• rose

Buenos Aires, Argentina


What I knew of Argentina before traveling here was only what I had learned from Evita, thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The theme song of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” plays in my head whenever I think about Buenos Aires - apologizes, now you will probably have it stuck in your head too!! Neither Devon or I knew what to expect, but we were excited to explore the city which we had heard was very European, and known for delicious beef!

The Presidential Palace, Casa Rosada, or "The Pink House". From this balcony, President Juan Peron and his wife Eva Person would address the people of Buenos Aires.

By happenstance, we spent a solid amount of time in Buenos Aires. The food, the culture, the tango, the hustle and bustle of the city, and not to mention the nice weather - what’s not to like?! After camping and hiking through Patagonia for a month, we were both relieved to feel the warmth and sunshine again. A few highlights for us were:

• Visiting the San Telmo Market.


This market was PACKED on the weekend, very similar to Granville Island in Vancouver, BC. We got to see San Telmo on a Sunday when they have a vintage market, and vendors selling art and other goods line the streets.



• Watching a tango show.


When in Rome right!? We went to an intimate show at El Viejo Almacen, which was full of lively music and dancing. The band had not one, but TWO accordionists (yes, accordionists is a word). We were both in awe of the fancy footwork of the dancers; we definitely now have some inspiration/intimidation for our upcoming wedding...


• Going for a steak dinner (or two!). One of the best parts was enjoying one of the finest wines on the menu for only $15 CAD!


The amount of meat is astounding...we watched a documentary that stated that Argentinians eat approximately 70 kg of meat per person...per year! I wonder if any of them have seen the documentary Cowspiracy, or would consider "Meatless Monday"?


• Walking around Palmero Hollywood and SOHO and enjoying all the bright coloured and trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants. And getting our daily fix of Chori...so deadly.


• Experiencing Carnival and getting sprayed by aerosol cans of what we believe to have been soap and water...


• Exploring the city's main tourist attractions and taking advantage of the FREE bicycle share program.


• Meeting up with our Aussie friends we met hiking in Chile. Sadly I don't have a photo of this! It's been so much fun meeting other travellers along the way - we have managed to run into friends both intentionally, and unintentionally this trip which has been so serendipitous!

• One of the other highlights for us might seem silly to those of you reading this...but actually getting back into a “normal routine” of buying groceries, making dinner, going to the gym, doing laundry, reading a book, etc was really refreshing. It feels crazy sometimes to “waste” a day doing mundane chores or catching up on social media or current events when you are halfway across the world in an amazing new and exciting city...but there is also a lot of relaxation and rejuvenation that comes with the experience of taking time to take care of yourself. At the beginning of our trip I think we put a lot more pressure on ourselves to see and do as much as possible. With time, we have come to learn that there is so much more to travelling than checking off a list of “must see” and “must do’s”. Travelling is always a balance of time, money, energy, and interest - and we have realized that it is so unique to the individual traveller.

  • devon

Updated: Mar 13, 2019

El Chalten and El Calafate, Argentina



As I write this we are in the air, halfway to Buenos Aires, and are ready to get back into some warmer weather, after camping and hiking for nearly a month in Patagonia! We have survived the Patagonian elements, and we even got a small taste of snow in February which cured us of any homesickness we were feeling. Nearly every morning waking up in El Chalten, Argentina, the tent walls were covered in frost. Not quite the -30 C temperatures that Calgary is getting right now, but cold enough for us. That being said, being out of the sweltering heat for the last five weeks has been a welcome change.


I have learned on this trip that my body is not well equipped to deal with 35 C and 90% humidity conditions - not conditions you have to deal with often, living in Canada!


We made it within a few hundred kilometers of the infamous Torres Del Paine, but we weren’t able to book campsites for the W route. Initially this was a disappointing realization, but after tons of research and talking with other travellers, I have come to peace with it. We were trying to do the trail in peak season, and began trying to book about five weeks prior to when we wanted to do it. It was an unlikely proposition at the time, but most things like this have worked out so far for us... Unfortunately, this was not to be. We realized in Coyhaique that we had to walk away from that idea that we would be doing this trail. We got bookings at two of the four campsites that we needed to complete the trek, and it didn’t seem worth it to make the travel arrangements to do half of the W route. This would’ve have been unfathomable to me when we were planning in Santiago, but after camping and hiking in Patagonia for the last four weeks I am completely content with what we have seen and done in lieu of doing Torres. I am sure, given the popularity of Torres, that it is a outstanding multi-day hike, but it’s not as if we haven’t been witness to some outstanding vistas ourselves. Also, it’s just a gut feeling but after talking with many people who have done it, but it sounds like “rush-hour” hiking - half the reason I love hiking so much is the fact that I can get away from people, so hiking with swarms of other people is not my idea of a great time. I’m sure in shoulder season, when fewer people are doing it, this hike is legendary. Hopefully one day I will conclude my Carretera Austral bike-packing trip, in mid March, with Torres Del Paine. I can soak up the vistas and bask in the solitude - exactly as hiking is supposed to be!


For those of you who are adventurous and desperate to do Torres, we have heard through the traveller grapevine that it is possible to do this trail if you don’t have permits… I’m not saying you should, but if you are a little sneaky it can be done. Talking with people along our journey, this doesn’t seem to be uncommon… I suspect that if the reservation system wasn’t an absolute joke to navigate through, people wouldn’t be doing it.


Our furthest point south, in South America, was El Calafate, Argentina. Our journey to this point involved some spectacular sights in El Chalten and El Calafate.


From El Chalten, there are multiple very easy day hikes leading to unbelievable vistas. The town itself is small, a little ragged, but is developing some genuine personality. It doesn’t feel like a tourist town that has been slapped together by a designer - not that we have seen many “designer towns” in SA.


My favourite tourist destinations are the ones that have sprouted organically. They feel personable, genuine, and are visually more interesting.



We were lucky to meet up with some friends from Calgary in El Chalten! How surreal to be halfway around the world and hike with friends from home.



A highlight was visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier. Hearing and seeing ice falling was an incredible experience.








  • devon

Updated: Mar 9, 2019

Patagonia, Chile and Argentina


From our perspective, although more spartan than some might like, camping is the best value for budget travellers, and if you are planning on a journey into Patagonia, camping equipment is not optional. Traveling for as long as we have, we haven’t had much consistency in our lives. Just knowing what our sleeping situation is going to be like, and not having to deal with searching for a decent hostel is a relief. Camping really isn’t any less comfortable than what our living arrangements have been on this trip so far, and once we put up the tent we have a small amount of our own space. That being said, for all but the most dedicated, camping is not an option outside of January, February, and March, due to weather. Many of our nights at altitude have been in the single digits (celsius). Just last night, January 19, 2019, there was a dusting of snow below the tree line, and 50 km/h winds, and this is mid-summer here. We were comfortable in our down sleeping bags, which are good to zero degrees celsius, but we have a small two man tent and good mats which helps retain some of our heat. No matter what month you travel here, you have to be prepared for rain. We have had several days that have been very rainy. Our first non-stop two day rain storm made me immediately grateful that we purchased a quality tent, which has kept us dry up to this point.



Equipment


There are several outdoor equipment sellers in Chile, but I would be very skeptical of the off brand equipment, like Doite. If there is one thing that I have extensive experience with, it is hiking and outdoor equipment. When we were tent shopping, we ended up going with a reasonably priced, small, and fairly lightweight Kelty Grande Mesa 2 tent, from the Zolkan outdoor store in Santiago. Kelty is a brand I have some experience with in Canada, and they make quality, no frills outdoor gear. It is not the fanciest stuff, but it is reasonably priced and reliable, which met our needs. There were other cheaper tents, and the people in the outdoor stores will really push their house brand, but there is a reason “they” say “go with what you know”. After dealing with four faulty Doite sleeping mats, and then witnessing people struggle with staying dry in the rain in their Doite tents, I can confidently say that we made the right choice in tent.



Food


Sticking to our budget in Chile while still enjoying the experiences that Chile has to offer, means finding creative alternatives to eating out all of the time. Because much of our time is spent hiking, we have limitations to what we can pack on multi-day treks. Ideally, you want delicious light weight meals, but this is much easier said than done. You will not find the freeze dried pre-packaged meals that you would get at MEC, in Canada, or REI, in the United States. Also, we don’t have the space in our bags to be packing a stove and pots, so we have had to find enjoyable food that can be eaten without cooking. Our food packing list is dominated by different salamis, which are cured and will last nearly indefinitely without refrigeration, cheese which is good for several days/weeks without being refrigerated because of the salt it contains, mustard, carrots, apples (green apples are basically indestructible and go great with peanut butter), granola, powdered milk/milk in tetra packs, flat bread, peanut butter, honey/jam, trail mix, apple sauces, canned salmon/tuna/mussels, peppers, CHOCOLATE (this is key for keeping everyone happy when things are challenging), and crackers. This is by no means the lightest packing list, but raw foods are delicious, and much cheaper than pre-packaged foods. That being said, if you’re going for more than 4-5 days, you will have to be more cognizant of packing high-calorie lightweight foods. We are not cooking, so we save lots of weight in fuel, stove, and pots, so that offsets the “penalty” of carrying heavier raw foods. You might think that this packing list doesn’t sound like something you’d want to live off of for multiple days, but trust me, when you are working hard and are really hungry even the simplest foods taste outstanding. Everything tastes better in the mountains!


Always always always remember to bring the chocolate!

Water


As far as water, you are going to be hard pressed to find a water filter in Chile - they don’t use them here. Drinking directly from mountain streams is something I am not particularly comfortable with. I would rather not take the risk of becoming ill, when all you would need to mitigate the risk is a small inexpensive purifier. I would highly recommend that you bring a purifier (or better yet, purification tablets) on your travels. Don’t rely on it for purifying tap water in countries where the water is unsuitable for drinking - they do not remove heavy metals and small protozoa that can make you very sick. They are really only good for mountain streams where you are worried about things like Giardia. Get familiar with your purifier, they are not all created equal! That being said, we have managed to not get sick from the stream water, but we try and only fill up at the summit of hikes, so there is much less of a chance of contamination. As these backpacking trails increase in popularity it will become imperative that you carry a filter, as more people will be using these streams for washing. As far as water bottles go, don’t lug around a bottle through months of travel. They take up a ton of space in your bag, and will not be useful in many countries in Central America where you can’t drink the tap water. Just buy water every now and then and reuse the bottle. These bottles are durable and easily replaceable when you don’t want to find space in your bag for it any longer.



Shelter


Pro Tips for Choosing a Quality Tent:

  • Does the box promise unrealistic performance? If you are looking to purchase a new tent, forget about reading the box with the product details. My experience is that the house brand tents claim to be far more waterproof than quality brand tents like North Face, which sets off alarm bells. This is all marketing hype drivel. Your best bet is to set up the tent and look at how it's constructed.

  • Are the seams taped? If you want to remain dry in heavy rain, make sure the seams are taped in the “tub” of the tent and the tent fly.

  • Are the zippers good quality? It’s 2019, zippers shouldn’t be breaking. If it is a heavy zinc zipper, the tent is not good quality - walk away from it.

  • Is it a conventional design? If not, say no. Tents that look unusual are garbage. Abide by KISS: Keep it Simple Stupid. This is a tent, you don’t need to make a creative statement with it.

  • Does the tent have ample ventilation? This is necessary so you don’t end up with condensation collecting on the inside. Make sure the fly sits off of the tent walls, the the stitching is good quality, and the fly is taught when it is staked out.

  • How much does it weigh and how much space will you have to give up in your bag to carry it? In a less expensive tent, a lot of the weight is in the pegs alone, because they will give you steel pegs instead of aluminum. If you care a lot about weight, replace the pegs with aluminum ones. This alone can shave off nearly a pound in weight of a lower cost tent!

  • Is the tent self standing? Buy a tent that is self-standing! I can’t emphasize this enough. If you have to peg out your tent for it to function, it is a terrible design (and I see these tents all of the time…). If you are are camping in high alpine areas, or areas with strong winds, these tents are a nightmare. Any tent manufacturer worth their salt will not make a tent with a design like this. Run from those who do!

  • How much space do you need? Make sure there is some vestibule space to keep your bags, shoes, and any wet/dirty gear you don’t want in the tent with you. The smallest tent, doesn’t mean the lightest. Having a little extra space in a two-man tent is a good thing. If it’s raining, you will be spending waking hours in it - make sure it is big enough for two people to sit up in.

  • How much does it stand out? If you think you will be doing some “incognito camping” (i.e. in urban areas), you don’t want a fluorescent orange tent… Honestly, if you are backpacking, like us, you are going to be leaving some valuables in the tent from time to time. A tent that doesn’t scream “LOOK AT ME” is actually a selling feature.



I wouldn't trust a department store tent to keep you comfortable in the elements, but you don't need the very best equipment to reach these amazing places. Our tent has survived 70 km/hr wind bursts, that were hitting us throughout the night on Cerro Castillo, and multi day rainstorms. It is by no means the end-all-and-be-all of tents, but we have stayed warm and dry in it. My suggestion is to grab gear that works for you, and incorporate it into your adventure. Remember that your best memories are made in times of tribulation, not triumph, so embrace the moments that seem most frustrating. Necessity is the mother of invention, in a worst case scenario you will have more than enough in your bag to get you out of almost any pinch.