Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rainy Day in BA

It´s a rainy day in Buenos Aires, you´re walking to work/school/lunch/whatever it is you do, and your shoes are soaking wet. Your clothes are soaking wet too because you forgot your umbrella. Great.

After putting saldo on your phone in a kiosko, you notice this building on your way out.


What´s going on here? Why does this building have so many little windows?


It must be even weirder from the inside, looking out through all those tiny windows.


One of the corners of the rooms is round instead of a more traditional corner. Does that add fung shway?


So many questions, and too much time out in the rain to ponder them.


At this point you are already saturated with h2o, so you start to take your time on your way, to stop and enjoy the odd things in life like that strange building. What´s the hurry to get inside if you will then have to be soggy and wet at your job/class/whatever? Once you have reached this level outside, it´s actually kindof nice to walk around the city in the rain. The dimness and soaking shimmer on everything sheds a new light on your surroundings. In some ways, it makes the surrounding more beautiful.



Take this tree, for example, hiding refuge and escape from the downpoar while spreading its roots to drink paccha mama´s nectar of life.











Even the obelisque has a sort of gloomy bliss to it.

After some retrospective thought, you realize that the sulky atmosphere has a sprawling life to it, showing off the vibrance and strange juxtaposition in life. You see a family inside a cafe enjoying themselves and laughing, you see a newspaper vendor chatting along with his friends, standing in the rain, with a big smile on his face while there is a homeless man right next to his stand begging for change.

Life must go on.

It´s full of odd combinations, and nothing like a rainy day to show it off.

Buenos Aires helps to make the distinctions in life even more obvious with colonial architecture stacked up in the middle of modernized, industrial boxes.

The architecture is like an analogy for the culture in general. Argentina is mostly Spanish and Italian, but it also has a vast population of people with native ancestry, peruvians, germans and all sorts of spots around the world.

This diversity is somewhat unique in South America, and it adds a melting-pot feel that stands out in the whole, Latin America, everybody looks the same, move your hips way of life. People walk fast in town with a mission to get stuff done, but there are still plenty of people living ´pura vida´ taking their time to do stuff at their own pace.

After you take all this in, the rain starts to fade away, and now it´s a pretty nice day out. You see the umbrellas go away, and your clothes start to dry in the sun. Things sure can turn around quick down here....





Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sarkis: The Best Restaurant in Buenos Aires?

You have been in Buenos Aires for a week or so, and now you want to eat something tastey that isn´t asado. Is there such a thing as good food that isn´t a big fat steak on a plate with french fries in this town?

Yes.

While there are, of course, plenty of tastey spots in town that don´t revolve around asado. The one that stands out above them all is Sarkis, a romanian restaurant that has one of the best bang-for-your-buck meals in town.



This is one of the most popular places in town with great prices considering the quality of food. Most plates will cost you around 10 dollars US, and you can get some insanely tastey appetizers for around $5.

What is armenian food you ask? Think shawarma, couscous, zangy meatballs, and humus.

One of their staple appetizers is taboule. It is couscous with onions and other zesty spices. It tastes great, but it will make your breath smell like raw onion.....

Another unique offering is keppa cruda. Keppa is a type of meat and vegitable mix that puts couscous and other spices together into a wonderful combination that will knock your socks off. If you speak spanish then you know that cruda means RAW. Keppa cruda is raw meatballs basically. No, the meat is not treated with lemon like in ceviche either. Don´t worry, the meat is prepared cleanly, and it WILL NOT make you sick. If you want to try something new, go for it.

Another big one is ´puré de garbanza´ - hummus. Its a classic hummus, and you can´t really go wrong with this stuff. Here you can really tell that it comes from garbanzo beans because it has a freshly mashed texture, which makes it stand out from your traditional grocery-bought hummus.

Moving on to the main course, go for the ´kefta con yogurt´, its a big stick of meat with yogurt on it. Enough said.

They also have all sorts of veggies with fillings. Zapallitos rellenas, berenjena rellenas, hojas de repollo rellenas. It doesn´t matter if you don´t understand what these things mean in English. Just go for it.

Once you have filled yourself to the brim with food because of the three extra orders you made before the food arrived to the table because your eyes were bigger than your tummy, it´s not over. Now you have to get dessert.


The ´deditos con helado´ is one of the most popular desserts here. Its a flakey breading over a sugary, mapley crunch served fresh next to some ice cream. This is a classic arabian dessert. If you have tried it, you already know. Another good option here is their walnut sundae. It comes drizzled in chocolate and is full of... yep, walnuts.

The food and service here are great, but the biggest obstacle is actually getting a table. Generally wait lines are over an hour. They do not accept reservations, and the host does not accept any washingtons to put you higher on the list. A big reccomendation is to put your name on the list and go to the other corner of the street where Cachito is located to have a few drinks while you wait.



Saturday, July 16, 2016

South American Ski Resorts: Pros & Cons

When the snow starts to melt away in the norther hemisphere many ski bums begin to ask themselves existential questions about life, meaning and how to have as much fun outside without snow. Luckily for them and any other ski enthusiast, there are plenty of good options for skiing in the southern hemisphere. Argentina and Chile are at the forefront for the skiing in South America.

Here is a list of the pros and cons of the biggest resorts in Argentina and Chile.


Valle Nevado


Valle Nevado is like Chile´s Vail. It´s big, it is relatively modernized, and it is just an hour away 
from Santiago. With a full park, great views, and a good amount of annual snow, Valle Nevado is guaranteed to be a total blast.

Pros

It´s big for southern standards with over 2,225 inbound acres of skiing and plenty of backcountry access to put some hair on your chest.

It´s only 45 kilometers from Santiago. The road up has a long switchback section with over 40 turns, but in less than two hours from the center you can be getting your boots on. 

It´s literally connected to 2 other ski resorts, so you could cross over, buy a pass, and check out a whole other resort.

You can see santiago from the top. 

They have helicopter skiing available for some long open powder runs. The terrain can be steep, but it is not as avalanche prone as in other areas like Colorado or Utah.

Cons

As with any southern ski resort, the air is humid and a few days of sun can lead to rock hard conditions. A great time to test your variable terrain skills. 

There is next to nothing for night life, food, and accommodation. There are a few buildings at the base and nothing else. 

In-bounds, there is not much to test your courage. Most of the runs are quite mellow, and it takes a bit of hiking to find anything truly steep.


Las Leñas

Just on the other side of the Andes from Valle Nevado is Las Leñas, one of Argentina´s premier ski resorts. If Valle Nevado is the Vail of Chile, Las Leñas is the Aspen of Argentina. 




Pros

Las Leñas has some of the driest snow in the southern hemisphere. It has a higher altitude than any of the other resorts in Argentina, and it can get some serious dumps. 



If Valle Nevado was too tame for you, Las Leñas might be able to do it for you. The steeps here are truly steep, and the backcountry run, entre rios is a serious no-fall run. 


While Las Leñas excels in the steeps, it also has a long, flat run that runs for kilometers at the bottom half of the resort. It´s a great place for beginners to get a good grasp on skiing before they decide to tomahawk down a double black.

Cons

Las Leñas is rather isolated, and there is not much for a night life outside of a select few bars and restaurants.

A lift ticket is at Las Leñas is generally the most expensive in South America. Lessons are higher here too, but still nothing to compare to Colorado.

 Flights to Las Leñas can be quite expensive as the closest airport is rather small. 



Portillo

A small resort near the boarder between Chile and Argentina holding some of the best skiing in the world.


Pros

Amazing terrain is waiting for you in Portillo. Steeps, pow, and cliffs are sprawled throughout this sliver of paradise. The gnarliest run on the mountain is the super c couloir, the steepest, longest sidecountry couloir in South America.

The runs are awesome, and they have snow quantity and quality to back it up. Portillo as of the writing of this article (mid-July) has the deepest snow pack in the western hemisphere with over 2 meters of a base already.

Cons

There are a lot of pomas at Portillo, and some of them can be difficult to use. The infamous slingshot lift is a poma where they put up to 4 people on one poma and stops at the top of a very steep run. Many people fall at the top and sometimes fall halfway down the run. 

Another big issue with Portillo is its remoteness. This may be a perk for some people, but there is literally one hotel, and that is it. Good luck finding a good aprés happy hour here!









Cerro Catedral

 


Cerro Catedral is Argentina´s largest ski resort located in the city of Bariloche.

Pros

Catedral has the most beautiful views of all the resorts on this list... by a long shot. The top of the Nubes chairlift will blow your mind away. The Nahuel Huapi lake can be seen from just about anywhere on the mountain, and it contends with Tahoe´s beauty, perhaps even exceeding it.

There are some awesome runs here too. Inbounds there is a lot of diversity, from easy groomers to some steeper chutes. If you hike alittle, you can reach ´La Laguna´ which has been voted as the best side country runs in Argentina. 

Another great thing about Catedral is that it is in Bariloche, a mountain town full of breweries, restaurants, and things to do. There are plenty of other winter activities in the area as well, such as cross-country skiing, mountain cabins, and snowmobiling.

Cons

The biggest letdown of Catedral is that it does not get very much snow. For most of the season you cannot ski down to the base. Downloading is never fun, and the lines can be long at the end of the day to catch a lift down.

Speaking of lines, Catedral has not invested in their chairs lately, so there can be long waits to get on the fixed-cable chairlifts running at less than optimal speeds. The resort seems to trade hands every few years, so maybe Vail will pick it up one of these seasons.

p.s. Vail has actually been trying to get Las Leñas for several years. Just wait, it will happen soon.



Nevados de Chillán

Located several hours south of Santiago lies Nevados de Chillán.

 


Pros

Chillán is one of the only resorts in Chile that actually has tree skiing. Given that skiing in the trees is one of the best things ever, you should check this spot out.

After shredding in the trees all day, you can relax into the resorts hot springs. Chillán is actually a volcano, so you can enjoy the benefits of volcanic activity while thinking about tomorrow´s turns.

Cons

Sometimes the weather can be warm, and the precipitation comes down in the form of rain. Coming here during a warmer part of the season may lead to some rock hard turns before the sun gets to soften that snow up. 


Cerro Castor

Literally meaning beaver hill, this little resort is located near Ushuaia, the bottom of the world.




Pros

Being located at the bottom of the world means the season runs longer. Generally from June to October, Cerro Castor enjoys the longest season in South America.

Tree skiing here is probably the most consistent in the continent. Chillan and Catedral have better quality runs, but most of the time you cannot ski the trees in those resorts because of a lack of snow. You can ski the trees here for most of the season.

Castor also has a more consistent snow pattern than other resorts. They don´t often get huge dumps, but they get more of them. This keeps the groomers fresh and the trees safe-ish. 

The park scene here is also way better than anywhere else in Argentina. They have a really nice medium jump line and a full park crew to keep everything in good condition. This is not too common down south, so if you´re a park rat, Ushuaia is for you.

Cons

The mountain is not very steep. The very top has a little bit of steeps but only for a few turns, and then it goes to a mellow pitch all the way down. This could be a pro if you are just looking to get a few casual turns in with your onesie and selfie stick though.

There is also little variable terrain outside of the top quarter and the trees. Great groomers, but not too many bumps.





So there you have it. Keep in mind that there are many more resorts in South America. This is just a list of the biggest, most well-known resorts. There is a plethora of little hills scattered throughout Patagonia with just a couple chairs that can bring you all the face shots and secret stashes you have been dreaming about. But just like your secret stashes back home, they´re best kept secret while waiting to be found by YOU!