TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

An Ode to Argentina – Part One

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

“What once was foreign has become familiar.
Places I dreamed of I now know – the smells,
the sites, the tastes, the people. I thought only
to visit, but instead I found a home away from home.”

Heather Markel, June 2019.

 

It’s hard for me to believe but I spent almost four months in Argentina. I recently left with a certain sense of regret and sadness. So I’d like to say some thank yous to Argentina.

The amazing Lake Argentina seen from my hotel in El Calefate.

Photograph by Heather Markel. Copyright 2019

I fell in love with Patagonia right away. The crisp air, the dogs that ran up like they knew me and even though they hoped for food they also liked a cuddle. El Calafate was my very first experience with Argentina, and I ended up spending almost two weeks there because I simply loved the feel of the town and all the amazing experiences I could have from there. Patagonia is also where I had the (now) funny incident of my first Argentinian tour guide asking if he could make out with me my very first week! Hey at least he was young and cute. 

“So many things I’m thankful for.”

Hiking a glacier is something I never imagined doing and I’m so glad I did. I strapped on crampons and conquered the ice and got a welcome glass of whiskey at the end! But even that memory competes for first place with my walk with penguins. Down in Ushuaia I saw the boats that go to Antarctica and the mere possibility that I could simply ask for a room on one of them and get to that continent blew my mind. (I wasn’t ready for the rocky waters, and met people just back who had 40 hours straight of rolling seas…) Ushuaia is the so-called end of the earth (even if not quite). I had never seen penguins outside the zoo and they are an entirely different animal, literally, when living free in nature. Patagonia, your rolling mountains and vistas and lagoons and hiking and wildlife simply stole my heart. Ushuaia is also where I did my first crazy long hike, through lots of mud, and my first hitch-hiking experience to get there. Thankfully with some new French friends!

Preparing for the hike.

Photograph by Heather Markel. Copyright 2019

I will really miss the dogs, especially in the small towns. Interestingly most dogs in Argentina have owners, even if the dogs are not wearing a collar. They roam freely and I spent much of my time greeted by wagging tails, sometimes jumping on me and licking me as if they were my dog. I have even had the luck to be followed around for hours by a new dog friend in various towns. Especially while solo traveling, these have been gracious and lovely companions and I am so thankful to each of them for just showing up and keeping me company. And I’m glad to know that they are also loved and cared for by their owners.
Even though the Argentinian diet is not the healthiest, boy will I miss the meat! The lamb in Patagonia is unbelievable and, sadly, not as readily available once you go north. The beef is truly better than anyplace in the world I have been. They cut the meat differently and they cook it to perfection. Even fairly well done meat is tender and delicious. Yes, I love cows, but eating the meat here is just something I could not resist. I will especially miss the Asados with beef and pork and sausage and chicken and sharing it with new friends. In fact, I recommend, if you come to Argentina alone, make it a goal to find at least one meat-eating new friend and share a full Asado. It’s amazing!

Working my way up north I found lakes with a blue color so thick and rich I don’t think photos or paint could do it justice. The lakes of Bariloche truly are a site that must be seen to be understood. These are landscapes I am so lucky to have seen under the Argentina sun which seems to shine differently than other places. It looks like a huge star rather than a round disc and my photos were all the more spectacular for it.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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