Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One last empanada for the road ...

By the time March 31st came along, Marc and I had been traveling in South America for three months. Although our Spanish had hardly improved and we were still by all accounts strangers in a strange land, it was clear to both of us that we would be leaving, wanting for more. You can be sure this will not be our last South American adventure!

After a short visit to Cordoba, we returned to Buenos Aires for a few last days before boarding Holland America’s MS Veendam for our month long cruise back to North America.

To embellish on a Bob Dylan tune, on our final day in Buenos Aires, we had — one last “empanada/SA style pizza” for the road, in a famous neighbourhood eatery. It was Easter weekend, and Buenos Aries was packed with locals and tourists alike. The aroma of fresh basil on bubbling pizza and crispy pastry filled with meats and vegetables greeted us as we walked through the door. Hungry patrons lined the “standing only” tables, hardly taking a breath as they devoured the savory morsels in front of them. We soon joined in the eating frenzy, after figuring out how to order! It was a nice send-off for us, both the last truly South American meal, as well as the festive environment.

Our last night was booked at our favourite Hotel, the Park Silver Obelisco, so we had a chance to see Laura one last time and thank her again for taking such great care of us.

The next morning we packed our bags for the last time on South American soil and crossed the widest boulevard in the city to catch a cab to the Cruise terminal.

As I promised myself, I used the time aboard to catch up on my blog posts. And with this post I am writing now, I can finally tell myself that I have finished the task. I also have given myself permission not to detail the 34 day journey, since to be completely honest, I would probably be going on and on about the food and the entertainment on board, and very little about the ports. I know just admitting that is quite embarrassing, never mind actually following through on it! And if I am coming clean about everything, I have to also say that my camera was pretty idle for the last month even though I had it with me at all times on and off the ship.

You may get the impression from this long line of apologies, that the experience was mediocre. That couldn’t be further from the truth!

The Cruise was amazing. — Every second and every meal and every conversation with our fellow travelers. Even when we missed three ports due to bad weather and we all felt sea-sick, it was great. OK, we did get a bit frustrated when a lot of people got sick and our servers had to serve us our bread with gloves and tongs instead of us putting our germy hands directly in the bread basket … but that is hardly a complaint.

It was the perfect way to reach the other side of the world. And you can be sure this will not be the last time we use this mode of transportation! We arrived in Boston refreshed and clean! We hopped on a bus in Boston and a few hours later we were back in New York. A quick subway and we were back in Brooklyn safe and sound with Aaron and Melissa.

Even though there were not very many of them, it took until now to go through my photos. I decided that the best way to sign off from South America was to post the best of them from the last month of the trip — all in one post.

For a little context, here are the ports we visited:

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Montevideo, Uruguay, Puerto Madryn, Argentina, Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, Chile, Cockburn Channel CO, Beagle Channel CO, Glacier Alley CO, Amalia Glacier CO, Chilean Fjords CO, Puerto Montt, Chile TR, Valparaiso (Santiago), Chile, Coquimbo (La Serena), Chile, Callao (Lima), Peru, Salaverry (Trujillo), Peru, Manta, Ecuador VC, Fuerte Amador, Panama ON TR, Fuerte Amador, Panama TR, Panama Canal Balboa CO, San Blas Islands, Panama TR, Cruising San Blas Archipelago CO, Cartagena, Colombia, Falmouth, Jamaica, Georgetown, Cayman Islands TR, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US, Boston, Massachusetts, US.

How about I let you figure out which photos are where?

What was very special about this trip was the opportunity to visit South America overland — and by sea. There are so many ways to see the world. We are glad we have added cruising to the mix!

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Argentinean wonder that should not be missed: Iguazu Falls

Hotels in Iguazu Falls come in two distinct categories. Big expensive all inclusive resorts which are outside of town on the way to the Falls and very basic hostal/hotels in town. When doing my research, neither seemed appropriate. We would be arriving late morning, so we decided to take our chances and see what was available once we arrived. In general, we like to be in the centre of things, close to restaurants and tourist information, so staying in town seemed like the best bet.

The town itself was far from amazing. It was quite hot and we had our bags to drag around with us. I stopped in at several less than appetizing hotels before we made our way to an apartment hotel recommended to us by someone at the bus station. Funnily enough the addition of a small refrigerator was enough to designate the basic room we were shown as an apartment — but it would do for a night or two.

Entrance to the Park and the Falls was by a day pass, and we had already lost part of the day, so we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting acclimated to our new surroundings. We took a nice walk to a high spot in the town where we could view the point where two rivers join. From there you could also see the not so far off lights of Paraguay. We walked back into town and had dinner and called it an early night.

The next morning we made our way to the bus station, where busses leave every half hour for the Iguazu Falls National Park where an amazing wonder awaited us. We had been told that it takes a full day to visit all of the different areas of the Park, so we got an early start. We were a bit nervous that we may be headed for Disney Land and prepared to be disappointed. Our visit to Niagara Falls had been a bit shocking last summer so we were ready for almost anything.

I am glad to report that we were very pleasantly surprised to find an absolutely wonderful park with lovely walkways to several vantage points of one of the world’s most spectacular attractions! There were a lot of tourists to share the experience with, which took a bit of patience, but we had all day and we took advantage of the time we had to marvel at mother nature and the be dumbstruck by the power of rushing water. We both snapped a lot of photos and took many movies. None capture the experience of being there, but here are a few from that very memorable day.

We got back on a bus at the end of day and returned to the town of Iguazu falls, stopping at the bus station to book our bus to Cordoba with a stop at San Ignacio.

San Ignacio was one of the large complexes of the Franciscan monks who came to this part of Argentina in the mid 1600’s into convert the local indigenous peoples to Christianity. We found, once we arrived that the region is full of the ruins of these massive walled Monasteries/indigenous villages. We only had a few hours between buses, so we could not visit any of the others, but we none-the-less found the experience very interesting and the ruins quite impressive.

After our visit, we hiked it back to the bus stop and caught our bus to Cordoba, our last stop before heading back to Buenos Aries.