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Trip Report Buenos Aires and Beyond for a Beginner

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A little help goes a long way. For those of you long familiar with AVRooster on these various forums you will be pleased to know 1) yes he does exist and 2) yes he's charming and funny in person and 3) he will take you on some clandestine adventures that you may not necessarily be prepared for when you first arrive in order to make sure your peso supply is, let's say, adequate. Much more than adequate. I have renamed him, to his delight, the Argentinian National Treasure. He and I have been in touch for quite a while prior to my arrival and he has been a wealth of information not only about pesos but to ensure that I got good guides for horseback riding- a top priority for me, and for the Salta area. Something I admire about AVRooster is his support for women entrepreneurs who are supporting their families, and since I work with women entrepreneurs in America we are muy sympatico on this.

My interest in BsAs is not the same as most others- the restaurants, night life, wine andtheatre scene are not enticing. I am intrigued by its movements. The way you end up inches from a bumper on the street, because you, like everyone else, are four feet from the curb, well out into traffic, pushing your luck to hurry across the street. The way someone passes you on the sidewalk, gulping a supersized Coca Cola, right into oncoming traffic because you and five other people aren't going fast enough, and he is willing to risk his life to get ahead by several seconds. The way cars on the freeway ride the bumpers of those in front of them, and weave in and out of traffic seconds away from certain death. This is a people constantly on the move, gogogogogogogogogo. I was intrigued by the patrician women on the streets in the fine neighborhoods, walking slowly, every silver hair in place, perfect makeup, if you held their eyes and smiled eventually they smiled back and when they did, it was a blessing, and you knew it.

It fascinated me to talk to the Dutch woman who opened a calbagatas operation close to town to offer riding lessons to first time and experienced riders. She and her Argentinian partner take great pride in developing a first time rider's ability to canter in just one day. My day consisted of fixing old bad habits: heels DOWN back STRAIGHT knees IN hands STILL over and over. Having come to Argentina to ride as much as possible, this first stop in skills improvement was as much a lesson in humility as it was the joy of being on a horse. Miriam's drill sergeant demeanor was just what the doctor ordered. She corrected my old Western habits and made me a better rider in just three hours- so I booked Calbagats Al Par again before I head to Dos Hermanos Estancia at the end of the month. Highly recommended for beginners and serious riders alike. AvRooster is a supporter of Dos Hermanos, highly recommended.

This afternoon after returning from riding I was writing in my hotel's kitchen when I heard a great noise start up in the general direction of my room. Curious, I walked down the hallway, and sure enough, That was the source. At first, I thought it might be a futbol game on in my neighbor's room. But this was a roar of the first order. I opened my door and the noise washed over me. Quickly I ran to the window-down on the street was an ocean of people, a swirling mass of people gathered around the intersection. Drummers were pounding and people were laughing and dancing in the middle of the street. It was thunderous- and wonderful. I watched, took a few photos and went back to my table where I watched my yogurt carton march across the wood. The trombones started up, and the party got fully underway,

As an early night person, and one who doesn't drink, there are times that I just stay up and watch the revelry. This is a city that is just finishing its coffee when I am eating dinner. I love that Buenos Aires has its own rhythms and that a huge building on a main avenue has two massive portraits of Eva Peron. No matter where you look there is breathtaking architecture. And if you happen to be a fan of the empanada, you are in heaven. Alas, I am a fruit eater. I have settled into a diet of apples, bananas, oranges and yogurt, and omelets.

But I am here for the scenery, the horses and the adventures. AVRooster provided some sage advice on where to spend time - having scheduled nearly a week in Bariloche in about mid-May he pointed out that this might not allow the skydiving, paragliding and riding that I was planned. Over the weeks he proved correct, as each concession called to cancel the reservation. Bariloche is cold and rainy, and folks have left town for warmer climates. I followed his advice and shifted the time to warmer Mendoza where it's much more likely to have those adventures and enjoy the fall weather.

So for those of you who are planning a trip- whether it's to BsAs or the rest of the country, you may do much of your research on line, through the guide books and other sources as I did. But frankly, if you are smart, run your plans by AVRooster, because when it comes to the twists and turns that only an insider would know, that's where the Argentinian National Treasure can make the most difference between awesome and just all right on your vacation.

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    Welcome to the Fodor's Argentina forum, jhubbel!

    Could you tell forum members about the hilarious sign on the door of the place where we went to change your dollars into pesos?

    Probably even more ROTFLMAO for a "porteño" was the fact that you pulled out your passport to carry out a black market exchange operation!


    Have a great time in our country.

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    Well I'm far too long into the country to remember the sign on the door, but I do have more to report. A little advice for those of you flying to Igazu. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT take the time to use the facilities before stepping out to find a taxi or a bus. By the time you've completed this activity they will all have been commandeered. Gone. PHHHHT. Like a lizard off a hot rock like they say in Australia. I had to wait some time before a lone taxi showed up and as soon as his passengers disgorged, I nearly tackled him. He then drove to town and drove past my hostel twice before (bless him)stopping and asking for directions.

    Some thoughts about Iguazu. As such a popular site, it is typically overwhelmed with tourists. It is almost always stifingly hot. I landed on a day when it was relatively chilly and the tourists largely stayed home, which meant far fewer crowds and a lovely atmosphere. Fair warning, though, the food at the park is very expensive and if you don't like bready foods and fried foods, you must bring your own.It's a long day, and I recommend the Jungle Tour Gran Aventura. There is some misinformation about whether this tour includes San Martin Island. I was told there that it was offered by another company so not included, but at my hostel that was hotly denied. So I have no idea. The Gran Aventura offers most of the park, and while there is a little toy train that carries you from one place to another I preferred to make the perfectly reasonable twenty minute walk. You see more of the woods and more wildlife that way.
    One black mark on this tour is the arrestingly annoying trip from the central area to the staging area where we all have to ride in a truck with a guide who has a microphone. I do not know what it is with people with microphones that they think that they have to turn them up to full volume. We were a small group, it was an appalling noise, and despite my attempt to block my ears, my head hurt. Anything live in the forest heard us coming eighty hectares away. It's called noise pollution. Highly offensive and utterly and completely unnecessary. I use mikes professionally and it always astounds me that unprofessional people feel that louder is better. If you go on this tour all I can advise is to get ear plugs, you'll need them.

    The actual dousing that you get in the falls is somewhat anticlimatic, especially after you've hung your noggin over the Devil's Throat and been stunned by the sheer power of the waters. Anyone who has ever been caught in an undertow can attest the water's pull. But you have never,not even at Niagra, seen anything like this. The whole park is just one waterfall after another. The tour promises a dousing at the Devil's Throat but what you really get, and you're quite glad of it, is a light spray job at some waterfalls that are withing sight of this great set of falls. Then you swing around a corner and he dunks you again. Recommended: a Goretex hat, zip off pants, a second pair of socks.They give you waterproof bags, grab two you will need them both.One is for your shoes, they will get soaked otherwise. It can get bloody cold after that dousing especially if you go late in the afternoon so be sure to pack a light jacket in a bag, yes even if it is hot, do not miscalculate how chilly those drops can get with the wind chill factor and the shade. Hypothermia can strike even in the tropics.
    Last but not least, when you first arrive it's very tempting to try to pet the coati, which are very similar to our raccoon. There are signs all over the park of a badly mangled hand of someone who tried to feed one. These are wild and dangerous animals and this isn't Disney Land. The monkeys and coati are bold and aggressive because people have foolishly fed them despite the signs and they will hurt you badly. This is not a laughing matter. As I walked up to the cafeteria past a young American woman who was cooing and approaching a coati I did my best to explain to her, and she was very annoyed with me. Fine. Get bitten. But for those of you who read this, take photos and keep your distance.
    Oh and one more thing:sometimes you're not always told that when you buy that Gran Aventura for 350 pesos it does not include park entrance fee 170 pesos and another sixty for the bus ride. I suspect they have to do this to so many people every day that it just gets overlooked at times. Perfectly understandable.

    Whatever you do don't miss it. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As the Argentinian National Treasure said, two days, I've planned three because I want do to a horseback ride to the Guarani villages. You do NOT miss this place even though it is indeed overrun with tourists. You will make the trip easier for yourself if you do the things I suggested- and ladies kindly do NOT plan to have pretty hair and makeup when you're done and wear hiking shoes or sneakers. Lots of walking here.

    One note, you cannot do the dunking if you have back or heart problems, are pregnant or under twelve. Safety reasons. And mind, there are a lot of steps, but you can choose not to go on those trails. If all you did was ride the train out to see the Devil's Throat, it would still be worth it. Put it on the itinerary and get the t-shirt.

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    I agree that Iguazu is not to be missed, but there is no need at all to take a tour. I had a great time on both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides without taking a tour, (I used the local buses to get to and from the parks) and therefore without having to keep up with or listen to a guide. All the assorted activities can be booked within the park.

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    Hi, JHubbel!

    Great reporting, so far!

    Since your memory fails, the place where we went to sell your dollars had a sign on the door which indicated "dollars are NOT sold here". LOL!!!

    Salta and Angie are next, after the riding to the Guaraní villages, right?

    Should we expect day-to-day reporting? Great! This is going to be a long thread!

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    also agree IF is fantastic, but you definitely do not need to take a tour. Easily done on your own.

    And agree, AV is a wonderful person and great resource for anyone going to ARG.

    Looking forward to reading more.

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    Agreed, all, reminds me of going to various parks in South Africa and learning the rounds and then doing them myself. Great lessons. A good note to the wise, about the Calbagatas. First, they don't take reservations. There's a reason for this. Someone would have to stay awake. I'm not making this up. I walked the 2km to the spot across from Hotel Cataratas, it was a lovely day. The stables were open, and very quiet. It looked like a going concern. I cried out halloo one, two, three, four times. Nothing. I walked the line of open stables, and kept it up. Halloo, halloo. Eventually a very sleepy young man stumbled out of the tumbled-down trailer and greeted me. No English. What I needed to communicate was easy, horses set up, but money first. $300 pesos for two hours to visit the village.

    Si, I had experience. No, I don't need to stand on a two foot piece of lumber to get on. Gracias.

    The day was ridiculously beautiful, skies clear, temperature about 70, light breezes, the clay wet and too dangerous for cantering. So we trotted and walked to the Guarani area. Now visit is a relative term. We walked through one family area where they were around a fire, but nothing was exchanged. Then we looked at their skinny horses, turned around and walked through again. This is extreme poverty, people with very little. My guide didn't offer up anything about them in Spanish or anything else. We rode further to another village are where we dismounted. Ah, I thought, I get to see a village, perhaps speak to someone, see the houses, perhaps a bit more, learn about the history of the Jesuits, a bit more.
    Well not exactly. Visit to the village is shorthand for take the tourist to the outside edge, show the handcrafts and shame them into buying something at an exorbitant price. That's what happens. You're not allowed into the village, you don't get to see people other than the woman who wants to sell you necklaces, and that's your visit. I paid the woman more than she asked for the necklace I will not wear but will display, and that's fine by me. It's going to a good cause. But I'd have been much more interested in learning more about the people, history, see some of the village members, the kids, their livelihood. None of this was available. The Guarani have a significant place in the history of the area- and having done some research I was genuinely interested in just a touch more from my guide. As far as access, there could well be many considerations about who can visit and why, and for how long, driven by all kinds of issues ranging from respect for their privacy to religious reasons. I have no idea. But it would have been nice to know.

    The ride back was lively as both horses knew that fresh feed was in store, and so they high stepped it back. The horses were good to ride, but if you plan to do this "tour", keep what I said in mind and keep your expectations very very reasonable for this concession. The people were nice, I spoke with them for an additional hour. But I know nothing more from them about the Guarani, which had been my hope. Better to do it on the web and in a library. And sometimes, this is just the best way to do it, come fully prepared.

    I have to say here that having spent time in Costa Rica earlier this year I might be a little spoiled, due to the rich lessons I learned at the hands of nearly every guide I walked, rode or hiked with. This varies country to country, and the experiences are going to vary widely.

    Given the magnificent weather here at this time of year I'd be tempted to say give this a try in May, but you do pay for it elsewhere, such as south of Bariloche. And yes, AV, you're right, I do recall the sign.

    Quick tip, for those of you who aren't seasoned travelers, something that AV will most certainly remind you of and that we all should take care of when walking the streets. Theft, and increasingly aggressive theft, is on the rise, and that includes electronic ID theft. People have devices that can copy your credit card's private information just by standing close to you. To that end I have a suggestion. PacSafe has a great little shoulder bag which packs a surprising amount of gear. It has tough wire mesh so knives cannot shear it open. The strap cannot be cut because it is steel reinforced. It has several pockets, of which one is specifically designed for ID protection for your cards and passport. It also has two places to put water or drinks which snap more tightly for things like sunglasses. It sits right across your front where it should lie, with the tightening buckle across your middle back where it doesn't scrape or annoy you. This keeps fast moving cyclists or motorcyclists from tearing it off your arm. Wear it over one shoulder. I got mine from REI for $79. and tax. I wanted to break it in a few days before I recommended it and I really can now. The other item I use as a carryon which has been hugely useful is a TENBA bag. It's originally intended for cameras, but I threw out all the compartment pieces. It has been my trusty carry on for everything electronic, all travel paperwork, backup copies of everything important, extra pairs of glasses and sunglasses, all the cords and precious plugs needed at the airport and hostels, your Rx supply, guidebooks, the Kindle- you get the idea. Heavy? A little, yes. Priceless? You betcha. It cost around $120- and I have rarely made a better buy. The many pockets, zippered compartments, stowaway areas and goodies that come with the bag including its own raincover make this one of my best international travel investments. This is the bag you put in the guarded locker, the safe, when you go out, and take the other steel reinforced one for safety. Two great investments for about $200.

    My reply to yestravel: you comment made me laugh out loud for the simple reason that the word "tour" is used euphemistically in so many areas for that very reason. There were times in Costa Rica I got the distinct impression that everyone who owned more than five acres offered a "tour" for $40 US, including a zip line from his house to the local phone pole. You're absolutely right. Having done IF, I didn't need any help but I do admit the dousing was kinda silly fun. The ecological "tour" down the river was an utter waste but we did see a sleeping croc, which is likely there every single day. They don't move much unless they're hungry-much boredom then extreme chaos. We missed that part.

    And yes AV,I am off to Salta tomorrow and Angie, and hopefully a laundry where the sock supply needs refreshing. I am most eager to meet the famous Ms.Giena and see Punamarca, the city of Salta and all its charms, and of course the lovely valleys and towns along the way. Ah- the final news-the extra 4km I walked today uncovered a heretofore hidden fruiteria, and they had a wonderful supply of bright yellow, hefty, ripe pineapples, to which my apple weary palette says Bravo! Too bad my bag can't take two for carry on!

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    A hidden frutería! Some find!

    Great report! Keep it coming, jhubbel!

    Betcha the people over at the "other place" will be green with envy! LOL!!!

    Maybe you can post over there just an abridged report?

    Believe or not, I still have friends over there. Few, but good.

    The "commercial" posting by their "experts" is really hard to believe, but apparently no one cares. So...

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    So a reminder for anyone who travels, those without a sense of humor might as well stay home.

    I live out of a backpack, and so when one has been assisted by AVRooster and has a great wad of pesos, that means that as he says Cash is King, and you have to go to great lengths to protect and hide the darn stuff. So I have padlocks on the backpack and ingenious hiding places.

    Last night I was prepping the backpack in the dark of the dorm for today's midday departure when I opened up my lingerie bag only to find 10,000 precious pesos missing. Someone had apparently cracked the simple code of my padlock and found one of my hiding places and lifted a third of my travel funds- the rest were still there, better hidden. It was 10:30 at night and I was bereft. The hostel sent me down the police station, and I took my big carryon with me, with all my official materials, good thing I did.

    At the station, no one spoke English. I took out my translation book and was able to explain myself. One of the men there tried to give me some instructions but could not. His partner took my book and I showed him the Spanish to English part. It took him nearly ten minutes- mind you it's alphabetical- to find the word for "wait." These guys are all in black riot gear, scary boots, intimidating, and the man can't find a word in his own language. I'm sorry, I did find it amusing.

    Ten minutes later eight guys arrive bearing multiple pizzas. They file past me into a back room with a big window which has a curtain. There's talk, and I can hear my case being discussed. At one point somebody pulls the curtain open a bit and we eyeball each other. Back the curtain goes. More time goes by. More laughter. More waiting.

    The pizza consumed, the guy who pulled the short straw comes striding out and he gestures for me to follow him to the official office. He doesn't speak English either. The guys on the other side are laughing and shouting at him. We sit down and he fires instructions at me in Spanish that I can't possibly comprehend. I hand him the book, he finds the right words much faster, the rest is easy- what he needs is self explanatory.
    We start having a little fun, and when he asks me Occupado I show him my book. That actually surprises him because I look a lot better on the book than I do sitting in front of him at 11:30 at night. Even my passport picture is an improvement. But we get through the process, at the end of which he proudly hands me a big piece of paper which has a tiny paragraph noting that I had 10,000 pesos stolen from me. I sign. Then he and his fellow policemen light up, jump in a truck and take off.

    I head back to the hostel, still frustrated. So much money. What do I do? How can I pace myself with much less?
    I lie in my dorm bed and think.And think. And think.
    Then suddenly I have this very clear picture of opening the lingerie bag, the bandana that held the pesos, moving the pesos to a new secret hiding spot inside the fast drying towel, inside another bag, inside another bag, inside my riding helmet, inside another bag, inside my backpack, so that no one could possibly find it.

    Especially me.

    I giggled myself to sleep.

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    Wow, glad the story had a happy ending! Congratulations on dealing with the cops.

    But you're right - sense of humor, willingness to go with the flow, and ability to come up with Plan B ( or C...) at short notice all significantly improve a teip.

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    jhubbel: Did you call the cops to confess you took up their most highly valuable time for no reason at all and actually "giggled yourself to sleep" over it??? LOL!!!

    Perhaps the next time you change your money's hiding place you should post about it, so all your loyal readers here can remind you? ROTFLMAO!

    This looks like it's going to be one of the greatest threads of all time! Congratulations, jhubbel!

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    What a great story jhubbel! I thought I was alone in being OCD about hiding stuff! Reminds me of a time in New Zealand when my cellphone went missing from the room safe in one of the few decent hotels we satyed in on our travels. After searching the entire room three time over, i called hotel security ready to complain like hell that someone had stolen my phone. The guy just asked me for my number , called it and sure enough, the phone in my jacket pocket rang merrilly away!!

    Really looking forward to your report on Salta. Give my regards to Angie. We are hoping to catch up with her later this year

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    A note to AVRooster about the cops, while I will nod to your point, trust me, the distinct impression was that it was a VERY SLOW NIGHT and if anything, my entry into the station interrupted their dinner which was more important. That was fine by me. Nothing happened while I was there. The teasing my cop got was the entertainment of the hour from eleven to midnight. What we all ended up with was a good story. And I got a fine lesson in outsmarting myself with hiding places. I'm too proud to call it a senior moment, by golly, because I can recall pulling boneheaded stunts like that thirty and forty years ago. Even my friend Meg, who is 93, doesn't have senior moments. What she calls them
    wait, it's right on the tip of my tongue.....

    The pineapple I found day before last made its leaky way all the way to Salta, where I landed late last night and walked right by a very confused Angie who called out my name and no, I wasn't expecting her so no, I didn't hear her so no, I didn't take advantage of her kind availability to drive me to the hostel. She did get there right as my taxi did and meet me as I got out and good thing she did because she hauled me back just as I was about walk in front of a hurtling motorcycle. Considering drivers in Salta I am grateful for Angie's swift paws. She saw me safely inside and we made arrangements the next morning. I stumbled into the warm kitchen and sat down with two Parisians and two Swiss, and ate the whole pineapple, which may be my last, given the state of the markets in Cafayate where I am now. I'm back to apples, yogurt and oranges, but now green bananas.

    Angie had arranged to pick me up at 9:30-I woke up at 8:30 and of course all the showers were busy and all the chairs at breakfast were filled so I grabbed coffee, waited my turn and she was there early.

    When you put two garrulous and opinionated women with many stories in a car for many hours you're going to either have a great deal of fun or World War III, and we've had a great deal of fun. Angie and I have found many similarities in our lives, we both lost older brothers a few months ago and are both entrepreneurs. It's been fun to hear about the area and then dig for opinions, hear more about the area and then get more opinions, whether it's about the US government or about how to properly introduce a gringo to Salta, or much of anything else.

    In the meantime I harangued her to pull over every time I saw an artistic shot, hiked into a canyon for a better view, wandered off and got thorned by one of the bushes for my trouble (plenty of blood) and in general had a terrific time in the magnificent weather. What struck me were some of the similarities to Arizona and Utah, some of the colorings and cactus to even what I grew up with in Florida, and the evidence of the vast power of the upheavals of the land masses millions of years prior to make the striations in the formations.

    A lone horse on the river made a perfect subject for a study of another cliff, an angle here, an angle there, and pretty soon the camera's battery was done. Here's a piece of advice for anyone who uses a Panasonic Lumix like I do: the one I have is sturdy for people who drop things (my hand is up) and people who lose things in the water (my hand is up again). It has a bright yellow floatable handle you can buy extra for when you drop it off the boat (done that) but the one thing I HATE is that the batteries simply don't last. There is no way you can take this camera on a trip and be able to recharge en route, especially on an adventure, so you must buy extra batteries, and you can only buy them online. You can get them cheaper- around $22-26 apiece as opposed to Panasonic's ridiculously high prices. I sucked it in and bought six and already went through three today. I swear by the little one I have but for this detractor. You can recharge in any hotel, but for long trips out on horseback, extra batteries.

    As we came into Cafayate we drove by a charming little hotel which apparently had my name on it for about $80 pesos, as Angie went in and did some bargaining for a cash only price during low season. Bless her- so minutes later we're pulling my gear around. Lucky me, three women were in the laundry and a few minutes later Angie has organized for me to get my laundry done, which means I am stripping down seconds later because I took some slides down the rocks which produced some brightly colored and not very clean results on my zipoff pants.

    Angie and I arrange for the next day's events because I need to do some serious exercising around town, so I pack up some essentials and start walking. Poor timing indeed. My intention was to find El Mercado. Found it. Closed until six. Rats. So were a lot of places, but not the artesanos. A walk around the central square presented the usual suspects- the ever present t-shirts, key holders, mate cups and a great many other items that didn't call out. But hand made buttons? That comes home, and for all you ladies out there who HATE those cheap white nasty things that come with most clothing, or the inexpensive choices that come with even the best jackets, this is how you make them pop. This is what designers do, and how they find ideas. They travel.
    Then I pulled out my camera - and oh futz- the bright yellow handle has torn off. Emergenica! I have no string. Now the focus is to find someone who can fix this because I have to keep this floating handle on the camera.

    I wander off here and there, into this shop and that, until I find one small shop that sells.....elves. Yes, elves. Almas Viajeras, on Guemes Street. Alejandro asked me if I spoke Spanish and I said a little, but when I showed him what I needed he quickly took my camera, my handle and went to work. The shop was full of elves with the elf maker hard at work behind the counter. But it was also full of jewelry and the braided friendship bracelets we see all over S.A., one of which I bought in Iguazu yesterday from a young woman's stand.

    In no time at all Alejandro had fixed my camera and handed it over, refusing payment. However, I insisted on some sort of payback, and since I'm not in the market for elves, I did promise him that I would write this up. I can tell you that I found better bracelets in his shop than everywhere else I'd been and more fun jewelry, and better craftsmanship, so it's with pleasure that I recommend Almas Viajeros not only for his courtesy but also for his goods. Muchas gracias.

    Angie did get me to a restaurant today where I tried the minestrone soup. I don't recommend it. Her salmon salad looked better. I also got a fruit plate. I can say that the pineapple was canned but the fruit was cold. Apples, pears and a plum. I did follow Angie's sage advice, there is an all natural ice cream place a hop skip and jump down the main Ruta 40 from here and I did go in to order a scoop of mango, and yes, she's right, it's to die for. But once is enough.

    The hotel I am in is called El Criollo, and I am spoiled by a big bathroom and a double bed with a single bed, rather than my usual dorm, which means I am spread out all over the place and so are my electronics, yogurt, oranges and juice drinks. But no bananas. I will wake up to more yogurt and juice and oranges for breakfast (do I see a pattern here?) and will look for the big very overweight sweet natured Golden who padded by me last night with a large piece of bread which was probably one of the reasons she is so rotund. But sweet. After to started to pet her tonight she assumed the position with her tongue stuck out- she basketball flopped on the tiles and rolled on her back and showed me her tummy, about as clear a set of instructions, no English translation required, as I have received on this trip. I was happy to comply.

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    By the way, Angie had a sign with my name on it. In big fat letters. It is a testament to the fact that humans do not see what they do not expect to see, and anyone who is familiar with the the guy in the gorilla suit in the basketball game can attest to this study. I'm the perfect example of same. And my apologies to Angie for putting her out. She was being most kind.

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    A note to crellston about your New Zealand story: I simply refuse to admit how people have done this for me. Had I done that inside my own house one time I'd have saved myself a hundred bucks and a nightmare problem with Verizon's replacement refurbished phone. Enuf about that. It's usually someone about 1/5 my age who does this and that makes it worse. It's the obviousness of the gesture that makes me cringe that I just don't automatically do it although I'm getting better.

    I spent about a year total in lovely NZ back in the early halcyon days when the Kiwi dollar was worth 40 cents to ours, ah, the memories. Well, not any more. I have memories of waking up on a floating inflatable sleeping mat in the middle of a massive rainstorm inside my tent somewhere on South Island when my water proof one man Marmot tent clearly wasn't prepared for THAT kind of water. And an incredibly bright sunny day at the post office for the rainiest spot on South Island just before I did one of the routes. It took me a year to lose the eighty pounds I gained eating New Zealand ice cream, cheese, butter, cream, milk, biscuits, chocolate......yum.

    Hence the fruit, vegetables, chicken, yogurt, eggs.....

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    jhubbel: you surely realized that my "most highly valuable time" about the cops was ironic!

    Angie usually waits for her customers at the airport and you walked past her even though she called out your name and had a sign with your name in "big fat letters"???? LOL!!

    Your two "opinionated women" is quite an understatement! LOL!

    You bargained for a discount for cash payment in a "charming little hotel" that cost only about 8 bucks a night? Shame on you!

    Well, I guess it's my fault, since I advised you to bargain for cash payment discounts everywhere....

    Does Hotel "El Criollo" have a website? I Googled it, to no avail.

    A suggestion: why don't you cancel Bariloche altogether and bus it down to Mendoza from Salta?

    Well, I already said in an earlier post that this was shaping up to be one of the "greatest threads of all time" and this is confirmed every time you post again.

    And we still have weeks of your travel stories ahead!!!

    Great! Keep up the good work!

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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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    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.


    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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:


    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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    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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    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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    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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    It’s in a different state of mind that I get to finish the story of the two day ride, as Ariane had directed me to Betty, her massage therapist, and after an hour under her talented hands I was able to walk with a spirited step back to the hostel. If anyone happens to do this trip, make sure you get Ariane’s massage therapist’s number, if not, she is on 756 Morales, #7, close to many of the hostels and a five minute walk from mine. She charged me 200 pesos for the hour and I gave her another 10 for fitting me in at the last minute. Much appreciated.
    Back at Tito’s house, the sun arbitrates the household movements because the generator doesn’t come on until night, and it doesn’t appear until later in the day. Tito had oven duty, and I took the time to rest, and listened to Felipe snuggle into the sleeping bag with Ariane, buried like a forest tick into her warmth. When I heard her start to move around, we started a conversation that lasted another two hours while the boys drank mate in the kitchen.
    Girls of a certain age talk about certain things, with Ariane at 51 and me at 60 there are a variety of things we are going to discuss, whether it’s the inevitability of things that sag or how to keep a face young in the elements. We are both horsewomen, neither of us had kids whether by design or choice, and we have both lived in different parts of the world. As part of my travels I collect friendships with remarkable women; to me they are like precious gemstones which add untold value to a life. Not that men do not, it’s just that I find my female friendships particularly rich, and those of us who have forgone family have a special language. Powerful, high-achieving women who go out into the world fearlessly fascinate me, and I cannot get enough of them and their stories.
    So I went to sit on the end of Ariane’s bed, got permission to drink her water and commented that my mouth felt like “stale owl s—t and we broke into gales of laughter (that by the way is a line from my mother, which she spouted to me after fifteen hours on a flight from the US to New Zealand). Felipe trade his warm spot in her sleeping bag to my lap where he proceeded to remove the sleep from my face, and we told stories until the caffeine urge was too strong to ignore. By then, it was 10:30 and time to get going.
    Tito had a fascinating way of making coffee. He mixed instant Nescafe with a little sugar, a bit of water and powdered milk in a coffee cup, and for the next fifteen to twenty minutes stirred the mixture with some force as he carried on his conversation. I am not making this up. It’s the equivalent to about three or four minutes in a full speed blender. What he ends up pouring into your cup is the color and consistency of caramel taffy, which you mix with water and sweeten to your liking. It really is quite wonderful.
    Outside the sun was brightening up the far peaks and the horses, under Christian’s care, were making short work of a bale of fresh hay apiece. This was the cause of no shortage of amusement during the ride. Terrible had a very effective digestive system, Huisito and I regularly dodged flying apples as he had his bano moments during the adventure which were many and plentiful. There were no ribs sticking out on these horses whose coats were shiny and whose energy was enthusiastic.
    Ariane and Tito saw us off for the early afternoon ride and Ariane promised to meet us up the road for lunch by a river. The day started off with frost, and all the puddles were frozen over. Still the sun was as bright as the day before and promised to warm us up along the way. This day I placed foot warmers inside my boots, and they immediately began to emit a gentle heat which kept my soles warm for hours against the sharp cold of the morning. But no chaps, so getting on the saddle was made much easier.
    The second day’s ride was open road, and we were treated to the sight of many eagles perched on fence posts. We passed many tumbledown houses, barely standing- every one of them occupied, but the gates to the estancias were proud. No condors today, but we were greeted everywhere by horses. We rode quietly in the early afternoon along long roads lined by tall, graceful pines, many of them imported from the States.
    Some of the hills had sheep, others cows, there were small rivers and ravines that we rode down. Ariane passed us, dogs loaded in the back seat. Soon we met up with her to set up a sunny riverside lunch overlooking beautiful blue-grey rocks and hills nearby. The temperature was about 60 degrees, and the wind was just beginning to get that late afternoon chill. All the dogs were merrily chasing each other, and we unsaddled the horses to let them roll in the grass.
    We feasted on the last of Tito’s incredible chicken, fruit, Danish cookies and soup, and as the afternoon began to pass the midpoint, we saddled up and made for the last leg home. I’ve not yet mentioned the advantage of having Christian as a guide, his lack of English was a great opportunity to be immersed in Spanish, so we traded phrases and I got to practice my grammar such as it is. And at long last, I got my gallope. Not just one, but four of them.
    We galloped on flats, we galloped on hills and high roads, and Christian challenged me by whipping Terrible around trees sharply in and out for me to follow and stay seated, it was grand fun. On several roads we had to run over – and I may misspell this- tuka tuka?- which Huisito stumbled over several times at speed. When that happens and you’re at the crest of a hill, and your bum is in mid air and your horse is headed downwards while you are still airborne it can be interesting, even though your knees are still firmly pressed to the horse’s side. One of my favorite memories of the trip is Christian’s regularly turning his head over his right shoulder and asking “Bien?” And I would shout “Siempre bien!” back.
    After the sun has baked the needles for a while the pinos are full of scent, so as we wound our way through the trees on the way home it was like smelling Christmas. The horses pricked their ears forward and picked up the pace, food was close by and another good roll in the grass at the end of the day. The late afternoon sun on a windless sky and the lake was flat and shiny. In no time the horses were free of bridle, bit and saddle, legs in the air and on their way to their oats and water.
    Ariane loaded all the dogs and me into her aging pickup and we started our way into town. At the first turn, she saw an ancient man making his way to the corner. This was her next door neighbor, a bit infirm, who had sold his land and holdings, and his wife had passed away some time ago. She said that she often gave him rides into Bariloche to bowl, and as we pulled up next to him he turned and saluted the car. She helped him around, and opened the back door where the dogs took up all the room in the back seat. Painfully he eased his way nearly on top of the dogs until, with some strong encouragement, they gave way so that he could sit down, and when he did, they draped over him in comfortable familiarity. Ariane kept up a lively conversation with him as we neared town and also explained to me her concern about his welfare as there are few if any facilities for the old, and she had no idea what his future would hold as he had no children. On the main avenue, we pulled over and he slowly let himself out, the dogs returned to their accustomed spots and Felipe stuck his wet nose in my ear.
    At the hostel, I paid her the 3200 pesos for the ride (I tipped Christian 110) and we again launched into a long conversation which took us across politics, women’s issues, challenges of being alone in later years, being on singles dating sites, her ten years in Argentina, her aging parents back in Holland, business issues such as how to price herself now that she has more clients asking for her time that she has time to give. I honestly wanted to stuff Ariane in a suitcase and bring her home with me, and have her as a close friend, but then she wouldn’t be Ariane. This is the price we pay for finding such interesting and engaging people all over the world- they force us to stay in touch and come back again and again, which is a small price to pay for the magic that they bring to our lives.
    Ariane’s riding adventures- to speak solely of the ride itself- was precisely what I came to Argentina to experience. The real thing- using the tack, the procedures, the horses and the methods to ride the surroundings, be pushed to ride hard and well, dine on the land, stay in a real gaucho’s house at high altitude, wake up in an icy house on the sun’s time, enjoy a warm fire in a friendly kitchen with good people with no pretensions, be surrounded by a language I am still learning. To smell the unspoiled mountain air in fall, feel the rush of icy water and the crunch of frost underfoot, the strong muscles of an energetic mountain horse as he leaps over a small ravine. In truth, the experience was priceless, and like my tour with Angie, it stands on its own and you can’t compare the two. The authenticity of the experience was what gave it the five stars, my friendship with Ariane is additional, and like my connection with Angie, what we all do if we are willing to put for the effort to open our true selves to those whom we meet here.
    At the airport, and this goes to AVRooster, I got called out in the security line AGAIN, and this time I got completely patted down and all my stuff was pulled out and looked at in detail. I had bought a crop, but that didn’t get me in trouble. What absolutely brought the house down for me was when this very nice, polite, smiling young man went through my meds. As a sixty year old, and a body builder, and a female, my meds are varied and sometimes complex. So, I’m standing there patiently explaining to him every single pill container that I have. This is coconut oil. What’s that for? This is Glucosamine. What’s that for? This is Super Food. What’s that for? And this goes on, until he finds these long, thin blue pencil like things that have a pill on the end. Wrapped separately. The words Vagi-fem did not seem to register. What’s this for? Um. Well. How ‘bout I just demonstrate? So I did. Hey, you asked.
    I knew what had set off the alarms-I had bought a couple of very small brass locks, although they hadn’t set off any alarms previously. No, he says. AH! Here it is! Proudly he holds up a tiny sewing kit which has a couple of sewing needles in it, threaded with the black thread from the last repair project. Now that he had found the culprit, he showed it to everyone else, and then asked me if I wanted to go all the way back downstairs and go through the whole process again, to make sure it gets on board.
    Ah, no.
    So now I am out a sewing kit. No matter, I have at least two more in my backpack. Ready for all contingencies, including pokey nosed security guards. Like I said, if you can’t laugh, don’t travel.
    Well all I can say is that whoever was responsible for the two picture perfect, absolutely magnificent days in Bariloche which just happened to coincide with my two days of riding, I am beyond grateful. Because as the plane left town, the clouds were socking the town in and more were on the way, along with wind, and rain, and all those autumnal characteristics which, on AVRooster’s advice, I shortened my time here. It was sheer dumb luck that fortune smiled and I can report on such a great outfit and experience. For anyone considering a multi day ride, please consider Ariane, with one side comment.
    A story that Ariane shared expresses one of the prices these outfitters pay when tourists don’t take into account their own bulk. A while back, Ariane took an American tourist on a five day ride. He was obese, and by the end of the first day, the skin on the horse’s withers had split open. In another case, another horse bore the weight of another very fat tourist on a multi day ride and was permanently ruined. That animal had to be sold, rehabilitated and is now a children’s play horse. Both of these horses were large- chosen to accommodate these tourists- but they couldn’t do it. There is a limit to what any animal can bear- and these outfitters have a right to say someone is too big for their horse to carry. It is extremely hard work for an animal to carry a couple hundred pounds straight uphill, along with full saddlebags and tack. To try to bear a fat man or woman up the hill for a multi day trip is akin to animal cruelty, and reveals a lack of understanding of a horse’s capability. That’s putting it nicely. These trips need to be pleasant for the animals, too, they work very hard for our pleasure, and most outfitters work very hard to keep them in shape for us. I apologize if I offend anyone, it’s not my intention. I feel strongly about treating animals with the kindness they deserve. Ariane’s had to learn to say no, and on our end, sometimes it’s good to know what adventures are good for us.

    And now for a final note. I have landed in Mendoza, and LAN has managed to lose my backpack. That means that the only things I have with me are my electronics and my meds. So now LAN has my knife, my sewing needles and the entire backpack, which is enough to annoy me rather a lot. As I got in late tonight there was of course no one to talk to, no one spoke English, no one could help. I did manage to get a lost baggage report from a very put out attendant, and all I have right now is an 800 number to call.

    For the life of me, I don't know how this happened, as the woman at the counter in Bariloche confirmed with the baggage handler that my bag was going to Mendoza. Clearly, LAN did not get that message.

    Well, so much for that lovely vest, the riding boots, the helmet, all my clothing, gear, hmm. We'll see if they manage to find it.

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    Questions, commments, suggestions, etc.:

    About the knife, the problem at the Salta airport seems to have been that you had "lost" it somewhere in your carry-on luggage?????

    I stand by my opinion that foreigners are treated differently from locals, meaning in a much harsher style, upon entering the USA.

    Of course, I'm more than happy you had a great time in Bariloche with Ariane Hellman's outfit. Does she have a website?

    However, it is my understanding that Ariane had committed to ride with you, but excused herself at the last minute and sent you out with a non-English speaking gaucho called Cristián.

    Should that be the case, it sounds like a clear case of "bait and switch" and I feel you should have strongly objected to it. Again, IF I'm right about the way things happened, I certainly would NOT give this "cabalgatas" outfit "a five out of five".

    Furthermore, I feel the gaucho Cristián should have adjusted his horse's gait to Luisito's (your horse).

    But, then, I'm a really tough grader, as I am used to evaluating probably the best hotel in BA.

    I REALLY loved the part about your falling asleep at the table!

    So you tipped the masseuse ONE buck and Cristián no less than TWELVE for spending all of TWO days with you! Great! LOL!!!


    About LAN's losing your back pack: It is my understanding that you flew from Bariloche to BA and then, on another flight, from BA to Mendoza. Right, so far?

    IF that is the case, my advice to all tourists taking TWO different flights is NOT to send your checked luggage to its final destination.

    INSTEAD, retrieve it after your first flight and check it again for the second flight.

    While LAN will PROBABLY find your backpack, if they don't, this could turn into a serious setback for an otherwise wonderful trip.

    As I posted in this thread and in a special thread on the subject, LAN is having serious problems with Intercargo, a government-run firm which takes care of the baggage handling at the airport, among other things.

    Intercargo and LAN are at odds with each other. Right now, Intercargo's "mission" is to make LAN's customers as unhappy as possible, so they choose for future travel the government-run airline instead of LAN.

    In case the above is not clear enough, what I mean is that the loss of your backpack may have been intentional.

    Let's hope they find it soon. Even if they do, be sure to pressure LAN into compensating you for this problem.

    Keep up the good work!

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    A couple of things on your comments, AVRooster: I appreciate the overall view of the airport, and with a better understanding of how the flights come and go at Jorge Newbery I'll take that into account in the future. With the exception of tight connections, it's easy enough to pick up the luggage and go through security again. I called the free number this morning but of course no one spoke English and one person hung up on me when I asked if there was anyone available who spoke English. So finally I had to go find someone here on staff who could speak for me. Apparently the backpack arrived after I did, and now it's a matter of getting it to the hostel, so if that's the case, all is well.

    Ariane does have a website although I don't have it at the moment,I can track it down later. To her defense, and I will say this strongly, she already had a commitment where there was a filming crew, and we had a long talk about what was going on at the time and the hard choice she had to make about doing that work or riding with me. At several points along the way in advance she had mentioned that there was a potential conflict with a filming crew during those dates so I was advised. I should have made this more clear In no way do I feel that it was bait and switch, and while I know you are a hard grader, in this case because I have an inside view to what was going on, this would not be a fair characterization. As for Cristian's tip, I checked with Ariane and asked her what the rate was, and that's what she
    asked me to give him. I tend to agree with you, that he should have adjusted his gait. But he didn't. And so that you get the full picture, at Tito's house I sat with Ariane and gave her feedback on Cristian as a guide and that may well have influenced what she felt was a fair tip.

    I would have given absolutely anything for someone to have taken a photo of my head lolling to the side and my eyes closed at the dinner table at Tito's house, AVRooster. The whole table saw it, and apparently Tito was the one who nudged Ariane and indicated that the magic chicken had done its job. I was so full of adrenaline and excitement the whole day that when people asked me if I was tired I said no, no, no, and meant it. But the moment that rich, hot food hit my stomach, whammo, that was the end of it. I'm still chuckling about it.

    Frankly, and this is really hindsight, I wish I had read your thread about the airlines prior to making my flight plans. While it seems that things are going to be all right- and I most certainly hope they are- this is the kind of information that is so critically useful to us all. It's one of the vagaries of international travel when it comes to labor disputes or internecine battles that go on internally with airlines or buses. When I first arrived there was a bus strike, for example, and folks I met up in Iguazu had been stranded for more than a week. While yes, that's a part of the experience (like losing your luggage, for example)the kind of advance warning this information provides is priceless.

    As to your comment about how internationals are treated, all I can offer is that after 9-11, we've taken such a protective attitude, and with the bombing in Boston, it wouldn't surprise me if people are even more careful. That saddens me because one wants to believe we are a welcoming country. We are once you're past TSA. What I do enjoy is that even while folks are going through my stuff they're friendly and funny and we are enjoying the process. That is simply not true with TSA who are humorless and about as friendly as a melted spatula.

    We have an overcast sky here in Mendoza, and at the Empedrado Hostel I can report that the staff was extremely attentive to my situation last night. This is a good sized hostel, and breakfast here this morning was a nice layout (for carbohydrate lovers) of cake and cereal and juice and some eggs, hot milk and coffee and tea, and since it was Saturday last night I was the only one up at 9 having caffeine to take on LAN. With luck, in a few hours I will have the gear to take care of laundry, showers, and other necessities and start planning my third week. There are posters and signs all over the reception for every adrenaline sport you could ask for. And I can't wait.

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    Great! If you knew beforehand that Ariane had scheduled work "with a filming crew during those dates" that changes everything and the five stars are OK.

    Have a great time in Mendoza doing "every adrenaline sport you could ask for". LOL!

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    So glad to hear your backpack has shown up! Yeah! Hope you'll also be trying the wine in Mendoza, lol.

    The TSA is an equal-opportunity offender, but is currently (after a long court battle) actually taking comments. See:

    However, foreigners also face the hurdle of dealing with passport control/immigration officers. I have entered as both a citizen and a permanent resident. Entering as a citizen is pretty straight-forward. Entering as a permanent resident is now pretty straight-forward, as they can now use the citizen lines, but I used to have stand in the non-citizen line, and it once took me so long to enter at Newark (about 90 minutes, I think) that I missed my connection. Since 9-11 I am sure it is much worse. I have dealt several times with the Immigration Service (INS, before it became ICE) and I can assure you that however bad you think the IRS is, the INS was an order of magnitude worse. Their attitude seems to be that they are charged with finding reasons to keep you out, not facilitate your admission, however legal.

    On the face the US presents to foreigners see: It is a particular stupidity that transit passengers cannot transit air-side.

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    jhubbel is a teetotaler, I understand. Apparently, she believes there are other things to do in Mendoza, besides drinking our great wines. And she is most likely right. We'll know for sure as she reports during the next few days. LOL!!!

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    I swear to you by all that is holy, that there is little in the world more wonderful (now take all of this in context folks) than brushing your furry teeth in a red hot shower after living in and sleeping in your clothing for two days and having no toothbrush or anything to change into, or clean undies, and you're not on an epic camping trip to excuse yourself for it. Hurrah, huzzah, and thank you LAN. Now it took awhile but in the meantime I got a lot of writing done.

    By the way, while I was waiting a young man relayed a story about how he had to put a carryon into the baggage at the last minute and when he got it back it had been rifled. To that, my suggestion is to use TSA-friendly small padlocks, which are clearly marked. They can open them for inspection if necessary, and they will close them again, leaving you the friendly "we were here" note. But the padlocks otherwise deter the casual thief. If someone is determined to get into your bag they will get into your bag, padlock or no padlock. But since I began to use these small padlocks all over the outside of my pack, locking zippers together, I've not lost a thing. It's a visual deterrent, and it simply becomes a habit for you to remember a combination to get back in. Or else you better not lose your keys like someone I know.

    A note to thursdaysd, AVRooster is quite correct. I don't imbibe whatsoever, in any way shape or form. So wines, wine tours, tastings or anything related to the industry is of no interest whatsoever. All my friends wailed at the thought that I'd be in Argentina, the land of beef and wine, and I don't eat red meat or drink wine, and they cried out "but you don't know what you're missing." Hey, I'm currently on my second yogurt of the night and I found a pineapple, that makes my world go 'round. And so does the thought of paragliding tomorrow afternoon. And skydiving the next day. And another two-day ride.

    Empedrado Hostel's staff, I must mention here, came to my rescue this morning when it was clear I was having difficulties with the toll free service. The young man basically made it his personal mission to call at the appointed times during the day until he knew when my backpack was going to show up, and it made me feel secure and well taken care of. Not every hostel provides that kind of care. They also don't allow smoking here which is so appreciated. So often I find myself moving from room to room to room to get away from the intrusive blue clouds, and here you must go outside to smoke.

    The hostel is also located just a few blocks from downtown, near a big supermarket, and just about everything else. It's a great location, it's big, has lots of dorm rooms and they are clued in to multiple services. This matters because if one calbagatas doesn't work out, you can look at another, which frees them from being tied to one operator due to commission. The kitchen is huge, there are multiple eating areas and toilets. And bless their hearts, miracle of miracles, they have a tub so big you need scuba gear to take a bath in it. That particular facility has my name on it for later this week. The AHHHHHHHHH that AVRooster will be hearing sometime around Friday will be me, sinking into that bathtub.

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    Hear only, AVRooster. Keep your ears open. I scored a perfect gaucho knife today at an off-the mainstream gaucho store, and the senora directed me to a place to find gaucho pants (hers were too big for me). I am searching for a particular kind, of a particular weight, very much like what I saw in Purmamarca. That may be impossible, given provincial differences. I found one very good pair for 180 pesos and got them but am still on the lookout. Going paragliding in seven minutes...

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    Your loyal readers start the countdown. LOL!!!

    We call "gaucho pants" "bombachas de campo". There should be a huge variety available.

    Remember: "efectivo sin boleta". LOL!

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    Eduardo, the skydiver, picked me up today for the paragliding event; he does both. I liked him immediately, as I like my flight instructors with a little grey hair. Not interested in some hotshot twenty year old with something to prove in the third dimension, give me a 50 year old with thousands of hours in the air and the competence of multiple sports under his belt. That's Eduardo. The sun was well past midpoint as we pulled up to watch one of the pilots come down and the student fall down on her knees (sloppy landing). After a bit more of a wait, there were enough of us and enough pilots to climb into the ancient four wheeler jeep and make the perilous journey to the top of the local hills to do the flight.

    Many people don't realize that skydiving is safer that paragliding because you have a reserve, which has a very sensitive mechanism which make it work when you hit a certain altitude and velocity, indicating that you aren't on the ball. Not so with paragliding. You make a mistake on takeoff or landing, you stall out 100 ft, you're on your own. So when we got to the top where all the satellite towers were and the windsock was flat, there was some consternation. That meant there was little to run into on takeoff, to put air into the aircells in the canopy for takeoff. And baby, it's straight down once you're off the cliff. Well hell, that's why they call it an adrenaline sport.
    One pair took off cleanly while the wind sock was partially full, then it fell flat for the other girl. They made an attempt but she got tangle up in her pilot and they aborted very close to the edge.

    Eduardo and I kept our eye on the sock and moved over to the center, and seconds later he directed me to run. Run we did, and then down I went, with an immediate uplift, and then you shift the seat under your butt as the canopy takes off. The thermals were poor so we couldn't gain much height, but still, the joy of being in the air was more than enough.I threw out my arms and laid back and closed my eyes and listened to the wind as it blew across my face and ears.

    People who are or have been pilots, skydivers, paragliders, hangliders, all of us in this family understand the call of the third dimension. There is absolutely nothing that defines freedom so much as leaving gravity behind for a while, even a little while, and soaring, and as one famous poem says, "to touch the face of God." Even if someone is is piloting it is still magnificent.

    We flew low, close the mountains to pick the warmth rising up from the rocks, and gained a bit of altitude for our final.
    As we came in I grabbed what used to be called risers on my old rig and we did a stand up landing together. Perfecto!

    Afterwards Eduardo talked about the changes in gear since I flew and his career, and how he's been running this business in Mendoza for 25 years. He's got a staff he's trained himself, he is also the Cessna pilot, and he's developed a team of tandem jumpers well as paripente pilots for tourists. And that's what he likes best now. To me what this means is quality control, and a good experience for anyone who wants to go along for the ride, dive, and smile.

    For my part, I'm going again tomorrow, jumping on Wednesday, and hoping to organize a two day riding excursion into the mountains before the weekend. We'll see!

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    Glad you enjoyed it, but that is very much a "sooner you than me" event. My head for heights is now so bad I rode the chair lift down from Cerro Campanario above Bariloche with my eyes shut... (I hiked up)

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    I can surely respect that. Although I can think of someone I'd liked to have sent down that chairlift in his birthday suit in the middle of winter- the groping drunk who woke me up a oh-dark-thirty this morning, in our pitch black dorm. I could feel something grabbing my legs and ankles and trying to climb into my bed, and I woke up with a start to find some guy making his way into my bunk. Let's just say he's damned lucky that I had packed away that very sharp gaucho knife into my backpack, because my first instinct was to do severe damage to an attacker, but as it was I don't think he expected resistance and he backed off and made his way down the hallway. Good thing for both of us, I don't need an international incident and he probably needed his guts for digestion. I found out this morning that there had been a big birthday party last night, and being in a wine soused town, well, chances are that his amour had disappeared down one of several hallways and in his inebriated state he got very confused and was playing Door #1? Door #2? to track her down. Not a particularly smart way to find a willing female, but I've never known alcohol to increase the IQ.

    Another kind note for Empedrado Hostel, each morning the staff adds pancakes with dulce de leche - more like crepes- to the menu, and fruit, which I've not seen before. They really feed you here. We've been trying now for three days to track down the elusive Diego the gaucho to set up a meeting so that I can plan that two day riding trip, but Diego has been very busy. It's still up in the air, but meantime air sports are still very much in the plans today and tomorrow.

    Here the weather has been in the 50s or so during the day, and right cool at night, typical desert weather. While most of the trees still have their leaves they are barely hanging on and at the late brown stage. But the grand avenues of town sport magnificent huge trees that line these streets as far as you can see, reminding me of the old Southern plantations which had these long, tree-lined roads leading up to the mansion. Downtown is just lovely. Note to AVRooster, when I went to look at gaucho knives yesterday I had a lovely conversation with the woman at the gaucho store, and her knives topped out with a very big impressive one at 60.00, the rest were all in the 14.00-15.00 range. When I went to the store downtown to look at bombachas de campo the comparative knives in that store started at 55 bucks and went up from there. This is why I always ask for the stores where the gauchos shop, and I always prefer to speak to a woman if I can. And I always follow your advice, Mr A. The difference was that I wanted something that a gaucho would actually use, whereas the tourist store was presenting these extremely fancy, expensive, not-likely-to-be-seen-in-use-on-a-cattle run knives. Pure tourista.

    As I am now in my third week here I am able to make some overall comments, recognizing that my experience in this massive, expansive country is still very limited. However from what I have seen, this is what I've noticed. There is something of a hell-bent-for-leather speediness in BsAs that is not shared by most of the rest of the country, which is matched by an air of perhaps -and I can only characterize this as an archness or superiority that that portenas feel over their countrymen for not being able to live in such a sophisticated city. Contrast that with the air of bemusement that pretty much everyone else that I've met feels about portenos, who seem to their mind at a loss in the countryside, who can't slow down, and enjoy themselves fully at a slower pace. This is what I keep hearing anyway.

    Argentina seems to embrace just about every diversity but has its own harsh history with indigenous peoples (don't we all). The extraordinary range of bloodlines that I have run into here- Polish, German, Czech, all intertwined with the Argentine and Brazilian and other bloodlines make this such a melting pot of a country. Angie's family is a perfect example of this. It's a country that has at various times made other people most welcome to develop itself and while its political history has been mixed, it's taken advantage of the input from all the races that have woven themselves into the overall tapestry of the population.

    I love how so much history has been kept alive, the gaucho traditions are alive and well, and in the places I have been to date buildings have been repurposed and maintained so that their value has not been lost. I recall how so many grand historical buildings in Denver were torn down before the Historical Society put a stop to it, but by that time so much was already lost in the mad rush to be modern. So much of what is charming in the cities here is in the architecture which I have photographed with a loving eye.

    The hostels and hotels where I've stayed have with rare exception made it clear they appreciate and value guests, and want you back again and again. I stay in dorms most of the time, and largely inexpensive places by design, so that I can spend my final week in pampered pleasure (Dos Hermanos, here I come), and I'm familiar with hostels in many countries. I've loved what I've found here. The prices have been so amenable, and people are well fed and cared for warmly. Like any hostel there are mild inconveniences like waiting for a shower in the morning or doing the "I gotta pee" dance when the toilets are full but that's part of the story when you pay less.

    The land itself, the scenery, the variety, even though I did not make it farther south than Bariloche, was even more stunning than the photos that I pored over during my research could have prepared me for. It's a fact of life that nothing that you read about can ever quite inform you enough so that you can appreciate it beforehand. The smells, the scents on the wind, the impact of the Southern Hemisphere sun, the unique quality of light that is characteristic of south of the Equator, that stunning night sky, no National Geographic photo is adequate. It's a pleasure to consider that I have much more of the country still to explore on a future trip in the summer, and next time I'll have that much more knowledge under my belt to prepare me.

    I've found the people - from the young Peruvian man who was terribly concerned that I had no familia to go home to, Tito the gaucho, my fellow hostellers, Eduardo the skydiving instructor, Angie, Ariane and most everyone else I've met along the way and this most especially applies to our beloved AVRooster, to be generous to a fault, helpful, willing to out of their way to ensure that my trip was good in every way. That includes putting up with my execrable Spanish grammar and being willing to correct it with patience, teach me new words, laugh at my mistakes and convince me that I absolutely, positively have to come back.

    One of my biggest priorities in coming to Argentina was to break in a brand new pair of riding boots, get used to my new helmet and break in my winter breeches. The breeches are on a chair, drying in front of a heater as I sit here in the breakfast room at the hostel. Occasionally I get a little burnt smell which makes me leap up and shift them so that I don't get holes. The boots are now properly dusty, wrinkled, and right comfortable. The helmet works perfectly. The breeches sport marks where they've been introduced to Argentinian pinos. And I bought a whip which got used the second day I was on the mountains with Cristian. I have been monumentally fortunate to have some very good people work with my skills (and more to come) and make me a better rider, and in the process I've been able to see and do things that many people either dream or talk about but never do.

    There are still about 8 days left to fill, and as I look forward to those days, a piece of me wishes fervently I had at least 68 more. I can fully appreciate anyone's passion for Argentina, I admit to being infected by it, and frankly this is one country- unlike Costa Rica- that I know full well I will be returning to sooner rather than later. The sheer variety for anyone- whether they are game for aventura like I am more inclined to do or the more relaxed and genteel kind of exploration, it makes no difference. I've come to deeply appreciate the country and its varied history, peoples, culture and so much more, and that's speaking as a rank beginner with only three weeks invested. It's clear that one can return for years on end and hardly scratch the surface of what this country has to offer.

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    Well, I have been saying for the last few days that this thread could well develop into one of the greatest of all time in the Fodor's Argentina forum.

    About the research for your trip to our South in the course of OUR next summer, when do we get started?

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    Well, next January for me is already committed to Viet Nam but I will see what can be done. There is always room for another month, and I love traveling in shoulder seasons. Watch this space.

    I am just back from another paripente adventure, and Eduardo had me up solo today- the only customer on the most picture perfect, great conditions day one could ask for in terms of paragliding. The mountains had been soaking up bright warm sunshine for hours which meant that the thermals were roiling up from the ground. The wind cooperated, and as our ancient Jeep wheezed its way to the top, this time Eduardo had my permission to video the experience as it would be well worth taping. And indeed it was. The warm sun, cerulean skies and not a cloud to be seen for miles around made not only for a perfect takeoff, but instead of a measly 20 minute standard flight...Eduardo and I had nearly an hour in the air! Not only that, but the thermals boosted us to 1800' above the mountain tops, where the wind periodically buffeted our little craft. As I sat I put my arms out for most of the flight, letting the air do what it may, and the tears again streamed down my cheeks. I told Eduardo that when you have been given this kind of gift to experience the sky, you remember to wake up in the morning full of gracias, which we all should anyway, but when we reach for the sky and enter into its realm in a most intimate way like this, it's a whole other universe. I've rarely felt more at home, and it has made me wonder if it's time to return to the sports I love. Hell sixty ain't that old for me anyway.

    Still circling very high we began to wend our way towards the DZ or drop zone, and once more the thermals lifted us skyward. I was able to see so much of the area, the distant mountains with the early snows. Eduardo and I laughed about how people who skydive tend to get involved with pretty much all other sports, like scuba and just about everything else. Skydiving tends to build the confidence and all else is easy after that, or appears to be. We had another absolutely perfect "stepdown" walking landing, and wrapped up a grand flight. It's unbelievable to me that no one else had jumped at the opportunity to fly on such a limitless day- you were guaranteed a long flight, high if you wanted. Eduardo knew I'd go as high as the thermals would take me and he did.

    We discussed a few of the landing basics for the skydive for tomorrow, and he transferred the flight videos from his camera to my camera's SIM card. Then he drove me home, my head full of the vision of the curves of the mountains, a clear fall sky, and a vision of the curves of the earth in the distance. Flying- medicine for the heart.

    Diego the hard to find is supposed to turn up in about an hour, and shortly I'm going to nab one of the showers- this is a good time of day, as every shower has a toilet, and they are in short supply when everyone comes in and starts imbibing the free wine supply.

    And again one more note about heights to thursdaysd: people are frightened of heights they can immediately relate to, such as being at the top of a building, or a ladder, where falling is perceived as imminent. On a ski lift, the ground is close enough to imagine one's self tumbling off. However when you're looking out the door of an airplane, deciding where to get out (called "spotting") your brain can't compute the relationship with the ground. It just can't. When you can is when you're oh, say about 50 ft off the ground, getting ready to flare (stall your chute)and start the landing process. That's when people get what's called "ground rush" and sometimes go stupid. The ground appears to be coming at them fast, and so you're told to look at the horizon instead.

    You're going to touch down, one way or another, it's just a matter of how hard and how fast, and that's a product of when and how you stalled your flying apparatus. That takes a little skill and practice, and before you get that under your belt they teach you this nifty thing called a PLF or parachute landing fall, which starts around the calf and hits at multiple points and ends at your opposing shoulder, so that you distribute the impact of your landing across your entire body and end standing up. Easy peasy. People have survived falls from buildings using the PLF, gotten a few broken bones, but survived, it's that effective. There you are, TMI to be sure, but just think of how useful that will be when your children say Mommy I wanna learn how to skydive and you will be soooooooo smart.

    Another lesson learned here about tropical fruit. I used to think that a yellow, slightly brownish pina was a good choice. Here, not so much. When I find a pina that's in that condition here, it turns out to be mostly rotten inside. The same with a soft mango. Its guts were ripe all right, and all of them went into the basura. Darn. All that good fruit. But there are plentiful kiwi. Yesterday I happily paid five bucks for a roasted chicken, which somebody forgot to spice. That put me in mind of Tito's magic chicken which I promptly yearned for. Quite all right. These hostels all have a box of spices that people leave behind, but the problem is I have no idea what the man used. Secret recipe. For sleeping.

    The days go by distressingly quickly, and I got an email from a client reminding me of a keynote that I have to deliver in late June. Ah. Reality. All too soon. The intrusion of the real world. Go AWAY. At least for another 7 days....

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    People para/whatever near my place all the time. Now I know what they are doing. LOL!!!!

    January is when we Argentines take our holidays, which for me means it isn't a good time for tourists to go to the same places we go to.

    At that time, BA is warm, but uncrowded. Wonderful, if you like it warm.

    The way I see it, the best time to go to our South is between November and mid/late-Dec. and also between mid-Feb and late March (not during Holy Week).

    It's up to you. Skip Vietnam! Take my word for it!

    Keep up the good work and act firmly with hard-to-find Diego.

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    I once took a parachuting class, and failed the fall, lol. I used to be fine with heights but as my balance has deteriorated, my tolerance for heights has gone with it.

    I would definitely avoid Patagonia in January. I was there in November, and some places were already seeing crowds. I like Vietnam, but the north is likely to be cold and maybe wet in January.

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    My dorm mate agrees with you, thursdaysd. We were just chatting about Patagonia and while Jan and Feb are good months, they draw the most tourists, and so it looks like late spring might be a better time to avoid same. I'd rather tolerate some cold in November than deal with teeming touristas. I hear you.
    As for Viet Nam, the H'mong tribes go very quiet during snow time and I plan to spend time at HuLong (sp?)bay, and little more. Then I head south to put most of my time in around DaNang, the big caves, the Mekong, and Phu Quoc Island to scuba dive. Where, by the way, I can score LOTS of FRUIT. I will be sorry to miss the markets in the north but the farther south I go the sunnier and more humid it gets. Lots of variety and boy did I like those cheap flights. Thanks for the input. More is welcomed at any time. I've already planned the itinerary before I left for Argentina as the cheapest flights for January (a big holiday month for them) were starting to sell out- or at least they said so online. You never know.

    All due respect AVRooster, the flights, flight plans, hostel bookings and all else were completed long before I got on the plane here. It's a done deal. 2014 will be here before you know it and I'm sure sometime that year might prove profitable for a comeback tour.

    Diego did indeed show up, and he and I are taking a two man two day ride into the high hills for about 750 pesos less than I expected him to charge for just one person. I also appreciated his taking the time to walk me a long way through the city to look for those wonderful pants, which we could not find, but I did find the Argentinian hunting bolos which I cannot spell here, and that is exactly the kind of thing I treasure most for my growing travel cabinet. It expresses a key piece of history and life. I was enraptured. For 760, as far as I was concerned it was a steal. Diego seems to be a very dependable guy, he's attentive to my requests about food and the kind of horse I'd like to ride, and he asked to see my riding gear to give it the go ahead for the ride. All's well, and all we need to do is rent a sleeping bag for the overnight (all of 40 pesos) for the gaucho's house in the high country. Those will be my last two days in Mendoza.

    What I like so far about Diego is that he was delighted about my wanting a more active horse and wanting to gallop more- he said not only is that more fun for him and the horses (of course) but that this allows us to explore many more places in the hills. And he's quite happy to work with my riding form, which I'm sure was ruined in Bariloche, previously ruined in Salta, because it was ruined before that in BsAs, according to every gaucho along the way. So apparently, I'm a wreck. But a happy wreck nonetheless.

    It is creeping up on 9 pm here at the dorm, which means it's time for me to head off to an early night. I like to pull in my laundry from the lines on top of the building and get them inside close to the heater to finish them off at breakfast. Does the job quite well.

    As for the balance issue, thursdaysd, that's a tough call. At a certain point everyone starts dreading a potential fall, and as a hemopheliac every time I land hard I have to expect some pretty spectacular bruising. I use yoga to help with balance and hope it keeps me centered. You may also be doing that, seems like everyone is these days.

    If I'm determined to do these adrenaline sports, I expect to take a tumble now and then, and when I'm in a bathing suit there are some stories to tell. But hey, we've earned 'em. Just like the wrinkles. OH- parm' me-character lines.

    I've got new bunk mates tonight but the target of last night's late wandered still resides over my head. Not sure what to expect. I will keep all things sharp and nasty locked away but he might get a light punch in the schnozz this time if he insists on showing up again to do the mystery girl trick.

    Can't wait to the peso check with AVRooster, arriving in BsAs back at Estoril on Saturday likely by about 10 am or so. More riding lessons Sunday morning. Horse crazy.

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    You sound like you are enjoying a very adventurous trip -- what fun!

    I was in N.Vietnam in February 2012 and it was very chilly and damp in Hanoi. Had sun one day of 5 there. Not sure what you mean about the "H'mong tribes go very quiet during snow time." We did a 5 day trip from Hanoi thru the mountains to Sapa and there were Hmong tribes as well as others throughout our stay. Didn't see any snow. Halong bay was also foggy when we were there.

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    If by "the peso check" you mean you have pesos leftover, you are in luck, because you sold above 9,50 and now it stands at about 8.60.

    In other words, you'll repurchase any dollars you wish to buy back at a significantly lower rate, unless something unexpected happens during the next few days.

    Have a great time during the rest of your trip and cancel those Viet Nam plans. Otherwise, you could visit our South sometime during the dates I suggested in a previous post.

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    Had to ask Google about "schnozz" and was rather disappointed. LOL!!!

    I was sort of expecting you meant a more sensitive area of the body of the male human species. Well....

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    What I meant - based on what research I've done- is that the markets that they are apparently famous for are not likely to be so active in January as they might be the rest of the year. I won't be expecting much sunshine up north. The guides I've read indicate cold mountain weather, some snow (based on where you go) and to wear heavy winter clothing. Basically, winter conditions. I'm figuring halfway down the country and below might be more amenable. Again I'm open here because I've not gone and I've only been reading so far.

    AVRooster, I'm thinking I might be very close on those pesos but we'll see. I did a skydive today and with the parapente, it's adding up and with another two day trip and the estancia, well, we'll see. I'll keep you posted!

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    Great advice, and I will get on it when I am back in the States.

    The report on Diego and Los Pingos is terrific- again, the hostel offers sunset rides each night to the same place where I overnighted, and you eat like a king and sing Baby Boomer songs around the fireplace. And everyone, always, drinks wine as though the jug is about to go empty. All in good fun.

    However, if you are a rider and you seriously want a slightly epic experience, I found Diego to be delighted to take me out for 2 days solo ($2250 AR), for which I was quite happy to pay when I had finally slid like a sack of potatoes to the ground after 9 hours the second day.

    Not only did Diego kindly squire me around to find what I was searching for in Mendoza as previously reported, I found him to be multi-talented in other areas: he's one hell of a great cook even when you remove carne from the menu, and he's got a beautiful voice especially when he sings in his own tongue, and stays away from Baby Boomer classics.

    The drive to the first ranch was pretty short and our horses were ready to go. We loaded up, and started down the road. To my delight, as soon as we hit some smooth open road, he took off like a shot at full gallop. My horse was nowhere near as fast, but we skidded to a stop mostly together. What I appreciated about this was that Diego was- and I frankly don't blame him- seeing whether my money was where my mouth was about being able to ride. Since I did not approach him hanging onto the saddle with the reins flying in all directions, he was happy enough. The other thing I so appreciated about time with Diego is that I asked for, and got, plenty of education about how to saddle up, the system of cinching, and many other aspects that are so often done for you by other gauchos.

    Diego pointed out far distant poplars and some green trees, which were our initial destinations for the day, before the final overnight at the second ranch. Riding takes you through scrub brush, weaving constantly in and out of the thorn bushes which are here nowhere as thick as I've seen elsewhere. They are replaced by sage (lovely if you've never smelled it, collected and sold in thick bunches for the house all over the American Southwest) and plenty, plenty of cacti, all with impressive thornage (I doubt that's a word but it fits here). The day- as were all my days in Mendoza, brilliantly blue, no jacket needed. Sunscreen and a hat and sunglasses, absolutely.

    Diego toured me around what was once a near palace of an estancia replete with a large (empty) pool and an asado big enough for a restaurant. The central area included a circle of very tall poplars, what was once the best place to sit and eat.

    From there we rode through hills, up narrow ridges, down into gullies which required one good jump, and made our way to the second estancia. That was supposed to be lunch, but with nobody home, we kept riding. Most of the ride is a quick walk, a little trotting, but conditions don't allow for fast paced movement with so much volcanic rock and plenty of places for the horses to trip.

    Somewhere around 4 pm we arrived at the second ranch, which was our spot for the night. We unsaddled and washed the horses, and soon they were laying into a wonderful meal of sweet hay. Diego immediately went to work in the kitchen and within minutes the aroma of cooking onions and eggs wafted out. There was plenty of activity in the second building where two others on his staff were preparing for the evening's sunset barbeque.

    In no time flat, Diego and I had a long table set up in the waning light, and we had a perfect view of Mendoza as we sat down to his egg concoction, a big platter of fruit and much more. Lunch at 4 pm and we were famished- the egg mix was yummy and the bananas and mandarins disappeared quickly. In the distance Diego pointed out the long conga line of riders who would soon be joining us for the dinner, which was cooking in the next building.

    I had rented a big generous -15 sleeping back for 160 pesos for two days, and it tumbled out of its bag looking like serious warmth. Over Mendoza, the almost full moon rose as the riders came it at a gallop and dismounted. All the horses were secured, and, as soon as they were set free, quietly walked all the way back to the first ranch to be fed and put in their corral.

    The dinner was cooking inside over a bright fire and ready as soon as everyone else was- beef of course, and a lemon chicken that Diego had for me as well as eggs cupped in peppers. I tucked away a big fat chicken leg and a pepper cup, and sat with the others while Diego sang some lovely songs in Spanish.

    However when it came time for singalong in English, I stepped outside, where the moon shadows and relatively mild night were perfect to revisit the horses and cuddle the very tired dog, Calcho, who had been running with us all day.

    Early morning was a bit cooler but not by much, and it incites a quick walk to the facilities, which we had to flush using a big green bucket. Still, everything was clean and well kept, and the occasional plumbing challenge is no big deal. Better than a thorn bush.

    Diego and I were up very early and making food for lunch.I created a big fruit salad for breakfast, we had plenty of yogurt, and Diego was cooking up a huge pan of zucchini, onions, eggs and some other ingredients..didn't ask but boy did I eat. In no time flat we were saddled up and headed for the high country.

    At about 1 pm, after a huge (omg delicious!)lunch at a spring where the horses took a well-deserved, saddle- and bridle-free break, we took a 20 minute snooze in the sunshine. We repositioned the saddles far forward for the trip over the pass, and headed off.

    This pass is not for the timid. You go what feels like straight up, the horses working very hard, up very narrow switchback trails. Periodically we'd rest the horses and let them catch their breath. This was something else I valued, Diego was most concerned for both the comfort and safety of his animals, and after having seen a gaucho beat his horse about the head and eyes and call it "training," I valued this kind of care. At each viewpoint we stopped for a photo, not easy to take when you are fully engaged with a heaving animal and watching for big rocks on the trail.

    At last we reached the summit, which gave us a view of Mendoza far in the distance (and above the ever-present smog), and also a bit of a view towards neighboring Chile. After a few more rests, the hard work was mostly over for the horses, and then came the descent to the valley, where we could see another famous ranch Diego called Rock House.

    Descending from a height like this can be exhilarating, or you can glue your eyes shut and let the horse find its way. Anyone who ever saw the 1983 or 84 Aussie film "Man from Snow River" might recall when Jim and his horse hurtle down the mountain after the brumbies (wild horses), and this is about the position you're in on the horse- you lean way, way back. Yah it's fun. And it's also very very very good to get on level ground again. My horse had been born in this territory and had the stability and agility of a mountain goat; he picked his way with great care. In fact I found it interesting that he tended to stumble more on road rocks than in those high, precarious areas. A great horse for this kind of riding.

    The ride home was down a long, winding road. Quite often, sitting in the middle of one lane (it occasionally had two), was a massive boulder. This is not scree we're talking here. This is a boulder that would definitely put you and your car in that highway in the sky should you be so unlucky as to be beneath it when it calved from the mountain. Very sobering. About two years ago a Denver woman was dispatched to her Maker when a boulder of this kind of size landed on her little blue car during a pleasant day of driving in the Rockies. Always a good thing to remember that mountains are anything but static. Still up here I'd rather be on a horse.

    The shadows grew long and the violet began to rise as Diego and turned in our last mile towards the second ranch. In the east, a perfect full moon rose majestically, and we picked our way in the early evening light as the moon rose higher.

    We had a final very short gallop into the ranch where the night's sunset ride hostellers were tucking away their wine. Diego and I dismounted (oh my knees) and secured our animals, and off they went for more hay and a corral to roll in.

    By this time we'd been in the saddle for nine hours with a lunch break, and a couple of dismountings along the way over the pass. Diego and I both have a slightly bum left knee and we laughed about the length of day. I thanked him for his ongoing coaching on my riding skills and paid up, and with a camera full of pictures - include a classic shot of Diego riding ahead with that full moon riding over his silhouette, I was taken home.

    And about that camera. Well, there's a story about that camera. The night before I was to go riding, I had come home late and happily tired from skydiving. I was rushing around to put together two small bags for the two day trip. In my shoulder saddle back I put my camera. Thought -was SURE- I put my camera. You can see what's coming.

    So I go sit in the cucina and do my post for the skydiving and when I get back, I see the saddlebag lying a different position from what I remember. And, to boot, there's no camera. Well, I look. And I look. I tear apart the whole bloody backpack, check under the bed, retrace my steps. Yeah well no trace of the camera, so by now I'm recalling what the Lonely Planet said about problems with theft. I talk to the receptionist, other people, furtively check around the room. Nada. Well crap. I'll have to file a report when I get back.

    So word gets around fast when there's a theft at a hostel because we're all in close quarters and most of us (I try not to) leave valuables out on the bed. People commiserate. Too bad they say, the pictures. I'm annoyed, but figure I'll have to make do.

    The next morning at about 7 I'm up and putting on my clothing. I pull my riding boots out from under the bunk bed and stick my left foot in. Way way way down in the toe- and for the life of me I cannot explain how it got there except for Angie's dwarves- is the damned camera. First I'm glad, then I feel like a horses's patootie, and I know that this is going to be another one of those stories, and I have to tell the staff so they know that the hostel is perfectly okay. Because it most assuredly is, and of course I never, ever have a senior moment. Not me. Righteo.

    So I will give Las Pingos five stars, for while I realize that to get that kind of attention from Diego you have to pony up (parn' the pun) an additional 750 pesos, it is both well earned and well spent. The typical two day ride for two people is $1500 AR. I am now convinced that most gauchos are pretty darn good cooks (who knows, my experience is so limited). Diego went out of his way to make sure we were loaded for bear with my basics.

    And one final note. For those of us who reside in cities, and who long for a little quietude, this is just the thing. The entire second day we hardly spoke at all, other than to discuss the horses' needs or when we took a break. There was a perfectly companionable silence, which I yearn for. I suspect Diego appreciates it once in a while too, based on our conversations. The mountains provide a sheep dip in the kind of silence that allows you to get in touch with parts of you that may not get visited enough. And that, to my mind, is priceless.

    Tomorrow, I am going to be reeducated under the able sharp eyes of the folks at Calbagatas Al Par, and they will attempt to correct the last three weeks' worth of corrections, province by province. Today is a day to write and wash laundry and stretch some well-worked muscles.

    My thought here, is that after all the experiences I've had so far the two that I had which involved the hiring of a personal guide for two days and a fairly remote overnight stay far, far outweigh other riding options. This again comes from someone who came here with riding as a priority. The quality varies a lot, but usually people have been responsive when I say I have experience, but as with anything else, nothing beats watching someone stay on a full out fun, and coming to a stop without going flying into a puddle. Here, and I appreciate this, with such a deep and rich culture of horsemanship, respect is earned. It's part of what makes me want to return and do much more, and this time on the Pampas and many other places I've not yet explored.

    I would be most eager to hear from expert Argentinean travelers who have good knowledge of this subject because I will, although not as soon as AVRooster keeps telling me to, come back. There is so much yet to see and your advice is most welcomed, to help me plan a second time around.

    By the way, I do so value input on other countries, Laos and Cambodia are in the future, as are Zambia and Portugal,and Eastern Europe. As this is the first time I've written for Fodor's it's given me a chance to get a taste of the level of expertise out there so I'm eager to hear much more.

    In the meantime, after my thermals get a much needed soaping down, I hear there's a party going on down the street.

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    Ok, let's see:

    I few days ago, I recollect asking what are you going to "lose" next? LOL!!!! Now we know.... What's next?

    It's great that Diego was "terrific". Now, the cost was about 250 dollars for two days of riding, food lodging, etc., just you and the guide If other people had been along, it would have cost you about 170 dollars.

    Would someone please tell me how much that would cost in the US?

    What are people waiting for to come down here?

    I'm being called for lunch. More comments later.

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    Thursdays, you're right, not for everyone, which is why it's great to inquire with Diego about skill level and all his options, which are many. He takes groups, doubles, just about everything, and thanks for the reminder to make than mention.

    A note- after just washing the thermal top from North Face which has done yeoman's duty on this trip (along with a wool mix from REI, also very good), I was reminded of why my mother insisted on hosing me down before letting me come in the house after riding my horse. It took an embarrassing number of washes and rinses to get all that dirt out.

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    AVRooster, it is such a good deal, all things considered, that I think it's crazy there isn't a flock of tourists headed down here. These two days were much less than Bariloche and easily as good. Besides, places like Iguazu and the Angie trips are so full of color and life and beauty that once you're here you can't stop.
    Since I have not used guided riding facilities in the States, all I know is a little research I did when searching for a stable close to me. What I saw on the Internet in the limited amount of time I looked were a number of dude ranches, of which there are many good ones in the West. It seemed that the average weekly commitment was in the $3000-6000 US range (and of course much much more), which makes doing in the US vs coming down here a no brainer in my mind. Of course, the facilities are going to be very different. But as thursdaysd pointed out it all comes down to the type of riding experience you want. If it's the ambiance, nice overnight facilities and beautiful food, and the horses are perhaps simply a part of the overall experience, that's one thing. But then you've got folks who want to sleep outside, pull a few snakes out of the backpack in the morning and they like their horses to be the main event. While I still prefer even a dusty old bunk and some warmth at night, it seems to me that Argentina is well placed to cater to everyone. I've only had five experiences so far which makes me, as the thread says, a beginner. In the meantime I'm incredibly grateful to find someone like Diego who will do what he does for what he charges and consider myself blessed.

    Also in the States there are all kinds of liability issues, and the insurance is part of the reason everything that's got the word "adventure" in it is so expensive. To paraglide tandem in Colorado, when I checked after Ecuador in 2012, was about four hundred bucks. Balance that against about sixty here, and I'll do it here anytime. Skydiving is pricey anywhere, because of fuel costs as well, so there's not a lot of difference in tandem pricing. What is so wonderful about here is that you can walk up to a counter and in a few minutes your entire week is full of amazing activities and you haven't spend nearly the dime you would in America. So it's not just the state of the peso, the prices are just fantastic.
    I vote for more people to take a serious look. 'Course there are travelers who love Argentina the way it is, or was, and don't want any more touristas to ruin the secret. It recalls Colorado, when I moved there in '79, so many folks wanted people to stay away. Well, everyone who comes to Colorado and finds out it doesn't snow all year gets hooked and wants to slam the door on the next guy, before he brings his friends and neighbors. Happened long before I got there and will continue. We love our secret places. And thanks to this forum, most everyone is kind enough to share them.

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    Forget about other countries. Come visit our South, during our summer, just not on January, when it is full of Argentines. LOL!!!

    About your "I hear there's a party going on down the street."

    Our government is celebrating 10 years in power. That's what the party is for.

    I feel it should be of interest for knowledgeable tourists.

    One thing you need to know: all the people who will be at the party were taken there by the government. In one way or another, they are being paid to be there.

    Our dear president is scheduled to address the "descamisados" at 8.30 PM. In the meantime, so these worthies are not bored, famous artists will perform.

    Have a great time in our country. Well, that's exactly what you are having, right?

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    AVRooster, the biggest problem I'm going to have is when security has to clip off my fingers to be able to close the aircraft door as I am clawing my way back out to stay.

    Well from here there is considerable firework activity, which is fine, and there are lots of people marching with Evita signs, and lots of people marching with all kinds of signs, and I've decided that perhaps I'm better off finishing my laundry and making sure I know where to be tomorrow. I am just grateful to the very kind-eyed man in his later years whose panaderia featured two salads with chicken, which I cleaned for him, and he expressed himself very eloquently by saying he was happy for me to be in his store and his country.

    I do wish to make a note here about a serious incident which happened in Mendoza while I was there. A young tourist related that she was with a small group of foreigners heading from the city center back to the hostel. Following them for some blocks was a large (10-12) group of teen boys, who fell on them just short of the hostel. The male tourist in the group was beaten badly and landed in hospital, all lost passports, money and cameras. Most felt that the loss of the cameras was more impactful for irreplaceable memories. Mendoza is a nighttime town and that provides prime hunting for some teens who are seeking happy high tourists who aren't paying attention.

    My guess, being a beginner on Fodor's, is that there are countless threads on personal safety. Read them. Just do it.
    A habit I got into years ago on the road was to walk fast, with a strong purposeful stride, like you mean no monkey business and know where the hell you're going. Somebody gave me that advice very young and it's tended to work. Probably someone who was already writing travel material forty years ago. But it's damned sage advice for women. Men too, but especially for women.

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    I forgot to pass along a bit of an observation which goes back to Salta, and one of other traveling companions on a tour who shall remain unidentified. He is from Europe, lives now in a major European city. During a conversation with a guide, he flatly commented "Nothing much impresses me." He went on to say that he had been here,there, the Taj Mahal, and so what, it looks just like the picture. Not impressed.
    I was floored. I dunno about anyone else on here but I suspect that the majority of us still are invested in a sense of wonder, which is the fundamental driver, along with great curiosity, for international travel.
    I came away with two impressions. First, how sad. How sad to be so pleased with one's opinion that a Grand Canyon or a Taj Mahal doesn't inspire a certain amount of pure whitehot joy.
    The other was the - and excuse my opinion- pure arrogance of the statement.I got the distinct impression you could put this person on the next flight to Mars and he wouldn't admit to being impressed. He'd probably shrug and say, "Looks just the photos from the Hubbell telescope."

    What I love about travelers, from anywhere doing much of anything, is what tends to characterize the majority- we can't see, learn, experience ENOUGH. What puts our patooties on endless airplane rides is the sense of being put in a new place, experience ourselves in a new way, eat new food (most of you can anyway) or in some way push our your boundaries. Or the comfort of returning to a beloved destination and see what you can learn anew about it while basking in the familiar. Everyone has delights they chase.

    So this guy has his own world, which I suppose impresses him. But it seems a little disrespectful to denigrade the very things that thousands of people flock to see for good reason. Here's a guide working hard to show you the best he can present and it's pooh pooh. Let's toss him over Iguazu and see if he's impressed yet. Hey, but that's me. I'm impressed if I can find both my socks in the morning. Or my keys, my camera, my knife, ten thousand pesos. Damned dwarves.

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    Beautifully said, describe the delight of foreign travellers everywhere...when they are truly travellers and open to life experiences. No need for tossing - the loss is his own.

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    AVRooster, I located the "lost" piece of paper with the number on it last night, placed where the dwarves put it right after I got it so that I wouldnt lose it. BTW I am on a new keyboard, my computer is dead so bear with my lack of apostrophes, I cannot find them on this thing. I have decided that Angies dwarves are little more than our subconscious working to do the things we need to have done while the rest of us is totally oblivious.

    So this morning I was supposed to be out there riding with Calbagatas Al Par for three hours. What actually happened was one of the funniest and most frustrating conversations I have had ever, and certainly since landing in Argentina. To wit: so at 8:30 I am dressed for riding with boots and helmet striding up Lima street to a little place called Playa del Carmen, our appointed meeting spot, for 9 am. I get there spot on at 8:55 and sit down to wait in front of the door on the San Juan side. I failed to bring my cell phone with me, my fault, so when Adrian doesnt show up in half an hour, I figure, Hm, maybe something came up, maybe the time was wrong. Not angry, just curious. I walk back to the hostel, and at 10, I call his partner Miriam, who has Adrian call me.

    This is when the fun starts. I am in the Hostel Estorils living room and three Brits are across from me waiting for the van to the polo game and they hear this whole thing from my end.

    Adrian launches into his explanation, where were you, I was RIGHT THERE, BY A BUS, DRINKING MATE, WITH ALL THESE PEOPLE, AT THE RESTAURANT, YOU WERENT THERE. I explain calmly where I was, had waited half an hour, and then he says you couldnt have been,I was right there, and that began the circular part. I lost count of how many times Adrian told me this story, the facts of which shifted slightly as the volume and pitch went up, and anything I said got lost in the telling, because clearly it was far more important to Adrian to make sure I understood that he was there and it was impossible for me to have missed him, and how could I, and here comes the story again. In the meantime I keep saying look its not important, its past, its over, nothing we can do, simple mistake, not angry, no big deal, what can we do, but here comes the story again and again.
    Then it becomes clear that Adrian is angry because NEVER BEFORE IN ALL THEIR HISTORY HAVE THEY EVER LOST A CLIENT AT THE PICKUP SPÓT and by god I have clearly screwed up that record. Um, Adrian, its in the past, no big deal, please calm down. Hes angry about the lost time (hey I lost it too) he couldnt fill it with other clients (hey I had booked it back in early May, and besides, this is no ones fault) and hes mad about the money (the 150 bucks was right in my wallet). Clearly this has nothing to do with the time, the money, anything. This is all about who is right and who is wrong. I dont care. That isnt the point. At this juncture I am grinning and the Brits are in hysterics because now they can tell every time Adrian starts talking about where he was standing waiting for me drinking mate, and how could I have missed him, and he just doesnt understand it, and I keep saying in the big picture it just does NOT MATTER and can we move on, I am not angry, but clearly Adrian is. At me. For screwing up their perfect record, messing up their morning, costing him money.
    So in effect Adrian brow beat me for about twenty minutes for being wrong and about he was right, and at no point did he realize that he was damaging his relationship with me with his company or did he stop to consider that this story would likely go public.

    As a management consultant, and someone who does seminars on the power of language, I was intrigued, mystified, and at points holding my sides during this conversation. Adrian was so determined to be right that he didnt care what got hurt as a result. This story is going in my third book, Exchange. In it I discuss what I term "opiates" or compulsions, like the incredible need to be right, no matter what. Its a relationship killer, a customer killer, a reputation killer. You cannot attack a customer who is perfectly okay with a mistake and slam them for twenty minutes about a missed connection and expect them to feel good about how they have been treated.

    I understand Adrians passion, his intention to do a good job, his talents. But in this case, especially when you are dealing with an international clientele, when you hit a bump, you bite the damned bullet. We missed connections. For crying out loud, no big deal. I have time to wash my filthy breeches, see the city. It is just no skin off my nose. For Adrian, his passion knew no bounds and he was looking for someone to blame. You cannot blame the customer.

    When after about twenty minutes of being on the merry go round with Adrian and hearing about the bus the mate and the group of tourists and what he was wearing and how I could not possibly have missed him, he calmed down enough for us to agree that no, there was no time for lessons today, and perhaps another time. When we hung up I slid off the couch onto the floor laughing ( I am not making this up) and the Brits cracked up with me.

    I suspect that most of us on here have been in business and we all have made mistakes, and we have all eaten a little crow to keep the customer. I understand that there are cultural differences and the male ego and all of that. But what amazed me was that I began this interaction saying no problem, I am not angry, what can we do, and still I got hammered.

    In an age of blog writers, you cant afford to make the customer the bad guy. It lands on one of these sites, and while I might have appreciated their training skills, this train wreck of a conversation rather ruined my feelings about them as a company. We all make mistakes. We can make loyal customers forever by how we treat them after a mistake happens. I wrote a letter to his partner, Miriam, in the sincere hope that she can better express to him the impact of his behavior. As far as I am concerned, there are better things to do with my bandwidth than argue about who was where, when, why, and for how long.

    And just as a point, if he had been where he said he had been at those times, a part of me wonders, how do you miss a tall striding brunette in riding boots carrying a riding helmet? But then had I said this, it would have been argumentative, useless, and he most assuredly would have been more angry. So, you let those things go and get the meat grinder of a conversation to end.

    I have copied our mutual fried on my letter to Miriam. I was intrigued by his response and will be curious about any posts he might care to add. He is right that I should have had my cell, but I forgot it, and that sometimes happens too. The point is no one needs to be made wrong here.

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    "He is right that I should have had my cell"

    You know, there are actually still people who either don't travel with a cell at all, or don't cart the thing around with them all the time, especially if they're going riding!

    Congratulations on not engaging, I doubt I could have kept my cool. I'd probably have hung up on him about five minutes in! But great reporting.

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    Brief comments:

    About your "a tall striding brunette". I guess that means you. LOL!!!!

    Did you mean "striding" or maybe "striking"???? LOL!!!

    I usually side with the underdog, who happens to be poor Adrián, in this case.

    So, YOU are to blame for wasting the poor guy's Sunday morning, because you forgot to have your cell with you!

    Or at least a contact number to call him!

    Just kidding. ROTFLMAO!

    Keep up the good work and slam them on TA!

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    Thursdaysd to your point, my phone is at home for the purpose of being off line. AVRooster knows I bought one only for these purposes and that this was for this kind of situation precisely. But again to your point, when I travel I tend to check out for that month, so taking the cell is something I will forget, and did today. Thanks for your kind words. I find phones so intrusive most of the time.

    The absolutely wonderful cap to this story and what makes this so perfect is that Miriam, Adrians partner, wrote back politely to explain that Adrians cousin works for the ministry that handles security cameras all around can see whats this week he is going to research the tapes (yes REALLY) ostensibly to see what went wrong, but I guarantee you his motivation is to prove once and for all that I simply could not ṕossibly have been at the restaurant. This is such a comic addiction to being right that it is priceless, and I had to include it.

    And for those of you who want a good chuckle, since losing my computer today, for a writer akin to losing a limb, I am now sitting at the hostel computer, in the pitch dark, the kids are behind me watching a loud horror movie, and I am typing with a flashlight in my mouth, a line of drool going down the left side of my chin ( I simply cannot make this things up) as I write, because this alien keyboard stumps me. The light moves from armpit to mouth to cramped neck hold, as I can stand it. What we writers do for love of the craft. I love this job.

    And yes, I had a number for them, AVRooster. Just not with.

    I also wrote a rather scathing review and gave them a one out of five stars on Trip Advisor, being highly specific that this was not about the riding but about how Adrian treated me as a customer. Moral of the story: be very careful who you annoy. The average humanoid is likely to spread a negative story ten times more than a positive one, which is why its so essential that we are specific about our compliments on here as well as when we are not so pleased.

    I want to publicly thank AVRooster for being kind enough to save my rear again today when my all essential computer went down, and he called the Dos Hermanos folks to get them in touch with me. We are all set for them to pick me up in the morning (gee how easy would that have been, half a mile from the other pick up point?). While I could have done the research and tracked it all down, he made the call faster than I could and before I knew it they were on the phone making sure all was secure and I would be ready to go tomorrow. This is why he is the Argentinean National Treasure in my book, and will continue to be, even if he does continue to make fun of me. Which I richly deserve.

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    When I can spare the time, I will explain why I sided above with poor Adrián, even if it was in jest. It could be useful for tourists in general.

    Who knows what those security cameras will show, jhubbel?

    A "tall striding (STRIKING????) brunette" at the right place or not?

    You may even land in an Argentine jail, if they prove you were not at the right place! LOL!!!

    And if the cameras prove you WERE at the right place and Adrián is a jerk, then what?

    Meaning, obviously, will you be compensated in some way?

    Couldn't they simply pick you up at your place? What kind of service do these people give?

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    AVRooster, ultimately, the point has nothing to do with any of the above so much as how Adrian handled it with me. Theres no compensation to be had. It makes no difference one way or the other. And you bet it would have been so very much easier had they offered to pick me up at the hostel for which I would have gladly paid a bit extra, but the restaurant was their requirement. So thats where I was.

    To my mind, it is just so much simpler to charge a few pesos more and come to your door and ensure that this doesnt happen.

    And about the camera, it will show me sitting on the curb at the restaurant, most likely right around the corner from where Adrian says he was. But as I said to Adrian, none of that mattered after the fact. We missed the connection. No big deal. You just dont beat up your customer for it when they did their best to be where they were supposed to be.

    Meanwhile I would like to kindly move on from this and look forward to Dos Hermanos who are coming today in fifteen minutes and there will be no missed connections!!!

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    jhubbel: You still refuse to confirm whether you describe yourself as a "striding" or as a "striking" brunette. LOL!!!

    Feel free to "kindly" move on whenever you wish.

    I'll "move on" when I'm good and ready! LOL!!!

    I promised forum readers I would help them understand why Mr. Adrián behaved the way he did and I'll keep my promise.

    Free speech on the Net!

    Have a great time in our country.

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    Thursdaysd, the process is that TA sends me the email which has a link I have to click about 24 hours after I write it, then that says it's mine. Then about the next day it goes up. So, about two days.

    I do wish to report quite happily that the black screen of death has resolved itself, I think AVRooster scared it away completely when he most kindly came out today to Dos Hermanos bringing an extra computer for me to use (all right, have I made my point about him yet??). I have been here one day already and not only am I supremely happy I saved this for last, but I must say that all the riding that I have done the last three weeks set me up perfectly for the last ride of the day. But first...

    Dos Hermanos picked me up today at 9:15 precisely and shortly we also got Ana and we were out of the city and at the front gate of the lovely estancia Dos Hermanos. The buildings, casas that we stay in and various houses for the cook and families are pleasantly bunch together along with massive trees, old ranch carts and implements (tastefully arranged, not discarded) and horses in all directions.

    Ana presented me with such a gift it's hard to describe: a casa all my own, with a big double bed (I fainted) my own fridge, a nice huge room with fireplace, many chairs and a big table, a big comfortable bano all my own, from which I don't have to remember whose towel was whose in the morning. Outside was an explosion of lavender in the bright sunshine, and the fridge was already full of yogurt and juices. Now she apologized for the surroundings right about the time I nearly kissed her riding boot. No big sterile hotel room but warm, welcoming, well loved surroundings and so much comfort. This is how you spend your last days by any measure.

    A group of young women from the American Embassy was riding today, along with a Canadian from Montreal, so after a snack we were organized. I was asked to join up and spend time with my fellow countrymen - nearly all were beginner riders- and this was fine by me. Ro, Ana's daughter, led us out, and I spent some time talking with each of these young (maybe twenties or so) women. Dos Hermanos does an excellent job, and I want to note that MacTours from this forum had organized this trip so we had a chanced to meet, and so he was either in front or in the rear bringing up stragglers.

    What I liked about what they do is make sure that there are chances to trot, gallop and walk according to the group's comfort level. They also changed horses when someone had a recalcitrant animal, and so anyone who cared to canter could, and those too shy to try continued to walk. This way all were able to work at their respective levels, and after checking out what I could do, Ro often pointed ahead and told me to go run. Which I most assuredly did with great pleasure. The mare I rode was a previous polo pony and she loved a free rein.

    Lunch was asado, and kindly Ana,Ro and Veronica, the cook, put together a big spread for the girls, including Cerveza and wine, and my table with Ana and Pancho, her husband, and our Andreas from MacTours (did I get the spelling correct? Your card is in mi casa. I was treated to a nice thick chicken leg, and salad, and enough kiwi fruit to make a New Zealander homesick.

    Not long after this as the afternoon began to wear on, AVRooster drove up with his extra computer and much advice, and we had a good laugh about Adrian. I must admit that the number of times this good man has bent over backwards to be of service in some way simply reminds me of why everyone thinks so highly of him, and if you haven't had the pleasure of his company in person, I do hope you will do this for yourself. He is so kind and his many gestures have often been essential keys to the success of this trip. He led me to Dos Hermanos and I am indebted to him already with two plus days to go.

    For the afternoon, Ro led us out again, this time most of the company having had her fair share of vino, so with that in mind, we were more thoughtful about the length and complexity of the ride and the gallops. Still, the intrepid (there were two) stuck with Ro and me as we let our horses gallop gently, not run, through pastures far and wide. At one time we had a gentle bull approach and he poked his wet nose into my hand, this massive, several thousand pound animal. Tito was his name (no relation to the gaucho) and we let him wander among us. He moved with great dignity, as calm as a milk cow, as gentle as a pet pony. He was beautiful.

    Late in the day all the women were dismounting in the corral when I got an invitation to help Ro herd the horses into the far pasture for the evening. Now that isn't something you refuse- and we switched horses for the task. Hers was a lovely sorrel gelding which had been ridden for years by their resident gaucho who most sadly just this past year died of cancer of the throat (I believe). I wanted very much to ride this lovely animal, and, knowing that I had my choice of which to ride tomorrow, took the chance to ride him for the roundup.

    Out we galloped through gate after gate, and we began to move these sleek, well fed animals from one pasture to another. At one point we had a group of about fifteen en route to a gate and at the last minute the group broke to the left. So did my horse and I and we took off to head them off "at the pass" as it were. When they broke again, my horse swerved sharply to follow, precisely as he was trained, and I was covered with goosebumps. This is the kind of animal I came here to ride- damned smart, damned fast, well trained, very responsive. Ro and I worked as a team to close off the escape routes and make sure everyone was headed in the right direction, then we cantered softly home.

    I have been on a few horses in my life, and many different breeds, but this hearty little criollo had the nicest, sweetest, rocking chair canter I have ever had the pleasure to ride. And I get him back tomorrow, which again, is like having Christmas every day. If I want, I can have him all week.

    Ro, and her father Pancho, are organizing to give me multiple opportunities to ride in different areas, on my own, with company. I truly value this kind of option, and being able to be here for several days putting everything that I've learned to good use is the culmination of a perfect trip. Who knows if we get rain tomorrow? I have rain gear.

    I am sitting in Pancho's house where the internet is strong and he cleared off his desk so that I could work. I am indebted. Now that my computer has risen from the dead (hey, I'll give Samsung good marks for this one). Ro was in here ten minutes ago making absolutely sure that she understood exactly what I wanted to eat and when, including early cena for this gringo poop who sleeps at 9 pm.

    More to come. I cannot say enough about the care that has been taken for my comfort- Pancho has already started the fire in my casa and the dinner is ready.

    Life does NOT get better than this.Until of course tomorrow...

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    Kudos to avrooster, and to the place you're staying now - a good review coming up?

    I'm surprised you have to click a link to get your TA reviews up - I don't I think i have ever had to do that, certainly don't remember it. (I'm only posting an occasional restaurant review right now, but have posted a lot of hotel reviews in the past). I've been keeping an eye out to make sure your review goes up!

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    I promised to try to explain why the person who was supposed to drive jhubbel to her riding lesson at Caballos a la Par behaved as reported by the OP.

    Essentially, he must have felt badly because he had wasted Sunday morning and wouldn't collect his fee. However, he should have made the best of it, which he apparently didn't.

    Years ago, I posted the following:

    Why do I bring this up?

    Well, I checked the first 100 reviews about Caballos a la Par and found 63 by one-time posters.

    Then, I checked the first 50 about Estancia los Dos Hermanos and found only seven reviews by one-time posters and many by very frequent posters. Furthermore, the 2 negative reviews they have are from people who apparently never visited the estancia. The most recent one is from a guy who is mad at them because they don't take visitors on holidays, as if that were not their privilege!

    That says it all, in my book.

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    I share Thursdaysd's surprise about the need to click a link prior to posting a TA review. Must be a new policy.

    AV raises an interesting point regarding the credibility of reviews on TA. There have been documented cases of businesses boosting their ratings by "stuffing the ballot box" with bogus reviews, written by the owner or pr person for the business using multiple false screen names. Many times these bogus reviews come from first time posters. Be wary of any business with lots of reviews by first time posters.....

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    Considering the great reputation of I was reluctant to put it so explicitly, but that's exactly what I meant, Doc.

    jhubbel: your great thread has been honored by the input of the greatest Internet authority on tourism to Argentina!

    Please render homage to his hallowed presence!

    Just kidding, as usual. LOL!!!

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    Today dawned warm and wet, and thunderstorms smacked us, along with one heck of a downpour of 600mm of rain, which left the roads and the pastures virtual swimming pools. Ro's father Pancho took me to the closest town where we loaded up on more yogurt and fruit and chocolate (gotta have a vice), and he also slipped me into a store which featured bombachas de campo, or gaucho pants. I found a perfect pair, and a beret to boot, as it was raining all kinds of farm animals outside. Pancho and I exchanged languages at tea, his poor English as he said (which was pretty darned good) and my poor Spanish (which apparently he could make out), and we had a lovely tea as we waited for the skies to calm down. Which they did, and we headed back to the estancia to meet a couple of English girls from London for a ride.

    The afternoon still threatened but Ro saddled us up for another ride through the pastures which this time were awash, and it was a little more entertaining to take the horses through the same troughs that yesterday were a bit muddy but today were nearly overflowing. We saw plenty of large birds and burrowing owls, and guinea pigs whose burrows were a bit damp, and we had plenty of opportunities to still gallop where the side roads had begun to dry.

    Ro and the talented Veronica again placed a hearty lunch in front of us starting with lovely beef empanadas and fresh salad, and lots of good food, but this pair of travelers passed on the option of wine and stayed clear headed for the much longer afternoon ride. This time the sun was peeking around the rainclouds and we were promised another colorful sunset.

    Again, Ro is a good judge of who in her group can move on without assistance and who needs help and of what kind, so at times I galloped with one girl, Mary, and at times, Ro was far behind us encouraging Lizzie, whose horse trotted vs galloped, and we finally got her to go fast enough so that Lizzie could enjoy a good romp.

    As we rode in just before dinner Ro and I had horses to bring in from a very far pasture and this time we invited the Brits to come along, so off we went to capture the herd from the back forty. My animal, same as last night, took to his heels as soon as he was given his head and tore off for the edge of the herd at a dead gallop. My helmet blew back on my head and I hung on with my knees and grinned the whole time as we curved the herd around towards the gate, and Ro took the opposite side with Mary and Lizzie (who had demurred, but we insisted, and she was VERY glad she came along). I get one more opportunity to bring in the herds with Ro tomorrow night, one more time I get to ride this well trained animal before I am relegated to whatever I find back home in Colorado, and like AVRooster says, I have to start planning to come back and do it again, for longer.

    Pancho has headed for town and as is typical of him he has made his quarters available for Mary and me to use the sometimes on, sometimes off wi-fi, and we are awaiting Veronica's delicate touch with dinner. Pancho is also making a special trip to save the Brits a remise cost to take them to town tomorrow morning. Wonderful for them.

    I would be remiss if I didn't note that some kind person kept the fire in my casa going all day long, so that the bits of laundry that I did at 6 this morning finally got dry on such a humid day. There is also a small army of friendly dogs out when the sun comes up, and if you're not careful, if you pet one, you are soon surrounded by all five (or six or?) with their legs up in the air presenting belly. Pet Pet MEE..nononono Pet MEEEEEE...and they're all angelic and happy and pretty chubby from the kitchen.

    We are praying here for no rain and more long rides tomorrow as I face down the last of my full days in this wonderful country. While some might say why didn't I just come to Dos Hermanos first, you might not be taking into account the tremendous value gained from riding multiple horses in multiple situations in multiple provinces and learning to use all kinds of tack. The culmination of all that experience landed me the right to ride the gaucho's horse to roundups, and I would not have been able to do that three weeks ago, even though I've got experience. What Ana had written me, and what was described, I felt I wanted to be fully prepared to enjoy that whole experience. But it's clear, after watching Ana and Ro and the others here for two days with beginners that it just doesn't matter what level you are, you are welcome, and coddled, and challenged, and developed, and by the end of your ride, you feel good about the day. It is in all ways a different experience from Caballos Al Par, and while they focus far more on the specifics of the lessons and are very good at it, Dos Hermanos provides a great deal more freedom, and as a place to stay and be fed, fantastic company and wonderful, wonderful surroundings. Two different experiences entirely.

    BTW Dos Hermanos is on a search for another gaucho, and I hope they can find one who was as well loved and respected as the predecessor. In the meantime, for at least another day and a half, I am honored to ride his horse.

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    AVRooster, I went to the link and can't find a thing there that I am supposed to salute, my apologies, there is a lot of information, in fact a very great deal of it, and I can't find anything related to the thread, so I will salute him without knowing why, but will because you asked me to. I have a horse to ride right now. I have limited wifi access these days so my ability to research is minutes long rather than perhaps an hour at a time. Promise to look again. Or perhaps you're referring to the above post? Then I tip my new gaucho beret to Doc, and say welcome to my tome!

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    Of course, that's all, jhubbel!

    A tip of your "new gaucho beret to Doc, and say welcome to my tome"!

    That wasn't so difficult, was it?

    I posted that link just to show you who drdawggy is and why you were supposed to acknowledge his presebce in your great thread.

    Now you have my green light to go on having a great time in our country. LOL!!!

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    It is the end of another gem of a day here at Dos Hermanos, and my lower back is speaking to me in tongues as Ro and I put in a very long day today based on a trip that Pancho laid out for us. We set off at about ten in the brilliant light of a cool fall morning- not a rain cloud to be seen in any direction- light winds, fair day ahead, and took off on the still slippery roads. Much of yesterday's heavy runoff was gone, the big lakes and huge ponds were still there but the dammed pastures were more clear. So we were able gallop in some places, but as I was behind Ro some of the time I took the cue from her horse where it was pretty nasty. I watched him nearly go down at one point and that's usually a good clue to take it very easy. We found that most of our galloping was best done highway side, where the runoff was more steep and the grass had dried more quickly.
    By early afternoon we were famished and Veronica had made some squash cups from the ripe fall squash that I had photographed that morning and the fresh corn that Pancho and I had bought the previous day, a tuna and tomato salad and lots of shredded sweet carrot (almost like sugar, so good) and eggs with dark purple cabbage. The squash was amazing, like a very dense stew with the corn, a vegetarian's dream, and mine was gone in minutes. So was the tuna salad and the carrots and and and...and Veronica is going to get a big fat nice tip for her incredibly thoughtful food selections with my limited diet. By far and away this has been the most wonderful food I've had since being in country and having it served up at the house near the horses or right in my casa with Ro as company is the bee's knees, to dredge up an ancient phrase. As I write, Ro is over at the fire making it huge and cheery for my last night here.

    In the afternoon the clouds began to come in, and so we headed for one more last evening ride into the teeth of the cool wind and galloped along the roadway before wending our way back along trails to see other estancias, roads peppered with graceful entranceways, creative fences, gorgeous strip bark eucalyptus and every kind of pine.

    The horses were pretty enthusiastic on the way back (which is when Ro's slipped in the mud) and we made our way through the last gate. Pancho gave us instructions for where we needed to herd that night and so we headed off for the far pastures. Tonight we were filming on my camera, so Ro took it over and sent me off to gather up the horses who were off in the trees (I didn't realize at the time that they were thorn trees but oh well), and we did our duty.

    Most of the horses were sympatico with our instructions but a few chose to stick in the back of the trees so my horse and I took off after them, and the next thing I know THWAP I feel something sharp rip across my nose and cheek close to my left eye and tug at my down jacket. We're through the worst of it and the last of the stragglers are coming along, pretty as you please. We've got them through the gate and headed back where they belong. One more pasture to go.

    Pancho calls us over and this time he wants to do the filming, so he takes Ro's horse and my camera, and he sort of thinks he has it figured out. Well. Kind of. I think. Maybe. We take off for the far, far, far pasture as the sun is dipping, and the light is right in our eyes as we head due West. It touches behind a cloud just as Pancho stops and points far off to the last pasture and says "bring in those four, you can barely see them, and I will film you. Go NOW!"

    So my sorrel buddy and I take off like a bat out of hell and we haul through the gate and encourage the far grazers to move, and pretty soon the rest of the herd has all got the message, and they are all headed towards the pasture close to my cabin. But Pancho isn't done yet. He calls me over and directs me to run my horse back and forth, whip this way and that, do all kinds of fancy moves, all of which I'm assuming he's filming, right? Then he points to a lone straggler way way way off in the far corner playing hidey hole in a wash.
    "Bring that one in and I'll film you," he says, so pow, off we go, my little speedmonster loving his run and we have just enough light so that I can watch for holes and bumps. This last horse gets the message muy pronto and makes a beeline for the gate and we follow until he is all the way through. Then we turn and run straight for Poncho, and he runs me through my paces again for the camera. Boy am I going to have something to take home. Wow.

    So then Ro meets us in the middle of the pasture on foot, Ana needs the gate opened, so she takes Pancho's horse back and off we gallop again to unlock the gate for mom. This time the Argentinean sunset is tossing off rays of fuschia and violet and a bit of yellow and I'm taking every photo I can while we're galloping, as this is my very last one, and it's a veritable light show.

    The gate unlocked, we head back to the estancia, and I spend some extra time scrubbing the sweet spot in my horse's ears where he cannot reach, and he stands and makes happy noises for a while, and I scrub his mane and rub where the bridle has been all day and kiss his brow on both sides and head inside.

    Now to the damage. First we patch up the down jacket which took a big triangular tear and some of my 850 fill is spilling out. Pancho had provided bright red duct tape that nearly matched the jacket so now there are more patches. Then Ro pulls out a heroic box with every kind of first aid in it, and I remove bits and pieces of dirt and dried blood. Then I go look. Ugh. Looks like I took a whip across the face which is about what I did. Good for a story but not a professional photo. Too bad, doesn't hurt, it will heal.

    Now, let's see all those videos!!!!!!


    Um, videos!!!!!


    Well. Ro got a shot of a lot of movement (she didn't realize the camera was on) which was one of those very funny experiences unless you get seasick easily, and shaky cam is not my thing, so let's say there's a brief piece that is useful and much of the rest is not good for the faint of heart because the camera hung from her arm as she was riding and well, it wasn't what was expected. Video number one.

    As for the Heroic Last Roundup of the Intrepid jhubbel. Well.

    Let's pause here and make it clear that I love Pancho dearly. I really do. And I'm coming back. But I am not putting him on camera duty.

    Out of all the time my horse and I galloped, herded, cavorted, showed off, got good and sweaty and I did my best damned gaucho impression (and my absolute best horse work to date) we got.... a great deal of sky, a great deal of grass, some orange jacket, an occasional shot of horse, more sky, phone lines, Pancho's horse, more grass... you get the picture.

    Ro and I looked at each other and I said don't you say anything to him. Simple thing is that we're all good at something, and there's a generation that is good at devices ( and I am NOT- I can't figure out how to use the video on that stupid thing) and there's a generation that is still figuring out how to surf the web on the iPhone. My camera has a higher IQ than I do, so I don't blame Pancho one bit.

    So I am hopeful that tomorrow, when I have packed for the departure at 9:30 pm, and I have one last ride to enjoy, Ro and I will sneak our horses out and recreate a little of what we were going to do tonight, and she will do the honors. The real pleasure I got was to ride with Pancho because after all, it is his place, I am his guest, and he was doing his best to do a very kind thing for me. And I appreciated it very much. They entrusted me with a responsibility to move their horses for the night three nights in a row and that is not a small thing for a stranger.

    And while Ro has been helpful- she made it clear that she is still learning how to do the gaucho's job and Pancho gave me some great tips to add to my toolkit for the next time. It's like old quarterbacks, Marino might not have had the legs, but he had the savvy that came with the years, like Elway and Manning, the older they get the smarter they get, never underestimate. A good camera doesn't make a damned good horseman. And that's what Pancho is. And, he's the boss, and the last time I checked that still counted for something.

    My casa just had the whole family in it, and I can tell you it's fine thing to have a bunch of friendly people laughing at the video that wasn't, punching up the fire, giving you the sash for your kidneys for your future rides, making sure you have that much more food (including pineapple) and pretty much making your last night at the estancia about as joyful as it can be.

    Ana just went off to check the exchange rate to make sure I'm not about to pay her too much for my stay.

    Kindly read that last sentence again.

    Yep, you read it right. Now please tell me who else you've ever stayed with who has checked the books twice to make sure you're not paying TOO MUCH.

    Even if you don't ride horses, even if you are not determined to get your visage clipped by a thorn tree and your bum well worn over multiple days of riding, this is a place to come stay. From the absolutely beautiful surroundings (Did I mention the pristine turquoise pool? No. But I should have.) to the incredibly kind and accommodating family, you need to come here, stay here, be seduced by this charming and wonderful place. I did indeed save the horseriding best til last, and I cannot say enough about this good family and their fine offering.
    I just sent Ro over to Veronica with half a chocolate bar full of almonds for the extra fruit from tonight, and I have to get to bed to rest my bones, and start healing up for one last ride, which we are going to..uh...videotape in the morning.

    For Alberto's mention of Doc, with my very limited time on trip forums, it saddens me that people would "stuff the ballot box" to increase their own ratings, but people being people there are those sorts, and marketing is what it is these days. I am sad to hear it. I can only hope that the level of detail that's been provided on this terribly long thread indicates its accuracy and provides the various readers with the kind of first hand experience and hopefully some amusement that I intended from the start. If not you can blame AVRooster who got me into this in the first place. It's all his fault. LOL!

    Now one last note. There was a great deal of activity in my casa just now brought on because of a great crash in the fireplace. Now at first I thought it was the wood breaking up. You see, Ro and the others had seen me getting a bit chill with the comings and goings of all the family members and someone made a note, and soon Claudio the stable boy brings over six stacks of wood, and Ro has got this ready-for melting ingots fire going. Nobody’s paying much attention but let’s just say it’s damned toasty in my casa.

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    So much so in fact that half the chimney cracks and caves in. So now the chimney’s guts are hanging in the fireplace because Ro doesn’t want me to be cold. I mean you have to love these people. Everything is for your comfort even if it does mean sacrificing the building. Okay so maybe Pancho isn’t going to be pleased with the repair bill before winter but by god, the customer WAS warm, wasn’t she??

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    So, not content with tearing yourself up, now you're wrecking the casa? Lol. These sound like wonderful people. I see your bad review hasn't gone up yet, will be interesting to see how long your forthcoming good review will take to go up (you are writing one, right?).

    I learned to treat TA reviews with great care after a very bad experience in Marrakesh. I now don't even consider places with a lot of one-poster reviews on the first page, and pretty much ignore anyone with fewer than five reviews. I always read the bad reviews, but I allow for people with unrealistic expectations (you shouldn't complain about getting a small room in a budget London B&B!).

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    Hi, thursdaysd!

    I'm also wondering what happened to jhubbel's bad review on penned several days ago.

    When she's back home and can spare the time, I plan to give her some pointers on what to do about THAT, if her review is not up yet.

    I totally disregard reviews by one-time posters, because I know quite well how most (not all) of them come to be.

    Have a great time in our country.

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    So this morning because the chimney broke, the casa was, um, well, chilly. And for some reason the pilot light went out for the hot water so at the moment I am sitting under a tent of a blanket, with my knees against a heater, with every piece of clothing I have layered on me. Veronica just came in to start a fire (I got desperate) and she started up the pilot light (I had no idea where it was) and so here we are. Winter is coming and at the moment it's in this little casa proper. Of course you could argue that if I didn't insist on getting up at 6 am I'd not be faced with chill temperatures but I wanted to see the sunrise. What I got was a toilet seat that was so cold I had to peel myself off the bathroom ceiling. Better than an alarm clock, I grant you but that's a layer of epidermis I'd like back.

    However things are warming up and in no time I can shrug off the tent blanket, two sweaters, down jacket, wool hat, gloves, three socks....

    Ro and Claudio are working on the fire, and she says that in an hour the water will be hot enough for a good long hot shower. No problem. I love rustic. These things happen. I remember someone in Ecuador, out on the Cuyabeno River in the Amazon forest, being extremely angry for running out of hot water. I was so grateful for a source of fresh water in the first place that I wanted to whack him. This is the Amazon, I reminded the guy. If you want a hotel, go to Disney World (I used to work there). A little inconvenience- or sometimes a great deal of it - is part of the aventura, and why we do this. Or at least to my mind. I find it absolutely hilarious to be in a blanket tent working on my computer for an hour while the casa warms up. For me that is charming. Because if Ro hadn't worked so hard to keep me warm the night before I wouldn't be so cold this morning. All part of the story.

    So it's now about 2:10 pm and Ro and I have finished our final ride, and we also finished a final filming. I took my magnificent horse (no name here for a reason, more in a moment) for a couple of hard core, flat out gallops which both Pancho- who does know his own camera and for Ro, who used my camera, got on film for posterity. That's going to be fine for future viewing. But for me it is extremely bittersweet.

    Ana asked me a favor concerning these entries and I am going to honor her request concerning my horse, because she and Pancho honored me with the memory of their beloved gaucho San Juan by allowing me to ride this prized horse. Ana made it very clear that this is not an animal for tourists, and beginner riders, his name is not on the list of horses for the tourists to choose. And as she asked me to make clear, this was something that they were incredibly kind to allow me to do, and I have been beside myself with the pleasure of being astride such a tremendous criollo who is all these people have left of their long time gaucho. So in all fairness to Ana and Pancho, to ask for this horse in the future is not likely to get a yes, unless you are seriously vetted and they have an extremely high comfort level with your riding skills. Believe me when I say this, it is most humbling that these wonderful people allowed me to sit on this animal much less actually put it to work. History means much in Argentina, and I have been taking part of it at Dos Hermanos the last few days. There's a bit of Don Juan's memory in my heart now as I took photos of his photos to keep next to my photos of that sorrel, out of respect.

    As a parting shot to all, shortly before leaving for Australia in 1983, I found a poem by Amelia Earhardt, one of my long time heroes. I will offer the first few lines here, and acknowledge all you much more experienced travelers than I this thought:
    "Courage is the price life exacts for granting peace
    The soul that knows it not
    Knows no release from little things"

    Much more to that when she speaks about wings and loneliness, but all of you can relate as travelers, because it takes courage to get on that plane and not know when security will grab you, when you might lose your papers, when people lose your reservation, and also, when you might find people like the Penas here who work so hard to make you happy (like Veronica who just spent fifteen minutes shining my riding boots) that you absolutely positively must, and will, come back. If you must have the Sheraton, good on you.But I vote Dos Hermanos, and Angie, and Ariane Hellman, where good people are devoted to your pleasure and happiness, and a good night is filled with good company, good food, horse sweat, the smell of leather, and also, good smart talk about the world.

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    What a great 'parting shot' JHubbel.

    You have contributed a lot to this Forum during your travels in Argentina; many will benefit and many will just enjoy and appreciate the nicely written tales of your adventure. Gracias.

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    AVRooster, I will here, I am just getting up now and finding my feet. The early summer sun is amazing, it's in the high sixties here on the high plains, and I am just washing the last of Dos Hermanos out of my breeches. Last funny story, well two.

    Ro and Veronica had kept me well stocked with freshly cracked walnuts from a tree on the premises, so right before I left Ro wrapped up a fat bag full of them which I crammed into my carryon. I knew full well they wouldn't be allowed into the States so I planned to chomp on them while traveling. And forgot I had them, one of those senior moments I never have, of course. So when I approach customs, I have no clue that I have contraband. We're all standing in line, and this one lone officer is managing all of us, and just before I am called to go through a lone person goes the wrong way down the line and he angrily calls the man over and demands to know how the H--- did you get over there, where did you come from, yada yada...and now it's my turn. Here I am terrified about my nutria vest, totally unaware that I have about half a pound of fresh walnuts from the farm right under his nose.
    I make a joke about escapees, he cracks up, doesn't even look at my papers and waves me through, walnuts and all. I find the walnuts when I unpack here on the dining room table last night. YUM, YUM,YUM.

    So AVRooster has kindly set it up for Ana Pena to exchange the last of my pesos into dollars, and I am preparing all the money and tips and am rushing around making sure everyone gets paid for all their good and wonderful service. I roll up about 160 pesos into a place where of course I will be sure to remember it later, and of course I don't, so it's the last thing I "lose." Ana is sitting across from me at lunch my last day and she takes out her US dollars and says here it is, and I say No no no, I don't have any left which of course I DO, I just am having my last official senior moment, and she puts it back and now AVRooster is stuck with trying to help me fix that problem. He is one very patient man.

    I thank any and all who have done me the courtesy of bothering to read my ramblings, had a good chuckle at my gringo idiocy and have gained some insight from what I have found to be a most wonderful country. I have tucked away my guides for the next trip back. I want to report, as AVRooster sent to me this morning, that my review on TA about Caballos A la Par did get posted, finally. As did the one on Los Pingos in Mendoza.

    Thank you also to those of you who have kindly offered me tips. It has always been the guidance of those better traveled than I whose experiences have sent me to new countries, and their advice has inevitably turned out to be accurate. Finding these Forums has been great and I'm pleased to be able to pen something worthwhile to a few. I realize that my specific preferences may not be for the majority but along the way some observations may be valuable.

    Again as I am new to this Forum and do not know the names of the contributors but AVRooster does, and he indicates you are prominent members, then let me tip my now THREE sombreros to you for your kind comments on my commentary, and for taking the time to look it over. I've had a wonderful time. In November I'm taking on Tanzania, the Selous, Ruaha and a horse safari at the base of Kili. AVRooster will be pleased to know that I am planning a return to ARG in November 2014. Not soon enough for him, but that's the plan. I'm starting the file now.

    With much respect for my fellow intrepid travelers, I am heading out this morning to get back to my exercise routine. My beloved sports chiro put my back into place yesterday afternoon (the very first thing I did, before a shower, before the grocery store) and all is right with the world. Time to sweat, and start prepping for that next big adventure. Happy travels all.

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    Great and quite concise report! LOL!!!

    I'm taking the liberty of including it in my:

    so it doesn't sink out of sight.

    If you are unhappy with that, you can complain to Fodor's.

    If you don't know how to go about doing that, I'll explain. ROTFLMAO!

    Have a great time in our country, like jhubbel did!

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    good to hear you arrived safely back home, walnuts and nutria vest included! Great to have met you, enjoyed the chat on the way to EZE, hope to see you again NOV'14. Cheers.

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    MacTours, same to you and we will see each other again in 14. I already have a file going. I've set up all the sombreros in a place of honor on my door to the bedroom and am already setting up my local riding here in Colorado!

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    In my post of May 28 at 9.04 AM, I brought up the matter of the credibility of reviews by one-time posters in general and in the case of in particular.

    The dean of Argentina forum posters, none other than the famous drdawggy, seemed to agree with me on the subject, which is quite extraordinary, because we often "agree to disagree". LOL!!!

    jhubbel posted an extremely negative review on the link mentioned in the first paragraph.

    It took quite a while to come up and lasted only a few hours, before being deleted, without any explanation, as far as I know.

    I suggest forum members follow drdawggy's great advice to "Be wary of any business with lots of reviews by first time posters....."

    Have a great time in our country.

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    jhubbel - If the review has been taken down I would suggest contacting TA to ask why and to protest. TA once pulled one of my reviews, sending me an email saying that the hotel owner claimed that it was for a different property. I replied to TA explaining why the owner was wrong, and two weeks later they put the review back.

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    Hi, thursdaysd!

    Do you think you could e-mail me the address you used to reply to TA?

    I told jhubbel she could start by using this link but you may have a better way to go about this.

    Thank you.

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    Yes, thursdaysd, that's the link I suggested.

    We'll have to wait for jhubbel to tell us whether or not she got an e-mail telling her the review was being pulled and the motive for such an action.

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    My guess, thursdaysd and Avrooster, is that the review got challenged by the concession. I supposed it's their right to take issue with what I said. However the facts are the facts and in my review I was most careful to separate out the quality of the services they give as a concession from how I was treated on the telephone which is what I was condemning, and those facts stand. We can all be unhappy with negative feedback. No one likes to be pointed out as imperfect in such a public way. But facts are immovable things. For my part I am simply happy to say wonderful things about Dos Hermanos and give them the leg up they deserve.

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    Well, the outfit we are talking about is already half way to sending Julia's review to the second page.

    They have five recent reviews (all excellent, of course), three by one-time posters, one by a new forum member and only one by a long-time forum member.

    Just as expected. It won't be long before Julia's review is relegated to the second page. Not too many people go beyond the first page.

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    That's quite all right. People will read what they want to read. At least it got posted. Right now I am planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in November- and to summit at the full moon on the 17th, what a treat. A year later I plan to be back in ARG. Can't wait!!

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    -having doubts about TA is why I always make a point of reading the bad reviews rather than just the first and second pages - if you click on the rating it will bring them up.

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    Hi, thursdaysd!

    I know pretty well how that "other place" functions. In fact, my position is that they banned me after thousands of posts because I know it TOO WELL. They call it "disrupting the forum". LOL!!!!

    When I read their reviews, I look only at those written by frequent posters and, if a place has a high rating thanks to many one-time reviewers, I consider that place suspect.

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    How a "frequent" poster apparently refers to yours truly:

    "There is one old man that no longer posts there (meaning on TA). He didn't live in the city, didn't go to the restaurants and never did the sightseeing .. but he posted 24 hrs a day .. mostly just kibitzing with the other posters .. he was certainly not informing anyone."

    on Sep 16, 13 at 5:48pm

    Comments welcome.

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    avrooster - Regardless of what that post says, you have once again performed a terrific service to your fellow Fodorites. I am just beginning to research a trip to BsAs for next January and finding your resurrection of this trip report was most timely.

    jhubble - Thank you. You also gave me a different look at the country from the way DH and I typically travel. We are casual and cultural travelers, but rarely venture out for the kind of adventure travel jhubble enjoys. She also focused less on the food in Argentina, which is something we enjoy. But her take was different and refreshing. It's inspiring.

    I've read this entire thread and your contributions have been most supportive and helpful.

    Thank you for your input here and on TA. avrooster, you may hear from us as we develop our plan, if for no other reason than to perhaps meet up for a glass of Malbec. We are not teetotalers and will enjoy both the beef and the wine.

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    Thank you, kind lady from the great state of Georgia!

    I answered your post in the thread.

    You may be interested in this thread:

    If you are up to reading it all, I believe you'll find the answer to any question you can possibly ask.

    BTW, I don't drink, but DW certainly does! Just kidding! LOL!!

    Have a great time in our country.

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    Thanks for your kind comments, CD. As someone who eats for fuel and not necessarily for the joy of it although I love my fruits and veggies and quinoa, travel for me is pure adrenaline and stories. I've set my sights on Viet Nam for January, Peru for April and ARG for next November, since I didn't see Patagonia. Got to go harrass AVRooster again!!

    I'm in training to summit Kilimanjaro this November, along with a jungle safari, camel safari and horse safari. Them's my kind of apples. A carton of yogurt and a big banana are fine by me. Please do try the horse back riding in BSAS though, Ana and Pancho are terrific!


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    How nice of you to reply so long after you posted, jhubbel.

    I wish you the very best on your upcoming adventures. Very impressive!

    I loved your trip report and am envious of your ability to bring the reader on the trip with you.

    Someday, I'll travel more, write more, and work less.

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    Thank you so kindly- CD- my challenge is that I'm pointing onward to Tanzania right now, then Viet Nam in January where I solicit any and all advice (please kindly) for suggestions after having booked two scuba days and am looking at Ethnic Travel for time in the north. And lest AVRooster peck off my punkin head I will remind him that I am coming back to ARG in November, where I will be seeing him, Ana y Pancho, the Patagonia wilds and making new friends along the way.

    I'm not averse to lovely food, I'm just not a meat or wine consumer, and such are Argentina's great offerings- and the empenadas. So I had to find my way among the fruit stalls as you saw.

    Having fallen madly in love with Latin American, AVRooster will have to tolerate my curiosity about neighboring countries, knowing that I will make it back to BsAs and harass him. He is the Argentinian National Treasure and Long may he live to give us all much help and much trouble. As for your gastronomic adventures, I hope you graze your way enthusiastically along the landscape while you also take in the visual wonders. There are so many ways to engage a country, but always, the people are the story.

    The scuba pro in Phu Quoc apologized in advance for the weather, and the potential for a lost dive. My response was that it's like going to Africa and not seeing a lion on cue. It's not Disney World. You ride over the mountains in Mendoza and you might or might not see animals. It's the entirety of the experience and the company you're with. And for some, the food. The emotions are what we remember- forever- the tears, fears, laughter, terror, exhilaration, wonder. A dive lost could end up with hours of terrific stories told by a dive master on stormy seas. Tell ya what, might just be worth it, and even might be better than the dive. It's how we embrace the experience.

    Cheers. Can't wait to get on that airplane. Happy Travels!

    Peru experts and Viet Nam experts- I am headed to both, booking now, all input welcomed !!!

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    palabra comida - would that be right, AVRooster? Oh my terrible Spanish. Kindly correct. BTW the book won its third prize this year, a national Silver medal in the relationship and marriage category, which makes me giggle out loud since I'm neither in a relationship nor married, but apparently the book makes me sound like I know something about both. Words like "word" and "Hubbel" might help on Amazon.

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