We spent 63 days in Argentina, it is now time for us to make a small assessment.
First of all, here is our route
- 2 days in Tilcara
- 1 afternoon in Pumamarca
- 1 day in Salta
- 7 days volunteering in Seclantas
- 1 new day in Salta
- 18 days volunteering in San Marcos Sierra
- 1 day on the road between San Marcos Sierra and Mendoza
- 2 days in Mendoza
- 1 day in Tunuyan
- 1 day on the road between Tunuyan and San Martin de Los Andes
- 1 day in San Martin de Los Andes
- 1 day on the Seven Lakes Road
- 1 day in Villa La Angostura
- 1 day in San Carlos de Bariloche
- 2 days and half hiking in the Negro and Lopez Summit
- 1 afternoon in Bariloche
- 15 days volunteering in El Bolson
- 2 days in San Carlos de Bariloche
- 3 days hiking aroung Frey and Jakob Huts
- 1 day in San Carlos de Bariloche
- 2 days in Villa La Angostura
- 3 nights in bus
- 4 nights hiking
- 7 nights in hostel / inn
- 11 nights camping
- 37 nights volunteering (and in tent!)
Argentina was our second stop in South America. With 2,8 million km², Argentina is the biggest country which we are going to cross in South America (8th in the world classification, more than 4 times France).
From north to south, the Argentina abounds in varied landscapes, and we visited only a quite small part of its territory! The Andean landscapes of the North are rich in colors, the arid plains of the Center warmed us up and the South brought us a well deserved freshness and amazed us of colors variants every second!
After a time of adaptation to the warm Argentine accent (pronounce “ll” and “y” as “ch”) we were seduce by the Argentine kindness and their food!
Argentina is a country contrasted between the wealth which it has to offer and the blocking which it still undergoes. The country has a lot of potential (magnificent landscapes, big areas, a rich soil …), inhabitants motivated full of ideas, but the country is unfortunately blocked by a very important corruption at every level, from the most high-head to the simple business manager. It is not easy for the Argentines to create something without meeting barriers. We had the opportunity to discuss with Argentines on several occasions (during our volunteerings in Bolivia or in Argentina, in the street or when we were hitchhiking). The subject of the corruption returned regularly during these exchanges. The problem is not recent and does not seem to have a fast outcome. That the government is of left or right, the corruption is always used. Other observation in the country, the inflation is worrying and unpredictable and exchanges are suffered there. We were never able to remove more than 2,000 pesos, approximately 98€. We did not go far with this amount especially as withdrawals were also limited at 4,000 pesos per day and taxed between 5 and 10 %. Tails in ATM are current, the absence of notes at the distributors, even early morning, is regular. The change is so unstable that except in the border countries no office will exchange you Argentine pesos. We spoke about the inflation, let us return to it. We had a look from time to time to travel blogs to have price ideas. Even if they were recent and even if the stays were for the same periods as we (in December, 2016 for example) the prices were often multiply by two at the time we pass there! Many inhabitants work only to buy themselves what they need to live, having a property is more and more complicated (especially as the property tax doubled in one year).
The tensions between inhabitants and politics are always very present; the police pressures worrying. The state hides police blunders as with the “disappearance” of Santiago Maldonado in August, 2017. Arrested after an agressive intervention during a siting, nobody heard about him since.
With a more positive note, we noticed that willing people are well present. Eco projects prosper through the country, regularly we saw frescoes putting forward the Earth – Pachamama – and the importance to protect the nature (frescoes were very often on schools and public places). People want a change here too!
Concerning our farming discoveries
Argentina was rich in volunteering, with not less than 3 experiences! We practised as much the natural constructions as the agriculture. Find articles here, there, or still here!
From our observations and exchanges with Argentines, the agricultural production is very conventional in Argentina. We saw many field aligned and dug until create unusable dry furrows, burned by the sun. The GMOs are also very present on the territory with, in particular, the production of soya. Argentina is the first world producer of transgenic soya! For the biggest traditional misfortune of its cultures and his economy (the soya makes it dependent on the foreign trade, especially with Europe). The Argentine wine wins in recognition for several years. However when we were around Mendoza, capital of the wine in Argentina, we found few organics bodegas. The visit we realised was very interesting!
Concerning the consumption of pesticides, Argentina consumes more than Bolivia, with in 2014, 36 kg of pesticides used by hectare of arable land (over the same year, the world consumption was 138 kg of pesticides by hectare of arable land and 152 kg for France (Source : The World Bank).
To continue on the breeding, the inhabitants are crazy about chicken too! What is funny, as pointed out it by one of our hosts, it is a recent habit. Indeed, until recently, the hens were raised as attending in the garden, for the production of compost and to eat pests and weed. Thus, it was unthinkable to cook them!
Concerning our objectives to limit our waste production. We did not really manage to hold our objective of few waste. Several reasons in it. It is difficult to find markets or bulk stores in most of the cities and even more in villages. We found there only in Patagonia and still with limited choice (oat, rice, flour, but no pastas or other starchy foods). Another difference also with Bolivia, we cooked a lot! For our 17 days of volunteering in San Marcos, then when we camped or went hiking, we cooked. We will talk about it after, but the living cost was relatively high and we choose to camp and cook to protect our budget!
We have not kept the exact detail but on 63 days we produced as not recyclable or biodegradable waste:
- 1 Alfajore packaging (small Argentine cake)
- 4 plastic teaspoons
- A lot of luggage labels for the bus …
- 2 straws … it is better, but the message has still difficulty to be clear
- 1 blanket packaging in the bus
- 2×7 meals trays in buses
- 1 sandwich packaging
- 2 chocolate packaging prepared by one of our work away host
- 2 bags packing our cutlery in a restaurant (we did not understand the interest on this!)
- Some bags of ketchup / mustard / mayonnaise
- Around thirty packagings of 500g (I stopped counting after 10 bags of pastas, 7 of oats, 4 of polenta)
- 1 tube of strong glue
- 1 lighter
- 1 cream pot
- 1 butter packaging
- 1 soap packaging
- 2 chips bags (for our Christmas nachos )
- Some bandages
- Dental floss
A financial point to conclude
We had seen on different travellers blogs that Argentina was one of the most expensive countries of South America. The average budget per day per person seen repeatedly was 34€. The living cost is very high and fluctuating. Hotels had prices doubled compared with what we had read and even the camping prices varied from simple to the quadruple depending if they were municipal or private(in Patagonia, in San Carlos de Bariloche, we slept in inn, because it was cheaper than camping!). Transport had often similar prices to those we can meet in France. We tried to save our budget by camping, by cooking and by hitchhiking (with more or less success we have to admit). It is in Argentina we made our first night in tent and we were happy to have invested in a “large surface”!! 🙂
So we spent 13€2 per day and per person:
Our biggest expense was the food followed by the transport. We have cooked regularly we also succumbed to the Argentine sweetnesses (dulce of leche under all its forms, spread, for dessert, in ice-cream, alfajores (cakes), bread or some craft beers). For the transport, travelling distances are long and we spent a lot of hours in bus to reach two cities. On the other hand, we spent few money on activities in Argentina: a museum in Salta, a visit and a tasting in a vineyard in Mendoza.
We hope that you liked reading our balance assessment of Argentina. You can find our other series on the following links. The portfolio it’s here, interviews are here and there and the production of the pupils of Quinson it is for soon!
Good reading on Yakoilabas!