Life on the Road - 38 days around Argentina

Reflections on our epic Argentine road trip. I can't believe this was 8 months ago already...


On the Road!

We did it!

38 days away from home. 6100 km (3800 miles) driven. One car. Two adults & two little girls.

11 hotels/apartments/houses
10 cities.

A circle around the center of Argentina.

One incredible adventure.

Day 1, Pilar: On January 24th, we left on a spectacular road trip that would circle us around the midsection of Argentina. In a tour like nothing we've ever done before (okay, there was the Chilean road trip 3 years ago, but given the geography of Chile, that was one way and not a ROUND trip. We were moving from Bariloche to Cordoba via Chile, but I digress.) Starting on January 24th, 2014, we had our car all packed and drove 6.5 hours, through Rosario, to get to our friends house in Pilar, just northwest of Buenos Aires. We stayed there, met his pet pig named Peppa (a pet at that time, which since has been made into dinner) and had a lovely tour of Pilar, along with ice cream and sushi.

Brad and Franca watching Geneva and Delfina in the waves.

Days 2-4, Mar Chiquita: Heading out the next day, we drove south along the coast to Mar Chiquita, a sleepy coastal village just north of Mar del Plata. We stayed a gorgeous three nights with Brad's cousin, her Argentine husband and their daughter. They  split time between the Northeast USA and coastal Argentina. Their daughter is 1-1/2 years older than our oldest  daughter and  they were fast friends. We loved the freedom that a constant playmate afforded us. Aaaah.... The food here was incredible. The lifestyle here was even better. I could really get used to living as a beach bum!

Sea Lion colony in Mar Del Plata.

On our way out of town, we swung through Mar del Plata. Crazy. I do not want to EVER stay there during high season. Wow. We had driven through a few days earlier to see the sea lions and knew what we were getting ourselves into.
A quick stop at a street market to pick up a very special loaf of bread and other random snacks that were recommended to us and we were off! Again.
Day 5-6, Bahia Blanca: Heading south further. Very hot. Saw the movie Frozen with our older daughter here. Franca, the toddler,  fell in the park and scraped her nose. Now she has a perfect stripe up her face and looks a little chipmunk-esque. We stayed at the Hotel Argos, and were lucky enough to get an updated king corner suite. It was really lovely and since the girls are small, we all curled up in one king-sized bed together. :) We won't be able to do that for too much longer!

Walking along the beach in Las Grutas during low tide.

Days 7-9, Las Grutas:  After a meandering drive southwest, we made an unplanned detour to Las Grutas. We rented a great apartment on the beach. Again, we drove up to see it, ran back to the car to tell Brad and the girls, then ran back to reserve it. Not many vacancies during high season! We had some gasoline drama here- the only gas station in town was empty and waiting for a tanker truck to fill up- and had been for days. We didn't have enough gas to get back to the next bigger city. Luckily we didn't have to drive anywhere for a few days and could have always taken a taxi 12 km to get a can of gasoline if needed. On our last planned day there, the station got a fill-up and so did we.
The beach was beautiful with "pools" cut out of the stone that you could access during low tide. It was a great sandy beach with high cliffs leading to the town up above. On the very end of town there was even a water slide (Geneva thoroughly enjoyed this) and cabañas and carpas (tents) along the length of beach that you can rent to stay out of the sun.
Day 10, Neuquen: A quick stop for the night, then taking off the next morning. We stayed at Casino Magic Hotel for a bit of luxury.
This is the only place we stayed at for only one night- but also the only place we stayed at twice (once down and once on our way back). Since it was such a quick stop, we ate at the hotel restaurant where we were one of three families there when it opened at 8:30 PM. Beautiful rooms, pool and public spaces. The restaurant was good, but not exceptional.

Standing in front of Volcan Lanin. Junin de los Andes, Argentina.

Days 11-12, Junin de los Andes: Snore.... Hotel was blech but grounds were amazing. We booked it that morning, just hours before we arrived, so beggars can't be choosers, right?  Unfortunately the weather was freezing cold and very windy. We had to buy more clothes for Daughter #1 to keep warm!! This was our jumping off point to see the spectacular  Volcán Lanín outside of town.
Days 13-17, San Martin de los Andes: Oh, what a beautiful little town! Shopping was crazy expensive and there were a ton of people blanketing the town but we still enjoyed it. We drove into town and straight to the tourism office to try to find a place to stay. After a few doozies, we found an apartment that was cute and adequate for a 5 night stay. Mexican food at Viva Zapata was unbelievable. We hiked to the lookout above town and then drove some trecherous gravel cliffs to other lookout. LOOOOOOng drive to volcano. Freezing still but I purchased 2 meters of fleece to wrap Franca. We also drive to Chapelco Mountain/Ski Resort where Brad and Geneva went down the alpine slide and later Geneva climbed the lakeside rock wall. San Martin was great little town that I definitely want to visit again!
Almost took a wrong turn to Chile on the way to Villa la Angostura. Stopped at an overlook and asked a tour bus driver. Turn around!!!
Days 18-19, Villa La Angostura: When we arrived, we had some time before check-in, so we stopped for a really beautiful lunch and I cried. I cried over my lamb because it was so good and our lives are so amazing!!! Geneva was asking about our engagement over dinner and wanted daddy to propose to me again, so we got re-engaged over dinner. Geneva lost a tooth the next night at dinner. I Bought an overpriced but beautiful Columbia jacket for myself. It was an eventful few days! We spent 2 nights, two different rooms in a great hotel but with a terribly bumpy and rutted dirt access road.
Days 20-24, Bariloche 1:  We found a little Apart-Hotel off of Av. de los Pioneros, close to downtown. This was a very different perspective from being so close to Llao Llao when we were previously living in Bariloche from Sept 2010-Feb 2011. The apartment was old and not the prettiest, but for a walk-up (no reservation again), we couldn't be too picky.

"Our" house in Bariloche.

Days 25-34, Bariloche 2: We are HOME- well, our old home!!! Back to the same house where we lived for 5 months in 2010- 2011. Geneva had her 3rd birthday in this house, we celebrated Christmas, Brad's birthday and we also decided here that we wanted another baby once we settled in Cordoba. Needless to say, this house is very significant to us, even if we were only here for 5 months.
We had nine days here again this time and it was paradise. There were some great updates to the place and we wanted to soak up every second of it. We also buried our dog's ashes in the beautiful yard. He loved the yard so much and Pablo, along with our other dog, Paloma, stayed in Bariloche for an additional 3 months (from Feb 2011- to May) while we were getting settled in Cordoba before they joined us via plane. We are all happy that he is there forever now. Cue the tears.

Ready for the Zip Line Canopy Tour!!

We did some of the tourist things as well as re-visiting some of our favorite places: Hotel Llao Llao for coffee. Cau Cau boat trip, Bellevue Casita de Te (twice!), Canopy zip-line for Geneva and Brad. Incredible drive to El Bolson (the furthest South we visited- almost as far as Puerto Madryn, but on the other side of the country.)
Alas, all good things must come to an end. We leave and head north to Neuquen once again. It is a spectacular drive north out of the city.
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Days 35-36, Neuquen- a second time: The only city where we stopped twice. We even stayed at the same hotel. Head to the Museum, check out downtown.
Day 37, Villa Mercedes: After discovering that we had an incredibly smooth, straight, beautiful hiway drive, we drove like the wind and kept on for 8 hours until we got to Villa Mercedes. Booked the hotel at a gas station/lunch stop with Wifi along the way.
Day 38, Cordoba!!! Home! We completed the incredible circuit, heading east from Cordoba to the coast of Argentina, down along the coast and across to the west, then straight up the middle of the country back home again.
The girls were wonderful- with the worst of the driving days being the first (getting accustomed to it) and the last (great anticipation of home).
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Tips to Remember :
  • Never tell your 6 year old when you will be getting home. Just show up. We spent several hours driving from Villa Mercedes with Ms.-Super-Crabby-Pants in the back seat. Pulling out the infamous "Are we there yet??" every few minutes. Never. Again.
  • No matter how much you pack, you are packing too much. We had one duffel bag of clothes  shared between all of us and it was too much. I would cut the clothes drastically next time. We were traveling between climates (hot and beach for our first 4 stops, then super chilly for 2 stops, moderate temps for the rest) so I packed for everything, or so I thought. We all had clothes we didn't use and Daughter #1 needed two warmer pieces that we purchased along the way.
  • Plan surprises along the way for the kids. Little toys packed, activity books, unexpected stops- even if just to a beautiful lookout. It is worth it.
  • Get gas /petrol/nafta- whatever you call it- get it WHENEVER you can! We got stuck in Las Grutas with very little gas, the only gas station in town was awaiting a fill (and had been waiting for days) and the next nearest gas station was 20 km away. Not cool, but there are worse places to be stuck, for sure :)

Reflecting on the trip, I can't believe that we all survived 38 days of family togetherness in a sedan! Our two daughters, ages 6 and 1-1/2 years old, both in car seats. One driver throughout (thank you, Hon, for the safe journey!) What an incredible adventure!!