Argentina

Country #20

What an adventure,
Cities, mountains, waterfalls,
Opening my eyes.

In 2004, aged 16, I was lucky enough to spend a month in Argentina with a group of 15 or so school friends (plus 2 teachers and an expedition leader), organised through World Challenge. The experience - my first time to South America - really opened my eyes to adventure travel and the joys of to getting to meet local people. I was at a great age where I was young enough to be excited and enthusiastic about everything, but old enough to feel responsible and mature about what we were doing.

On flying into Buenos Aires, I was struck by just how vast and sprawling the city is. Incredible. From there, our group made our way up to Iguazu Falls, definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The panoramic 360 degree views, and the immense water crashing down below, was truly an unforgettable experience. I recall that we technically crossed over the 'border' to Brazil at one stage, though at the time of writing this I don't claim to have 'been to' Brazil - as that would certainly to injustice to what is an enormous and diverse country.

We also spent time canoeing down rivers, white water rafting, and - memorably - trekking in the mountains. I remember that it was a pretty arduous week or so of trekking, quite grueling during the day. At night, temperatures dropped massively, and it was absolutely freezing. I remember putting on all of my clothes and still shivering. It may have been the coldest that I've ever felt. It was amazing to see our local trekking guide sleep outside of a tent through such cold weather - that guy was something else.

We sent some time doing some 'community work' (I doubt it was particularly helpful, to be honest, but it felt nice at the time), building something at a school. I vividly recall one evening that my group spent hanging out with people our age from the local community. We didn't speak any Spanish, and they didn't speak any English. But somehow, we had so much fun, and really bonded. It opened my eyes to how people can get along, even without being able to talk to each other, just based on a common human desire to get along with others.

I made some great friends during this month, and Argentina was an absolutely perfect place for us to go. Adventurous, beautiful, exciting, different, and yet relatively safe and welcoming. If I were to go back, I'd like to spend a little more time in Buenos Aires, and sample more of the local beef and wine.