We woke up just before our alarm was set to go off at 7, got showered and then finished packing. While doing this, we discussed the relative mertits of starting or ending with Travesia. On the one hand, starting at Torres del Paine meant that you could start with shorter hikes, and work your way up to some of the longer hikes at El Chalten. Also, having more options for dinner in El Chalten made that better to have second, since going the other way would mean less options after getting used to having some. But, on the other hand, ending at Hotel Salto Chico meant having the spectactular view from the hotel second. It's hard to beat that view, and as nice as El Chalten was, it didn't have anything remotely similar (at least from the hotel). In the end, we figured either way was fine, there was no clear better way in our opinion.

We grabbed a small breakfast, and got picked up by Nico and Arturo at 8. It was clear-ish, but not clear, in town. There was no great view as we left town, but it was much better than when we came in. It is really amazing how the massif just pops up out of nowhere, as it is almost completely flat to the east. It was absolutely packed this morning at La Leona; we figured it was probably people on day trips from El Calafate to hike at El Chalten, then go back. We got dropped off at the airport around 10:30, and said our goodbyes to Roger, Donna, Nico, and Arturo. The LATAM line opened at 10:45, two hours before the flight was scheduled to depart. We had gone out of our way to book the 12:45 flight, as opposed to a later flight, so we'd have more time in Buenos Aires today. If we'd known we'd miss Perito Moreno because of the strike, however, we would've booked a later flight and tried to schedule a quick tour today. Oh well.

At the check-in, we made sure they checked our bags only through only to AEP, as we'd need them tonight. After security, we had to walk up some stairs, and there was a black cat sitting at the top of the stairs, staring at everyone. There was only one lunch spot, with limited food options, and it was too crowded, but all things considered it was fine. We had a great view of Lago Argentina and its turquoise waters. While we aren't sure if we'll be back to Torres del Paine, we could see coming back to El Calafate and El Chalten, as we still haven't seen Perito Moreno, and there were several hikes in El Chalten that looked interesting, including Loma del Pliegue Tumbado. Vamos al ver. We slept most of the flight back to Buenos Aires, which was useful given that we had plans to stay up for New Year's fireworks at midnight.

When we landed in Buenos Aires, it was obvious we weren't in Patagonia any more. It was hot and humid, and we needed to shed some layers ASAP. We needed some more cash, only Justin went to three separate ATMs and failed. Crystal had better luck, succeeding on the second one. We've had ATM troubles all across the globe, most notably in Madagascar and Rwanda. But issues like this in major cities makes us appreciate how reliable ATMs are back home. It was hot in our taxi, even with AC turned up all the way. It was great coming from AEP - we were in the central part of town in just a few minutes. There was something lost in translation as we went to our hotel, as our driver took us to a hotel on Moreno Street, not the Hotel Moreno. Thankfully we could just show him on the map on our phone where we needed to go, which was just a handful of blocks to the East.

The neighborhood, at least on first appearances, looked kind of sketchy. It reminded us of the Civic Center/Tenderloin neighborhood in Ssn Francisco - close to everything, and very affordable, but cheaper for a reason. The hotel had a tiny frontage, and a security guard before going up an elevator one floor to check in. The receptionist wasn't the greatest, perhaps he was just counting down the hours until he could go home for New Year's. The room was nice enough, but pretty worn. We came here, however, for the rooftop terrace, with the thought being that we could just sit up there at midnight and watch the fireworks. We walked up to the roof, and it did seem to have a good enough view.

We had no real plans for the day, so we just decided to walk through the main tourist areas, which were just north of the hotel. We walked to the Pink Palace (less than five minutes walking), then up towards Florida St. Surprisngly, everything was closed. Florida Street is chock full of shops and stores, but the only things open today were stores with cell phone accessories. Even the fast food joints were closed. We turned left on Plaza Roma, and there were a couple places open, so we made a mental note for later. We ate a small snack near Obelisk, papas fritas and a drink. We walked back to the hotel and formulated a Plan B. We figured if anything was open, it would probably be in Puerto Madero, just to the east of us. Sure enough, there were restaurants open, but with crazy pricing. We walked up and back along the waterfront a couple times, trying to find something. As usual, when we have no real plan, this fails miserably, as we take too long trying to find best solution. This happened in Singapore and also in Paris, among others. We should really just learn to have more of a plan.

From all the walking, in footwear we hadn't worn all trip, we actually got blisters, which was ironic given we'd hiked 75-80 miles in the past 10 days. In addition to all the restaurants being open, they were also setting up music as well, and some of the places had music so loud we can't fathom how people eating there could hear one another. Justin was irritable, and both of us were tired and hangry. We tried to find anything that was open with just a normal dinner. We gave up on Puerto Madero, and walked another couple miles, ending up at La Rey, a pizza place that had been open for over 60 years. We got another prosciutto and aragula pizza, similar to what we'd had at AEP earlier in the trip. We also got a cheap bottle of red wine, which was pretty good under the circumstances. The whole meal cost about $30, far less than even the per-person cover charges at Puerto Madero.

We got back to the hotel around 23:15. We decided to open a bottle of red we got from Nico on our last full day in El Chalten (oh, yesterday), the Carmenere that we kept drinking at Explora. We asked the front desk for bottle opener, and Rodrigo went all out to help us out. First he scoured all over the first floor, then went up to seventh floor with us. We saw some other guests on the roof, and asked them. One of them had a swiss army knife with corkscrew, and Rodrigo used that to open the bottle. We thanked him profusely, then went out on the deck with the other guests. There was one couple from New York City, and another from Las Vegas. The Vegas couple was spending two weeks in Buenos Aires, because they missed a cruise because of not getting their Brazilian visa before coming to South America. We mentioned our own fiasco from 2008, where we got our visa less than 48 hours before leaving for South America.

The fireworks were pretty good from the roof. As expected, there were some out at Puerto Madero, just a few blocks east. Additionally, there were some one block east, just set off from the street. Then they started going off everywhere, and continued randomly here and there for some time. After about 0:20, we had the roof to ourselves. We chatted and enjoyed our bottle of wine until a little after 1, when fireworks were still going off here and there. So, after not staying up to midnight for years and years, this was two years in a row we not only were awake, but were out and about. We're guessing that won't happen next year, but who knows.

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