Well our first couple of weeks in Argentina have been really wonderful and we’re still reminding each other “hey, we’re in Argentina!” We’ve felt extremely welcome and the local people have shown us a lot of kindness and enthusiasm for being here. We’ve taken some roads off the beaten path where they don’t see travelers very often. The weather’s been very agreeable and everything seems very colorful. While we were quite liking the idea of being cold for a change, it seems we’ve moved out of the cold already and are back in the 80’s.
To wrap up our shipping experience, it took a few days to get everything put away and reinstall some of the things we took out of reach such as all of the contents of the truck cab. We were warned that anything within reach could be stolen by port/ship personnel along the way. So the sunglasses & USB cord that Jon left in the cab were taken. But there were no dents, scratches or anything messed with on the truck and in the cab, they didn’t try every switch like we’d heard about so we felt very relieved. Ivan was missing a few things also. However, we all feel lucky that everything went so smoothly and feel really positive about our experience. And hey, the ship didn’t sink or catch fire, a real plus!
Since it is winter (although you wouldn’t know it now!) we pointed the bows right off to the Northern Pampas to explore that, Iguazu Falls and a bit of Brazil until it’s time to turn southward for the Spring. The grassy plains of the Pampas are famous for cattle grazing, gauchos (cowboys) and rambling estancias (ranches). And big sky. I see what they mean. It grabs me, this open space. We landed in our first campspot in the ranching town of San Antonio de Areco. A popular getaway spot for the people of Buenos Aires, it has a huge campground beside a river. Within minutes, we were invited to an asado (BBQ) the next day by our neighbors. This ended up to be a perfect day both weatherwise, companywise and food wise. This family cooked up a wonderful meal of salads, bread and plenty of BBQ’ed steak, sausage and beef ribs. Our favorite was the Tomahawk cut. They described it as a Fred Flintstone cut and it really was! True, Argentinians do eat a lot of meat if this was any example and we noticed we three were the only ones with fat piled up on the side of our plates as well. Haha. We made some new friends and spent the afternoon chatting, eating and relaxing in the sun by the river. It reminded me of the first day after we had gotten Evergreen off the ship in Greece in February and we were invited to join the other sailors on the pier for lunch on a warm sunny day.
Late that afternoon, as if someone flicked a switch, the wind abruptly changed in a second and a cold breeze blew in so we retreated inside where it’s equally nice to be. We ended up spending 4 nights in that same place to relax, run, bike and do little projects, cook and be home. Basically recover from a few stressful (but also fun) weeks. We checked out the gaucho museum and got some pizza on our biking day. There is a lot of Italian influence here. And a lot of parrots too!
When we first arrived in Argentina, we noticed that quite a few people smoke. Then a little later we observed that most people are cradling a thermos under their arm and a gourd in their hands with a special straw. Then we read up and learned about the national obsession of drinking mate- a bitter yerba tea and the mate’s are the gourds that you drink it out of. Now, the vending machines that dispense hot water make sense!!! We still haven’t tried it but the fact that a whole isle in the grocery store is dedicated to the stuff means we will have to give it a go. You can see here where there is a park bench and a good photo op as well as a place to drink your mate. And when most things aren’t allowed, drinking mate most certainly is.
It was neat seeing the gauchos riding on the roadsides with their berets on and cowboy attire. We also see a lot of really old cars on the road. It feels like going back in time being here.
We’ve been enjoying the generally good highways and clean roadsides. The landscape is pretty flat on the pampa but picturesque in its own right and while there are frequent tolls, they only amount to 60 cents each time. At other times, we’re on sand roads that have more hoofprints on them than tire tracks. We successfully exchange money for pesos and the rate is now around 530 pesos to the dollar so our money goes far here. We get a chuckle out of the roadside asado stands that lure truckdrivers in for a bite because they are just at the side of the highway and the trucks barely pull off. It gives a whole new meaning to roadside BBQ for sure. Oranges are in season and also strawberries, so we’ve picked some up at roadside stands.
None of us would say we love the variety in the grocery stores but meat is of course a good deal as is the wine! And the rest not too bad, we just have to get used to not having some of the things we’re used to. And maybe starting to drink mate.
Since Jon & I had to go back to Buenos Aires for another derm appointment, we decided to explore the town of Tigre outside of the city and then just Uber in for the appt. Tigre is a really cute riverside town that uses canal boats to reach the villages scattered around the wet grasslands. We visited Tres Bocas and walked all over the “town streets” which are all narrow paths & elevated boardwalks. It was something different and neat to ride in the old wooden varnished boats that are basically buses and watch how it all works.
We spent the day in Buenos Aires walking around and visited the Museo de Belles Artes, several of the city parks with statues and huge old trees, went to a bakery for coffee & cake and then late in the day, walked as far as we wanted through the city streets just taking it all in, then hopped on the train for 20 cents and rode the long way home. We are really enjoying the places we visit.
We were anxious to make some miles northward and start visiting a few national parks that we have on our wanna go list. The first was Parque Nacional El Palmar on the Uruguay River. It protects some of the last stands of yatay palm trees and shelters a lot of wildlife. We enjoyed chilling out there walking trails, riding our bikes and counting capybaras, the world’s largest rodent. They love to eat aquatic grasses and lie in the mud and are quite docile. We also saw foxes, and ostrich like birds called rheas, turtles, deer and lots of vizcacha’s, another rodent. They dig big galleries under the sandy dirt and come out to eat grass in the evenings. We looked out over the Uruguay River (it’s less than a mile wide in the part we were in) to Uruguay (which we will eventually visit) and thought about how long it would take to get attacked by the piranhas that inhabit most of the big rivers in S. America. They say if you keep moving they won’t be as likely to bite you. Yeah, right! I read an article about how last year 2 swimmers were killed by them. It feels neat to be in a whole new continent with these different things even if they can kill you.
The second park was Mburucuya. It was an old estate from a couple from Denmark who owned it just after WWII. They farmed the area and built many out buildings that are now in use for park offices and maintenance and then the big house you can walk through. There were trails, a great campground, big old trees and wildlife to view. It was hard to believe we were back in howler monkey territory but there they were, making monsterlike noise especially at dawn & dusk way up in the trees. Despite the bugs we enjoyed a couple of days exploring it. Jon remarked that isn’t it sad that now, when the trees are so huge & impressive, the people who planted them are long gone and can’t see them. Thankfully, we can.
While driving through the rural countryside, we spotted a festival with lots of gauchos on horseback and spectators. So we quick pulled over to see what we could. It was indeed that- the local traditional festival and the gauchos were playing a game where they line up their horses on one side of a field. They are all dressed in their colorful, traditional clothes. On the other side of the field is a rope strung between 2 posts and in the middle of the rope there is a small ring taped onto the rope. One by one, each horseman must gallop across the field with a special small stick in his hand about the size of a straw and steer the horse toward the little ring. He needs to level himself on his galloping horse to reach up and try to snag the center of the ring with the little stick and then keep it in his hand, then stop his horse before running into the fence. It seems impossible but we did see one of them successfully get it! Then the organizer of the event came over and starting talking to us asking where we were from. We became temporary guests of honor as they don’t have foreigners passing through very often, Next thing you know we were up at the stage introducing ourselves while being filmed for their local station, being clapped for and wished safe travels. It was nice to feel so welcome and as we made our way back to our trucks to resume driving, we were stopped several times to pose for pictures. This reminded us so much of Indonesia where we often felt like superstars because of their kindness and the unusual fact that we were there visiting those small villages.
We continued northward through more pancake flat grasslands toward the Esteros del Ibera, a large, showcase park in Northern Argentina, great for spotting wildlife. It was made even larger by donations from American conservationists Douglas & Kris Tompkins (Doug founded North Face & Kris was CEO for Patagonia) along with many other massive tracts of land in Argentina & Chile (Patagonia). The goal of the Tompkins Foundation is to “rewild” these spectacular places putting back the species that were overhunted such as anteaters, large cats and tapirs and protect the entire ecosystem. There is actually a lot more to know about this foundation along with the tragic end to Doug’s life out doing what he loved- kayaking in Chile where he was dumped into cold water and died of hypothermia. We arrived on a 30 km bumpy sand road that keeps a lot of people away. It’s like an oasis of mowed green grass amid endless fields of tall brown grass. Very pretty. We arranged a little boat ride with a guide who punted us up to lots of caymans, a stork, more capybaras and other birds. It was a pretty morning bike ride through the grasslands to get to the river. I love to bike to a hike and that sort of thing. And the crazy thing about some of these lovely parks is they’re free. All the camping too. Most campgrounds have electricity. The main reasom for this is the kettle to make hot water. Do you know why??
We decided a tiny little bit of color was in order for our truck so decided on some flags of the countries it has taken us to.
Then I realized that continuing to have air plants wasn’t practical anymore moving in & out of countries so much so I ordered some glass frogs instead because we so enjoyed all the cool ones we saw in Costa Rica. Those are our recent home improvements!
The scarcity of cell service has us pretty convinced that Starlink is in our future. The main issue is how to come by one and all the pieces needed to get it up & running. We don’t want to be held up anywhere waiting for it either. We’re enjoying feeling free to roam wherever we want right now with no firm schedule. Pretty soon we should be getting to Iguazu Falls. Another milestone of sorts. That’s it for now.