South America Tour 2011-2012
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SOUTH AMERICA TOUR 2011/2012
Bueos Aires, 25 December 2011
The champagne was flooding well on Xmas-eve in the business lounge of Air France at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. The Airbus landed thirteen hours after departure at Buenos Aires International Airport. Our boutique hotel was located in down town Buenas Aires with its cobble stone streets, wool and leather sellers, barbeque hunts and tango bars. Unexpectedly we met an Argentian family celebrating Xmas at their patio and joined their dancing. We strawled thru the city enjoying the Tango music till late night, even having a picture moment with a Tango dancer at her podium.
Buenos Aires is a beautiful metropole with avenues, historical buildings, a subway with classic, wooden finished carriages and a variety of shopping. A train with panoramic views is bringing us to Tigre, a small harbor city at the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where we join a boat tour along the villas of the new rich of Argentina. We close the day with a proper Indian dinner in the historic center of Buenos Aires. Tomorrow heading for a four hours flight to Ushuaia, worlds Southern most city and gateway to Antarctica.
On the way to the airport we visit the neighborhood where Princess Maxima, wife of Willem Alexander, Crown Prince of The Netherlands, spent her youth. The strong turbulence, while approaching Ushuaia, due to the storms crossing Cape Horn, cannot witheld us enjoying the panoramic views over the glaciers of Tierra Del Fuego (Land of Fire). The wooden cabana where we check in is warm and cosy. Soon we discover that all the transport possibilities out of Ushuaia are fully booked. How do we get away from this remote, windy, isolated town?
Ushuaia, 27 December 2011
The morning we get onboard for a boat tour along Beagle Channel, centuries ago sailed by Darwin and connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. We observe penguins and sea lions, enjoying the sun under a crystal clear sky. The afternoon Roberto, the pension owner, offers the solution for our transport problem. He will drive us himself to the Chilean town, Puerto Natales. The evening we bake pizzas and finish a couple of bottles of Argentinian wine.
Early morning we join Roberto in his jeep for the five hunderd kilometer journey to Punta Arenas. Stopped by patrolling police, we explain that Roberto is a good friend, else he would be discovered as our illegal taxidriver. Roberto is a veteran from the Falkland war and he leads us along highways where the planes where taking off for their fights against the British. Fast we clear the immigration at the Argentinian border, in strong contrast with the four hour queue at the Chilean border. We dance, talk and sing with the other immigrants. Roberto is proud on his country. The Argentinian customs were much faster! Along the gravel roads are sheeps and lamas grazing. We cross a channel on a rusty ferry and arrive late evening at Betty's hostal. When we leave the restaurant after a dinner of roast lamb, a local delicacy, the sky is still clear. The Southern hemasphere has in December daylight till after eleven. The evening we spent in the wooden house in Betty's back yard playing scrabble and writing dairies.
Punta Arenas is a deserted city and only used by tourists as transfer point traveling thru Patagonia. The next morning we visit a penguin colony, whereafter we board the bus to Puerto Natales, gateway to the Unesco protected natural park "Torres del Paine". This destination should have become one of the highlights of our tour...
Puerto Natales, 30 December 2011
Blanca and Juan welcome us heartly late evening in their hostal, but also share the terrible news: Hectares of land in "Torres del Paine" are at fire. More than seven hunderd tourists have been evacuated and the governments of Argentina and Brasil offer support to prevent a further catastrophy. As a result we are, though safe, locked up in the city. All buses, taxis and rental cars have been booked by fledding tourists.
Next day we visit with Juan's son-in-law caves, which thousands years ago where shaped by melting glaciers. The afternoon we enjoy some beers in a luxury hotel, built within an old slaughterhouse, viewing the hills and lakes of Patagonia. While returning we encounter a group of flamingos. After a tasty Sylvester Dinner down town, we join the guests in the hostal for an true international New Years party, starting with a toast on Indian New Year, followed by Dutch, French, Brasilian according to their respective timezones and finishing with champagne at Chilean New Year.
After New Years breakfast we decide to catch a taxi to the border, hoping on onwords connections to El Calefate, Argentina. After custom clearance at the Chilean border we start the five kilometer walk to the Argentinian immigration officials. Luckily, a local public servant offers us a lift. We threw our luggage in the pick up, where the day before -seeing the blood traces- he transported the slaughtered bodies of lamb. At the Chilean border we meet a salesman who offers us a lift in his old Peugeot to the nearest town. With rope closing the back of his car, we start slowly our way down hill to Rio Turbio.
Rio Turbio appears to be a quiet village where the last drunkards find in the morning their way home and the other inhabitants slowly wake up for their annual New Year family visit. The taxi booth at the town square is empty and the local busticket seller explains that the daily bus to El Calafate is fully booked. While informing at the petrol bunk about alternate connections, an empty tourist van arrives and the driver offers us to join the drive back to El Calefate. This has been so far the most adventurous, fastest and cheapest travel during our South America tour!
El Calefate, 2 January 2012
The glacier El Moreno contains worlds third biggest water reserve and moves daily a couple of meter towards the Argentina Lake. While approaching the glacier, with an height of a twenty story building, gigantic ice rocks started to break and glide in the water, causing a small tsunami which made the boat shaking. The captain navigated the boat skillfully in between the floating ice rocks and upon return we continued with an hike along this five kilometer wide glacier, with its peaks turning azur blue by the magnifying sun.
After dinner in El Calafate with its cozy restaurants and shops offering various adventurous trekkings, we advance our trip on mountain bikes provided by the hotel, located on the outskirts of the city, viewing Argentina Lake. A flat tyre motivates us to finish the tour as a true cycling team, ending the day with a glass of Argentinian Malbec wine in the lobby.
The staff of the hotel is seeking competition with Fawlty Towers: offering self service while the employees are getting drunk in the restaurant, serving the cork in (!) the wine bottle and the four year old son of the manager cycling at mid night thru the lobby. Good night!
An unplanned hike along the pampas is bringing us the next morning by surprise upon the landingstrip of the local airport, which appears to be closed. The sleepy security guard opens only one eye when we take the stair case to the top of the air traffic control tower, where we enjoy the panoramic view. Our hike continuing, we get accompany from Boris, a friendly stray dog and while crawling thru an hole in a fence we enter a local farm with sheeps grazing peacefully in the sun. The day we finished like modern gauchos, crossing the pampas on quads, along rocky paths and steep, sandy hills with icy blue Lake of Argentina at the horizon.
Buenos Aires, 5 January 2012
The Claridge is a luxureous, colonial hotel in the centre of Buenos Aires. The day we spend lazy at the pool side, lavashing cocktails and ultimate relaxing during a massage. The evening we follow the elderly inhabitants of the neighborhood, practicing their weekly tango routines in a nearby, neo clasic dance hall. This is only the start of our tango evening. At the Argentinian Tango Academy, we follow later true cabaret, with live music and a inspiring tango couple dancing the roof fom the building. The steak, grilled to perfection and Malbec wine are keeping us in Argentinian atmosphere, as well as the talk with the pub owner and his daughter on a nearby terrace, discussing traveling, politics, soccer and of course Maxima!
Montevideo, 7 Januari 2012
The mausoleum of Jose Artigas, who repelled the Spanish invaders in 1811, is on the central square of Montevideo, surrounded by colonial and communistic looking buildings. The night before we arrived in the capital of Uruguay by ferry. We have beautiful views of the hilly, subtropical landscape during the six hours premier class bustour (with wifi internet!) to the city of Salto, close to the border with Argentina. Between stretched farms are luxureous villas located, one of the reasons why Uruguay is being called the Switserland of South America.
A local driver transports us in his old Renault back to Argentina, crossing the dam of an hydro electric power plant. Here we continue our travel to Northern Argentina with a fourteen hours bus journey, waking up the next morning in the tropical climate of Iguaçu.
Foz do Iguaçu, 9 Januari 2012
The hike thru Parc Iguaçu, one of the worlds seven wonders, leads us thru dense tropical forest with magnificant views on the biggest waterfalls of South America. The captain of our speedboat, which we board in the late afternoon, manouvres the boat thru strong current to under the waterfalls, giving us a shower of thousands liter of water per second, resulting in totally soaked clothes, up to our underwear!
Crossing the three-country-point of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay we observe the Iguaçu waterfalls the next morning from different angles, with the most spectecular views from the Brazilian side. Thrilled by the power of water, we board in the afternoon the flight to Rio the Janeiro, city of Copacabana, carnaval and caipirinha!
Rio de Janeiro, 10 Januari 2012
We finish our journey of more than five thousand kilometer thru South America at the Copacaba: strawling the boulevard, observing beach soccer, having a dinner while security guards are overlooking our terrace and ending late night with caipirinhas on the beach. Before boarding the flight to Paris we visit Christo The Retendor, a tens of meters high statue, on one of the seven hills of Rio de Janeiro with a marvelous panorama over the city. For sure we can look back on an exciting journey thru South America!