Our last stop in Argentina before heading to the highly anticipated Colombia was Buenos Aires. We grabbed a colectivo from San Marcos Sierra to Córdoba and then a night bus to Buenos Aires. The bus was amazing - everyone basically had their own lazyboy chair, they played movies (though we listened to our Mysterious Universe podcast and an audiobook), served food and had blankets and pillows. Not too bad. We arrived in Buenos Aires in the morning and settled into our new home at Che Argentina Hostel in the San Telmo district. The reception guy at the hostel was very friendly and told us about places we should check out while we’re there. He advised that most places nearby were safe enough to walk around during the day, but that we should be very careful if carrying anything at all, like a camera. We took the advice but didn’t have that feeling at all while we were out. We took tons of photos and talked to people in the streets as they walked by. The people in Argentina are very open and friendly. We never had a sketchy vibe at all, but only later did we find out that Buenos Aires actually has one of the worst reputations for muggings in South America. Makes sense when you think about the messed up economy, I suppose.
Our next stop was to a small alternative town called San Marcos Sierra, about an hour drive north of Capilla del Monte. It was recommended to us by some friends, Rafi and Flor, who we met in while volunteering in Jinotega, Nicaragua.
It was pretty much what I was expecting: free-spirited happy people, artisan booths, jam sessions at night, people walking and biking around with accordions, guitars, colourful homemade clothing, delicious fresh-baked goods and fresh produce for sale. It was awesome!
When we checked into our hostel, which was basically a man named Hernan's house with some extra rooms, we asked for the key and Hernan looked at us in a funny way and told us that they don't lock anything in this town. "No one has even been robbed and it's just not that kind of place. Our town is built on trust." So, hesitantly at first, we accepted this and unpacked our stuff.
We weren't sure how long we would stay at first but it ended up to be about a week in total. We wandered around the town on the first day and checked out one of the many honey farms, "El Arbol", which was really interesting. In their storefront they had something like a dozen different types of honey available, all of different colour, consistency, and flavour. Did you know that the honey produced depends on the type of plant that's currently in bloom? This place times their harvests so that they can isolate the properties of a given set of plants - neat-o! We got to sample each of the flavours and bought a couple tiny jars to enjoy later.
After a long bus ride from Mendoza, we spent a day and night stretching our legs and checking out Córdoba. Seemed like a reasonable place but, once again, a fairly big city and so not our cup of tea. Preferring to spend some time bein’ chili in some of the nearby smaller towns, we decided to head to Capilla del Monte (“Chapel of the Hill” in Spanish). A quaint and sleepy town of just over ten thousand, Capilla del Monte is known internationally as a hotspot of UFO and other paranormal activity. We thought maybe we’d have better luck with the ETs after coming up short in Pisco…
After our amazing (and cold) Patagonia adventure we were ready to head north to warmer weather. Mendoza was our next stop and where we would drink so much wine. So so much.
We arrived after two days of buses; Puerto Montt to Santiago which was overnight and expectedly boring, and then Santiago to Mendoza the next morning, which was an incredible drive up and over the steep Andes Mountains, passing by the famous Aconcaga Volcano National Park and through several tunnel sections of the mountain.
WOW - about sums it up! We just spent two weeks in Northern Patagonia (the Arctic of South America) with a rental truck. It is a weird time of year to do it since it is fall now and too cold for most tourists (but not us Canadianses) but it was great because we had the whole place to ourselves!
Ideally maybe it would have been nicer to camp with either warmer weather, or proper cold weather camping gear. We did camp a few nights but were really freezing cold (there was ice involved) so whenever possible we stayed in hostels (which were so expensive, like US$30/night compared to the rest of SA, avg US$10). The coldniss and rainyniss also made hiking slightly less enjoyable, though for the most part we had pretty good weather, considering.
We started our two week truck rental in Puerto Montt (see travel map, southern Chile) and decided to also return it there since it would cost an extra US$500 to drop it off in another town, jeeeesh. We got the extra insurance to be able to cross the border into Argentina (about $100 extra) and then headed out! Our itinerary was a bit screwed up since we didn't have much success researching the best routes to take etc. So if you are reading this as a travel guide for yourself I have a number of recommendations at the bottom of this so you don't waste time like we did!