bit windy though). Quite a few prickly thorns here though.
Rancho Grande Hostel, El Chalten – two thumbs up for this hostel! Located in a great location for compact El Chalten, the hostel staff was friendly and helpful. Laundry (no matter the bag size) was only 300 Pesos. We were given a free upgrade to quad dorms whic were comfortable. Only 2 power outlets per room but we had an extension cord so no big deal. Locker space for our valuables, a shared kitchen, seperate male and female facilities, with lovely hot water showers (through a see through glass door). WiFi here was good and reliable and there was a restaurant and bar on site (discount for guests).
Hostel Glaciar Los Pioneros, El Calafate – this hostel is located a short walk from town. The quad dorm rooms are thoughfully laid out with a privacy curtain and power outlets (one per bunk). Loads of locker space. WiFi here was good and reliable. There was a common area kitchen. Very simple breakfast (bread, butter, jam, tea/coffee) included. Helpful staff helped us organize a taxi to the glacier.
Hostel Los Cormoranes, Ushuaia – Located high on the hill overlooking town, this hostel required hoofing it uphill which was tiring after a few days. The staff here is lovely and very helpful so that made up for the inconvenient location. Rooms were 6 bed dorms, with a shared bathroom. There were also common area facilities for women and men, but hot water ran out during peak usage. There was also a common area kitchen. WiFi here was decent and reliable. Breakfast (included) was fantastic – DIY eggs, toast, juice, coffe/tea/hot chocolate, cereal, oatmeal. We were able to organize a bus trip to the Emerald Lagoon here with a minimal surcharge.
Playa Supe bush camp – this bush camp was by the pebble stone beach. There were abandoned brick shacks that had seen better days hugging the coastline. Drunk locals aggressively drove up on our campsite at 2 am and started screaming which made us feel vulnerable as our tents were exposed and they could have run us over. Limited areas for a private bush pee/poo.
A.C.A. Camping, Puerto Madryn – this comfortable camp site is located about 3 km walking distance from town. We had power points for our tent, and were a short walk away from the segregated facilities. Hot water showers here. WiFi only worked near the bathroom area but it was weak and unusable.
Cascada Cifuentes bush camp – this bush camp was overlooking a lovely waterfall (free to visit). We set up our tents in a grass field and there were fireflies at night. Plenty of opportunities for a private bush pee/poo.
Milhouse Hostel Avenue, Buenos Aires – Make no mistake, this is a party hostel! We were given wrist bands (everything is charged to your room and settled upon check out). Our rooms were 8 bed dorms with lockers and an ensuite bathroom. There were common area toilets in the basement and rooftop area. Breakfast was included and consisted of 3 options (toast with spreads, scrambled eggs, or granola with yogurt). WiFi here was strong and reliable. Wear earplugs because there is a lot of noise coming from the dance floor late at night. Don’t order taxis from here because they are 4x the going rate – much cheaper to hire one directly from the street or use Uber instead.
Camping Yapeyu, Yapeyu – this was a comfortable campsite next to a river. The bathrooms looked a bit dingy but they were fine (flush bucket toilets and cold water showers). No WiFi available here. This was a very simple campsite but perfectly fine for 1 night.
Hostel Peter Pan, Iguazu – Located in the center of town, within easy walking distance of restaurants. There was a swimming pool here, and rooms were 10 bed dorms split between 2 rooms, with an ensuite bathroom. There were common shared bathroom with toilets and showers. Breakfast (included) consisted of toast with spreads, coffee/tea/hot chocolate. WiFi only worked near the reception and was weak.
28 Oct – Mojo Riverbed Bushcamp – Purmamarca, Argentina
The border crossing into Argentina at Villazón was ridiculous. Slow line to get stamped in (we were never stamped out of Bolivia) and we had to take everything off the truck for inspection. What a cluster fuck since our shit is spread out in the locker. Needless to say, we were the last ones off. Poor customs dog was scared of Spongebob. I felt poorly all day and managed to get some tuna down for lunch. Laying on the beach helped, and by late afternoon, we reached Purmamarca. The first campsite pissed Danny off so we went to a different place, La Casa Encantada. 3 shared toilets and showers, slow WiFi. We set our tent up on the patio with Bert and Ernie (Alli). Chili con carne for dinner at 9:30 pm. Hopefully I don’t regret eating it tomorrow!
29 Oct – Purmamarca – Salta
Danny, Amanda and Bert made pancakes for breakfast. We packed up our stuff before leaving to hike the free lookout point of the colorful mountain of Purmamarca. Afterwards, we hung out in the center of town for free WiFi and ATM withdrawals. We were only able to withdraw 8000 and got charged 640 for the privilege. What a ripoff! At noon, everyone loaded up on the truck for the drive to Salta. 3 sweltering hours later, we pulled into a mall where Rob, Tom, Brad and I had to do cook group shopping. We got cheese, pasta, juice and cereal under budget and had time for a milkshake before heading to camp at the Xamena swimming pool. Massive pool but too bad it was empty! We made garlicky mac and cheese with Izzy’s help as Brad wasn’t feeling well. Afterwards, Will set up movie night and we watched The Goonies. Took a late night shower but was a bit paranoid that someone could walk in on me so kept the curtain peeled back so no surprises. Mosquitoes tore into us all night and had a feast.
30 Oct – Salta
Got up to set up breakfast at 7:30 am. Bert, Alli, Rebeca, Hanna, and Brad were not feeling good this morning so it was a small turnout for breakfast. Afterwards, we helped refill the water containers before a quick shower and a visit to town with Amanda. Hopped in a taxi to the cable car for a ride up to San Bernardo Hill, which had a fine vista of the city. Walked through a souvenir market and through the park over to San Francisco convent. Dating back to 1882, the building was quite eye catching. Then a stroll over to the main square, which was quite picturesque. We grabbed a lunch special for 280 (appetizer, main, dessert and drink) which was good value. ATM withdrawals was on our minds but we only managed to take out 4000 with a 640 withdraw surcharge. Good thing we have Charles Schwab! After lunch, we visited the archeological museum of high mountains, which had a display of 3 mummies found in 1999 at 6700 meters, one of the highest archaeological sites in the world. The mummies have been perfectly preserved and only 1 of the 3 are on display on a rotational basis. A ride back to the campsite cost 120 and we had a brief siesta before joining the gang to shop for a Halloween outfit for tomorrow. I got a happy face outfit and Robby scored a Batman costume, total price 900 ($14). Dinner at El Viejo Jack was scheduled for 8 pm and we split a steak.
31 Oct – Salta
Got up at 8 to get ready for horseback riding pickup at 9. Half the group wore Halloween costumes to the ranch. Our driver was a bit of a dick when he was asked to stop to buy drinks and refused on three separate occasions. Will had the magic touch and got the driver to agree to stop finally so that people could buy Gatorade. At the ranch, we were served breakfast and then quickly outfitted for horses. Then we were off. It was fun riding around for 2 hours and then we took a short break. Anyone who wanted to gallop was welcome to. My first time trying it and it was so much fun. Back at the ranch, red wine was free flowing and meat was on the grill. It was a feast, with several rounds of meat being served along with sides (pumpkin, corn, beans, salad, tomatoes, etc). Back in the courtyard, we drank some more until we had to load up at 4:30 pm. It took an hour to reach the campsite and the party continued until dinner at 6:30 pm of cheese, crackers, salami grapes. Fabulous simple dinner and everyone was having a great time. Two Belgians joined us for dinner and they helped flap our cutting boards in return. In our sleeping bags by 8:30. Great day today!
01 Nov – Salta – Cabra Corral (Salta Rafting)
Got up for breakfast at 7:30. Cook group made scrambled eggs with blue cheese served with tomatoes and a wrap. Drove to the Libertad mall for cook group shopping and we stocked up on alcohol. Helped Danny unload his cook group shopping under the floor boards and drove about 2 hours to Salta Rafting. Loads of itchy biting bugs here so lathered up with DEET while waiting for lunch and rafting at 3 pm. Cook group made pasta for lunch, very nice to get a hot meal. Rafting at 3 was fun. First a quick briefing on what to expect, then 2 hours rafting down the Rio Pasaje o Juramento with Tom, Jeremy, Brad, Izzy and our guide Majo. Afterwards, we had a 25 minute ride back to camp, followed by a quick shower and a photo review where we decided to splurge on the pics (600 Pesos for 80 pics). Cook group was amazing tonight, cooking under the most extreme conditions. Black gnats swarmed us and bit any exposed skin. They suffered multiple bites to make us fried rice with chicken. We retreated to our tent immediately after washing our dishes. Early night by everyone because of the bugs!
02 Nov – Cabra Corral – Cafayate
Woke up as close to breakfast time as possible because the killer bugs were out in force. Granola and yogurt on the menu today and all of us were eager to leave ASAP at 8:30. This morning’s drive from Salta to Cafayate was supposed to be the prettiest of the trip and I managed to sit next to a window for 20 minutes before Lisa felt sick and we had to swap. 0 for 2 sitting in that coveted window spot! We made two stops along the way, one at the Devil’s Canyon and the second at the amphitheater. A water gun fight ensued and poor Danny ended up a major casualty when he tried to duck away from the water and got smacked hella hard in the head by the truck door, resulting in a concussion. So Will drove straight through to Cafayate to take Danny to the hospital for a head scan. Jason and Rebeca stayed with Danny while the rest of us went to Camping Luz y Fuerza to set up tents and have a truck lunch of tuna/corn, cheese, salad sandwiches. Danny, Jason and Rebeca returned just as lunch was wrapping up and at 2:30 pm, Will led us to town for ATM withdrawals and a beer drinking session. Cafayate has a lovely town square and we found a bar with cheap beer and empanadas to chill at. Rain started pouring down and we got drenched in no time so we relocated under the patio and continued drinking and eating. Cook group made egg fried rice in the rain and we had a late dinner at 8. The rain, thunder and lightning continued until late, with lightning striking relatively close. A bit scary to be honest!
03 Nov – Cafayate
Up before 8 am for breakfast of fruit and bread with dulce de leche. We both had to do cook group shopping, breakfast, lunch and dinner on a 3700 Peso budget. Thankfully the local market was open on a Sunday morning so it was easy to do our shopping (spaghetti bolognese for dinner, cereal and yogurt for breakfast and deli meat and cheese for lunch). Danny gave us 100 Pesos to catch a taxi back to camp which was appreciated because we had brought ice which was heavy. After unpacking, a group left with Danny for a cheap wine tour. I joined Will, Cam, Bert, Alli, and Tom for lunch. A meat and cheese platter with a plate of steak and chips plus fresh squeezed OJ cost 640 Pesos. Great value for only $10. We linked up with the wine drinkers at the Casa de Empanadas and hit Bodega Nanni. A bottle of wine was 240 Pesos and we enjoyed a leisurely drink in the garden. Next up was Bodega el Transito, which cost us 50 Pesos for 4 different wines. Walking back to the campsite took a while with plenty of drunk detours. Cook group made sausages for dinner which was a hit. Early night since we had started drinking early.
04 Nov – Cafayate – Los Colorados Bushcamp
Got up for breakfast at 6:30. Our “guard dog” had slept on our front porch all night long and had protected us from other strays. We had cereal for breakfast and I gave our dog my leftover milk which he gulped down. Once he realized we were abandoning him, this look of complete sadness overtook his entire body he curled up into a dejected ball. On the road by 7:30 and it was a long drive day. The goal was to drive to bush camp tonight and get to Mendoza before dark tomorrow. The scenery changed from vineyards to mountains to a jungle valley. Truck lunch was in a nice shady spot, minus the giant black ants. The afternoon drive was long and hot, especially for the people on the passenger side of the truck where the sun was roasting them. I read Hemingway’s “The old man and the sea” which was a very enjoyable read. By 6 pm, Will had pulled into Los Colorados for a bush camp, but a man on a motorcycle chased us down and insisted we turn around to pay the entrance fee as it was a park. Danny tried to convince him to take him on the motorbike but the man forced Will to drive Spongebob back to the main road. A skeletal dog appeared and looked like it was on death’s door. The people here obviously don’t feed it. Robby and Alli had an airplane challenge until Jeremy smashed the paper plane. So Robby got his revenge by tickling Jeremy’s ear…he got away with it for a while before Jeremy figured it out. Our bush camp site was beautiful, except for the prickly thorns. My cook group (Tom, Rob, Brad and Danny helping) made spag bol which turned out excellent with a bottle of red wine donated by Danny. After dinner, Izzy organized a trivia game night. Teams were chosen at random, names out of a hat, and prizes were given for the best team name, best performer out of 3 rounds of questioning, and a prize for 5 cryptic cities challenge. Izzy was an excellent quiz master and it was evident she had put in a ton of effort into organising trivia night. Everyone contributed 50 pesos towards the prizes and fun and laughter were had by all. It was 11 pm by the time we ended up in bed.
05 Nov – Los Colorados Bushcamp – Mendoza
Woke up early for breakfast duties…washed and chopped papaya, apples and bananas. Robby took the tent down by himself and we were on the road by 7 am. Tom and I jumped on the beach and had a nice siesta because it started raining hard. Great timing to leave early! First stop at a gas station had clean toilets with toilet paper, soap and paper towels…luxury! A group of hard core monopoly munchers played all morning long and continued after lunch. Lunch was a quick one by the road side…deli meat and cheese with avocado tomatoes and shredded carrots. A mama dog came by and scored lots of food…buttered bread and leftover ham and cheese. Lucky dog! We reached Mendoza’s Walmart before 3 pm and had time to drop off dirty laundry to wash and shop for snacks. There was a Black Friday sale going on and the lines were ridiculously long but we got some great deals on alcohol, snacks and toiletries. Camping was at Parque Size, which actually had a swimming pool and WiFi. Dinner tonight was burgers…yum!
06 Nov – Mendoza
Woke up at 8:30 am for breakfast at 9. Danny offered to pick up laundry at Walmart so we gave him our slip with money. The plan was to link up at 10 for a ride into town for wine tasting. But the Walmart crew took a while to get back so we ended up leaving at 11. Jeremy ordered an Uber so we rode in with him and Rebeca. The wine bar wasn’t where it was supposed to be so we decided to get lunch instead, walking through Independence Park to La Lucia Restaurant, reputedly one of the best parrilladas in Mendoza. We ordered 450 gram sirloin steaks and Rebeca got the mixed grill platter for 1 and Jeremy ordered the tenderloin. The group eventually stumbled upon us and decided to join the meat party. Food here was excellent, our medium steaks were cooked to perfection and only cost $13. Everyone seemed to enjoy their steaks and wine and we left at 3 pm feeling stuffed and happy. The wine bar seemed a bit pricey at 370 Pesos for a tasting so we opted to hail a cab to Walmart to pick up our laundry and had the same cab driver take us back to the campsite. Nap time for a few hours since Spongebob was still out getting new pillows, and then a very drunk group came back from the wine bar and the hair dresser. Robby joined Danny on a trip to the nearby grocery store but they ended up hitchhiking to Walmart. Cook group (Alli, Jeremy, Jason) was a bit drunk so dinner of vegetarian couscous was served at 9 pm. Everyone was in bed before 11 pm…seemed like a fun day for all.
07 Nov – Mendoza
Got up at 8:30 for breakfast before our 9 am truck clean. I got dry food under the floor boards duty along with Rebeca, Hanna and Rob. It wasn’t too bad sorting stuff out and everything was done by 11. Danny started the BBQ shortly afterwards and we started drinking some of our alcohol (18 bottles!). Late lunch/early dinner was great, and we were stuffed by 3. Perfect for a siesta. Robby and Tom had a pool party and Robby narrowly missed smashing his teeth and injured his ribs instead. Way too much rum was consumed and all were in bed by 10 pm, except Rebeca, Jeremy, Alli and Bert who were at their fancy dinner with the celebrity chef.
08 Nov – Mendoza – Santiago, Chile
Up early for a 6:30 am departure to Chile. Spectacular drive with gorgeous views. The border crossing wasn’t too painful although we did have to offload everything.
08 – 13 Nov: In Chile
13 Nov – Pucón – Bariloche, Argentina
Best and easiest border crossing of the trip as it only took a few minutes to get stamped out of Chile and back into Argentina. They didn’t even ask to look at our bags! Will had a slight problem with his passport…apparently a few years ago in 2015, he overstayed his tourist visa by a few days because of emergency back surgery. Well, Chile finally caught on about it with their computerized system. All clear after a few minutes delay and we were allowed to continue. I took a nap on the beach with Sam and it was a gorgeous drive until our lunch stop by the side of the road. After lunch, the views continued so Will pulled over for a few photo stops. We pulled into Bariloche and did a quick cook group shopping session. Giles, Brenda, Ivan and I decided on chilli for dinner and scrambled eggs for breakfast and Danny gave us 4500 Pesos. We were under budget and returned almost 1200 Pesos back to him. Our campsite for the next 3 nights is Camping Petunias. After setting up our tent, a local lady gave us a rundown on various activities in the area. Super pricey so we opted out and decided to join Jason and Hanna for a day of sightseeing on our own. Dinner preparation didn’t take too long and the chilli was a hit. A lovely hot water shower was in order afterwards and it was another chilly night snuggled up in my sleeping bag.
14 Nov – Bariloche
Happy birthday Robby! Breakfast of scrambled eggs with mushrooms, ham, tomatoes and cheese was a hit this morning and clean up was done by 9:30 am. Cam had bought some birthday decorations and I decorated for Robby’s birthday. We linked up with Jason, Hanna, Ivan, and Brenda to visit the Cerro Campanario at 10:30, sharing 2 bus passes between the 6 of us. As we quickly discovered, each ride costs 35 Pesos, so we didn’t have enough to return back to town. But first, the cable car ride. We hadn’t realized it was a ski lift to the top of the mountain, and the views from the top were hands down best bang for the buck. Just drop dead gorgeous, easily one of the top panoramas in the world. We took loads of photos and then had a hot chocolate and brownie in the cafe afterwards. Everyone seemed exhilarated by our decision to visit here and Robby solved the bus pass dilemma by volunteering to top off our cards at a store 2 km away. We just had to time it right to meet him down at the bus stop in time. Our timing was perfect and we only waited a few minutes for him to show up with bus passes in hand. 30 minutes later, we were in Bariloche where the first order of business was for Brenda to exchange some money. Then it was lunch time and we decided on La Casa de la Hamburguesa while Brenda decided to picnic in the park. Our burgers were cheap and delicious and we really liked our waiter. After lunch, we tried to get money out of the ATM machine but it ate our card. Hopefully we can resolve it tomorrow when the bank opens at 8 am. After taking some photos by the lakeside, we hopped on a bus back to camp. A drunk man got on the bus and started harassing Hanna but got quiet when Jason stepped up close to him. We had a few hours to siesta before heading back into town for the 8 pm reservation at La Marmite, famous for its fondue. Dinner was fantastic…everyone showed up except Brenda, Brad, and Futoshi. Robby was really touched everyone made it to his party…birthday hats for all, and Danny bought him a bottle of wine, and he got a Route 40 tshirt. Fondue was delicious with meat and vegetables to dip in (we shared with Danny and Amanda). Our waiter was phenomenal, busting his ass the entire night. It was one of Robby’s most memorable birthdays all thanks to our Oasis family!
15 Nov – Bariloche
Cold rain was pelting our tent in the morning and we weren’t motivated to get out of our warm cocoon. Danny had promised breakfast at 9 but that was before he stayed up until 4:30 am drinking and chatting on the truck while everyone winded down from Robby’s post-birthday celebrations. So no breakfast, but Robby did set up the gas stove for hot tea. We were keen on retrieving our ATM card while the bank was open during morning hours so we wanted to head off into town despite the rain. So we donned our rain gear and hopped on a bus with Emily and Mitch tagging along. In town we went our separate ways. Getting our bank card back was relatively easy. The security guard took Robby’s ID back to a bank representative and our ATM card emerged a few minutes later. Thank goodness! Afterwards, we had hot chocolate at McDonald’s while we used their free WiFi to back up photos and see what the deal was with the escape room on the group chat. A stop at a chocolate shop for free samples led us to buy several boxes for presents later and once we emerged, the rain had stopped and blue skies were around us. So we ran down to the waterfront for a few photos before deciding to get Patagonian lamb for lunch. The restaurant, La Esquina, was packed with locals and we had to wait 20 minutes for a table. It was well worth the wait…our lamb was insanely good, full of flavor. With drinks and tip, our meal came out to $24, great value. The bus ride back to camp was crowded but it eventually cleared out. I fed the camp dogs my leftover lamb bones and got loyal companions for the day. They escorted me down to the lakefront and we played fetch before exploring a bit. After getting my fill of doggy time, I had a hot shower which felt amazing. The blister on my heel had been bothering me but Sam gave me a bandaid which helped significantly. Cook group made minestrone soup for dinner which was simple but good. Danny was keen on doing another escape room so 6 of us joined him (Keith, Ivan, Amanda and Tom). We were supposed to go to the more popular Escape Room in town but a large group of 30 teenagers rolled in and the staff conveniently messed up our reservation. So Danny took us to the Escape Games bar which had a series of horror themed rooms. We chose Hannibal and it was all in Spanish, which added an extra layer of complexity. But it was loads of fun and we managed to escape with 8 minutes to spare. Back to the campsite by midnight and in our tent shortly afterwards…a fun and relaxing day!
16 Nov – Bariloche – Futaleufú, Chile
Breakfast of pastries and yogurt so we were on the road by 8. It was a long drive south towards Futaleufu, over 350 km. Lots of reading, napping and watching tv. The border crossing at 2:30 pm was easy leaving Argentina, although they did have a sniffer dog check the truck for drugs.
16 – 20 Nov: In Chile
20 Nov – Puerto Río Tranquilo – Bush camp, Argentina
We drove less than an hour to exit Chile and enter Argentina. Super easy and smooth border crossing and we didn’t even have to remove our bags for inspection. About an hour after entering Argentina, we pulled into La Anonima, a decent sized supermarket for Robby’s cook group to go shopping. I bought a bunch of wine for Robby as well as snacks, total bill for 9 bottles of wine, 6 snacks and 2 chocolate milks was $42. Not too shabby. The Ruta Nacional 40 was a very smooth ride, and Will made up for lost time. We had only covered 235 km up for the first 8 hours of travel, but Will drove us an additional 100 km in 90 minutes once we left the supermarket. Our bush camp was in a spectacular location, near Canadon Caracoles which had a small salt flat with massive, jagged cliffs. Cook group made chicken risotto for dinner which was tasty. It was very windy here so the extra blanket on the truck will come in handy.
21 Nov – Bush camp – El Chaltén
Cold night last night but the woolly blanket was an excellent investment and it kept me warm and toasty. Cereal for breakfast so it was an on time departure towards El Chalten. Long drive day today as we had to cover nearly 600 km. We saw an amardillo, rheas, and guanacos on the long drive in between a lot of reading and napping. Lunch was egg sandwiches and then we drove some more. As we neared El Chalten and caught our first view of Mt Fitzroy, the excitement on the truck grew to a fever pitch. Photos were snapped, smiles shared and everyone started to make plans for the next two days. Spongebob sputtered into our home for the next 3 nights, Rancho Grande, due to a potential clutch issue. We hurriedly checked into our quad room with Jeremy and Rebeca and took showers before turning in laundry (300 Pesos for a large bag). Then we hiked out to the nearby waterfall, Chorillo del Salto which was nearly 4 km away. We had intermittent rain but it was a pleasant walk and we saw a skunk that didn’t pay any attention to us. The waterfall was quite pretty and worth the short hike. Back in town, we had dinner at Ahonikenk restaurant which had massive portions at decent prices. The lamb schnitzel was huge and the 350g steak seemed enormous. We left feeling stuffed and happy. Even at 9:30 pm, it was still light out. We decided to sleep at a decent hour since tomorrow will be a long full day.
22 Nov – El Chaltén
Today was an epic day, one of our favorite of the trip to date. We woke at 6:30 am to get ready for Mt Fitzroy. I had read about an option to take a bus or taxi to Hosteria El Pilar and hike up to Mount Fitzroy before hiking back down to El Chalten. The bonus was avoiding the steep initial hike from town and cutting one km off our total route. Jeremy and Rebeca were keen too so we asked reception to call a taxi (1500 Pesos) and split it 4 ways. The first section of the hike was so picturesque and we were thrilled with our decision. The 2 km, 450 meter elevation gain ascent up to the top was tough but thankfully, we beat the crowds and the pain only lasted an hour. At the top, clouds obscured the peaks we had come to see but 20 minutes later, we had a marvelous view. Just stunning. After taking some group photos, we hiked over to the second lake and we surprised to see that it wasn’t frozen! The return hike to El Chalten reinforced our opinion that we made a stellar choice on not backtracking the route…sections were muddy and slippery, unlike this morning’s initial hike from El Pilar. Back at the hostel, we took much needed showers, turned in combined laundry, and walked over to La Oveja Negra for steaks. Delicious and we were stuffed afterwards. It was an early night tonight for us after nearly 9 hours of hiking.
23 Nov – El Chaltén
A rare morning to sleep in today so we took advantage of it. Our original plan was to have waffles for breakfast but it didn’t open until 11 am so we decided to head over to the visitor center and hike up to the condor lookout point while keeping an eye out for armadillos. Didn’t see any armadillos but a condor did soar overhead. The views were magnificent and we arrived back into town just as La Wafleria opened. The steak with creamy mushrooms and blue cheese was just as good as it sounds and our milkshakes were tasty. I thought the chocolate banana waffles were smothered in chocolate and didn’t really care for them…death by chocolate! Back to the hostel to relax, download photos and research swimming with orcas in Norway. Dinner was a revisit to the restaurant next door, La Oveja Negra (the black sheep) where the lamb for 2 was really enough for 3! So much food and we left stuffed. Talked to Jason and Hanna about visiting the Perito Moreno tomorrow by taxi since the weather is supposed to be better and they are in. Watched 2 episodes of Jack Ryan which is a record for Robby since he normally falls asleep! Sad to leave El Chalten tomorrow but excited to see Argentina’s most famous glacier.
24 Nov – El Chaltén – El Calafate
The best day today! We left El Chalten at 9 and drove 3 hours to El Calafate. There were 2 cute Patagonian foxes by the roadside and we stopped for photos. Once in Calafate, we got the room situation sorted out (free dorm upgrades for us all) and asked the receptionist to call 3 taxis for us. The quote was 4500 Pesos per taxi and everyone was keen. We were with Jason and Hanna, Rebeca & Jeremy were with Tom & Sam, and Bert & Alli were with Mitch & Emily. It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and blue skies. Much nicer weather than what is forecast for tomorrow. The Perito Moreno glacier was even better than anticipated…massive, picturesque, and awe inspiring. Icebergs dotted the river and the boardwalk offered amazing views throughout. We were lucky capturing a massive section of the ice calving before our eyes…so powerful! No wonder boats aren’t allowed to get super close to the glacier. Our driver had organized a pickup at 5:30 pm to return back to El Calafate and it gave us enough time to gaze at the glacier from different angles. Back in town, we asked to get dropped off at a supermarket and bought some food for dinner. The hostel had a nice kitchen but limited cutlery so we borrowed from Spongebob. After dinner, we finally finished Jack Ryan season 2 which was very good. No big plans for tomorrow except to celebrate Jeremy’s birthday.
25 Nov – El Calafate
Lazy day today. We slept in while it rained and were super smug about visiting the glacier yesterday. After a simple breakfast of tea and bread with jam, we hopped back into bed and confirmed our Norway orca booking. Worked on the website for a while and sorted through some photos. Dinner for Jeremy’s birthday was scheduled for 7:30 pm at La Marca, a BBQ joint. We ate the mixed meat platter for 2 which was enough food. Jeremy enjoyed his birthday dinner and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too. We sat next to Izzy and Keith who kept us fully entertained all night long.
26 Nov – El Calafate – Puerto Natales, Chile
Drive day towards Puerto Natales today. Everyone seemed keen on new seats so bags were shuffled around and we adjusted. About 10 km before the border, a handful of protestors were burning a tire but they waved at us as we passed. At the border, Danny said to grab our big bag out after we were stamped into Chile. Some people left their seat cushions upright, just begging the customs inspector to order everyone to offload all bags. Pretty stupid and it annoyed me to no end.
26 Nov – 2 Dec: In Chile
02 Dec – Bushcamp – Ushuaia, Argentina
Thankfully, getting stamped out of Chile and entering into Argentina was a breeze with no luggage being inspected at either customs office. From the border, we drove to Panaderia La Union, considered the best bakery outside of Ushuaia. Here, everyone loaded up on snacks and munchies for lunch as Danny advised us we still had over an hour until we reached Ushuaia. The drive towards the “end of the world” was scenic and pretty, and we had a brief photo stop before taking a group photo at the Ushuaia entrance marker. Then a short ride into the city where we found our home for the next 3 nights, the Hostel Los Cormoranes. Danny separated us into our respective rooms and we were sharing with Brad, Izzy, Brenda and Amanda. No heavy snorers thank goodness! The hostel staff greeted us with cold pizza and beer/coke and gave a quick briefing on our activity options here in the city. They offer a shuttle to the Emerald Lagoon for 600 Pesos which is the only thing we are interested in. After attempting to take a shower (water too cold), we just hung out and got caught up on WiFi before taking a lukewarm shower and joining the group at the Dublin Irish Pub. We drank a shandy in honor of Tom’s grandma Sylvia and spent the rest of the night watching Danny and Sam get drunk on tequila shots. It was a fun night and we were ready for bed by midnight when we struggled back up the hill. Thankfully we figured out how to get back into the hostel because the front door was locked by the time we returned.
03 Dec – Ushuaia
The hostel has free breakfast from 8 – 10 am so we helped ourselves to DIY eggs (scrambled), toast, cereal, oatmeal, hot chocolate, and juice. Pretty good for a freebie! We were ready to go for our Emerald Lake excursion before 9 am and found out that the shuttle didn’t leave until 9:45 am so we were way early! Ivan, Tom, Rob and Lisa decided to join us so the 6 of us hung out until our pick up. The bus driver drove around town picking up other passengers and eventually we were dropped off at the parking lot near the start of the hike to the lake. Unfortunately for us, we followed everyone else on our bus and no one knew where they were going! So we got hopelessly lost in the woods, detouring a solid 4 km away from our originally intended route! Once we realized our mistake, we had a choice…backtrack to the parking lot and start over again or just forge ahead into virgin territory and hope for the best. You can guess what we did, yup…we forged ahead. Boggy terrain soaked our feet, thorn bushes tore at our skin and the trail was non existent but at least we weren’t back tracking! What was supposed to be an easy 1 hour hike evolved into a challenging 2.5 hour ordeal but Tom, Ivan, Robby and I eventually emerged to the Emerald Lake and felt that it was worth the effort, ha. After stopping for lunch and a few photos, we waited for Rob and Lisa to join us (they backtracked and had a much easier but longer hike as a result). We were back to the parking lot by 4 pm and had to wait an hour for the bus to come pick us up. Then it was back to the hostel for a well deserved hot shower followed by an all you can eat buffet at the only Chinese restaurant in town, Bamboo. Tom and Sam joined us and we enjoyed their company. Then the long trudge back uphill to our hostel for an attempt to watch The Good Doctor. Predictably, Robby fell asleep midway through…I was amazed he lasted as long as he did!
04 Dec – Ushuaia
Slept in until 9:20 am! New trip record for a lie in. Grabbed the free hostel breakfast before it ran out at 10 am. Thankfully Robby made me scrambled eggs so all I had to do was toast bread, whip up some oatmeal and mix hot chocolate. Robby had to cook group shop at 10 so I had some free time to work on posting updates to Facebook, calculate end of month dividends, and get caught up on email. In the afternoon, we decided to hit the cambio to exchange our excess Chilean Pesos. Too bad the cambios in town are major rip offs. For approximately 110 USD, they wanted $22 commission fee which we thought was extortionate. Since there were a ton of souvenir shops in town, I did my Secret Santa shopping and bought myself an Ushuaia t-shirt. We hit up a local supermarket and bought ingredients for spaghetti carbonara. Then the long walk straight uphill back to the hostel. That walk up the hill is killer and I am happy to be leaving tomorrow! We whipped up a tasty dinner loaded with tons of garlic, onions and salami, topped with tons of cheese. Both of us were absolutely stuffed for a fraction of the price we would have paid to eat out. A hot shower later, we packed up for an early morning departure tomorrow. 2 bush camps in a row are coming up…yipppee!
05 Dec – Ushuaia – Monte Aymond Border Control, Argentina
Breakfast was set up early for us at 6:30 am. We loaded up our plates and were on the road by 7. Tom and I scored the beach and the rest of the truck had plenty of room because we were down to 13 passengers so everyone had 2 seats each. First stop was the Union bakery where we bought an empanada. The weather was horrible today, strong winds and heavy rain. Welcome to Patagonia! We realized how lucky we had been these past few weeks. Border crossing was a bit painful entering Chile because we had to offload all our bags for inspection. Lunch (chicken pesto pasta) was on the truck because it was way too windy to set up outside. The highlight of the day was when Rebeca fell asleep and Tom piled all of Danny’s Chilean coins on top of her. We arrived to the ferry crossing at 2 pm and the ferry wasn’t running because the water was too rough. So we waited and waited. And slept, watched tv, slept, watched tv. At 8, cook group went into a nearby shop to ask if they could heat up chicken soup for us. Robby gave them 5000 Chilean coins. Dinner was perfect…chicken soup for the soul. The ferry started moving at 8:45 pm and we finally got on the 3rd one. By 10:30 pm and a hell of a boat ride later, we finally arrived to the other side of the channel, Punta Delgada. Will tried to find a hostel but it was full so we drove onward to the border and camped there. It was 12:30 am before the tent was set up and we were in our sleeping bags. I had a slight mishap with my shewee but it was definitely needed because we were surrounded by truckers and there was no privacy.
06 Dec – Monte Aymond Border Control – Playa Supe Bush Camp
Up at 6:45 to prepare to break down the tent by myself since Robby was on cook group. I saw everyone flapping dishes at 7 and was bewildered by everyone being done with breakfast already and they had not left me any. As I was preparing a cup of tea in lieu of breakfast, Izzy made the comment that I was getting ahead of everyone else who had not had breaky yet. That was when I realized everyone was flapping last night’s dishes! Cook group had bought pastries for breakfast and we were ready to go by 8. Too bad we found out the border doesn’t open until 9! And then we stood in the wrong queue so it was another 30 minute delay before we could get stamped into Argentina (no exit stamp from Chile for some reason). The customs agent didn’t make us offload our bags so by 10:30, we were officially in Argentina and on our way. Will drove to Carrefour at Rio Gallegos where we did cook group shopping. Our plan was to make roast chicken sandwiches for dinner but there were no roasted chickens so we went with our original plan of spag bol. Fruit salad for breakfast and hot dogs for lunch and we were sorted. The check out line was crazy long so Brenda held our place in line while Ivan and I did the shopping. Danny tried to pay with credit card but because he didn’t have a copy of his passport with him, he had to pay in cash. Lunch was on our own and we had blue cheese & salami on crackers. Will drove 800 km today and we stopped for bush camp at 8. Danny made everyone help us with chopping up before setting up tents and it was done in no time. We ate dinner at 9 and cooked up the hot dogs for tomorrow so we didn’t have to mess with it in the morning. The pasta pot was a sticky burnt mess and we left it to soak overnight. In our tent listening to the sound of waves tonight by 11 pm. Another long drive day…thank goodness for naps on the beach!
07 Dec – Playa Supe Bush Camp – Puerto Madryn
An early morning start for me since I was on cook group. We cut up fruit for breakfast and had a massive bowl of fruit salad with yogurt. Thankfully Will had rescued our cherries yesterday when they fell out of our shopping cart in the parking lot because they were a nice addition to our salad. After breakfast, we drove north towards Puerto Madryn, making good time. Lunch was a quickie in a gas station parking lot. We had precooked the hot dogs last night so lunch took 5 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to consume. Next time we would probably upgrade to sausages instead of hot dogs…these were tasteless! Back on the road and Danny asked Will to detour to a town called Gaiman which is famous for its ice cream and Welsh heritage. There is a Welsh cafe that half the group went to. We split a tub of ice cream and the mint chocolate chip was amazing. Will was pretty annoyed that we detoured 40 km out of the way to visit Gaiman because he just wanted to get to Puerto Madryn after 2 super long drive days. In town, we stopped at Abramar Dive center to get a sea lion briefing. I asked if our group of 10 would be split on 2 boats but was told 10 was our maximum and we would all be on one boat. We tried to get money from an ATM but had no luck so Danny agreed to let us borrow some from him and we could pay him back later (4800 Pesos each). Our campsite was about 3.5 km from town and we set up our tent before taking a lovely hot water shower. Great showers here! Lisa and Rob made pumpkin risotto for dinner which was tasty. The weather is a bit warmer here than down south so we are back to wearing flip flops. Danny, Robby, Tom and Rebeca played Ring of Fire and apparently it was a crazy game. This was a loud campsite as people were partying all night and morning long.
08 Dec – Puerto Madryn
Lisa and Rob got up super early to prepare breakfast for us (scrambled eggs with ham). Our taxis picked us up at 7:10 am and we quickly got sorted with our wetsuits. Danny handled payment for us so we have to reimburse him in Buenos Aires. To my dismay, our group of 10 grew to 14 when 4 other travellers joined us. I was thinking of bolting at the last minute because I was so angry but figured doing something was better than nothing. 16 of us squeezed onto a boat designed for a maximum of 12 for the 25 minute ride out to the Valdes Peninsula. Then we were given hoodies and jumped into the 60 degrees Farenheit (16 Celsius) for an hour. To my surprise, we were allowed to touch the sea lions. Had the group been limited to 6, it would have been magical. But we had way too many people in the water all competing for time with the sea lions. There were some cute moments but overall I felt disappointed. An hour later and we were back on the boat for the ride back to town. We walked back with Tom and Sam and found out that Sam is homesick and will be leaving us once we arrive to Buenos Aires. Poor thing but I can’t say I am surprised. He has been withdrawn ever since we left Ushuaia. The afternoon was spent avoiding the sun on the truck. We ate our leftover salami and blue cheese for lunch and used the super slow WiFi. Spent the afternoon working on selecting photos of Argentina and then decided to hang out at the beach with drinks. Too bad the flies were relentless because it would have been nice to linger longer. Back at the campsite, we organized our locker to put all our winter clothes at the bottom. No need for them for the rest of the trip! There was a beautiful camp dog with husky eyes and we played with him while waiting for dinner. Danny picked up the Gopro video of our excursion this morning…we told him to get it for free since they crammed 4 additional people on our tour. Dinner was lomo saltado which Rebeca, Keith and Brad whipped up. We played ring of fire with Rebeca, Danny, Tom and Sam afterwards. It was a comfortable and quiet night’s sleep tonight…no party on a Sunday night!
09 Dec – Puerto Madryn – Cascada Cifuentes
Breakfast was granola and yogurt but almost all the granola was gone by the time we got to breakfast. The playful dog with mesmerizing eyes was around to say goodbye as we pulled out for the long drive toward Buenos Aires. Will wanted to drive 1000 km today and he gave it his best effort. The weather got hotter and hotter and we sweltered in the back. The stops for toilets, ice cream and snacks were definitely needed today! Truck lunch was pasta salad and we got to learn about the shrine of Gauchito Antonio Gil. People today still pay homage to this local hero. After lunch, we drove for several hours until 7 pm where we stopped at Cascada Cifuentes. What a beautiful bush camp site! Everyone pitched in to help cook group prepare dinner before setting up tents. We walked down to the waterfalls which were quite picturesque. Izzy, Sam and Cam made chicken biryani for dinner which was spicy but tasty. We had a lovely sunset and Brenda showed us post cards from home (Dunster) in Somerset. We packed our bags for a few days in Buenos Aires so it will be easy to hop off when we arrive tomorrow. An early night tonight since no one feels like partying.
10 Dec – Cascada Cifuentes – Buenos Aires
It was a pleasant night sleeping without the rain fly on. We got to watch fireflies at night and sunrise i the morning. Needless to say, we were up early for breakfast (granola). The sunlight hit the waterfall in the early morning, and I saw Sam sprinting across to take a photo. Cam rejoiced in the fact that today was her last bush pee! We had 600 km to cover, so we were on the road by 7:30 am. It didn’t take long for the truck to overheat. It is going to get hotter and hotter as we head further north. The morning was spent snoozing, watching TV and reading. A few rest stops, ice cream breaks and lunch on the go (cook group made leftover biryani chicken sandwiches, setting the record for fastest truck lunch as no assembly required). Danny got word that Buenos Aires was having protests today, and as a result, getting Spongebob close to the hostel would be tricky. We arrived by 3 pm, and had to walk a few blocks to reach Milhouse Avenue, our home for the next 4 nights. Alli and Bert were on hand to greet everyone, and we were quickly checked in. We ended up in Rm 305 with all the truck couples (Bert/Alli, Rob/Lisa, and Izzy/Brad). I was surprised 8 of us were in a room, but no big deal. We took cold showers to cool down, and then I rushed off to have Rebeca translate for me. I was chopping off all my hair – getting it cut in layers and highlighted! The long hair is not going to cut it as it gets hotter and hotter. The ladies at the reception recommended a place nearby and I was seen right away. The guy doing my hair knew exactly what he was doing, cutting and styling it like a pro. It didn’t take too long and I was back in time for happy hour and tango lessons. Danny forced all of us to dance and it was actually quite fun. After dance lessons, we went to eat at Bernardo de Irigoyen, a nearby restaurant open 24 hours. People were still in the streets waving flags, chanting and having fun. We were joined by Danny, Amanda, Ivan, Sam, Tom and Rebeca and we opted to split a ribs & chips dish and a large beer. Back at the hostel, Danny wanted to keep the party going. A make shift dance club had been erected in the bar area and it was in full swing. We begged off and we weren’t keen on staying up late but apparently Danny and Sam partied hard. Sam didn’t make it to his room, having hooked up with his Irish tango dance partner and Nick (the driver in training) ended up crashing on his bed.
11 Dec – Buenos Aires
Having AC all night long was wonderful! We slept great, even with Rob’s snoring, ha ha. Up for breakfast at 8:30 with a choice of toast or granola/yogurt or eggs. We opted for the eggs and got a massive plate. Rebeca found an option to ferry to Colonia, Uruguay plus walking tour and return for $50 so we booked it. Then we found out that the Gaucho Day only happens on Mon, Tues, Thrs and Sat. No chance for us to see it on Friday…boo! We chatted with the reception to see if they could work something out but no luck. Oh well, next time we are in BA! First order of business today was finding an ATM. Luckily, there was a BBVA near the hostel and we were able to take out 16,000 Pesos between the 2 of us. After dropping it off at the hostel (we didn’t want to carry that much cash around), we walked over to one of the top bookstores in the world, El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The bookstore is built into the 100 year old circa 1919 Grand Splendid theater. It was well worth a stop…very pretty inside and free to visit. Then onward to Palermo’s SOHO district, which is famous for its street art. Rather than pay $10 each plus tip for a graffiti tour, we looked online for several highlight murals and got lost in this young, hip and funky neighborhood. Neither of us anticipated spending more than 2 hours here but before we knew it, it was nearly 5 pm! So much amazing street art….we loved it! Afterwards, we walked to the old zoo, now converted to an Ecopark (the zoo closed in 2016 due to numerous complaints about the state of its animals). It was wonderful to stroll in the park as we got to see capybaras (the largest rodent in the world!), peacocks, and a rabbit animal known as a dillaby (Patagonian Cavy). So cool…the animals weren’t scared of us at all and posed for photos. Afterwards, we had a long walk back to the hostel. My tevas were falling apart but thankfully I found a shoe repair shop that was open in the afternoon siesta period. For 180 pesos, my tevas were fixed. Before swinging back to the hostel, we stopped by the obelisk, which soars 67 meters over the Plaza de la Republica. Then a clothing store caught my attention and I quickly scooped up 4 tops and 1 skirt for 700 Pesos…not bad! Carrefour supermarket met our dinner needs – we bought steak to sear on the stove top and salad ingredients as we were craving something healthy. Back at the hostel, we said hello to Mitch and Em (they are back from Antarctica) and met Sean (Danny’s brother) before preparing dinner in the basement. Then a lovely hot shower while we sweltered and waited for the hostel to kick on the AC at 11 pm. Bolts of thunder rumbled loudly in the distance from 10:30 pm onward. Too bad we have an early morning wake up tomorrow.
12 Dec – Buenos Aires – Colonia, Uruguay – Buenos Aires
We had to get up early to prepare for our day trip to Uruguay today. Down at the reception, a taxi to the ColoniaExpress was quoted as 415 Pesos. Alli told us that one to the airport was only 900 Pesos and it was a much longer drive. She urged us to grab a taxi from the road instead or just use Uber. I tried setting up an Uber ride which failed but Robby’s Uber worked. Alli rode with us. Keith decided to pay for a hostel taxi and Mitch used his Uber account with Em and Sean. Keith finally got fed up waiting for the taxi to show up so he demanded his money back and then he, Rebeca and Ivan grabbed a taxi from the road. Surprise, surprise…it was only 150 Pesos. Keith is properly pissed at the hostel and can’t wait to leave. He feels they are extorting us for money. Getting stamped out of Argentina and into Uruguay was easy and the ride to Colonia del Sacramento was very comfortable in our VIP seats. Our free included walking tour was ok. A large sized group and a soft spoken guide who insisted on briefing us as we walked around…recipe for disaster as the majority of the group could not hear her. By 11:30 we were on our own to explore the city. First we scoped out a chivito (a popular Uruguay meal consisting of a grilled steak served with a fried egg and bacon, mayonnaise and fixings, normally served surrounded by chips). TripAdvisor had rated Los Farolitos as the number one cheap eatery in Colonia but it wasn’t open yet. So we decided to split up and wander around until 12:45 for a meal together here. Wandering around Colonia was a bit sad compared to our experience 10 years ago because all the old antique cars have been removed. I asked our guide about it and she said it happened 2 years ago and no one knew why. Back at Los Farolitos, we ordered 1 chivito each and they were quite tasty. We were told we could pay with Argentinean Pesos but we got a shitty exchange rate…double the Uruguayian amount in Argentinean Pesos which meant we were paying a surcharge of $2 per sandwich…boo. After lunch, we strolled around and found the restaurant we had Christmas lunch at back in 2009. The streets weren’t too crowded so it was easy to take photos. Free WiFi in the park killed time until we had to link up with everyone at the ferry terminal. To our dismay, we learned that the ferry was delayed by 2 hours due to mechanical issues. Not cool! All of us were grumpy and hungry on the return journey, and we still had Cam’s goodbye party to go to. The plan is to grab a snickers bar from the nearby convenience store and make our way over to the party. We got to Cam and Will’s AirBnb at 9 pm and the party was in full force. After filling ourselves on chips, we realized we needed something more for dinner. Will suggested the swanky bar downstairs and we ordered spaghetti marinara. Dinner at 11:30…latest one of the trip. Jeremy showed up at 12:30 to surprise Cam. It was sad saying goodbye to Cammie. So glad we made the effort to stay up late to see her one last time.
13 Dec – Buenos Aires
Slept in a bit since we didn’t get to bed until 2:30 am. Mitch and Emily slept in too so all was good. After a late breakfast, the 4 of us caught an Uber to Caminito. It was just as colorful and cheesy as we remembered it to be, but the tango dancers in the street were long gone. These days there are people dressed to tango who try to pose for photos with tourists (at the going rate of 300 Pesos). I took a photo with some dogs and all of us searched around for Secret Santa presents. After a few hours of taking photos of murals and the colorful buildings, we caught a taxi back to the hostel. The taxi meter was rigged because our return fare was 325 Pesos and Rebeca said it only cost her 180 Pesos to return from the same place. In the afternoon we decided to hit the streets again but first it was lunch time. Saint Burger – fast, cheap and delicious. All the burgers are named after Biblical characters and it is a self serve joint. Two thumbs up…this was a great recommendation by Izzy. At a street market, I started chatting it up with a friendly jewelry vendor and bought a lapis lazuli ring for 400 Pesos. He believes in gem-therapy and was a very talented artist. Robby was in search of a seamstress to stitch his pants and a store that sold men’s clothing (white shirt for Rio’s New year’s eve celebration). Thankfully we quickly found both before heading over to Plaza de Mayo, where a huge Argentinean flag and the Casa Rosada (pink house) dominated the square. Then back to the hostel to get ready for tango. Good thing we dressed up because Danny said sometimes places in Buenos Aires were particular about people wearing flip flops. Sure as shit, a lady at the tango venue took one look at our group and banished Rob, Lisa and Hanna from being able to enter for dinner because of their flip flops! The rest of us had a 1 hour tango dance lesson, which was a bit challenging with so many inexperienced dancing partners in the room. After graduating from tango school, we headed back down stairs and paid the equivalent of $35 in Pesos. Then it was drinking and eating time. For some reason, we thought it was a great idea to drink more free glasses of wine than Giles had the night before (5). Rebeca joined in the challenge and we were chugging wine like it was water. By dinner time, we were tipsy and happy. By show time, we were drunk and sleepy. It was a struggle to keep my eyes open and I definitely slept through portions of the show. The bad thing was we were sitting in the front row right in front of the dancers so I know they could see me having a snooze during their performance. After the show, we got out of there for some fresh air. Most of the group continued on partying back at the Milhouse hostel dance club. It was a fun day in BA!
14 Dec – Buenos Aires – Yapeyu
It was an early morning start as we had to be out of our room, checked out and on Spongebob by 7:30. But first a puke, a shower and a couple of last minute downloads. Nick, the trainee driver from Australia, was behind the wheel for the entire morning. He had to get used to Spongebob and we could feel the difference between his driving and Will’s. Emily, Mitch, Amanda, Robby, Tom and I were feeling the after effects of drinking too much last night so it was a quiet ride while everyone tried to sleep in out. Lunch was earlier than expected and Ivan and I helped out cook group prepare salad. It was a quick lunch and we were back on the road in an hour. Will drove the afternoon session, and we covered a total distance of 730 km. At 6, we pulled into a campsite in Yapeyu. Although it had started out overcast and cloudy in the morning, which morphed into cold rain after lunch, by midafternoon it was hot and sunny. While Robby did cook group duty, I emptied out our locker and reorganized everything…wine and liquor on the bottom with our winter gear. It was a sweat box on the truck so a pretty miserable job. Dinner was delicious…bbq steak, sausage and blood sausage served with salad. The wind picked up after dinner and our cold water showers were a treat. Hopefully tonight won’t feel too hot!
15 Dec – Yapeyu – Iguazú
Robby had to get up at 5:20 am to prepare breakfast so no sleep in for me this morning. I had everything packed up and tent rolled up way before breakfast at 6. Keith was up early and helped me with the tent roll up. Breakfast was scrambled eggs loaded with garlic. We were on the road by 7 for the final push towards Iguazu. It was a long, hot drive day and Tom and Danny were trying to catch people asleep so they could take a photo of them with a Chewbacca mask on. Lunch was at the Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio. Entry was 270 Pesos each for ruins that were clearly visible over the fence. No one visited because the price was prohibitively expensive…instead we ate the smelly lunch that cook group had prepared, broccoli and rice. It had caused the truck to stink up and we could not locate the source of the smell until Danny finally suggested we put the pot in the kitchen locker. After lunch, another long hot drive. The highlight being a discovery of the tastiest ice cream of the trip thus far…a lemon icicle with real fruit bits for only 60 Pesos. By 4 pm, we finally made it to Iguazu, Hostel Peter Pan. Jeremy and Rebeca were waiting for us by the pool and we selected 2 beds in their room. Then we jumped into the pool and it was the perfect remedy for 2 long drive days. Dark clouds gathered in the distance and a downpour ensued. Heavy rain pummeled us, but we hung in the pool until we saw lightning. A quick shower and we got ready for our last dinner in Argentina, at a steak house called Parrilla Pizza Color. We shared a steak dish for 2 served with fries and enjoyed it despite the high price. Then back to the hostel for an early night. The rain never relented.
16 Dec – Iguazú – Foz Do Iguaçu
Up to grab breakfast and lunch at the nearby bakery and we saw that Subway was open already. Danny was buying Sean a tuna sandwich and told us the hotel was providing a small breakfast. So we just got a foot long Italian BMT to split for lunch and ran back to the hostel in the downpour rain. No one was feeling motivated or excited to visit the waterfall in the rain but we were too busy packing our stuff to leave behind at the hotel while we carried a day pack to the park. Spongebob was leaving us for a few days to get worked on. Then we all loaded up on Spongebob while Nick drove us to the entrance of Iguazu waterfall. Danny bought tickets with local payment (800 Pesos each) and we were on our own until pickup at 2. Our plan was to do the lower circuit first, followed by the upper circuit and lastly hop on the train to Devil’s throat. But we found out that the lower trail was closed temporarily due to debris caused by the heavy rain. So upper trail it was, and the massive waterfall truly stunned, even though we were visiting during torrential downpours. We got to see coatis scavenging for food (cute but potentially vicious) and near the end of the trail, we saw monkeys emerge as the rain finally eased up a bit. The monkeys were super cute too but we had been warned they too can be vicious. After completing the upper trail, we decided to try to see if the lower trail was open. A French couple assured us it was but we ran into Jason and Hanna who told us that portions of it were closed. We decided to press our luck and good thing too as we had sections of the entire trail all to ourselves. It was even more impressive than the upper trail and we fell in love with Iguazu. To round out our visit, we rode the train to “garganta del diablo” which was also mesmerizing…very wet but worth a visit. By 1:30, we were back down where we started and we finally took a break for lunch. Unbeknownst to me, a sneaky coati tried to eat my Subway sandwich and it was only Giles yelling out a warning that caused me to jump and scare it away! Coatis with their babies came out of the woodwork and they were the cutest things ever. We loved watching them scurry around foraging for food. And then it was time to leave. We were all on time at 2 but our driver was late. By 2:30 pm, we were finally on our way back to the hostel to pick up our bags. We managed to stick our bags in the undercarriage and loaded up in the front seats. A short drive to the border and Danny collected our passports and got us all stamped out of Argentina. Easiest border crossing ever!