I spent 3 and a half weeks in Argentina -- a few days in Mendoza, 2 weeks on an expedition to climb Aconcagua (6,962 meters (22,841 feet)), a few days at Iguazu Falls and a few days in Buenos Aires. 

On the Miami-Santiago leg of my flight, I ran into Elaine, a woman who lived on the same hall as me freshman year when we were undergrads. Coincidentally, she, her husband and 2 adorable children were also on their way to Mendoza and totally randomly, she and I stayed in adjacent rooms for a night in Mendoza. We landed in Mendoza a couple hours later than expected because our flight out of Santiago was turned back about 15 minutes into the flight. We could smell fumes in the cabin and we weren't flying very high off the ground, even though we were supposed to be flying over the Andes mountains, pastel cumbre de Aconcagua. Mendoza was warm and breezy with clean, tree-lined streets. Anecdotes about how attractive Argentinians are proved to be true -- after a few days of eating asado, pizza, matambre sandwiches and helado, though, I wondered how the women stayed so petite. The next day, our guides checked our equipment and we met the other members of our expedition group over dinner -- there were 12 in all (8 men, 4 women) -- 5 Australians, 1 Swiss, 2 Canadians, 1 Argentinian, 1 Pole, 1 Irish and 1 American (me).

Of Permits and PenitentesBefore driving to Penitentes, a small mountain town less than a mile from the Vacas Valley entrance to Aconcagua Provincial Park, we had to obtain climbing permits. It turned out to be an involved process -- we filled out forms in one location, walk to another location to pay, and then walk back to the original location to complete the documentation and obtain the actual permit. Ariel, our head guide, briefed us on the climb's itinerary and expected timing, in addition to warning us not to feed wildlife, especially the birds of unusual size (which none of us saw, by the way). The dinner menu at the hotel in Penitenties had a couple interesting items, one of which was "Bird Mayonnaise", which turned out to be chicken salad rather than what it sounds like. I'm glad I didn't order any beef because it looked like those who did got a plate of gristly rubber.

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  • Jodi Ettenberg

    Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…

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