Argentina

NOTE: Argentina trip was taken back in May 2009. I wrote this observation log during the trip but never posted it anywhere. Seems like this is a good place to log journeys. The trip started very much like my other trips, that is to say super unplanned and last minute. I only purchased the international RT flight and not much else.. This time it was New York --> Buenos Aires (12 days). From there, I visited Ushuaia, El Calafate & El Chalten (Patagonia), and then did a switch over to the Northern Andes, covering primarily Tilcara, Purmamaca, Maimara, Salina Grandes, via Jujuy. The format of this write-up is more/less short hand.. lots of typos and train of thoughts. 
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Buenos Aires:
AR peeps dresses well. Has air of sophistication to their persona. Stranger can certainly come across as mildly eccentric at times but I don't think it's anything different from new yorkers. Stores in Palermo viejo are awesome. Loads of great shoes. Guy stores are better in general. There seems to be more european street style influenced here than in US. The whole 80s hipster fad crap definitely have not caught on here. Thank god.  Actually guys are hot. (unlike most Latin countries) generally taller than average and well-formed.

On ice cream. Texture is looser and has more icy particles. It's also served warmer (meaning very soft) so you kinda have to eat fast. Dulce de leche seems to be the rage. It's a bit too sweet for me. Went to this place called freddy. Looks to be a fancy chain.

Lots of dogs here. Dogs are well loved.
Airports are both nice. Very clean and organized. Unlike France, ppl get in line. The domestic airport is a lot closer to town than EZE, making it quite easy to hop around the country. $20 AR from Palermo viejo. Online check-in speed up process.

Cabbies are all really good ppl. Honest and straight forward with the meter. Just don't get bullied into non meter ones from the airport.
Main area is called centro. We didn't spend much time there. Hopped on subte (the subway system dirt cheap and awesome) to Florida and did the stroll towards San Telmo. On Sundays they have a huge street market thing which was kinda cool. There were loads of handicrafts, antiques, street performers, and of course tourists. I'd recommend go hungry cuz there sure were loads of street empanadas that would have been awesome to try had I not been totally full. Somewhere in the middle of that long street is this neat house $25 for guided tour. The house is a part of this huge excavation project and has hostorical discoveries of tunnels, water systems, and artifacts from first settlers in the area. While the historical aspect of the house was ok, one certainly can't help but be in awe of the architecture work that went into the place. If you like modernism, def check it. I forget what it's called tho. On this same street you walk all the way to la boca - a neighborhood with all the colorful stack houses that probably used to be the fishermen town. We didn't go that far.

Palermo area has 2 parts that's separated by train tracks. Viejo (soho) is a bit more charming/neighborhoody while hollywood has more modern high rise and 5th ave style shops. Both are cool areas to stroll around. I took some pics of grafitti works - kinda neat.

I love the fashion here - minimal, clean, and super edgy. Here is a list of shops within walking distance of each other - all super duper awesome.
format: [store name] - [street address or cross streets] - [men, women, or others]
134 - Honduras 4656 - m
Palito bombon vestite - jorge luis Borges y el salvador - w
Mabruk - next door to above - m w
Santa barbara outfitters - costa rica y gurruchaga - m w
Airborn - gurruchaga y Russel - m
Old bridge - across from above - m
Bokura jeans - el salvador by Armenia - m w
Los dones - el Salvador y malabia - w shoes
Rodrigo reyes - malabia 1682 by el Salvador -m shoes
Valleytierra costa rica 4562 - yoga, massage, books, organic resto 
Freddo - Armenia 1618 - ice cream. Outdoor back seating. Dulce de leche con brownie.

It rained in the evening of the second day so we went to see a movie instead. Star trek! Was fun. $30 for 2. That's like $5 usd pp. Awesome!
Must go to recoleta on the way back.

Ushuaia:
3.5 hrs flight from BA. 
Sickest empanadas ever. Un lugar - on doloqui left of roca (if facing uphill) - 2 carnes for $10. They also deliver. Phone 422-049.
Hiking tierra del fuego. The upper circuit attempt to catch sunrise failed, albeit not entirely miserably. We cabbed from town to the park entrance ($70). Got there 7ish. The sun doesn't come up till bout 830 this time of year. The walk in the dark was really cool.
Once morning broke we made it back to the shore circuit and did that one which took friggin forever and a half. The viewpoints were good but I think it was better towards the end. In hindsight should have camped out at lago roca and do a few of the short circuits on the island.

El Calafate: 
Small town. Looks like a tourist trap in slumber. Big thing to do is the glacier.  
Did the perito moreno mini trek totally wet and totally fun. It seems like it would have been more touristy in high season. With so much snow and rain it feels like we almost had the place to ourselves. Met some great peeps too - Aussie tammy and Dutch micha. Will be making dindin tonight at the hostel. Maybe some wine. Taking it easy tomorrow. Laundry + travel day.

Grocery shopping here is super green. They don't provide plastic bags at all. You either bring your own boxes and bags or you are pretty much shit out of luck. Nice.

El Chalten:
Even smaller. Cold. Rural. Love it. Too bad the stores are never open and we couldn't get our shit together to camp. Hiked up to lago Capri and fit Roy viewpoint. Amazing. Must come back. Took the pm bus back so we can switch itenerary and move up north for better weather. May be Mendoza and the outskirts. Donno yet.. 
Transit in BA. Ate at la cabrera with the Aussies. Huge portions. Very good meal for really reasonable price.

Northern Andes:
After talking to a bunch of other travelers we decided to not go to Mendoza after all. The remaining point of interest were either iguazu, which is highly popular amongst tourists or northern Andean region. Went for the later instead.  Quick but expensive flight to jujuy ($337) from BA. Jujuy was more or less dumpy. The general area we passed anyhow. Tho ppl were super nice. Went straight to the bus station and took it to tílcara. 
Hostel malka is cool. Very relaxing with cabanas and all that. The town is dusty but quaint. Tourism hasn't eaten it alive (yet). It also means a slower pace and rather irregular hours for any type of business engagement ( like oh excursion planning). Food is fantastic ESP at the resto by the church square. Once you talk to anyone here they always remember you and will make it a point to greet again everytime. I think I'd get to know the whole town for sure if we were here for 2 wks.

That said there's not much to do here. The elevation is so friggin high (15k ft) it's a pain to climb even the slightest little hill. We took a day excursion to see all the highlights (in car) - maimara, purmamarca, paseo del Colorado, the puna, and salinas grande. Also strolled over to pucara - a prehistoric columbian fort partially excavated near tílcara. Got a ride back from a nice lady who is a chemistry professor in cordoba who is now on retirement tour.

The climate here is worth noting. Air is super dry. Prolly the driest of al places I've been to. We are here in the winter season, which meant warm days (sun is super strong), cool wind, and cold nights. Temp fluctuates drastically by over 30 degrees in the same day. The sky is beautiful - almost purple - not a cloud. So many stars at night. Most riverbeds are completely dry - drought I guess. They say when rainy season arrives the whole area becomes super lush with red rivers. Kinda reminds me of Utah. Except they don't seem to sell lotions here.
Of all the towns in this region I'd say purmamarca is the prettiest and probably would have been a better homebase for exploring the area. Salinas grande was quite a highlight - spectacular drive and photo op.