The long, dusty road
I’ve been traveling for two days on my way to El Chalten. While spending so much time alone on 12 hour bus rides across windblown steppe, I can’t help but reflect about the trip thus far. Here are some lessons learned, or as my mother puts it, deposits in the bank of experience. (what is the going interest rate again?)
— Traveling at 60km/hr on dirt roads feels like Mach speed after hours crawling along in a bus at 10km/hr.
–Add 1-2 hours to the approximate arrival time of any bus and expect random stops in the desert.
— Not climbing Aconcagua was the right call. Too costly on time and money and my experience would have not been what it has become.
–Travel light. With the exception of when I am in the mountains, over the past two months I have worn two shirts and one pair of pants : two Patagonia capilene tops and a pair of Patagonia pants. When it’s warm, I wear one top. When it’s cool, I wear two. They never smell, clean easily in a river and dry quickly. I swim in rivers with my pants on for washing and I’m dry in an hour. Best travel attire on the market.
–iPhones are ideal travel companions. People do like to steal them, however.
— My solar powered battery pack has been key to keeping my camera and phone going when finding power is impossible. It also feels nice to generate your own clean power (kinda like eating tomatoes out of your own garden).
— Keeping my camera’s image sensor clean is impossible. It’s time to accept it and invest in photo software to clean up those image sensor specks.
— With respect to local prices and services, guidebooks here are useless. Use the Internet. The argentine inflation rate is 20 something percent and Chile is not cheap either. Most of the time I am paying prices nearly equal to California. My last roadside coffee was 8 pesos, 2 bucks. It did not come close to my beloved morning Peets for 1.95.
— Even though I am used to it, having to pay a higher price because I am a foreigner is infuriating. Would people love visiting San Francisco so much if prices were listed as “locals” and “tourists”?
— This part of the continent seems to have sold out to tourism. It’s rare to see a menu in only Spanish and most prices are heavily inflated to make a buck off of the tourists. Sadly I feel like everything is about making another buck.
–Grocery stores and cooking for yourself are the best ways to save money. Gone are the days of sitting down to a three course meal with wine for 20 bucks a person. The secret has been out too long. When the NY Times travel section writes about a “secret” gem, it’s already too late.
–Follow Israelis and nationals if you are looking for cheap housing and camping.
— The light and weather in Patagonia is absolutely gorgeous. Prices, the political environment and numbers of tourists may change, but a fiery sunset over rugged peaks shared with a herd of guanacos is always special.