First Impressions of Argentina

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

Night is day, summer is winter, and there’s a giant glacier down the road…

I’m writing this post from El Calafate, Argentina. It’s the farthest South I’ve ever been in my life. I realize I’ve spent years traveling East and West and even a bit North (Iceland) but never so far down South! When I have gone South it’s gotten delightfully warmer. Here in El Calafate I’ve gone so far South it’s gotten colder. Not quite as bad as a New York winter (yet) but definitely not as warm as Colombia. I’m also surprised to find that it stays light until 9 or 9:30pm which is a nice treat! It’s just a bit of a shock since “South”, to me, has always meant warmer and shorter days.

Seen on the main street in El Calafate

Photograph by Heather Markel, copyright 2019

I arrive into Buenos Aires at 9pm and have to wait 7 hours for my connecting flight to El Calafate, departing at 4am. The airport is open the whole time and I find a collection of passengers in various ranges of sleep awaiting their own flights. My experience of people I speak to at both airports for information on getting SIM cards or transportation is that they aren’t very helpful. They give me a simple response but no additional insight that might help me make things easier. I’m a bit disappointed by this, epecially after finding Colombians so willing to give extra help.

“So many things I’m excited to discover.”

My hotel is simple but the view out the front is spectacular – looking out onto Lake Argentina. Walking around downtown there are trolls all around and what really gets me are the dogs. Some have collars, some do not. Yet they all seem well fed, and are super friendly. You can pet most of them, one even jumped on me like he knew me, another slept at my feet during lunch. I was astonished that he did not want to eat any of my bread. I learned later that these dogs only want to eat meat. Well, good for them! 

Lake Argentina, as seen right outside my hotel.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2019

It’s cold enough here that I need a warmer sweater than I’ve brought. However, the main street, where all the shops are, has nothing under $70 and I refuse to spend that much, especially for something I likely won’t need after I make my way further North. Thankfully my Spanish is getting better so I’m able to ask my waitress at lunch if she knows where I can find affordable clothes. Turns out if you go one block off the main street everything is there. Laundry, which costs roughly $5 per item at my hotel, ends up costing me $5 for 2 kilos at the laundromat on this street. I get myself a sweater for only $15 and am delighted. I feel like I’ve made a huge accomplishment saving money and not getting suckered into the tourist deals. One of the stores here has a huge 50% off everything sale. There are some cute sweatshirts that say Patagonia and they are $70. I head down the street and go into 3 other places that are NOT having a 50% off sale, and their prices are exactly the same. hmmmm. no thank you!

It’s true what they say here – the meat is FABULOUS. I am indulging in my Carnivore tendencies (still wanting to say “Carnivorian” to express eating only meat as the opposite of a Vegetarian). It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before, I don’t know how they do it. A whole platter of different parts of the beast are served when you order lamb and it’s tender and succulent. Have a glass of Malbec, MADE HERE, and well, it’s heaven on earth. The other fun thing here is having a matte – the photo above is of a local artisan’s matte cups – you fill them with the herb and add hot water, and drink through a metal or a bamboo straw. A nice way to heat up and enjoy a local treat!

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