Patagonian OAT trip to Argentina, Chili, and Iguassu Falls. March 23 to April 9, 2013.
“O.A.T.” is our favorite small group travel company.
My husband Don and myself were thrilled to be heading to Patagonia, that wild, rugged, wonderful country! We had heard so many stories from my dad and brother, and seen so many gorgeous photos of Patagonia!
After flying the 8 hours from LAX to Lima, Peru, we had a 90-minute layover before the 4.5 hour flight from Lima to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
We were met at the airport by our wonderful guide, “Martin Soliana”, and the 20 others on our tour.
O.A.T. keeps the groups small (usually not over 16-20), enabling the travelers to get off the beaten path, ride in small mini vans, attend people’s homes for home hosted dinners and lunches, go to Orphanages, clinics, schools, where we can see firsthand what the needs are, and then if we so desire, help out there right on the spot!
They have their own small ships, wonderful, informed guides who are local to that country, and great itineraries!
Martin took us directly to our hotel “Americans” in Buenos Aires, where we all settled in and showered before meeting in the lobby with the group for our “Briefing” and our “Tango” lesson!
I had a blast dancing with Martin and the other teachers, and it was a good “mixer” for all of us.
Then we all walked to a nearby restaurant, a few blocks away. The “Posada de 1820” had really good food as we all enjoyed our first Argentinian meal. The Empanadas were excellent!
Story # 2
Up early the next day for a good breakfast before our “City Tour of Buenos Aires”. It was a combined Bus and Walking tour of this Beautiful city, called “The Paris of South America”. We walked 5 blocks to the lovely city center. Buenos Aires has the widest Blvd. in the world! We saw the Pink Palace of former Eva Peron, and enjoyed some beautiful architecture and buildings. Then we boarded the bus for a driving tour.
Argentina had the 5th largest economy in world at one time. Futbol is the number one sport (soccer) We stopped in a charming, artsy area called “La Bouca”. Colorful buildings and shops, and couples doing the Tango out on the streets.
Seven million people reside in Buenos Aires, and 41 million in all of Argentina. It’s a very cosmopolitan city with people living there from all over the world. Many retired Americans live there as well. We are seeing the Memorial for 649 fallen Argentinians to the Falklands war in 1982. This city has lovely housing areas, shopping malls, and gardens. We liked Palermo, and Recoletta, both very upscale areas. The Calitraba is a neatly designed bridge in the port area of “Puerto Manero” that looks like a Tango step. There is also the most unique huge steel flower that opens up as if blossoming and closes at night. Designed by Eduardo Catalano in 2002. Cost was 3 million U.S. dollars.
2001 was a tough time in Argentina with 30% unemployment and inflation.
Recoletta Cemetary is a one of a kind and a must see! It’s on 12 beautiful acres. Eva Peron and many other dignitaries are buried there. The headstones are huge, standing and very ornate. There is an amazing Mausoleum there with 9 levels (2,000 mausoleums) It has been filled since 1966.
Eva Peron Grave site
We loved our shopping spree at the beautiful “La Galliota”, three levels of lovely shops, and close to our hotel “Americans”.
We saw several “dog walkers”, but never have we seen so many dogs being walked at once! There were at least 14-16 dogs on leashes being walked by one individual! We were told they could make very good money.
Story # 3
Our first “Home Hosted Dinner” was right in the down town area hosted by “Elena”. She came down to the street level to usher our group up to her lovely home. There were 6 of us, and we took the two elevators to her home. The group were all divided into smaller groups and sent to various local homes for the dinner. Her home was much larger than we expected, and she took us on a tour. Several bedrooms and a playroom for the children. She was pregnant with number four! She was a sharp lady with her Master’s Degree in Business. Her husband was an attorney & former Rugby Pro. He now coaches and travels the world. We all had an interesting time listening to her political views and economical ideas of Argentina. Many problems there with inflation, unstable peso, black market, inflation, socialism, and disappearing people who just seem to Vanish!
Our dinner was a delicious “Shepard’s Pie”, Salad, and Flan for dessert. It was a most enjoyable evening with our charming hostess and her children. Then we headed back to our hotel so we could pack up for a very early flight to Calafate, Argentina.
Story # 4
We are once again on “Lan” Airlines with their tiny seats! There are 2 stops: Ushuaia (the end of the world.) Most southern city in world, 300 miles from Antarctica, and the jumping off spot for travel there. The other stop is Calafate, where we are headed. We will fly to Ushuaia later on in our trip.
Calafate was a cute little town out in the middle of nowhere, it seemed at first. Like a green Oasis in the midst of high desert wilderness. This is a province of Santa Cruz. “Hotel Kosten Aike” was a charming 3 story Alpine style hotel nestled amongst some lovely, large trees. I fell in love with it right away! It had a “Mountaineering” air about it.
The cute town had some nice shops. There was a cool wind blowing like crazy! (Welcome to Patagonia, the windiest place on earth) We had a yummy lunch of pizza and caprice salad at the cute “Humphrey Bogart’s Café”. Then we all met for our Briefing of “WILD PATAGONIA”, it’s getting Exciting!
Our two guides
Martin was one of our all-time Favorite guides! So helpful, knowledgeable, and fun! He was also very cute! Half Argentinian and half Italian with blonde hair and a beautiful brunette wife and 18-month-old son.
We did some more sightseeing and shopping and had some Great ice cream! The Gelato there is also yummy!
We all met later at a nearby restaurant called “El Churon”, where we really enjoyed the food and ambience! The owner was a friend of our guide. Don had a great Seafood Stew and I had yummy Risotto with mushrooms and delightful Pumpkin soup. (I love anything pumpkin) They also had a nice late harvest slightly sweet wine that I like. (I hate dry wine), so rarely ever imbibe.
The indigenous people were the “Teahuelche”, who are no longer there. They were nomadic and hunted moving prey. They were a tall people with huge footprints. In 1520, Magellan arrived in Santa Cruz province and named them Patagonians. They used to be shot on sight for hunting sheep on the Sheep Ranches (Estancias)
“Mapache”, another indigenous people of Patagonia still live in the Northern section of Patagonia.
Story # 5
“Tierra del Fuego” is the largest island of both Patagonia and Chile. Both countries share this rugged, picturesque, and pristine area. In 1978 Argentina came close to starting a war with Chili over it. We were prepared to dress in layers with some very warm clothing for the viewing of the massive Pita-Moreno glacier. We met our local guide “Sebastian”, who is another great and informative guide with a good sense of humor. He and Martin were great together and fed off each other’s sense of humor. It made for a wonderful trip!
We loved the fabulous “Los Glaciares National Park” (World UNESCO site since 1981) Spring through Summer is the windiest time of year, with the winds usually dying down by Autumn.
The largest Ice Fields in the World are: 1 Antarctica 2 Greenland 3 Perito Moreno glacier between Argentina and Chili (220 miles long)
We saw some beautiful Black Crested Eagles (eating European Hares). Also saw a “Crested Caracare from the falcon family.
There are 9 National Parks in Argentina. We were impressed with the Perito-Moreno glacier, and it’s 180 ft. walls, equal to a 20-story building! It’s been stable for past 90 years. This one of 2 glaciers that is growing instead of reseeding.
Two things needed to keep Icebergs intact; Snowfall and very cold temperatures. The lake was 600 ft. deep. We were 4500 ft. above sea level.
There was a real problem with stray dogs in Calafate, so some young girls were heading up a “Homeless Dog Shelter” there. They sterilized many dogs and tried to find homes for them. As an Animal lover, I was so happy to see this, as it bothered me to see so many dogs running around with no masters.
Five of us wanted to visit the local “Ice Bar and Glaciarium” there in Calafate. So we donned the “Space Poncho” with a hood and Space Gloves (so we could hold onto the glass made from ice) Each group had only 30 min. inside, and around 20 people could fit inside at once. We were allowed only what we could drink during that 30 min. I could not even get one drink down! Disco music was playing and there were lovely Ice Sculptures. It was a really fun experience!
After our unique excursion, we all walked back 4 miles through the local countryside.
We joined the remainder of our group that evening for another dinner with guide Martin joining our table.
Story # 6
We were all aboard our Bus by 8 am the next day for the two-hour drive to Chile and the Extraordinary “Torres del Paine” Park. Sebastian is joining us again along with Martin.
We saw the impressive “Mt. Fitzroy” from a distance, which is a popular climb. (11, 020 feet) I would love to have been up close and personal to it and the village of “El Chaten” mountaineering mecca, as I am always interested in mountaineering. My late father climbed 5 of the world’s highest peaks, and took me along with him on his last trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp and higher. One of the mountains he summited was “Mt. Aconcagua” right here in Argentina (22, 841 feet)
The social drink here is “Mate”. Softer and lighter than coffee or tea. The leaves have Matteine instead of Caffeine.
During a lunch stop, we enjoyed seeing an original painting by “Molino Campos”, a famous Argentinian Artist. This photo was called “The Gaucho”. He used to draw for Disney years ago.
Most Sheep Ranchers here have European backgrounds. The ranches need to be huge to be productive (1 acre per 1-2 sheep)
Health Care is Socialized and there are long waits. Better and faster health care is available for $200.00 per month. There were 35 public hospitals in Buenos Aires, all with very long waits. 21% taxes.
We saw the Magnificent “Paine Massive” mountain range in Torres del Paine National Park in Chili. The “plains” compromise 80% of Argentina. High Winds really characterize Patagonia, with the wind factor most changing life in Patagonia.
We saw many mighty Condors with 9 foot wing spans, flying in circular patterns, using the thermals to their advantage.
There is mandatory voting at the age of 18. The penalty of not voting is a heavy fine. People have an I.D. since birth which is used for their passports.
Ranchers who own their land pay little taxes. If house and trees on the land, half the taxes are paid.
Outstanding “Torres del Paine” National Park! Such OUTSTANDING SCENERY! We could not stop taking photos of this glorious land! We were So lucky to have such Outstanding weather and un-obstructed views! Including photos of “The Horns of Paine” (10,000 ft. twin peaks) The horns were climbed by a Chilean team.
We took a Beautiful 5-mile hike, which I Loved, Wind and all! It is so exhilarating, this is Magnificent PATAGONIA! We saw beautiful trees with changing leaves and colors (their Fall season)
We arrived at our Gorgeous hotel right on the lake, “Lago Grey Hotel” in Torres del Paine National Park, and what Great views! It was nearly sundown, and we so wished we had more daylight time here! We are about to have dinner, and we must leave by 8:30 in the am.
We all sat at two long tables in the dining room of this lovely hotel where we enjoyed Delicious food! Don had a fish called “Hake”. I had a tasty Turkey dinner. Great bread and desserts also! This is a pretty pricey Hotel, but well worth it. One of several “Exploon” hotels here in this area.
After a good breakfast, we are on our way to a beautiful hike (just 5 miles down road from Lago Gray Hotel) What a Spectacular walk along the beach of large volcanic pebbles! We saw Gorgeous Cobalt Blue icebergs, floating out in the lake. Beyond, is another lovely mountain range. IT JUST DOES NOT GET ANY PRETTIER THAN THIS!
We walked through some lovely wooded areas, then hiked up the side of a mountain with more great views. By then, it was lunch time, so we stopped for a Picnic, but the winds were just too fierce to stay put in one area, and it was a cold day now that the sun had gone behind a cloud. Brrrrr We ended up eating our sack lunch on the bus. We later stopped on a high plateau to watch a playful herd of Guanacos. So pretty, but so skittish I could not get near one. Besides, they being in the camel family can spit!
In 1879 Brit “Lady Florence Dixie” first described “The land at the end of the world”, and the giants of Patagonia, when she wrote “Across Patagonia from a visitor’s perspective”. At that time, it was a “no man’s land”. In 1978 Generals Pinochet and Biudoulah nearly went to war over the Beagle Channel. They waited 14 months to start, as they were not sure of the boundaries between Argentina and Chili. No war was started, and there has not been a war between the 2 countries for 200 years. There are 180,000 mines still planted in Patagonia. In 1825, England recognized Argentina’s sovereignty.
Our next stop was “Puerto Natalee” (on the “Last Hope Sound”) A lovely hotel right on the beach where we would all stay for the night, “Costraustralis”. All the rooms faced the beach with a lovely view. We again enjoyed a delicious meal of Ceviche salad (very popular in South America), Salmon with sticky rice, and a yummy Califate Mousse for dessert. We all slept like babies hearing the waves lapping at the nearby beach.
“Estancia Fitz Roy” (Punta Arena, Chili) Established in 1980. This is a 12 acre working Sheep Ranch. What a Wonderful time we had there during our 3 hour visit and luncheon stop! This experience was 3 of the Best Hours of our trip! Our meal was Outstanding as we enjoyed the Patagonian Lamb (even I liked it). It had just been on the barby and was so fresh! The variety of salads at the lovely salad bar was also delicious, as were the side dishes! The tables were so unique, made of large saw blades with glass on top and fabulous décor there in the guest house where we had lunch. Outside, we watched the Gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) riding and roping sheep as they got ready to do a “sheep dip” for any parasites. Then we watched sheep being sheared. They were such gentle animals, no wonder they go to the slaughter so easily. We enjoyed the grounds with wonderful artifacts and old engines on the property. There were also sheep dogs, llamas, and a beautiful caged Puma, who was a “Rescue”. We loved the tour of the family chapel, built by the father, with all the roughhewn logs. This is where the 3 sisters were all married. We loved meeting the 3 generations of family who were so gracious. What a neat Cultural experience we had and what a great Legacy this family is passing on! We had to cross the river on an auto ferry to get there, as this Estancia was quite isolated, as most are.
Story 10 Punta Arenas, Chile
Extremely windy here! Notice the side walk “Ropes” for holding on to, lest one gets blown out onto the streets!
Homage of the city of Punta Arenas to the Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral 1945
Punta Arenas is where we boarded our small ship “Via Australis”. The ship held 120 people, but there were only 111 onboard this trip. Several other OAT groups were also on board. Rooms were very neat and comfy. We got unpacked and organized in our “floating hotel” for the next 4 nights. For OAT tours contact Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount.
We had just changed clothes and freshened up when we heard the loud speaker calling us all to the 4th deck for our life jacket drill.
Then all the groups were welcomed (thirteen countries represented), with the most being from the U.S.
We enjoyed our first Scrumptious dinner onboard. It was a four-course meal consisting of wonderful fresh Salmon, Salad, Soup/Bread, and a beautiful array of yummy desserts. We were surely eating too much on this trip, even with all our walking, but it sure was fun and the food had been Delicious everywhere! We were not used to eating around 8pm back at home either. Each table was introduced, and as we stood, people applauded as our nationality was called out.
After Dinner, we were again “Briefed” for next day’s activities. Everything is always so organized on our OAT trips!
This a Citron 2CV similar to a car owned by my husband in 1966.
On board the “Via Australis” (Easter Sunday)
After a lovely Easter Brunch on board, we donned our life jackets and prepared to disembark our ship for our first Zodiac ride! We were headed through beautiful “Ainsworth Bay” at sight of the “Marinelli glacier” The largest in the Darwin Ice Field.
We had a BLAST riding in these rubber Zodiacs! Dolphins were everywhere splashing playfully in the frigid waters.
Then we headed ashore and took a lovely 2 hour walk through incredible flora! We had a local guide who pointed out such a huge variety of Peat Moss, Lichen, Peat Boggs, Mistletoe, 3 various Beach trees, wild edible berries some NOT edible.
We learned so many interesting facts! At the end of our walk, we were treated to a yummy cup of hot chocolate to warm us up before heading out again in the Zodiacs for more discoveries. This time, I sat in the very front of the Zodiac, and really got splashed by the playful dolphins! It was like they really Loved splashing us and getting us drenched!
We later stopped for a wonderful Italian lunch of Pasta, salad, and grilled veggies. There was also a beautiful dessert assortment, but we were too full!
Back at our ship for a little free time, I enjoyed journaling while my hubby Don read. We found cute chocolate Easter Bunnies left on our bed wrapped in cellophane. We left again at 4pm for another excursion on the Zodiacs, and this time, I dressed even more warmly, after being so wet during the first trip. It began to lightly rain, so I was so happy I had dressed warmly with a waterproof jacket and hood that tied. We saw many “Magellan penguins”, ducks, geese, turkey vultures, and cormorants. The Penguins were in large groups waiting to swim north any day.
At one point, we were speeding along in the Zodiac, and I became a bit “Airborne”! Good thing I was holding on tightly to the rope, as this ice cold water would not feel very welcome, and hypothermia would immediately set in!
A steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate was waiting for us onboard the ship. There was a very interesting Glacial talk on board where we all learned so much, followed by in interesting tour of the Engine Room!
Dinner was the usual 8pm, but this time, we really scaled down with our eating (not an easy task with all the delicious food!) After dinner, I passed out Chocolate Easter Eggs to the group.
There was a fun “Fashion Show” after dinner with many of the gentlemen “Walking the runway” (most looked pretty sheepish) We all had a good laugh and enjoyed some nice chats with people in our group.
Story 12 Onboard the Via Australis
Awoke to a Beautiful day and sunset! Don was outside the state room taking pictures.
We slept well in spite of the rough seas, because of the Dramamine we took before bed. We were told to “Plan ahead” and take something for sea sickness as well as taking everything off the counters before bed, as we were navigating such rough seas and choppy waters now. Lots of rocking and rolling of the ship, but it was fun (unless you were seasick in spite of these measures) We are in the area of “the furious fifties” in the “Strait of Magellan”. Between the mainland and Tierra del Fuego. There is no protection from the furious winds with these island westerly winds. Last week the winds were 90 knots here! We’re headed S. E. at 90 degrees. There are really strong tides every 6 hours. It’s like a vacuum going against the current! The predominant current of the Beagle channel is West to East.
Our ship officers and pilots take 4 hour shifts only. Each ship has trained sailors with radar control, ECO Sound measures, Radar, and GPS. There is also a magnetic compass. Side motors and flags are also used for the high winds. There is a heat detector and fire equipment, with the fire doors closing automatically in case of a fire. There is a meteorology report twice per day. The captain is navy trained, and he took us on a wonderful tour of the “Bridge”. A Hellman is a Zodiac pilot. There is something called the “Chicken Armada” where volunteers sign up for a year at a time.
The Panama Canal, built from 1903-1914 under President Teddy Roosevelt, cost the U.S. around $375, 000,000, including 10,000,000 paid to Panama and 40,000,000 paid to the French Company. The single most expensive construction project in U.S. history at that time. Fortification cost and extra 12,000,000. The three original channels before the Panama Canal were: Strait of Magellan (1520), Beagle channel (Captain Fitzroy 1829), Cape Horn and Drake Passage (Dutch 1616) We had the great Adventure of cruising all of these!
145,000 people live in this gorgeous area of Tierra del Fuego, Chile, and 67,000 people inhabit Ushuaia (The end of the world) In the past, the indigenous peoples called the Selknam natives, and the Tehuelche natives inhabited Patagonia. They were known to be great hunters and to paint their bodies with interesting designs. They would be shot on the spot for killing any sheep on the Ranches. They didn’t know the difference, as they were just hunting to live! Reminiscent of the early Aboriginal natives of Australia. Many of these early Patagonians were transported to Europe to be placed in “Human Zoos”.
Off to see the huge, famed Pia Glacier. We had to get there by Zodiac, and once there, we took a walk at this impressive site, enjoying magnificent “Ice Sculptured Patagonia”!
Then we navigated around the glacier on the Via Australis. We are now 300 miles from Antarctica, and 1,300 miles from the Cape of Good Hope in Africa! (Which we saw on our African Adventure back in 1998)
Three conditions that must be favorable to go ashore at Cape Horn (via Zodiac): 1 wind condition 2 currants on the stern 3 conditions onshore. Regarding Cape Horn; the roughest seas in the world! The Pacific and Atlantic oceans come together, often in confrontation! Gigantic waves driven by high winds and currents, and very tough to navigate! There have been more than 800 ship wrecks in the past, and some 10,000 sailors have drowned there, “Rounding the Horn”, and navigating Drake’s Passage.
We had a lovely “Captain’s Dinner” onboard the ship that night. Soup, Salad, Salmon, Scalloped Potatoes, tasty Veggies, and a fabulous Dessert Bar. After dinner, our group watched, “Eden, journey to the center of the earth”, a good movie which we all enjoyed.
Very rough, rolling seas again that night, and we slept quite well, even though we did not take Dramamine the night before! It made me quite drowsy the next day. I am so thankful that neither of us suffers from sea sickness! Tomorrow we attempt to disembark for Cape Horn (God willing!)
We are all anxiously awaiting the “Conditions” report, in hopes of seeing Cape Horn this am!!! We just had our morning coffee in our room, as we will all have breakfast after coming back. YES, thank God we received the great report that all 3 conditions were perfect to disembark the ship and onto our Zodiacs for our trip ashore! We all bundled up in our warmest so we could be warm enough to be onshore with these unbelievable winds! There was a steep hike up 120 steps up to this remote island of rock and ice called “South Georgia Island”. We walked to the lovely Albatross Monument dedicated to all the fallen sailors. We toured the lighthouse and small chapel as well. The winds were 80-90 MPH, and it was difficult to stand! A family of 4 has dedicated a year of their lives to run the lighthouse and live on this desolate island. The mom is homeschooling the children. NO T.V. and no internet.
Our guide Martin told us that just last week, the other OAT small ship named “The Stella”, could not get the people onshore, after 3 attempts! It was just too windy and rough! The Stella was a bit larger than our Via Australis, so were so thankful to be on the smaller of the two small ships! What a wonderful adventure we had! Back at the ship, a hot breakfast was waiting for us, and it really hit the spot! After breakfast, we watched the amazing true story of Ernest Shackleton and his British team of 26 who survived their 14-month ordeal at the South Pole! He was a real hero and ended up leading 3 Antarctic Expeditions!
We changed into warm clothing later that day for our 4pm hike to the beautiful “Wulaia Bay”. It was a steep hike (Which I loved) Nice weather, pretty woodsy trails, lovely Fall colors, I was in “Seventh Heaven” as I walked fast up at front of the line with our local guide “Deana”. She discussed the flora and told us many interesting facts.
That last night on board our ship was so magical! We knew we would realty miss this adventure once we disembarked the next morning.
Disembarking our ship.
We then took a walking tour of charming “Ushuaia” (the end of the world) It literally means the bay facing westward. This is the furthermost Southern city in the world. We are on the lovely “Beagle channel”
Industry and Electronic businesses there since the 70’s. Interesting shops, bars, and “The end of the world” museum. The streets are very steep with lovely views of the surrounding mountains. There is no real summer there (warmest it gets is 55 degrees Fahrenheit). Only 7-8 hours of daylight in the winters. We saw an impressive memorial park from the 1982 10-week war with the U.K. over the Falkland Islands (or the Maldives as they are called here)
a quarter of the Beagle Channel belongs to Argentina, and the rest belongs to Chile. Patagonia is the size of 2 Californias and has a vast amount of water supply. We visited the Mission neighborhood with small brown houses built for the navy originally. They have a real squatter problem with foreigners, since the 70’s. Beautiful 360-degree view, and cute, colorful village. We saw cannons from the 1978 “almost war” with Chile. There is a large Navy base there now.
3 Big Passions in Argentina: Futball (soccer), Maldives or Falklands back to them, and the Pope!
“Gabby’s” home for a home hosted meal. This is one of our favorite things about OAT. There is always at least one home hosted lunch or dinner in each country! It gives one the chance to get off the beaten path and to see how the people live, how they entertain, how they cook, and learn interesting facts on both sides! We always look forward to these events.
We had a Delightful luncheon at the darling and cozy home of Gabby! She was Italian, and came as a tourist who ended up marrying her Chilean tour guide “Gustavo”. He was travelling, so it was just Gabby and her adorable 4-year-old daughter “Lara”. We fell in love with her home and the setting. There were many designer touches in the home, as well as artwork from other countries (just what we like). She was charming and gracious and fed us so well! We had a yummy Lentil Stew, homemade killer bread, and the best Empanadas we had ever had! They were homemade spinach and cheese. For dessert, there was a delightful homemade cake. It had a whipped meringue frosting that just melted in your mouth! I swear, I could have eaten that cake by myself! We gave her our hostess gift that we had brought with us from Laguna Beach, where we live. It was an Angel ornament made of Sea Shells. She really loved it, along with little Lara! This was such a SPECIAL highlight, one of our top 10 home hosted visits we have delighted in throughout the world!
We were so fortunate to have such good weather for most of our trip (so far)!
More of Ushuaia
We were then delivered to our new hotel, lovely and roomy, but I missed our small ship with the impeccable service and great amenities! We later took a walk, but alas, most shops were closed for the “Siesta” time. Ah, but of course! Often, they are closed from noon or 1pm until 4pm or later! It’s very frustrating, and they must miss out on some good “tourist sales”! At 4pm, we all met in the lobby to start our walking tour of the nearby prison and lighthouse.
It was very interesting, and yet, depressing. Tiny cells with a tiny window and SO cold! I think I would have wished for death rather than living in those circumstances. There were many interesting photos of prison times. We purchased some gifts from the prison gift shop to take home to friends and family. Some had the logo “From the end of the world”. We also had our passports stamped with the same logo. The Penal colony was founded in 1848 and used to house 180, 000 people. One third of the local residents worked for the military. Then we joined guide Martin and others in the lobby before walking a short distance to the waterfront and our Dinner on the wharf. The meal was Delicious, one of the best Sea Bass dinners we had ever had! It was very fresh and was called “Black Hake”. Don had the Hake Seafood Casserole, which he loved! There was a tasty salad with everything in it and we really enjoyed the dinner! We were too full for dessert, once again! The food has been Great in both countries! We needed some TUMS that night, so we could sleep. We were not used to eating so late and with such rich food, as fun as it was! I really wanted to power walk after so many dinners, but it’s tough when in a foreign and dark place at 9pm or later! Once back at our room, we were out like a light in no time!
Post Trip to” Iguassu Falls” , Argentina
Awoke early to re-pack for our post trip. We could only take one small suitcase and one carry on for our trip to Iguassu Falls. Only 9 of us doing this Extension trip for next 3 days. We will leave the remainder of our luggage in this hotel until we return here for the last day and night before flying back to the states. The remainder of the group flies home tomorrow. Martin shared some sad news about the terrible flooding back in Buenos Aires (Worse flooding ever!) In two hours, they had 18-20 inches of rain! Then another storm hit and dumped another 16 inches of rain on top of that! There were at least 50 fatalities with cars floating everywhere.” La Plata” was the worst hit because it was so flat. The people were angry because of the slow response from the government. We really felt for those poor people and were SO thankful that we were not in Buenos Aires at the time! We were worried it would affect the rest of our itinerary, but did not seem to at all. We had more to see that last day of the regular itinerary, and Martin told us “He had a surprise for us”! ON the way to the “Surprise”, we passed the most beautiful Opera House, “The Colon Theatre”, 4th top opera house in the world, acoustic wise. The correct order is: Paris, Milan, New York, and Buenos Aires. I sure wish we had the time to see an opera here! Our “Surprise” was a visit to Martin and Muriel’s 9th floor penthouse apartment for Fabulous homemade Empanadas! What a treat to see their home and to meet Muriel! The house was so cozy and cute and smelled so good!
They were Spinach, Cheese, and Chicken enpanadas, all three were really good! After about an hour’s visit, we bade Muriel goodbye, thanking both of them for their warm hospitality! Then we were taken by bus back to our “Amerina” Hotel. We had a lovely “Farewell Dinner” that night (as is always the custom when travelling with OAT) We were fortunate to sit by Martin and Muriel, who spoke quite good English. After bidding our fellow travelers “Good bye” (those who were not continuing on with the Post trip Extension), several couples were whisked off to a Beautiful private club for an Amazing Tango show! We watched a few couples perform along with the famous “Carlos Garsoal” as the lead dancer.
It was a long day and a hefty sum to watch these dancers, but well worth it. We had a short night of sleep as we had to be up by 6am next day for our flight to “Iguassu Falls”. A tiny LAM plane, and 1.15-hour flight. We had some Delicious chocolates on board from Buenos Aires, supposed to be the best in Argentina, called “Arcor”. It supposedly is the “fourth best in the world”.
Iguassu Falls, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay
We only saw the Spectacular Falls from the Argentinian side, which was the best and the largest. Very tropical and humid rain forest, so green and gorgeous! Two meters of rain per year, and the water level of the falls was high due to all the recent rain! 45,000 people live here and it’s so quiet and peaceful. Lots of wildlife in this Argentinian national park from Puma cats and Jaguars, to 5 various poisonous snakes, to Toucans and many other birds, to several species of monkeys. Also, vicious Coatimundis (related to Racoons), who leave a terrible bite!
There are 285 various falls with “Devil’s Throat” being the highest. There is no dry season here. We had some delicious Corn Empanadas there for lunch. Then we checked into our most Beautiful Hotel yet! The fabulous 5 star “Amerian Portal del Iguassu Hotel”!
We so enjoyed relaxing on a lovely deck of the hotel looking out over the infinity pool while having a cool drink! The grounds were huge and lovely with wonderful amenities! We loved the heavy carved Burlwood furniture outside!
We could look across the “Rio Iguassu River” to Brazil on one side, and then over to Paraguay from another side.
Then we took a long walk around the little village. It was hot and humid and we were really perspiring. We returned to the hotel and enjoyed a refreshing Mango/lemon smoothie and the A.C.! My legs and feet were quite swollen after the walk, so I put them up for a while and lessened my salt intake!
The 9 of us met with Martin at the hotel Bar at 7:15. We enjoyed a drink and a nice chat before having a really good dinner in the lovely hotel dining room. Menu was a tasty salad with corn, grated carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and hearts of palm. The rolls were wonderful as was the “Young Chicken” with a delicious sauce, good veggies and potatoes, and fresh fruit with Mango sorbet on top for dessert. I do love all the great Tropical fruits here! Mangoes, Pineapple, Papayas, and very sweet little bananas. We walked back to our room to find more of the delicious “Arcor” chocolates on our pillows. Another day of great sights and over eating, this must stop!
Second Day seeing the Spectacular Iguassu Falls
There were so many various trails and “catwalks” for viewing these falls from many angles! We found it easier to view these falls than many other world known falls, like Victoria Falls in South Africa. There were so many more vantage points! Iguassu Falls became a “World Heritage Sight” in 1985. There are 285 various falls with “Devil’s Throat” being the highest. There is no dry season here
We stopped for a tasty “Ravido” for lunch. Made of flour, salt, eggs, and spices, with a fried egg on top. Also had a refreshing lemon popsicle.
After lunch, those of us who signed up for the thrilling Jet Boat Ride began the deep descent down the many steps to the River. We donned our plastic ponchos and rain hats for our WILD 30 minute ride! We were all drenched even before we went under one of the falls! I found myself sitting in a pool of water on the boat.
What FUN we all had! After drying off, we had the steep hike up the same steps to our waiting Big Tractor Truck for some sightseeing with a local guide. A nice 30 min ride with the guide explaining the local flora. Lots of locals and as well as tourists. We really enjoyed the exotic plants and colors and all the orchids!
Back to our lovely hotel for a shower after our River Drenching. We met everyone in the hotel lobby at 7:30 for a wonderful Buffet/Barbeque Dinner show (held outdoors on our beautiful grounds) Many tasty dishes, salads, meats. I especially enjoyed the “Stuffed Dorado” fish. Martin brought the head of a Dorado fish on a plate for us all to see how large they were. Martin said this was his favorite delicacy, because of all the meat “In the cheeks”. The desserts were Scrumptious with my favorite being a light lemon parfait. (I love anything lemon) Around 9:30 the live music started. We loved the man & woman duet, with both playing the guitar. Very easy listening, like Brazilian Bosa Nova, and their voices were so well suited for each other and for that genre of music. We even bought their C.D. The local drink we had was called a “Caipirinha”, and it was good! Made from Rum, Ice, Lime, and powdered sugar, all in the blender. We stayed for a good hour listening to the music before walking the moonlit grounds for a romantic stroll. We later found a ping pong table and played for a half hour or so (until we were perspiring from the humidity)
What a perfect day of adventure we had, coupled with a lovely evening! We hate to leave this Tropical Paradise in the A.M. for our flight back to Buenos Aires and our last 2 days of adventure here in this gorgeous part of the world!
Story 20 Back to Buenos Aires
We Packed up our bags and got them out in the hall for the bell men by 8:30, and then went to breakfast. We then left the hotel by 9:45 for the bus taking us to the airport, bound once more for Buenos Aires. We saw some of the most beautiful leather we had seen at the small airport while waiting for our plane. Argentina is known for wonderful leather! We didn’t have much time, but managed to make a few purchases before boarding LAN airlines once again. Nice and short flight, with a great landing! Everyone applauded onboard when we touched down on the tarmac! I like the custom of the men and the women kissing one another on both cheeks, like we see in many parts of the world.
We set out on foot again to see the fabulous Bibliotecha (Bookstore), called “El Ateneo Grand Splendid”. A beautiful converted theatre that opened in 1919, now converted into an elegant bookstore!
After our tour and purchasing 2 C.D.’s there, we stopped for a bite of lunch at a nearby bakery. We had a very thin, tasty sandwich made of Egg and Cheese called a “MIga”, Yum!
To purchase a typical 2-3 bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood cost around $85,000 U.S. dollars. There are many lovely places to live in Buenos Aires, so no wonder there are many retired U.S. Citizens living there.
We were hearing stories of tourists getting spray painted with a paint gun, then the crook acts like he is helping the victim, while robbing him. Their clothing is ruined, while the fast running con gets away. This was the latest “con job.”
That night we enjoyed dinner with the group at “Broccolinis’ Italian Food”. My Lasagna was great as was Don’s homemade pasta dish with mushrooms and a great sauce. We shared a wonderful salad and Tiramisu Dessert. Martin and Murriel sat by us, and we so enjoyed their company! We picked up their tab, and it was a wonderful evening!
We are on our mini bus for our last Excursion of the trip. Headed for “Tigre City”, gateway to a huge delta system (2,000 miles) Part of the Parana River, which runs through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina for 4,880 kilometers. Second in length only to the Amazon River, among South American Rivers. The Delta is 12,000 miles. We are crossing the De La Plata River, one of the widest water ways in the world. The waterways and rivers are important for Argentina’s commerce. 800,000 cars per year are assembled there. Best investment there is purchasing a parking lot ($27,000 U.S. dollars) There are 250 gated communities in Northern Buenos Aires. Tigre City was named for all the Jaguars that inhabited this area years ago. Thought to be Tigers, they were killed off for their gorgeous skins. Now very few left in the North. This was the National Capitol of Rowing, and we saw many lovely boats. The gas stations filled cars as well as boats.
We really enjoyed our boat ride throughout this lovely area. We passed a lovely former casino, now a fine art museum, and very European looking. All the islands are inter connected, with 7 sections. They have a special sewer system. 5,000 people live here, all on stilted homes. We bought bananas from a “floating market” boat
If one wants groceries, they leave a bag tied to their mailbox out front of home. There is mail delivery, trash pickup, grocery delivery, drinking water delivery, even ice cream delivery, all by boat! There are 12 public schools in the 1stand 2nd sections of the delta. There are around 400 islands, and the most beautiful, tall trees everywhere. I loved all the Weeping Willows. There was even an Amusement Park there with a large Ferris Wheel. The homes have large water tanks on the top of their home, good for everything but drinking. They do have a mosquito problem during the hotter months.
After leaving this gorgeous area, we went by bus for our last lunch of the trip. It was a late lunch, as we were all flying back to the states that night. We had a good deep dish pizza at a cute and popular restaurant, before being delivered to our hotel once again, so we could finish packing up for our flight.
I wrote a nice note to our fantastic guide and enclosed it with our tip for the past 17 days. We were really dreading saying
“good bye” to Martin who had made our trip SO Special! Martin stayed with us at the airport until he saw us prepare to board the plane. We will sorely miss him as we leave these beautiful countries, with all the wonderful memories! I wrote in my journal, that “I would leave part of my heart here in Patagonia”. It truly was one of our most Fabulous trips ever!
If anyone is interested in experiencing an “O.A.T.” trip, please contact me for a discount, and I will arrange it.