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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : Argentina and its neighbour Uruguay

 Argentina is probably the most European country of South America. If you are starting a journey on this continent and that you don´t want to adapt yourself gradually, you should land in Buenos Aires.

The population is mainly white, having a heritage from Spain, Italy or even Wales amongst others. There are only very few natives remaining unfortunately.

However, Argentina is unique. It is different from the other countries of South America for many reasons. The culture is different, their way to talk, they vision of the world or they way of living. The geography, the landscapes and the relief of the country are absolutely amazing. Argentina is without any doubt an adventurous land to discover and to travel.

From Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, I will share with you a big piece of South America. From the food, around a mate to meet the Argentineans to the incredible sight of the nature, follow me in the country of Che Guevara and of course… Still by hitchhiking!

 

 Two cities
Although one is more a megapole than  a city and the other would be closer to a village, Buenos Aires and Ushuaia are a good example of the Argentinean contrast.

Buenos Aires
We are calling it the Paris of South America. Indeed, I recognized many common points with the French capital.

The obelisk of Buenos Aires… looks like… Any suggestions?

First of all, Buenos Aires is huge. The city and its suburbs must welcome 16 millions of inhabitants, which makes Buenos Aires the second biggest urban area after Sao Paulo in Brazil.
The center has a lot of large avenues and buildings that remains some of the haussmannians avenues in Paris. It is also possible to find many cafes, with the Montmartre style terrace, like in Recoleta.

The artists are exposing in the Paseo Recoleta

The art and the bohemian style are part of the daily life of Buenos Aires. You cannot avoid it. Either you will pass in front of an exposition while coming back home, either an artist will come jangling in front of your car the time of a traffic light…  Either you are a tourist or a traveler and you will have a look in San Telmo for example.

The street artists of San Telmo are coming to life every Sunday…

 

The inhabitants look like the Parisians. The “porteño » (nickname for the people of Buenos Aires) is known to be a little bit arrogant, as the Parisian who also has this reputation in the world.

It is true that all in all, I also felt a little that they were like that. I am myself not a very big fan of the huge cities, so I probably wasn´t myself very open to meet people as I was in the smaller urban areas…


Ushuaia
Known in Europe to be a famous brand of shampoo, Ushuaia is first the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia is localized at around 1000 kilometers north of the peninsula of Antarctica but has no major interest in itself. At least I don´t think that Ushuaia itself deserved that I went out of my way for 4500 kilometers.

Here I am at the entrance of the southernmost city in the world

For me, Ushuaia means the distances between the urban areas in Argentina. Indeed, a big part of the country is not inhabited for hundreds of kilometers at times. The whole Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are the perfect example. You can drive 500 kilometers without seeing a village of 200 people. However, we will come back later to that.

Here is a panorama of the city of Ushuaia


 Hitchhiking in Argentina 
Like in Chile, hitchhiking in Argentina is called “hacer dedo”. After translation, it gives “doing the finger” in English.
The Argentinean likes to travel. It is not surprising to see some local hitchhikers on the road in Argentina. By this way, the culture of hitchhiking is known here. Showing the thumb to the driver is meaningful.

Here I am hitchhiking in the flat and very windy Patagonia

I will divide in two parts this explanation about hitchhiking in Argentina. First, I will talk about the south, from Bariloche to Ushuaia, then about the Province of Buenos Aires.


Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego
All the part from Patagonia to Tierra del Fuego is very interesting. Indeed, the distances are very long between the cities and the villages. There is not a lot of traffic of course. The best solution is to go to talk to the truck drivers in the petrol stations. Nevertheless, there is not a big choice about elsewhere to go.  Then, it is easier de get a ride by talking directly to the driver. The asset is that those one are realizing very long distances. Some of them leave for two or three weeks, only to deliver some goods.

When I was waiting for long hours in the petrol-stations, I was spending my time to get to know the staff

I beat my record of the longest distance with one vehicle. A truck indeed drove me for 1450 kilometers, from Tres Rios (which is in fact only a petrol station lost in the middle of Patagonia) to Bahia Blanca.
The landscape of Patagonia is incredibly boring. Imagine the same relief, the same color and a road only going straight for 2000 kilometers. I have never seen so few diversity of landscape in my journey, which makes Patagonia somewhat incredible at the end.

With only one picture, I can show you what Patagonia is all about


The Province of Buenos Aires

Hitchhiking becomes more difficult when we are getting closer to the capital. As in every big city, there is more criminality so people trust less each others. I found it more difficult to go to talk to the drivers, even in the petrol stations.
The vehicles were passing on my side without that the driver looked at me. For those reasons, the time of waiting on the road was longer, even more sometimes than in Patagonia, but the traffic was much more intense.

 

A protesting population
After having traveled in Argentina, I am less surprised to know that Che Guevara was from this country. The Argentinean like to say when something doesn´t work and he doesn´t hesitate to go on the street to say so. In a certain way it made me think of the French fame for demonstrating on the street.

I have witnessed several time in Argentina that the people was passing messages in different ways to the government.
In Bariloche for example. It was a statue of a former general Julio A. Roca on the main square. This one was glorified for his past of exploratory and his invasions on the land of the natives during a period names “the campaign of the desert”. His actions led to the almost total extermination of some native ethnic group like the Mapuche. His statue has been covered by a lot of graffiti accusing him of genocide.

The statue of the general Julio A.Roca, painted with graffiti in Bariloche

A little bit further in Bahia Blanca, I was walking on the street with my host near the central square. There it was a group of Argentineans with drums and whistles. They were demonstrating for social rights.

In La Plata, a student town near Buenos Aires, a concert was organized on one of the main square if the city. This one had for main purpose to demonstrate for the rights of workers that wasn´t respected in some factories.

In the Tierra del Fuego, the problem of the Malvinas (or Falkland in english) is still not forgotten in the spirit of the Argentineans. Everywhere it is possible to see the proofs of the willing to take back this piece of land.
In Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego, a monument has been built to remember this island (“the Falklands are Argentineans”)

 

The culture is in the dish
It is obvious that some parts of the Argentinean culture are in the food or in the beverages.
The national drink isn´t the red wine, even if this one is more exported. The mate is much more consumed in Argentina.


The mate

The mate is a kind of tea. The Argentinean put some dried leaves in a cup often made of wood. Then he is filling it with hot water, that has to be taken of the fire just before boiling. After, he drinks it with a kind of metallic straw. You can drink it sweet or bitter.

Here is what you need to prepare a good mate

The Argentinean is drinking mate the whole day. It is not rare to see them walking in the street with a thermos filled with hot water. I think I drank mate every day in Argentina, during the five weeks I spent in the country. Indeed, mate is a social tradition and it has to be shared with the people that are here. I really like the concept of sharing of the mate because it naturally creates a social interaction.

Here I am drinking mate in the Cordillera of the Andes, near Bariloche

The Argentinean is going everywhere with his mate.  My truck drivers were often preparing their mate while they were driving… Even if they were risking to lose control of their vehicle.

A truck driver preparing his mate while driving


The asado

Argentina must be the country the less adapted for vegetarians! Indeed, the asado means that Argentina has a culture of the barbecue. The Argentinean is eating a lot of meat and when he is preparing some, there is enough of it for two or three days.

The meat asado, cooked with a fire

Once again, the goal is to gather together to socialize. Also, the red wine is often coming with this kind of meal. The Argentinean wine, like the Chilean one, is recognized for its quality.


The Italian influence

I realized that it was a very big Italian influence in the Argentinean cuisine. I had the opportunity to find very often on the table meals like pizzas, pastas, gnocchi. Those meals are prepared usually during working days. They are totally part of the culture.

My host Matias in El Calafate was preparing his own pizzas

In Italy, I remember having eaten very good gelaterias. Those delicious ice-creams were sold at every street corner. Here in Argentina, it is possible to find them everywhere also. The ice-cream is available in some shops called “heladerias”. The possible tastes seem to all be attractive.

The heladeria or the paradise of the ice-cream, like here in Buenos Aires

In the United States you have the Peanut butter, in Australia, they eat the Vegemite, in Europe we have the Nutella, in Argentina I tasted the “Dulce de Leche”. It looks like a kind of cream of milk that they use to eat with bread. Personally, I really liked.

The Dulce de Leche

 

Beautiful Argentina
Traveling in Argentina, this is observing incredible landscapes and discovering a surprising flora and fauna.  

Remember in Alaska, it was possible to watch the sunlight until very late. Indeed, we were very close to the North Pole. During the summer, the sun was lighting this part of the world almost during the all 24hours of the day. In Tierra del Fuego, the situation is very similar. Indeed, we are very near the South Pole. I traveled in this area in the beginning of the summer.

The light in Tierra del Fuego is incredible during summer. Here, this is a sunset around 11.30pm.

A little more north, in Patagonia, there is one of the most famous glacier in the world: the Perito Moreno. It is a place that I really wanted to visit because it is one of the spot that I wanted to visit before to start my journey.
The glacier is absolutely huge. However, with the global warming, it is melting. This leads to huge explosions of ice, like if it was thunders.

The Perito Moreno

In some part of the journey, I have been surprised by what the nature was offering to me. Near Bariloche, I was hiking towards the “Cerro Catedral”. On its top, it had a lake that I really found beautiful.

The lake on the top of the Cerro Catedral

The fauna is also interesting. Even if I don´t like those animal, I had the opportunity to meet some tarantulas, from the family of the Paraphysa according to its scientific name.
I just had crossed the border between Chili and Argentina when I was walking for half a hour, allowing me to meet 6 of them crossing the road in front of me… Making me think about the idea to sleep outside that night…

One of the tarantula crossing the road in front of me

As the north and the Pampa are known to have a lot of cows, as the south has only sheep. The sheep are indeed everywhere in Patagonia. It is very easy to spot them on the side of the road, and even sometimes in the middle of it.

One of the many cattle of sheep in Patagonia.

 

Two last part about the Argentinean
To end our presentation about Argentina, I couldn´t forget two important details about the Argentinean culture: the football and the “che”.

The che
If Che Guevara had this name, it was because of his way of speaking Spanish. The Chileans have their own accent and words. The Argentineans too. Indeed, the Argentinean is modifying the pronunciation of the « ll » (pronounced « ya » in Spanish from Spain) to a «ch ». Also, he can call you by telling you “che”.
The “che” is something typically Argentinean.  

The football
The Argentinean is living around football. The country has already won two world cup and a lot of international football players are Argentineans. Let´s say Diego Armando Maradona or the last “Ballon d´or” Lionel Messi amongst others.  

In the area of La Boca, we can see a graffiti about Diego Maradona

Football is very followed, especially the derby of Buenos Aires between River Plate and Boca Junior.

 
Little tour in Uruguay
Before to get in Brazil, I decided to pass by this little country situated in the middle of two giants of South America. Uruguay is very similar to Argentina and especially its province of Buenos Aires.

The Uruguayan is very proud of his country. There is a friendly little argue about the origin of the mate. I just can say that I think that the Uruguayan are consuming even more mate than the Argentineans.

A place selling mate in a market of the capital Montevideo

Montevideo is looking like a little Buenos Aires… But much smaller. Some of the buildings deserve nevertheless to be seen, like the Palacio Salvo, high of 95 meters.

The Palacio Salvo in Montevideo

Hitchhiking seemed to me much more difficult in Uruguay than in Argentina. I really felt many difficulties to cross this country. Maybe because it was the summer holidays season that was starting.

Here I am hitchhiking in Uruguay

Now I am keeping traveling towards the North. Another big country is waiting for me now: Brazil. I will probably spend three months and then going to Venezuela, which will be my last country to visit in America.

See you very soon,

Jeremy



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