Category Archives: Argentina

Ushuaia and the End of the World

(Ushuaia, Argentina – 26 Nov 2013) Prior to planning for this trip, neither Jessica nor I had ever heard of Ushuaia. It is the self-proclaimed city at the end of the world because it is the largest populated
20131207-191044.jpg settlement located at the southern-most point of South America. Pronouncing the name of the city is tricky until you get the hang of it. The H is silent so there’s no ‘sh’ sound and the ‘ai’ in the second syllable is spoken with the long ‘i’ sound of ‘why.’ So it’s Oose-WHY-uh.

We had no preconceptions of Ushuaia as we boarded the plane from Buenos Aires for our 4 hour flight. All we knew is that we were very excited to be going. And that excitement only increased throughout our flight. “Can you believe where we’re going?” we would say back and forth to each other.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have window seats on the plane so our view of the landscape was limited on approach. Maybe this was for the best because it left us truly blown-away by the scenery once we stepped out of the airport. It was frigid-cold and the winds ripped through us, adding decisively to that blown-away feeling. The waters of the Beagle Channel surrounding the airport were alive with white caps and wild from the harsh winds. Large flakes of snow swirled down on us. It was hard to tell if it was actually snowing or if these flakes had blown from the tops of the majestic snow-infused mountains that encircled us. First impressions of Ushuaia were pure WOW!

The pic below was not taken on the day we arrived, but rather one day later when the skies had cleared. Still plenty of WOW.

We have found that guided city tours are generally a great way to get to know a new city. This ol’ boy was a circa 1950’s London double-decker.


Among other things the city tour introduced us to the Yámana people, the original inhabitants of the area. Most shocking about these hearty people was that they lived in this harsh super-southern climate without wearing clothing!!! In addition to always always always carrying fire with them wherever they went (like modern man with his cell phone), they coated their bodies in fatty sea lion oil. Even when traveling from place to place by canoe, fire was with them and so was their extra supply of fat. All but one of the Yámana people are gone today. The last pure-blooded Yámana is an 85 year old woman that still lives in the area. She doesn’t get out much these days and spends most of her time sitting naked by the fire and reeking of sea lion. [That last sentence may or may not be true, since I made it up.]

Getting ourselves offshore and into the picturesque Beagle Channel on a boat was a must. With that in mind, Jessica and I strolled down to the dock around 5 in the afternoon to buy a pair of tickets for an excursion the following day. There’s ‘plenty of room on the boat leaving today at 6,’ we were told. And, that we ‘might prefer the smaller group.’ And that the ‘lights of the city are really pretty when the boat returns to port after sunset.’ SOLD! Knowing how the temperature drops with the sun, we hustled back to our room at the hostel for the additional layers. Back down to the port we ran and promptly at 6, our little cabin boat untethered from the dock and motored slowly into the channel.

Being so very far south and only a month shy from the winter solstice, there was plenty of daylight left. It is practically joyous to experience such bright and lengthy days. The sunlight that lingers towards each day’s end seems to have an extra shimmer in it, too. Photographers refer to the hour before sunset (or after sunrise) as the magic hour, because the light of the sun shines with a more warm and reddish tone. Here at the end of the world in late November, we can talk of magic hours.



In the pic below, the black birds in the water up ahead of the boat are cormorants…probably feeding on a school of sardines.
Our boat came up close enough for some good sea lion pics…. and for us all to get a good wiff of their ample stench.
The lighthouse in the distance was the furtherst point of our incursion into the Beagle Channel.

The lighting for our return trip was exquisite.
Our boat docked on a small island in the middle of the channel so that we could walk a bit (and take more photos.).


Returning to port around 10:30 PM we find city lights shining amid the blue-black of sea, mountains and sky.

You Call That A Glacier?

Another day we set off on a hike to the Martial Glacier, which resided a relatively short ways up one of the many mountains that crowded around Ushuaia. Though Ushuaia’s most famous glacier turned out to be quite unglacier-like in appearance, (at least to us it looked more like any other patch of snow), our hike to the glacier was totally worth it.

We rode a ski lift to get up to where the hike started, which is always fun.

Hiking through patches of snow is something we don’t do every day.

The view of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel from the highest point of our hike was totally rewarding. I may frame this one!

Life on the Streets of Ushuaia

Every smallish town has one main street where all the action takes place. The hostel in which we stayed was located just a half-block off this main street so we walked its length many times, either pretending to shop, stopping for a cup of hot chocolate, or cavorting with penguins.


Early in its history Ushuaia was home to a large prison. Many of the older buildings, including the post office (below) were built using prison labor. The weather-beaten mural commemorates this history as do the escaping prisoners.

Making it to the southern tip of South America was on our minds from the start of our trip, but honestly sat there only as an ephemeral goal; we had no concrete plan for making it happen. For that reason, it seemed the kind of thing that could have easily slipped away from us. Looking back, it feels a bit like luck that we acted. So pleased that we did, too. Ushuaia was not only beautiful, but it showed a side of charm, as well.

There is no obvious utility in climbing mountains for the sole sake of climbing them, yet people do it all the time…..because successfully reaching the top of a mountain satisfies. It was the same for us in achieving Ushuaia- the city at the end of the world. We are muy satisfied!


We head north now to Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, and one of the most famous National Parks in all the world- Torres del Paine. Don’t go away.

Buenos Aires- Friends, Fútbol y Mucho Más

(Buenos Aires, Argentina- 19 November, 2013) Buenos Aires- speak the name and it sounds exotic. Who’d have thunk one day a couple of simple Texas natives would ever find themselves in such a place of magic and mystery? Certainly neither of us, and yet here we are.

As happy to be there as we were, we quickly realized there was no way Buenos Aires could live up to what its name conjures for exotic. BA is a great city in 18 different ways, but exotic, we didn’t find. What we did find was a vibrant city filled with lots and lots to see and do.

Our greatest delight was meeting up with friends, Gaby and Mauricio. You will meet them in a couple of our vids or pics. They are friends from Mexico that I’ve known for many years and are living and working in Buenos Aires for the next year and a half. We are so grateful to them for providing us with a place to stay and showing us around.

A Day at the Opera and Another at the Cemetery

At the center of downtown Buenos Aires is the theater district. We saw it as very robust version of New York City’s Broadway (even though neither of us have ever been to Broadway). There were a multitude of theaters large and small filling every niche of the street. Tango shows, musicals, comedies, take your pick. We considered seeing a tango show, but the ticket prices were Broadway big, so that was a no-go.

Perhaps what we ended up doing was way better anyway- a guided tour of the Teatro Colon opera house, the oldest and most elegant opera house in all of South America. When done right, guided tours can be fascinating and enriching, as this one was. How else would we have learned about the hidden seats built behind veiled curtains at the edges of the theater? These secluded seats were installed for rich widows who were not supposed to be seen in public for two full years after their husbands had died. But they just couldn’t resist that opera, eh?


Another day, we visited the Recoleta Cemetery. Why would anyone voluntarily choose to visit a cemetery, right? This was my thought upon first hearing of the idea. Once you see the place, however, it makes sense. It is a cemetery like no other we’d ever seen (or even heard of) in our lives. Each tomb was a literal monument to the person (or entire family) that was interred within it.

The creep-factor was pretty high, too. Many of the mausoleums were in sad states of deterioration. Doors into the vaults were sometimes broken allowing us to peek inside and see the caskets stacked up like summer camp bunk beds.


Many of Argentinas most rich, famous and powerful are buried there inside enormous, beautiful, and elaborate tombs. They seem locked in an eternal competition for whose tomb will be the most magnificent.


Recoleta Cemetery is also well known for its large number of friendly stray cats.


Eva Peron is buried there, too.


Who Doesn’t Love Soccer Now?

Anyone who knows me well has heard my rants against soccer. I do not like soccer. It is too simple, too boring and full of too many players doing too much standing around. The fact that soccer has so many millions of fans around the world is truly confounding. That said, I can appreciate any full-blown cultural phenomenon…. even when silly ol’ soccer lies at its center.

Soccer reigns supreme in these parts. Buenos Aires has the highest number of soccer teams per capita of any city in the world, so says the Internet. One of the most popular teams in BA is the River Plates, (a truly bizarre team name, right? River Plates? …really?).

Getting into the stadium was almost as much of a spectacle as the game itself. Streets surrounding the stadium were shut-down and barricaded to all through traffic, even foot traffic. The idea was to ultimately herd everyone through dedicated shoots for frisking. Men and women each had their own frisk-lines for efficiency (and discretion). We’d heard soccer matches could get rowdy and out-of-hand. What on earth were we in for?

Our friends Gaby and Mauricio were with us so four excellent lower-deck seats later and we were all settled-in for the game. Moments after taking our seats…from the upper deck to our left a parade of drums entered the stadium. Boom-ba-doom-ba-doom they pounded. Files of fans followed the drummers dancing and waving wildly. All took their places in a section of seats, though none actually sat down. Then the singing began…and from there it never stopped.

We’ve all heard cheers and chants from stadium crowds, fight songs, too. But what these fans were singing sounded more like love songs. Well, not all of them. Some songs were clever or campy, others snarky. All were amazingly melodic. The singing was all in Spanish, of course, so it was hard for us to understand a whole lot, but the cumulative feeling within each song was pure fun.

The game? Oh yeah, the game. It was a typical soccer game….so not that much happened. The hometown River Plates lost 3 – 1. All in all, it was a great night out.


Here is a website that contains many of the River Plates songs, in case you’d like to hear more.

El Tigre and Puerto Madero

Our host, Mauricio, took us to a couple of unique places that both involve water. The first was a place called El Tigre– a huge river delta that fans out from the Paraña River and flows lazily into the Atlantic. Our visit to this unique place included an hour-long boat ride through the delta with a guide.


It was a fascinating glimpse into a life on the water. As our boat cruised through the winding and interconnected canals of water, we passed abandoned barges, richy-rich weekend houses, a huge art museum, and a house once owned by a former Argentine president, now completely encased in plexiglass.

The only way to or from any of these places is by boat. And what does one do when they need to dash to the grocery store? Ah ha! Got you covered. They have supermarket boats that serve the residents.


If anyone has a need to hide from the world, like for example, because you are in trouble with the law or being hunted by the mafia, the El Tigre Delta is an excellent place to go.

The other water site we visited is called Puerto Madero. Buenos Aires sits on the southern Atlantic coast and has always been a vital port city. However, historically their attempts to build a good working port were fraught with issues. Puerto Madero was completed in 1897, but rendered obsolete within 10 years of its completion as cargo ships increased in sized until they could no longer manage the shallow waters that line the Argentine waterways. A new port was built nearby (with docks that extend further out into deep water). It is the new port that is still in use today. The original port, situated right in the heart of BA, was abandoned and served only as an urban eyesore for over six decades.

The turn-around of the old port began in the 90’s as dilapidated warehouses were converted into…(can you guess?)…loft apartments, clubs and restaurants. (Where have we seen this before?) Once the urban revitalization ball got rolling, it transformed the area into the beautiful place we had the pleasure of visiting. The crowning jewel of the effort was a beautiful pedestrian bridge.


More admirable to me, at least, was the designers’ decision to leave the original cargo cranes in place. So cool looking.


Apparently, the citizens of Buenos Aires do not sleep. Regardless of how late into the night it got, hordes of people filled the streets of Buenos Aires making it perpetually difficult to move around by car. The night we were out happened to be the Noche de Museos or Night of Museums, an annual event in which all of the cities museums were open throughout the night and free to the public. As we drove home from Puerto Madero that night (around midnight) we witnessed block-long lines of people waiting to visit the one museum after another. Crazy! Either these people love their museums or they are suckers for anything that’s free.

The Night of Museums worked to our advantage down by the port, however, where a vintage sailing ship (and museum) called the Sarmiento was open to the public. Lights outline the ship’s sailing masts in the background of the pic below.


Best of the Rest

Near to Puerto Madero is the President’s residence, nicknamed the Pink House (for obvious reasons). At night, the building is lit up, but even during the day the stones from which the building is constructed have a pinkish tone. The other daytime pics in the collage are from our stroll through downtown BA.


We visited a kitschy part of Buenos Aires called La Boca. There we found lots of building art and tango.



Buenos Aires has a large number of enormous parks. Here’s Jessica walking Mauricio and Gaby’s sweet dog, Vuvu. Further below is one of BA’s most famous outdoor art projects. The pedals of the flower even close at night.



It’s Always Tea Time in Argentina

In a previous post (Mendoza), I mentioned the Argentinian custom of sharing tea.

I want to revisit the subject mostly to emphasize the magnitude and omnipresence of the custom. Refresher: Multiple people share a single cup of mate tea. A silver metal straw with a tiny filter on the end of it is used draw the tea from a uniquely designed cup.

This custom was witnessed EVERYWHERE throughout Argentina. At every hostel, kiosk, store, street corner, people were either drinking their tea or toting their hot water bottles for refilling their next cup. When we went to Iguazu Falls, we saw streams of school children walking the through the trails and bridge-ways of the park carrying little thermoses of hot water.

The whole obsession with mate tea struck us as borderline absurd, but the spirit of sharing and warmth that it epitomizes does a good job of capturing the spirit of the Argentinian people as a whole.

Rows of tea cups for sale.

After Buenos Aires we will fly south….way south…to the city of Ushuaia at the far southern end of South America.

Before we go, we want to express enormous thanks to Gaby and Mauricio for putting us up in their apartment, showing us around Buenos Aires, and sharing so generously their valued friendship.

[I realize I should have leaned in far more. Sorry!]

Iguazu Falls Rises to the Occasion

(Iguazu Falls, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina – 15 Nov 2013) On many lists of top places to see in the world you will find Iguazu Falls. Like the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, Petra, the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, and the Great Pyramids of Egypt (to name a few), people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe will spend their time and money traveling to see these places in person. Why is that when you can see them in photos or read about them to your heart’s content?

It is because….only being there counts in full. Photos, with their lack of depth, will fail to satisfy. Videos, even with their HD clarity, motion and sound, will inevitably fall short. Words, no matter how well-chosen and carefully ordered, are no substitute for reality.

That said, now I will share with you photos, videos and words of our visit to Iguazu Falls.

Walls of Falling Water

Iguazu Falls is a spectacularly beautiful spot of earth. The falls themselves are a wonder… and the jungle that surrounds them magnifies their mystique even further. In just the walk from the park’s entrance to where the falls begin- a considerable hike, by the way -we encountered a troop of monkeys passing overhead through the forrest canopy. Exotic-looking birds flittered into view for only moments at a time, though their chirps and songs were ever-present.

As we approached the first set of falls- ahead of the main group -our ears filled with the deep rumble of falling water. Another turn in the path and sight was matched to sound. Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters), they were named. Jessica and I had arrived early enough to beat the crowds, so we had them all to ourselves for a while.


The sisters were just 2 of the 172 total waterfalls that make up Iguazu Falls. Sometimes it’s obvious what counts as distinct waterfalls (as in the case of the Two Sisters) and what doesn’t. In most other sections of the site, however, there were too many great curtains of overlapping, stacked and tumbling walls of water to count them up. How many waterfalls are in the photo below? Who knows and who cares? They are all beautiful.


Argentina has done an awesome job of building bridge-ways and cemented paths throughout the park. Signs and arrows easily direct visitors to every thrilling lookout point. Here we are at the top of the Devil’s Throat. Don’t get too distracted by all the silly jibber-jabber and look at how the water drops off into the void. So cool!

So much fast-falling water created clouds of mist that rained down onto the on-lookers. Jessica was smart and wore her water-repellant jacket. I got all wet.


Just the two of us…


This bridge-way takes visitors headlong into the plunging water.


Visiting Iguazu Falls in single day is totally doable and surely the way most people do it. However, we were very glad to have planned it for two days; no rush, no fuss…and the second day ticket prices were half-off! The thrills kept going on day two when we boarded a boat and literally plunged into the falls.


Animals of Iguazu

Below is a coatis. These peculiar looking animals are about the size of a large house cat with tails and noses that both are disproportionately long for their bodies. Coatis mostly hung out around the snack shacks or wherever else people were eating. Signs were everywhere warning people not to feed them. One such sign even contained a graphic color photo of a boys hand that had (supposedly) been scratched or bitten by either a monkey or coatis. The odd little creatures looked harmless enough to me, but Jessica was having none of them, shooing them away with attitude whenever they approached.



The top two pics in the collage below are of the same butterfly- swirly black, white, with red on the outside, and black and translucent blue on the inside -crazy! Next, we have a coatis stopping traffic. Lastly, a friendly bird we nicknamed Kevin (because he reminded us of the long lost bird from UP!).


Yellow butterflies were EVERYWHERE. One of the walking trails looked like a butterfly highway. These three happy flyers are on their way… to where, we could not tell. In the river above the falls, we saw several gigantic catfish. A very nice looking spotted lizard gives us a glance before slinking deeper into the jungle. Here is one of only two turtles we saw. I wonder if most of the turtles wind up surfing the falls…if you know what I mean.


The specialness of being present at this grand place was never lost on us. Though it seemed downright crowded with people at times, we know that relatively few people in this world will ever visit Iguazu Falls. While we certainly hope you enjoyed seeing our pictures and videos from there, our far greater is our hope that one day you will be able to see the falls of Iguazu for yourself.

Horsing Around in Argentina

(Mendoza, Argentina – 7 Nov 2013) New country. New challenges. New adventures. Argentina, the 5th country on our journey around the world, will certainly provide some thrills and chills. Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Ushuaia- the city at the bottom of the world -are guaranteed highlights, but first….we cross the Andes mountains and check out an interesting little city called Mendoza. Malbec wine, all-natural grass-fed beef, and horseback riding are on the horizon.

Getting Out of Dodge

Leaving Santiago was harder than we expected. Not so much emotionally, because though we enjoyed our month-long stay in this standout city, we were ready to continue our world tour. The hard part was simply getting a bus. We’d originally planned to depart Santiago on Halloween (Oct 31), a Thursday, but for reasons no one could adequately explain, that day was a national holiday in Chile. And so was Friday, thereby creating a four-day weekend for Chileans. The result was that every bus seat out of Santiago was sold before we could snag our two spots. Faced with this dilemma, our next best choice was to leave the following morning. Actually, we could have bought two seats on a 10 PM bus and still left on Thursday, but that meant traveling through the beautiful Andes in the dark of night. Unacceptable! The Andes are something to see, not sleep through.

The next morning arrived and we made it to the bus station, tickets in hand. Our big bags were loaded under the bus and we placed ourselves casually at the bus’s entrance…relaxed, grinning, and ready to board. Then it all went to the crapper. The bus attendant asked us for our passports and reciprocity tariff receipts to Argentina. Tariff what? “Oh, we’ll pay that at the border,” we tell him. We knew about this $160 each tariff, but what we didn’t know is that we couldn’t board the bus without proof that we’d already paid it. Within seconds, the bus attendant shouted for our bags to be removed from the cargo hold. We pleaded our case, but nobody was listening.

Jessica and I were left shocked and chagrined (and pretty pissed) as our bus drove away without us. The most upsetting part of it was that the guy who sold us the bus tickets never mentioned the required tariff. How terribly easy it would have been for him to explain that we’d need to pay the tax first? Aaargh!

As it was, we were dumb-stuck at the terminal, getting advise on what to do next from several similarly uninformed strangers. One person told us that everything was closed for the long holiday and that we have to wait until Monday to pay the stupid tariff. Fortunately, this was not true. The solution was to go online and pay it, which we did. We also got a refund from the mean bus company and repurchased new tickets (from their competitor, HA!) for the following morning (Saturday). Bright side: Bonus day in Santiago!

Traversing the Andes

So glad we didn’t settle for the overnight bus. Snow-peaked mountains became snow-covered mountains as our Saturday morning bus ascended higher and higher into the range. An old abandoned railroad line followed through the same valley as did our highway. Imagining what it must have been like riding that rail in its heyday was wistful fun. The old train mostly chugged between the high mountains, but also tunneled through them when necessary. We saw the train tracks soaring over gorges, too, though sometimes the rails, with ties still attached, sagged helplessly across the gaps because the truss supports had long since washed away.

The funny-looking tunnel things covering the highway (in the pic below) were built to help keep the road passable during the winter.


Each curve of the highway brought a new landscape into view. Our bus was not full so both Jessica and I took window seats and repeatedly claimed our side had the most spectacular views. The border between Chile and Argentina splits the range through the middle so when our bus stopped for immigration and customs we knew our passage through the Andes was halfway over. We also felt the bus enjoying more downhill runs than uphill battles once we’d crossed into Argentina.

For as unimaginably long as the Andes north-south run is- the same related burst of mountains stretches all the way from South America up to the Canadian Rockies -its east-west width can be traversed in a matter of hours by bus. By plane, it takes less than 10 minutes to cross them! But then you would miss seeing all their majesty up close and so beautiful.


The city of Mendoza, Argentina was not on our radar screen (meaning, we’d never heard of it) until Jessica read the book Alive, about the Uruguayan rugby team, some of whom survived more than months in the Andes after their plane crashed. The plane’s original flight plan had them crossing the Andes on Thursday, May 12, 1972, but a storm forced them to land in Mendoza until the weather cleared the next day (on Friday, the 13th). The book’s positive depiction of Mendoza prompted us to look into it further. We liked what we read and reserved a hostel in Mendoza for four nights.

Sites from our city tour and bike ride.





Jessica enjoys an occasional glass of red wine and will typically choose to drink Malbec, if available. Mendoza is Malbec country! There are dozens of vineyards encircling Mendoza, many producing some of the finest Malbec wine in the world.

One day we rented bikes and rode to San Martín park, a huge tree covered green space 15 minutes from the city center. We stopped for lunch at a lakeside cafe and shared a sandwich. Jessica ordered a glass of wine. Moments later the waitress showed up with a bottle. Turns out they don’t sell wine by the glass. Based on the menu price we would never have imagined that little bit of money would get Jessica a bottle of delicious wine. Win!


Trees weren’t just in abundance at the park. The designers of Mendoza made sure trees lined every city street. Yes, EVERY street. Tall, green, beautiful trees, spaced about 20 feet apart were planted next to where you’d find the streets’ gutters. And what gutters these were! Except when covered by the mini-bridges that turned into driveways, they were as open as streams and surely keys to keeping the all the city’s trees well-watered. Genius!

Gauchos and Green Tea

Argentina is known the world over for its excellent beef. Based solely on what I would like to be true I’m giving full credit for the succulent steaks to the legendary Argentinian “gouchos” or cowboys. Much like their cowboys cousins in Texas, the gouchos raise cattle and drive them to market once the green grasses of the Argentine plains have sufficiently plumped their rumps.

To get a small taste of the goucho lifestyle, Jessica and I reserved two saddles on a sunset horseback ride. A van picked us up at the hostel around 3 in the afternoon and drove us (and 12 others) out to a small ranch some 30 minutes north of Mendoza. Hot, dry and dusty conditions encased the isolated ranch house. The horses were tied up nearby and our hostess, Sharon, greeted us with a big smile. She let us know we’d be riding soon, but first told us about a rich Argentine tradition– te de mate.

It’s a gesture of warmth and conviviality to share a cup of tea…literally, a cup of tea, as in, one cup of tea for everyone. The host starts it out by adding hot water to a special silver cup, which looks nothing like any tea cup we’ve ever seen before. It’s thick walls and distinctive curves give it the look of a tiny urn more than a tea cup. And then there was the ornately designed silver straw sprouting from its mouth. Before the hot water, in went finely chopped tea leaves, loose in the cup; no tea bag. The cup is passed around for everyone to sip from. Each time it’s sucked dry, the host will refresh the cup with more hot water and then continue passing it around until everyone has shared its warmth.

A goucho enjoying some tea.

This tradition is not limited to the goucho culture. Perhaps that’s where it started, but we saw the custom in practice throughout Argentina. When it was done for us at the ranch, Jessica and I were lucky enough to be offered the cup first so we didn’t have to partake in anyone else’s babas.


The gouchos finished preparing the horses and then joined our tea party just long enough to greet each person with a jovial handshake for the guys and a kiss on the cheek for the ladies. Moments later we all walked over to the horses for 20 seconds of instructions.
About a third of our group had significant prior riding experience, another third just a little, and the final few…none at all. They chose horses for the more experienced riders first. I (perhaps stupidly) raised my hand to be in that group. Even though I am from Texas I have only ridden horses a handful of times. Still, I figured, I have no fear of the beasts. And so my hand was up for one of the first few horses. Jessica hung back and got a later horse.


We were told that the herd has its own internal horse-heirarchy. This shows up when they eat together- the higher ranking horses eating first -and it can also come up on the trail- if a lower order horse goes to pass a superior, he may receive a little warning kick. Once we were all mounted up, the gouchos made snicker-click sounds with their mouths to get the horses moving. Riders needed only to sit and look pretty; the horses knew the drill and slowly moseyed single file down the dusty trail…presumably in their correct pecking-order. Jessica’s horse was just in front of mine as our two horses were described as a team with Jessica’s horse being the leader.


The roads and trails were super dry and dusty. Riverbeds and gullies had no water and all variety of cactus ruled the landscape. We heard it had not rained in eight months. Riding in these harsh conditions prompted me to ponder life on the range. In the distance were the foothills of the Andes mountains. The bright sun approached them from above, we from the east. What if we were not tourists, but real gouchos and this was our life? It’s a two-day ride to make those mountains, boys, and another 10 days to cross ’em. Our ride was relatively short and well-controlled but long enough for contemplation.

The degree to which horses shaped our present-day world cannot be overstated. Early explorers, mapmakers, prospectors, messengers, and warriors (especially warriors), all on horseback…drew the map of our world and defined the countries that share its surface. Think of how many long, lonely rides it took to do it. These were my thoughts as we plodded and sometimes trotted through the desert. Jessica’s thoughts were more centered on the amazing nature of what we were doing. We were riding horses with real gouchos in Argentina! Who’da ever thunk it?

Crazy Horse

Our group of 16 (including the gouchos) became widely spread out along the trail as some horses galloped the trails while others trudged more slowly or paused to munch on some scrub. At one point, my horse was towards the back of the line. I’d stopped to snap some pics, camera in my right hand, reins in my left. My horse seemed tense and fidgety the entire ride; a foretelling of what happened next. One of the gouchos rode up on my right and stopped. For whatever reason, my horse got a bit spooked and dipped his head and shoulders low and to the left. He did this little move a second time and more forcefully. Horse gone wild! The bucking caused me to pitch left until falling off seemed inevitable. In a flash, I imagined my horse galloping out of control across the desert floor with me hanging on for dear life. Better to go with the fall and hope for the best.

I landed on my back-side with my right elbow seeming to take the brunt of the fall. My horse shuffled next to me, but thankfully didn’t catch me with his step. The goucho jumped off his horse right away and asked me if I was okay. For the first few seconds I was not sure if I was okay or not. Give me a minute, I told him. 20131114-195536.jpg My elbow was bloodied and embedded with gritty-sandy dirt. My right ankle was cut and bleeding, too. The water bottle around my neck got crushed pretty good. I’m not sure exactly how that happened but I’m glad it wasn’t my head.

Overall, my body checked out okay so moments later I was back on my crazy horse and tepidly riding again. You can see from the pics just how rocky and full of cactus the terrain is. So glad I didn’t fall onto a rock or have my butt impaled by a cactus.

Back at the Ranch

Included in our excursion was dinner- a flank of Argentinian beef cooked over an open flame. The sun set perfectly and the crescent moon and Venus took over the western sky. Stars showed themselves in turn as we drank wine and chatted with others from our group- several from Holland, Norway, Germany, England (Jessica and I were the only ones from the US). Soon the meat was ready and we surrounded the table to feast. Even though I’ve been a chicka-fisha-tarian for decades, I wasn’t going to turn down this traditional Argentinian meal. There’s no denying it, either; it was delicious.


I even tried the wine… with far less success.

After dinner a guitar appeared. Only me and one of the girls from Norway showed any interest in it. The girl had not picked up a guitar in years, but strummed around a bit until a few songs from her past returned to her fingers. I played one of the only songs I’m halfway capable of making it through, Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd. When finished, I looked to Jessica and saw her eyes touched with emotion. She explained how the song and its lyrics of longing made her think about all the people in her life that she wished could be there with us in this amazing place and at that beautiful moment. I confessed I was just trying not to mess up the strum pattern.

Mendoza at dusk as seen from the ranch.

Despite my fall, the sunset horseback ride was definitely a highlight of our stop in Mendoza. Argentina is big country with lots more to see and do. Buenos Aires is still ahead and so are the falls of Iguazu. Even the Straights of Magellan at the southern tip of Argentina are a possibility. Onward we travel…

Here’s another parting look at this impressive monument to General San Martín, liberator of Argentina (from Spain). That’s the general at the front. Notice also the winged angel of liberty breaking the chains of oppression as she leads the soldiers into battle.