Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Visiting Evita- Buenos Aires



I knew it was going to be a great day when we arrived early for our walking tour at the park in front of the Teatro Colon. I sat and watched the parrots and Quakers in the trees while John walked around the square.

Throughout Buenos Aires there are motorized  scooters you can rent to get around the city.  I briefly considered it but then decided that it was an accident waiting to happen.

The walking tour of the Recoleta district was again with www.buenosairesfreewalks.com and was really interesting. We started out at 10:30am at the Teatro Colon which is one of the last opera houses not to use technology to help perfect their acoustics. It recently won an award for having the best acoustics in the world.

Our group traversed the 22 lane 9th of July Avenue (one of the widest in the world) to enter the Recoleta District. I loved looking at the architecture including many old mansions, some of which are now embassies. This tour ended at the Recoleta cemetary at 2:00pm.

I rested my foot over lunch and we then met up with another walking devoted just to the Recoleta Cemetary. I totally loved this tour, so many human interest stories and the architecture of these tombs of the wealthy and important from Buenos Aires society. The cemetary is "the place" to he buried in Buenos Aires and is the resting place for many of the elite in society. It is now full and you can only be buried here if your family already owns a mausoleum or if you buy one from a family willing to sell it. One was recently sold for $250,000 USD.

The tomb of Evita Peron is located here and a whole tour could be done just about her. The stories of what happened to her corpse were almost as eventful as what happened in her life!

Most of the tombs are cared for but there are some that have a look of abandonment either because the family has died out or do not want to pay for the upkeep.


I got a kick out of the tomb of an arranged marriage where the husband and wife couldnt stand each other in life. He commissioned a sculpture of himself sitting in a chair. He died first and though she was to be buried in the same tomb when her time came the wife was damned if her sculpture would be beside his for all eternity. So she had her bust placed so that they were back to back such that their sculptures would never gaze upon each other.  Then there was the story of a young women who legend says was accidently buried alive.



After the tour, we went across the road from the cemetary for a beer at Boca a  Boca's rooftop bar with a great view of the graves of the wealthy. The view was well worth the $5 price for two beer. Actually for $2.50 per beer any location would be worth it.


We went to an Argentinian Bbq (asago) meat place that our host recommended. All local people there. It was good. Except we went out for supper at 9:30pm. What is happening to me?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Buenos Aires


I am loving Buenos Aires. It is clean, attractive, good food, good wine, stylish and there is a lot to do.

Our Airbnb apartment is comfortable, centrally located and bright. We are in the heart of the Palermo Soho district.

We slept in and didn't get going until 10:30am. The streets were quiet for a Monday and many places were closed. We later learned that today is a holiday. We walked around  the neighbourhood and then went to the beautiful botanical gardens.There was a flock of small parrots bathing in a fountain. Lots of people were on benches in the shade reading books, I only saw one on his phone.

In the afternoon John and I had whoopies! Not that kind of whoopie  ... but a leisurely lunch at the cafe our host recommended across the street from our apartment called Whoopies. I had an amazing vegetable and seafood salad.

We then picked up wine and snacks, dropped them off at the apartment and grabbed an Uber to the meeting point for the free City Centre Walking Tour with www.buenosairesfreewalks.com.

It had clouded over when we started our walking tour threatening thunderstorms. Our guide also said he wasn't sure if we could complete the tour due to a very large protest going on at Plaza de Mayo.

As usual the walking tour was really well done.
There seemed to be a Dante theme. First we saw one of the three statues cast in the original mould of "The Thinker" by Rodin. It is also the only one in South America. This Thinker represents philosophy and the original concept first came about in his work "The Gates of Hell" from "The Divine Comedy".

The next block over was a building made to represent all the chapters of Dante's famous work.


We saw a portrait of Eva Peron (Evita) done on the side of a skyscraper and then we were in the middle of another massive protest. This demonstration of thousands was about all the issues in Bolivia regarding the recent replacement of their problematic president. Unlike Chile,  the police did not interfere other than directing traffic, there was no tear gas and the protest was peaceful but loud. So far we have involuntarily  been in the midst of protests in all four South American countries we have visited.



Our guide explained the ongoing economic problems in Argentina and the increase in poverty caused by high inflation and the continuing devaluation of the Argentinian peso.

The area where the protest was going on was also where every Thursday the Mothers of the Disappeared protest. They wear white scarves to represent the diapers of their adult children who were taken by the military dictatorship in the late 70s/early 80s and most likely tortured and murdered because of their opposition to the  dictatorship.

There is also a group of Grandmothers of the Disappeared. Pregnant women arrested by the military would be jailed until they gave birth then killed and their babies given to military and police families or other members of the dictatorship who wanted a child. With the help from other countries and organizations, there is now a DNA registry from the grandmothers and families of these disappeared pregnant women and children born during the dictatorship who are unsure of their parentage can submit their DNA for comparison.

By the end of the tour, my ankle and leg had swollen up. We tried to get an Uber but they weren't driving within the protest area so we took the subway called the SUBTE. Performers would come onto the subway cars and the Argentinians would clap and give them money. A guy even showed up with a large piano keyboard complete with stand and chair and sat down and played classical music.

After resting up at the apartment, we looked at the list of our hosts favourite restaurants and first went to an Argentinian steak place but it was closed due to today's holiday so we went to a pasta place she recommended called Lucio.  I wasn't sure what I was ordering due to the Spanish menu but it was a ricotta ravioli in a cheesy mushroom sauce. It was divine. So far I am loving our hosts food recommendations.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Boats and Caimens in Iguazu Falls



Last night we went to a nearby restaurant called Jasy. It was a beautiful evening and the restaurant had a rather romantic setting - we had an enjoyable dinner. 


This morning is the start of our final day in Puerto Iguazu and the weather continued to cooperate. After breakfast the lodge staff picked up our luggage and stored it for the rest of the day while we headed out at 8am back to Iguazu Falls (Argentinian side).

This time we did the Gran Aventura (adventure boat ride) on the river up to the falls. When we arrived at the boat headquarters, there was already a middle aged rugby team in line ahead of us. They were quite boisterous and a number of them were very large.

 They counted out people and they put the rugby team into the loading area for the first safari truck that drives to the river. Then they added another couple to the area. The lady went to the staff and said something. Her and her husband went back into the area with us and two younger guys were put on with the rugby guys. As they drove off John said to me, "That boat is going to be riding low in the water".

I was quite relieved not to be on the truck with them. You could hear them loudly laughing and joking as they drove off. We got on the next truck.

We had to take the truck for 25 minutes through the jungle to the departure point. On the way our guide told us about the birds and animals in the area...there were lots but we didn't see any on our drive. 

We were one of the first ones off the truck and had to walk down hundreds of stairs to the dock on the river. They had wet bags for each of us to put our backpacks into and then one guy put a life jacket on us and the next guy fitted us. It was like being in an assembly line of water safety.

John and I followed the directions given to us and we got on a full boat.. the one with the boisterous rugby players. There weren't many seats left and we ended up sitting behind the largest guy who took up two seats.

The boat started going and he sprawled across both seats and leaned out the boat, totally blocking my view. John was horrified when I tapped him on the shoulder and motioned that I couldn't see. He kindly unsprawled.

The boat ride to the falls was crazy...Rapids and whizzing around for maximum activity until we got to the falls where we could take photos. Then it was time to put everything in the wet bags that you wanted to keep dry and the boat took us under some of the smaller falls for a complete dousing... to ensure we were soaked they did it twice more. It was definitely the hardest shower I've ever had but it was a riot.

When we landed back at the dock a large caiman was hanging out in the shallow water. He started slowly swimming towards shore. After taking a few pictures of him, I climbed the almost 200 steps to where we caught the bus.

The rest of the afternoon we did the Upper Circuit waterfall trail for more spectacular views  from catwalks that run along the top of the falls. The trail then winds through a peaceful area of streams and rivers that are lazily making their way to the edge before their dramatic plummet. We saw a few more caimans in these waters.




Our driver picked us up at 4pm and we returned  to the lodge where we had a little over an hour to use their facilities to shower and organize our luggage before the cab picked us up at 6pm to take us to the airport.

Buenos Aires, here we come.

Costs

Adult admission to Iguazu Falls National Park:  800 pesos per person. If you validate your ticket when leaving and return the next day admission  is reduced by  50% (400 pesos).

Gran Aventura: 2,500 pesos per person


Iguazu Jungle Lodge- $150 CAD per night

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Iguazu Falls, the Argentinian Side



We were blessed with another beautiful, sunny day. After breakfast at the lodge restaurant, our taxi picked us up at 8am and took us to the Argentinian side of Iguaza Falls National Park.

The Argentina side has three main trails: the Upper and Lower Circuits and the third trail is the Devil's Throat which is accessed by a train you catch within the park (no charge but you have to line'up to get a timed ticket both going to and back from the Devil's Throat).

We started with the Lower Circuit which is better in the morning for photos due to the sunlight. The views were spectacular.- you get closer to the falls than on the Brazilian side though I think you get a better "big picture" view of the falls from Brazil. Unfortunately part of the Lower Circuit was closed due to a recent landslide.


Next we bought a timed train ticket to the Devil's Throat which required us to wait an hour for our time slot (you can also skip the train and just walk along a path that parallels the train tracks). While waiting we ate lunch in the outside restaurant area where the local monkeys and coatis demonstrated their talents in begging for  and stealing food. There are posters up all over the park showing a bite mark from these animals and very unattractive, vicious looking pictures of them...kind of like what National Enquirer shows for celebrities.





After about a ten minute train ride, we then walked across a series of metal catwalks above the rivers that provide the water for the falls to a single spot where water from the rivers pours into a gorge from three sides - the Devil's Throat!  Of course the area is packed with people and selfie sticks. Despite the crowds, it still took our breath away.



On our way back to the train we passed some neat birds, gorgeous butterflies and I even watched a toucan fly between islands.




After taking the train back to the central area, we realized that we would not have the time to hike the Upper Circuit before our taxi returned at 3pm so we had an ice cream and walked the trail to the exit. We were fortunate enough to spy a caiman in the marsh.


Upon returning to our lodge we had a swim in the pool and then drank wine and ate chips and chocolate on our balcony before going into town for supper.