11 March 2016
Stuck in Argentina with no money and no petrol?
Date: 6 February 2016
Location: El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina
This day would probably top the list of most frustrating days of my whole trip, but at least it makes a good story. There was just problem after problem and it didn't give us the best first impression of Argentina.
Our plan was to drive to see a penguin colony on the coast because we couldn't see them the day before, the only issue being petrol… we drove for ages down a dirt road with hardly any signage or any cars in sight only to work out that there was no way we could make it to the penguins and back into town with enough petrol… so we had to turn back so close to the penguins and we never got to see them! Once in town we worked out very quickly that petrol was obviously a big problem in Argentina and we had to line up in a petrol line for nearly an hour while over 100 cars waited for a petrol tank to arrive. So we really didn't have a great start to the morning.
Next step was to drive to El Calafate, the main touristy town in Argentinian Patagonia and when we arrived we were so relieved and pleasantly surprised! It looked like an expensive ski town in America with cute little wooden adventure stores and tourist shops everywhere, and for once we were quite happy to see some tourists around! But that excitement soon vanished when we tried to get out some money. Our card didn't work in the first ATM and we didn't know why, so we lined up in another line for half an hour while we waited for an available ATM, which again didn't work! And of course, no one would tell anyone in the line so we all waited blindly. We then found out it wasn't our card, but the fact that there was no money in any of the ATM’s in town… so great. We had none of the local currency (Argentinian Peso), which was an issue when we got a parking ticket (something foreign to us considering we are used to camping literally in the middle of nowhere). We couldn't pay for it because we had no cash, so in the end they had to accept our Chilean Peso.
By that point we were getting pretty frustrated, the only thing we had done was wander around the cute little shops, but not buy anything or spend any money. By the time dinner rolled around we quickly found out that some restaurants would only accept cash (something we found ridiculous in such a touristy town), so we had to make sure before we sat anywhere that they would accept card. Dinner itself was actually quite positive, it was a nice restaurant and we ate good food (Papa ate the lamb shown cooking below). And finally my anxious feelings started to fade away; it was the only day that I had ever felt this stressed out (which was mostly due to everything being out of our control).
But! It’s not over yet, just when you think it would be. We still needed petrol of course because to drive from one town to the next takes a full tank of gas. So we found a place in the petrol line and this time it was ridiculous, it was blocks and blocks in length, there were literally hundreds of cars in the line… we couldn't believe it, but we were still in high spirits. You may not believe it but we were still pretty positive and that last photo shown is us at the beginning of the petrol line in the van. It was already late at night so Papa told me to just go to sleep, which I did, only to find out the next morning that he waited for 3 HOURS in the line! Until 1 in the morning just to get petrol! So thus far Argentina did not impress us and just became the most frustrating mission yet.
Keep posted for the next blog post because it does improve!