By Carmen Rioja
Taking off in January—full of optimism—we embarked on a journey following a route of ancestral origin that goes from the north of the American continent to the south of Argentina and its Patagonian lands. In some sections, it is called the inland route and in others, the southern cone route. By land, the most widely traveled route is the Pan-American Highway.
It can also be approached via different routes long the crest or skirt of the Andes Mountain range. This route has been traveled by native peoples and first settlers incessantly in a sort of pilgrimage that dates to pre-Hispanic times—and probably to prehistoric times, and although we only traveled along a section of it, we were able to experience the migratory and tourist transit in its macro scale, human transit may resemble the roads of gigantic anthills. The continental route that we described, although in constant mutation, has been established not only by various hominids but by millions of migratory species and includes wind currents. It is a route that allows the transport and exchange of goods of cultural value, both tangible and intangible.
But today, traveling it involves crossing several political and geographic borders.
And there we were, ready with a travel project and a thesis. Our intuition told us that the world had changed, but we had not yet experienced it, nor could we understand the collateral effects of the latest political and economic changes in the American continent. We had defined the first target, the city of Mendoza, in the north of Argentina, where a friend would celebrate his 60th birthday.
Argentina is a paradise that has always been a favorite—a position that was strengthened with its recent triumph in the World Soccer Cup, where it emerged as champion after beating France. It is a poetic metaphor that they will dispute the final with as many similarities as differences between the two countries. I thought we would have to face a presumptuous Argentina, to say the least.
The first thing I did was do some research by asking for recommendations prior to the trip and reading many articles in magazines and newspapers. I was suspicious about what the publications said about the top destinations since lately almost every on-line publication is sponsored and therefore dubious. On top of that, what the news media say about what is happening in the world is incomplete at best, if not false, and we wanted to know the reality.
Gradually, by comparing opinions of friends and travelers on forums and apps like Trip Advisor, we formed an idea, although it bothered me that a good part of our research sources were now digital.
Many of us have long wondered if the future of the world’s favorite destinations will controlled by digital media. This last doubt was all the more reason to explore and then argue the point with readers.
And I got the answer! So, this series of travel articles will share the best results and findings.
No doubt a trip today to South America from anywhere in Mexico or North America is a golden opportunity that can be short lived. The exchange rate favors the traveler arriving with dollars like never before.
We flew to Santiago de Chile and then to Mendoza. Since then, we have seen a large migration of retired North American ex-pats, as well as world travelers who wish to combine their annual stays by exchanging winters for paradisiacal climates since winter in the northern hemisphere corresponds to summer in the southern hemisphere. Locals and visitors enjoy the rural tourism and the extraordinary gastronomy, so we were welcomed with shorts and cold beers.
The Mendocino model is well-suited to the rural experience in San Miguel de Allende, and the two cities could certainly be more than twinned. Both are committed to vineyard tourism, although Mendoza is leading the way with more than 85 high-end vineyards in its municipality alone, not counting other vineyards in Salta. Meanwhile, in San Miguel and surrounding areas, the Guanajuato State Ministry of Tourism issued a bulletin confirming 34 vineyards registered in the Grape and Wine Association, with another nine to potentially be added, thanks to the state program for development of a wine cluster. In other words, the area of opportunities for the Mexican Bajío region is still enormous.
In Bariloche, a more southerly city and with higher altitude above sea level, we were surprised by the use of official free phone apps from the municipal tourism office. The app of the tourist office with automatic response is an example of digital transformation that offers tourists immediate response in real time on each tourist destination, including all its features, costs, public transport routes, schedules, and even last-minute changes for holidays, etc.—and with the great advantage that they do not favor private companies with their accompany advertisements. On the contrary, they publish suggested routes, with precise geolocation and public transport data and schedules, so you can easily get to the most interesting places.
In this region, you can enjoy a combination of climates and landscapes. Stay a couple of days to choose from dozens of villages and sites with fairytale architecture. The lakes are sublime; it is rare to see such crystal clear fresh water as Moreno Lake.
I’m glad that despite all my fears, we threw ourselves into the adventure. I never imagined seeing so many followers of Messi, wearing the shirt of mythic number 10, the world champion scorer.
To be continued … @carmen.rioja