ARGENTINA

Buenos Aries

 

After a long, but pleasant flight from New Zealand we arrived to the kind and warm greeting from our hosts Juan Carlos and Anna Maria who were waiting for us with welcoming Medi Lunas and Hot coffee. We chose the Recoleta neighbourhood which was near the main shopping street but lush with cafes selling amazing facturas and some beautiful shops.

While in Buenos Aries we decided to up grade our Spanish from nil to some by attending the Expanish School for a week of lessons.  We had three great teachers, Sonia, Sol and Cecilia.  We spend the weekdays in class and on the weekend we toured the city with these great teachers and new friends.  

A visit to the Recoleta Cemetery was a highlight where we searched through this labyrinth of over 6400 statues and monuments to the dead. Grace and I enjoyed searching out the iconic graves of newlywed Liliana Crociati who’s parents reconstructed her childhood bedroom in her tomb and Rufino Cambaceres who was believed to have been mistakenly buried alive while in a coma in 1900. These stories coupled with the cob webs and iron gate tomb doors half ajar and held together by lock and chain made for an exciting day for the kids.

We visits the El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a transformed 1919, 1050 person capacity theatre is now described as one of the worlds most beautiful bookstores. We walked the Recoletta market and played some Spanish charades in the park.  

This bustling city was quite a nice surprise with its mix of historic landmarks and architecture with upscale shops, vibrant streets and outstanding restaurants.

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Iguazu Falls

While Scott needed a bit of convincing to take a 16 hour night bus to Iguazu, it was well worth it and has been voted one of our best places to see.  The bus was actually more like a fist class plane ride, with a bus attendant that served tumblers of wine while navigating the aisle of the bus on windy roads while we lounged in our leather recliner seats.

The Iguazu falls which flow along the border of Argentina and Brazil in the Iguazu river make up the largest waterfall system in the world with a width of 2.7 Km.  We spent the first day wandering around the trails on the Argentina side, where we met a Coatis and dozens of gnarly spiders.  The falls were more magnificent   with each view.  The following day we headed to the Brazilian side where we took a boat to ride beneath the falls and enjoyed the falls form another perspective.  

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El Calafete & El Chelten
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El Calafete and the Glacier

The Perito Moreno Glacier was on my list of must sees.  Granted it was far out of our way and after 16 plus hour bus journey to the falls,  Scott was not truly convinced.  However, as I was actually pushing for us to head even further south to Ushuaia, the  southernmost city in the world, El Calafate and hte glacier was a fair compromise.  To date, this is one of my chosen highlights of the trip. 

The glacier is 100 square miles, 3 miles wide and 240 feet tall and is the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world.  This magnificent beauty began to form during the last ice age so about 18,000 years ago and is now one of only three glaciers in the world that is still growing.  From whichever vantage point you stand,  it is breathtaking in its sheer size and magnificent nature. For me, this was truly a breathtaking experience I will not soon forget.

 

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El Chelten

El Cheltan, where you can walk out the door to spectacular hiking.  This is where we celebrated  Finn’s 13th birthday.   Another on the list of must sees was the Laguna Torre.  18km round trip with stunning scenery and fantastic company hanging with the kids. We headed out in pursuit of that  breathtaking view of Fitz Roy from Laguna de Los Tres- 20km  round trip @750 metres.  The day was great and the sun shining until we hit kilometre 9 – where the storm set in and we were surprised by the last km being 250 meters straight up the windy face of the mountain.  While the first 9 km were a gentle Pulpit Rock like path, the last km took an hour up and an hour down and was more akin to the Grouse Grind.  Essentially the kids hiked 9km – then did the Grouse Grind up and down in a snow storm and then hiked 9 km back home – an 8 hour unexpected journey- we felt like Frodo Baggins and company returning from Mount Mordor- fantastic fun memory 

 

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Bariloche

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Moving north, we had the decision between Mendoza, known for fabulous Argentinian wines or Bariloche, known for chocolate.  Kids being 3 and us being 2, Bariloche won the vote.

Bariloche reminds us of southern Germany meets Kelowna, only with amazing Patagonia views.  Known for not only for its chocolate, amazing  skiing and mountain treks bring many annual visitors.   While we sampled some of the most fabulous sweet treats we also ventured for a few great hikes. Cerro Llao Llao, the highest point in Bariloche’s Parque Municipal Llao Llao was a highlight.  Jack had deemed Bariloche as one of his top places.

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Salta and the Circuit: Tilcara to cafate

Family Road trip.  After a few days of Salta city life we left our big bags behind and hit the road for 5 days. Leaving Salta we headed  north to Purmamarca to see the multi-hued Seven Colors Hill. After a quick bite of Empanadas Carne and Humitas (corn husk wrapped fresh corn, onions and spices).  It was our lovely taxi driver who provided us a culinary education that the best Epanadas are with “cut meat” rather than ground and thus we became “Epanada snobs” and ensured that all samples were with “cut carne” we then headed to Salinas Grande.  Hitting 4130 meters we landed at the salt flats to try out a few perspective shots.  The drive was spectacular yet indescribable with ever changing landscapes and almost unbelievable views.  We then landed at our little pink cabin in Tilcara where we were hosted by the lovely Patricia and her husband.

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Cerro de Catorce Colores: the Fourteen Colours Mountain

At 4350 metres –  Cerro de Catorce Colores – the mountain of fourteen colors.  Argentina is breathtaking.

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cafate and Almost cachi

Next on the list was the Suuthern Loop, back to Salta and  8 hours south to Cafayate.  The scenery was spectacular. Driving through arid red jagged mountains to lush green and vibrant hills scattered with the occasional llama or donkey near the roadside kept Grace enthralled.  While chocolate was the draw of Bariloche, for Cafayate it was the many vineyards and bodegas.  The plan was to relax and enjoy sipping the many varieties of local grapes before heading out on the infamous and most stunning 5 hour dirt road drive to Cachi.  While only 100 km the road  is known for needing speeds of 25 km/hr while still gifting many of its travellers with a flat tire.  However as per our research the landscape, akin to “being on the moon”, was worth the journey.  All that being said….night one Scott and I, brazen in our travels,  decided a fresh green salad for dinner and a bottle or two of wine was a nice choice.  This was followed by Scott being sick for the next 36 hours where wine and 5 hours of bumpy roads far from a baño was not the best choice.  Thus the kids and I explored the town, enjoyed lazy lunches with live guitar and Spanish serenades while we tended to dad.  Day 5 we took the road less bumpy back to Salta.

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