A Travellerspoint blog

el fin del mundo (the end of the world)

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5/31- A nickname for this region that shows up on wine labels, etc., this Lake District of northern Patagonia could not be more visually astounding. The blue and sometimes green water, glaciar runoff, must be seen in person, or you would otherwise think it was Photoshopped.

Our first impressions of San Carlos de Bariloche were: gorgeous fall colors with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, crisp air tempered with bright, warm sun, green succulent plants, Andes mountains mirrored in Lake Nahuel Huapi’s peaceful water… Colorado meets Oregon meets northern Spain…

New Zealand emphasized that the only slight difference was that the steering wheel and side of the road are opposite the US. Here, we had to discover that the absence of stop signs and stop lights mean pedestrians have the right of way, even when a pack of teenagers dressed in black dart across highways with a 60kph speed limit. (Thank God Leigh had her afternoon tea and saw them in time, AND that our seatbelts and brakes work as intended!) Perhaps this forgives her for almost driving over a cliff when she tried to make a 3-point turn about with a sticky reverse gear. I had to change my drawers, but in the end we made it here to share with you how not to drive in Patagonia. Every intersection “negotiation” provoked a reminder to Leigh not to “roll the car.” The Hertz lady made it abundantly clear that we would be covered for pretty much anything except for rolling the car. T-bone my side: I don’t care; just don’t roll the car.

We checked into our condo, complete with a spectacular panoramic lake and mountain view, brand new everything, full kitchen, etc., and an easy walk to downtown, the lake, and right next door to a cheese shop, pastry shop and Wifi café. Our reservation on Hostalworld.com, what we thought was going to be a hostel at $25/ night, was evidently incorrectly published by the hostel owner who also owned the condo. After we clarified the confusion over the phone, since Lucía who checked us in handles everything but money, we couldn’t agree more that we were getting an incredible deal.
We drove around the biggest lake of the 7 Lakes District and caught a glimpse of the local Loch Ness appear, bend and submerge again. According to an indigenous man carving bamboo sticks, not even the locals know what it is. We stopped at a “salon de té” for yerba mate.

Posted by senete 04:15 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Uruguay

5/30 En Route to Uruguay!

We woke up to the sounds of down-pouring rain, and tropical birds. According to our roommates (from Buenos Aires and Scotland), we slept through a huge party by the pool. But we had come for the Falls and were happy to catch up on sleep. Our time in one of the natural wonders of the world was brief yet extremely rewarding! Carlos picked us up and we were on our way. We asked him if the Falls had ever completely dried out, and he said twice in his 40 years living in Iguazú, once when he was 7 and once in 2008. After the most recent instance, the rains poured down so heavily that they flooded the walkways and closed the Falls for almost a month. It must have really felt like the end of the world then!

From the moment we sat in the pre-boarding area for our flight to Montevideo, it was clear that Uruguay’s economy is doing well. This was only confirmed by the state-of-the-art airport and our Mercedes taxi with leather seats and temporary McMansions that lined the coast on our way to the main “e-square”, a 5 minute ride from the ferry port but a 20 minute ride from the airport. A minor oversight that cost us extra cab fare but allowed us a glimpse of Uruguay’s developed capital city on our layover stop that made our flight to Patagonia more affordable.

After strong winds made it sound like someone was knocking on our door all night in our old but beautiful hostel, and an actual knock at 3am from the hostel guy working the night shift because he confused our request for a taxi at 6:15, we were excitedly departing for Patagonia!

Posted by senete 04:10 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

International Orchestra at Iguazu Falls!

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5/29/10 an international orchestra at one of the planet’s most breathtaking wonders!

The flight to Iguazú was one filled with many white-knuckle, stomach-churning moments. We left Buenos Aires on a rainy Saturday morning and bounced our way to the northern Argentine-Brazilian border, one of the natural wonders of the world, on a 1 hour and 40 minute turbulent journey. But, really, what can you expect when you are approaching what has appeared to me, since I hung a poster in my closet in high school, as the end of the world? As we landed, we could see lush, green jungle and a mist cloud from the falls themselves drifting toward the sky. The airport in Iguazú looked more like a hotel than an airport, with its brick exterior. We arrived around 11:30am and, after a delicious lunch of breaded chicken, beets, cucumbers, boiled eggs and fries en route to the national park and majestic falls, we were photographing the very literally breathtaking Devil’s Throat Argentine lookout not 2 hours later. We hiked to two different over-the-water lookouts and took the plunge (literally) in a high adrenaline dosed ride in a speedboat to the falls (both the Brazilian side and the Argentinean side). We were warned (very accurately) by our cab driver that we would be soaked from head to toe after the speedboat ride; he was not kidding!! They provided dry bags for us to put our cameras and shoes in, and we ended up buying the video they took on the boat, since we could not film the trip due to the copious amount of water. We ended one of our hikes by walking up on a 5 country youth symphony (Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina) that performed the most intense, classical soundtrack imaginable for the misty falls, from the Sheraton where we enjoyed cocktails and mingled with some teenagers with their younger brother, all sharing their afternoon mate. It was here that we discussed how we’d love to travel with our nieces Molly and Megan when they graduate from high school.

Carlos, our cab driver from the airport to our hostel, gave us a package deal for taking us to and from the falls, as well as to and from the airport. He was a cheerful Argentinean that was excited to practice his English.

Posted by senete 04:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

The biggest city we have ever explored!

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5/27 Buenos Aires

Our taxi driver en route to our next hostel, in the Palermo Viejo district, was very vocal about the Madres and Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (the women who march for human rights, raising awareness about the “disappeared” political dissenters in the 70s. We spent the day atop a double-decker city tour bus, driving by many historical sites and learning about the predominant Italian immigrant influence in Argentina. The skies threatened rain, so we stayed on the informative ride as long as possible, only stopping once in Boca, home to the soccer darlings Boca Juniors and El Caminito, a colorful artist zone. I wasted no time in finding the most obnoxious (but so worth it!) tourist photo opp, a tango pose with holes for our heads. Hopefully the attached photo will give you as great a laugh as it gave us. We found a tango show to enjoy while we savored an unbelievably tasty steak in mushroom sauce and the most generous wine pour we’ve ever seen. (picture also attached) We staged a tango pose with the dancers and bought the musicians’ CD.

After talking with some of the artists, we hopped back on the bus and returned to our hostel. We explored the Palermo neighborhood and scored when we found La Salamendra, a dulce de leche and mozzarella bar. We devoured an exquisitely fresh, organic salad with flower sprouts and crunchy grape tomatoes. We each had a decadent Italian cappuccino, served with a shot glass of water to cut the sweetness, and we shared a ganache COOKIE and a dulce de leche crepe. I don’t recall ever moaning over a meal as much as I did over this one! Next, we determined that this would be the night for us to taste a little of Buenos Aires nightlife, so we hung out with some well traveled and interesting Aussies for a few hours. They recommended a place for us to have dinner (not that I thought I needed it, after that late afternoon treat!) But we were caught in between being the very first to show up to a club we wanted to check out and its 12:30~1:00 “start time.” So, we checked in at La Cassera. Our waiter could not have treated us any more like VIPs, and much to our surprise, we were the last ones to leave at about 1:30. We ordered a “small” cut of steak, half of which ended up being about 2 bites too much for me. The meat was served with about 8 little ramikans of side dishes, such as mashed pumpkin, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, a spinach cream sauce, etc. He recommended a 2 for 1 wine deal, so we have a boutique bag with a bottle of wine to share with Romeo and Cecelia tonight. We noticed a very unique dessert of lollipops displayed on a wooden stand rotating to different tables, and when we inquired, our waiter replied that this was the reward for finishing all of our food. He pretended not to notice that I couldn’t finish my steak and let us choose our lollipop anyway. And then, he served us each a glass of champagne and recommended we dip our lollipop in it. This was a classy restaurant, mind you, just with a sense of humor! Neither of us made a dent in our champagne, so he replaced them with a lemon chelo, an incredibly smooth lemon zest digestive shot. What a refreshing finish for our palettes! We headed to the club to watch some talented dancers perform, but eventually the smoke got to us, and we were in bed just after 3:00. What Buenos Aires novices!!

Posted by senete 04:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Latin America's Oldest Subway

Swing dancing in Tango country??? :)

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May 28 Latin America’s oldest subway

Today, we took the Subte metro to the Plaza de Mayo, hoping to witness a demonstration which, according to the locals, take place here nearly every day, organized by labor unions, human rights defenders whose goal is to raise awareness about the Falkland Islands dispute, etc. Again, it was a peaceful day, local school-kids taking tours filled the square. I spoke with a representative of the Falkland Islands group, discussing the changes he has seen in many of the neighborhood and cultural dynamics, as Latin American immigration has increased. On our way home we rode an original wooden train on Latin America’s oldest subway system. We enjoyed more empanadas for our late lunch- early dinner; window-shopped, and devoured more dulce de leche treats from one of the many pastry shops.

I cannot express how kind the people are here. Anytime we hesitated or looked at a map or the metro guide, a local would ask us, in perfect English, if they could help us find something. In the subte a young man asked us if we were together and then smiled stating that he has many lesbian and gay friends. I suppose this statement was made to help us feel at home. J We have made friends in every environment that we have been in: planes, trains, sidewalk, dance studio, hostels, restaurants, etc.

Later, we attended a swing dance class and live jazz concert that Romeo had invited us to, where we enjoyed listening to his girlfriend Cecilia sing Ella Fitzgerald and other classic tunes, in impressive English! Included in our cover were several “taxi dancers” who were very talented at teaching beginner leaders and followers. Shannon did very well with her first dance lesson in Spanish and was delighted to discern that “¡Eso!” meant “That’s it!”

Posted by senete 04:02 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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