We arrived at 9ish am on Sunday 9/20 and met our taxi to our Hotel in San Telmo. After checking in and getting settled we walk around the block to the street fair in San Telmo with lots of music and crafts available for sale. Our solution to an early Dinner was a late lunch (seated at 3pm) at a Parrilla 1880, where we had huge steaks. John had the equivalent of a rib eye and I had the nearest thing to filet mignon that they have. We shared and they were both very good. For dessert we shared flan with dulce de leche. (Thanks Dr Dawgy) After returning to our room to relax a bit we decided to go back out to stretch out and have a little look around.. So glad we did, San Telmo really came alive this evening, lots of music, drummers, tango- these people know how to have fun!!!
The next morning we took a taxi to the big shopping mall Galleria Pacifica in the city center to get tickets for a Tango show at Centro Cultural Borges and then across the way to Claro to get a sim card for our cell phone. We then walked quite a long way to Plaza Congresso and met a walking tour in English (BA free tours). The tour is free and the guide is paid in tips only. Our guide was informative and funny so we enjoyed it a lot. We walked for 2 1/2 hours with him all around the center of the city and to many historical buildings. There is quite a history here and not all of it pretty. After the tour was over, we had a late lunch at Pizzeria Guerin (also very good) and headed back to our own neighborhood of San Telmo. San Telmo has lots of old crumbly buildings. The area has changed very little because the Yellow Fever outbreak left the area derelict and deserted. No one maintained the buildings but no one tore them down....so many have since been bought and restored. That night we taxied back to Centro Cultural Borges and saw a small tango show. I can best describe this as ' Local Theater' but for u$s10 each it was a good night out. They were good dancers and fun to watch.
Tuesday morning we slept in late, had breakfast and met a local volunteer guide. It was raining when we met her and she accompanied us to the Recoleta cemetery. We had the place to ourselves with only a few sprinkles of rain. We found it somewhat similar to the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. We saw graves of presidents and military dignitaries and also visited the tomb of Evita Peron. After we had coffee with our guide and then she had to go back to work. The rain had stopped so we walked quite a ways to the Evita Museum. This museum was very interesting and had lots of stuff that Evita had worn or had belonged to her. Many of her speeches were shown on video as well. We also had lunch there, quite good as well. That night we had dinner at El Desnivel, good mix of locals as well as tourists and another good cheap meal, steaks again of course. After eating we went to a Tango Show at La Ventana. I don't think the show could have been any better, Fantastic!!!
Wednesday 9/23 & Thursday 9/24
Today we flew to Iguazu falls, checked into the Sheraton inside the park and walked the upper trails to see the falls, and then took the train to the catwalk (1100 meters of catwalk) to the Garganta de Diablo, Throat of the devil falls. These are the ones that really do dwarf Niagara. Not to belittle Niagara Falls but Iguazu is a whole different ball game. The next morning we headed back to see The Garganta de Diablo but the water level was so high this morning that the catwalk was closed for the first time since 2005. We were hoping there would be good water so the falls would be full and we definitely got it!!!!! Instead we took a boat trip from below the falls up to the bottom of them. We got so close to them that the spume had us completely drenched even though we were in raingear. By the time we had returned from the boat trip, which included about 30 minutes each way in a truck through the jungle, the Garganta was re-opened for viewing. We went and saw Garganta again with better sun so our pictures today are different from yesterday. The wind shifted slightly and brought the mist over to the catwalk and drenched us again. After returning on the train, we had empanadas for lunch and then walked the lower falls catwalk (2500 meters). They are truly amazing from any viewpoint. In addition to the falls, the jungle has a few animals that we have seen. Coaties, which are very similar to our raccoons are everywhere. They have a snout like an anteater but the rest of them are just like a raccoon. They steal backpacks, lunch sacks and picnic foods. We were kind of being stalked by one and a sign says that they can and will bite. We did notice that our stalker was wearing a collar. So much for wild beasts. They also have these giant guinea pig rat things that we cannot remember the name of. (Possibly Capybara?) Then there are a variety of pretty birds. They tell us that there are jaguar, ocelot, pumas and other cats but they are mainly nocturnal and stay clear of people.
Today flew to Trelew via BA and took a shuttle to the town of Puerto Madryn in Patagonia. We were on the shuttle with two other groups and talked with them on the 40 minute ride. One family was on a one year trip with their two children and they are from France. The other group was two ladies from Buenos Aires. We all ended up in the same restaurant for dinner (El Nautico) so we visited with them all but shared a table with the French Family. That is one of our favorite things about travel....meeting people who also love to travel. Dinner was also very good.
Today we had a guide/driver and two other passengers from Germany. The guide took us 2 hours south from Puerto Madryn to Punto Tombo where there are 1000´s of penguins. The male penguins arrive here the 2nd week in September every year and they come early to refurbish their nests from the prior year. The females arrive two weeks later. As the females arrive, each male calls to his lifelong mate so she can find him. Their calls sound like donkeys braying. Apparently each call is unique to that male. As of today, about one third of the females had arrived. The hills are alive with donkey brays. After the couples are reunited, they have a little rest, do a little dance; the male pats the female until she says ok. You can figure out the rest. Two weeks after the dance thing, the females lay two eggs a week apart. Until they hatch, they share the sitting on the nest duties between them. Good plan.In Punto Tombo, they also have wild Guanacos . These Guanacos are related to Camels and Llamas and look very much like a llama. They run in herds and when the males fight, they actually try to bite off each others testicles. Go figure. When they do this, they run through the penguins and sometimes hurt them or their nests and eggs. Bummer. All of this is fun to watch, however. This was like being in the middle of a National Geographic episode on TV. It was all very amazing. Did we mention it was cold enough for the Guanacos to loose their testicles to frostbite? Also, just for good measure, the wind was blowing like hell. We loved every minute of it.
Today was very busy and started very early in the morning. We began at 8 am in a big van/small bus with 7 other travelers and a driver and a guide. We drove about one hour north from Puerto Madryn to Puerto Pyramids where we spent 2 hours on our whale watching trip. It was wonderful. We had many mother whales with their calves come right up to our boat and do their thing. This type of whale, the Southern Right Whale is very social and extremely curious. They came close to check us out and spent a long time doing it. The water is very clean and clear so you can see them under water as well as when they surface and look at us. We even got sprayed by a blow hole once. That added to the delight of wind and cold temperatures. Good, though. We were in a large boat with lots of people so we went down on the little walkway alongside the deck and we watched from there until we got wet feet from whale waves. We also saw Rheas which looks like a small version of an Ostrich. The rheas run everywhere they go...no fly. We saw the Patagonian hare which is big like a dog and looks like a cross between a kangaroo and our rabbits. We visited a beach where they have Elephant Seals; they were interesting but exactly the same as ours on the Central Coast of California. Then we visited more penguins that have a small but growing colony. It was long day but more than worth it.
Today we flew into El Calafate; picked up our rental car, checked into our hotel and headed for the National Park. The weather here is absolutely perfect, much warmer than we expected. We drove into the park and went to the Perito Moreno glacier. We walked and looked at it for the better part of 4 hours. It was very quiet and you could hear the glacier cracking. It sounds like gun shots. We even saw several bits of the glacier break off into the lake. The lake is Lago Argentina, the largest in all of Argentina. We took many, many pictures. After driving back to El Calafate we ate dinner a La Tablita. Excellent!!!! This was our most expensive meal in Argentina-worth it...
Today, we took our scheduled boat tour for 9 hours. We traveled 200 plus kilometers on the lake which has many channels with the backdrop of the Andes Mountains. We tried to visit the Upsala Glacier but that channel was blocked by icebergs and we could not get through. We checked out these icebergs for a long time---they are really cool. We did get to see Spegazzini Glacier which was amazing. Again, we watched it for a long time and did hear it cracking and see some small bits, like the size of a small VW break off. Then we headed for Perito Moreno. Again we watched for a long time. All of them are fascinating to watch. We never thought watching ice melt could be such a rush.
Today we got up early, again, and drove back to the Perito Moreno Glacier for our day of Mini Trekking. We took a 20 minute boat ride across a part of Lago Argentina to a point next to the side of the glacier. We hiked for a few minutes to a place where guides strapped crampons onto our hiking boots. At this point we became Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein in the way we walked. Then we stepped onto the Perito Moreno Glacier where we spent the next 1 1/2 hours following a guide who showed us pools, rivers in the glacier, crevasses and ice holes . This was an amazing experience, we did pretty good for old folks. It was quiet except for a little wind and the sound of water. We had glorious weather but by the time we left the glacier a storm was coming in and when we reached the boat to take us back to our car the wind was the strongest we have ever been out in. We are tired as we have kept us a very fast pace and tomorrow morning we fly back to Buenos.
Flew back to BA and checked into our B&B in Palermo, had an easy night, got our laundry done while we had dinner.
After breakfast we walked around Palermo Soho and over to the Botanical gardens. We took a Hop on Hop off bus tour of the city during the day - not recommended!! Later that evening we took another "BA free tour" walking tour of Aristocratic Buenos Aires. The city has many faces but all are very interesting. We had a coffee at a cafe that has been in business since 1850 and then took a taxi back to our B & B.
We went to Hippy Market and back to the Recoleta Cemetery to take some pictures in better light. We had lunch at El Sanjuanino good empanadas, and a fun waiter- good time there. We walked a long ways back to our hotel stopping at several parks and also went back to the botanical garden to feed the cats. We spent the rest of the afternoon/ evening resting and catching up on e-mail. That night we ate at La Cabrera Norte-We were very apprehensive about eating here- Did not think it could live up to all the wonderful reviews and I am always leery about so many 1 review postings. Yes we had to wait about 40 minutes even after calling ahead but they bring you champagne, beer and appetizers on the house- no charge! We had an incredible meal ( share 1 meal - I have a big appetite but we barely finished 1 large Bife de Chorizo with no room for desert ) This ended up being cheaper than most places as we usually each have our own entree. Overall an excellent meal with good efficient service, Just with I could go there now...
After breakfast we headed back to the San Telmo street fair to do a little shopping as we are flying home tonight. We had lunch at El Desnivel again, another good steak! Afterwards back to our B&B to pack and relax. At 6pm our remise took us back to the airport for our 9pm flight back to the US. Adios Argentina, we had a remarkable trip...
Thanks to everyone for the wonderful advice, with your help we planned and had an amazing trip with absolutely no problems...
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