Hi all my fellow EP-ers!
So I haven't been on here in a while and a lot has changed. I'm now going to university as a freshman. This past year (08-09) I took a year off and worked for six months, then I traveled for 2 months around northern Argentina.
Ohmygosh, it was absolutely the best experience of my life to date. Nothing can compare. I backpacked around, came up with my own itinerary and it turned out to work so perfectly. I started out with a little over US$4000 and came back with maybe a dollar of the money I set out with. Worked out perfectly.
So I flew in to Buenos Aires on the 16th of February, bought a cell phone in the airport (which probably cost me extra money, but I knew very little Spanish at the beginning of my trip and I just wanted to get a cell phone where I knew I could understand the language), and then went directly to the Omnibus Terminal. From there I took a bus to Mendoza (8 hours or so), arrived at about 10am and took a cab to Campo Base Mendoza, a hostel just a blog south of Plaza Independencia, the central square in Mendoza capital. I stayed there for a week and, honest to god, I fell in love. I literally wept when I left.
After that I went south to Malargüe, a small town in Mendoza province surrounded by beautiful volcanoes, lakes, and so on and so forth. There are also fossils to be found somewhere there. I went on some really fun excursions. Actually I went on really fun excursions throughout the entire trip.
After Malargüe I took the bus right back to Mendoza, spent the night in a bed (not something I had planned) but thank goodness they had a bed for me, as I was planning on just bumming around on the couch in the common room for five hours before my bus up to Salta). It was good seeing everyone again and I actually hung out with a few people that first day whom I hadn't met before so that was good.
Salta was fantastic--that was where I first went horseback riding and now I truly know how to ride a horse! Huzzah! Not to mention at that point I had already begun to speak Spanish with an Argentina accent which confused people I met who tended to assume that I was from there until they realized I had a very limited vocabulary. Salta also has a museum called Museo Arquiologica de la Alta Montaña (MAAM), which is dedicated entirely to these Incan kids who got sacrificed to the gods on top of a really tall mountain so they and everything that was with them was perfectly preserved. Amazing stuff. The sandals were no more frayed than if they had taken them off yesterday. And the bodies... those are eerie.
From Salta I took a 22 hour bus ride (three buses) to Puerto Iguazú. Now take my advice about Iguazú. Don't spend more than four days there, max. I'd even spend three. One day to get settled in. One day to see the falls. One day to go on a more extreme excursion (rapel, trek, etc). No more than that. The town is pretty much centered around the tourism and it's not that fun. At any rate, the falls or Cataratas as they're known there, are absolutely gorgeous and impressive. The Niagara has nothing on las Cataratas de Iguazú. Go there to see them at least.
I was actually quite depressed and lonely in Iguazú especially since I couldn't find anyone heading in my direction. Well, I arrived in Mercedes and I was one of maybe three or four guests in that hostel. Reeeeally empty compared to Iguazu or Salta or any place I'd been in before that. So I decided to stay an extra day and do laundry and wait to see if anyone would show up with whom I could go to see the Esteros del Iberá. Well, someone did. Fantastic British bloke named Rob who's living in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. We decided to head there at the same time as it would be cheaper for a group, and that night an Aussie-British couple showed up in the hostel so the four of us decided to go as a group to the Esteros del Iberá. And that, I think, was the true highlight of my trip. I fell in love with Mendoza, and I felt like I made Buenos Aires my home, but the true highlight of my trip was that trip to Iberá, because that is an ecosystem that does not exist anywhere else and that is truly impressive. I saw a capybara up close! And a yacare! And a marsh deer from far away! And and and and and so many species of so many different kinds of animals and the water was gorgeous and the sunset was beautiful and everything was great. I loved it there.
After that I went with the couple up to Corrientes-Resistencia. Two lovely cities. Resistencia is famous for all its sculptures and omfg yes there are sculptures EVERYWHERE. So we walked around and looked at sculptures for a while before the couple caught a bus to Salta and I then took the bus to Rosario.
Rosario was another city that I really enjoyed staying in. I met a lot of cool people and finally did some tango. Now I'm a tanguera at heart and the fact that I was travelling largely in the north and west meant I didn't get to do a lot of tango. So there I was in Rosario and I only went to two milongas! Still it was good and Rosario's tango scene is pretty different from Buenos Aires's tango scene so I was happy to experience the two different kinds. The one thing that really soured the stay for me was that two girls who I'd made friends with both suffered sexual harassment. One girl got kidnapped on a bike by a native and the other girl was harassed IN HER BED, IN THE HOSTEL, by another guest. That second one was the one that truly angered me, especially since the hostel's response was to separate the rooms by gender and not to kick out the guy responsible. grrr. Other than that, though, I had a great time, and both girls are fine now, so I guess that's okay.
After Rosario I went to Buenos Aires and there I spent 2.5 weeks, so it really did feel like it became my home. I stayed in Kaixo Hostel and made lots of friends and lots of dinners and explored the city and went to milongas and all-in-all had a brilliant time. I was very happy.
Moral of the story. Argentina: go to the grocery store and buy 11pesos worth of steak and 9 pesos worth of wine and 3 pesos worth of a side dish and you have a meal. That's all you need. Oh, and a salad, if you decide to get fancy. I barely went out for dinner a lot of the time. Most of my money was spent on buses between cities and fancy-pants excursions. Oh, and hostel stays, obviously.
All in all, I definitely recommend backpacking to everyone. Brilliant brilliant times. And this is just the short version.