After spending most of January in Argentina I´ve now crossed over the border into Chile. I`ll likely go back briefly but this is a good time to reflect on the merits of the country.
My highlights are as follows:
1. The steak. clichéd I know but until you’ve been it is really very difficult to comprehend quite how amazing it is, and so reasonably priced. During the first 15 days I ate steak 10 times. We´re talking 800g minimum of prime sirloin. Here is a pic, just to make you jealous and to turn those veggies amongst you.
2. The people. Everyone is so laid back, friendly and direct. Strangers are genuinely interested in talking to one another, as a tourist but also to each other. It feels like Argentinians make friends with strangers very quickly and freqently. After 8 years in London its taken some getting used to.
For example, I arrived at a backpackers in Esquel and the first person I met asked me about my plans. I told him about the 3 day hike I was starting the next day and he said he would join. He didn`t ask, he just stated that he would come along, assuming that two was always preferable to one.
Santiago is from Buenos Aires, I think he would have prefered it if I had been a lonely female traveller from Europe but he made do with me and we had a fun few days together. The poor chap almost collapsed on the walk but we made it. He had fishing rod and I was fortunate enough to catch a trout for dinner.
Santiago, and many other Argentinians I´ve spoken to, regularly travel by themselves for their holidays assuming they’ll meet up with someone on route. I like this approach, so lacking in cynicism that you find in Anglo-Saxon culture.
3. Long distance busses. I´ve done two 20 plus hour bus journey’s and they are alright. An ipad with the first series of the Wire (amazing) helps. They have cool reclining chairs and some of the busses even feed you. Local buses however are less cool – they are infrequent and routes are tricky to work out.
4. The Lake District – it`s the most beautiful place I`ve been yet. As it`s in the middle of the country it is warmer than the South and it combines some really challenging tramping and stunning scenary with loads of lakes to chill out at.
What I don´t like
1. The bastard horse flys. They come out for a few months each year and are infuriating. They cling to you and bite you, like draw blood. They´re not interested in your food like normally flies, you are the food. Their only redeeming feature is that they are slow and I have become very good at killing them. I rejoice in it.