We are jumping continents again… back to finish my South America adventures…
Argentina was the first country I visited in South America. The trip had an unusual origin. I invited a friend who had just come back from a five month sabbatical in South America to a wine dinner with some Aussie friends. They asked him his favourite country and he replied Argentina. At that point I had never been to South America. It was my missing continent so when my Australian friend decided we should go, I was in. She was married so we only had 10 days since she was leaving her husband at home in Canada.
That’s when I discovered Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world! So we wouldn’t be seeing all of it in 10 days… I decided we could spend some time in Buenos Aires, drink wine in Mendoza and check out Iguazu Falls. It was a magical trip. What was most amazing is that the logistics mostly worked. We never got to the Brazilian side of the falls (despite paying a hefty fee and enduring insane archaic bureaucracy to get a visa so we could spend a day in Brazil) because there was a strike… There were also strikes and protests that meant we never got to eat steak as the strikers were blocking its delivery to restaurants.
Welcome to Argentina! You should absolutely go! Just recognize that it is the kind of place for which the term banana republic was created. It’s a gorgeous country full of natural resources and some of the world’s most beautiful people. Part of the reason Danny was so keen on Argentina was how many attractive people he met there. I’m not sure what they put in the water but he was right 😉 While strikes and protests can mar your travel plans, there are lots of lovely people in Argentina. You feel so sorry that their country is such a mess as they don’t deserve it.
My first trip was back in 2008 when the economy was only starting to recover from the most recent economic catastrophe so there were a lot of cynical Argentinians jealous of Chile. Buenos Aires was once the Paris of South America and it was the 10th wealthiest nation per capita in 1913. They did elect Macri and there is finally some hope.
That’s the Argentina that I visited the second time. When you take the Australis ship you can do a return trip or you can go in one direction. It’s very expensive and I didn’t get the sense I would see a lot more returning to Chile so chose the Punta Arenas – Ushuaia route. Ushuaia bills itself as “The End of the World” as there is no population settlement further south anywhere in the world. It’s where you go if you want to check out Antarctica (so I will likely be back at some point ;).
You likely want to spend the extra to get a transfer to your hotel when you leave the ship. I was cheap and did not… it all looked easy on the map 🙂 It wasn’t very many blocks to drag my suitcase but what I hadn’t realized was that the entire journey would be on a steep incline with questionable infrastructure like sidewalks… I made it without succumbing to a taxi and the reward at the end of the journey made it very worthwhile. I would highly recommend the Alto Andino Hotel. It’s quite small, the staff are very friendly, there is a good breakfast and – the biggest treat – there are sweeping views of the mountains and the Beagle Channel from the top floor. On top of all that, I also had a Jacuzzi bath in my room. Ushuaia is a small frontier town so it’s an easy walk (without a suitcase!) to find souvenirs, food or drink. I did have an incredibly difficult time finding water, though. so you may want to pack some.
Just to make sure I knew I wasn’t in Chile any longer, there was a giant protest! Welcome to Argentina… Didn’t do anything especially memorable in Ushuaia. It’s really a transit hub – but it is in a gorgeous location so worth a day if you end up there on your way to somewhere else.
Getting back to Santiago was challenging. There are only a couple of flights a day from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires so I spent hours at the airport. It was one of the most abysmal airport experiences of my life. I had far more fun drinking beer at the outdoor café in Arusha watching the tourist groups come and go and local Tanzanians hang out. The food and entertainment options were extremely limited and the pizza I finally decided to try tasted like cardboard! They made it fresh so I was hopeful but maybe they forgot the yeast… At least I didn’t have to switch airports! LAN Argentina changed my flight several times and I had to call them to finally sort everything out to make sure I could connect to Santiago and what airport I needed.
Argentina is like a telenovela star. Gorgeous – but temperamental and difficult at times. She drives you crazy but she is so seductive you can’t resist… The people of Argentina need your pesos. Go and meet them. You’ll fall in love…