Journal 17 - January 18, 2003

Argentine Steak » Go Back

Journal 17
I won't, but I think I could write an email just about the steaks here. So far I've had two incredible steaks among the dozen or so I've eaten. Steaks among steaks, steaks in a steak's country. One in Buenos Aires, and one in Mendoza. Excellent. The steak the other night in Mendoza was incredible. Huge, juicy, nice and red in the middle, and covered with delicious pepper sauce. This in a very fine restaurant, including two cokes, for seven U.S. dollars, amazing. At first it bothered me when the waiters didn't ask me how I like my steak prepared, medium-rare is my favorite, but I've begun to realize it doesn't matter. It's always perfect, at least so far. Yet one more reason to love this amazing country. Mmmm.

I realize that by pointing out the editorial and other errors in my chokingly wordy emails, I open the proverbial floodgates for further criticism. But this is fine with me, it's also appreciated, and necessary for my continuing education, albeit time consuming. It's also fun to interact with my friends back home, so keep the responses coming. One person who receives my emails pointed out that in Peru and Bolivia there is certainly a lot of sex happening, as evidenced by the millions of people who live in, and continue to bear children in those countries, a fact that would negate my ethnocentric comment that those countries are relatively asexual. This of course is true, however, based on my Western perceptions of sexuality, and my Western trained sensors, those countries seemed relatively asexual when compared to Argentina, which seemed hypersexual based on the half-naked advertisements and lingerie shops on seemingly every street.

For anyone planning a trip to South America, I don't want to appear as if I'm bashing Peru and Bolivia, there is so much to see in both countries, and I wouldn't trade my time there for anything. The incredibly diverse and vast natural beauty, the impressive history of the Incas and their empire, the wonderful people, and the legendary bus rides. Any trip to South America would be incomplete without a visit to both countries, and I would encourage all of you to go and enjoy everything each country has to offer. Anyway, back to my trip.

One thing I forgot to mention about my time in Buenos Aires happened on the same day as my skydiving trip. After the jump, my friends and I went to a nearby pool for a few hours to wait until the other jumpers were finished and we could shuttle back to town. While at the pool we were joined by hundreds of children from a nearby summer camp. Before we knew it we were each surrounded by groups of the inquisitive children asking dozens of questions about us, the respective countries we were from, what their names were in our languages, and any other questions they could think of. It was great, each one of us had our own audience of ten to twenty curious children, some showing off the English they knew, others asking questions, all wanting to have their pictures taken, and all wanting to see the digital results as soon as they could. Eventually a group of them started going crazy with my camera, taking pictures of each other, teasing each other, and fighting for pixel time. Finally I had to put the camera back in my pack to prevent a riot.

My friend Tomer and I were invited to play some games with a huge group of the children. Unfortunately they never agreed whether we were going to play volleyball, soccer, or rugby, so we ended up spiking, kicking and throwing the ball with dozens of children for an hour. The time we spent with them was wonderful, educational, touching, and rewarding. This experience combined with skydiving earlier that day made for one of the best days of my trip so far.

After my time in Buenos Aires I went back to Salta, the city I was in prior to my New Year's detour to the capital. Salta is a hot, steamy town in the north of Argentina with a lot of colonial architecture, great cheap restaurants, lots of ice cream to help cool you down, and plenty of lush, green vegetation. After a few days a friend and I decided to rent a car and drive to the country. We got a good deal because she's a local, and I was able to drive for hours in the country with her guidance without having to consult a map, which was great, almost like driving at home. The drive out of town took us past miles and miles of green agricultural fields. We also passed many vineyards and Bodegas, where Argentina's fine wines are made. Eventually the vibrant green surroundings of Salta began to fade, the steamy air became a little more arid, and the landscape began a Utah-esque transformation. Eventually the green fields gave way to blood-red dirt, and rock formations reminiscent of Bryce Canyon and other Utah national parks.

The drive was highlighted by a thunderstorm on the horizon, which made the dessert landscape even more dramatic. Behind the wheel of my Peugeot, driving through the dessert landscape reminded me of my many great road trips to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, some of the best times of my life. Eventually darkness stole away the scenery, but soon after we arrived in Cafayate, a touristy town located in the heart of northern Argentina's wine country. There we tried wine ice cream, both red and white, with enough actual wine to get me a little light headed. After the long drive and a great dinner we crashed early and rested up for the next day's adventure. Cafayate has some waterfalls I wanted to see, so on Saturday we planned a hike up a river in the middle of an incredible canyon, with huge cacti, lots of great rocks, gushing crystal clear water, and more thunderstorms. Unfortunately our hike was cut short by massive downpour, and I was reluctant to continue for fear duplicating my floating camera trick from Bolivia. Soaking wet we arrived back at the car, went to town for lunch, and began the long drive back to Salta.

The next night I left Salta and say good-bye to my friend. I was eager to continue my adventures and see more of Argentina. A twenty-five hour bus ride later I arrived in Mendoza, the official capital of Argentina's wine country, where 70 percent of Argentina's wine is produced, and purportedly 85 percent of its quality wine comes from. More grapes than there is sand at the beach, and that's just in one vineyard. Mendoza itself is a very cosmopolitan city, with a modern avenue full of shops and boutiques, and a pleasant pedestrian avenue lined with cafés and restaurants.

Mendoza is also a popular starting point for treks up Aconcagua, the Western hemisphere's highest peak (22,841 ft), and something I may have to add to my adventure list, price permitting. Along with many wine-tasting tourists, there are mountaineers from all over the world, all eager for their shot at the summit, which is apparently non-technical and relatively easy by mountaineering standards, a virtual walk in the park if you take the easy route. We'll see, maybe a worthy birthday challenge?

From Mendoza I was off to Bariloche to meet my Israeli friends. Bariloche is a Swiss-style mountain town at the northern edge of Patagonia. The guidebook says the town and surrounding area is similar to The Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and Swiss towns in the Alps. My kind of place. To top it off, Bariloche is famous for it's many chocolate shops, of which there are more than I can believe. I think I'm going to like it here. While driving into town yesterday, hundreds of white caps dotted Nahuel Huapi Lake, which borders Bariloche much the way Lake Tahoe does Tahoe City. Also similar to Tahoe are the numerous snow-capped peaks surrounding the town and Nahuel Huapi. With loads of mountain biking, hiking, chocolate, rafting and other outdoor activities, this place should be fun. I'll let you know in my next email.

There will be new pictures on the site soon, I lost an entire file of pictures from Bolivia and my skydiving trip (including all of the pictures of the children), and I've had some technical problems lately, but I've found a great internet cafe here in Bariloche, so within a few days there should be some great new shots.

I hope you're all doing well.

Justin