It was just four days ago that we landed back in Cordoba. An over-night bus brought us home from Buenos Aires, and although I was sad to leave my parents after having them with us for five weeks, and I felt wonky after not sleeping very well on the bus, I was thrilled to have not one, but THREE Christmas cards from friends in the states waiting for us. And I have to admit, it has been nice to start getting back into our “routine” here. I think I may finally be seeing the end of the laundry tunnel. I remember a friend once saying that she was tackling the Mount Everest of laundry, and these past few days, I know exactly what she meant.
After spending about 10 days in and around Cordoba, we hopped a flight south to Bariloche. Bariloche is a gorgeous place in the mountains, and we rented a large house with an incredible view of the Lake Nahuel Huapi. This was, honestly, our view of the lake from the house:
Really, it does not get much more beautiful than that!
It was nice to have a big space to spread out in Bariloche, but like so many, many things in Argentina, this house had little things about it that made us wonder. What are those wires hanging out of the ceiling? What is that hole in the fireplace? Were they going to build a deck, and just ran out of money, or is this house built on an old foundation?
Bariloche was great because everyone got to do a little bit of what they wanted to do. My dad and Rob went fly fishing:
My mom and I ate a lot of chocolate and ice cream (photos unavailable), and the kids got a lot of great outside play time:
Bariloche is very windy, though, and one morning, after a particularly bad wind storm, I woke up to find all three kids in Molly’s bed:
I would say that we moved on further south to El Calafate because we had our fill of chocolate (Bariloche is known for its chocolate), but anyone who knows me would know that that’s a lie. There is no such thing as too much chocolate, but our time was up in Bariloche, so we checked out of the house, and headed to the airport to catch our flight to El Calafate.
When traveling with seven people, you can guarantee that there will be at least a couple of wrinkles, and our flight from Bariloche to El Calafate was one of them. We arrived at the airport with enough time to grab some water, and make a trip to the bathroom. After waiting for a flight that was “delayed” for about two hours, we were told by the airlines (actually, Rob had to go up and ask, and right after he asked, there was an announcement over the intercom) that our flight had been cancelled, and we would have to wait until the flight five hours later that evening. As happens anywhere, the crew for our original flight were over their flight time after the delay, so they couldn’t fly. We were disappointed, and feeling tired, but what could we do? We decided to take a cab back into town and get some lunch, or at least, I thought ice cream!
This was a case where it paid off BIG TIME to be traveling with small children (and I don’t usually say that!). When we went to the ticket counter to ask if we could store our bags at the airport, the ticket agent said, “Well, aren’t you a family with young children?”
“Yes,” we replied, wondering, “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well,” the ticket agent said, “your children are probably tired. We will get you a room in town so they can rest.”
Rob and I exchanged looks that said, “Are you serious?”
It was siesta time in Argentina, and you don’t mess with siesta! So we happily took two cabs back into town (paid for by the airlines), then checked into the hotel for the afternoon. For whatever reason, I told the woman at the hotel counter that we could really all just fit in one room.
She looked at me like I was crazy: “But you’re seven people! How will you fit? We’ll give you three rooms.” Luckily, at that point, I decided to shut up.
This was a time when what could have been a very frustrating situation turned out much better than we could have imagined.
We arrived in El Calafate much later than we had planned, but settled into our rooms and decided to hit the little town the next day, and figure out how we would spend our time there.
El Calafate is a lovely little town. The town is very clean by Argentine standards (maybe it’s all the wind?), the streets are wide, and the pavement is smooth, and they have wonderful sidewalks throughout. Also, this is the home town of the president of Argentina. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter.
We spent four days in Calafate seeing amazing things, the likes of which, I don’t think I will ever see again. Glaciers:
Sheep shearing by hand:
And some really, REALLY big icebergs:
Some of us had a better view than others:
That’s my dad shooting from the first-class cabin.
And others of us didn’t really care about the view:
Molly slept through the first two hours of the boat ride, and woke up next to a huge iceberg. Needless to say, she was a little confused.
After a couple of days of icebergs and glaciers, Rob and I were off…….SIN CHICOS…….to El Chalten for three days of hiking. El Chalten is about a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride north of El Calafate. It is a haven for hikers and backpackers, and Rob and I had flashback after flashback of our backpacking trip to Asia almost 13 years ago. We came into El Chalten much older, much wiser (I would like to think), and much more discriminating than many of the other hikers. Although we stayed in a modest hostel it was fantastic to have our own bathroom, a fairly comfortable bed (on a frame off the floor–unlike many of the beds we slept on in Asia), and enough cash to have fantastic dinners out.
We decided to do the longer hike the first day (28 km round trip!!!!!), and were rewarded with views of Cerro Torre like this:
After which we rewarded ourselves with desserts like this:
Tired and sore after a long hike the first day, we took a “shorter” hike the second day to the Fitz Roy range, and although I told Rob I wasn’t sure I would make it all the way to the look-out (10 km one-way), I am so, so, SO glad that I did:
Our trip to El Chalten would never have been possible if it hadn’t been for my amazing parents, DAVE AND CATHY STEVENS, who volunteered to watch the kids for us so we could have some time away. The cottage/hotel they stayed at in El Calafate was cozy but cramped, and we are so GRATEFUL to them for taking on three of their busy, rambunctious grandchildren in a country where they speak very little of the language.
A couple hot baths with epsom salt, a bus ride, and plane trip later, we were in Buenos Aires, back in the heat and humidity of the Argentine summer.
Upon arriving at the house that we had rented in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of BA, we ran into another “snag” in our travel plans. Electricity use in Buenos Aires has grown immensely over the past 15 years, and the supply has not kept up with the demand. Power outages are common in the summer, and can last anywhere from half an hour, to two weeks. Do you see where I’m going with this?
We were hot and tired after a long travel day of over 1700 miles, and ready to just sit and relax. When we arrived at the house, however, the power was out. The caretaker told us that the power should be coming on within the hour, so we decided to stay and hope for the best. After a fantastic dinner out (really, it was amazing—-or maybe I’m just remembering their air conditioners), we came back to the house, and still, no power. I walked around the block talking with neighbors and store owners, and found out that the power in our house, and the neighbor’s house had been out for three days, and they had no idea of when it would be back on. “Maybe tonight; maybe next week” was the response I got from most.
At this point, I’ve got to hand it to my parents and kids: there was no swearing (at least, that I heard), no shrieking, no yelling, no “What-the-hell-kind-of-a-place-did-you-book?”. They were incredible troopers. We were all tired, we all realized that late on a Sunday night, we didn’t really have any other options, so we sank into fitful, mosquito-bitten sleep. When the power STILL was not on the next morning, we knew we had to make a plan. Fortunately for us, the hotel we had reservations in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay could take us early, so we packed up our things as quickly as we could, talked with the owner of the house (who agreed to refund the money), closed the door to the house (and left a key on the inside which in turn caused them to have to cut open the door–oops!), and high-tailed it over to the ferry dock to catch the next ferry just as the power came back on. Oh well.
Once on the ferry, I thought it prudent to buy my dad and Rob some beer, the kids some Fanta, and ice-cold agua con gas for my mother and me. We all shared some Oreos, and things started looking up.
We loved our time in Colonia, and had a great time just walking around the cobblestone streets, visiting the late-17th and early-18th century houses turned into museums, and……eating ice cream. This is not the best picture of my mom (she’s behind Rob), but this little pulperia, called Buen Suspiro, where we had lunch was so delightful, that I had to include this picture. Again, kudos to my kids because this was not a quick in-and-out lunch. We were probably there for about 2 1/2 hours. Fortunately, right outside is a very quiet pedestrian street, so they were in and out of the restaurant the entire time.
We eventually made it back to Buenos Aires, and to a different hotel in the Recoleta neighborhood. The heat was still fierce, and for some reason (I think we had heard rain was on its way), we decided to do one of those bus tours where you can sit up on top of a double-decker bus where the roof is cut off. The tour was great, but so was the heat. That day in Buenos Aires, the heat index reached 47.3 degrees celsius! That’s 117 degrees fahrenheit, so yeah, it was hot. Not the best day to be sitting up on top of a bus driving around a huge city. We called it quits for a late lunch, then somehow made it back to our hotel for cold, cold showers.
That night it rained, and the following day was like a gift from the travel gods who were saying, “Okay. You guys have all proved your muster. Here’s a nice cool day. Have fun!” There is no shortage of things to see and do in Buenos Aires, and we had promised the kids on a previous trip to the city that we would come back to see the zoo, so our family was zoo-bound while my parents did more grown-up sight-seeing.
Again my parents blessed us with their grandparenting skills and Rob and I had an incredible dinner out at Cafe San Juan, where we had been dying to go. We were not disappointed, and felt almost like we were back in Portland with the Argentine version of hipsters with tattoos and trucker hats.
After five weeks of togetherness (certainly more than they get of us when we’re in the States!), the Vaughn family was headed back to Cordoba, and my parents were headed back to Gig Harbor. It was an amazing time, and not only am I thrilled that my parents could (and would) take the time to visit us, and travel with us, I am thrilled that I look forward to seeing them AGAIN when we return! It’s been a long time since I lived under the same roof as my parents, and I’m proud to say that I think we all had a fantastic trip. Thanks to Rob for his amazing planning!
The day after we got home, the kids were promptly “bored,” so we have enrolled them in two weeks of summer camp. This serves two purposes: entertainment for them, and a nice little break for Rob and me!