San Rafael

This section of our blog is going to be fairly short and sweet. Our plan was to volunteer at a vineyard for two weeks with our hosts Nati & Leo. We wanted to do this for three main reasons: to experience South American culture up close & personal, save money, and after five weeks of travelling we relished the idea of being in the same spot for an extended period of time. In the following pros and cons list you will see that we achieved these three things, but really didn’t enjoy our time there.

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*Nati and Leo were a very nice couple. They traveled around the world on a motorcycle previous to buying the vineyard and had some good advice for us.
*Leo was a spunky German guy about our age and was very knowledgeable about grape growing (Drew had lots of questions for him).
*Nati was a fabulous cook! She made us many delicious meals and they were always plentiful. She even made crepes filled with dulche de leche (carmel) and cream. SOOOO GOOD!

*We had the chance to taste authentic Argentinian asada (aka bbq).  Surprisingly enough we both really enjoyed the lamb…which has never been a favorite for either of us!
*They had a cute smiley baby we could coo at.
*The weather was nice 75% of the time. The sun shines a lot in this area and we were grateful for that.
*We got up every day at 7:00 and were usually rewarded with a blazingly bright sunrise.
*They had three dogs and two cats for us to love on!
*We were able to experience what rural living is like in Argentina.
*Quiet walks around the farm lead us to some sweet horses to pet and feed.
*There was a store in walking distance for us to get beer, chocolate, ice cream and whatever other little things we might want.
*After travelling for five weeks straight it was nice to not have to plan out our day and/or the next day or the day after that.

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*Cement floors and walls
*No heat (the nights were between 40-50 degrees)
*Only two small blankets for the bed (I wore two pairs of pants and two long sleeve shirts most nights)
*Gaps around the doors and windows
*The toilet had no running water attached to it, so we had to fill a bucket with water from the stream and pour it down the bowl.
*Anytime the windows were closed the whole room smelled like sewer…we don’t know why and air freshener didn’t do a great job of covering it up.
*For five days straight we dug “marones” which basically means we dug holes, replanted vines, and covered them up again. Luckily it was only for 5 hours a day.
*We worked for 9 days straight. This was self-inflicted…we were originally planning to stay two weeks with 4 days off, but disliked the accommodations so much we decided to adjust our arrangement.
*We were in charge of dishes and had the unfortunate view of the terribly old dirty sponge and wash rag that never seemed to be replaced.
*The shower was a joke. Sometimes it dribbled and sometimes it didn’t.

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In all we’ve decided that being American has made us soft, spoiled, and grateful for the way we are able to live at home. It’d be pushing it to say that the experience was great, but we learned a lot about ourselves, the way other people live, and I think it will help us see other places (i.e. hostels) in a better light. Peace out San Rafael. HEEEELLLLOOOO Chile 🙂


We’ve come to figure out that we experience some form of surprise when we arrive in a new city. Apparently, we are terrible at researching, don’t ask the right questions, or it’s just a natural feeling we will have with each new city. For example, we were picturing Mendoza (Argentina’s wine country) to be a quaint little town with beautiful scenery. NOPE. Mendoza is a large city which has a population of 1 million if you count the surrounding “suburbs”. The scenery is beautiful as long as you look towards the Andes Mountains and ignore the “mountains” of trash everywhere. Argentina has a serious littering/trash issue and as long as you can look beyond that the country really is beautiful.

Day 1 we planned to stay at the recommend Alamo Hostel. They didn’t have any private rooms, nor did they have any mixed dorms we could stay in together. Drew stayed in a nine person dorm on the top bunk, in the middle of the room. I stayed in a four person, female dorm on the bottom bunk. Needless to say we saved some cash, but then peaced out pretty fast! We walked by a Sheraton on the way there, so being the adventure seekers that we are….we booked a room for the next three nights. BEST IDEA EVER!!! We used our points and because we are in S. A. it was an incredible deal. King-size beds aren’t something you can find in a hostel. We slept really well and enjoyed a free SPG members breakfast every morning (best coffee we’ve had in Argentina and they catered towards an American style breakfast, another first).

We took a group tour to two vineyards and an olive oil production facility. The tours were fun and  we got to see the crazy huge casks of wine. The cask pictured below holds 44,000 liters of wine! The olive oil factory was just a ruse to try to sober us up with bread at the end of the tour and we didn’t mind one bit.


The next day we rode the city bus to Maipu (literally pronounced “My Poo”…I had a difficult time pronouncing it because I’m a child and I think it’s funny). Argentina does public transportation really well and we’ve been happy to take advantage of the cheap prices to get to where we need to go. Maipu is one of the regions of Mendoza that grows grapes and has “bodegas” or vineyards that give tours. Here we rented bikes, got a map, and started on our winery bicycle tour lead by Mr. Drew Dale. We had about 5.5 hours to see and consume wine. Unfortunately, time flies when you are drinking wine on a balcony overlooking the vineyard & mountains. This means that we only actually visited 2 vineyards, 1 wine shop, and 1 brewery. But, they were all great in their own way.

The first vineyard was Vina Del Cerno. It was an older vineyard with delicious sparkling wine. They like to call it “Champling” wine….this happens when they are trying to speak in English and accidentally combine Champagne and Sparkling. Yummy! This place did not have great views, but we are still fans.

The next vineyard was Mevi Bodega. This place poured seriously large glasses of wine. Wine “tasting” isn’t really a thing unless you are on a tour; everyone else buys 3 full glasses of wine to sample. So, 6 glasses of wine seemed like the best option! The balcony and view were the best here. We spent a lot of time trying to finish our wine and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

We mounted our bikes for what seemed like a 20 mile bike ride, but was really only 12 km. The bikes were just so terrible that every pump was a struggle. Anywho, we stopped at La Botella which is a wine shop. We ate delicious empanadas, did a wine tasting (like an actual one with smaller portions), and received a free bottle of wine as our present to take with us. Score!

Back on the bikes again to switch things up and go to a brewery. The beer was terrible, but there was a puppy!!! We weren’t able to stay long because the bike place would be closing soon, so we jumped back on the bikes to head back. By this time I had to pedal twice, coast, pedal twice, yell at Drew, and then repeat. 🙂 I’m sure it was the exertion and not the wine that made my legs feel numb 🙂

Our last day in Mendoza we decided to calm our aching bodies by visiting the thermal baths, Termas de Cachueta. This place has about 15 pools each set at a different temperatures, bubble power, and locations. It was only about 60 degrees, so the pools set at 70 degrees were pretty vacant. It was a relaxing and enjoyable experience (crowded and slightly dirty? Yes, but snoozing in a bubbly/warm pool is still pretty great). For those of you that may be interested I wouldn’t go out of your way to get there.

For dinner our last night we got a great recommendation from the Sheraton Concierge; El Patio de Jesus Maria. I know is sounds weird for us Americans, but the food was amazing. Drew got the Chorizo de Bife and it was the best steak we have eaten in Argentina to date. We would highly recommend it. We also tried to be more Argentinian that night and didn’t even get to the restaurant until 10pm. Needless to say, after a huge dinner it was time to go nighty, night as soon as we got back to the hotel.

All in all Mendoza was worth the visit since we were going to be in the region, but for all of our American friends I would not recommend going out of your way to stop there. The wine is good, but you can buy it anywhere in Argentina without having to see the trash heaps and dirtiness of the region. Now we are off to test out Work Away by “volunteering” on a finca (farm) in San Rafael. We shall let you know how that goes…

Bariloche (San Carlos de Bariloche)

Bariloche is also known as “Little Switzerland” due to the fact that it has beautiful mountains, it is known for chocolate, and it has little cutesy shops all over. The town really is picturesque with the Andes hovering over the beautiful lake Nahuel Huapi. The lake was a block from our Airbnb and we took full advantage of the free, beautiful walks along it (even when it snowed). This was a great town to stay in because there were awesome hiking trails just a short bus ride away. The downfall was definitely the massive groups of teenagers stalking around in matching coats and chanting their school songs. Apparently almost every High School in Argentina sends their seniors on a class trip to Bariloche. They think it’s super awesome to wear matching ski jackets, so they all rent one from the same company and wear the exact same, outdated jackets. Unusual sight to see and they were usually loud/obnoxious. If you have a thing for St Bernard dogs this is the place to be! They had 4-6 dogs/puppies for you to take your picture with (for a price obviously).


The highlight for Autumn was probably the AMAZING medialunas at a place called Mamushkas. They were so awesomely good. Argentinians aren’t aiming for a hardy/healthy breakfast; they stick strictly to  sweets and breads. The pastries here are to die for!

Hiking, or “trekking” to South Americans, was definitely on the top of things we loved here. We hopped on the city bus for a quick 20 minute ride to the base of Llao Llao Mountain (only cost about $6 for both of us) and then started our 4 hour trek. The views were amazing (pictures below speak for themselves)!!! It was chilly, but sweaty all at the same time. Climbing mountains is hard work! ***WORTH IT ***



The next day we boarded the bus again for another gorgeous trek up Cerro Campanario. This was a very steep 45 minute climb up, but it was worth it for the outstanding views! We could see many clear blue lakes and the Andes all around. Drew, unfortunately, had some sort of allergy attack, so he wasn’t as able to enjoy it due to many sneezes and leaking eyes. More pictures for proof of the awesomeness…. The climb down the mountain was almost as strenuous as going up!

In all Bariloche was awesome after the Spring weather arrived! We tried to leave for Mendoza on Friday, but all the buses were booked, so we had to stay in a hostel for a night and try again on Saturday. We’re pretty sure that Drew was cursed by some old lady at the bus station (totally unsolicited. No seriously!) and the hostel royally sucked, but other than that we just went with the flow!

Up Next: Mendoza!

We just arrived and are waiting in our hostel for our beds to be ready. Luckily, the hostel let me shower (Autumn) when we got there. I was unfortunate enough to sit in a bus seat that someone may or may not have died in. It smelled so HORRIBLE!!! Cloth seats are not ideal for long bus rides. Wet wipes just can’t make that much of a difference. I tried to sit elsewhere when I could, but had to deal with it once it was sleepy time. To help with the smell I stuffed orange peels under my nose and used my sleep mask to hold it in place. Yup. That. Bad. BUT WE ARE HERE!!!! WINE COUNTRY HERE WE COME!

Perito Moreno

WOW! AMAZING! Those are the two words that come to mind right away when speaking or writing about Perito Moreno. We had been hearing and reading a lot about the glacier and how remarkable it was, but I was still not sure what to expect. Having grown up in Minnesota and Wisconsin I have seen plenty of ice and cold, so I figured this might be exactly that but on a larger scale. I was totally wrong. As I mentioned in the previous post we decided to take the Big Ice Trek through Hielo & Aventura. Our day started early with pickup at 7am. We took the bus from down town Calafate about an hour to the lookout balconies in front of Perito Moreno. We caught our first glimpse of the glacier as we rounded the end of Lago Argentina. It almost didn’t look real. When we finally arrived at the overlook the sight was almost indescribable. There we were standing in front of a 60 meter (approx. 200 feet) high wall of ice that had the most amazing kaleidoscope of blues and whites. The boardwalk allowed you to get quite close to the face of glacier for some amazing pictures. What was incredible was that as the clouds and sun alternated the glacier would change colors. It was truly amazing to see.

After spending about an hour in front of the glacier it was time to hop on a boat and get close to it on the water side. The boat trip wasn’t too long (only 20 minutes), but  it showed us another side of the glacier which was amazing too. The boat dropped us off at a little outpost where we were to start our hike to and then onto Perito Moreno. We were part of a group of approximately 30 people and after receiving some general instructions we were off on our hike. We hiked about an hour in the woods alongside the glacier until we reached a small yurt (tent like structure). This is where we geared up. We each received a pair of crampons or ice shoes as well as a climbing belt. We walked down the edge of the trees to the glacier, put on our crampons, and took our first steps on to the ice.

I won’t try to elaborate too much with words and I will let the pictures do the talking for the most part. A couple of things you should know though:

  • There are lots of little lakes and rivers ON the glacier. If you aren’t with a guide or go off trail it is a very dangerous place to be.
  • Given that the ice is always moving there are a lot of crevasses that are incredibly deep and amazing to see, but also dangerous.


After trekking for a couple of hours we had lunch on the glacier and filled up our water bottles with fresh and incredibly pure glacier water. The view and the taste of the water was amazing. That’s some high quality H2O (thank you Bobby Boucher).

It was an amazing trek on the glacier and we got to cap it off with a crawl into an ice cave for a memorable picture. In case you were wondering, yes both Autumn and I had to lick the ice. 🙂

After an amazing 3 hours on the ice, it was time to walk back to the boat. It might sound a little crazy, but when you are hiking you spend a lot of time looking at the trail in front of your feet so on the occasions that we looked to the side it was always a shock to see the glacier right there. On the boat they served us some whiskey over glacier ice; Not too shabby!

After a long day it was time to head home and have sweet dreams about glaciers, trekking, and whiskey! It was an unforgettable experience that I would recommend to anyone who is up for it. One restriction to be aware of is people over 50 are not allowed on the tour. This is just another reason why Autumn and I are glad we are doing this trip now.

El Calafate

Where to begin. As we mentioned in the last post, we decided to fly to El Calafate instead of take the bus. Totally well worth it. If nothing else, the view of the Andes while flying into El Calafate was worth the price. We landed in Calafate on Monday Sep 28th, with the intention to stay a couple of days to recuperate, see the glacier and then be on our way. As things have a way of happening, our initial plans weren’t exactly correct. When we landed in Calafate, we were seriously running low on clean clothes and I was coming down with a cold. The plan was to lay low for a couple of days and then start hitting the highlights. The Airbnb that we stayed at was perfect. Not only was it a beautiful place, but it had a washing machine too! Woo Hoo! We spent that Tuesday between washing clothes, sleeping, and starting to dig into what we needed to see in Calafate.

One thing to note. It is really nice to have your own space while traveling, but it does comes with a drawback. Autumn and I have found that while staying at hostels doesn’t sound glorious, it is an incredible place to get insights into places to see and how to go about seeing them. In Puerto Madryn alone we met 5 people (2 couples and a German woman {not the start of a joke J}) who were all huge helps. I will start with the German woman. We met her while cooking dinner one night in the hostel. She had done the “Big Ice” trip a couple of days prior through Hielo & Aventura, which is the only company that has a permit to do treks on Perito Moreno. She almost couldn’t put into words how incredible it was. We had been debating whether or not to do the more extensive (and expensive) hike on the glacier or to do a short trek on and off in 30 minutes. Her enthusiasm made the decision for us. We decided to take the Big Ice trip in Calafate right there; and I will tell you that it was everything she described and more. I will write much more about it in a later post. The two couples we met ended up also going to El Calafate around the same time that we were there. We had dinner in Calafate one night with Tim and Simone, a married couple from Switzerland who have traveled just about EVERYWHERE! Simone worked for a travel agency for a number of years and had traveled to many great places before meeting Tim. They have continued to travel together and seem to have exactly the right mindset for prioritizing exploring the world versus buying a lot of stuff that ties you to one place. They were a wealth of information on places in South America as well as South East Asia, New Zealand, and Australia. We were very fortunate to meet them and we look forward to continuing to stay in touch going forward! The second couple was from Romania and were also a fantastic pair with a wealth of information (Autumn mentioned them in a previous post). If you are interested, you should check out their blog at Their pictures are amazing. One thing that is becoming increasingly obvious is that we Americans are way behind the rest of the world when it comes to languages. Just about everyone that we have met while traveling speaks at least 2, most times 3 languages. Autumn and I are feeling a little bit sheepish by speaking English a tiny bit of Spanish. Our schooling system is really doing us a disservice for not making us at least bi-lingual. Mike Lietzau, you are doing the right thing having your kids in Spanish immersion school.

We ended up spending a few days in the downtown area of Calafate, doing some shopping, eating, and generally enjoying the view from our little part of the Andes. As this was our first exposure to the Andes I will say again how remarkably beautiful it was. Prior to arriving down here we had seen quite a bit of the scrub steppe area of Argentina east of the Andes, which is very flat, very arid, and very similar to the rest of non-mountainous Patagonia. It was a very nice change of pace to see some elevation and some trees. One more note on Calafate; this has become a destination for tourists and the amount of construction is pretty impressive. The town is expanding rapidly and becoming a big destination for travelers and Argentinians alike. It isn’t quite the end of the world (that would be Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego), but it is pretty close. Ushuaia by the way is the southernmost city in the world and about 625 miles from Antarctica.

Misc Stuff


A few miscellaneous other things from the trip to T & T that we forgot to put in the other blogs:

Best quote so far from a guide book in the Airbnb in Trinidad: “Taking a taxi at night is much cheaper than being robbed.”

One of our new vocab words is “Lime” or “Liming,” which in Trinidad and Tobago means to hang out or chill. Examples: “We were liming at the beach.” “Let’s go lime at the bar.” “Let’s lime.”

Exchange rate was approx. $6TT per $1US and stable weather it was a credit card or cash.


Argentina has what they call a Blue Dollar exchange rate which is similar to a black market rate for US. This was brought to our attention, but apparently didn’t since in as much as it should have. Basically, the government has set an “official” exchange rate of around 9.3 pesos/US dollar as of this writing, however due to inflation and other factors US cash is substantially more valuable than the official rate. Most restaurants or stores will use an exchange rate between 14-1 or 15-1 pesos to US dollars. Cash is truly king in Argentina. Just to provide some context, getting money from an ATM gets you approximately 9-1, we received 15-1 from a Western Union in Buenos Aires, and 14 or 15-1 in just about retailer or restaurant. What this means is that if you bring enough US cash you can get a substantial discount on your trip to Argentina. We should have brought more $US. That said, there is a money transfer service called Xoom which allows you to transfer funds from a US account to be picked up at a casa de cambiar or exchange house. It is as close to the blue dollar rate for those of us who didn’t think ahead enough to bring a lot of $US. We have used this once already and are planning on using again when we get to Mendoza, Argentina. We received a rate of 13-1. Not too shabby.

This is a very American problem, but we are having difficulties with the use of bathrooms in Argentina. Nearly all bathrooms have a sign that says :”Please do not put paper in the toilet”. Apparently the sewer and waste water systems aren’t that good down here, so nearly every private toilet comes paired with a nice bidets. For those of us who aren’t used to bidets, this also means throwing all paper in the waste basket. And I mean ALL paper. As you can imagine, some of the paper tends to leave a little odor. We are definitely going to have to figure out the bidets soon.

Autumn on Drew’s weak attempt at a beard: “I’m just not sure that’s how beards are supposed to look.”