Our Argentine Leader for our Tour, Alberto, greeted us with the usual paper work and after a get to know you meeting our small group headed out the door that first night to a lovely restaurant where we were seated at a bed. Yep, you heard right, A BED! What the….. ? You may well ask. Actually there was no reason, it was merely one special table designed as a talking point, that’s all. Anyway it certainly had the desired effect to break the ice and set the mood for the rest of the trip. Joanne from Australia and her working colleague, Menaka (originally from Srilanka/Zimbabwe) were hilarious fun and I know we will keep in contact for years to come. The other six members (yes I did say it was small) consisted of Canadian Travel Agents, surprisingly all booked the trip at different times at their respective offices only to realise on meeting, that they all knew one another. They consisted of two women and one couple. Wonderful I thought, besides our leader, my husband is not the only other male.
We had another free day in Santiago and while we were meant to leave for Mendoza the second morning, things had changed….slightly! The road over the Andes was in major repair and tunnels were being formed meaning that the road was now down to one lane. Those travelling to Chile were allowed to travel during the day between certain times. While like us, those travelling to Mendoza had no choice but to travel at night. So instead of spending our second night of our tour in Santiago, we were winding our way over the steep barren Andes. (sorry for poor quality picture, it shows the cars following us) An eight-hour knuckle whitening trip, I can say I was glad most of it was in darkness. I had been told earlier it is was one hell of road, but, to be honest I enjoyed it. It’s all part of the adventure!
After four hours of sleep in our cosy hotel room in Mendoza, we were off visiting two wineries and an olive oil grower and producer. The tours were interesting, informative and one enjoys tasting. Vistandes Winery was a very modern show piece. The Pasrai Olive Oil Estate built-in 1920 still used very old manual labour methods to press and make and label their virgin oil. Lunch was in a lovely open setting in Maipu area. Dinner back in town was in open air café. Free day in Mendoza was spent walking through the San Martin Park. On the way we spotted a window shop which obviously caters for NZ football fans as it had the New Zealand fern on a black jersey. Every second shop in Mendoza seemed to be a sports shop. Cafes lined the cobble pedestrian street and after lunch the shops did not open again until 5 or 5.30pm, now that, I am not used to. Especially when running around trying to find a new lead for your iphone. Dinner of the famous steak Mendoza is known for was across the road and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Something tells me I should have called these posts “Journey of a Foodie Wanderer through South America”….lol.
At the airport the following morning for our two-hour flight to the beautiful southern Argentine village of Bariloche, we found our Tour company had not paid the bill for our flight. Horrors! Our small group stood around for more than an hour twiddling our thumbs while our leader, cool and calm sorted it out. With literally fifteen minutes before take off they finally let us board, grabbing our bags,(regardless of strict weight restrictions) and believe me some caused eyebrows to be raised, we dashed out on the tarmac and clambered up the stairs of the waiting plane. We took off on time. Argentine is known for always being on time.
Our nose dive arrival on a very small runway between barren mountains with snow in the distance and a magical lake can be forgiven for the beautiful little town on the lake shores that greeted us. Treated to a chair lift ride up one of the closest mountains I had the feeling I was back home in NZ. The scenery is spectacular, breath-taking and not to be missed. Even the Australian girls commented this was like visiting NZ. Our hotel in the middle of town afforded us beautiful strolls pass shops full of wonderful displays of chocolates. The cobbled streets and buildings, mostly chalets reminded us of Switzerland, a beautiful combination. Dinner of homemade pasta freshly made was superb. Before leaving I posted two boxes of packed chocolates home.
We head off next day for Buenos Aires, our two-hour flight went off without a hitch and we landed in the late afternoon in the huge city, of European architecture. Our first night was spent enjoying a Tango Show with a sumptuous meal and all you could drink included. I vaguely remember Champaign sitting on the table, and we had photos taken with some Tango dancers. The show itself was fantastic and I especially enjoyed the tribute to Eva Peron. Great evening. Next day after a small walking tour of the main area we were free to investigate the magnificent markets that go for miles, literally miles down one of the cobbled streets. Anything and everything could be found from jewellery, clothing, bags, leather ware, even dvd cases decoratively covered as shoulder bags, Tango dancing, a puppeteer and food vendors. The next day my hubby and I took off on one of those tourist double-decker buses, hopping off and visiting such attractions as the Pink House, Womens Bridge, and saw the beautiful 75feet tall stainless steel flower monument at the United Nations Square, which at 8am it opens its petals and closes again at 8pm. We also visited the magnificent La Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron rests, her tomb adorned with flowers.
Leaving Buenos Aires early the next morning we said farewell to the Canadian couple and “hola” to six more joining our group. Three English, two Australians and an American two of which were male.
Arriving in Iguazu two things we noticed very quickly, the mosquitoes were hungry and if you hadn’t covered yourself head to toe in repellent, well let’s just say bathroom visits for whatever reason, were very quick. The other thing was the heat. We had had very warm temps usually around 27 – 28degC but now it was around 30degC. Our hotel had beautiful big rooms, even the bathroom could have fitted a bed in there. The afternoon was spent visiting the Brazilian side of the Falls. The saying goes “Argentina has the Falls, but Brazil has the view. And what a view! The wooden decked walkways above the marshlands and around and above the Falls had been well positioned and built with the visitor in mind. Notices positioned warned of snakes we spotted a crocodile. But nothing could beat the views, more impressive than Niagara and well worth the visit. Returning to our hotel after such an enjoyable time, the pool was inviting. After a swim I was introduced to another new drink, caipirinha a Brazilian cocktail.
Tune in again soon to A Private Journal of a South American Adventure; Part 3 when you find out why I screamed, our return visit to the Iguazu Falls, snorkling, and the white sands of Rio. I love leaving the best till last.