I am now back in Kavousi after my 4 week trip to South America at the very beginning of the year. I sit here at my computer, looking out at the orange and lemon tree and think how lucky I am. While I knew I would miss John while I was away, I did wonder what my feelings would be about coming back to live in Crete after a four week break. And I discovered, I was glad to be back ‘home’ here. John has made the house very comfortable, everyone seemed glad to see me, I was glad to see them, the sun was shining and there was much to look forward to.
The trip had many different aspects to it, was completely memorable and I have written a couple of posts about it, mainly to show some of the pictures as well as being of some interest to anybody wanting to do something similar. This one covers the background to the trip, where I went, the people I went with, the different landscapes, the wildlife and a brief comment on the beautiful cities. The other post is more about some of the people we met and the things which made me want to know more about the history and present day issues in Argentina, Chile and Brazil.
Quite often, in my travelling over the years, the impetus to go somewhere has been because I wanted to visit a friend or relative. My daughter, Rosie, has been living and working in Buenos Aires for a year (having already been there for a few months in 2011). I wished to see her but I was also curious to find out what so attracted her to the city.
I had never been to anywhere in South America before, so it was with much ignorance and a little apprehension that I planned the trip. John stayed here with Bonnie and our friend, Jane, came with me. Soon, the trip gained arms and legs. We agreed the places we wanted to see, the type of accommodation, the big budget and that we needed help to organise it. Jane contacted the travel company, Journey Latin America, to plan the trip. By now it included Chile and Brazil as well as Argentina! After some days of negotiation including, we finally agreed the 27 night itinerary which was as below.
1 night flying from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires with TAM airways
7 nights in an apartment in Palermo, Buenos Aires
2 nights in Puerto Madryn, Patagonia visiting wildlife and the Welsh village of Gaimain
2 nights in El Calafate with the highlight seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier
3 nights at the Patagonia Camp near the Torres Del Paine National Park, South Chile
3 nights in San Pedro de Atacama to see the Atacama Desert
2 nights in Santiago
3 nights in Rio de Janeiro
3 nights in the Ilha Grande, a tropical island south of Rio
1 night flying back to Heathrow from Rio
Rosie would join us for the week in Patagonia. In Buenos Aires, Santiago and Rio, we organised our own sightseeing. Everywhere else, we were on mainly shared tours with guides. We covered a lot of miles. I was staggered to find that the total mileage from Heraklion to Buenos Aires, via London was approximately 8543 miles and the return journey from Rio de Janeiro was 7435 miles. Then while I was in Argentina, Chile and Brazil, we covered 7129 miles, just getting from place to place, mainly by plane and approximately another 1000 miles in tours, mainly by mini bus or car but also a few by foot. No wonder I was tired when I got back!
The trip would not have been the same without my travelling companions, Jane and Rosie. They added such a lot of different things. Jane and I were in each others company for most of the trip and that worked out fine. It was good to discuss what we had seen and learned everyday. We ate and drank together, we shared our amazement at the ever changing landscapes, we discussed what we had learned and how much we didn’t know, we solved the occasional problem (such as me leaving my passport in the ladies toilet in Calama airport!) and we looked after each other.
Jane and I were a little nervous when we arrived in Buenos Aires but in Rosie, we had an adviser for some part of the week and someone who gave us ideas of where to go. She took us to a restaurant where I think I ate the biggest steak I have ever eaten. It was completely delicious and the red wine to go with it was just as good! In Patagonia and freed from the shackles of work, she was such good fun to be with and she and I spent a memorable two days hiking in the Torres del Paine. We shared a room in a yurt for three nights
and both of us could have stayed there happily for a lot longer!
We saw the most incredible and different landscapes, one after the other. Rosie took us to Tigre, an hours train ride north from Buenos Aires. The railway station was amazing in itself.
There we admired the Parana River delta, which is a system of rivers, with many small islands and holiday homes to admire. It is just huge. We saw only a small section of it.
In Argentinian Patagonia, around Trelew we saw very flat scrub land with no features.
But then we went to Gaimain where the Welsh settlers had arrived and where, after all their hard work over the years to irrigate the land, it is green and fertile. And we had a nice Welsh tea there!
After a two hour flight west, we looked out from our hotel window in El Calafate to the most beautifully coloured glacial lake
and the next day, as we got near the Perito Moreno Glacier, we were suddenly transported into mountains, ice and snow.
Following on from that, we were driven for 4 hours to the Chilean border along again very flat and featureless land
which contrasted so dramatically with the next few days in theTorres del Paine National Park, in Chilian Patagonia. Here we walked along rivers, went through forests, and saw wonderful lakes.
gazed at huge mountains and were silenced by the sight of the Horns one day
and the three Towers which are slabs of stone, at a perpendicular angle from the ground.
We then travelled to the most southern town in Chile, Punta Arenas through grasslands with no trees. Some people we met went onto a cruise through the Magellan Strait to Tierra Del Fuego from Punto Arenas but we had decided to forego that and go north to the Atacama desert.
The temperature rose dramatically. While it was summer in Patagonia, the temperature was more like the norm in Scotland and we were told that we were lucky it was as high as that. In the Atacama desert, it was around 30 degrees centigrade in the day. There were different landscapes within the desert. First we saw the beautiful Atacama salt flats. From the salt flats you can see the Andes Mountain range, beautiful in themselves. And then there a flat area directly in front of you that was so beautiful and peaceful. The colours were pastel, the surface was a mixture of white salt crystal and the clear, shallow water and the flamingo’s and birds were just equisite.
as well as the Tatio Geysers which are the highest geysers in the world but not as big as ones which I have seen in Iceland.
They are situated at over 4000 metres high in the Andes. So it was cold. The geysers themselves are pretty astonishing and they and the surrounding huge, snow topped mountains, mad it feel slightly surreal.
In Brazil, we saw the wonderful setting of Rio
as well as the vegetation and beaches of villages south of the city. It was all so lush and green.
A bit different from the other landscapes I’ve described! We saw such contrasting landscapes and I couldn’t help but marvel at how beautiful our world can be.
We also saw a range of wildlife. I was impressed by the National parks we visited in all three countries. From a visitors point of view, they provided fantastic accesss to wildlife, but seemingly with the animals welfare at heart. There were clear areas and paths for the tourist but they allowed the opportunity to walk and see the animals but without disturbing them too much. In Argentina, we enjoyed watching penguins at Punta Tombo,
elephant seals and an armadillo on the Peninsula Valdez. We missed the whales as they are around in the autumn. We were introduced to a new animal, the guanaco, and we saw them thoughout Patagonia.
and small birds in the desert and birds of prey in Patagonia. In a small village we saw some llamas with the baby called Rosemary.
I loved the flowers everywhere, so different in every area. This in Patagonia,
And something very different in the Ilha Grande.
and it has the advantage of having wonderful beaches. Man has developed Cococabana beach to an amazing extent but the beach itself remained superb.
We found some very grand buildings too in the centre of the city But the one I liked most was the Nova Cathedral, a piece of modern architecture which apparently has a capacity of 20,000.
I could believe that.
It was, pretty spectacular flying into Santiago airport with the Andes of the left hand side. It was difficult to see some of the buildings and plaza’s in Santiago as work was being carried out on them but we admired what we could see including the changing of the guard at the Plaza de la Constitucion
and a wonderful post office.
On our first day in Buenos Aires, Rosie took us to an area which reminded me of Hyde Park (the trees are a bit different!)
It was Sunday and many people were out enjoying themselves, including ourselves. We found there were many green areas in the city. On the other hand, it was a major journey to get across the roads in Buenos Aires but not a problem as the traffic lights worked well!
Again we marvelled at wonderful buildings. For example, we had a tour round the Theatre Colon and I just loved both the inside and outside of it.
It was a pity there was no opera being performed as we would have have gladly parted with our money for that experience.
There is lots that could be said about the cities and and I want to write more about them in the context of people we met in Part 2.