Category Archives: Excursions/tourism

Buenos Aires, segunda vez

My first 24-hour experience in Buenos Aires didn’t make a great impression. It came on the heels of 16 hours of travel. It was hot. There was a long blackout.

But under more favorable conditions (rooftop pool), I’m starting to come around.

Cerro Leones

At the eastern end of Lake Nahuel Huapi, about 15 kilometers from the center of Bariloche, the land changes dramatically: this is where a cold steppe zone begins and, if you continue east and north, eventually changes to a temperate steppe better known as la pampa, or grasslands famous for producing high-quality Argentine beef.

You can see the change in terrain from these pictures, taken during our tour of an extinct volcano called Cerro Leones.

Colonia Suiza

An outdoor handicrafts market ringed by ice cream and beer stands in the middle of the woods is a lot more interesting when you’re not taking mincing steps down a rutted gravel road, sans umbrella, in what my mother would call a good soaking rain, and cursing the steamy hour-long bus ride it took to get there, during which you were privileged to share a seat with a large four year old while praying the severely overcrowded bus wouldn’t slide right off the narrow road into a ditch, causing numerous “crush” fatalities among the passengers because, being so heavy, the bus would undoubtedly roll.

Today at Colonia Suiza—under a cloudless sky and after a month without rain—negative thoughts were focused exclusively on my Spanish, which has atrophied in the five days since I last went to class.

Moving on.

Valeria, a mom we know from tae kwon do who is trying to build a business making pottery, invited Lou and me to spend the afternoon with her and her son Otilio, and as we wandered past stands where woodworkers, weavers, painters, potters, and jewelry, soap and candle makers were trying to make a mango (a buck), I was acutely aware that I was one more tourist passing through without spending money.

More financially successful, I think, was a pair of donations-accepted performers from Buenos Aires. With music, a few props, and moves worthy of Cirque du Soleil, they kept the crowd entranced.

After treating ourselves to ice cream, we headed to the beach to cool off and observed a curious seasonal phenomenon: seed pods on retama bushes popping open with a sound just like crackling fire. Take a listen while trying to ignore the people sounds (15 sec), and then look at retama bushes covered in yellow flowers in mid-November.

Shimano Open

IMG_01018(by Pete)
We went to Cerro Catederal today to watch the Shimano Open mountain bike event. When we got there the kids were racing in the downhill event. At the end of the course, where we were watching, there was basically a sand trap for the riders. They came over the top of the hill (usually airborne) and had to deal with a steep, rutted decline with deep sand. Many tried to proceed cautiously at this point by reducing their speed, I suppose to avoid going over the handle bars when their front wheel sank into the soil. Many crashed at this point and disappeared into a cloud of dust. (No rain here for the last month, so all is very dusty.). The advanced riders launched themselves down this section without hesitation or brakes. In fact, they seemed to pick up speed as they approached the bottom.

Una cita a la calesita

Canto del pájaro

The last time we left town on a cloudy day we were met by steady rain, puddles and mud, and ended up calling a remise to take us home as soon as we got to our destination (and paid $35 for the pleasure of two hours of riding around). But since this is day nine of Pete’s twelve-day trip to Ecuador, I knew Lou and I had to risk another rainy day and get out of the house.

We took the bus to the Circuito Chico for the same five-mile hike we did in November. It was fun to see how things had changed in two months, and with so much bird song it was like walking through a giant aviary. Take a listen: 45 sec and 20 sec.

Un curanto

A curanto is a traditional Mapuche way of cooking a feast, similar to the Hawaiian luau and the cooking methods of many other native groups. (From the little I know about the Mapuche, a broad population of native people living in southern Chile and southwestern Argentina, this brief Wikipedia entry is more or less accurate.)

There is a group of Mapuche living in community outside of Bariloche on land that they reclaimed, and that’s where the curanto pictured below was held. I talked to a couple of the guys and they are intent on maintaining their culture—and were dismissive of the curanto held weekly at the tourist site Colonia Suiza, which is organized by European-heritage people and includes modern innovations—but they admitted it’s a hard row to hoe. Neither of the guys knows the indigenous language, and at least one has a mixed heritage including an Italian father. They raise fruits and vegetables for sale in the summer and find other work, including construction, to pay the bills the rest of the year.