Buenos Aires and Beyond for a Beginner

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May 10th, 2013, 03:37 AM
  #21
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Yes to thursdaysd I keep the Lumix turned off between photo ops, as a way to conserve battery power, indeed that's one of the ways I've tried to ensure that there's as much as possible. I also turned off the GPS locator which was using up considerable battery power and was wholly unnecessary. I called Panasonic for ideas, not only about extra batteries but also for these strategies, some of which have added a wee bit of life. Again, I love this camera for a klutz like me since I am hell bent on adventuring, and cameras in my hands get abused, but the inevitable downside is that when I am far afield the design demands additional supplies if I'm going to be five or six days in the wild. I just confirmed a two day ride in Bariloche which is apparently going to be just a wee bit cool (I understate here) and that's one of those perfect examples where an extra supply will be in order--of course, assuming aren't getting rain the whole time.
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May 10th, 2013, 12:42 PM
  #22
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Alberto, I was pleased to confirm a wonderful riding trip in Bariloche which is turning into nice although chilly weather for my trip. Two days of riding and a night out in the bush, just my style. And no, I didn't bargain, that was Angie. The joke was on me, they got even- here's the deal. They were very kind enough to do my laundry- for which I would have happily paid the going rate. When I woke up this morning at about 7:30 I padded around looking for a humanoid that was also awake to no avail. Nada. So I peeked into the laundry room where there was also nada that I could tell. Nada on the lines. So....back to the laundry room. I poked my nose into the washer- aha! There was mi ropa soaking wet. The clothes I had to wear today.

So off to the room where I had less than an hour and a half, mind you Angie is always early, and I put on the wet pants brrrrrrr and then the wet shirt brrrrrr big time and did my best to grin and bear it. When Angie came (ten minutes early) we laid out the rest in the back of her car - which partially worked- and headed down the street. And moments later we stopped in the middle of Ruta 40 and there was Angie up to her elbows in the engine.

Visiting cops and a few minutes later Angie is pulling pieces of a shredded belt out of the engine, the culprit of the day, which had done a little damage and was making a most unpleasant noise. Her hands as filthy as a machinist's, she climbed back in, checked with her husband and off we went. This much I will say, if there is a flat tire or an engine problem, you want Angie driving because she knows her way around a car, and you will be back on the road again in moments. Our little red tank motored along just fine through the gorge again, this time with the morning sun slanting different angles on the wind-sculpted rocks and formations. As she pulled into another wash and sent me hiking, she went to work again under the hood, and I left her to her ministrations. By the time I got back she was comfortably cleaning off her hands to their usual pristine condition and we were off again.

At one point we pulled into the natural amphitheatre, which was good timing on our part because a tourist bus had disgorged enough passengers for the flautist to perform. He did this standing against the soaring, upward reaching walls which so perfectly reflected his notes to his audience. Two women in their fifties linked arms and danced a high step all the way across the floor to everyone's applause.

I am a full blooded sucker for dogs, so the animals that live with their owners who sell their goods along the path into the amphitheatre are walking targets for me. These particular mutts meet you right at the car door. "Food?" "Food?" When you respond with affection, they are most happy to respond with deep gratitude, a hard lean against the legs, closed eyes and when you get a finger in the ears, the OMG don't stop doing that little doggie noises that indicate puppy pleasure. That is, until someone buys a tortilla con queso and walks by and you are, to put it mildly, about as interesting as a root canal. Off they go."Food?"
"Food?" Ah, love. It's so fickle.

There is a somewhat similar natural amphitheatre in Denver called Red Rocks where I work out three seasons a year, it rises high into the lower Rockies, and provides the backdrop for many international shows and singers. Nature is sometimes the best environment. This high cave, with light dancing off the curves and undulations of the lines of moving rock, has a more intimate, spiritual feel from the great smooth red rocks of my home town amphitheatre.

Men were the topic of the day heading home to Salta so I won't share the details of the conversations, but will report it was fun, as any two women with enough road rash can have with the subject. As we came close to the city, our little red tank sputtered and we came to a halt again. Angie called for backup, was given some directions to find her way home, restarted and off we went. She left me at the hostel and this time I DID look down the street before I crossed.

Eager to see what the big supermercado had in store in what I as told was a fabulous fruit and veggie section, I put my still wet laundry on some chairs in the brilliant sunshine and strode out, in high hopes.

Well.

If by fabulous, we mean overabundance of the same that you can find everywhere else, then the supermercado was fabulous. Lots and lots of apples, oranges, and bananas. Lots of them. Tons of them. Hectares of them. As the air seeped, nay, gushed out of the balloon that was my hope, I grabbed a plastic bag and poked at a slightly yellow banana that would be in my immediate future. "You an' me, baby," I told it. "We got a date."

While I had expressed some interest in a serious walk, I had also awakened with a sore throat, a mild headache, a cough and a runny nose, which any fool in his right mind says get thee to a farmacia. We had done that at 9 am and Angie had procured some Amoxycillin, no RX, (thank god for small favors), and this afternoon I too am going to do the siesta thing. If I'm going to sleep in the cold in Bariloche it might be a good thing to head this off at the pass.

The weather is so perfect it cries out for a hammock. In the patio where I now sit there are strategically placed flowers and vines, which against the brick, brightly painted walls and potted bouganvilla (sp) made for some perfect photo studies. We sometimes get our best photos from the simplest
settings. My hostel is 7 Duendes Base, which has a patio area to die for, lots of open space, and while the bathrooms do get crowded in the morning, the kitchen is a welcoming space and the staff are helpful and warm. I was happy to report that my bed was precisely as I'd left it the day before, all the laundry at the end dried and ready to put away.

We are off to Jujuy and Punamarca tomorrow and my Florida high school class is having its combined 60th birthday party. I wrote them my regards and said that I'd be sad to miss it...but gee..considering the options......
I'm sending photos. Ha.

This is how to Boom. Baby.
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May 10th, 2013, 01:05 PM
  #23
 
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Once again, now!

Who is "Alberto", jhubbel?

A two-day "cabalgata" and "a night out in the bush" in Bariloche in MAY, with a sore throat?

Enough said. You know what that guy you call "Alberto" thinks.

Keep up this wonderful report.
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May 13th, 2013, 06:20 PM
  #24
 
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Jhubbel: I am just loving this report - every step and trot and difficulty of the way. Thank you so much for posting and keeping up the thread. Great !
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May 14th, 2013, 06:54 AM
  #25
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Well, lesson learned. About an hour's worth of good hard work on a report several days ago and when you don't press the "submit" button.....

The other night Angie/Giena dropped me off at the corner near my hostel and we hugged each other hard, as I suspect she does with most of her clients. I want to report a few things here about the four days we spent together, first as a solo client and then with another couple. As many of you have used Angie in your travels you will nod, chuckle and perhaps laugh, and others who have not yet used Angie please be aware that most of us who have used her have become Angie-ites. I'm going to recommend to all of us who write these reports that when we take the time to make comments about guides that we don't get lazy and just comment with characteristics such as "great, terrific, wonderful," which don't tell the reader anything substantive about what the guide does. I think what they'd like are details about what differentiates one guide from another, and why we might choose to use Angie again. And in particular, why AVRooster has been a long time supporter.

First of all, Angie is not only punctual, she shows up early.For us Westerners, this is a treat. I'm an early bird so knowing that Angie is going to be at the desk fifteen minutes early is fine by me. We get an early start on the day and catch the morning sun in all its glory. Anyone who has ever been slightly annoyed by Latin American time can appreciate Angie's sensitivity to her clients' preference to be punctual. She's also quite happy to wait if you dawdle. She's patient as Job, your time is her time.

Another thing that I appreciated about Angie was her willingness to stop anytime, anywhere for me to take a photo. There were many places along the drive to Cafayate which demanded a turnoff and others that I saw that perhaps didn't but I saw a shot. I'd start walking, and disappear, and at one point slipped down a raving into a thorn bush (ouch)and got nicely bloodied for my trouble. Angie simply drove as far ahead as she figured I wanted to walk and waited.

The canyonlands between Salta and Cafayate reminded me very much of Utah and Arizona, with the tall cactus so reminiscent of the saguaro and the prickly pear, and the nasty thornbushes everywhere. The windswept bright red formations were also reminiscent of Utah's archlands. Similar, and not. The undulating and extraordinary movement of the upheaval so many millions of years ago give a very different look to the strata and the opportunity for a photo happens every quarter mile.
The drive, which can be long, is punctuated by lively conversation, which if you take an interest in Angie (and in my mind the guide is a big part of the experience) you learn a great deal about the area through her ideas, opinions and beliefs. You may nor may not agree with her, but it is both intriguing and enlightening to hear her stories about her family, her experiences as a female entrepreneur in Argentina, and how she expresses her unique faith. Without this kind of discussion, your guide- in my humble opinion-is little more than a Disney World talking head, and there is no prism through which to enjoy what you're seeing. Having worked at Disney World, I'll take Angie any day.

We landed in Cafayate early enough to have lunch on the square, where Angie was treated like royalty. Here again I need to point out something key. Any guide can show you the sights. But the really good guides have worked very hard to weave a tapestry of relationships, a network of friends through the area who provide deals and discounts to her clients. She will direct you where to find better quality goods and better food, and the best treatment. That is because of course, if these shopkeepers and restaurateurs treat us well, they are going to get us back again, and that serves everyone.

Angie also does a terrific job of getting bargain rates. At a lovely little hotel on Ruta 40, she nailed an $8 rate for me, including laundry. However, when I woke up the next morning in the chill of the new day, I padded out looking for a humanoid type creature to get my promised laundry and there was none to be found at 7:30. After searching every nook and cranny, I finally found the laundry room, and there I found my laundry still in the washer- clean but soaking wet. That was what I was wearing that day. So let's just say that my day began with with goose bumps in the chill of a fall morning.

Angie is also very good about showing me the friends that she has who are artisans but she doesn't in any way pressure you to buy from them. I appreciate this from her, and I'll add this note. The moment Angie knew what I was really searching for- a leather gaucho hat-she was a bloodhound, and she didn't stop helping me find it until late into the evening of our last day when she offered to take me to just one more market when she should have been home with her kids. But that's Angie.

Angie's also good at knowing people's needs after a long day on the road and if you give her your preferences for company in advance she will forgo time with her friends (and she has many) to spend time with you. She was aware of my penchant for exercise, and made suggestions for hikes. She was also sensitive to my food peculiarities and directed me to where I could find my supplies of yogurt and fruit.

When Angie picked me up the morning of Day 3 of our tour, we picked up another couple from the Sheraton, Nicole and Harry, and made our way north through Jujuy to Purmamarca. Angie was good on her contractual promise that the clouds would part and the sun obliged. The northern hills were markedly different this time around, and the value to go back and forth on the same roads is how the light falls at different times of day. The photographic opportunities are amazing and Angie has it timed perfectly.

We arrived in Purmamarca early enough to have plenty of time to settle in and work the markets. Again, Angie bargained to get me a deal for a nice little room for $15 with a toilet down the hall, which she pointed out that I'd need to ask for hot water later (a contraption in the hallway, more later.)

Angie identified the one place where I could find my kind of food, and I then set off to take photographs.

Purmamarca is a photographer's dream. The way the late afternoon light strikes the adobe and the decorations on the shops allows for hundreds of varied treatments. I did note that every time there happened to be an Indian child wandering within range of my camera, just before I took the picture a parental arm just like a Vaudeville hook would shoot out of a store window and POOF the child would disappear.

One disappointment which all travel wise folks have come up against: on the square, I eagerly perused the goods on the carts. While I love brightly colored things as much as anyone I believe in supporting local artisans to ensure that art continues, and that the family continues a tradition. When I walked up to one cart, something caught my eye. Is it? Nah.Can't be. Wait. Damn. Yes it is. Lots of them. Exactly the same scarves I bought in Thailand in 2011. Not only that but pretty much every cart and store in town had them. Can you spell China?

I searched the town for something slightly more authentic and wasn't rewarded, but Angie did- as she will everywhere- intercede for me when I found a decent hat, but it was a little too big and a little too pricey, and she steered me clear for better options on the road. Here's something else to like about Angie. She won't stop you if you are bound and determined to buy Chinese trinkets. But she will tell you that there are better prices ahead, and more authentic pieces, if you will listen to her. And she is right.

So that night. Hot water. Right. I went to my room, got my stuff. Padded to the contraption. No writing, a lot of buttons. A great many buttons. Four of them indicate how hot the water should be. Okay....push this one. Nothing. That one. Nothing. This goes on for a while. Hmm. Okay. Let's ask for help. I summon the manager who, in a bit of a huff, marches with me and sees the damage I have done. Fixes it. Puts two fingers of different hands simultaneously on two different buttons (OH that was SO OBVIOUS) and the pilot light starts right up. Then he goes into the bathroom and with a great show indicates to the idiot tourist here is the spigot, here is hot water, here is cold water, here is the shower, here is hot water, here is cold water (um, yes, got it, no problem, it was just the heater, yep, we're cool, thanks) and he marches back down the hall, satisfied that I'm fixed. That's when I realized that I didn't have a towel and I had to chase him down again.

Angie collected us at 5 pm and took us to the salt flats. Now I have to say here that Angie and I had developed a code for my TBS (tiny bladder syndrome, we women seem to have them). I'd tell her I needed a "bush", which sometimes meant a bano, and sometimes, well, a bush. En route to the salt flats at 4170m it meant sliding on my butkus down a ravine for a bit of privacy. No matter.

Now I mentioned that Angie was patient, but the only time she got concerned about time was when we absolutely positively had to get somewhere, for example, we found ourselves sliding into parking lot with Angie admonishing the sun to "Stay right there" as it determinedly dipped below the line of the mountains. We got out into the teeth of the wind and started taking lots of photos. Angie got onto her belly with her camera and instructed me to leap into the air.

Now I am NOT LeBron James. I can do many things. Vertical leap is not in my repetoire. I managed a few weak attempts. Angie put her head in her hands. Meanwhile the wind is icy, the temperature is dropping and she's in a sweater. She's determined to get this shot for me. She makes me run and jump. I gain a few millimeters. Meanwhile Nicole nails the shot: Angie on her belly, looking for all the world like an Arctic seal discussing options with a recalcitrant hunter.

The salt flats afforded so many colors and magical moments at sunset that they are not to be missed. Even if you can't manage a vertical leap.

So the next morning we all got up early, and I headed off for the walk to see the sunrise on the hills, and did my best to follow Angie's directions. And got lost. I found the road, not the trail, so on I marched, and on, and on, and on, and on, seeing a trail that looked like where I should be winding prettily off to my right and sure there was a connecting point up ahead. Finally I realized that my road was heading in the opposite direction with no indication of ending, and I was well past the time that indicated that I should turn back. Well. Photos taken, magical gorgeous early morning hills appreciated, correct path missed, no problem.

Angie was most patient with me, it was my fault to miss the turnoff. At about 10:30 we took off for Humahuaca, stopped off at the ancient church to see the gun bearing angels. At this point Angie showed Nicole the artisan who made high quality backpacks- Nicole was in the market- clearly handmade and of far better quality than of anything we had seen in Purmamarca- again Angie's detailed memory for what we had in mind. The prices were more than fair.

Humahuaca was overwhelmed with tourists but a pretty town, and to her credit again Angie advised us to hold off on our dollars, and said that she no longer lunched there because of the quality. On the way south she detoured into a lone property which sported llamas in a corral, and here was what I was searching for: a real artisan. Skeins of wool hung in beautiful colors from the porch rafters, and inside were magnificent hand woven ponchos of leather and suede.

As soon as we determined that there were no leather hats to be found I turned my attention to the ponchos. The young woman realized I was willing to drop some serious cash so in seconds I was surrounded by her best goods- and they all made me look like a natural. They were beautifully made, unbelievably gorgeous, but I would not wear them in the USA- until I found a nutria vest. Angie worked as my negotiator, and got me a 15% discount which I was more than happy to accept. When you are looking at things this lovely, this perfect, you want Angie there working for you, this a friend of hers who wants to do well by Angie, and who wants Angie to bring her more customers. Everyone wins.

Angie was getting a little antsy as I was trying things on, and I did notice although she said nothing- and I realized why as she managed to just make it to a great little restaurant by 2 pm when it normally closed. Not only was this place nearly empty by then but it afforded some of my better mood photos, and great food for everyone.

More later, have to shop for my gaucho hat.
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May 14th, 2013, 10:32 AM
  #26
 
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Well, I said it before and I'll say it again: this could turn out to be one of the greatest threads of all time. And we have Bariloche, Mendoza, back to BA and to Estancia Los Dos Hermanos still ahead!

Now, about that activity in the "bush", well........

Meanwhile, in the "other place", by far the most popular thread is about the dollar's value against the peso in the black market.

They argue it is "tourism related", in spite of the fact that the activity is, in theory, illegal.

A little bird told me the OP sold her dollars well above the present price, as she was starting her trip. LOL!!!

Keep up the good work, jhubbel! Tell us about the gaucho hat!
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May 14th, 2013, 11:39 AM
  #27
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Okay so I did notice that I repeated myself so apologies to all but not for Angie's sake. I didn't realize that my earlier report did indeed get printed.

Yesterday I spent the day with a cabalgatas operation called Pioneros, to whom I will give a three out of five stars. On the positive side, the very real gaucho Guillermo was there to pick me up right on time, and I joined two people from Holland. A very long ride into the high hinterlands later we were unloaded at a very old general's house where there was a small corral with a good number of what to my eye were - well how do you say this nicely? horses that could have used what we used to call "sweet feed" or oats with molasses. Lots of interesting things about and beyond, and in short order our gaucho had us assessed and mounted. To his credit, Guillermo allowed me to mount without assistance and the others required considerable help until they later got the hang of it. He was gracious and funny and full of great stories.

Our ride took us on a narrow, winding path, steep and high, up and down, with lovely views. It took about 90 minutes. He check the saddles regularly to ensure tightness and fit. At the end, we had a "race" where we were taken to the last piece of road. Guillermo let fly with his horse and we were expected to do the same.

Now anyone who has ever ridden in different countries knows that every style is different, every animal is different, and every animal is trained to respond differently. So you can throw all those lessons I learned in BsAs right out the door. Guillermo pulled up his horse as I went flying by and he asked me to stop. He explained that the way I was riding at full gallop was all wrong, and then demonstrated the correct way. Got it. I took off, and promptly nearly went flying over my horse's noggin. There is just nothing so wonderful as humility.

The Saltas horses are trained to work with cattle, and the slightest movement forward of the feet means STOP, and I'm doing my best to maintain perfect upright posture while this 1200 lb animal is barreling like a bat out of hades. And I am hands free, using my legs to hold on, as I should. The more I concentrate on posture, the less I concentrate on what the horse is doing. Horse notices my inattention. Horse says "Hmm, time to go home, she's paying absolutely no attention to me whatsoever." So about two-thirds of the way down this makeshift race track my 1200 lb speeding bullet makes a very sharp left without warning and I nearly go careening off into the distance, but mind you, legs are tight and I hold on. Guillermo is enjoying this enormously.

I know damned good and well this is my fault, but the lesson was excellent. He also shows me how to hold the reins, which isn't anything like what Al Par painstakingly showed me in BsAs. He also explained how riding styles, saddle styles and many other aspects of horse training and riding vary considerably from Province to Province. I consider myself warned, and will now hie off into Bariloche knowing that I'll probably have to unlearn everything I just learned in Salta in order to ride for two days there.

A minor negative was that once we got back to the big house, Guillermo began the asado with a flourish. When he presented me with a taste of the beef, I explained that I didn't eat it, and he was shocked. I also explained that at least three emails had preceded me informing the contact I had paid in BsAs of this very thing. So, I unloaded my backpack of its yogurt, oranges, apples and fruit juices and joined in. He was very nice about it but unhappy he hadn't been informed ahead of time. Not his fault.

In the afternoon I was taken on an additional three hour ride with two more employees of the ranch while the people from Holland were taken back to Salta. This was a trip to the gaucho museum. On the way we saw toucans and some very large raptors, four of them. The museum was in a lovely isolated setting, simple, and provided another opportunity for beautiful photographs of the setting and the angles to include the mountains and now late afternoon sun.

By the time we were within a mile or so of the ranch, the sun was slanted and pouring yellow on the deep green of the hillsides. We passed the beautiful black stallion that holds sway under the ancient iglesia and cemetery and ended up trotting the rest of the way home. In all a lovely day.

Guillermo provided me with a map to find authentic gaucho clothing and hats in Salta where I have been shopping today. And this is where I really miss having Angie with me. Her sweet way of getting people to see her way of things, and to drop their prices for the longer vision was much missed today.I found the right store with the right products, but the store owner jacked the price of the hat far higher than even the tourist shops where Angie had indicated the prices were too high. It was the only store where I saw the hats, I told him the price was too high but he stood firm. I walked out. Angie, where are you when I need you?

However I have had a few hours in Salta, which I have come to call the "city of doorways" for the lovely entranceways that I kept finding all over town. The two hours I spent walking street after street afforded a treasure trove of ficus trees and bougainvillea in full bloom next to deep dark wood and iron treatments that were works of art. Again and again I would look into a cave-like entrance and be treated to beautiful tile, fantastic floors and multiple arches framing each other. By expecting to find such things, I was constantly treated to these visions no matter what street I was on. I loved that so many grand old buildings remained and were protected, repainted, and were in use.

I found myself walking with a gaggle of schoolgirls focused on their cellphones, oblivious to traffic and the world around them. Sons walking their mothers whose canes were balanced over the other arm. Handsome, blue suited Argentinian business men with keys on long chains, getting out of gorgeous cars, wearing serious expressions.

And everywhere on side streets, taking your life in your hand as you cross, hoping that no one on a motorcycle is going to round the corner and take you out, because Angie's paw is not on your shoulder to save the day.

It is now 3 pm and the sun is painting the saffron wall opposite the hostel kitchen, where the spider plants and vines make dancing shadows to meet the bougainvillea flowers from the pots on the floor. I have a few hours left and it seems that the Great Search for the Sombrero Autentico is going to have to continue elsewhere. At least now I have a good idea of what I'm after, the price range, and what constitutes a reasonable price.

And one last story. Last night I had the four person dorm to myself so I can't blame this on anyone else. As most of you do when you travel you have a system. I have one, which allows me to use a locker and lock up my backpack. I use very small locks and I keep the keychain with me. The keychain goes to one of three places: my right front pants pocket, my right front shirt pocket, or at night, inside the cover of my alarm clock. Imagine my consternation when I got up at 6:30 this morning and the keychain was in none of these places. I started looking everywhere else knowing damned good and well that would not be profitable and of course, no luck. So I ended up going to the front desk where little English was spoken and I was able to express what had happened.

At first he brought a flashlight to a fully lit room to help me look. I explained this wasn't the problem. So then he goes to his desk and brings out a collection of small keys, hoping something will fit. I make gestures showing him that simply breaking or cutting the lock will work best. Finally he gets the message and disappears for a good long time. He comes back with a hammer. I feel disaster coming on as he places this very small lock between his fingers and slams it several times (waking everyone within six blocks in the process). Then he realizes before he loses a digit or two that something like a lever might be necessary (YES! EXCELLENTE!) and in one whack the little lock is toast, and I can get to my stuff. I opened the locker, absolutely sure I'd somehow locked my keychain inside. Nope.

Now next time you see Angie, ask her about dwarves. I'm quite sure this is what happened. Clearly there was something odd afoot here, and that must be the explanation.

I am also happy to report that I discovered - gasp- a ripe papaya from a fruit vendor today, which was the cause for great celebration on my taste buds. It lasted about 45 seconds, but it was the nicest 45 seconds I've had since the pineapple, as far as food is concerned.

I will be more careful about making sure I don't repeat myself in the future.
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May 14th, 2013, 12:04 PM
  #28
 
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jhubbel: our wonderful NW seems to be REALLY having an effect on you!

In a previous chapter, you "lost" ten grand (pesos), now you actually lose your keys...

Maybe it was in the course of that "bush" activity? LOL!!!

Furthermore, I don't understand why you say you "repeated" yourself? I don't see any "double posting" here.

I believe forum members would like to know exactly who neglected to communicate your dietary requirements to whom it may concern, but, I'm sure, did NOT forget to collect the full fee in advance, something I feel you should not have accepted doing.

Keep up the good work!
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May 14th, 2013, 01:55 PM
  #29
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One further note as our friend AVRooster just pointed out to me and I have to agree with him about Pioneros Calbagatas. While I had an overall good day, he confirmed that the agent had collected my $120 payment in full in advance in Buenos Aires. From then on, apparently everything else I needed got forgotten (like special food needs). And he also says, and he's right, that had there been a storm or something major had come up, it's hard to say whether I could have gotten a refund. Chances are very good that I would not have. And that would have meant a very angry customer. So while that is what they require to do business, and you hand over your voucher to the gaucho, it does bring up some key questions about whether it's because they need that money up front that badly. I can't say. Again, it's a good counterpoint, and I needed to include it.
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May 14th, 2013, 06:33 PM
  #30
 
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jhubbel, are you still in BA or will you come back. For riding, try no where else but Dos Hermanos, you will get a real riding experience and if you want to stay the night I can assure you will enjoy it thoroughly. Likewise, if oyu require a special riding program just let me know. Likewise, any other help or advice please dont hesitate in asking.
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May 15th, 2013, 04:29 PM
  #31
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Dear Mactours, I have four days secured with Dos Hermanos to round out my trip. Let's just say that I have saved the best for last.

When I travel internationally it seems that I always manage to donate one good knife to the country I'm in. In Thailand, a baggage handler found and removed a very good Swiss Army Knife from the outside pocket of my backpack. Lesson learned. Then in Ecuador, my replacement Swiss Army Knife took a tour of the Galapagos on its own and I ended up replacing it with a very wicked six inch folding knife. Somehow I managed to hang on to my folding knife but lost another Swiss Army Knife in Costa Rica.

When Angie and our part were in Purmamarca, she had found me a lovely melon with a tough hard outside. This called for my big six incher, so out it came for breakfast. I wiped it off after it did a lovely job and put it away. I thought at the time I put it in my pants.

After a while I went looking for it, and of course, it was missing. I laughed, and assumed it had slipped out of my pocket again, I had donated it to the Indians in Purmamarca.

It was found, however, but not by me. Unfortunately it was identified by the Salta Airport security personnel who pulled it out of my bag about which I had previously sworn "of course, there are no knives or sharp objects in my carry on." Face burning furiously, I tried hard to explain that I honestly thought I'd lost it (sure, sure lady) and while I truly wished I could find a way to keep it, I pushed it towards her and said throw it away. She gave me the hairy eyeball and and tossed in the trash, and I walked away, trying to get my heart to stop pounding. No, I don't have senior moments. Never.

To AVRooster's point, the contact in question at Pioneros is Tatiana, don't have her last name handy. She is apparently based in BsAs. My take is that there are several locations and she is their point person, she issues the voucher and you present that to the person who picks you up.

Thanks to MacTours for your offer-I did a lot of up front research, and that along with AVRooster's help identified a number of great options. I appreciate it.

The Great Search for the Sombrero Gaucho Autentico is now officially over. It remains to be seen if I got taken for a ride but when I got to Bariloche and settled into my hostel not far off the main drag, I asked the owners for recommendations for gaucho shops. They called friends, and then gave me a map with two located on the other side of town close to the river. About a forty minute walk in the brisk wind. When there's a big plastic horse outside the door and a wonderful leather smell inside you know you are home.

I saw the hat I'd seen in three places before at 340,350 and 380 pesos. These people wanted 480. I explained again that it was a cash payment and that it was the same brand, same maker and the identical hat, and we had a challenge. And then something caught my eye. On the hat tree next to me was a flat black gaucho hat- the real thing- with chin strap, which was what I really wanted. I put it on- it was rabbit felt, which is great in rain. Now we're talking. Satin lining, finished inside. I've bought a lot of hats and this one was beautifully made. Well, it didn't take long before we found one that fit, and a crop, and I put down 800 pesos. The hat was 740. I'll have to ask my gaucho tomorrow how badly I got bitten but that's okay.

And btw AVRooster, the scenery alone was worth the trip to Bariloche, the azure waters of the lake and the snow dusted mountains in all directions. This is definitely a tourist town, with every other office offering tours and rafting and peripente adventures. But as a base to do everything else it's fine. The day was clear but the wind had a bite to it.
Nothing a good layer of fleece, the right wicking layers and good gloves can't fix. The sun, as I have always found in the Southern Hemisphere, was blindingly bright.

And to my delight and surprise, there were pineapples in the fruiteria and the shopping markets. I'm staying in Hostel 41 Below, which is definitely a young people's hostel. Dreads and knitted caps and Birkenstocks are all the norm here, and it has that Robert Marley vibe to it. It's quite genial and pleasant and clean and well kept. I like that I can put my gear in a private safe while riding for two days and not have to leave them in my dorm room.

To anyone who has ever traveled with small children, a vignette. I arrived at the Jorge Newbery airport two hours in advance this morning, and when I got to my gate I was treated to the scene of a two year old boy with a curly mop screaming at the top of his lungs at his mother. He had taken a stance about two feet from her and just stood there and screamed. As I scanned the faces of people near them I immediately got the message that this had been going on for some time already. The mother, a pretty woman in her mid thirties, had an older boy who was quite well behaved. She was ignoring the boy- apparently trying a new tactic- and it wasn't working.

After about fifteen solid minutes of this screaming at full throttle the woman walked over to him and picked him up. He bucked, tore at her hair and face, and continued to scream in her ear. She bounced him, talked to him, tried to calm him. This went on for another fifteen minutes. Then she strapped him in the stroller where he kicked and fought and bucked and screamed.
This kid screamed so loud and so long I started thinking he had a serious future in a hair band. The woman walked the stroller and her other son to another spot in the middle of the waiting area, away from most of us, and you could see the relief on everyone's face. To a person we were all thinking "I better not have to sit next to that kid!" along with "that poor mother." The screaming went on and on.

The plane was delayed. We were lined up against the wall, the bus was late. The kid continued to scream and kick and wail. At no point did this woman lose patience, yell back or strike her child. She did her best to calm him, soothe him and find ways to distract him. Finally a bus appeared and she took the kids and got on. There was a palpable sense of relief in the entire waiting area.

Now I'm not a kid person. Never had any, never wanted any. But I can appreciate those who do and I can appreciate good moms. And that was a good mom. I was in that waiting area for the better part of two hours and that child screamed the whole time, hardly took a break. My guess is that something is hurting or wrong, who knows. But I have oceans of regard for a mom who can deal with that kind of noise, put it aside and let it wash over her. For all we know she's taking him somewhere for treatment. But what I do know is that his mom cares for him deeply and whatever is wrong, she's going to fix it. What I was watching was a state of grace.

I had one night's stay the the Garden House Hostel, which is acceptable with one caveat- it's just a long drive from the airport. It cost about 100 pesos - but they do pick you up which is a very nice convenience late at night, and because they were overbooked I got put into a smaller room which was a nice gesture. This morning the taxi was 10 minutes early so I missed what is apparently a very good breakfast. One thing I have to note here about the hostel- one the second floor the bathroom has no door, and if you're going to undress to take a shower, you simply have to hope no one is coming down the hall. In the shower stalls there is no where to hang your change of clothing, so you have to put in the open area where everyone can see you. This is a cause for a lot of furtive movement and a hell of a lot of laughter on my part. The good news is that everyone else was downstairs at the Famous Breakfast while I was bolting in and out of the shower drying off and putting on pieces of clothing one at a time. The hot water supply is excellent, but if you are carrying heavy baggage, that long walk upstairs to get to reception and the very very tight spiral to get to the second floor are killers. You can get help if there is someone around.

I did at least finally get a look at my torso in the big mirror which confirmed what I suspected, and that is that this fruit and yogurt and eggs diet is a great way to peel off pounds. That and all the long walks and steady exercise. However I'm now in chocolate town, and though I am going to be out riding the next two days, there is a good possibility that I might indulge before leaving on the 18th.
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May 16th, 2013, 04:34 AM
  #32
 
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jhubbel: first you "lost" ten grand pesos in cash, then actually lost your keys and then "lost" your "very wicked six inch folding knife."???

Well, our wonderful country sometimes has that kind of effect on people.

But, it would seem that your "famed" Homeland Security and TSA allowed you to board a plane with that knife?

Well, I guess they tend to concentrate on us foreigners, treating us as if we were all criminals....

Or maybe they are too busy helping your IRS???? LOL!!!!

I'm glad "the scenery alone was worth the trip to Bariloche", but I insist May is NOT the right time to go there.

Keep up the good work! What do you expect to "lose" next?
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May 17th, 2013, 04:06 AM
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AV, FYI folding knives are permitted in checked luggage.


Great thread. A good, informative read.
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May 17th, 2013, 04:12 AM
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DOC: FYI, I believe the OP does NOT travel with "checked luggage".

jhubbel: could you please confirm or deny the above? Obviously, when you are back from your riding in Bariloche and IF your hands are NOT frozen. LOL!!!
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May 17th, 2013, 05:56 PM
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The knives are always in checked luggage as required, I do have one big backpack that I check on all trips. Otherwise I have one carryon, which has all the electronics such as laptop and everything else I would NEVER allow bag handlers to touch. In America such knives are allowed in checked luggage. They are not allowed in carryons. Penknives and other small sharps were recently re-allowed by the FAA, against strong protests by flight attendants and I believe pilots. they have good call to not want to have brutish drunks have access to golf clubs and other threatening items on board. While things like fingernail clippers are hardly what I'd call serious weapons, pen knives and some of the other items they are now allowing can certainly be used to do damage. That whole issue was in the air when I left the country. Pardon the pun.

At the moment I am basking in the delightful experience of having had two absolutely picture perfect, magnificently clear, crisp fall days in Bariloche, warm enough to have to doff the down jacket in the afternoon during a good long gallop, and cool enough for a frost in the morning. I will provide a review of the two day riding trip with the Ariane Hellman outfit (although sadly not with Ariane herself, a real loss, but we made up for it). Let's say she's a five out of five, and I will give good reason why. This was one of the trip's highlights and I am extremely glad I did not miss it.
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May 17th, 2013, 08:51 PM
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Continuing to enjoy your report. TSA reversed itself and is not allowing knives brought on in carryon.
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May 18th, 2013, 02:35 AM
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So, drdawggy was absolutely right (he tends to be right) and you did NOT bring your knife in your carry-on luggage when you flew to Argentina, correct?

So, what happened in Argentina? You had your knife in your carry-on, instead of in your checked luggage?

Are you flying LAN or Aerolíneas Argentinas?

If you are flying LAN, I'm afraid you have a problem:

http://www.buenosairesherald.com/art...-provider-woes

and

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1583190-p...n-la-argentina

You may have to take a bus to Mendoza.

Or maybe ride a horse to Mendoza? LOL!!!

Never a dull moment in our country!

Keep up the great reporting, jhubbel.
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May 18th, 2013, 06:14 AM
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One more note to AVRooster so that I make this very clear-for any passenger coming into or out of the US, no knives, explosives, weapons, gas (same as in AR) are allowed in or as carry ons. It makes no difference whether you're American or international. No one is singled out. What recently changed was the restriction on very small sharps that some folks considered silly like manicure scissors and fingernail clippers, plus athletic gear.

Hostel 41 Below charms its guests by laying out a spread that appeals to carbohydrate lovers: freshly made bread, croissants, jams, cereals, fresh yogurt(YUM), coffee and tea. Since so many people here are athletic types this is a perfect way to start the day of cycling, hiking, skiing or whatever is on their menu. Today is another perfect day, a bit cooler as the sweat on the windows indicates.

Two days ago Ariane Hellman picked me up in her 92 beater of a pickup replete with three dogs: a rescued greyhound, a rescued black lab mix, and a wonderful dachshund named Felipe who decided that my face needed washing. Constantly. We became instant friends. Ariane speaks five languages, we are of an age together, she is smart, world traveled, single and has a wealth of experience that makes her hugely interesting. We drove to her corral where her gaucho, Christian, was saddling up our two horses for the two day ride. Unfortunately, since Ariane was involved in a television filming operation, I would only see her at dinner and the next day, and Christian, who spoke very limited English, would be taking me on the trip.

I had been given Huisito, a nicely filled out sorrel gelding with a sweet disposition. With heavy saddlebags, extra ponchos for the cold, plenty of sheepskins on top of the tack, on top of the heavy leather chaps I was now wearing, it was a whole other exercise even bending my knees to get my foot in the stirrups, much less swing a leg over the mass of stuff on the animal's back. It took some practice to master. The chaps, while a little unwieldy, proved essential later on.

We waved goodbye to Ariane and set off at a trot down the trail. For the first few hours we wove in and out of various pine trees, close to roads, but then turned in towards the mountains. In no time we were in high country and headed straight uphill. Christian's horse had a walk that was double the speed of Huisito's so we were at a constant trot to catch up.

We crossed into pastureland where at one point Christian took us through a fence opening. He dismounted and led his horse through, and I rode through after him. He let go of his animal, and in a matter of seconds his horse started moving. I was facing in the wrong direction to grab the reins and before I knew it the horse (we called him Terrible) had taken off at full speed down the fence line. Christian took my horse and off he tore, chasing the miscreant. They both disappeared into the distance and there I stood, in the lovely silence, wondering how long Terrible would give chase before Huisto could catch him. So I started walking, just in case. About ten minutes later I could make out a moving mass, and pretty soon Christian, Huisito and bad boy Terrible came into focus. We had a good laugh, I remounted and off we went.

At about 1:30 or so near a river bed, Christian stopped for our lunch. We spread the poncho and laid out a meal of salads and fruit and treats that Ariane had packed for us, and enjoyed the brilliant sunshine of the day.

The bulk of the rest of the day was pure adventure. We followed no set trail, no existing track. Christian took me into forest land through pines growing close enough together that we often smacked our knees, and we frequently had to double back and find a new path to get to the top. It was tough work for the horses and periodically we gave them a breather. Eventually we found a clearing where the lake and mountains sparkled in the distance- one of so many magnificent photo ops. Ariane told me later that there are plenty of set trails that she takes for inexperienced riders but Christian decided to give me a treat- and believe me this was a real challenge.

Once the horses were rested we headed off again, continuing up the hill for another redoubt even higher. Every hill gave another look back to Bariloche, where the mountains were dusted with early snow. We had light fresh winds and by this time our jackets were tied around our waists. Here and there were pockets of snow, buried in the shade.

High up over our heads, Christian spotted our first condor, too far away for a photo. That was one of the other highlights of the day for me, a condor in the wild. Even at a distance you could get a sense of the massive wing span of this creature as it spun lazily on a thermal, just out of range of my little camera but within sight. We'd spot another, but when I aimed my camera I hit the "off" button instead of the photo button and cursed myself silly.

After enjoying a good long exploration at altitude, we began a long curve around and it was clearly time to descend. There was a great mass of heavy brush below us and the challenge was to find a way through, or around. The brush was a combination of thick thorns, heavy trees and pines. We'd find a way through about 50 feet in and suddenly realize we were trapped, then have to double back and go around again, over and over. This took hours, but it all part of the adventure. At one point we descended down a precipitously steep hill on an angle, and Huisito balked, with Christian a little far ahead, disappearing into the brush. At that point I had to call him back out as no amount of either encouragement or a whack on the butt would get him to continue until he could see his buddy leading the way. Huisito was dependable but not a leader, and he refused to cross a river unless another animal had done it first and he was close on second.

Finally back on mostly level ground, Christian was now taking us to a river, whose deep blue waters ran merrily over white rocks. The horses drank deeply, we gave them another rest and then took off in the late light of the day.

Not long afterwards we were on what was clearly the last road to our evening rest spot. The horses' ears were pricked forward and their trot was markedly faster. Now mind you we'd been trotting for five hours, not counting all the time going uphill. I love to ride, but there's good value in varying a gate. Because Terrible's normal walk is so much faster, Huisito has to trot just to keep up. As we trotted the last few miles to the estancia that would be our home for the night, Ariane drove up next to us and asked us how the ride was. I mentioned that I might be a little sore from all the trotting, and she translated for Christian. And Christian indicated that it was his understanding that this was all I wanted to do! Ah! Mystery solved!

Well, suffice it to say that the rest of the way to the estancia we enjoyed one hell of a lovely gallop before we walked the horses home. What a relief. That said, my spinal cord is fused at the base, and so is the base of my neck, all fixable with hot showers and a good masseuse.

When we rounded the last curve into the estancia, the fading light revealed aging buildings, tall poplars, a mass of dogs including Ariane's, and a tall, striking man in a red beret coming out a charming house to greet us. This was Tito, who lives and works from this estancia and runs cattle every year over the mountains.

We settled and fed the horses and tumbled gratefully into his house, which was comfortingly warmed by an ancient 1910 woodfired stove. It was a simple, welcoming place, the kitchen serving as a living room, with three big blue chairs surrounding the table. I sat- nay - fell into one of the chairs whose seat had been so worn in that the stuffing had collapsed and I was actually landing on the wooden frame. The foam was showing on the arms. I'd like to hear the stories these chairs could tell. How many friends had sat in them. Tito was hard at work cooking two big chickens - the spices were heady and wonderful- and the rest of us fussed around and talked, while Felipe attacked my face to take off all the dust of the day.
Tito's house runs on sun time except at night when the generator runs for a while to allow for late night conversations. However when the generator goes off, everything goes off, and either you have night vision or a torch. The house gets icy.

The small kitchen area was pleasantly crowded as we pulled out loads of food and everyone stood or sat and ate and shared stories. As the night wore on we heard a knock at the door. A very tall stranger asked to come in,his girlfriend behind him. Their car had broken down, here in the middle of nowhere. Immediately the entire group went to work to help them out, more chairs were added to the dinner table. It would be four hours before they would be rescued, so they were plied with wine and beer. No question they were part of the party. I loved the warm way that this couple was treated with the utmost concern and courtesy.

When the chicken was served, the kitchen was suffused with the smells of fine cooking. Tito watched out of the corner of his eye as I finished off a big fat thigh in about two seconds flat and asked for seconds. It was heavenly. After about two rounds of this, the day hit me and the next thing I knew it, Ariane was shaking my left arm saying, "It's okay if you need to go to bed." "Huh? Wha'?" "You're going to sleep at the table." "Oh...sorry." Up to that point I'd been going on pure adrenaline. Just before I'd tucked into the chicken, Tito had eyed me and commented, "Good food for sleeping tonight." He wasn't kidding. I was down and out.

Ariane had made up one of the small beds that belonged to Tito's kids in a side room with six or seven big wool blankets. I slid under them in my thermals, counted one sheep and blacked out. It was 9 pm.

Periodically during the night I awoke to laughter in the kitchen, but then the house went black. At 5 am, I woke up. I realized that I wouldn't have a lot of chances to see the mountain sky at night so I put on my heavy clothes and stepped outside. The frost was crisp on the grass, the horses sleeping on their feet. Above, in a cloudless, moonless sky, the Southern Cross lay on its side not far from the horizon. I hadn't seen it in some years. The rest of the sky was almost white from the Milky Way. In most of America, the light pollution prevents us from seeing this kind of sky, this untrammeled beauty. At high altitudes in the Rockies, maybe away from the ski resorts, or in the high deserts. But here, it was a breathtaking experience.

I stood taking in this miracle until the cold crept into my boots, then snuck back into the sleeping house. We wouldn't get up until the sun invited us to, several hours later, when Tito would have wood duty to get the house warm.
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May 18th, 2013, 07:08 AM
  #39
 
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Wonderful reporting. I haven't ridden in decades but you almost tempt me.... And the views must have been spectacular - I was in Bariloche in November and they were great then.
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May 18th, 2013, 08:56 AM
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An additional note, I mentioned the chaps. My breeches were winter cotton fleece, perfect for fall riding in America, but useless against the angry thorns and rough bushes that Christian and I were shoving through day before yesterday. This is a perfect example of how gear evolves out of necessity. In any area of Argentina (or any country) you'll see highly specialized riding gear that developed to protect the rider's legs from the bush and thorns (one has to ask, what about the poor horse? and I have yet to get an answer to that). The thick leather chaps that made bending my left leg so challenging just to mount did a magnificent job of protecting me from the elements. Not only were they an additional layer of warmth, but they also proved helpful against the aforementioned slam against the tree. Where I thought I would find a big purple walnut of a bruise I only found a bit of a red spot. Makes you appreciate the real thing, because the real thing tends to work.
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