140 Days in Buenos Aires

This is the final blog post from Buenos Aires. The next will come once I have landed in the United States. This idea makes my eyes a little watery, but I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t want to leave summertime in BA with my amazing host family or because I cannot wait to see my mom for the first time in 5 months when I land in Omaha.

Life has been a whirlwind the last 10 days. Airplanes, a failing public transit system, dozens of miles hiked. My heart and step-counters are overflowing. I look forward to ten days from now in Omaha, Nebraska, but in the current moment, I am so happy to share 10 Day in Buenos Aires: Part 14.

On Monday the 28th of November, I woke up in El Chaltén. This is the “trekking” capital of Argentina so it only felt right to wear out my muscles and the soles of my tennis shoes. I rose with the sun and hung out around the hostel waiting for my travel buddy Rosa to wake up. We ate a breakfast of bread, jam, and coffee, before we boarded a shuttle to El Pilar Hostel. This was our drop off point into the Glaciers National Park. After a quick bathroom break behind a tree, we set out onto a trail which slowly crawled uphill. We quickly took on the roles of Sam and Frodo as we walked through the forest of fallen and scraggly trees. We shared one backpack throughout the day which contained water, crackers, cookies, and our lunches; if you really stretch your mind, it is just like Frodo and Sam sharing the burden of the ring up to Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings series. After two hours of a good paced hike, we made it to the first look out point displaying one of the glaciers set below the grand Mt. Fitz Roy. We continued hiking uphill as we passed crystal blue rivers and amazing views of the mountains and glaciers. At about noon, we came to the steepest part of the hike. I cannot exaggerate enough how difficult, challenging, long, vertical etc. this trail was. For the following hour, we crawled (**this is not an exaggeration**) up a 70 degree mountain. We took a few water breaks and each ate an apple because we had already burned off all the food and water we had consumed in the day. We quickly jumped from winter puffer coats to tank tops. We kicked it into gear, and we arrived at the top one hour later overlooking el Lago de los Tres. It was worth the blisters, the sweat, the almost tears. Mount Fitz Roy rose above two hidden bright blue lakes. Behind each of the two blue lakes were snowy white glaciers. There we sat eating lunch and taking it all in. Following lunch, the trek back to the city began. From our lunch spot, we were over 10 kilometers away from the end of the trail and then another kilometer from the hostel. Rosa and I speed walked downhill passing dozens of groups until we thought our knee joints might explode. FINALLY, we saw the end of the trail, and WE WERE JOYOUS. We walked straight to the one ice cream shop in town and collapsed into our mint chip and dulce de leche cones with a layer of sweat, dirt, and sunblock covering our bodies. We limped back to the hostel, and for dinner, I made bow tie noodles, red sauce, and cooked veggies. I crawled into bed shortly after, and fell into a haze immediately once my head hit the pillow. My feet ached from the 17 miles we had completed during the day, but I was extremely proud of our efforts.

Tuesday the 29th of November was our last day in El Chaltén. Rosa and I woke up, packed our bags and enjoyed more bread for breakfast. We left our bags at the hostel and fit in one more hike before our 1 p.m. bus. We hiked to the mirador de los condores and aguilas (lookout of the condors and eagles). The wind was whipping at 40 miles per hour, so when we arrived at the top, we were holding our hats to our heads as we realized that there were not many birds to see. In fact, there was a single condor flying a little ways off. We quickly hiked back down because the wind made it hard to enjoy the view. We returned back with runny noses from the wind and slightly disappointed from the lack of wildlife. Once back in the hostel, we enjoyed ham, cheese, and avocado sandwiches before walking to the bus station. Once on the bus, we put our chairs in the full reclining position (nearly a flat bed) and headed back three hours to Calafate. Once again, we passed gorgeous blue lakes and fell in and out of sleep. In the evening, we arrived at the bus station from which we headed straight to the America Del Sur hostel. We checked into our room “Colonia” (Uruguay) and headed down the street to check out the tourist shops and grocery store. We had an essay going night and finished off the bag of bow-tie pasta for dinner.

Wednesday the 30th of November was centered around the Perito Moreno Glacier! In the morning, Rosa and I ate breakfast at the hostel. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the hostel offered EGGS! This is a luxury in South America, where breakfast means bread. There were grapefruits, oranges, cereal, the whole shebang. An hour later, a shuttle picked us up to begin the day of tours. The drive to the national park was one hour through more of the gorgeous scenery of bright blue lakes. Once at the park, the whole group had two hours to walk around all of the balconies overlooking the glacier. Next, we boarded a small boat to take us to the beach on the other side of the lake for premium glacier access. Crampons were strapped to the feet of all the tourists, and we began a hike onto the icy mass. For the next hour and a half we walked all over the glacier in a single file line. It was just like walking on super packed snow, and luckily, the sun was shining so it was about 50-60 degrees. At the end of the hike, the guides handed out chocolates and glasses of whisky on the rocks (glacier ice). We returned to the boat first, then to the bus, and eventually back at the hostel after about 8 hours of glacier festivities. For dinner, Rosa and I headed to a cute crêpe restaurant down the street. We ordered one veggie and one protein stuffed crêpe to split. People who share their food are the best kind of people! In the evening, we went back to the hostel to unwind and relax.

Thursday the 1st of December was our last day in Patagonia. The day began with thunderstorms so Rosa and I hid away with our muy amable (very nice) roomie, Emil from Denmark. Together, we took advantage of the massive breakfast options while chatting for over two hours. Three cups of coffee, three cups of tea, three hardboiled egg whites, a grapefruit, an orange, and some toast with dulce de leche. It was a feast fit for a queen. Luckily, the rain stopped by mid-morning. Rosa and I headed down the hill to the nature reserve as the clouds cleared away. There we saw flamingos, swans, ducks, and hawks, who were attacking all of the kinder birds’ springtime nests. It was a pleasant walk until the wind rose back up to 40 mph. We scurried back into town after we had our fair share of wildlife and wind and enjoyed one more cone of Patagonian ice cream.  Following ice cream, we did a little more shopping through the tourist traps before heading back to the hostel. From there, we were picked up and taken to the airport. From my window seat I watched the sunset light the country on fire as I journaled and listened to more of Shelby Janke’s Spotify playlist. I returned to Buenos Aires and to my home in Palermo Hollywood a few hours later. Anita was there to housesit while my host mother and sister were out-of-town. She made me a veggie tart for dinner and then we both went to bed. While trying to fall asleep, I began Downton Abbey, and I have no regrets.

On Friday the 2nd of December, I relaxed after many miles of my Patagonian adventure. I ordered a huge salad for lunch from Miranda down the street to enjoy while I soaked in many glorious episodes of Downton Abbey. I also Skyped with Annie and made some sugary popcorn for dessert. I even fit in a quick trip to the gym in between episodes (I continued watching the entire time I was on the stationary bike). Anita left for the weekend in the evening. Because my host mom and sis were still on their trip, I enjoyed the next four days home alone as the queen of the castle. Day two of veggie tarts for dinner continued, and I even went to the trouble of defrosting some red bean puree. More Downton kept me company, and I made extra sure to lock all the doors and check the closets before going to bed home alone.

On Saturday the 3rd of December, I met Rosa in the afternoon to shop some ferias. We started in Recoleta at Plaza Francia and ended up in Palermo Soho at Plaza Serrano. We found mates, magnets, and jewelry to bring home as presents as we melted in the blazing sun. We took refugge with Chips Ahoy McDonald’s McFlurries as we shopped. At the end of the day, I dropped Rosa at the 151 bus stop and headed across Juan B. Justo back to Palermo Hollywood. For Dinner, I enjoyed day three of veggie tarts and red beans before heading to the gym to stationary bike while watching Downton Abbey.

By Sunday the 4th of December, I had become a professional home/cat sitter. Fresh water, two meals a day, and entertainment were provided by yours truly. I am still unsure if I have an allergy to the cats, but they’re just so cute I have to love them. I escaped into the hot city during the afternoon to find some lunch and for dinner, I enjoyed day four of veggie tarts. The day was filled with catching up on missed blogs, Downton Abbey, and walking abroad Palermo Hollywood.

On Monday the 5th of December, I finally gave in and tried PedidosYa, an app for ordering food. I ordered myself a nice big box of sushi and enjoyed Downton from my air-conditioned room. After lunch, I headed out to the gym. Knowing that it was my last week of my expensive membership, I was much more motivated to take advantage of the stationary bikes and treadmills at my disposal. In the afternoon, Anita returned and we chatted about our weekends until Alexia and Tony came home. I cooked a pasta dinner for us all, and Alexia and Tony showed me pictures of their trip to San Juan’s observatory. I did the same for my trip to Patagonia.

On Tuesday the 6th of December, I got serious about catching up on my blogs. I camped out at Dulce Charlotte down the street. From there, I published thirty days of missed entries while enjoying the springtime pasta salad and ginger lemonade. In the afternoon, I headed back to the gym before enjoying a dinner of grilled chicken and corn with Alexia and Tony. Additionally, Tony had received excellent marks on her international english exam so we had to celebrate at Freddo with some ice cream.

Wednesday the 7th of December, was the CRAZIEST day in Buenos Aires. I headed out after breakfast for FLACSO, to take a make up final exam. I waited at my bus stop for the 111 for 45 minutes. During that time, two full 111s passed but did not stop because there was no more room on board (this does not only mean seats filled, but bodies packed into every corner of the colectivo). I finally gave up and hopped on the 93 headed somewhat east. About twenty minutes later, I realized traffic was deadlocked and there was no way the bus was going to make it out of Palermo in good time. I would have gotten onto the subway, but all stations were closed because the workers were on strike. The strike was the result of one of the workers who died from electricution earlier that morning. The result was the greater city of BA, all 12 million people, were all trying to get to work without the fastest and largest form of transit. I hopped off the bus and started walking the 20-some-blocks to FLACSO in the 88 degree weather under the blazing sun. Eventually, once I was dripping sweat, I caved and flagged a taxi. I arrived at FLACSO about ten minutes later to sit for a two hour written final. Following the test, I grabbed a salmon salad and hopped on a bus back to Alto Palermo. About thirty minutes later, I found myself at MALBA (museo de arte latinoamericano de buenos aires). I spent the next couple hours enjoying the very modern museum full of latin american artists. The transport troubles continued on my way home, but I eventually arrived about an hour later. I talked to Anita about her commute problems, and she said that her normal three hour commute turned into 6 hours!! There had been an accident on her train route, and because the subway was closed, there were millons of people displaced on their daily commute forced to take the bus. The whole day was quite messy. In the evening, I said goodbye to my gym and put in my last workout on the stationary bikes, and I ate dinner with my host mom and we chatted about her job. I went to bed exhausted from the heat and craziness of the city.

The time has flown by down south of the equator. I can tell already that I have become so much more independent. I have learned how to live on my own, to take care of myself, to be alone. Regardless of this new found strength, I miss home, friends, family, and pups. I get a little teary-eyed when I think about my homecoming. For the first time in 18 months, I don’t have plans to leave Nebraska. I’m sure that opportunities will come up; there will be small trips around the country and possible excursions to far away lands. But right now, I’m really excited to be in one place for a while, for the first time in a while.

This is the last time I express my gratitude from Buenos Aires. Thank you for following my journey, for making me feel loved while away, for the unexpected emails, FaceTimes, Skypes, and messages. It has meant so much to me and helped me to face each day here with a smile and strong heart. In the end, I will have written 150 days of blogs (so check in again in 10 days). It was tedious to write and even more so to read. And for that, I say thank you. For now we part with nos vemos, I hope the same is true of my romance with Buenos Aires. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be home.