Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recoleta Protest: Cristina's speech didn't calm things here.

Young protester with her dad joining the crowd on Pueyrredon

Just returned from the protest here in the Recoleta tonight. It was much bigger than the night before. When talking with people in the crowd, it appears that Cristina didn't do anything to calm the emotions of the middle class here in the Recoleta. (OK...maybe some were well above middle class status.)

Protest Turning onto Santa Fe

The cacerolazo started soon after Cristina's speech. People headed to their windows and balconies and started banging on pots and pans to announce the start.

People then started gathering on the street. I went up a block to the corner of Callao and Quitana where everyone from my neighborhood seemed to gather each night. There was a pretty good crowd, although not as big as the previous night.

When enough had gathered to block the road, everyone marched up to the corner of Santa Fe and Callao. This was the area where all of the groups from Barrio Norte would meet up before marching on to the Obelisco the other nights.

I left the crowd about 9:00 and headed home for dinner.

About 10:00 we heard a large bang of fireworks and the tin of the Cacerolazo approaching our apartment. I grabbed the camera and raced downstairs. I was surprised to see a very large march down Callao.

Protest moving up Santa Fe

I guess the pro-government supporters had occupied the Obelisco and Plaza de Mayo all day. So the Cacerolazo decided to march through the streets tonight.

It was a great tactic. The group drew more and more participants as it marched down Callao. I followed the group of about 3,000 people. down Callao and onto Ave. Libertador. From Libertador, the crowd moved up Av. Pueyrredon and back up to Santa Fe.

All along the way the crowed grew bigger an bigger. And when they reached the intersection of Santa Fe and Callao again the crowd was easily 5,000. Later, they broke out in the national anthem before many left for home around 11:00. It was very moving.

Protest heading to Callao and Santa Fe

The mood was more like being in a parade than a protest. There were families with small children, older couples, soccer mom types, and a large number of young adults. As we passed down the street, the balconies would fill with people banging pots or throwing confetti down on the crowd.

Cristina Maria Antonieta

One thing is clear. The middle and upper classes do not like the Kirschners. They are tired of the bad government and the fact that they have no real congress to stand up for them. They feel the cacerolazo is the only way they can be heard.

I've got a ton of great video. It just takes forever to upload to YouTube. I'll post more as I get it uploaded. I promise.

I'll leave you with a moving video of the singing of the National Anthem:

Right before the Protest Broke up

The Voice of the Government: Luis D'Elía"

D'Elía attacking a man in the Plaza de Mayo

Why is this man the face of the government?

This is the man that sent a small group of thugs into the Plaza de Mayo to break up the protesters supporting the farmers. The self proclaimed voice of the government and the "people".

Who is he? While none other than a former official from Nestor Kirshner's (Cristina's husband) presidential cabinet&mdashLuis D'Elía.

It is not everyday you see an official from the government punching ordinary citizens in the street (see the video clip above from La Nacion) and spewing hatred like this:

"I am replying that I have a visceral hatred for the oligarchy whore (i.e. the farmers) that has its hands full, but filled with blood from people, blood workers, but never had a problem with killing massively "
Translated by Google from La Nacion

And of course this gem:

"You, the north of the city, whites, those who accumulate and concentrate and kill and that the only flag they have in their hands is its own profitability, they have a visceral hatred, sépanlo of my mouth, the only thing I hate it moves against you"
Translated by Google from La Nacion

Here is the link to the full article in spanish. My US friends can read the translated version here.

This is insane. Someone please explain why people like Luis D'Elía are inciting class warfare and splitting this great country instead of trying to solve the problems at hand.

The most outrageous thing? There he was tonight on the stage with the Kirshners as Cristina gave her speech. How can a man like that be allowed to sit on the same stage with them?

BTW...In my previous post when I mocked the woman's boyfriend for saying this was heading to civil war....I sadly retract my statement.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Buenos Aires Erupted in Protest Tonight

Protest moving up Ave. Santa Fe

My family found ourself in the middle of one of the largest protest in recent history here in Buenos Aires. Evidently (and I don't have all the facts due to my language barrier), Christina popped her head on TV and called the striking farmers spoiled, rich aristocrats—according to a couple I spoke with on the streets, although two newsreporters I talked to later stated she said "they make enormous profits and are very rich."

Whatever she said, It pissed off a lot of people. The march started around 8:00 followed by a counter protest around 10:00 by the Peronist ( I can't really tell who is who on TV). There may be others.

I was at home with my son tonight when my wife and daughter called and asked us to come meet them for diner. About 8:00, I grabbed my son and headed downstairs to get a taxi. As, I was getting in I heard a lot of banging sounds. I looked up to see the maids in my building at the windows banging on pots.

Protest moving up Ave. 9 de Julio

Wow, was there a big football match that I wasn't awear of? As I gave the taxi driver directions, several more women walked by banging pots and pans. We drove up Montevideo and more and more people were filling the streets. Nothing big. A few here and there on the sidewalk. When we arrived at Avendia Santa Fe, there were even more people.

I met my family at the restaurant and we took our seats at the table. We asked the manager what was going on, but no one seemed quite sure why the people were protesting.

Protest at the Obelisco

However, the banging and the chanting grew louder and louder. We left the restaurant and were shocked to see a solid mass of people now marching down Santa Fe. What use to be six lanes of busy traffic was now wall to wall people marching down the center of the street.

A couple leaving another restaurant explained the part about Christina speaking ill of the striking farmers and that people where taking the streets in support of the farmers.

Protest in Plaza de Mayo

At that point (being against the Tax increase myself), we joined the marchers and marched down Santa Fe to 9 de Julio and on to the Obelisco where a larger crowd had gathered. Before heading down to Plaza de Mayo.

It is now 1:30 as I write this and it has started pouring rain. Good thing. The protest, counter-protest, and counter-counter-protest were starting to get heated. The rain will empty the streets in a hurry.

Protest in Plaza de Mayo

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Top 10 Places to Stay in Argentina

After a rather lengthy tour around Argentina, I thought it would be helpful to share the best hotels, inns and estancias I've come across.

I've taken my lead from fellow Quaffer, BA expat and full-time tour guideAlan, who has compiled a list of his favorite hotels in Buenos Aires over at his blog.

But Argentina has so much more than just Buenos Aires. So here is my list of the best beds Argentina has to offer—assuming price is no object.

1. Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

parkHyatt-BA room2.jpg

Simply one of my favorite hotels in the whole world.

Even though it is brand new, the Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires has found it's place among the best hotels in Buenos Aires and has found it to the top of my list of best hotels.

To some, the Alvear (see #4 below) is the Grand Damme of Buenos Aires hotels. However, if you are like me, and all the marble, gold and gilded, white-glove service seems a bit dated and stuffy, head over to the Park Hyatt. The service at the Park Hyatt is warm and sleek and every bit as attentive with a very high staff to guest ratio.

The rooms are modern and cozy. This is what luxury in the twenty first century should be like. The tea and brunch at the Park Hyatt are wonderful treats and a favorite choice for my daughter on special occasions.

The Park Hyatt is really two hotels in one. The part facing Ave. Alvear was once a private palace. It has been wonderfully restored and blends the best of old and new. The tower facing Posadas street is sleek and modern.

It is one of the priciest beds in town. But, you will be rubbing shoulders with rock stars and other celebs passing through town.

2. Llao Llao Hotel and Resort Bariloche

Hotel Llao Llao

My second favorite hotel is the Llao Llao Hotel and Golf Resort located 30km west of Bariloche. The views are breathtaking in every direction.

It is a great place to stay if you are on a romantic getaway, have the kids in tow, or if you are a celeb looking to hang with your gal pals. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy. Or if you prefer, there are plenty of great spots to do nothing but soak up the sun and the incredible views.

Golfer? This is the place for you. The views from the golf course are better than Pebble Beach.

You can find more pics in my earlier blog post on my stay.

3. Four Seasons Buenos Aires


Four Seasons reputation for excellence is not wasted on the Four Seasons Buenos Aires. It is a great place to stay if you are on business or traveling on your own.

To be honest, it was about 10 years or so ago when I stayed there as a young software executive on my first visit to Buenos Aires. It was the nicest hotel I had stayed in at the time, only it wasn't the Four Seasons. It was the Park Hyatt back then.

Fast forward several years later and through a major renovation, it is even nicer than I remembered. The service, like the other two Buenos Aires hotels on the list, is top notch and its location just off 9 de Julio can't be beat.

Brunch here shouldn't be missed. My family took me to Sunday brunch here for my birthday. It was more my style than the brunches at the Park Hyatt or the Alvear—less pretentious and friendlier, but every bit as nice.

Similar to the new Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt, the hotel features a wonderful french-style mansion in the back and a new, modern tower in the front. Ask for a room with a view of the pool and the mansion. You may even get a great view of the Obelisk.

4. Alvear Palace Hotel Buenos Aires.


Ask any porteño what the best hotel in Buenos Aires is, and they will all say the Alvear. For over 75 years this hotel has staged some of the most important events in Buenos Aires. It's white gloved service can't be matched. The english speaking staff from the concierge to the butler are eager to assist with any need.

For those looking for a throwback to a bygone era, this is the place for you. It is a beautiful old hotel filled with more marble and goldleaf than you have ever seen. The Alvear is grand without being gaudy. I prefer my hotels a little less gilded though. That is why it is not my top rated BA hotel.

However, the Sunday brunch and high tea are unmatched for their level of service and a great treat for visitors even if you aren't staying there. Either one is a must do on any tourists checklist.

5. Estancia Dos Lunas


If you come to Argentina, you have to experience a stay at a working estancia. Dos Lunas outside of Córdoba is one of the best. It is the perfect escape from the modern world and you get to experience what life was like for Argentina's wealthy landowners.

The food at Dos Lunas is exceptional and the hospitality warm and friendly. No TV, phone, or internet for miles.

There may be better estancias in Argentina, I have not found one yet. My family ranks our stay at Dos Lunas as our favorite memory in Argentina so far. I raved about our stay in my Dos Lunas post with plenty of pics.

6. Park Hyatt Mendoza


There simply isn't any other choice when staying in Mendoza other than the Park Hyatt Mendoza. It is situated in the heart of Mendoza right on the main square.

Like it's sister hotel in Buenos Aires, the Park Hyatt has designed a sleek modern hotel into a beautiful old building from Mendoza's past. The rooms are large, modern and very comfy. The the outstanding service is warm and friendly and can arrange any of your outdoor activities or wine tours.

Food at all of the restaurants are some of the best bites in town. Sushi on the patio on Friday nights shouldn't be missed.

The kids really enjoyed the small, but uniquely designed pool. Can't say much about the attached Casino, but the Spa is highly rated by past visitors over at TripAdvisor

7. Eolo - Patagonia's Spirit


El Calafate took my breath away and nudged out Bariloche as my favorite place in Patagonia. The best place to stay in Calafate has to be Eolo.

Well, you could spend $1000 (yes, that is one thousand US dollars) more a night to stay at Los Notros and be closer to the glacier. But, is it not worth it? The staff, service and food at Eolo are all exceptional.

Above all, it is the beautiful setting that sets Eolo apart. It is the ultimate room with a view as visitors are enveloped in the beauty and remoteness of southern Patagonia. It is one of those special places that shouldn't be missed.

8. Las Balsas

Picture 3.png

I wrote in my blog post about Bariloche that Villa La Angostura is the place
to stay for smart Argentine traveler in the know. The quaint
village is a lot more welcoming than run-down Bariloche across the lake.

There is not better place to stay in Villa La Angostura than Las Balsas. This small quiet inn is right on the lake with a chef that is world renowned. Probably not a place to take the kids. But, this is the place if you want a romantic getaway in the Bailoche area.

Las Balsas makes a great alternative to the Hotel Llao Llao (the other Bariloche area hotel on my list) if you prefer small comfortable inns over big resorts.

9. Hotel de Montaña Río Hermoso

Picture 2.png

Río Hermosa Hotel is one of Patagonia's best kept secrets. It is located right on the banks of the Río Hermoso in Lanín National Park. It is south of San Martín de los Andes in the middle of nowhere.

Like Las Balsas (see above), it is a small gem of a hotel. However, it is more secluded and private than Las Balsas and ideal for those wanting an exclusive get away close to nature. My Argentine travel agent once joked, "Las Balsas is where we take our wives, Río Hermoso is where we take our mistresses. And when you are done with her, you have the best fly fishing right at your doorstep."

I guess for certain men, it couldn't get much better than that. Río Hermoso tops my list of places to stay in the San Martín del los Andes area. I will be staying here when I return. With my wife of course.

10. The Cavas Wine Lodge


Touring Mendoza for the wine? Then you have to stay at The Cavas Wine Lodge. It is located at the base of Andes Mountains surrounded by lush vineyards 20 minutes south of Mendoza.

It was the first hotel in Mendoza dedicated to wine. Cavas Wine Lodge is known for its privacy, tranquility and romance (i.e. no kids allowed). Guests are surrounded by great wine, food and natural beauty.

The rooms are actually small casitas in the middle of the vineyard and feature private pools and rooftop fireplaces. Most guests comment that their fondest memory is drinking a bottle of wine with their spouse rooftop in front of the outdoor fireplace while the sun set over the Andes. The luxurious spa is top rated by former guests as well.

It is the one place we wanted to stay in Mendoza but couldn't because we had the kids in tow. So on this one, I'm going strictly by everyone else's strong praise.

What is your favorite place in Argentina?

What do you think? Did I leave your favorite hotel or estancia off the list? I know I have short changed Salta, Tucuman and other regions to the north. However, I haven't been lucky enough to visit the north of Argentina yet. What are your recommendations?

Day of Memory for Truth and Justice

Today is the Day of Memory for Truth in Justice (Memory Day) here in Argentina. It is a public holiday commemorating the victims of the military dictatorship known as The Disappeared.

It is held on 24 March, the anniversary of the coup d'état of 1976 that brought the military junta to power responsible for the disappearance, torture and deaths of over 30,000 Argentines.

There will be ceremonies at the infamous Navy Mechanics School and the Plaza de Mayo. The Navy Mechanics School on Libertador was were some of the worst torture occurred before the victims were executed or simply flown out over the ocean and tossed overboard.

Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada is the traditional protest site of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who have been protesting there every Thursday since 1977.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Farm Protest: Start of A Civil War?


Everything is backwards down here. I guess because we are south of the equator. Although the jury is out on the whole water draining down the toilet thing, every thing else is reversed.

In the States, we heavily subsidize our farmers. In Argentina, they have resorted to taxing the hell out of them. To the tune of 44% export tariffs on things like soybeans and wheat. Ouch!

Like anyone who's livelihood is reduced by 44%, the farmers are pissed. And they are taking to the streets of the Campo with roadblocks on all the major roads.

By coincidence, the timing comes with maximum impact. During holy week, Buenos Aires empties out and the Argentines take to the road for a four day holiday. The roads are packed this weekend and no one is going anywhere fast. Angers are flaring on both sides of the issue.


The farmers here rule the economy and tariffs on their exports have been filling the government's coffers to the tune of some $39 billion (US) at last count. The soaring commodity prices have been a big factor in Argentina's rapid turn around.

Things aren't all rosy for the new president though. Despite official numbers on inflation at 8.5% it is really topping 20%. People on the streets are grumbling about food prices.

Because of price controls on energy supplies(yes Mike, price controls), there will be a huge shortfall—if not this winter then by next. At current prices, it is just not feasible to refine and produce enough fuel. That has sent Argentina's President in her finest short designer skirts off flirting with Brazil and Chavez to come to the rescue.

Back to the farmers. So how do you solve the high food prices and continue to subsidize energy? Tax the hell out of the farmers. This is socialism at its worst. Lets punish the one sector of the economy that is saving this economy.

The Government gets by with this because the farmers are vilified as greedy opportunists and painted as the cause of the high prices.

One post on the Yahoo BA Newcomers group claimed the farmers were killing babies and deserved all to be taxed until they bleed... Alright, maybe the post was on how their blockades were shutting down all the roads were causing accidents...

“Greed runs deeper than wealth in these farmers. So before offering
any sympathy for these swine; remember the people bleeding to death
in accidents along these roads, and the ambulances that can't get
through cause some greedy rich farmer doesn't want to surrender a
small percentage of his outrageous profit in this poverty-seized

To hell with the corn revolution.”

It is that kind of propagandist vilifying that allows things like this to get out of control. It is starting to split the country. On yet another BA Newcomers post, a women quotes her Argentine boyfried as saying, “the country is heading to civil war.” I doubt it. However, it is yet another crack in the wall.

It is all a sad reminder of how this country continually shots itself in the foot economically. Every seven years this country implodes. Cristina's economic policies just might get us their sooner than we thought.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

No Country for Old Men


No Country for Old Men finally opened here in Buenos Aires. The Cormac McCarthy novel was the last novel I had read before moving to Argentina and I have been waiting for the movie to come out for months.

Cormac McCarthy

All, I can say is wow! The Coen brothers were faithful to the book in every way. Their cinematic mastery has created a movie even better than the book.

I saw it twice in the theaters last weekend and I even bought a copy off of iTunes and watched it two more times.

I highly recommend you buy it for yourself now that it is on DVD and online. It has found a place in my all time top 10 list if not my top 5.

I know there is a large population of you out there that left the theater scratching your heads. It is understandable given the very non-hollywood ending to the movie. At first, I was jarred by the ending. But with a little explaining, you will be able to understand why the ending was the way it was.

Sailing To Byzantium

The title, "No Country for Old Men", comes from a famous poem by William Butler Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium". Byzantium is symbolic of the ideal paradise of the eternal world verses the natural mortal world.

The poem contrasts the decay of the natural world and of the "dying generation" with the desire to escape the decaying human condition to that of the ideal. Of course, it is unattainable. We must finally retire to that fact, just as Sheriff Bell does in the movie.

Essentially, that is what the movie (and book) is about. The duality of good vs. evil, choice vs. chance are also important elements of the story.

Death and The Tree of Life

You first see see the duality of good and evil, and how choice vs. chance play out when Lewellen first spots the "ultimo Hombre" with the cash under one of two trees. The first tree on the left represents the "Tree of Life". It is lush and green. The other tree on the right is decayed and dying. It is "the Tree of knowledge" or the one with forbidden fruit, i.e the cash.


Lewellen, a decent honest man, by choice commits sin like Adam and Eve by taking the forbidden fruit (the cash)...thus entangling Sheriff Bell in a mortal world so distant and evil from what he knows, he feels overwhelmed and retires.

The tree of life is a prominent symbol in the film. The scene above is the first instance. It is also used subtly when Chigurh (the ultimate symbol of Death in our lives) comes up to the door in the mobile home park. The circles on the door and the shadow of Chigurh walking up to the door make a kabbalist tree of life symbol. It is that kind of detail in framing and editing a shot that make the Coen brothers great.

Finally, at the end when Chigurh is walking away from the crash scene, he dissolves into the next scene and into a tree of life behind Sheriff Bell's shoulder. Those two images of Chigurh dissolving into a tree of life is symbolic of how death is always present here in our mortal lives.


The Coen brothers were also brilliant at setting up the scene where Chigurh challenges the gas station attendant to a flip of the coin. The scene is reminiscent of death challenging a knight to a game of chess in Bergman's The Seventh Seal.


The way the Coen brothers staged the scene is priceless. Behind the old man in the gas station are fan belts arranged like hangman nooses. The antique looking cash register reads, "Paid Out 21". Below and to the right are are smiley faces stickers. Behind Chigurh the only candy you notice is "Snickers".

The dialogue is almost all straight from the book and reflect McCarthy's sparse poetic prose where no words are wasted. Every word is wrought with meaning—sometimes more than one.

Add to that the brilliant acting. Josh Brolin was perfect as Lewellen Moss. Tommy Lee Jones has been practicing his whole life for the roll of Sheriff Ed Bell. That was who I pictured playing the roll when reading the book. He didn't let me down.

And of course, Javier Bardem was pure evil and worthy of the Oscar he received for playing Anton Chigurh.

Finally, the cinematography was breathtaking under the masterful lens of Roger Deakins.


In summary, about a perfect film as you can make. It was hard to find anything to complain about, unless you had not read the book and were expecting a typical Hollywood ending and everything wrapped up in a pretty bow. Maybe something along the lines of... Bad guys are killed. Good guys go home. Just like in real life, no?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Península Valdés: A Unique Wildlife Sanctuary

Elephant Seal

Península Valdés is an oddly shaped peninsula on the Atlantic coast about 1000Km southwest of Buenos Aires. It offers two protected bays utilized by whales, sea lions, elephant seals, penguins and other marine life.

It is one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites found in Argentina. Cueva de las Manos, and Los Glaciares National Park are examples of others.


The peninsula itself is a barren flat landscape no different than the Patagonian Steppe found on the mainland. It is sparsely populated with the private lands divided by just a few large sheep farms.


According UNESCO, the reason Península Valdés was named an UNESCO natural world heritage site was:
it is a site of global significance for the conservation of marine mammals. It is home to an important breeding population of the endangered southern right whale as well as important breeding populations of southern elephant seals and southern sea lions. The orcas in this area have developed a unique hunting strategy to adapt to local coastal conditions.

Right Whale Sunset by Tony Galvez

The photo above is by Tony Galvez on Flickr and it shows a Southern Right Whale in the protected bay to the south of the Peninsula. The Southern Right Whales use the bay to birth their pups and rest before the long journey home at the end of Feb. We just missed them.

We were also a little too early to witness the "unique hunting strategy of the orca whales". In March and April, they will swim up onto the beach in the northern bay where hundreds of sea lions have just given birth to their pups.

The orcas use the unusually deep shoreline to spring up on the beach and surprise the pups for an easy lunch. It is pretty gruesome to watch. I'm almost glad we missed it. Here is a link if you really must see it for yourself

The, biggest colony of Magellanic Penguins is in Punta Tombo further down the Atlantic coast. However, there are some large colonies on the peninsula too. We were surprised at how close to the road these guys were.



If you visit, you will want to fly to Trelew (pronounced tree-lough) and rent a car. You can stay in Puerto Madryn, the closest city to the peninsula or you can stay in Puerto Pirámides, a small beach town on the peninsula where you can easily catch a whale watching tour in the bay.

We recommend you stay at one of the estancias on the peninsula. We stayed at Estancia Rincon Chico which allowed us onto their private, protected beach where we could walk right up to a large colony of elephant seals. I'll have a full review of the estancia in a later post.

Here are a few more photos of the elephant seals at Rincon Chico's beach.

Elephant Seals at Rincon Chico

Elephant Seal

Ushuaia: The End of the World

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego Argentina.

Ushuaia bills itself as the southern most city of the world and the last stop before Antarctica. Well Chile is actually closer, but Ushuaia is the last real city before Antarctica. Most tour companies book their Antarctic cruises from this port city.

In fact, Ushuaia has become a very popular port of call for many cruises. Over 500,000 people came through the port last year and even more are expected in 2008. English outnumbered castellano 2 to 1 on the streets.

All of those cruisers steer the demographics on the street to the grey haired set. Don't let that stop you from coming though. Ushuaia is a must see on any Argentina adventure.

Beagle Channel Lighthouse

Ushuaia sits right on the Beagle Channel and is a former penal colony modeled after Sydney. Below is a mural depicting some of the most notorious criminals held there.

Ushuaia Prison Mural

Ruta 40 runs out well before Tierra Del Fuego. Tierra Del Fuego is a large island cut off from the main land by the Straits of Magellan, so it is not easy to get to Ushuaia by car or bus. Given the cheap air fair between here and El Calafate or Buenos Aires, you are better off flying (even with Aerolineas Argentina's typical 4 hour delays.)

The port city is surrounded by mountains and there is some pretty good hiking. But, the best part is the wildlife in the Beagle Channel. Book yourself a boat cruise and tour the channel.

Beagle Channel Fowl

We were a bit boat toured out after Bariloche and El Calafate so we found the smallest boat tour we could find—a sailboat that only fit eight. We lucked out and my family was the only ones on the boat so we had a private tour of the channel and its wildlife. Below is a pic of our captain.

Captain of our Sailboat

There is an abundance of marine birds and mammals in the Beagle Channel. Below is a pic I posted earlier of some Sea Lions along with some of the other marine life found on the islands in the Channel.

Sea Lion Beagle Channel Isle

Alicia Island

Saturday, March 8, 2008

El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier


Ask anyone who has done the whole Route 40 excursion down Patagonia what their favorite place was and you will likely hear just one answer—El Calafate.

And the star of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno Glacier. While it is by far not the biggest Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, it is the most awe inspiring.

Perito Moreno Glacier

I was truly blown away by Porito Moreno. You are able to get really close up and hear it creaking, cracking and slowly moaning. You can physically see it advancing. Every so often a loud explosion and crash thunders across the lake as a large chunk of ice breaks off and tumbles into the water below. Words just can't describe it.

Perito Moreno Glacier Closeup

I sat for hours just listing and watching the glacier. It was a moving experience.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Only the Grand Canyon had moved me like that before. And I would put Perito Moreno above the Grand Canyon. It is that spectacular.

Perito Moreno Observation

However, there is one other reason that El Calafate is on the top of everyone's list.

The sunsets.

The first day we were in Calafate, we drove back from the Glacier during sunset. Suddenly, the sky was on fire with every color imaginable. Also, the lake which was already a unique shade of milky blue intensified with a deep turquoise color. The grass of the steppe became even more golden.

Calafate Sunset

I have never done ACID in my life. But, I have to say Calafate at sunset must be the closest you can come to being on an acid trip without taking drugs.

Friday, March 7, 2008

El Chaltén: Trekking Capital of Argentina

Mt. Fritz Roy

Our first real destination after Bariloche was the small village of El Chaltén set to the backdrop of Mount Fritz Roy and located at the northern end of Los Glaciares National Park.

The town itself is in a beautiful valley just past Lago Viedma, in between the confluence of Río De las Vueltas and Río Fitz Roy.


If you are a hiker, this is the place for you. There are endless hikes of all lengths and levels of expertise. And the great thing is most hikes start right from the town.

We were only there for two days. The first day, we were forced inside because of a freak wind storm with hurricane force winds that kicked up dirt and debris and sent it stinging into your skin. No hiking for us that day.

The second day, things cleared up and I was able to head out early for a few hikes.
I even got a shot of an Andean Condor on one hike.

Andean Condor

I highly recommend taking the all day hike to Laguna del Desierto which will take you past a beautiful waterfall (Chorrillo del Salto) and awesome views of Cerro Torre and Fritz Roy.

Chorrillo del Salto

Another recommended outing is taking the Viedma Discovery cruise and hike. A boat takes you across Lago Viedma to the glacier and then you put on your crampons and head out over, on top of, under and through the glacier on a spectacular ice trekking adventure.


There are accommodation's for every price range in El Claltén. From very cheap hostels to a 5 star hotel (who's prices are as higher than Fritz Roy). We stayed at Lo De Tommy in a two story apartment. It was very comfortable and nicely furnished. They also provide a great breakfast at the main house.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cueva de las Manos

Cueva de las Manos, or "Cave of the Hands" is an exceptional collection of primitive cave art dating back 9,500 to 13,000 years ago and made by the ancestors of the Tehuelche Indians, who inhabited Patagonia before the arrival of European settlers in 17th. century.

The cave name is a little misleading. It is actually a series of hanging rocks along the side of a beautiful canyon along the Río Pinturas in the middle of Patagonia. There is a cave there, but only a small one. Most of the cave art is outside on the hanging rocks around the cave entrance.


The name obviously comes from the stenciled outlines of hundreds of human hands you see above, mostly left hands. However, there are other images of animals like guanacos (they look like llamas, but have a cinnamon red color to their fur).

There are also hunting scenes with hunters and guanacos. In fact, the paintings are preserved with a guanaco fat and urine varnish.


The hands all look to be from adolescent males. One theory is that the hands marked a coming of age ritual or were done to signify the first kill of a young tribe member.

No one knows for sure. Another theory is that the hands belong to the artist making the stencil. That would account for the fact that their are hundreds of left hands but very few right hands. For some strange reason, there is even one foot.

The stenciling was done mostly in black, red, white, yellow and green tones with the earliest images done as a negative image. But, later images improved upon the technique, and used a colored undercoat (usually white) upon which the stencil was applied in another color.

Cueva de las Manos gives us a glimpse into the lives of the earliest inhabitants on the South American continent. In the 1990s it was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.


I'll close with a YouTube video of the site set to the music of Tangheto: