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

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hello from El Chalten

I feel like I'm in the Yukon 100 years ago! This town has dusty roads, one level wooden huts, corrogated roofs, and the most beautiful, snow-covered peaks towering above it. El Chalten is in Patagonia, about a four-hour drive from better-known El Calafate, which I flew into yesterday from Buenos Aires. Today, I went for a 4-hour hike up to see close-up Mount Fitzroy and i can't wait to show you some of the photos I took. (Unfortunately, Internet up here is by satellite, and my blog address works very slowly. It's also very expensive.). This area is amazing. Desert, then blue-ice colored streams and fantastic peaks and glaciers. Lots of backpackers and hikers here from all over the world. It's the end of the season, as come the end of March, it gets very cold and will start snowing. But today it was warm and sunny and I put on lots of suncream because of the ozone level. Will write again soon.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Here I am in front of the entrance to the Estancia La Cinacina, which is outside the town of San Antonio de Areco, and about 100 kms. from downtown Buenos Aires. It was a really beautiful day--almost too warm because the mosquitoes were out after the heavy rains of last week. But it was wonderful to get out of the city and go into the country. An estancia is a ranch--not a farm as I said before. One of the men working there told me something really quite amusing: "Argentinians are Italians trying to speak Spanish, behaving like the British, and pretending to be French." He also said: "The Mexicans descended from the Aztecs, Peruvians from the Incas, and Argentinians from the boats." Voila my thoughts for today. I leave tomorrow for El Calafate and 10 days in the Patagonia region.

a scene from the ranch

After our barbecue lunch we watched some typical folk dances from the pampa region

I went for a short horseride with some others in my group. Our guide was one of the three gauchos on the estancia.

Our guide on our horseride. He's also pictured below as he galoped down with a small spear and tried to spear a ring hanging from a wire above his head.

"the ring game" we watched at the estancia

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The parilla= beef and sausages cooking on a grill. The meat looks rare here, but they actually overcooked it. I've had much better steaks in Buenos Aires! It's a shame...

The Assado= beef cooking on a wood fire.

The Tango Show at the Cafe Tortoni. It was fun, but I think I preferred the one I saw a few weeks ago at the Borges Cultural Center just down the street from my hotel on the calle San Martin.

The three gals I sat with last night at the tango show at the Cafe Tortoni--all three traveling on their own in South America like me. The Cafe seated us all together. There's Anne from Norway on the left, then Johanne from Ireland, then Eva from Spain. I spoke Spanish with Eva and she said I speak Spanish with a French accent. She also confirmed my/our impressions of Argentinians speaking Spanish: "they speak Spanish with Italian accents."

On one of the rivers of the delta with a view of Buenos Aires in the background.

Ana sitting on the boat in the port of Tigre before we began our boat trip in the delta

Monday, March 05, 2007

Three days in Buenos Aires

No photos, I'm afraid, but just a few words to describe my last three days here. I do love this city and feel quite at home being back in "my" neighborhood, which is the area off of the Plaza San Martin and near avenida Cordoba. I noticed there was even the same prostitute as three weeks ago standing on the corner of San Martin and Cordoba last night about 8 PM! (she's the only one I've noticed so far around here, but there are still the same kids picking up papers and a few sleeping in the street, under the back awning of a 4-star hotel). Yesterday, Sunday, I collected my large suitcase from the hostel I stayed at my first few nights in BA a few weeks ago and then visited the Museo of Bellas Artes. In the afternoon, I was invited for tea by my new French friend, Laurence, who lives in San Telmo. This gave me the opportunity to visit the San Telmo neighborhood, which is very lively on Sundays because there's a flea market and also tango demonstrations in the street. I also visited two local museums there--one a former Jesuit monastery, the other a former women's prison. Tea with Laurence was very pleasant. She and her children live in an airy but cozy apartment, and it was fun talking to her daughter about returning to school today. (Yes, it's the end of summer and the beginning of class for Argentine children.). Today, I went out to a delta into which several rivers flow, near a town called Tigre, with my Peruvian friend, Ana. We took the train out there, had lunch, and went for an hour and a half boat trip. Tonight I'm going to see the tango dancing at the Cafe Tortoni, and tomorrow it'll be a day excursion to an "estancia" (gaucho farmhouse) in the pampa where there's going to be --I've heard-- a fantastic barbecue. Then Wednesday, I fly down to El Calafate (Patagonia), where I'll spend 4 nights. Hope to see the Moreno Glacier, etc.
That's all for now folks.....

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Back in Buenos Aires

I returned to Buenos Aires this morning at 3 am and slept until 1 pm. Flying back here from Manaus, I had to change planes in Sao Paulo. What a mess that airport is! There were only three people checking passports of people going on international flights, and you should have seen the long lines waiting to get to their planes! (One person said they must have been 3-4 kilometers long). Needless to say, my flight was delayed by an hour and a half because passengers just couldn't get through.

Same hotel (Hotel Central Cordoba) and same neighborhood (the avenida Cordoba area) as the last two times I was here, so I feel right at home. Am taking it easy today after my Brazilian adventure but plan to sightsee some more in the city tomorrow. Leave Wednesday for Patagonia.

This photo is a bit dark, but it shows the people I spent four days with in the Amazon. First, there's our Brazilian guide, Silvio, who's of mixed Portuguese and Indian descent. On the left, you see Alan and Paula, a young Irish couple from Dublin. And to their right are Carla and Simon from Sweden.

The first night, after dinner, Luis (a French-speaking Brazilian guide) played the guitar while he and Silvio sang Brazilian and Indian songs.