Day 1: Old Fashion Charm
I decided back in Peru that I’ll be doing a tour in Argentina because: A. I’m tired of planning and would like someone else to do the work and B. I haven’t done any research and figured a travel agency can custom an itinerary based on my interests. Plus, Argentina is HUGE and there’s so much to see and do! I was looking up travel agencies and went with Say Hueque. I’ve been going back and forth with their agent, Mariano and he constructed a great plan for me: Buenos Aires to El Calafate to Ushuaia to Iguazu! This was not cheap, but South America in general isn’t cheap if you want to do things. I thought Southeast Asia was way cheaper, but at the same time they don’t have the Andes, Patagonia, Ice Glaciers and the widest waterfalls in the world!
So I first flew into Buenos Aires and spent 2 nights there (refer to my Buenos Aires post) and then took an Aerolineas Argentina flight over to El Calafate! To be honest, I haven’t done much research at all so going to these cities was something very new to me and I didn’t know what to expect. The flight was a little over 3 hours and someone from the agency was there holding a sign with my name on it. On the drive over to the hotel, the driver pointed out a brown ostrich (ñandú in Espanol) and I noticed the climate looked quite dry, but the air was a bit chilly. My hotel, Patagonia Rebelde was quite charming. It’s more like a guest house from the turn of the century with a ton of antiques and cool exposed copper fixtures.
After checking in and dropping my stuff off in the room, I went about my way to walk over to the downtown. The walk over to the downtown was about 15 to 20 minutes and it was getting pretty chilly. I noticed a lot of people layering up so I’m glad I had gloves, a hat and scarf in tow. The downtown is pretty small and the feel reminded me of a small ski city with a bunch of cabin like shops and restaurants. I was trying to look for restaurants the agency recommended for me and stumbled into one from the list provided. I ordered a pasta with pink sauce and out came the saddest and more bland pasta I have ever tasted! I wanted to go back in the kitchen and whip something up myself and that’s saying a lot! I had to ask for pepper and layer on like crazy.. thats when you know your ish is bland!
Time for bed and to wake up early to start my excursion to the Glaciers tomorrow!
Day 2: Elsa ain’t got nothin’ on you!
In the morning, the tour agency picked me up to head over to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciers National Park! I didn’t know what quite to expect, but the drive over was really beautiful with snow capped mountains. Everyone in the van spoke Spanish, but one couple who I heard speak English. I decided to strike up a conversation and realized they were from the states (NYC) and are currently ex pats living in Buenos Aires! They were an older couple, but so vibrant, cultured and amazing to talk to! Llewelyn is from NYC and worked as a top notch Real Estate agent at one of the biggest agencies in the city. Her partner, Carlitos is originally from San Francisco and once owned a successful textile company in NYC. They were just tired of the “fakeness” of big cities like NYC and LA who are all about status. Tell me about it, that’s why I fled LA and really don’t want to go back! haha
We then arrived to dock a big boat that sailed out to the glaciers. To get the best views, you would need to stand outside and its COLD! I had my puffy down jacket, gloves and scarf on as the winds were ice cold! When we finally reached the glaciers, I was literally at awe and my jaw dropped! Just SO STUNNING and this was a dream come true for me. I’ve always wanted to see ice glaciers and this moment was a huge check on my bucket list. I didn’t care that it was damn cold outside, just looking at the structure and colors of the glaciers blew my mind! One of the most special moments thus far on my trip, just so spectacular!
After trying to recuperate from such a moment, we sailed back and arrived back to the park and had another moment to walk through a bunch of trails to see the other side of the Perito Moreno Glacier. It was worth the 30 or so minute trek one way to see the north side of one of the only evolving glaciers in the world. It was big news a few years ago in Argentina when one of the glacier caves naturally collapsed. Just hearing the glaciers collapse was an amazing experience and everyone would start pulling out their cameras ready to catch it on film! After walking to the end of the trek, you can opt to take a boat back around but I wanted to walk back for the exercise! I was tired, but it was worth it and also to snap more shots of the gorgeous glaciers.
On the way back that night, our tour guide gave us El Calafate (a local blueberry) liquor which was NASTY! It tasted liked cough syrup and I was not having it! I started feeling a bit sick chatting it up with Carlitos in the van. He was telling me he loved what I was doing and I should be open to moving to Buenos Aires because the cost of living is cheaper than the states and also has so much to offer! He also thinks that moving to Asia would be great as he feels its the most evolving continent. I asked them about other parts of Argentina I was visiting and totally cracked up on Carlitos’ response about Salta, Argentina: “You’ve been to Fresno, CA right? Same thing.” LOL
Overall a great and unforgettable day.
Day 3: What’s cooler than being cool? Ice Cold!
I had a really hard time deciding what to do today. Do I visit the glaciers over at Estancia Cristina or do a mini trek back to the Perito Moreno Glacier? The only problem was that these excursions were EXPENSIVE! Like anywhere from $150 to $200. I look back now and regret not doing one of these, but I had a whole month or so left and didn’t want the cash flow to dry out early. So today I decided to take a free bus ride over to the Glacial museum, Glaciarium and check out the ice bar there!
Since I totally fell in love with the glaciers, I was pretty excited to go to the museum and learn more about them. The museum itself is the most modern and high tech museum I’ve visited so far in my travels. There’s a ton of informative rooms explaining how glaciers are formed and the people who studied them worldwide. There are short films in Spanish and English (they played the English one specially for me), maps and interactive tools. At the end, there’s a separate theater in which they provide a pair of 3D glasses to watch a short film in 3D. Overall, I really enjoyed this museum and was impressed with the technology and the knowledge provided. I feel it’s great to do if you have time to burn in El Calafate.
After the museum, I decided to also purchase a ticket to the Ice Bar located in the same building. The Ice Bar runs in 30 minute sessions, so I had some time to burn before it was my turn to enter the bar. I wanted to go outside to take some pictures because the landscape was pretty amazing. You get a great view of the lake and mountains. After snapping some photos, I went back inside to order what would be my go to lunch in Argentina– empanada y cafe! In Asia, I couldn’t really enjoy the coffee as much since it was SO HOT and also because I got pretty sick on the last leg of that trip. In South America, I’m having cafe almost everyday and enjoying it. Also in Argentina, when you order a cafe, they always provide a shot glass of sparkling water to accompany your coffee. For some reason, the South Americans LOVE their agua con gas! Many times I’ve accidentally picked up an agua con gas bottle instead of what I really wanted– agua sin gas!
After my lunch, I went down to the ice bar chambers where they provide you a big metallic coat to wear before entering the ice bar. I believe you get about 30 minutes in there to chug as much alcohol as you want, dance around and take photos with the ice sculptures. My group mostly consisted of Spanish speaking older people, but man were they throwing it down! They were drinking as much as they can, dancing and just having fun! I tried to take a selfie with one of the older couples because I thought they were adorable and hilarious, but I think I totally scared them off! HAHAHA
Now it was time to leave the Glaciarium/Ice Bar to take the free shuttle back into downtown. Once the shuttle dropped us off, I proceeded to grab some dinner (steak!), have a glass of wine and enjoy my final night in El Calafate. Sitting there, I thought “Argentina, we’re off to an awesome start!”