The Argentinian asado, or grill, is a deceptively simple concept for preparing some of the most delicious meat I've ever tasted. Start with a few large, prime cuts of Argentinian beef (many different ones exist and any self-respecting Argentinian knows them all). Apply a generous amount of salt and spread the meat over a wood-fired grilling grate. Slow-cook to perfection. The grass-fed beef's richness in flavor and texture, brought out by this cooking process, ensures a mouth-watering result. On our ultimate night in Argentina, we were lucky enough to be invited to the home of Cecilia, whom we'd met at the seaside two weeks earlier, for an evening of carnivorous indulgence. Accompanied by copious amounts of Fernet-cola, Argentina's national mixed drink, and Maria's patented red cabbage salad, we got to know the more profound meaning of the asado. A social gathering that brings family, friends, people together in cozy and lively comfort. I couldn't have wished for a better ending to our brief time in this magnificent country.
Rewind two weeks, and we'd just arrived in tropical Iguazu, on the tri-border point with Brazil and Paraguay. We met up with Fabricio, a mutual friend from Copenhagen who grew up in the area and who just happened to be visiting family at the time. He took us around the Argentinian side of the falls on a sweltering summer day. We got our hands on a super-badass, all-terrain wheelchair and pushed Maria and her broken toe up and down scenic walkways, getting up close to these simply overwhelming waterfalls. One of the best days of the trip so far ended at the rooftop pool bar of a local four-star hotel, caipirinha in hand, watching the sun set over three countries at once.
Onward to the heartland of Argentina. A massive 37-hour bus ride later, we reached the scenic countryside surrounding the city of Córdoba. Temperatures were hitting 43 degrees in the shade and we passed numerous roadside bushfires on the way, which essentially turned the bus's arctic AC system into a toxic smoke machine. The locals on the bus didn't seem to bother. This little glitch aside, I can honestly say I've never been on more comfortable buses than the Argentinian coaches. Massive, plush, 180-degree-reclining bed-seats really made all the difference for tolerating our 60+ hours on the road in total. Eurolines could learn a thing or two.
Because of the insane heat, going outside between 11am and 4pm was mostly unbearable. We spent the weekend in and next to the pool in a pretentious hipster hostel, being pretentious hipsters and me working out in the hostel-affiliated gym. As part of my trip-around-the-world 2.0 philosopy, I'm trying to commit to working out regularly and whenever an opportunity arises. Even though I'm way more active and mobile when on the road, keeping a healthy diet is rather tricky, and consistent exercise is lacking entirely. Getting a gym day pass using my broken Spanish has turned out to be rather easy and cheap, and the places I've ended up in have ranged from super-fancy-elite-all-Nike to hole-in-the-wall-with-holes-in-every-wall. I can consistently report, though, that the Latin American fitness regimen seems to be entirely focused on BIG, biceps for the men, butts for the women. If there is a treadmill at all, it's usually the latest Brazilian model from 1995 with any but the three most basic buttons permanently broken. So I took all these babies to 14km/h while they rattled and wheezed to keep up and had a blast.
Mendoza was our final stop in Argentina, and the way there was perhaps even more spectacular than the previous bus ride. The historic heatwave had collapsed into massive thunderstorms which raged all around us as we drove away from Córdoba. Lightning bolts were hitting the ground less than a km off the highway every few seconds and torrential rains were inundating the cars. The locals on the bus didn't seem to bother. Upon our arrival, the wine region of Mendoza, hugging the foothills of the Andes mountain range, was in full, pre-harvest bloom. We managed to visit a few vineyards to learn about the winemaking process, but mostly to taste (a lot of) exquisite Malbec, Cabernet and other varieties. Having been to a few other wine regions in France, the US and New Zealand, I was truly impressed by the sheer number of wineries, one after the other, each with massive mountains in the backdrop.
And so, the morning after an epically cozy BBQ evening, our time in Argentina came to an end. We hopped on the bus bound for Santiago and drove up winding roads, straight into the Andes. The beautiful views (easily in my top three of bus journeys) were somewhat contrasted by the absolute clusterfuck of a border crossing procedure, with Chilean authorities holding us up for over four hours for endless paperwork checks, passport queues and nasal examinations. Nevertheless, as of two days ago, we're in Chile. The second country of the trip, where we'll meet up with some more friends from back home and participate in an international folk music camp! Our Spanish is slowly improving, our minds rapidly relaxing, and our eyes are wide open.
The trip is reaching cruising speed.
January 23rd, 2022