Argentina One, Part Two: An Introduction to Patagonian Hospitality

I already wrote about the correlation between how nice a car is and how unlikely it is for the driver to stop and pick you up, and now I can see that the same thing is true for how nice a house is and how unlikely it is for the people living in it to allow you to camp on their lawn. We were declined three times, once by a man who explained that he has a young daughter in the house. Statistics, however, does not fail. I mean, it’s hard to believe we could ask one thousand people and get declined by all of them, right? With this encouraging thought I approached the fourth house, and knocked on the door.

The man didn’t know English, the woman did. At first they didn’t understand why we don’t just go to a hotel. This happens a lot in South America. People see you with two nice motorcycles and immediately assume that if you have six grand for a bike surely you have $100 for a hotel. Go explain issues of cash flow versus initial capital to them. Fortunately the woman came through and yelled at him “no tienen plata!” They don’t have money! They said of course we can camp on their lawn. Next they offered us use their shower, to Erika’s delight. After an hour we were both clean and eating pizza on their table, explaining why the wine they are sipping tastes like orange juice. Before dinner was up Ana and Marcelo insisted we sleep in the house (the oldest child, Santiago, was out in Buenos Aires). And then they left for a party, leaving us in a clean nice house with two children and a baby sitter sleeping on a king size bed with the lights of Dumbo flickering on their faces. We felt at home and fell into deep sleep.

Ana and Marcelo, our new frineds. Notice the tent in the background that we never slept in. Erika’s dream come true

From Bariloche, ArgentinaThe next morning we were going to leave. We started to pack hesitantly when we saw the dark clouds above. When Ana and Marcelo said that if we stayed they would throw a parilla (Argentinian Barbecue) in our honor the decision was made for us. Another day it is.

A trip like this depends on the art of balancing many things: Your own will versus your respect for the will of the other, your comfort level versus your expenses, and in this case, your ability to stick to a plan versus your ability to be spontaneous.

Setting Franco on the right path

From Bariloche, Argentina

Sure we had to be in Ushuaia by January 20th (we were meeting our moms), but earlier in the trip we realized that one of the most special thing about it is the different way in which time feels. One aspect related to this is the fact that it is possible for you to live only in the present, without any plans, without any obligations to keep appointments. You are a complete master of your When and Where. On the other hand, you don’t want your When and Where to become a master of you, and lure you into staying in one place for longer than you want just because you can’t be bothered to pack, which on the bike, as we all know, is always a bitch. So, for the sake of balance, we decided to stay in a place more than planned for special occasions.

Spontaneity with a touch of reason.

Though Ana and Marcelo only moved into the house a week before we showed up, one of the first things they had set up was a barbecue pit outside. Marcelo drove to town and came back with a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of kilos of beef. They refused to let us pay. We were having our first taste of Patagonian hospitality. We also had our first taste of the Patagonian Asado, and it was absolutely the best steak both of us had in our lives.

What follows I had written in a different blog entry that protruded into the future (or present), called The Tire Saga, but using the words “the best steak in our lives” deserves some sort of explanation. It all starts with the animals. In the thousands of miles we covered in Argentina the only form in which we saw cows and sheep was out in pastures, roaming freely and happily through the vast lands, never in a cow factory confined to cages, as in the States. This is the only reason I can think of for why the meat here tastes so much better than in the States. Yes, the animals die, and are eaten, but it seems that unlike in the States, they are happy during their lives, and so their happiness must pass into their flesh. Next, the meat is never stuffed into a freezer. The Gauchos sell their cows directly to the butchers, who sell them directly to the people. Finally, when people here fire up the barbecue it always takes a lot of time. No one uses gas barbecues, as they are commonly used in the states, only wood and charcoal. They wait till the coals are ready, remove them all except for a lone coal for every square inch or so, and grill the meat over low for a long time, taking live coals every now and then to replace the dying ones.

discussing the finer points of parilla

From Bariloche, Argentina


From Bariloche, Argentina

We spent the rest of the day touring around Bariloche with Ana and Marcelo, and their two kids, Franco and Mora, in the car. Our most interesting stop was a chocolate factory / shop owned by their friends. We sipped delicious (I’m tired of saying “the best we had,” but if it wasn’t, it sure came close ) hot chocolate overlooking the Nahuel Huapi Lake. Another stop, less interesting but quite necessary, was the supermarket. That night I made Lasagna—something I make only for special occasions—and Erika made a chard and garlic salad. Both, along with another couple bottles of wine, blew our hosts away. We were finally feeling that we were giving and not just taking.

view from the chocolate factory

From Bariloche, Argentina

Mora after too much sugar

From Bariloche, Argentina

Mora and Franco post-sugar rush

From Bariloche, Argentina

making mokopelet

From Bariloche, Argentina

The next morning Ana made us Milanesa (=schnitzel) sandwiches for the road. After having some left over lasagna and making a bad attempt of leaving “first thing in the morning” we were back on the road again at 2 pm. We felt a real connection with our hosts and in fact left some things in their house as a promise that we will return on our way back north. Saying goodbye was very moving, and both Ana and Marcelo shed tears which revealed how they felt about us. We were glad it was mutual, and were touched by their revelation of emotion.

love you guys

From Bariloche, Argentina

puppy pit-stop

From Bariloche, Argentina
From Bariloche, Argentina

By the afternoon we were in El Bolson, and by early evening we were wasting time internetting in Esquel. We refueled in Trevelin, and continued on a dirt road towards the border crossing with Chile. Had we known that this would be the last time we would see asphalt in many days we would have been less casual with our goodbyes. As the sun was setting we entered a picturesque estancia with an adorable puppy. The welcomed us to camp on their land, and within the hour we were having wine and homemade Limoncello in their home. They left Buenos Aires a year ago in favor of the view that their new land afforded them. We could relate.

we like puppies

From Nearing the Chilean Border and the Careterra Austral

setting up camp

From Nearing the Chilean Border and the Careterra Austral
From Nearing the Chilean Border and the Careterra Austral


From Nearing the Chilean Border and the Careterra Austral

The next morning we reached the border crossing, and the Carretera Austral.
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2 Responses to Argentina One, Part Two: An Introduction to Patagonian Hospitality

  1. Ellen Marson says:

    I loved reading this entry – seeing and reading about lands we have traversed. I love love love that part of the world. We crossed bfrom Bariloche across the seven lakes to Chile. The story with Ana and Marcelo is beautiful – I could taste those great steaks…
    how will you ever return??? And that rainbow scene from the chocolate factory – as though you were hallucinating from too much chocolate??? New and wonderful people, incredible land and skies, thrilling tastes, what else could one ask for??


  2. Tito says:

    Please, excuse my poor english.
    I´d just found your site today. I was reading the Hubb and I found “Two Dakars and 10 monthes of riding…we’ll see how far we get”.
    I´m sure we met in the gas station in Gobernador Costa (Chubut, Argentina). Please excuse my memory too, because I didn´t remember your names, or maybe I didn´t ask you. But I remember very well you were the only people that helped me when my bike fall because of a missing bolt and the nut from my stand.

    I´m very sorry I didn´t take a picture of you since your were the only nice BMW driver I´ve ever met.

    I really enjoyed our chat in the gas station, and I´m happy that you could continue your trip well.

    If you happen to travel through Parana ( Entre Rios -Argentina), I hope you can spend a day or two with my family. Just write to me and the doors are open.

    Best wishes


    Blue ´93 DR 650 RSEP

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