Argentina- the home of barbecues, Yerba Maté and Lionel Messi. I spent six weeks exploring the country, based in the small town of Goya in Corrientes province. Here’s what I learned from my time there.
1. They go late here
Seriously. You think you and your mates are hardcore partiers? Trust me. You have nothing on the Argentinians. They’ll never hit the bar before 2am, it starts kicking off in the club around 4am, and the after party starts at 7am and won’t finish until midday- that’s if they don’t just fire up the barbecue and carry on drinking beers through to the evening.
2. You’ll eat the best barbecue you’ve ever tasted
Speaking of barbecues, you’ll be knocked off your feet if you’re a meat lover. Barbecuing is an art form, and isn’t undertaken lightly. It’s not uncommon to roast an entire lamb if you have special guests. For a casual barbecue, think black pudding, chorizo, ribs, and several substantial slabs of cow. You may have trouble if you’re vegetarian.
3. Sharing is caring
No one will order a single beer here. I haven’t even seen a 6 pack for sale. Instead, everyone will share a litre bottle. Same goes for wine- you’ll often see a single cup being passed around a table. This has the added effect of getting you very drunk very quickly if you aren’t careful as you can’t watch how much you’re drinking. If you want to keep up and make it to the end of the party- drink lots of water
4. The wildlife is trying to kill you
Hornets. Alligators. Piranhas. You even have to be careful of the cows when you’re driving down unlit country roads at night. If you don’t fight back- you will lose. Be careful, and don’t swim in any lakes you don’t know. My uncles friend dived into our lagoon after a few beers and nearly lost a finger to the piranhas.
5. But when it’s not, it’s absolutely breathtaking
I’ve never been so lost for words as when I came inches away from a capybara grazing in the Ibéra wetlands in a canoe. It was so completely unfazed by our presence, and it was so quiet I could hear it chewing. He stood and posed for a few photos, before quietly slipping into the water and swimming away.
6.The siesta is observed religiously
You’ll just have to get used to it. Shops close, everyone disappears and the world grinds to a halt between the hours of 2-4 daily. Plan accordingly, and catch some zzzz’s before you head out for the night.
7. Fernet- love it or hate it, you have to try it
Its basically the national drink. It’s similar to Jaegermeister but tastes more like menthol cough sweets, and is usually mixed with Coke. I’m not a fan, but decide for yourself.
8. Some local slang
If you want to call someone a dickhead (in an affectionate way)- they’re a boludo/a. A cocucha is a coca-cola. A viajando (literally- travelling) means when you want to pre-drink to the max before a party, so you’ll get an empty 2 litre bottle, cut it in half, melt the rim with a lighter, fill with ice, add as much spirit (probably fernet) as you think you can stomach, and top off with a splash of pop. The result is a viajando, which you pass around as you walk to the party. Hopefully you can still stand when you get there.
If this list has given you the wrong impression- I haven’t just spent the last 6 weeks barbecuing and drinking. I mean, a good portion of it was, but I did also make it to Rosario, Buenos Aires, Corrientes, and roadtripped to see the Jesuit missions and the longest waterfall in the world in Misiones province. I even met some distant relatives who showed me around their tea plantation. All in all, Argentina has been a blast, but it’s time to pack my things and hit the road again… next stop, Mexico City.