4 reasons why Argentina could be the best country we have travelled through

Yesterday we crossed a busy border from Argentina back into Chile. We are staying in a small Malpuche town called Curarrehue (try pronouncing that!) and I am writing this after having relaxed in thermal baths all morning.

We have spent the last 5 weeks in Argentina and are just as enchanted with it now as we were the first time we visited! These are the reasons why:

1. Astounding natural beauty
Pictures do not do justice to the area of Northern Patagonia. We have spent the majority of our time camping next to pristine lakes, surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks. Amaya and Sebastian have thrived in this magical natural environment – it is beyond words!

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2. Argentineans
The people are the other natural resource that places Argentina high on our most favourite places in the world! They are open, warm, sharing and energetic. They speak a colloquial, informal style of Spanish which we were able to adapt to quickly. The word “che” is inserted a a filler into most sentences and is where the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara derived his nick name.

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Enjoying the view with Sergio and Nora

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Amaya with her new friend Luz

3. Food and Wine
If you are vegetarian Argentina may not be the place for you. They eat more meat per capita then any other country in the world. 400 grams per person was what a butcher told me I needed for an evenings cook up! 
The meat is slow cooked over a parilla (open grill). To be able to cook the perfect asado (meat feast) is the source of great (mostly male) pride.
Around 10pm each night (they eat dinner late) there was a lovely aroma of roasted meat wafting over the campground.
This meat heavy meal is always washed down with a hearty Malbec wine which is grown on the dry slopes of the Andes Mountains.

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Our friend Alejandro preparing a meat feast

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4. Mate
Not the Australian colloquialism for friend, but a herbal tea that is consumed in large enough quantities to put the English to shame. It is pronounced Mah-teh and is prepared by filling a small gourd with yerba mate (the tea leaves) and then pouring near-boiling water on top. The mate is then slurped up through a metal straw with a filter on the end that is submerged.
The part I love about slurping mate is the social cohesiveness of the ritual. People stand in small groups and pass a communal gourd around.  It is how I imagine the peace pipe was for American Indians. It unites, and provides an egalitarian basis for meaningful conversation.

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Pensively slurping

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Even Amaya said she enjoyed mate

Adventures with Bruce and Joanie

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Bruce and Joanie are wonderful people who do so much good in the world. They are directors of an NGO called Meal a Day, active members of their church community and support many individuals around the world.

We first met them about 10 years ago and have become better people for it.

The last time we saw them was in Yosemite National Park. Sebastian was only 8 weeks old and I remember Bruce posing the question (as he always does), “where do you reckon we will meet up next?”  We could never have predicted Argentina, just as we couldn’t have predicted our 4 month traverse of South America that we enjoyed together back in 2008, or meeting up in India or visiting aid projects in Central America. 

We love the fact that our friendship bridges the generation gap and their presence was certainly an enriching experience for our children.

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Bruce reading to Sebastian.

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Joanie and Amaya sitting on a rare Arranyana tree

We rented an apartment in Bariloche, Argentina, and spent a marvellous week exploring the breathtaking beauty of the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. We played cards, climbed mountains, swam in  ice cold water, had snow ball fights, ate large hunks of tender beef and too much flan.

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Fun in the snow!

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A beautiful hike!

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Posing in front of lago Nahuel Huapi

All of this provided an excellent backdrop for some inspiring conversations that will hopefully keep us going until we meet up in our next yet-to-be-determined spot.

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Our view once we had hike up the mountain. We then hiked down to the lake and had a swim. We were amazed that Amaya managed it.

Camping amidst volcanoes

The last 4 days have been magical. We have been camping on the edge of a lake near a small town called Villa La Angostura. We are surrounded by gigantic mountains, some of which are volcanoes that occasionally spew ash into the air which creates a surreal misty effect. The lake is fresh and cold, and is fed by icy glacial streams. We are camped in a pine forest and have a cosy fireplace next to our small tent. It is perfect for us.

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Amaya and a little Russian girl she met. They spoke in a mixture of Spanish and gibberish.

Amaya and Sebastian are loving it. Amaya’s imagination is limitless and she spends hours by the lake in rapidly evolving, fantastical worlds. Sebastian throws rock after rock into the  water, he wades through streams, collects wood for the fire, sits importantly on his log and from time to time is permitted into his big sister’s imaginary world.

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The volcano in the background is immense

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"PAH!" says Basti as he throws the rock into the lake

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A very important sticker project

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There were some circus performers at our campground and Basti loved their hoops

Both Shoshanna and I are continually stunned with the beauty of this place and feel immensely happy and at peace to be here.

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A walk through parque nacional los arranyanes

Santiago

The last time we were in Santiago was in 2008. Pre-kids, if there ever was such a time… We didn’t really enjoy it. It is a big, dry, dust-bowl of a city, surrounded by monstrous mountains that can only be glimpsed through the smog or heat haze or whatever it is.

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Feliz año nuevo de Santiago!

The last 7 days have been quite the opposite. Santiago is still big and smoggy and noisy but our experiences were only positive!  This is despite crazy jet lag and two needy children.

I think it is actually because of the kids. They have forced us to slow down and not try and wring everything we can out of each day. It doesn’t matter if we repeat activities – we have been to the zoo twice! And we would never have even gone to the zoo or the fantastical “parque de la infancia” (childhood park) or eaten giant fairy floss or multiple ice creams or played in street fountains or had random strangers snapping photos of our kids.

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This cage slidey thing went on for about 300 metres!

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Cool tree houses at parque de la infancia!

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Enjoying strawberry and lemon juice!

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Hard to resist taking a photo of this one!

Yes travelling with kids means we can’t lazily sip coffee on the sidewalk or join the New Years Eve festivities or chug back the customary litre bottles of beer in seedy and not so seedy bars, but maybe real joy is found elsewhere.

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Standing in front of the giant statue of Maria which we can also see from our bedroom window.

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On The Road Again

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One the way to the airport

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The beginning of our South American adventure

We are on the road again. Sadly not on bikes, but hopefully just as adventurous. We are travelling through southern Argentina and Chile in a region called the lakes district. It is a magical place on the edge of Patagonia with snow capped conical volcanoes, pristine lakes, racks of lamb slow-cooked over open fires that can be washed down with bottles of Malbec.

We plan to camp, hike and climb, speak oodles of Spanish and have a wonderful family holiday.

So far we have been in Santiago, Chile for about 24 hrs, and though everyone is struggling with devastating jet lag, we have still managed to see a few things…

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Our temporary home

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The zoo is a great jet lag activity

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Amaya's favourite animal is a giraffe because it has a long neck!

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We are staying in a really cool bohemian district in Santiago

Our way of life

Almost 2 years ago we moved to Newcastle, Australia with the hope of living a local, cycle friendly, beachside lifestyle. During our ride across Europe we discussed for hours on end what was most important to us in a place to live (In fact we blogged about it at one point – Why the Dutch Have it Right).  One of the things we loved about Berlin was how all our activities were super accessible and how transport was predominately by bike. This was a far cry from what we experienced while living in car-based Sydney.  Jeff Speck in his TED talk “The walkable city” had very convincing arguments on why removing/reducing a reliance on cars increases people’s quality of life.  Newcastle seemed to tick all the boxes, so we left Sydney in our dust and here we are.

We love it!

Our inner city suburb is filled with families, has a leafy centrally located park, oodles of cafes and restaurants, many services, and a large variety of fun activities. We are so grateful to be connected to such a vibrant community. It is also an easy 2.5km cycle to a stunning world class beach that still leaves me in awe and slight disbelief that I am actually cycling HOME and not to a campground or holiday house. 

Bar Beach

Bar Beach

To make matters better we have invested in an awesome machine.  ‘The Babboe’, a dutch marvel, purchased from the charming Bernie from Metro Cycles.

Babboe excitement

Babboe excitement

One unexpected benefit of travelling in ‘Babboe style’ is that it is a great conversation starter!  No matter the social standing, the general consensus is that our bike is tops.  These little daily encounters make me feel more a part of the local community.  It is, as one friend put it, “a lifestyle of awesomeness.”  Without a doubt some of the happiest moments in my day are when the kids and I are cruising around talking about what we see or simply sitting silently enjoying the peaceful moment and watching the world glide by.

Merewether Baths - best parking spot ever!

Merewether Baths – best parking spot ever!

And so at this stage our plan is to sink further into the wonderful lifestyle that Newcastle can provide, and satisfy our nomadic yearnings by planning shorter trips. Maybe that will work for us for a while. We’ll see. Either way, whether this becomes our permanent home or not, I’m certainly glad to be here.

Slurping smoothies

Slurping smoothies

Another baby on a bike…

In the last month or so of riding in Germany Shoshanna was complaining about being unusually tired.  I just put it down to the fact that we were cycling 60km a day and parenting a temperamental toddler.  But no!  She was pregnant!

Sebastian Lior was born on the 1st of May.  All are healthy and well and feeling very blessed.

We haven’t managed to put him on a bike yet but we are working on it.  Any suggestions are welcome!IMG_3062

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We were attempting the tricky task of taking a passport photo (we are off to San Fran in June) and Amaya wanted to help…

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