I’m in the Argentinian side of Patagonia. I’ve been here for about three weeks, since I crossed into the province of Neuquén after Mendoza. But only for the past week, as I rode through Villa Pehuenia, San Martin de los Andes, Villa Angostura, Bariloche, and El Bolsón have I been surrounded by mountains, rivers, and lakes emblematic of Patagonia.
Along with enjoying gorgeous vistas, experiencing daily weather changes and anticipating unexpected sleeping configurations every night, I have been slowly adjusting to the daily rhythm of riding with Argentinians. I met Mariano from Buenos Aires about a month ago. One week later, we met up with his friend, Guillermo. Since then we have met up with a couple from Mendoza and a chico from the southern coast of Argentina. I’m trying to have a “When in Rome” attitude, but I would be lying if I said it isn’t a challenge. Here are some of the differences that I have observed and experienced so far…
First of all, I have to say Argentinians are some of the friendliest and most giving people I’ve ever met. In a short time, I feel like family. The well-being of the group mentality in Latin America vs the figure-it-out-on-your-own individualist mentality of the United States is definitely alive and well here!
FOOD: Argentinians like their meat! Asados on the parilla (grilled meat on the grill), or a la braza (on coals or wood) is a daily occurrence. If meat for one meal is good, two meals is better. My dear companion, Guillermo, heads for the supermarket at the end of most days to buy his slab of meat.
Bread is consumed in mass quantities for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is not Mexico; tortillas are not part of the cuisine. We are talking straight-up white bread. It’s good stuff. I’m turning into the Pillsbury dough girl!
Dulce de leche! This carmel-like substance is killing me. Why eat real food when you could just eat dulce de leche all day? I now have an extra stomach roll dedicated just to products made with this maravilla…ice-cream, cookies, cakes, chocolates. Whatever, I give up long ago!
DRINKS: No-brainer here…Yerba mate is king! It’s a special tea drank from a special gourd with a special silver “straw.” What I have found out is that it’s not so much the tea itself that is important but rather the ceremony behind the tea. Mate is almost always shared. It can be enjoyed any time of day, but the most common time is late afternoon. Someone pours the hot water from a thermos over the mate and drinks the first round then the mate (gourd) is refilled and given to the next person and so on depending on how many people are present. What I love most about this tradition is that it’s an opportunity to drop everything and communicate directly/build personal relationships everyday. I have talked to entrepreneurs, professionals and parents from every walk of life and all agree that this personal time is sacred and much anticipated. Okay, maybe Mate cuts Argentinas GNP in half but who cares? What matters is that friends and family are tight!
SCHEDULE: Here’s where things start to get difficult.
Breakfast: Argentinians eat a very small breakfast which usually consists of coffee or tea and bread with jam and butter or simply cookies. That’s it!
Lunch: Lunch is usually full on. Similar to a small dinner. This can be anytime around 1-3pm. (So far this isn’t too crazy).
Mereinder (snack): This is usually where you have your mate and more bread or cookies with family/friends. This usually takes place anytime from 6-9pm.
Dinner: Still with me? This is where it gets crazy…dinner is anywhere between 9pm, on the early side, and midnight! Yep, I was awakened from a deep sleep by Argentinian neighbors in my camp site who invited me to their asado (remember? Grilled meat!) at midnight.
Since my body can’t make sense of this schedule, but I really want to fit in and keep up, I find myself eating on my American schedule and then making the quick turnaround to eat on my host countries schedule. This bridging the cultural gap gesture is definitely taking a toll on my already compromised waist-line. I now call it my wasted-line !
The other repercussion of this schedule is that everyone is taking their siesta between 1-5pm daily, and restaurants usually don’t start serving dinner or even open until 9pm, so even if you want to follow your own schedule you’re screwed.
I could go on forever, but I’ll stop.
Tomorrow I start making my way to the Chilean boarder. By this time next week I’ll be on the Carretera Austral in the Chilean side of Patagonia. This is where the idea for this trip began! It will be super remote, challenging and isolated, but I’m definitely up for it. Marino, from Buenos Aires, decided to detour from Route 40 in Argentina and accompany me for a while. Excited to have a friend ride along!
Thanks for following my journey! I will post again as soon as wifi permits.
Lots of love,