Friday, March 23, 2007

Goodbye South America!
This is the last photo I took during my trip: Sunset over the Ria de la Plata at the docks of Colonia in Uruaguay. It was very warm and lovely, but I forgot to mention that there were tons of mosquitoes both on the Argentinian and Uruguayan sides of the river. I got lots of bites and am still suffering from them. Ironically, when I was in the Amazon I wasn't bitten at all!
I'm writing this from Paris, where it's only 4 degrees C, rainy and grey. Luckily, my sons S├ębastien and Marc were there to greet me. Otherwise, I think I would have been really depressed! Everyone here is talking about the presidential elections, which will take place next month. I'll have to get back "dans le bain"--in the bathwater, as the French say.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Greetings from Colonia del Sacramento.

After taking the bus here from Montevideo, I spent 4 hours visiting this lovely colonial town from the days of Portuguese and Spanish colonization. The cobblestoned streets and colored houses remind me somewhat of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico where I spent a month, the difference being that Colonia is located on water, the Ria de la Plata, and this gives it an extra charm.

I'm on my way back to the Port to take the rapid boat back to Buenos Aires. And tomorrow I fly back to Paris at 6 PM!

My trip is coming to an end....

A street in Colonia. Notice the colored houses, cobblestone streets and blue skies. It's 28 degrees today.

view of the old wall of Colonia with the lighthouse in the distance

Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is cross the river ria de la Plata from Buenos Aires. I took a rapid boat (the trip lasts an hour) from BA to Colonia and then a bus to Montevideo yesterday. This service is run by "Buquebus" and is very well-organized. I got a great promotional deal, too: two boat trips, bus to Montevideo, and night in a hotel in Montevideo with breakfast --all for $70! Took a 3-hour city tour yesterday to get an overview of the city. The downtown and historic part aren't exceptional, but there are lots of parks and beaches along the ria de Plata. My overall impression of the city is that it's not as rich as BA , the streets are a bit dirty, and the people not expensively dressed. It looks comfortable and middle-class, even though there are some very wealthy looking neighborhoods.
I left the tour at the river and walked for an hour along the shore before taking a public bus back to town. That was nice. This is a HUGE estuary. The river is so wide there (220 kms) that it felt like being along the ocean, and the sand is white and fine. In fact, two hours north of here is Punta del Este on the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently, this is THE beach resort of Uruguay, and it's where alot of rich Argentinians have beautiful homes. It was too bad I didn't have enough time to visit there, too.

Montevideo has about 1.5 million inhabitants, which means half of the population of Uruguay (3 million people) live in the capital! Appar ently, Uruguqy is the second smallest country in South America.I've found that the people, the Spanish accent, the food, etc. all seem very similar to what exists in Argentina. However, I'm sure there are differences, and I'd like to learn more about the history and culture of this country. It's certainly very "white" like Argentina, though!

By the way, Moon and his Unification Church have a huge house that was pointed out by the gui de. I looked on Wikipedia and discovered that he set up shop here when the military were still in power and very anti-Communist. Apparently, he also owns a hotel, a racetrack, etc. Interesting tidbit, isn't it?

Sunset on one of the beaches of Montevideo east of downtown looking back at the city.

The Montevideo Cathedral in the old section of town. This square was pretty-- others weren't as much.

The rapid boat of the Buquebus company. It travels back and forth between Buenos Aires and Colonia del Sacramento in Urugu ay. There's a more traditional ferry that travels directly from BA to Montevideo that takes 3 hours.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Here I am in front of a sign for a spot in Tierra del Fuego National Park. This is actually the spot where Route Number 3 , the Pan-American highway from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, ends. I really enjoyed this park. It reminds me a lot of those in northern California or Colorado, but you've got the Beagle Channel in the background, which gives it a special charm. Argentina has loads of great national parks, and, unfortunately, I've only seen a few of them. Patagonia is truly a wonderful place, and I'll be sad to leave tomorrow. I return to the big city--Buenos Aires --by plane and will stay there my last four nights (unless I decider to go to Montevideo in Uruguay for a night or two). Leave for Paris on March 22, returning same the morning of the 23rd. It's been a FANTASTIC trip!

view of peaks in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Lots of rabbits in Tierra del Fuego park!

After hiking up here in Tierra del Fuego park, I then got lost in a forest and peat bog hiking down! That was really scarey, but I finally found the right path and was able to take the bus back into town.

Lqgo de Roca. I took this photo this afternoon in Tierra del Fuego National Park.

beever dam in Tierra del Fuego National Park

lighthouse in Beagle Channel

In Beagle Channel, there's an island inhabited all-year round by penquins. At this time of year, there were only about 700, but we weere told that sometimes the island is covered with up to 4500 of them!

Close-up of penquins on island in Beagle Channel

Baby seal in Beagle Channel

Seals on an island in Beagle Channel

King cormorans and sea lions seen on an island in Beagle Channel

Leaving the port of Ushuaia yesterday afternoon. I took this photo from a camaran boat on the Beagle Channel. The Beagle Channel goes from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Charles Darwin came here on scientific excursions in 1830 and again in 1832 on his ship, the S.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, for whom the peak in El Chalten is named. My boat excursion took five hours and was wonderful!

A red fox seen from the road on the way to the lake below

Here I am in my Chilean hat standing in front of a very large lake up above Ushuaia!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

View of the bay of Ushuaia taken from the base of the ski lift on the mountain above town. Took the ski lift up in order to visit the Martial Glacier but the climb was just too hard, so I only saw the Glacier from a distance.

Port of Ushuaia

View of Ushuaia taken from the plane when I arrived four days ago

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unfortunately, the day was overcast, so it was difficult to see the three "towers" for which Torres del Paine is named, but the landscapes were gorgeous, nevertheless, and I enjoyed my day excursion into Chile. Even bought a colorful, hand-woven Chilean bonnet with a tassle on the top. Not only is it "cute", but it was great for keeping my head warm that day!

Waterfall in Torres del Paine National Park

This a herd of guanaoes, which are part of the lama (hence camel) family. We saw lots of them in the Torres del Paine and Glaciares National Parks. Our guide told us they reproduce at a tremendous rate but many are killed by pumas in Torres Park. We also saw candors and an ostrich-like bird, as well as pink flamingoes and other birds.

Perito Mereno Glacier.

Notice the blue inside the glaciar's walls!

Here I am standing in front of part of the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is in the Glaciares National Park southwest of El Calafate. As I said it was rainy and cold the day I visited it, but no matter, it was very impressive.

I took these photos at the El Calafate nature reserve. In the foreground you can see some pink flamingoes.

This is one of the outdoor exhibits at the local museum in El Calafate. The museum traces the history of this part of the Patagonia region and shows how the native peoples lived before the arrival of European explorers and settlers. As you can see, afterwards, the pioneers used wagons and had huge sheep farms. The local people are just now reclaiming their heritage. Tourism has replaced sheep production as the biggest industry. Home construction is booming here. The current Argentinian president is originally from this area and has a huge country home right in the center of town.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

This is a photo I took during a walk above El Chalten a few days ago. I'm now in El Calafate. On Sunday I visited the Perito Moreno glacier in the Glacier National Park, and yesterday I did a day trip to the Torres del Paine National Park on the Chilean side of the Andes. Both were absolutely lovely, and I have some great photos to post, but this computer won't let me download from my camera. The weather hasn't gotten colder, and it rained while I visited the P. Moreno glacier, but this part of the world is magnificent. I leave tomorrow for 3 nights in Ushuaia and the Terra del Fuego region. Back to Buenos Aires for 3 nights (with myabe a side trip to Montevideo) and then back to Paris on March 23. This wonderful adventure is coming to an end.... Hasta luego, in any case.

Friday, March 09, 2007