Traveling is addictive. So is living in Buenos Aires. But weekend escapes are the quick fixes I need to get through my 9-to-5-website-making-porteño life. (Actually, it’s 11am – 7pm, but you get the point.) Time to get out of the city, break the routine and do the things I love – like exploring new pueblos, scampering up loose rock and staring out into the distance.
Not too long ago, my friend Vic and I hatched a plan over beers in Palermo. We needed to go somewhere. Preferably, somewhere with mountains.
Our chosen destination: Sierra de La Ventana. An eight hour bus ride south from Buenos Aires, in the nicest semi-cama you’ve ever seen (kudos to Condor Estrella) brings you to this quiet town.
The whole purpose of this trip is to hike Cerro de la Ventana, which is basically just a hole in the rock at 1,000 meters. It supposedly takes 2-3 hrs to reach the Ventana and you have to make it up the mountain before 1pm, otherwise you are unceremoniously shooed back down by park rangers.
We learn all this upon our arrival at the park at 11am. Ooops.
Being the hiking superstars that we are, Vic and I make it up in an hour and 15 minutes (not that we were counting or anything). Following numbered resting points up loose rocks, we book it past alpacas, grazing wild horses and a few other hikers. The views are peaceful and the hike is legitimately challenging with warm sunshine invading our eyes.
One negative thing about having a travel blog is that sometimes taking photos can consume the vacation more than just enjoying your time away from home. As if taking pictures proves that you were there and had fun. It can be refreshing to forget about the perfect angles and images, and just concentrate on hiking in the sierras.
Also….. I forgot my camera. (I’m a writer, not a photographer. What more do you people want from me?)
So yeah, no photos of the hike, but it was awesome, take my word for it.
To celebrate our success, we rest our legs and enjoy a cold beer with the locals next to the river at Balneario Los Angelitos. Because that’s what you do in Sierra de la Ventana on a Saturday afternoon.
So what do you do after hiking La Ventana? Take a 10 km bike (duh).
It’s an empty country road to the neighboring pueblo of Saldungaray, a pleasantly easy bike ride through farmlands in the sun.
Waiting for us at the end of the dusty ol’ road is a glass of wine from Bodega Saldungaray. We’ve both been to our fair share of winery tours, so we skip the formalties of pretending like we are interested in how they make the wine and just go for the good stuff.
Looking for other things to do, we roll through the town’s streets in search of a tourist office. Nothing is as empty as the streets of an Argentine pueblo during domingo’s siesta (which in Saldungaray is from 13:30 – 19:30).
We locate the brand spanking new air-conditioned tourist office. The bored woman’s eyebrows almost fly off her face as she cannot hide her excitement as not just one, but (count ‘em) TWO foreigners have come to visit her. She then proceeds to highlight the towns ‘world famous’ architecture on a small map (hmmm… sure lady).
Her genuine enthusiasm is endearing, especially as she makes us sign the comments book whose last entry is a week old.
We head to the local river bed to sun ourselves on rocks like translucent lizards. Summer is warming up in the Southern Hemisphere and it feels great.
After we bike back into Sierra de la Ventana to buy artesian meat, cheese, beer and alfajores before our night bus back to Buenos Aires.
The small town vibe was exactly what I needed before returning for another crazy week in Buenos Aires which included heat waves on Mon + Tues, massive electrical black outs by Wed (see you later semaforos), anti-government protests on Thurs and a torrential downpour by Friday.
Buenos Aires is an insane city, but at least it’s rarely boring.
Moral of the story/blog post: Go away for the weekend. You won’t regret it and you’ll find that you’re the happiest person in the office the following week. Oh, and stay at Camping Paraiso’s cabanas, best option available.