Monthly Archive: January 2015

More Buenos Aires

Besides Christmas, New Years and Christopher and Susan’s visit, we had a great month in BA! We saw some tango – first in a square in San Telmo, then we took a lesson and went to a milonga (tango club) and finally, we saw a show at Café Tortoni, a famous café downtown.

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We had a welcome surprise one day when one of Brandon’s old coworkers messaged him to let us know he and his wife were in BA for vacation! We met up with Gareth and Betsy a couple of times while they were in town.

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Every Thursday afternoon in BA a protest takes place in front of Casa Rosada (the president’s house) by mothers and grandmothers whose family went missing during the dictatorship in the 70’s.


We also went to BA’s Chinatown and La Boca neighborhoods!

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There aren’t a lot of good skyline views in Buenos Aires, but one of them is at the top of Palacio Baralo. We did a tour one day so we could go to the top.

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Even if we didn’t have a planned place we wanted to go, we explored different neighborhoods every day and are sad to be leaving this beautiful city!

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A month in Buenos Aires

Since we wanted to stay in BA for a month, we rented an apartment on Airbnb. We picked one in the neighborhood of Palermo, close to Plaza Italia, which is a big transportation hub in the neighborhood. We were close to the huge stretch of parks in the city.

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We celebrated both Christmas and New Year’s in BA. Christmas was a pretty low key affair with a mimosa brunch, a walk, some movies and more bubbly with dinner.


New Year’s Eve in BA was absolutely dead! We had expected the party city to be wild, but it wasn’t. There were only a handful of bars and restaurants open and most of them were either booked or had really expensive set menus or cover charges. Apparently most of the city empties out to the beaches in Uruguay or Mar del Plata. We found a pizza place that was open and then headed over to the planetarium where there were fireworks and a DJ.


On New Years Day, my brother and sister-in-law arrived! They were in BA for 5 days and then went down to Patagonia to hike for a few more. We had a great time on their visit and did a lot of touring around the neighborhoods. One day we did a walking tour of the downtown area and then went to Recoleta cemetery.


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Another day we went out to Puerto Madero, visited the ecological reserve and stopped by the San Telmo fair.

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We visited a few museums and did a wine tasting.

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We spent one day out of the city visiting Tigre, a city 45 minutes north on a delta. We did a boat cruise around the area – it was really pretty!

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And of course, we ate steak!

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Workaway in San Rafael

After months of hiking and exploring in Patagonia (with an Antarctic cruise slipped in!), we finally headed north.  We decided to take a break from the constant traveling and save a bit of money by doing a work exchange for 2 weeks.  We used to find an expat couple living near San Rafael (a town a few hours outside the city of Mendoza) that wanted some help on their farm in exchange for free housing.  The “farm” wasn’t really a working farm – they didn’t have crops (besides a small garden and an apricot tree) or animals (except for 2 dogs) but they did have quite a bit of land (it used to be a working vinyard) that needed to be maintained.  We actually had a lot of fun doing the manual labor!  For 4 hours a day during the week, we pruned trees, burned brush piles, cut wood and cleared the path the ran from one end of the property to the other.  My favorite job was burning (I never knew I was a pyro!) but Brandon really liked using the chainsaw and splitter to cut firewood.  Here are some action shots of Brandon at work!

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When our work was done for the day, we relaxed!  San Rafael gets pretty hot during the summer (highs were in the 90s most days we were there) and siestas are part of the culture.  Most businesses were closed from 1 – 5pm so everyone can go home and relax during the hottest part of the day.  While we didn’t take a nap every afternoon, we always would lay down and at least read.  When it gets that hot and there isn’t any air conditioning, there isn’t much else to do.  Luckily we had great digs to relax in!  Our “free accommodation” was a two bedroom house with a fully equipped kitchen and a projector in the living room.  We didn’t have much access to the internet during our stay, but they had a collection of movies and tv shows to watch and we got hooked on the old HBO show Six Feet Under.

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One of our favorite parts of the work away was having pets again!  They had a 2 month old Rottweiler puppy named Cali who was super cute, but always chewing or biting something (or someone).  We had a hard time getting her to stay still for a picture!  We really loved their other dog Catorce though.  He was the perfect dog!  He hung out with us for a lot of the afternoon and evening and really like to cuddle and go on walks.

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The farm was smack in the middle of tons of orchards and vineyards and the surrounding area was absolutely beautiful.  We had a great time and I think it’s fairly safe to say it was the most relaxing two weeks of our trip!

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Hiking in El Chaltén

From Calafate, we took a 3 hour bus to El Chaltén. Chaltén is a relatively new town – only 20 years old or so – and the sole purpose of the town is a base for hikers. The population is only around 1,500 and there is pretty much one main street with a lot of restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and lodging on it.


Instead of renting gear and going backpacking, we decided to just stay in town and do day hikes. All the trails start at the edges of the town, so it’s really easy to just do day trips. The first day we hiked out to Laguna Torre. It was cloudy when we started out, but just as we got into view of the laguna, the clouds cleared and we had a beautiful view of the laguna, glacier and granite towers behind.

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The second day was our longest hike. We did the Tres Lagunas Trail to Mt. Fitz Roy (the iconic El Chaltén mountain). Again, the day started out a bit cloudy with Fitz Roy completely covered. The hike there was pretty easy, except for the last hour that was straight up a rocky hill.

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We got to the top and had high hopes that some of the clouds had disappeared, but no luck. The 2 Lagunas that we visited were both nice, especially Laguna Sucia (“sucia” means dirty which is the opposite of what the turquoise lagoon was).

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We hung around for an hour or so at the top waiting for the clouds to clear but finally gave up and headed back down. And of course when we got down the big rocky hill, the clouds had moved on!


On our way back to town, we did a detour to check out one of the glaciers in the park.


On our last day of hiking, we decided to take it easy. We grabbed our Kindles and some lunch and headed up to a lookout over the town with Mt. Fitz Roy in the background and just hung out for the afternoon. It was beautiful!

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El Calafate

After hiking the “W” in Torres del Paine, our next stop in Southern Patagonia was El Calafate. The primary draw of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno glacier. The glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (which is the 2nd largest contiguous extrapolar ice field in the world), and is in Los Glaciares National Park.
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We took a day trip to the glacier from Calafate, which was roughly a 1.5 hour bus ride away. We spent much of the day just watching the glacier. Watching ice may not sound like the most riveting thing to do, but it became a bit of a hobby for Erin and I while in Patagonia.

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You can occasionally catch the glacier calving, which is when chunks of ice fall from the end of the glacier.

The park featured miles of raised walkways with viewpoints, so that you could view the massive glacier from varying angles.
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We also celebrated Thanksgiving whilst in Calafate, and did so with some delicious Patagonian Lamb.