Argentina Dec 2008

IMG_8919  So the trip started in Buenos Aires (or BsAs to be cool) staying at the condo of our wonderful friends Russell and Gonzalo.  They enjoy our company so much they moved out before we got there..... but we tracked them down to Patagonia.  More on that later.  Russell took this full moon from their balcony.  No alcohol, just moon.

DSC_0008  So we started out exploring the city, cameras in hand.  I managed to sneak this one in before the guy moved.  It was a beautifully sunny summer's day, he was enjoying the warmth and solitude beside one of the large monuments that dot the city.  I liked the composition.

DSC_0036  Recoleta cemetery is of course famous for only one person.  Signs dot the area for the graves of General Sarmiento, and General someoneelse, but they come for the lady.

DSC05622  A great shot by Clint.  Of course he was blinded for the rest of the day.

DSC_0056  A chain of bookstores, Atenao has snapped up this grand theatre as a bookshop.  You can sit and browse in the boxes upstairs, or coffee in the proscenium.  Not to be confused with a proboscis.  Or a hibiscus.

DSC_0065  Our first night was spent just up from our home (as we were already beginning to feel it was) at Guido's Bar.  There is no real menu, they bring out what they make that night.  We had an excellent penne with Pernod and walnuts, a first for us all with that combination.  They had decorated the front with the favourite sayings of Guido's Italian mother.  Clint and Misty here looking like rock stars.  Oh, and is that bottle with the blue label , the local beer, Quilmes??

DSC05646  So next day we did bus to visit el Tigre, the delta area of the Rio Plata.  It s a series of mud islands created by the silt brought down from the Amazon by the river.  There are ~3.4 Pesos to U$1.00, a bus ride anywhere in the city is 1 Peso.  And you can stay on all day if you like.

DSC_0095  They have these wonderful old boats that are the water taxis for the locals, and also for tourist rides around el Tigre.  Of course we had lunch before we took a tour, Quilmes beer for Misty and Clint, and Torrontes for me!  The wine is so cheap (and good) that they don't often have it by the glass, so instead they sell you a half bottle.  Maybe 12 pesos.

DSC_0104  And coming back we did train which is more expensive than bus at 1.10 Pesos.  Retiro is the main station in BsAs (see, I'm cool).

DSC_0125  Everyone tells you about the wonderful architecture of BsAs, and it is true.  Like many cities though it has some hideous 1970's apartment blocks and office thinggies, but fortunately the Brasilian Embassy helps you forget all those.  There is also great modern architecture, particularly in the way many restaurants have been remodeled in old buildings.

DSC_0126  A voyeurs view.

DSC_0448  On Christmas Day we flew to Bariloche, capital of Argentinean Patagonia, narrowly avoiding an aborted BsAs taxi driver's strike.  The idea of trudging through the streets to the airport with our luggage on our backs was pretty horrific.  Fortunately there was molto Malbec at Russell's house to salve the mental wounds.

DSC_0451  And if that picture didn't rock you, try this one from their garden.  It was summer of course, but it had snowed a week prior.  That's what you get for being so damned close to Antarctica!

IMG_4073  And inside the house was just as stunning as outside.  They use wood extensively in Patagonia and it gives a lovely warm feeling to buildings.  And Santa's elves had visited as you can see.

DSC_0145  You will get used to the idea of seeing one picture that surpasses the other for stunning beauty.  This was one of the first, and an area called Llao Llao.  Oddly enough, the Argentineans pronounce 'll' differently to other Spanish speakers.  It is a 'j', so this was like jao jao.  Portuguese sounding really.

DSC_0455  Being so far south, Bariloche is the winter sport capital of Argentina.  During the season there are 8 flights a day from Sao Paulo alone.  You can imagine the Town Hall here transformed with cold snowy scenery.

DSC_0467  General Belgrano is one of the founders of Argentina and his name is everywhere, including this statue in the main park.  Gonzalo bears an amazing resemblance.......

DSC_0153  As part of the activities Russell had arranged at Camp Bariloche, we were allowed to spend a day kayaking on Lago Guttierez (after we had made breakfast, rolled our beds, cleaned the bathroom, mended the fences, milked the cows, branded the steers, and depleted the cellar somewhat) which was great fun.  Our first day there had been very cold and windy, but we lucked out on a great day here.  

DSCF0028  Russell and I won the K2 event across the lake only to find out that our guides had cunningly stored the entire lunch outfit (food, folding tables, water, coffee etc) in the back of our kayak.  We would have been up on hydrofoils without that penalty!  Didn't need the water really, we just drank from the lake.  It was crystal clear.

DSCF0040  The intrepid duo.

DSCF0091  The kayaking tribe in the distance.

DSC_0166  Of course after such exertion one needs to be rewarded with the consumption of replenishing fluids, and Clint's glasses caught Misty, the lake, and uh ho,...... is that the blue Quilmes again?

DSC_0240  We took a day off from physical activity to concentrate on lunch.  Drove to the other side of Nahuel Huapi to eat in this Shangri-La like setting.  

 DSC_0245  And then walked around the area to look at my new home down there.  Yeah, I wish.

IMG_9412  As we were naturally now experts in all maters aqueous, we then went white water rafting.  We rode the Rio Manso Cat 3-4 rapids which involved a 2 hour bus ride to the river, and a full body suit as you can see.  Despite being summer, the water is still bloody cold as it comes from the snow melt.  Our guide, Matias, started his training techniques by jumping into our photo.  He continued by forcing us later to jump into the water.  I don't know about you, but I think Clint really does look like a storm trooper.

BTW, an added bonus from the rafting trip was the acquisition of the chimichurri recipie from the camp where we had lunch.  As you may know, it is an accompaniment to most meat grills (parilla) here, based on oregano and is fantastic.  This one was a very tasty variation so I asked the cook to write it down, which he kindly did.  In Spanish.  Help Russell!

IMG_9583  So it was then 31 December and we had a new year to celebrate (and drink Quilmes and wine - a pattern was developing!).  Misty and I made dinner and we had a thoroughly lovely evening out on the front patio overlooking Lago Nahuel Huapi (I'll let you figure out how to say that correctly).  The candles provided atmosphere, if not light.

IMG_9598  MIsty looking every  bit the glamour queen of the evening.  And then this light show began as the sun went down.

It was simply stunning.


DSC_0428  The jagged peaks of Cerro Catedral.

DSC_0432  Blow me away!  This is going to be my new laptop wallpaper.

IMG_9628  Imagine eating with that background, it was just amazing.  Russell's Mum, Jean kept us all in line.

IMG_9626  But I think my head just blew apart!

IMG_9648  The Storm Trooper again.

IMG_9568  Mind the gap, mind the gap.....

We also did two treks while there.  As there are so many pics from each, I have made a separate page below.  In total we climbed 7050', and reached a max altitude of 7100'.  

Also have one on some restaurants found interesting from a design aspect, and some on the strange flowers we found at altitude, and some others from around the area generally.  For those who remember my trip to Italy this summer, we found Fred the bee's cousin too.  And surprise, surprise, a page on doors that I found too hard to resist.  And NO, I didn't buy any more.

All too soon it was time to come back to BsAs, which we did after enjoying a traditional southern (US anyway) brunch of black eyed peas on New Year's Day.  Misty brought some down especially to maintain the tradition, and made a wonderful pastiche of southern US and southern Argentina (chorizo sausage)!

DSC_0501  And it was a fitting end to the trip, that as I was walking back to the BsAs apartment on our last day via a local park, I heard this guy playing the flute.  It seemed like Pan had emerged from the forest to confirm what a magical and surreal two weeks we had experienced.

Naturally, one cannot speak a word of this trip without mentioning Russell, Gonzalo and Jean in the same breath.  They made all of this possible, showed us hospitality that one rarely experiences, and helped us experience and be awed by this lovely country in the same way they obviously are.  Russell and I have known each other for 25 years now, and he is one of the constants on my life.

Many, many sincere thanks to you all.

(PS.  Same time next year then Russell...?)