El Bolson

El Bolson is known as a hippy town. Although it’s not all that apparent at first, it becomes very obvious once you walk through the market. It’s a mix of locals selling self-grown organic vegetables, food stands and exile-hippies selling their art, but mostly hippies. I first tried to visit it around 11am, but found out that they hadn’t even started setting up yet. When I came back five hours later, they were already wrapping up everything again. I’m guessing business must be very good or non-existant, but I suspect the latter. I did get to see it the next day.. around 2pm seems to be a good time to catch people between too hungover to get up and getting ready for the next party.

But neither the hippies nor the market are El bolson’s main attraction. The surrounding mountain ranges are. El bolson lies in a small valley, with two mountain ranges shooting up around it. The first day, to get acclimated, I rented a bike to visit some waterfalls nearby. My idea of doing some of the carretera austral by bike died then and there. I did neither enjoy riding or rather sliding through the loose gravel nor swallowing the dirt of all the cars shooting by.. I almost turned around out of frustration. But in the end, there wasn’t too much uphill, the gravel got less after a while and the cars vanished almost entirely once I turned of the main road. The ride ended up being a nice little excursion. The first waterfall, cascada escondida, is a large water fall of 30 meters, that no matter how hard you try you’ll never see entirely.. It’s really escondida.

The entrance to the second waterfall, cascada mallin ahogado, illustrates the Argentinian’s desire for signs and prohibitions quite nicely. The amount of signs telling me about all the things that were forebidden was quite mesmerizing.  The waterfall itself is actually part of a hydro-electric plant.. Which managed to maintain the natural beauty of the waterfall, while using it for electricity. The waterfalls were really pretty and the sun was shining relentlessly. But I’m finally adapting to the local climate,  so that I could enjoy the nice heat rather than spend the time worrying about getting sunburned. I returned in the early afternoon, allowing for an extensive visit to the the tourist office and the mountain office, where I was recommended to do all the walks available. I was also given a rather basic map which showed, as usual, distances in time rather than kilometers. Luckily one of my earlier travelmates had introduced me to the awesomeness of maps.me, which allowed me to check the distance and, in walking mode, even the elevation covered in each hike. The latter, unfortunately, turned out to be not entirely accurate, but as a rough estimate it gives a good idea. The estimated times of the app are, however, just about as ridiculess as the ones given on the map. Just to the other extreme. While the map says I’d need 4 hours for 5 km to climb from 1200m to 2200m, the app says it should take less than an hour. Well I’m not ashamed to admit it took us longer than that.

Buenos Aires

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally on the road again, open end for now.. The flight was booked rather short notice. Preparations basically non-existent. Now I know that it would’ve been good to bring large quantities of cash into Argentina because they’re nice enough to charge you 100 peso for each 1000 peso that you retrieve. I also didn’t know how hot it would be in Buenos Aires.. My optimistic guestimate of 28 degrees turned out to only be off by 10 degrees. But this seems to be unusual. I’ve had Argentinians confirm that this heat is not normal and that noone can tolerate it.
Nevertheless I set out to discover my environment right away.. Meaning with only five hours delay, as that is the delay the plane ended up having due to fog. Instead of arriving at 8am, we arrived at 1pm… By the time I was checked in in my hotel it was past 3pm and not much time was left. I walked around and already stumbled one of the top must-see sights in Buenos Aires: The casa rosada, residence of the president.. or at least where he works. The building is from the end of the 19th century and probably the most interesting fact is that the color is achieved by mixing chalk with ox blood.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was not very impressed. This is a theme that’ll be recurring in Buenos Aires. A large city, partially a beautiful city.. but there isn’t really anything that sparked my curiosity or wowed me. But maybe that’s because I’m a country girl at heart. I ended up walking quite far, down tOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAo Puerto Madero the formerly very bad, now very expensive quarter full of luxury penthouses and expensive restaurants.. And I must say that I found the skyscrapers there to be the most appealing part of Buenos Aires. The Design is new and versatile and not just a copy of what might’ve been seen in Europe. Behind the Puerto Madero starts an ecological reserve. The insects there make so much noise that three steps in, you could already no longer hear the city. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince it was the end of the dry season the march was dry, the lake at best a swamp. But everything is green, so green. If you walk further you actually reach a point where you can see the rio de la plata. To be honest, the color didn’t really look silver to me.. More like mud. It didn’t smell like silver either.. However it is HUGE, From most view points I could not see the other border even though the sky was clear.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next day, I decided to check out the other top sights of Buenos aires, el caminito in La Boca. La Boca has a reputation of being dangerous, so I went with a Spanish girl I’d met the day before. It turns out she’s a Spanish teacher, so my Spanish has been improving drastically. We went to La Boca and visited the street, which was a couple of houses painted in varying colors. Again the most appealing part, to me, was the Art displayed at the bus station, rather than the actual “top sight”. The day went on and we checked a few more of the top sights, el teatro colon, el congreso.. All built around roughly the same time about 150 years ago. All in a style I don’t find particularly appealing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I did notice though is that Buenos Aires feels like hipster central. Most tourist maps indicate if a restaurant serves gluten-free meals and most do. In addition about 30% of the food stores are taken up by protein shakes, powders and other meal substitutes. In addition I’ve seen more joggers here running in the scathing sun, than I see on a nice spring day at home (also hipster capital). Does that mean that everybody is incredibly fit and pretty? Definitely not. Unfortunately, as everywhere else, those most inclined to undress are those least pleasant to look up. I have, however learned that the tattoo of your mum’s face on your right breast is a real thing for Argentinians.. I did not dare to ask how his wife might feel about this.