Argentina and Chile (Buenos Aires, Salta, San Pedro de Atacama) 23 - 29 Sept 2014
San Ramón, Chile
23.9.14 - Woke up, turned telly on and what did I see?.....none other than 'Will and Grace' and in English! Lol...had a lazy day, slept most of it zzzzzzzzzz
24.9.14 - Woke up, said 'Happy 40th Birthday' to Steve......right time to explore Buenos Aires! Made my way to the Plaza Estado del Vaticano for the 10.30am 'Walking through Recoleta Tour'. This was a free tour (many cities around the world now offer these) you just pay the guide whatever tip you feel they deserve at the end. Our guide was Fernando, lovely guy and he spoke impeccable English. There were about 10 of us altogether, mix of German, Swiss, French and English. Well, what can I say, what a fab-u-lous morning! We walked for miles and saw sooooo much, including gorgeous buildings (the architecture is beautiful) and I learnt that Leonard Nimoy came up with the 'live long and prosper' hand sign in Star Trek, based on the Jewish hand sign that can be found on a number of buildings! Felt at home a few times, as there are a few red post boxes dotted about.....learnt that the Avenue 9 de Julio (main road running through BA) is the widest avenue in the world! Trying to cross it is an experience! Saw a flower shop, which also doubles as a wine bar, except you would never know it, what looks l****the door to a walk in fridge inside the shop, is in fact the entrance to the wine bar which is downstairs! Brilliant! It goes back to the prohibition days but places are now starting to open up like this as a novelty! Saw the Four Seasons hotel )very posh) and it's private house next door, which Robbie Williams has stayed in! A rather sad, awkward moment (for me anyway, being English!) as we looked at the Falklands War memorial and Fernando told us about how they were just not prepared for a war, and could never compete with the size of the British Forces. Extremely inexperienced young men were drafted in and many lost their lives. I felt compelled to mention that there were awful losses on both sides, but decided to stay silent and let the moment pass, emotional......Fernando then told us about historical wranglings of power.......one man even showed his contempt and power and erected a large building in front of a church! The church looks strange dwarfed behind it!....We finished the tour at the Cementario de la Recoleta, this is where Eva Peron's shrine is. Interestingly you would never find it on your own, and you would never find it if looking for the name 'Peron'. The Peron family did not arrange/pay for Eva's shrine, it was her own family, the 'Duarte's'. I was expecting something more lavish, more befitting her public image, instead there is a small plaque with her name on the Duarte family crypt.....Fernando was a fabulous guide so I gave him a handsome tip. We said our cheerios and a few of us went to lunch together. We set off in search of a restaurant which Fernando had recommended (he couldn't join us, as he had to go to college), we found it, only to have the closed sign turned on us and the door closed! How wude! So we did what only us Westerners could do and went to TGI Friday's lol! It was a lovely afternoon, sitting outside in the sunshine....later on I made my way back to the hotel. Just as I was nearing the hotel, down the little side street, leaving the hustle bustle behind, I could hear beautiful sounds coming from a guitar......there in the middle of a little wrought iron gated square, covered with creeping ivy and flowers, was a man playing his guitar, looking like he was enjoying a peaceful moment.......he opened his eyes and our eyes locked....it was a beautiful moment...he gave me a knowing nod and our encounter was over as I disappeared from view. I love Buenos Aires! It reminds me alot of Barcelona actually...
Got back about 5pm and met the tour group at 6.30pm downstairs in the hotel lobby. What a fab bunch of people! There is Romi our Chief Experience Officer (CEO) from Mendoza in Argentina, Emma and Mairead from Ireland, Andriana from Cyprus (but lives in London), Neil from Brighton, Herbert and Magda from Austria, Fabian and Romi from Switzerland, Celia and Arge from Norway and Eugene from Australia. As an ice breaker Romi got us all in turn to recite everyone's name and where they are from, then introduce ourselves. It worked, as I do remember everyone! We then went out to dinner together. Romi took us to a fab restaurant, with gorgeous artwork on the walls, it was down from street level, the walls were whitewashed, felt like a light, bright cellar. I had tenderloin steak (you can't really eat anything else but steak when in Argentina!) and a lovely red wine. We all bonded straight away and were excited for the start of our adventure!
25.9.14 - Early bus to the airport for our flight to Salta! All went smoothly at check-in and before we knew it we were touching down in Salta! Once we settled into the hotel we went on a walkabout. I tried my first Empanada, which is like a mini cornish pasty. We then decided to go up the mountain on the cable cars. A dog followed us all the way, so cute......Wow! what a beautiful view at the top! Breathtaking! After lots of photos we all had a beer! I don't usually like beer, but I decided to try it and really liked it! Some of the others decided to walk back down the mountain, but I opted to stay at the top a bit longer, it was really peaceful, especially sat next to the waterfall. I left enough time for them to reach the bottom before I took the cable car down and met up with everyone. We then realised that Neil was missing! The dog was still there, it had waited for us, then it walked back with us, so funny! Fortunately, Neil had made it back to the hotel ok, phew! Went to a dinner and show, dinner didn't get served until 11pm approx., apparently this is normal! Celia was a good sport and was the audience participation member for the dance show! Neil, Emma, Romi and I got a taxi back to the hotel, we just hit a brick wall and were too tired to walk back! zzzzzzzzzz
26.9.14 - Wine Tour! Oh what a fab day we had! Laughed and laughed and laughed......we visited 5 wineries in total, hic!, and saw some breathtaking scenery/landscapes too. One rock formation looks like the Titanic, there are what look like castles, the colour of the rocks changes as the sun moves through the day, beautiful! Pablo was our driver and Maria our guide for the day. The sliding side door to the van kept sticking, so much so that at the first winery we had to all climb into the front of the van to get out, as you can imagine there were a few comical moments throughout the day with this! It had a mind of it's own! We went to one winery which had a mahoosive wine barrel in the gardens, Romi, Magda and I had a comedy fight over who's barrel it was! In another winery Arge and some of the others climbed inside a large empty wine barrel, the photos are so funny! Turns out the word 'Concha' is not only used for a shell in Argentina, dependant on the context it's also what we know as the 'C' word! Needless to say this became the 'word' of the tour, was shouted on numerous occasions, and became the new 'say cheese' when taking photos!.....tried Goat stew and Llama sausage for lunch...errrrr.....it was ok....cheese crepes from a roadside stall were yummy. I asked the lady if I could take a photo of her gorgeous baby daughter, but she said no....humph!.....she was so cute! Got back quite late, tired and full of wine....we all went straight to bed! zzzzzzzz
27.9.14 - 5am start for our 10 hour bus ride across the Andes to Chile! Gorgeous scenery on the way. Border crossing was slow! and it was very windy! We were at quite a high altitude now and Andriana was very sick, I really felt for her. Fortunately for me and the majority the only effect it had on us was that we got out of breath quicker, so learnt very quickly to walk slower! We finally arrived at San Pedro de Atacama, what a lovely place! The hostel has an outside centre courtyard with comfy sofas, tables and chairs. Accommodation was in little bungalow type buildings. We all went out to dinner together and had an explore round the town, I bought a scarf/wrap. San Pedro has a lovely vibe! Dinner was delicious, the restaurant was outdoors, there were lovely fires and the Margaritas went down a treat! Romi, Mairead and I went for a beer on the way back, I tried the honey (miel) beer, it was lovely and I got a friendly wink from a guy!
28.9.14 - Had a lazy day, slept in, read my book lounging in one of the outdoor comfy sofas, and my big toe toenail fell off! I had damaged it a few weeks before coming away and it had been sticking up in a funny shape, so it had finally fallen off leaving behind a funny looking newly sprouting toenail! As it grew dark we all headed out to do a spot of stargazing! Miguel was a gorgeous, handsome guide (ooo er missus!), we stargazed with our naked eyes and also through a small and large telescope. Miguel showed me my Pisces constellation! and did you know that the stars in our skies are 'old' if they are red or yellow in colour and 'new' if they are blue? No nor me.....thought all stars were white...turns out if you look closely you can differentiate these colours! Who'd 'ave thought! We also watched a really interesting video about astronomy, planets, stars, etc. At the end Miguel made us all lovely hot chocolate.
Off to Bolivia and the Salt Flats tomorrow....would have been nice to have stayed longer in San Pedro!