la experienca de 3 semanas (part 2)

This is a continuation of the recap of my 3 week experience in Argentina and Chile.  Click here for part 1 of this post.

#7: Condiments: mayo, pebre, chimichurri

  • Mayo: both Argentineans and Chileans love their mayo – it’s on everything
  • Pebre: this is essentially home-made salsa with the freshest ingredients  – tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, lime, jalapenos – served with bread at pretty much every restaurant
  • Chimichurri: as I mentioned earlier, since Argentineans don’t like spicy food, this is as close to picante that I got.  It’s a marinade made with parsley, minced garlic, vegetable oil or olive oil, white or red vinegar, and red pepper flakes.  I had it with a pizza at a restaurant in Palermo called “Kentucky” – amazing!

#8: The Work/Life Schedule: Argentineans are sleep deprived.  They usually start work around 9 until noon; go home for lunch and siesta for about 4 hours; then return back to work for another 5 hours.  I would be so unproductive if I worked this schedule.  With a work day ending so late, it’s no wonder no one has dinner till about 10.  The party-goers, sometimes even on weekdays, then begin hitting the bars at 1:30 or later and party till 5am.  Talk about carpe diem.

#9: Generosity and hospitality:

It’s amazing the hospitality and overall kindness that I experienced on two occasions during this trip.  In Santiago, a friend and I were having lunch and the couple sitting next to us went out of their way to suggest dishes we should try and gives my Venezuelan friend their home address so that they can cook him a traditional Chilean meal.

In the second instance, I met Ornela, who’s a stunning Italian/Argentinean guide for the wine tour I did in Mendoza.  I coincidentally saw her the day after the tour and she invited me to an asado (grilled meat party) with her friends when she found out that I was going to have dinner by myself.  We crammed 6 people into her tiny Subaru and went to a friend’s place 45 minutes away.  I met a whole bunch of locals and expats and had an amazing time trying all cuts of beef and pork and drinking my first fernet and coke.  Dinner at 10 pm, conversations till 4:30 am.  That’s hospitality!

#10: Obsession with futbol: my experience at the Boca Juniors home game against Colon was by far the craziest sporting event I’ve ever attended.  Unbelievable energy, chats and songs by the fans, and young and old alike swearing at the opposing team – amazing!

#11: Buses and coins: you need coins to take the bus. No change, no bus for you.  Apparently there’s a shortage in coins being minted, so Portenos hoard their coins – don’t bother asking for change, you will get a “no es posible”.

#12: ATMs: I left my credit card at a restaurant and had to deal with ATMs for the rest of my trip.  Argentina is a cash society.  It’s common that ATMs run out of cash on weekends and at the end of the month.  Makes for interesting budgeting.

#13: 20k, 1 year of travel: I met quite a few backpackers at the hostels that were truly getting to experience all of South America.  Many of them were in their early to mid 20s, just out of university but some had been working for years and decided to take a year off for adventure.  With the availability of cheap meals in South America and lodging at hostels for typically less than $10 a day, you can get by with $50-60 a day.  So if have $20k burning a hole in your pocket and want to travel for a year, check out South America!

I loved planning this trip.  It worked out beautifully to take in 2 big cities, hiking and the outdoors in Patagonia, and wine tasting galore in Mendoza.  I met great people, tasted great food, experienced the kind of hospitality you only read about and will most definitely return to South America.  I think Columbia, Peru and Brazil are next on the list.

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la experiencia de 3 semanas (part 1)

I had great ambition to blog on the KitchenBachelor for the 3 weeks I spent in Argentina and Chile.  Alas, a few things quickly sidetracked this notion.  For one, most of the computers in hostels are with Spanish interfaces, which means that something I take for granted like saving an image becomes a chore.  Two, at a hostel, there’s always one or two people waiting in line to use the computer and taking time to draft a blog and upload photos is just not practical.  Three, the wine consumption was definitely up while I was there for 3 weeks, which made for little inspiration to sit in front of a computer.  If I decide to blog on the road again, it’ll most definitely be with my own netbook.

In the absence of a real-time account of my 3 weeks in South America, I have decided to do a recap of the amazing people I met, weird quirky things I experienced, delicious food and drink delights and brief glimpse of the South American culture.

#1: Best Spanish (swear) words I learned: boludo (assh*le), suertodos hijo de puta (lucky son of a bitch)

  • picked up from tour-guides and from the mouths of portenos (locals) at the Boca Juniors futbol game

#2: Street food that we need to import: empanadas, completos, churrasco and choripan

  • Empanadas: similar to the ones my Filipino friends make at parties; but in Argentina and Chile, you can find pretty much any variant of ingredients that are filled into a beautiful doughy goodness
  • Completos: hot dogs topped off with mayo, the freshest of avocados and tomatoes
  • Churrasco: same as completo, but replace hot dog with thinly grilled steak
  • Choripan: chorizon sausage and toasted bread – unbelievable!

#3: The Argentinean Steak Obsession: Argentineans love their steak.  The huge country and open land means that for generations Argentina was able to raise organic cattle fed on grass (the healthy way).  Apparently, they’ve now started to use some antibiotics to treat infections, etc, but nonetheless, succulent beef.  Portenos however love to eat their steak well-done.  This is by default.  Only if you’re in a nice steakhouse will they ask you how you would like your steak done – which I reply with medio.

#4: Spice: Argentineans are not used to spicy food.  My palette was definitely craving spicy food after 4 days in Buenos Aires.  Fortunately, Chile is quite different and every meal came with pabre and pan – essentially spicy salsa that you eat with bread.

#5: Drinks: mate, fernet, pesco, cafe

  • Mate: this is a bitter tea steeped (pun intended) in tradition.  With gaucho roots, the cowboys used to drink mate as a way of staying awake and warm in the open fields.  You drink it in a gourd, made of pumpkin, wood or metal, and sip the tea from a metal spoon with a strainer at one end.  It’s quite an acquired taste and there’s quite the etiquette involved with drinking mate.  You never ask to drink someone’s mate, unless you’re offered.  You receive it with your right hand and finish the mate, as opposed to taking a few sips and returning.  I quite enjoyed the experience on two separate occasions and bought myself some.
  • Fernet: it’s quite hard to decipher what this spirit is made of but wikipedia suggests it’s a type of amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit.  This is quite popular with the locals and I tried some with coke.
  • Pisco: pisco sours are huge in Chile – they taste like a lime margarita and are usually served as a pre-meal cocktail.  There’s quite the rivalry between Chileans and Peruvians on who makes the best Pisco sours.  Roberto, my guide, told me to tell my good friend Carlo who’s from Lima, that I had the best pisco sour in Chile!
  • Cafe: I OD’d on coffee in Argentina – sometimes up to 4 strong cafe con leches, solos or cortados a day.  The coffee is so good here, especially when you can loiter. See below.

#6: Cafes and loitering: As I was travelling on my own, when I didn’t have the company of other travellers, I would spend hours sitting in cafes reading and people watching.  No one ever tries to rush you or kick you out for savouring one cup of espresso or water for hours on end.  Brilliant!

That’s all for part 1 of my recap – check out part 2 here.

Buenos Aires: Day 1 & 2

It’s been a great day and a half of exploration.

tango

On Day 1, having settled into my hostel, I ended up joining a German couple at a tango show out in La Boca.  It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but nonetheless, I decided to join the tour organized by the hostel as it didn’t involve a lot of thinking.  The whole thing was a bit of a gong show – from the booking, to the taxi, to the waiter who seemed like it was his first day on the job.  A steak dinner came with the show, and as I’m starting to find out, Argentineans love their steak well done and parillas usually serve a cheap cut of sirloin.  Don’t know how much steak I’ll have here.

Observations:
i) ¨If there’s nothing else to talk about, talk about women!” – the guy at the hardware store finds out I speak English and proceeds to tell me how hot the women are in Buenos Aires.  I concurred, and said the same about Vancouver women.

ii) Argentine women cheek-kiss a lot – hot!

iii) Americans don’t make it this far south.  This means that English isn’t spoken a lot here.  My non-existent Spanish needs work.

On Day 2, I walked a lot.  Checked out the Palermo Soho area of fashionable boutique shops (you Metrosexual men would love it here – great local designers) and cafes.  I spent about 2 hours at a cafe caffeine-loading and reading.  Walked past the local zoo and onto this massive park where locals spend their weekends sunbathing and hanging out.  Lots of silicone-enhanced women here – it’s a terrible thing…NOT!  As I was reading my guidebook, this dude says hi and asks if I’m American.  Turns out he’s a retired co-founder of a biotech company in California and lives in Buenos Aires about 3 months a year.  He shows me the park, the rose garden and the free museum.  Friendly dude –  would never see that in Vancouver.

Late evening = nap.

I wake up around 8pm and walk over to Palermo Hollywood to find a nice dinner.  Settled for an Italian dinner.  Half a litre of wine, salad, pasta and an espresso for about $35. Can u dig it?

The partygoers are just about ready to hit the clubs around 1am.  I don’t have it in me nor the clothes to go partying.  Bring on the bunk bed.  Buenos noches!

From Living Room Floor to 60 Litre MEC Pack

Like so many travel blogs I’ve read, I thought it’d be fun to share what I packed for my 3 week trip that combines both backpacking and city travel. It’s spring time in Argentina and Chile with city temperatures ranging from 13-28 degrees Celsius.  However, I’m also trekking through Torres del Paine in Patagonia which ranges from -1 to 11 degrees.  Not the easiest of packing jobs.

Packing List

Here’s the packing list:

Backpacks:
60 litre MEC travel pack
15 litre MEC daypack

Clothing:
2 t-shirts
2 merino-wool long-sleeve lightweight base layers
1 Gortex pants
1 Northface Jacket
1 Northface Fleece
1 long underwear polyester
1 button-up shirt
3 poly boxer briefs
2 pairs walking socks
2 pairs hiking socks
Beanie
Waterproof hiking boots
Flipflops
Vans for city walking
Gloves

Misc. hiking stuff:
Headlamp
1 litre widemouth waterbottle
2 litre Camelpack bladder
Travel cutlery
Digital watch
Sunglasses
Eye glasses

Toiletries, etc.:
Regular shampoo, toothbrush mix, plus –
Sunscreen
Chapstick
Handcream
Scissors, nail clippers
Hydro cortisone
Polysporin
Bandaids
Vitamins
Advil/Tums
Eyedrops
Disposable contact lenses
Detergent

Electronics:
Nikon D60 DSLR camera – 18-55mm kit lens & 55-200mm lens
Camera battery and charger
20 gb of SD cards
USB card reader for SD cards (Staples, $19)
Universal adapter
USB charger with wallplug – for ipod (Futureshop, $15)

Paperwork:
Health insurance card
Some USD
Lonely Planet for Argentina
Lonely Planet for Santiago, Chile (pdf printed section)
Journal
Pen
Passport
Credit card
Debit card