Category — Argentina
November 14, 2008 2 Comments
We loved our time in South America. This short video, set to Smitten’s “Todas Esas Cosas” (“All of These Things”), includes some of our favorite images from Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Chile.
November 14, 2008 2 Comments
When I was about 16 years old, our family loaded our blue Pontiac station wagon and, for our summer vacation, drove north to Montreal.
I had two years of French from Madame Ewell, and I had assured my father I’d be able to translate for the family while we were in Canada.
I’ll never forget arriving at the Montreal Holiday Inn. As we pulled our car into the hotel garage a bellman approached. I got out of the car, ready to parlez-vous francais. The bellman spoke. To me, it sounded like unintelligible gibberish. This wasn’t the French Madame Ewell spoke.
I stood there in stunned silence. I could see my father’s face getter redder and redder. I can only assume he was hurriedly devising a Plan B since I would clearly be no help.
My own experience as a father has been quite different. Quite simply, I’m not sure how Dani and I would have managed if our kids didn’t speak Spanish. They have handled all the difficult transactions, the questions and answers, and when required, the small talk.
When we did find people who spoke some English, comical conversations often ensued.
November 12, 2008 5 Comments
We mentioned to Mariana, the sommelier at the B&B where we were staying, that we were looking for a relaxing way to spend our last day in Argentina.
She suggested an outing to Termas Cacheuta, a set of thermal pools less than an hour outside Mendoza.
A van picked us up at 9 am. We joined a dozen locals heading out of town for a relaxing day in the country.
The facility had 21 pools that spilled over the mountainside, each a different size and temperature. We visited on a Monday, so the park was uncrowded – the perfect place to relax. The day slipped by quickly.
At 5 pm, we boarded the van for the trip back to Mendoza. An Argentine woman – she must have been nearly 90 – sat in front of us.
She heard us speaking English, turned around and said: “Is this your first visit to Argentina? Are you enjoying it?”
We told her we had a wonderful time, loved the country, loved the people.
She asked how we were making out with the language. We explained that Caroline and Conor spoke Spanish, and they had been our interpreters. This seemed to please her very much.
“My parents were Scots-Irish,” she said. “I was born in Mendoza and have lived here all my life. I have been to the United States, and every summer my grandchildren go to Colorado to ski.”
We continued chatting. We told her that we hoped to return to Argentina one day, to spend more time here and to visit Patagonia.
Then, in a gesture that was both touching and optimistic (considering her age), she said: “Here is my card. When you return to Argentina you must come back to Mendoza. I’d love to have you stay with me at my house.”
November 3, 2008 1 Comment
Mendoza is Argentina’s Napa Valley, a prosperous place with a mellow vibe, thanks in large part to the world-class wines produced here.
We arrived in this city of wide, leafy streets and ornate plazas after a 17-hour bus ride from Salta (in cama class, thank goodness).
Mendoza started out as part of the Spanish colony of Chile, though Santiago lies on the other side of the imposing Andes.
October 31, 2008 3 Comments
When Caroline woke with several angry red bumps on the back of her hand and along her wrist, we assumed an insect – perhaps a spider – had bitten her during the night.
At first, our main concern was about the cleanliness of our US$30 a night room at the hostel. But as the day wore on, our focus shifted to the red welts as they began itch terribly and then multiply.
Soon red blotches and bumps appeared on Caroline’s arms, neck and back. Either this was one active insect or something else was going on. We decided we’d better see a doctor.
The young man working at the front desk of our hostel told us there was a medical clinic just two doors down, so off we went, concerned about Caroline and not knowing what to expect.
October 29, 2008 10 Comments
On the kid’s blog, Caroline explains the difference between full cama and semi-cama service on long-distance buses in Argentina.
October 29, 2008 2 Comments
Hasan, our guide for the day, picked us up at our hostel at 7 am.
We planned to drive three hours north of Salta to see the Quebrada de Humahuaca, an often-photographed, stunningly beautiful gorge surrounded by multicolored mountains.
Crossing into Jujuy Province, we entered the gorge at the valley bottom, and began the 90 mile drive to the town of Humahuaca.
As we approached the small village of Purmamarca, Hasan pulled the van over to show us the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors, see below), a unique geological formation. We fired off dozens of photographs, both cameras going full speed.
Once we were satisfied we had a decent shot, we headed into the Purmamarca “market,” a tourist trap we hadn’t seen the likes of since Cusco.
Hasan suggested that we meet him back at the van in forty minutes. We wandered around the village square, looking at the same hats, blankets, sweaters and trinkets we’d seen in a dozen different South American markets.
Call me gullible, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next.
We entered a small courtyard and began browsing through the merchandise. I stopped short when I saw the Incan wall hanging that I had bought for Dani on the Uros Islands in Peru. The woman I bought it from assured me that she had made the print herself.
All I could do was shake my head. As I turned around to leave, there hanging from the wall, was the Ecuadorian wool poncho Conor had bought in Otavalo. Made locally, we were assured, when we’d paid twelve dollars for it.
Now I was running for the exit, but not before I saw same exact alpaca chullo hats Caroline and Conor had bought from the Quechua children at the entrance to Cotopaxi National Park.
I had to confront my secret fear: That all South American collectibles are made in a factory in China.
October 27, 2008 9 Comments
A Day in Pictures
We arrived in Salta, Argentina after a grueling 23 hour bus ride from Puerto Iguazu. Unfortunately we had to travel semi-cama, and the trip was not nearly as pleasant as the one from Buenos Aires to Iguazu.
To help us recover, we burned some Starwood Preferred Guest Points and checked in to the Salta Sheraton for a free night’s stay.
Comfortable beds and a good breakfast helped restore our spirit of adventure so we set out to explore the town.
But much to our surprise Salta was practically shut down as nearly every breathing soul gathered around TV sets to watch the big futbol game between Boca and River. (Boca won).
But not every Salteno was watching the game. Spring is in the air here, and so is love. I suppose some things are more important than soccer.
To get our minds back on a higher plane, we visited the striking Iglesia San Fransciso, an extravagant piece of Italian Neocolonial architecture.
Next we rode the teleferico to the top of Cerro San Bernardo for a panoramic view of the city.
As we continued our walk around town, we ran into a couple of very angry, very loud watchdogs. They did not appreciate me or my camera. I knew better than to challenge their authority.
We ended our stroll on the Plaza 9 de Julio in front of Salta’s Neoclassical Cathedral, built in 1882. It’s one reason this town is known as “Salta la Linda” – Salta the Fair.
All of our pictures from Salta are posted here.
October 24, 2008 2 Comments
When we walked through the gate of the Parque Nacional Iguazu the first thing we saw was a set of posters advertising the Paseo Luna Llena, a full moon walk over Iguazu Falls.
The walk is held only four nights a month, and we all recognized the rare opportunity to see one of the world’s natural wonders by the light of the moon. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
We signed up on the spot, then set off to explore the falls in the daylight.
The Argentine park is very well organized with an excellent trail system that brings you within a dozen feet of several of the 270 different falls that combine to make Iguazu.
And while Iguazu may not be the tallest set of water falls in the world (that would Angel Falls in Venezuela) and they may not be the biggest by volume (see Victoria Falls in Zambia), they are breathtaking. The falls are magnetic; it’s hard to stop looking at them.
When the trails bring you close to the falls, you don’t see them so much as experience them. The wind whipped up by the water. The soaking spray. The deafening roar. At close range they engage all five senses.
When the crowds began to build just after lunch, we retreated to the Hotel Riotropic for a siesta. A little rest was in order if we were going to be out watching waterfalls at midnight.
We returned to the park after dark, for an incredibly ordinary dinner — and an extraordinary night.
Around 9:30 pm a guide came to the park restaurant to pick up the tour group. A thunderstorm had swept through the area, briefly calling into question whether we’d be able to do the walk at all.
But as we exited the restaurant, the skies were clear, the night was cool and the moon was rising.
We boarded the train that connects the different parts of the park and rode about three miles into the jungle, to the Estacion Garganta del Diablo. We disembarked and began a mile walk on a metal catwalk through the jungle and over the Rio Iguazu to The Devil’s Throat.
October 22, 2008 4 Comments