To the most Southern South I’ve been – El Calafate

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HITCHHIKING FOR 1.5 DAYS – THAT WAS IT!

After 30 min of  being in the rain waiting for a car from El Bolson, a nice little truck picked us up and took us as far south as he could and dropped us off at a gas station.

Look at this truck driver! We should ask them – said Jana pointing at a Chilean guy in his 40’s pumping petroleum.

I hesitated but Jana left her backpack by the convenience store and started walking towards the gas pump.

-Disculpa – said Jana in here broken Spanish – ¿vas al Sur? ( Are you going South?) 

I rushed in and started talking to the guy. He was going South and he would be willing to take us  but…. Jana and I would have to split. I would go with him and Jana would go with his friend whom he was following.

I looked at Jana and started whispering.

– I am not splitting, I don’t think it’s a good idea. What about food and water? (silly thought!)

-It’s our only chance – whispered Jana and in a reassuring voice said back to the truck driver:

VAMOS!

What a terror went through my heart and mind! This girl was out of control. We threw our backpacks inside the truck and as I was climbing inside seeing Jana climbing into a different truck, I pulled my pepper spray!

– So where are you guys going? – started the man in his hard-to-understand mumbling Chilean accent.

– To el Calafate, I said.

I was afraid to be too nice and friendly but as it appeared later, he was a very nice and friendly person himself. We spent 24 hours riding with them. They bought us coffee, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner, created a bed out of our backpacks and a passenger seat, and saved us at least $300.

They dropped us off just where the road was splitting to “The End of the World – Usualla” and to El Calafate. As unfortunate as it is, I have never made it to the end of the world but keep reading…

From the point the Chileans dropped us off, we waited for at least 40 min and were picked up by a cow truck, then dropped off, then picked up again. We spent 1.5 days hitchhiking and when we got to El Calafate – we were done! 

Small talk, pretending I was interested, being overly nice was at the edge of my patience. We just had to find a hostel, buy beer and do nothing.

EL CALAFATE 

To our surprise, El Calafate was appeared to be a Swiss-looking place with lots of Israelis and lots of expensive options to have fun and sleep.

HOSTELS IN EL CALAFATE:  If you want to stay somewhat cheaply and nicely you should BOOK in ADVANCE. When we arrived, we couldn’t find anything cheap besides this alright hostel run by an elderly couple. Lots of Israelis were there  and that was a SIGN – CHEAP!!! Look for Israelis in South America. In La Paz they even have their own cheap street.

Staying with them is not necessarily the most pleasant experience. They group together and ignore anyone out of their clan. Well, good for us: Jana and I were so tired of small talk that were not interested in making any friends, just having beer.

PLACES TO EAT IN EL CALAFATE: Check Dona Mecha. 50cm chicket sandwich for $4. Can’t beat that! https://foursquare.com/v/do%C3%B1a-mecha/4db22d086e81029a303b6cd4

BOOKING A GLACIER TOUR: Go big or go home right? So, we spent money and booked the expensive 8 hour tour across the glacier. It was gorgeous and is a must do! You walk on this humongous, one of the very few glaciers in the world that is still growing and it’s like being in a wonderland.  We booked it through the main company and it’s the cheapest you can get.

FLIGHTS TO BUENOS AIRES: http://www.aerolineas.com.ar/Welcome

Do it online unless you exchanged your dollars at the border. Argentina will charge you more as a foreigner if you pay at the ticket office. Online is not quiet updated and you will pay the same price as everyone else.

Advertisements

On the road to Mendoza – wait where?

That’s how it goes during traveling:

You have this perfect plan, then you meet people and decide to join them, then people join you and you have to make decisions together, then you run out of money, then you are on the road hitchhiking and people just take you wherever they are heading.

That’s how we ended up spending about an hour in a tremendous heat waiting for the lucky car to pick us up. Hopeless, hungry, tired, and thirsty we started walking  toward the direction we were heading – south…. as this little French car smashed on breaks next to us.

– Where are you going? yelled a lady getting from the car

– Hm… anywhere, south, to the end! – we yelled.

It was Susana from Argentina and Jean-Pierre from France who were on vacation to visit Susana’s family. They completely changed our plan to go to Tucuman. We ended up to this little strange village the name of which I can’t recall and taking a bus to Mendoza. Susana even fed us empanadas and offered to stay at her cosine’s hostel for free but we had to stick to the plan and headed south.

What a beautiful experience it was! The world is beautiful and if you doubt the humanity you must go travel!

 

Salta and Cafayate – Argentina

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SALTA

The cheapest way across Argentina meant it all – hitchhiking “hasta el fin”, making delicious stake meals for $2.5 , and CouchSurfing with random strangers.

When we arrived to Salta we had a Couch ready for us at our later-to-be friend Rosa who was a hostel host. Her house was outside of Salta and Jana, Rosa and I had to share a bedroom that has as big as a shoe box. Her and her family, however, took an amazing care of us. I also got to meet her crazy parrot that was running after my feet trying to bite me. What a creep!

I fell in love with Salta upon arriving but after a few days it all lost it charm. I was getting really tired from my 11 months trip. We went out a couple times to dance salsa. Unfortunately, nobody knew how. Then, we went shopping, ate lots of fried empanadas, met the nicest guy from Caledonia and after a few days decided to take off to Cafayate.

CAFAYATE 

It was such a brief visit that I have almost forgotten about being there. Cafayate is a nice little village with wineries and a canyon that looks something like Utah.

Jana and I decided to climb to a few waterfalls. On the way to the National Park we were offered a ride by two Argentinian actors. They could probably tell we were professional hitchhikers even without sticking the finger and the sign out.

We gladly accepted the ride and even hiked with them the first part of the trail. The guide was necessary for climbing but our “cheap” way of travelling forbid us to pay and we even convinced the Argentinians to go for free.

The climb was tough. I have never done so much wild bouldering in my life! Good thing the Argentinians had a thermos of rewarding mate and invited us for a traditional asado and beer dinner.

Tips for Hitchhiking – Argentina

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

General lessons learned from a one month hitchhiking from the North to the South of Argentina.

TIPS FOR HITCHHIKING:

-Stand in a place for a car to see you and have time and place to stop

-Hitchhike from a small village, gas station, hwy, rest area

-Never hitchhike from downtown or get dropped off in the city

-Walk the direction you want to go

-Made an eye-catching sign and yourself pretty, but not too pretty to attract the wrong drivers

-Dress warm, put sunscreen and have food and water. You never know where you might end up.

-Have a back-up plan and a pepper spray ready.

-GO WITH YOUR GUTS!!!! and do it TO THE END!!!! 

 

“We live here” – index finger down and an “sorry” face

“Good luck to you!” – waving at us, laughing, and telling a joke to a co-driver friend

Crossing into Argentina – 5121km to the End of the World

It’s time to start the last chapter of my adventure – Argentina. One month left and the plan is to do 5121km south (3182 miles for you Americans) and then 2043km (1270 miles) back north to Buenos Aires.

The distance and the time frame is not the hardest. Jana had the craziest idea – hitchhiking. 

– No way, I said.

I was terrified. Even with all my love, faith and confidence into my free-spirited, adventurous and brave friend Jana, I thought she had an insane plan and I was about to become a part of it.

– Com’n now!!!  -said Jana – we are not paying hundreds of dollars for bus tickets in Argentina. And… she was right.

It was the craziest idea for two girls to travel “a dedo” – hitchhiking across a huge country where you could only hear about people being robbed.We asked for a cardboard in the border town of Villazon (Bolivia), bought a thick black marker, drew “HASTA EL FIN” and headed to the border.

HASTA EL FIN (To The End) had a lot of meaning for us. It was travelling to the End of The World, being  at the very end of out trip, and coming to the end of our personal journey. And… one, two, three – awh!!!

THE BORDER CROSSING: was the easiest I have experienced in Latin America. Exit stamp – boom, chit-chatting with the border officials, enter stamp – boom and we were walking towards the sign that said “5121km to Usuaia” – our destination.

US DOLLARS IN ARGENTINA: OJO!  Before you cross into Argentina be aware of the monetary system. Full-fill your pockets, money belts, bras, and underwear with US Dollars. Also, the closer you are to the border, the better is your exchange rate. But, careful, don’t change all of your bucks because the exchange rate jumps up and down.

GETTING US DOLLARS IN VILLAZON: There was just one ATM that would give you US dollars in Villazone. If go to the main park plaza, then one block down and one block up towards Bolivia, there is going to be one ATM hidden under the trees that will give you US Dollars. Get your pepper spray out and go in groups or at least couples.