I went to Argentina with my sister and our friend Eva in March. This is a list of my favorite experiences.
(and why you should go!)
Its everywhere. Its delicious. Bring your dairy pills because you’ll want globs of it every day.
10. Graffiti/Street art
Especially near La Boca, colorful graffiti covers Buenos Aires. Sometimes its on cars. Sometimes its a giant mural that even incorporates nearby telephone poles.
9. Recoleta Cemetery
Evita was buried here. The avenues of small neat mausoleums is a bit creepy, but the sculptures are great. Cats wander around.
8. Steak. Asado. Meat.
If you’re not eating steak every day, you’re doing something wrong. The food is amazing in Argentina and steak is what they’re best known for- usually cooked more well done that we like, but so good it melts in your mouth. Vegetarians, the empanadas and pizzas are equally awesome.
7. Yerba Mate
This tastes nothing like the Guayaki brand of mate you’ll find in the supermarket. Bitter, dark and drunk through a metal straw in a pile of leaves in a hollowed out melon, its caffeine will keep you up. People often will refill your cup with warm water for free. And its usually shared in a circle.
My sister who has declared herself “not a wine fan” admitted to liking malbec wines. They’re flavorful, not too sweet and dry enough to pair really well with that asado.
5. Perito Moreno Glacier
The perito moreno glacier is incredibly photogenic. Its not the biggest, but it’s one of the most consistent in calving. Stick around for at least two hours to watch the glacier drop building size pieces of ice into the water.
4. The town of El Calafate
There is something really familiar but grand about the landscape around El Calafate. There were hills sort of like Owen’s Valley, plants were sort of like the ones in the Central valley, the sky sort of looked like Colorado’s, but it was somehow perfected. Whether riding bikes along the lake or driving along Rt 15, the open air, rising hills and small ranches around this city felt right.
3. Hiking in El Chalten
Though its billed as the trekking capital of Argentina, you’ll run into a surprisingly few number of people in this sleepy small town. Rent any hiking equipment you need and head out on some of the most beautiful hikes in Patagonia. Get close to Fitz Roy, get a view of the valley floor, and definitely check out Laguna Torre. Not the easiest hikes around (most are about 15-17 miles round trip), but there are nice backpacking options if you want to break it up into several days.
2. I Keu Ken Hostel in El Calafate.
This is the best hostel I have ever stayed at. The staff was friendly, the place was cozy, the people were just the best. Friday night asado dinner had all beer/wine you can drink and all meat you can eat, which resulted in a rousing game of switch hand drinking game with people from around the world.
1. Ice climbing on the Viedma Glacier
When the boat dropped us off next to the Viedma glacier, there were maybe 40 people standing around. Then the guides took the ice trekkers away and then there was just 4 of us. Apparently no one else wanted to try ice climbing! It took a few minutes for us to get the gear and put it all on, but as soon as I took my first steps on the ice and sunk my ice axe into the glacier, I was completely in love. From slushy white snow to hard blue glassy ice, I felt like I was flying as I climbed up these walls. By the end of the day as I came over the edge of my last climb, I couldn’t stop smiling. Our guides handed us some Baileys with glacier ice and we sipped them while watching the shadows grow longer along the crevasses. Then we climbed back over the ice and rock to the boat that would take us back to town. Easily one of the best days of my life.
Two weeks ago, my lab group did a camping trip in the Sierras.
We drove up on Friday to the East Fork Campground (9000 ft). Hiked up Mt. Starr on Saturday (Class II scramble. 7 miles round trip. 12825 ft). And drove back on Sunday. On the way back, I stopped in the town of Bishop and a Japanese Internment Camp (Manzanar).
Here are some of the photos.
The Jerky Shop south of Bishop, CA. There are like a million signs on the 395 leading up to this place. The jerky was alright.
The mountains that were across from our campsite.
The Diaconescu and Hayton Group. Starting the hike at 10000 ft.
About 3 miles later at 12000 ft, the air is getting quite thin!
Summit lake is fed during the spring by the ice and evaporates over the summer.
The class 2 scramble we were about to go up. If you look closely in the middle of the photo you can see where the trail ends and the scrambling begins. And if you look really closely, you can see a few dots (these are people).
At the (almost) top of Mt. Starr. 12835 ft! The real summit was about 30m to the east.
Coming down as the sun started heading west. Munching on some snacks.
View of the valley on the way up.
View of the valley on the way down.
Celebrating with some smores and beer.
Manzanar. Of the 120000 Japanese Americans that were relocated during WWII, 11000 were moved to Manzanar.
This was their auditorium. Its is the only building left (aside from the reconstructed barracks). It held dances, school classes and assemblies.
This is the memorial for the 146 people who died in this camp. Visitors tie prayer flags and thousands of cranes to this site.
It was an odd weekend. On the one hand, I hiked/scrambled up small mountain and saw really beautiful landscapes. On the other, I visited a place where thousands had been moved against their will and forced to live for years. They made gardens, organized a toy donation center and even made camouflage nets for the country that put them there. Yet all that was left was one building, two rebuilt barracks, and a white memorial.
As I stood in the windswept valley floor, surrounded by the few relics left of a story Americans often summarize into paragraph of a history textbook, I felt empty. How fast time can take away these moments, the small achievements and the lessons of war.
In a little less than 6 hours, I’ll be leaving to climb Mt. Whitney, aka the highest peak in the continental US. 14,479ft.
You may be thinking, “This sounds really tough.What have you done to prepare for this?”
Answer: Aside from pack warm clothes…nothing.
As the website will tell you, this hike can be done in a day. Get up before dawn, hike up 11 miles along the Whitney Trail to the top (5-8 hours) and hike back down before nightfall. All in all 22 miles and about 12,000 ft in elevation changes.
As much as I love adventure and mountains, I must admit a few things: I am not such a morning person. And I get loopy at high elevations. When we were on the road to Leh last year (13,497 ft), I tried to copy down my Cambodian visa number twice when they asked for the Indian visa number. So when my friend Marcos asked if I would come along with him and his friends as they did the hike over a weekend instead of a day, I said YES.
Drive to Lone Pine from LA (6 hours). Camp overnight outside of Whitney Portal (8,000ft). Get up late and hike up about halfway (11,000 ft). Eat s’mores. Tell ghost stories. Go to bed early. Wake up early. Hike up the rest of the way (without packs). Take pictures at 14,479ft. Hike back down and drive home. Avoid nosebleeds and altitude sickness.
Here we go!
Back in California.
I was hoping for the passport control person to give me a nice and hearty “Welcome back” or “Welcome home”. But instead I got “how old are you?” “you traveling to all these places by yourself?” “what for?” “how did you afford this?”. Homeland Security. Keeping our nation open and safe. Making me a little sad.
Leaving in two days for the states. gulp.
In beijing now, rediscovering a city I had only briefly seen before. I love these back alleys and tea shops.
Two things I should start this entry with:
1. I was raised Chinese (well, as well as my parents could manage in suburban New Jersey). When we get together with my relatives, we consume up to 17 different types of animal in one sitting. I eat a lot. and. I will eat anything. Dead animals hanging by a hook at the market? Yummy.*
2. As a follower of Jonathan Gold and a fantastic cook himself, one of my friends, Cody, has earned my trust from his dinner parties and recommendations such that when we both lived in LA and he’d call to say “we’re getting dinner and its 1.5 hours away in the San Gabriel valley”, I’d get my keys.
So combine these two things: Chinese food and Cody. And we get my stay in Beijing.
The things I’ve eaten so far: