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Posts Tagged ‘El Calafate’

To get a better understanding of how much money we’re spending on the road, Lisa created a spreadsheet, breaking out our daily expenses.  We’re aiming for $100 (US) a day, ($50/person), which is very doable, especially in some countries like Bolivia & Peru.  However, there will be other countries, like Argentina & Chile, that will be more challenging if we’re not careful.  We know that at times we’ll be over budget & other times under, so things should even themselves out in the end.

We knew before entering Argentina that it would be one of the most expensive countries on our itinerary & it doesn’t help that we were there for almost 3 months!

frontier

Daily Accommodation Average: $20 per day

It’d be nice to say that we stayed exclusively in hostels during our time in Argentina.  However, Corey still had a few crappy days in Cordoba, so we did spend 4 nights in a hotel.  I realize that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but at $94 per night, that’s a pretty big hit to the accommodation expenses, especially considering that the average cost per night in northern AR is about $24 per bed.  Luckily, we saved a ton during our stay in San Rafael, since we received free accommodation in exchange for our help.  Six weeks of no fees for room & board was no doubt one of the main contributors to remaining under budget.

DSC_2426   DSC_2433

Daily Food Average: $38 per day

Food is expensive in Argentina!  It was very shocking to go from the cheap street food in Bolivia to the pricey menus of Argentina.  Granted, you can find “menu del dias” all over the place, but you do have to be choosy, as some just aren’t very tasty.  I think we’ve had 4 meals of the day that were actually good.  Usually though, it’s pretty gross & you’d be better off going grocery shopping & cooking your own meals.  Which, we finally started doing in Bariloche, the first Patagonian city in Argentina.  Patagonia is just too touristy to eat out every breakfast, lunch & dinner.

I attempted to wake up for the free breakfasts wherever we happened to be staying & we got into a habit of pricing out all eateries if we did decide to eat out.  That being said, we did regress & fall back into eating out often by the time we ended up in El Calafate!

Daily Transportation Average: $15 per day

Another pricey thing in this country is transportation.  Fifteen bucks a day doesn’t sound too bad for transportation, but when you compare the cost for long distance bus tickets in Bolivia versus Argentina, you’ll see that the fares are outrageous!

18 hour bus ride in Bolivia = $24 per ticket

18 hour bus ride in Argentina = $140 per ticket

The most expensive bus ticket was from Esquel to El Calafate, a 26 hour bus ride that cost us a total of $322!  We learned very early on that taxis aren’t much better.  Like most cities in the States, you’re better off taking a city bus.  You might have to ride around for a bit longer, but you’ll be saving a decent chunk of cash.

Daily Entertainment Average: $12 per day

There’s so much to see & do in every part of this beautiful country.  We didn’t even come close to scrapping the surface in terms of site seeing.  There were a lot of things that we missed out on because you have to go through a tour company in order to experience some of the fun touristy activities.

Goat counting Sheep

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We’re very happy that we spent money on the Glacier tour & white water rafting in San Rafael.  However, there were times, like the Cachi tour, where it seemed like a waste of money.  Had we gone in with 2 other travelers & rented a car, we could’ve done the same thing on our own, saved some money & still gotten some great pictures!

In the end, we were in Argentina for 78 days & spent a total of $7,296, which averaged out to $94 per day.  It’s great to know that we came in just under budget, but we know now that we could’ve spent even less had we cooked more often.  Hopefully, we learned enough in AR to improve our Chile budget!

 

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A map of the world, in my opinion, doesn’t do justice to just how big a country Argentina is. This sounds kind of silly considering it is the 8th largest country in the world.  If you turn it on it’s side, it’s just as wide as the United States. We ended up spending a little under three months in Argentina, crossing the Bolivian border to enter at the beginning of December and finally exiting Argentina on the 19th of February. We spent in the neighborhood of 100 hours on buses working our way south from the Bolivian border all the way to El Calafate in the southern portion of Patagonia and eventually crossing the border into Chile at Puerto Natales, Chile.

Iceberg Reflection

All in all we had a great time in Argentina. We made a number of friends staying in hostels throughout the country that we still keep in contact with and then there is the close friendship we made with Susan, Dave, & Tiv in San Rafael. Along with the incredible sites that we’ve seen, it’s the people that we’ve had an opportunity to meet that have been the highlight our trip and will, most likely, continue to be.

Our buddy Joe from England

Our buddy, Joe, from England

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

When we tell people that we’ve meet on the road our plans to find a home in South America the first question they always seem to ask is, “Have you found any candidates yet?” Our immediate response is Salta, Argentina. We spent 2 weeks in Salta and really loved it. The people there were extremely friendly, despite being a big city it has a small town feel, & it has the prettiest square that we’ve seen in South America, by far.

Architecture in Salta

Outside of Salta, we really enjoyed our time in Patagonia. Words and pictures really can’t encompass just how incredible nearly every view is in Patagonia.  Although we really liked Patagonia, it’s just too cold most of the year for us to even contemplate making it our home someday.

Kevin in Bariloche

Kevin in Bariloche

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

El Calafate

El Calafate

Our six weeks in San Rafael was another highlight of our time in Argentina. Outside of all the previously mentioned reasons why our time there was so great for us, one of the best aspects of being there was the opportunity to meet many of Susan & Dave’s ex-pat friends. Talking with them and getting the chance the listen to them talk amongst themselves, we got a real world insider look of what’s really going on in Argentina. One that we wouldn’t have gotten just hanging out and talking to fellow travelers. As a whole, we really didn’t like what we heard. Comparatively speaking, Argentina is light years ahead of Bolivia, but it still has a lot of work to do. It doesn’t help that the current government has been very interventionist in the economy in a number of negative aspects. In some ways completely erasing the work that Nestor Kirchner’s administration did to push Argentina forward. It’s ironic and kind of sad that the current president, Nestor’s wife Christina, has been such a disaster.

San Rafael

San Rafael

 Despite all the positive aspects of Argentina, it’s the negative ones (the inflation/struggling economy, bland food, & lack of an adequate build up of local industry) that really gives us pause with regard to making it our home.

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

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It is, however, an amazing place to visit. It has something for everyone and even though we spent almost three months there, we would love to go back someday to see all the places that we missed.

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Patagonia is the region that encompasses roughly the bottom third of the countries of Argentina & Chile. It is an area of the world that has attracted travelers & bandits alike for centuries. Butch Cassidy, the Sun Dance Kid and Etta Place spent time here trying to escape the law and make an honest life for themselves, as is documented in Bruce Chatwin’s (a fellow traveler) timeless classic “In Patagonia”. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t last too long. What attracted us, along with countless others, to Patagonia is the regions beautiful scenery. From snow-capped mountain peaks & glistening lakes to the towering plateaus & vast expanses of wind-blown desolateness, Patagonia is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and unpopulated places on the Earth.

 Bariloche View

 

Thistle

Our first stop after leaving Susan, Dave, & Tiv in San Rafael was Bariloche, Argentina. Located on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi and home to countless chocolate shops, Bariloche definitely had the feel of a town in the Swiss Alps. We had only planned to stay two nights in Bariloche, so we figured what better way to spend our one full day there than taking a nice hike. A woman working at the hostel that we were staying at recommended an “easier” three hour hike that would take us up and over one of the surrounding mountains to a smaller lake that would be warm enough to swim in.

Notice how happy we are at the beginning of the hike!

Notice how happy we are at the beginning of the hike!

What she neglected to tell us was that the map the hostel gave us was horrible and that the “trail” had zero signs that could give us even the slightest idea where to go. After several hours of hiking we reached what we assumed was the end of the trail. We could see the lake, but had no idea how to get down to it outside of summer-salting down the mountain.

Bariloche Hike

After 6 hours of hiking and attempts at 4 different side trails proved fruitless, we finally decided to abandon our mission and get off the mountain.

This is Kevin - who turned out to be a girl, but we'd already named her - she followed us for 4 of the 6 hours!

This is Kevin – who turned out to be a girl, but we’d already named her – she followed us for 4 hours!

This is probably around the 5 hour & 45 minute mark, when we finally had to throw in the towel!

This is probably around the 5 hour, 45 minute mark, when we finally had to throw in the towel!

Unfortunately, for me there were two ways off: hike 8 km back down the way we came or take the suspended cable car. Despite my debilitating fear of heights, Lisa finally talked me into taking the cable car down and we lived to talk about it!

Cable Car Drama

Bariloche was great and we wish we could have spent a little more time there, but we already made plans to head south to a small mountain town called Esquel, Argentina with plans to camp at the Parque Nacional de los Alerces.  As we all know, sometimes the best of plans can get dashed out. In our case rain was the main culprit.  After 3 days of straight rain we decided that it just wasn’t in the cards for us to camp in Esquel.  At this point we had two options, head south again or end our time in Argentina.  In the end we decided that El Calafate, Argentina, in the Southern third of Patagonia, was going to be our next destination.

Sepia geese

 

life aquatic II

Like pretty much everywhere else in Patagonia, El Calafate proved to be a really beautiful city. With a population of around 100,000, it plays host to many thousands more during the high tourist season of January & February. During this time prices are very high for food and lodging. Despite our best shopping around, every restaurant ranged from kind of expensive to really expensive. Nevertheless, we had a great time in El Calafate after we changed hostels to one that was a little farther our of town, but had a great atmosphere, where we met a handful of fun travels along with a great staff!

Blue Skies

 

reflection

After a few days of hanging out around town, we were finally able to get on a tour to El Calafate’s main attraction, the Perito Moreno Glacier. One of the world’s fastest moving glaciers, creeping along at a little more than 2 meters a day & dumping 4 story building size pieces of ice into Lake Argentina all day long, Perito Moreno stretches some 35 plus kilometers back through the mountains and across the Chilean border.

Glacier Perito Moreno

Scenery - Puerto Moreno Tour

Black chested eagle

Our tour took the back roads to the National Park allowing us to see falcons & eagles at close range as well as stopping at a large estancia (ranch) that was home to horses, cows, goats, and a milk hungry cat.

Bull Skull

According to Lisa, my photo skills are improving – I took this shot!

frontier

Glacier Perito Moreno - Cobalt

Lisa even had a good time, despite that fact that she was freezing!

Lisa even had a good time, despite the fact that she was freezing!

We admittedly had some reservations about spending money to see a giant block of ice, but it was one of the most impressive things that we’ve seen so far on the trip. All in all, El Calafate was one of our favorite places so far on this trip, despite it’s Wisconsin like cool/cold weather.

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Week 17 - Grandeur - Perito Moreno Glacier, outside of El Calafate, Argentina

Week 17 – Grandeur – Perito Moreno Glacier, outside of El Calafate, Argentina

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Week 16 - Lago Argentino - El Calafate, Argentina

Week 16 – Lago Argentino – El Calafate, Argentina

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