Argentina Tag

perito moreno glacier, el calafate, visiting the glacier, patagonia, unesco (3)
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An ice age

Perito Moreno Glacier When people say that something moves a ‘glacial speed’, I’ve never really known what to imagine. Obviously it means something is moving slowly, but how slowly? The expression conjures up images of cold and unrelenting progress that, although gradual, is inevitable and unstoppable.When people talk about this kind of speed, it’s normally in the negative – a criticism of something that is taking too long or is painfully slow. I can now tell you from firsthand experience that there is nothing painful about a glacier. It is one of the most beautiful sights you could see in Patagonia.Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park has almost fifty glaciers within its boundaries but there is one that really is the icing on the cake (so to speak). The Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate is the largest of them all and by far the most impressive to see up close.The face...

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30 March
argentinian rodeo, gauchos, horses, patagonia, el chalten (8)
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Rodeo in the mountains

Argentina's gauchos I heard the cheering before I saw its origin. It was strange to hear such a loud noise – or any noise for that matter – after so many hours walking in the mountains around El Chalten. There had been a serenity in the forests. At the trek’s zenith, I had reached an enormous glacier, shrouded in clouds, that exuded a sense of peace and silence fitting for its icy appearance and ancient majesty.But now I was being jolted out of the trance my walk had become. The cheering cut through the calm and drew my attention out from the deep cavern of my thoughts I had become lost in. I stopped and glanced around. Locating the direction of the sound, I walked towards it and, arriving at a slope into the valley, I looked down and took in the scene below me with wonder.It was a rodeo, but...

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28 March
el chalten, patagonia, hiking, trekking, fitzroy, glaciers (7)
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The jewel in Patagonia’s crown

Hiking in El Chalten The road to El Chalten is now paved. It wasn’t always this way, but there reached a point where there was no denying it – word had got around and the travellers were coming here. What was once the quiet commune of the slow backpackers and serious trekkers is quickly becoming one of the most popular spots in southern Patagonia. And you can see why.The town sits in a valley surrounded by mountains. White-capped, jagged and imposing, they and the paths within them are the main drawcard. Here, deep within Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, are some of the most stunning views and scenery of South America.Climbing Fitzroy Mountain The jewel in the crown is Fitzroy Mountain and the hike to it – and it’s a fitting description as the peak looks like a crown from a distance. The final ascent is for only the most experienced of...

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27 March
peninsula valdes, argentina, seals, whales, orcas, penguins, near puerto madryn (11)
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Seals of approval

Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina Baby seals frolic in the surf where the small waves meet the sand. A rocky outcrop at one point on the shoreline creates natural pools where they play in groups. Small, black and shimmering in the sunlight, the pups look like they’re in a nursery. Nearby their mothers keep a watchful eye on them as they play. For the sea lions of Peninsula Valdes, this is the closest they get to a community - families living together as the youngsters grow up and develop.It’s a safe environment for the sea lions here on the peninsula near Puerto Madryn, which is protected by both UNESCO and the Argentinian authorities. It’s one of the most important breeding grounds for marine animals in South America and home to a variety of species. Sea lions at the north, elephant seals further down the coast. On the beaches and dunes live penguins...

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22 March
Parque El Desafio, gaiman, argentina, weird things in argentina, recycled park, trash, treasure (2)
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Trash or treasure?

Parque el Desafio, Gaiman, Argentina For almost two decades Joaquin Alonso collected the scraps that others regarded as trash. Things destined for the dumps were hoarded and cared for, given a new lease on life. From the rubbish of others, the Argentine created works of art. He collected bottles, can, scraps of metal - anything really - and turned them into masterpieces. And from these artworks he created a wonderland, a playground limited only by imagination.Parque el Desafio started as an amusement for his grandchildren but soon children from all over his small town of Gaiman were coming to play. The youngsters would lose themselves in the magic of the fantasy land. They could transport their games to imaginary worlds, far from their small Argentinian homes, to places where dinosaurs roamed or aliens lived. They weren’t surrounded by rubbish, they were surrounded by stimulation for adventures. Joaquin Alonso had known all...

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20 March
punta tombo, argentina, magellanic penguins, things near puerto madryn (5)
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Millions of happy feet

Punta Tombo, Patagonia Why is it so hot? I thought penguins were supposed to live in the cold, on snow, surrounded by icebergs. Instead they’re standing in the dunes, far from the water, in direct sunlight on a 40 degree day. They’re panting in the heat. So am I. This is not what I expected from a penguin colony.It’s not even like just a couple of them got confused and thought the Argentinian summer would be a nice break from the freezing temperatures of Antarctica. There are more than one million penguins here at Punta Tombo, making it the largest colony in South America.Obviously it’s not the penguins who are confused, but me. I guess I was expecting ‘Happy Feet’ but instead got ‘Floppy Heat’. This is the natural habitat of the Magellanic Penguins, which spend their time on the coastlines of Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Here at Punta Tombo they...

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16 March
bariloche, argentina, san carlos de bariloche, adolf hitlers, nazis, trekking, mountains (5)
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Did Hitler actually spend his final days here?

Hitler in Bariloche, Argentina There is a rumour oft-repeated that Adolf Hitler did not die in that bunker in Berlin. As the story goes, he and Eva Braun fled to an idyllic Argentinian town after the Second World War and died there of old age. They spent their final years on a farmstead, watching the cows graze, perhaps taking occasional strolls through the forests, and remembering the good times back in Germany when Adolf was Fuhrer.The rumour has been written about in books as fact – published with a legitimacy most people feel is undeserved. In fact, it is actually quite ludicrous and there are many historians who have proven it to be complete nonsense. When you’re in that town yourself, though, you can start to understand why the rumour may have started.Bariloche (officially called San Carlos de Bariloche) is a gateway to Patagonia. It’s in the heart of Argentina but,...

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16 March
andres crossing, bus, border, chile, argentina
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Crossing the Andes

Crossing the Andes by bus When the combined Argentinian and Chilean armies crossed the Andes mountain range into Chile into 1817, it would lead to the downfall of Spanish control and independence for the country. When I did it, it would just lead to another stamp in my passport. Oh, and a bunch of nice photos of the scenery. I bet the guys in the army didn’t get any nice photos! (Partly because they were probably too busy worrying about that whole war thing… and partly because portable cameras had yet to be invented… but still.)I’ve been on a lot of long bus rides during my time in South America but none has been as scenic and stunning as the one from Mendoza in Argentina to Chile’s capital, Santiago. You see the mountains in the distance before you reach them. They’re imposing enough on the horizon. When the ascent begins, though,...

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23 February
mendoza, wine argentina, malbec, carmenere
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My Mendoza love affair

Mendoza wine, Argentina Wine is my mistress. When it comes to beer, we have a long relationship – at times turbulent and damaging but nonetheless comfortable and reassuring. But wine is an occasional flirtation, a dalliance with something more dangerous and exotic. It feels salacious, brings on urges I’ve tried to repress and reminds me of the thrills of chasing something new and forbidden.Mendoza in Argentina is our love nest. The city and its surrounds are home to more than 980 wineries and there is no denying the lust-driven time we have spent together here.I taste the attraction. Taste the smooth, easy warmth of the Carmenere grape, which is produced in only 50 wineries in the world. That it is so rare only heightens the experience.I settle in with a glass of Malbec, the variety this region has made its name on. There are robust tannins and as I savour the...

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22 February