Tag Archives: Argentina

Alemania Mania

Well, it’s over.

Both the US and Argentina are out of the World Cup, and I must retire my Lionel Messi jersey (and my World Cup dreams) for another four years. Argentina had a disappointing — and dare I say embarrassing? — finish, and their 4-0 loss to Germany did not do me much good when I found myself sitting in a plaza in Ecuador, surrounded by a healthy mix of Argentine and German fans, with the losing team’s jersey on my back.

I watched the game in disblelief. I knew there was a very good chance that Argentina could lose, but I really didn’t think it would happen. Not like it did. As each goal seemed to putter past the Argentine goalie (who I still think looks like a My Little Pony), I couldn’t do anything. It was like watching a dorky kid get kicked by a big bully over and over again, and watching him just take it; I sat there wondering what they were thinking, what they were doing, why Argentina was playing such a bad game when I was certain they could do better? Why throw it all away? Why cower to the German giants, who robbed them of advancing to the semi-finals the exact same way four years ago? Ah, but it’s Argentina. We’re used to this sort of thing.

The fact is, the Germans played better. They were stronger, faster, surer of themselves, and more confident. They won because they outplayed Argentina, and there isn’t much more to say about it.

When the game ended, the concentration of people with Argentine jerseys began to dissolve. Germans started to pour out from different watering holes and cafes, with that mean looking flag of theirs flying around at every turn. Suddenly, there was singing, chanting, screaming in German. You would have thought they won the World Cup final by the way they were celebrating. Cars started honking, they would jump on the back of pick-up trucks that drove by, cheering and swigging their beers. I was told there were a lot of Germans in this town; now I believed it.

Germans celebrating their victory in Plaza Foch. Photo by Desiree A.

I went from feeling like a confident half-Argentine to feeling like a lamb ready for the slaughter. As I watched the players hearts break on the tv, I knew it was a matter of time before I had to get up and walk-of-shame through the rest of the day. Luckily, I had a complete Viva Guides posse with me.

I decided I needed a sad photograph with the Germans celebrating behind me, so my friend Desiree and I decided to brave the enemy celebration for the sake of one photo. I walked cautiously to the center of Plaza, where the Germans were getting rowdy. My blue and white striped Messi jersey stuck to me like I was wearing a Jewish star during the H0locaust (sorry, couldn’t help the reference!). I expected to get made fun of, to be taunted, laughed at… But I knew I had to brave the situation for the sake of a funny photo.

Sad Tavel, Happy German. Photo by Desiree A.

Just when I got close enough to the celebrating Germans, I did my sad pout and Desiree got her cell phone camera ready. Then, much to my surprise, a large German guy who had been dancing around just a second ago saw my sulking face and gave me a big hug. Without speaking, he just put his arms around me and patted me with pity on the head, beer in hand. I made it out alive, and I realized that maybe these Germans weren’t going to be so mean afterall.

A couple hours later, after killing some time before the next game, my Viva posse and I decided to get some food. We found a nondescript burger place that was mostly empty, and took over two large tables where we thought we could eat in peace.

Sure enough, a few minutes after ordering, I heard the familiar chanting of happy Germans. And, just my luck, in walked a crowd of about 10 smashed Germans, screaming and singing with facepaint nearly dripping down their strong cheekbones. The women were double or triple my size, and looked like they could eat me for lunch after throwing me around like a rag doll.

Of course, there I was, still in my Argentine jersey, deflated from the game and looking all pathetic against their black, red and orange stripes (thanks Maradona, THANKS). It didn’t take long for them to notice me. Immediately after walking in and seeing my Messi jersey, the heckling began… “MESSI! MESSI! WHO THE FUCK IS MESSI!?!” They surrounded me, screamed at me, chanted in my ears, danced around me… My poor coworkers just looked at me, embarrassed, wondering why the hell I didn’t bring a change of shirt. I knew they had my back, but sitting on a little bench with 10 enormous, drunk, Germans screaming and singing and cackling behind me was a little scary… Not gonna lie!

Me getting heckled by Germans, post-match. Photo by Desiree A.

Luckily, I made it out alive. You win some, you lose some, and sometimes all you can do is accept your defeat, take a photo and write a blog about it. My Argentina jersey has officially been put away this World Cup, but the real fun begins now. As we approach the semi-finals and eventually the  much-anticipated final, we’ll see who is celebrating in the end. No matter who wins, I have a feeling it will probably be me.


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As some of you figured out, the Mystery Snapshot I posted is a photograph I took in January 2005 of Las Cataratas de Iguazu, more fondly known as Iguazu Falls. I took the photo from Argentina, but it is technically the point at which Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay all meet. For a steep fee, Americans can buy a one-day Visa, cross a little bridge, and see the waterfalls from the Brazilian side, but EVERYONE knows that it’s a much better view (and there are more trails and beautiful things to see, of course) from the ARGENTINEAN side. (Argentines are proud? What?! I don’t know what you’re talking about…)

Approaching Iguazu Falls, Argentina.

Visiting the falls in January is visiting them in the dead of summer, when they are at their fullest and the Amazon is bursting like a wet sponge with humidity. My friends Kerry, Molly and I flew in from Mendoza, Argentina. I vividly remember seeing this mist rising from an endless patch of lush green tree tops as the plane descended. It was a mist created by the crashing falls, and it was so powerful and grand that it could be seen from thousands of feet in the air.

Iguazu Mist, Argentina.

My photographs of Iguazu are alright, but you should definitely Google images of the falls to get a better idea of how impressive they are. The one thing I should mention is the sound. Imagine the constant ROAR of rushing, angry, powerful, water that constantly moans from beyond the trees. It’s so loud when you’re nearby that it’s hard to hear anything else. This YouTube video captures the sound pretty well, and tells you a little more about Iguazu.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Mas Cataratas, Iguazu.

While sometimes you can look UP at the waterfalls, there are also some lookout points where you are literally above them looking down and INTO the falls, like you’re doing a strep throat test of a wild monster foaming at the mouth. One of the waterfalls (the longest in height, at almost 300 feet) is aptly called La Garganta del Diablo or “the Throat of the Devil,” which I think captures the scary yet beautiful power of the falls.

Garganta del Diablo, Iguazu. Argentina.

The Throat of the Devil. Iguazu, Argentina.

Along with elevated trails above the water, hikes through the Amazon, and beautiful paths and lookout points to enjoy as you approach the many falls, I also recommend taking a boat (as many people do) in and out of a couple of the safer falls. It’s one thing to hear and see the falls, but it’s another thing to dash through them and let them pour over you, if only temporarily.

Waterfalls, Iguazu.

Do feel free to share your experience with the falls if you’ve had one. There is much more I could say about them, but I’m a little pressed for time. They are absolutely beautiful, though. And even though Iguazu is a bit of a deadbeat town, a short weekend trip to Iguazu is completely worth it. The “almost” World Wonder is truly an amazing sight.

Iguazu Falls in the distance, Argentina.

Tonight, I head to Buenos Aires for a month where I’ll be on a writing assignment for VIVA Guides (joined by my friend Shannon). Whoohoo! About one week after the trip, I move to Quito for my new job and adventure. Right now, I feel a bit like I’m caught in the current of one of these waterfalls. Life is rushing and roaring around me and I’m completely in the middle of lots of noise, change, and maybe a bit of chaos. But, I’ve gotta say… it’s all pretty beautiful.

It’s time to see things from the Argentine side of the noise, again.


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Puente del Inca

Good guesses! I knew I would probably stump people with this one, but it’s such a cool place I just had to share the shot.

Puente del Inca. Argentina.

The photograph is actually of Puente del Inca (“bridge of the Incas”), a bridge naturally formed, as Ben suggested, above some hot springs, high in the Andes of Argentina. The now rusty-mustard colored building you see, whose color can be attributed to years of sulfur deposits from the hot springs, is the remains of a luxury hotel that was built into this unique location.

Hot Spring. Puente del Inca, Argentina.

Me sampling an old thermal bath. Puente del Inca, Argentina.

Each room had its own thermal bath, for only the most elite travelers to enjoy. A nearby train station was once the last stop in Argentina along the Ferrocarril Transandino (Transandine, or “Trans-Andes,” Railroad), which was originally opened in 1910 (it was the first railroad to connect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts) but has been out of service since 1984.

As you can see, much of the surrounding buildings were destroyed by an avalanche of falling rocks and glacial floods in 1965. But exactly one structure was spared: the church.

Puente del Inca Church, Argentina.

Puente del Inca ruins. Argentina.

In fact, it survived virtually unscathed. Not only were the thermal waters of Puente del Inca believed to have magical healing powers (read about the Inca legend here), but after the avalanche destroyed the entire village, leaving only the church standing (seen in the background of the Mystery Snapshot), people believed this had to be a miracle. Of course, this only encouraged travelers (and now tourists) to trek to this very special place, and the inevitable circus of tour guides and souvenirs stands now surround it.

Alta Montana Circuit, Argentina.

Alta Montana Circuit. Argentina.

Alta Montana Circuit. Argentina.

Puente del Inca is located very near to the border between Argentina and Chile in the Mendoza Province. I took these photographs in January — the dead of summer. During the winter, the bridge is dripping with ice, while hot springs flow deep inside. That interaction between ice and heat is believed to have contributed to the unique formation of the bridge. Nearby Aconcagua is a popular hike for serious climbers, as it is the highest mountain in the Andes (and of the Americas!).

Top of Aconcagua. Argentina.

Argentine side, Alta Montana.

Chilean side, Alta Montana.

If you find yourself in Mendoza, Argentina, take a break from all the malbec wine tasting (ok – only a very brief one!) to get into the nearby Andes, where you can trek the Alta Montaña circuit (at the border of Argentina and Chile, you’ll be at an altitude of 4,000m/13,120ft — so ascend slowly and carefully — most do make the trip in a tour bus),  and walk the Inca Trail, or go horseback riding (“cabalgatas”) with some gauchos, followed by a traditional asado,  in the lower hills. Most hostels have sign up boards to do any and all of these activities, and hotels or tourism companies will definitely hook you up.

Gaucho on horseback, overlooking the city of Mendoza, Argentina.

Random fact: the movie “Seven Years in Tibet” was actually filmed here, a couple thousand feet above Puente del Inca — NOT in Tibet! Pretty cool, eh? Ahh, the random offerings of Argentina just never stop… 🙂

Alta Montana, at 4,000m, w/ friends Kerry and Molly in 2005. It was COLD and WINDY!

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Just Add Salt

Congratulations Sarah Z. and Missy (Rob, you were close!). Last week’s mystery snapshot was of the salt flats (Salinas Grandes) near Purmamarca in the Jujuy province of Argentina, very close to the Bolivian border.

As you can see, coming across the salt flats makes for a very striking site. Argentineans LOVE their salt, but this is a bit much, don’t ya think? Imagine a floor of salt as far as you can see, surrounded by mountains. The salt has crystallized into hexagonal blocks, making the floor appear like a kaleidoscope of white so bright you can’t look right at it.

Approaching the salt flats

Here, you can see how the salt cracks into sections:

Cracking of the salt flats

We arrived by van. You can also rent a car and make the trek yourself, but it was a family vacation, so hey 🙂 Plus, with seven Tavels, we pretty much need our own bus. Here are my sisters stepping foot on the salt flat for the first time. As you can see, there is no real road, you just sort of drive right from the highway onto the salt, which looks like ice. It took me a few seconds to trust that we wouldn’t break through.

Hi Sarah and Amanda! Lookin’ GOOD!

Sisters arriving at the salt flats

The layer of salt that you walk on is actually only 10 cm thick, but feels very solid under your feet. The surface is scratchy, and you can smell the salt in the air. Rectangular pools for harvesting the salt sit with salt mounds nearby. The pools are an incredibly pure and striking blue.

Salt pools and mounds

Because of the vastness of the white salt flat, we discovered the fun you can have with optical illusions. Here are some photos of me and my family playing. Please notice how cute my parents are (mom – you get a shout out for being such a loyal reader):

My mom and dad, playing with optical illusions on the salt flats of Argentina

Robo and me, playing with optical illusions on the salt flats of Argentina

Here are some sculptures made purely out of salt. Cacti and alpacas are abundant in the region just beyond the flats.

Salt sculptures

Salt table and benches

As you can see, the flats are a really unique site and a lot of fun to experience. The surrounding view of mountains and a perfectly blue sky don’t make the experience any worse. That said, if you ever have opportunity to visit the salt flats (either in Argentina or Bolivia), I have three words of advice for you:

1) Sunscreen (especially for all you gringos)

2) Sunglasses (white salt + sunshine and NO shade = very, very bright)

3) Water (not just because of the SALT, but because of the altitude, not to mention the distance from civilization… The last thing you want is to end up on a salt flat really thirsty, with nothing but mountain air and salty pools of undrinkable water)

Feel free to comment on your own experience with salt flats! And get excited, because the next mystery snapshot is going to come from a mystery contributor!


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White and Blue

I think this is going to be an easy one, but the photos (and place) are just too cool to skip.

NEW: I would like YOU to provide next week’s mystery snapshot! Please email me (travelswithtavel@gmail.com) with your OWN mystery snapshot. Unfortunately, I haven’t been everywhere (yet), and I KNOW there  are many  more beautiful and exciting places worth sharing. So, please contribute! Let’s spice this up.

For this week’s photo, tell me:

1) In what region of what country was this photo was taken?

2) What is it that I am standing on?

3) Any additional information/facts you might know about what you see.

As always, if you’ve been there too, feel free to add a little commentary and talk about your own experience.

Happy guessing, my wanderlust-ing friends! (And yes, that’s me with my brother Robo 🙂 )

White and Blue


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Cerro de los Siete Colores

Good work Missy and Kerry! You two were the closest to solving Mystery Snapshot 4. As Missy put it, “I saw the color of the sky and I knew it had to be Argentina.” To everyone who thought the photograph was of somewhere in the US, what a good reminder of how beautiful parts of our country can be!  (And, for the record Tom, I have been to Colorado multiple times, so good guess.) But enough patriotism…

The name of the hills in the last mystery snapshot is Cerro de los Siete Colores (“Seven Color Hills”) in Purmamarca, Argentina (northwestern Argentina, very close to the Bolivian border). It is also referred to by some people as the Hill of Seven Skirts because the layers of colors mimic the long skirts that Andean women wear (I believe this is a very “unofficial” name).

Located in the Humahuaca Ravine in the province of Jujuy, Purmamarca is an indigenous village framed by the Cerro de los Siete Colores. It sits at an altitude of about 2,200 m and has become quite touristy due to the beautiful surrounding hills, which get their color from a variety of minerals in the earth. The varying pigmentation is due to the accumulation of sea, lake, and river sediments that have been deposited in the region over the past 600 million years. The mountains themselves are a result of tectonic movement over time.  (In my very first entry, “Travels with Tavel has Finally Arrived” I posted a photograph of me wandering the streets of this town.)

Sadly, most of my time in Purmamarca was spent laying on the floor of a beautiful restaurant with my then-13-year-old-brother, dealing with altitude sickness and trying not to puke. Alas, not every travel experience can be a dream come true!

Earlier that day we had climbed (uhh, in a small bus) to an altitude of 4,200 m. On the way back down, with my blood sugar low and many twists and turns around cliff after cliff, I started to see stars (it was broad daylight) and began to sink into my seat. I knew what was coming. Unfortunately, I decided to spit out the mouthful of coca (yes, cocaine) leaves I had been instructed to chew in order to help adjust to the high altitude because I thought I had conquered the mountains. Around the time I began to turn green, I realized I was wrong. During our rather rapid descent from 4,200 m (just under 13,000 feet) into Purmamarca, I blacked out. Luckily, there was an emergency oxygen tank in the back of the van for this exact purpose and I even had an ex-Staten Island firefighter on board! Convenient, because let’s just say there probably was no hospital — or convenience store —  in the mountains just outside Bolivia.

It actually happened pretty quickly. One minute, I was absolutely fine – just really, really hungry and thirsty. The next second I said “Mom, I think I’m about to pass out…” and then, sure enough, I felt my head detach from my body, my spine turn to jello, and my view went from exceptionally scenic to black.


Now, what did my mom do as soon as I “came to” with an oxygen mask placed on my face?

1. Laugh at me.

2. Take a photo.

Thanks mom.

Besides the dizziness,  I was able to enjoy Purmamarca’s quiet existence, with its small dusty streets,  squat adobe homes,  small old church, and shady main plaza.  The clay-red village was serene against its much more striking landscape. All seven colors of the hills echoed in the clothing and pottery sold by indigenous villagers, whose toothless smiles were big and welcoming in the warm breeze.

While there isn’t much to do in Purmamarca besides wander the clay streets, admire the colorful surrounding hills, and enjoy some llama meat at one of the two surprisingly delicious and inventive restaurants, isn’t that why you (and everyone else) are there?

Here are a few more photographs of Purmamarca and the Cerro de los Siete Colores — a beautiful sight that I am more capable of enjoying now, through my photographs, since the hills have stopped spinning.

Cerro de los 7 Colores, Purmamarca, Argentina

Cerro de los 7 Colores, Purmamarca, Argentina

Cerro de los 7 Colores view, Purmamarca, Argentina

Cerro de los 7 Colores view, Purmamarca, Argentina

Street view from indigenous town of Purmamarca, Argentina, framed by Cerro de Siete Colores

Street view from indigenous town of Purmamarca, Argentina, framed by Cerro de Siete Colores

Clay pots in Purmamarca, Argentina

Clay pots in Purmamarca, Argentina

Mate gourds and bombillas, artisan market in Purmamarca, Argentina

Mate gourds and bombillas, artisan market in Purmamarca, Argentina

Car and window, Purmamarca, Argentina

Car and adobe home in Purmamarca, Argentina


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The Hills

It’s time to add some nature to the mix…

Where in the world can these colorful hills be found?

Region and country will do (the more specific, the better).  If you can come up with one of the two official names for these hills (or both) you will officially blow my mind. Guesses are welcome. Be creative!

The Hills

The Hills


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