Final Days in Argentina

It’s hard to believe this is my final blog from Argentina, but I guess it probably is. Our flight home is tomorrow evening, so I guess we’ll see if we end up doing anything worth writing about tomorrow!

I haven’t posted a blog for the last several days, as we’ve been quite busy touring around Buenos Aires and have had several late nights (by our standards, not Argentina standards!) I’m just going to hit the highlights here:

1) Boca Juniors game: On Thursday evening Noah and I went to a futbol match of the local favorite Boca Juniors against Bolivar at ‘La Bombonero’ Stadium.

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Originally just Noah was going to go, but I’m really glad that Lara was able to babysit so I could join. It was pretty amazing to experience the passion and enthusiasm of the Boca Junior fans. The only parallel in my own experience would be the Cameron Crazies, who are just as passionate, but there aren’t nearly as many of them! The Boca Juniors stadium holds 49,000 spectators, and almost every seat was full.  About 95% of the spectators were men, and they do not allow any alcohol in the stadium for security reasons. (Wow – that’s a lot of money they are leaving on the table!) Also, technically only season ticket-holders can attend matches, so buying tickets is a complicated – and highly suspect – affair. It required going with a ‘tour company’ of sorts that basically provided us with the club membership card of a season ticket holder and escorted us [rather stealthily] to our seats.

Most of the fans were standing the entire game, and quite a few were singing the numerous Boca Junior chants the entire game. Noah and I were placing bets on when the young guy behind us was going to lose his voice; he was singing at the top of his lungs for almost 90 minutes straight, it was truly an incredible feat of devotion. The songs were quite repetitious, but still it was impressive to hear thousands of fans singing them in perfect unison.

2) Tango Show. I was convinced we’d have to skip the tango thing entirely, having read that all tango shows start around 10pm. However, we met a couple [from Oakland!] at the Boca Juniors game who had been to a good show at the Centro Cultural Borges (in Galerias Pacifico) that started at 8pm. I decided it was worth a late night to expose the girls to some real tango, so we went last night. It was a great show – excellent dancers in fancy tango attire, a talented live band (including singers), and about the right length (just over 1 hour). Sierra was completely enraptured. So was Cassidy at first, but her eyelids got heavier and heavier, and by 8:40 pm she was sound asleep on my lap. I was amazed that she could sleep through the loud music, but she slept right through the remainder of the performance and all the way home!

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As predicted, despite going to bed at almost 10 pm, the girls still woke up at 7 this morning. Groan – we SO failed to assimilate with Argentine customs on this front…

3) San Telmo: On Friday morning we had a serious debacle trying to get the Buenos Aires tourist bus – after searching for the bus stop for 30 +minutes, then waiting at the bus stop for 20+ minutes, the tour bus finally came. Then the driver told us they weren’t selling any more bus tickets for the entire day. What???? The bus had plenty of seats available, and it was only 11:30 am – this made no sense at all, and I was extremely incensed. Alas, we took a cab to San Telmo and ended up having a nice lunch and walk through the neighborhood. It’s a great area with lots of lovely old buildings and interesting shops. I could have wondered around there for hours…unfortunately did not take a single photo, so am without any good visual here.

4) Trip to Tigre: On Saturday we visited the delta area north of Buenos Aires — it was very interesting, and I’m glad we went, though I think I might have been more impressed if we’d had a sunny day. Apparently this is a super popular weekend trip for porteños, but I didn’t find the scenery all that picturesque. That said, it was amazing to see how different life is just 30 km from BA – people travel around in boats, there are no roads, houses are all on stilts, they even buy their groceries from a grocery boat!

The highlight for the girls was definitely an afternoon stop at Parque de la Costa – a small, somewhat dated amusement park that was quite charming in its own way (and incredibly eye-opening for two girls who had never been to a park like this!)

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5) Authentic BA Pizza.  Today we met Lara (the girls’ Spanish tutor/babysitter from San Martin) for pizza at Pizzeria Guerrin – one of the most famous pizzerias in Buenos Aires, which was originally opened by two immigrants from Genoa in 1932.

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It was packed, and the pizza was very tasty – though so rich that both Noah and I were regretting it a bit afterward…. Anyway, it was fun to try the pizza the true porteño way – with la faina (flat bread made with chick peas) on top and a glass of moscato (sweet wine). We also walked around some of the most beautiful buildings in the heart of Buenos Aires, including the Teatro Colon in the photo below.

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Sierra and Cassidy’s favorite activity was racing full speed on the sculptures in the theater’s courtyard.

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Good-bye Buenos Aires, and good-bye Argentina! I do hope we can come back again soon.

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-La Portavoz

 

Final Argentina Blog from La Nina Curiosa

Yesterday I went on a bus to a train and a train to a boat in Tigre.

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The boat took us on a tour of the delta (a bunch of rivers that go into the ocean).

When we got back I went to an amusement park.  I went on a ferris wheel, tea cups, a carousel, an orca ride and a safari ride.

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Then I went home and got ready for the tango show.  It was cool.  The dancers wore really pretty costumes.  It was very late and Cassie fell asleep in the middle.  I could barely stay awake.

-La Niña Curiosa

The Fauna of Iguazu

This morning we had some time to kill before our 4pm flight to BA. We decided to visit Guira Oga, which is basically an animal hospital for local wildlife. Their goal is to rehabilitate injured animals and return them to their natural habitat whenever possible. It’s a great place with a great mission, but [as I had predicted] it was simply too much information for our youngsters. I had to agree with them that it’s difficult to listen to so much detail – first in Spanish, then in English – when you are swatting flies in the middle of the jungle. And the girls had had enough of birds after the 3rd or 4th cage (though the toucans were very cool!)

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[With apologies to Mimi, I’m afraid the girls find birds to be a distant second to ‘real’ animals like monkeys or otters, which we did eventually see at the tail end of the tour]. This anteater was one of our favorites – you wouldn’t believe the length of his tongue!!

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After the tour, we had lunch at Bocamora, which sits just above where the Rio Iguazu and Rio Paraná converge, and where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet. It’s a cool spot with yummy food – a good find (thanks, Lonely Planet!) We then swung by our hotel to pick up our luggage and say good-bye to little Flaco – the kitten we had ‘adopted’ during our stay. Poor little guy, I hope he survives OK without our leftovers…

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We then took our final internal flight in Argentina – once again, on schedule, no glitches. I don’t know why Aerolineas Argentinas gets a bad rap (?) We arrived in BA around 6pm and took a cab to the apartment we are renting in Palermo Soho. It’s in a really old building with lots of character (reminds me of Paris), but the apartment itself has been completely renovated and is very modern. I really like it – super clean and comfortable with lots of space. It’s so nice to be in a 2BR apartment after 2 weeks in smallish hotel rooms!

We rather randomly went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner — mostly because it was the first place we came upon that was actually open at 7pm. Sierra LOVED it – I think it may have been one of her favorite dinners of our entire trip.  Hmmm – guess I know where our next sabbatical should be!

-La Portavoz

Visiting Iguazu Falls

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Today was the big day – after discussing it for months, we finally got to visit Iguazu Falls! I was a bit concerned that after so much build-up and anticipation we would be disappointed, but I was completely blown away by the immensity of it. I don’t see how you couldn’t be. It is truly an awe-inspiring site to see SO MUCH water flowing over not one, but numerous waterfalls that all converge into one.  It’s not the height of the falls that is dramatic, but their width. There are actually two horseshoes, one is a smaller but more complete horseshoe shape (at Garganta del Diablo), and the other is much wider (more side-by-side waterfalls), but not quite a horseshoe – more of a half-moon shape.

The rivers are so wide here they look like lakes, and you are truly in the middle of the jungle. It is incredibly hot and humid, which of course we knew it would be, but it was a shock to the system nevertheless. Everywhere we have been up to this point (except for a day or two in Salta) has been quite dry (like California!), so we were wilting in the humidity. The girls were almost as excited about all the butterflies as they were about the waterfalls. They both succeeded in getting butterflies to land on their hands, which was a big thrill. (You can see the bribery at work in the photo below – it’s amazing how helpful lollipops can be when lots of walking is required…)

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The only critique you could possibly make of the Iguazu Falls experience (aside from the heat, which is just part of the deal), is that there are too many other people enjoying it with you. As with most great natural attractions, the allure is slightly dulled by the sense that this no longer a remote, untouched wilderness – though it has been developed fairly tastefully, it is quite developed nonetheless. To allow visitors to see the falls from all angles, there are 7 kilometers of paved walkways, many of which are elevated to cross over the numerous rivers that feed into the falls. And the park service has a VERY SLOW train to take you to the different entry points for the circuit hikes, which does make the whole thing feel a bit (only a bit) like Disney World.

There are three different circuit walks – two are above the falls and one is below. We started with the Garganta del Diablo, which puts you directly on top of the three immense waterfalls that together form the smaller horseshoe.  There is so much water and spray that it’s almost impossible to get a good photo – here’s my best attempt.

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We then did the Paseo Inferior, which goes below the falls.  I actually liked this walk best, as it gives you an amazing panoramic view – the falls look SO much bigger when you see them from a distance.

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Along the way you see lots of extremely tame (occasionally aggressive) coati- basically, the local species of raccoon, which unfortunately have been emboldened by the dumb tourists who feed them.

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There is also a boat ride that takes you right under the falls, but (much to Sierra’s dismay) you have to be 12 years old to go. The girls and I therefore went for ice cream while Noah did the boat trip, and he returned completely soaked (which was a good thing!)

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Then Noah stayed with the girls in the air-conditioned restaurant while I walked the final loop – the Paseo Superior – which is the longest loop, and from which there were some awesome views looking down at rainbows created by the waterfalls’ spray.

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The other amazing thing about being right on top of the falls is the thunderous noise of them, which drowns out everything else and really makes you appreciate their power in a whole different way.

All in all, it was an amazing experience – I’m very glad we made the trip and hope the girls will remember it…though there may be a better chance they’ll remember the ice cream…

-La Portavoz

Iguazú Falls

This morning I went to see Iguazú Falls. It was super cool!
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I liked the view from below because I could see all the water falls with Isla San Martin in the middle.
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I liked it when the waterfall sprayed me because I was so hot.
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There was a boat ride that I could not go on because you have to be 12 or older to go on it.

I have ten really itchy, annoying bites. I don’t know what bit me but whatever it is it had better watch out because I’m really mad at it.

-Nina Curiosa

Rock Scrambling and Sand Angels

This morning we decided to explore the first part of the Quebrada de Cafayate. We’ll be driving through this area again tomorrow, but we’ll be a bit pressed for time then, since we have a late afternoon flight from Salta.

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I’m glad we took the time today to walk around some of the rock formations of such unique shapes and colors.

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The girls were very excited to go in a real cave and really enjoyed the rock scrambling. They like rock climbing MUCH more than hiking…I guess I was the same as a kid!

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On the way back into town we tried to find some sand dunes at the start of the canyon that I had read about in our guide book. I’m not sure if we weren’t in quite the right place or if the dunes just weren’t as impressive as I had expected, but it was definitely disappointing. There was a lot of sand, but the ‘dunes’ were not very high, and there were scrubby bushes growing everywhere (as well as a lot of horse poop). Still, the girls liked running up and down them and making sand angels.

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[Side note for those who know Cassie: don’t her legs look incredibly long in this photo? I think she has grown in Argentina!]

We then visited Bodega Esteco for a wine tasting, surprisingly our first actual degustación of the trip. I’ve decided I really like the white wine they produce here, which is called Torrontés. Wish I could bring some home, but have decided to be practical given how much we are already carrying! Next to the Bodega is an upscale wine hotel called Patios de Cafayate, where we had lunch. The building used to be a hacienda (dating from the late 1800s), so is quite old and charming.

This afternoon, after another failed attempt at a nap, we all went swimming…yes, even me! It was just what I needed to revive me after the mid-day wine tasting had left me unbelievably groggy.  Wow, I have become a serious lightweight.

We will complete the final leg of our northwest circuit tomorrow, and then take a flight to Puerto Iguazu to visit Iguazu Falls.  I am rather sad to be completing this phase of our trip; the scenery here is spectacular, and there are many more areas I’d love to explore. That said, the girls are now counting down the days until we go home, and there are some things I am really looking forward to as well — especially not all sleeping in the same room!!

-La Portavoz

Goat Cheese and Wine

This morning we visited a farm just outside Cafayate where they raise goats and produce goat cheese.

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The most interesting fact was that there are only 4 male goats to impregnate more than 300 female goats. Wow. Apparently a male goat can impregnate 25 females per day. I did not try to explain this to the girls.

Then we went to the Piatelli winery for lunch. It’s an impressive place – again, made me feel like I could be in Napa except for the rutted gravel road to get there.

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It is apparently owned by an American from Ohio…or Minnesota – the waiter wasn’t sure. It’s sort of a shame in a way that many of the local wineries here have been bought by foreigners. On the other hand, the café owner I was chatting with this evening was praising both the Swiss owner of Colome and the American owner of Piatelli for building top-notch wineries, and investing in improvements for the surrounding communities.

In any case, it was a beautiful spot for lunch, and while Noah and I enjoyed our wine on the terrace, the girls had a ball collecting rocks from the walkways (questionable?).

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After lunch we had some delicious homemade sorbet in town, [sort of] in honor of Cassidy’s 4 ½ year old birthday. [She has been talking about turning 4 ½ since we arrived in Argentina and seemed to expect some sort of festivity, even though I can’t recall having half birthday celebrations in the past. Of course, Cassidy will come up with ANY reason to persuade us that she deserves a treat!]

This afternoon, our two tired kiddos had a quick dip in the pool,

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and then we ate an odd dinner of empanadas, crackers and cheese, and yogurt in the back yard so that we could put them to bed early. It’s a great perk of this hotel that they have an outdoor kitchen and seating area; maybe we’ll dine here again tomorrow!

-La Portavoz

From Molinos to Cafayate

Today we drove from Molinos to Cafayate. It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive, almost entirely on ripio (gravel). The scenery is lovely the entire way,

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but is particularly dramatic the second half of the drive, when you go through some impressive sandstone rock formations. The road winds around right through the rocks, so you hardly need to get out of the car (though we did!)

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I’ve been struck here in the northwest – but particularly in Cachi and Cafayate – at how hot it gets in the afternoon. It’s almost too hot in the sun to do much walking between 1 and 5pm. I can now understand why they siesta during these hours. And I can’t imagine how hot it must be in the summer, as this is fall weather!

To recap a bit for those who are following the geography, we have now done 4 of the 5 big drives of this road trip in Argentina’s northwest: Salta to Humahuaca (and back), Purmamarca to the Salinas Grandes, Salta to Cachi, and Cachi to Cafayate. Of the four drives, I think I would rank them – by sheer beauty of the scenery – in this order (which is actually not what I’d anticipated from reading online): 1) Purmamarca to Tilcara; 2) Purmamarca to the Salinas Grandes; 3) Salta to Cachi, particularly the first half of the drive climbing to the Cuesta de Obispo; and 4) Cachi to Cafayate (which I had read was the most spectacular). We still have the Quebrada de Cafayate to visit, which is on the way from Cafayate back to Salta.

We finally arrived in Cafayate around 2pm, had lunch on the leafy central plaza, and then headed to our hotel in town, which is called Portal del Santo. It’s quite nice and well-kept, though certainly nothing like Miraluna in terms of space or views. It has a lovely pool, though, which we enjoyed in the afternoon, particularly given how hot it is!

-La Portavoz