(28 november - 25 december 1999)
Buenos Aires 2
Let's start with the preparation. In Argentina live two aunts of my mother and one of them visited us twice but never saw anybody of our family there in the past 50 years they live there. I'm not a family man but to combine this with a holiday seemed a nice idea. So in april 1999 my girlfriend and I decided to buy a ticket and deal with everything else on the spot.
After reading the LP, I started to inform in October what possibilities there are for getting an airpass. It turned out that you'll have to fly internationally with Aerolineas Argentina or with your national carrier. We bought a ticket through British Airways so we couldn't use the 'Vistite Argentina' or the 'Mercosour' pass.
After a stop in London we arrived in Buenos Aires. My aunt picked us up and took us with a taxi to her house. She lives in the neighborhood of Recoleta and about 5 minutes walking from the famous cemetery. The same afternoon we went to see the cemetery and here you'll find the most extraordinary monuments for all the rich and famous Argentines. Also in her family grave you can find Evita Perron.
Evita Perons family grave
Buenos Aires is a city where live about 11 million people and knows quite some crime. The day we arrived we heard on the radio that a bus from Manuel Tienda Leon, the company that does transport too and from airports, that leaves from the airport was robbed and was full with british tourists. My aunt recommended to take always a taxi at night. In daytime we took the normal busses, 'collectivo'.
The first afternoon we tried already the ice cream from 'Freddo'. This is a company in Buenos Aires that makes really delicious ice cream. In the evening we went for diner to 'Cabana las Lilas' in the neighborhood of Puerto Madero. In this popular restaurant we tried our first piece of Argentine meat and I must say it was fantastic.
The next day we took a 'collectivo' to go into the center. This takes about 15 minutes and costs about 0,70$ or peso because the dollar and the peso have the same value. First we went to make reservations for a train ride in Salta, 'Tren a las nubes', train to the clouds. This costs 95$. After this we went to an Aerolineas office to get tickets for the flights we definitely wanted to do.
It turned out to be that the sooner you buy plane tickets the cheaper they are. On a day to day base prices are changed and last-minute discount doesn't seem to exist. Earlier we decided to do the train trip, go to Iguazu and to El Calafate. A disadvantage is that it's impossible to fly directly between destinations (exceptions do exists, but more later). For two way Salta, two way Iguazu and one way Rio Gallegos because Aerolineas doesn't fly on El Calafate we got a deal of 500$ each including taxes. We didn't buy more flight because we were not sure what to do next and how much time to spent in El Calafae for seeing the glaciers. We forgot to inform with other companies.
The next two days we spent also in Buenos Aires and visited the tourist agencies of Salta and Missiones to inform about hotels. Here we learned that the prices mentioned in the Lonely Planet of 97 are terribly out of date. Also we saw Casa Rosada gezien and the cathedral 'Metropolitana'. When we went to see the Mitre museum we couldn't find but in the same street we did see the police museum and that was quite nice to see.
Back to my aunt we had quite some difficulties to find the place to get on the bus. After 3 times asking and walking around the block we found it. It's not so difficult to find as long as you remember that everything is built in blocks and most streets are one way so the other direction is on the other side of the block.
Also in Recoleta is the museum 'museo nacional de bellas artes'. This is the most prestigious museum of Argentina and is nice to see. They even have one Rembrand, the most famous Dutch painter ever if I'm correct. On the end of the first week we flew to Salta.
When we arrived at the airport we took a taxi to 'officina del tourismo' for 10$. Here we asked for a good but not too expensive hotel or 'residencial' that are private hotels. They recommended us 'hostal cerro del sol' for 35$ per night for a double. Only slight disadvantage is that we had to walk about 15 minutes with luggage from the tourist office. It turned out to be a small, clean but nice hostal to be with very nice people who run the place.
In the afternoon we went into town to see the market but unfortunately it was closed. It was really hot that day probably above 30C and then you'll really have 'siesta' there so we decided to go to the gondola, 'teleferico' to the summit of 'San Bernardino'. This costs 6$ and the view is not really worth it but walking with that heat is not really nice. All nice things to do are outside Salta and go far away for at least 8 hours and some up to 15 hours. We informed at several tourism agencies but didn't book anything because the train excursion would take also 15 hours and we didn't want to do two in a row.
When we went back it was around 4 PM. and we were really hungry but then we tried to find a restaurant around the centre and we couldn't find anything that was open at that time so we had to settle for a bar and they had about 4 'empanadas', small Argentine sandwiches filled with meat or cheese, left.
On recommendation of the people from the hotel we took a taxi at 6.30 AM the next morning to go to the train station. It turned out that we were brought to the bus station on the other side of town. I'm always a wreck in the morning so my limited ability to speak Spanish and my lack in checking the map before caused this. When I explained that we had to go to the train station he didn't have any gas left so he went to the gas station first and we arrived finally at 6.50 so in time but an expensive trip because we had to pay again of course.
The train leaves at 7.00 AM. The first hour and a half there is nothing interesting to see and we listened to the explanation of the guide that is present the whole day in each carriage. He only speaks Spanish but regularly there is some language expert explaining something in 6 languages through a speaker system. The left side of the train is absolutely the best side for the first part of the trip as we saw when the first excitement came after reaching the first bridge in about one and a half hour.
Tren a las nubes
After about 7 hours the train arrives in San Antonio de los Cobres, a mining town at about 4000 mtr. About 15 minutes later the train arrives at a small place to shunt and there the locals take their first opportunity to sell stuff. When the train leaves they jump in their cars and hurry to the next stop. About 15 minutes around 14.00 later we arrived at 'Viaducto la Polverilla', a 64 mtr high and with a length of 224 mtr on an altitude of 4200 mtr a magnificent piece of work that serves a bridge for the train. After going to the end of the bridge the train returns and first you can leave the train for about 20 minutes.
Viaducto la Polverilla
All the women and children have arrived in the meantime at the bridge and try to sell stuff again. Fortunately I had some pencils and gums left from my trip to Peru and I gave them to the kids instead of buying stones I didn't like or giving money or candy's in response to their begging. At San Antonio de los Cobres the train stops again and there was another opportunity to buy stuff.
The way back is a long sit of another 7 hours and at the end they try to cheer you up a little bit with a small band. The trip is absolutely great but for 15 hours and 95$ each I doubt if it's worth the money. Around 22.00 we returned at the hotel and the owner offered us to phone for food such that we didn't have to start searching again. He let some great 'empanadas' deliver.
The next day turned out to be a disappointment because it was sunday and we didn't book any other excursion. We went looking for museums that were open and 'museo de belles artes, museo historico, museo antropologico' were all closed on this. All the shops were also closed. Fortunately around the corner of the hotel was open so we could buy some food and save something on the expenses because it is all terribly expensive. We found Salta, the town a bit disappointing but the next day we left.
To go from Salta to Iguazu by plane we had to go through Buenos Aires. We arrived with 10 minutes left on the first flight but we had a ticket for the next one already that would leave 3 hours later. We stayed on the airport and spent the next 3 hours with studying the behaviour of 4 man and one woman who work in a very expensive gift shop on the airport.
We dropped ourselves in the chairs next to the shops and probably because of our shabby, travel clothes they watched us also closely. It didn't improve because we stayed so long. They really had nothing to do and were approaching people outside the shop to gain interest for the shop. They did wear a suit but they all had badly polished shoes. When there was nobody to approach or to bother they formed a group, talked a bit and looked like they were hoping for the end of the day. We had another 45 minutes delay so we were glad we could leave after almost 4 hours looking at these people.
On the airport of Iguazu there was lady recommending hotels. She did us a proposal for 4 days Saint George for 45$ per night for a double instead of the normal 50$. The taxi was 18$ and this is because of the distance of around 20 km. The friendly driver came with a proposal for a daytrip for 30$. After we got is telephone number we turned him down because we wanted to keep our options open.
The hotel was great, clean, big room with even a mini bar and a nice pool. A walk through town led me to think that I should have visited the town 10 or 15 years ago because they partly rebuild the town. Temperature early december was already around 32C.
We had diner in 'la Esquina' which belongs to the hotel and is next to the hotel. I took a delicious 'Lomo de pimienta' for not too much money. If I remember correctly 10 or 12 $ but it was really good. At night I spent about an hour in chasing and trying to kill two mosquitoes after they bite my girlfriend 3 times. The air conditioning was off because I asked to turn it off due to the noise it makes. Unfortunately you cannot do it yourself but at 2.00 PM after the chase I phoned them to turn it on again because it was really hot. I got used to the noise really soon.
The next morning more bad news because the shower hardly knew any cold water. Breakfast is also in 'la Esquina'. After breakfast we crossed the street to the bus station. For 4$ per person you get a round trip in a public bus to the center of the park. The busses leave once each hour and the one of 8.40 AM we just missed so we had to almost an hour because they leave 40 past each hour.
At the entrance of the park you have to buy a ticket of I'm not sure anymore but I believe 5$. The bus drops you at the information center and from there you can easily start the upper and lower circuit. We started with the upper circuit where you find a magnificent view over all falls. The first impression is great then you feel what all the traveling was for and it's definitely worth it. You can walk the upper circuit in about half an hour.
View on the upper circuit
The lower circuit is quite a bit longer and more intense because you have to descend a bit and of course you have to go up again. Through a concatenation of wide and nice balconies you reach a point where a lot of water comes down and you have an awesome view on the fall from below.
Close to the water
When you go further down you reach a boat where you can go to 'Isla de San Martin', an island in the middle of all falls. A short but very steep stairway leads you to the top of the island where you can follow a path around the island. It was really hot that day and makes the trip intensive. On side of the island you'll reach the point where you can see closely the so called 'salto San Martin' en de 'salto dos mosqueteros'. This place made such an impression that I decided to propose to my girlfriend. I planned this a long time but waited for the right place during our holiday. Fortunately (of course :-) ) she said yes !!
The trip back was short but heavy. Back to Iguazu a bus leaves each hour exactly and we took it at 15.00. After a nice swim we went for diner at 'El Charo'. Here we took a 'parillada' for 2 people for 2 persons for 15$. This is a typical Argentine dish that contains all kinds of grilled meat like kidneys and brains. Despite the good price is was not really nice because the meat contained a lot of fat, far too well done and there was no atmosphere because the television was showing football.
The next day we had rain and thunder. After sleeping late and swimming we ate a terrific hamburger at 'El Lautero' in the centre. We wanted to go to the bank and Aerolineas but they were all closed because of 'dia de la virgin'. At night we had a great fish dish, 'surabi' at 'la Esquina' again.
The third day we went to the devils gorge, 'la Garganta del diablo'. This day the weather was not so great but it was our last day and chance to go so we went because this was supposed to be something not to miss. The bus takes a little bit longer because it goes first to the information center and then it continues to the point where you can get to the gorhe. The same ticket can be used to do this.
There used to be a bridge from this point but after several times being destructed by the water they decided to start a ferry service. At the shore there is a man behind a table who sells tickets for 4$ each so that you can take a small boat for about 700 mtr to a point where the remaining part of the bridge starts. He also sells tickets for a rowing excursion that brings you to the beginning of the main road through the park. This is about 3 km which go through a river that goes along the road to the gorge. We decided not to do this and to walk because it costs 15$ and the river goes along the road to the gorge.
We only bought a ticket to go to the bridge. When you reach the end of the bridge you have a beautiful view on the river and you see how the water goes into a gigantic hole. Here you're at the highest point of the falls and when you see this violence of nature you get quiet and respectful of this awesome view.
Back we went walking and it costs about an hour to get back at the information center. The part back to the main road is not interesting. When we were walking along the main road we saw a 'toukan' in the trees just beside the road. Unfortunately I was too late to take a picture of this beautiful bird. After a hamburger for lunch we went back to another road nearby that goes into the jungle.
This track is called 'Sendero Macuco' and just befoe leaving the main road we saw two 'toukans' and I was again too late for taking a picture. Firm determined not to let it happen again I walked further with my camera on my neck. Walking this track we saw four monkeys and again a 'toukan'. The bird probably wanted to tease me because again I failed to take a photograph and this time my excuse is the dense forest.
After about 4 km the track is divided and there you have to take the right branch because left goes after the little bridge in about another 5 km to a town on a wide civilized track. When you take the right branch you reach quite soon the top of a small waterfall. You can go further and then you have to descend through a short but steep way down and then you reach the bottom of the falls. I liked this because this was my first experience of jungle. Maybe you can go further from this point but we didn't try because of the time. on Our way back we only saw the monkeys again.
That evening we arrived at 19.15 at the bank and Aerolineas to change traveller cheques and to confirm our flight but unfortunately they were closed again. They normally close at 19.00. the next morning it rained from 6.00 AM continuously but it was time to depart. After checking out we had to wait for an hour on a bus from 'Aristobulo del Valle' to get to the airport for 3$ each. They stop at each hotel with an old bus and are a lot cheaper than a taxi.
When we arrived in Buenos Aires we asked for a taxi at 'Manuel Tienda Leon' to go to Recoleta for my aunt because our next flight would leave the day after. At each airport there is a company with a desk that offers taxi services. These are well known companies that are a lot more secure than other taxis but they are a bit more expensive. For 10$ and a distance of maybe around 10 km we went to Recoleta.
After we arrived at my aunt we confirmed our next flight. So far we were lucky with not confirming flights. At the same time we informed again whether it is possible to fly directly to El Calafate. This is not possible they told us and they didn't know whether an other company could do this. This time we grabbed the LP and it told us that from Rio Gallegos where Aerolineas goes to you can take Kaiken to fly to El Calafate. When we phoned one of the travel agents mentioned they told us that Aerolineas arrives too late to take the flight with Kaiken. Then we read the bible again and it wrote that busses leaves almost directly after the arrival of planes. This time we phoned with Interlagos in Rio Gallegos (telephone number was ok in LP this time after preceding a 4) and yes we could make reservations by phone for a bus of 25$ each so we could arrive the same day in El Calafate and they would pick us up at the airport.
Next morning 9.50 hardly awake and we are back at the airport and are watching the same staff of the gift shop. Nothing is changed, Walking from one end of the store to the other and back, no joy, a gaze far away and still no polished shoes. This time we took a look at the restaurant but this is not funny when you see a sandwich with cheese for 3$.
At 11.00 we left and at 13.50 we arrived in Rio Gallegos. A very small arrival hall completely occupied by the people from our flight and chaos, almost war around the belt to get to your luggage. We were in a hurry because we met already the guy that was waiting for us and he said we were the last persons he was waiting for. After 25 minutes we got our luggage and then we followed him to an office on the airport.
Here a girl asked in English whether we already had an hotel or a voucher of an hotel where we had to go in El Calafate. When I explained we didn't have that and didn't know where to go to she lost it. It looked like she thought we were crazy to go without reservations. After intervention from the guy who picked us up and speaks very well English we explained again that we wanted to go to the tourist office and inform about hotels we could pay the bus ticket and we got a voucher for the the bus and left with the bus two minutes later.
After a short break at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, Esperanza actually with again expensive prices and 400 km of bad road we arrived at 18.15. After the other passengers were dropped at their hotel we went to the bus station. The driver said that the tourist office was inside the building but first we should talk with Jorge from Interlagos. This turned out to be a very nice guy who speaks very good English. He told us to go to 'las Cabanitas', (email@example.com) for 36$ per night without breakfast and he phoned for us to ask if they had space left.
Of course we talked about excursions because they do that also and he told that walking on the glacier is nothing when you walked on snow before. The real exciting stuff is done 'El Chalten' but then you have to go for at least 3 days.
The hotel was about 600 mtr from the bus station and it turned out to small apartments. The owner is an older man and very friendly. The apartment was clean but cosy and had a microwave, tea and coffee which could all be used for free.
After leaving the luggage we went to see the tourist office. A young guy told us that you could go to the glaciers by public bus for the nice price of 40$ each. After informing also after where we could change traveller cheques he knew one agency at the end of the village. He closed the office immediately after we left though it was 19.15 and not yet 21.00 which is the time mentioned in the LP as closing hour.
In the village we arrived at the travel agency, 'Solo Patagonia' that offered a trip for 50$ each to 'Perito Moreno' and a bit of trekking at the glacier 'Mayo' where you go by boat. He also offered a second day for 95$ each to the 'Upsala' and 'Spegazini' glaciers and if we did both days the second day could be done for 75$. At the end he told us that 18$ had to be added to that for driver who does it all in his spare time. We decided to go for 1 day to the 'Perito Moreno' also because it was already around 20.00 and we didn't have much time to visit other agencies.
We went for dinner at 'El Paso Verlika' and I took cannelloni because I wanted to skip meat for one day. I regretted it because it was not good. That night was really strange because in one day we were in a place where it got dark at 22.30 instead of 19.30 in Buenos Aires and the north.
The next day we were picked at 7.15 by a mini bus with a Brazilian couple, a guide and a driver. Brenda, the guide turned out to be working for 'Fernandez Campell' so I wondered whether we should have booked there directly because they also have an office in town. She is a very friendly person and explained a lot both in Spanish and English about the surroundings, history and nature. The road to the glacier is about 80 km unpaved.
At 9.30 we arrived at the glacier and had plenty of time to enjoy this marvelous creature of nature. On the balconies you have a magnificent view on the glacier at a distance of about 700 mtr. Unfortunately the lowest balcony was closed for repairs and we had quite some time left.
Not a night shot but a close up
Quite regular large pieces of ice come down and you hear the ice cracking. The Perito Moreno is definitely the most spectacular glacier in the world. The bottom picture was taking by zooming in on the upper side of the glaciar.
Ice coming down and a overview
Top of the ice
At none we went for another hamburger at the local cafeteria en had an extensive conversation with our Brazilian passengers. At 13.15 we left with the boat to the Mayo glacier and around 15.00 we made a walk of around an hour to to the base of the mountain where the glacier is on top of. This was nice but not really spectacular. When we returned the boat brought us close to the Perito Moreno and that gave me an idea of how small we are compared with this gigantic masterpiece.
View from the boat
On our return we wondered what to pay to the driver because we forgot how much we should pay. After asking the guide she said 20$ so confusion was born and we made ourselves the promise never to do excursions with oral agreements. At 19.45 we arrived bacj in El Calafate and we went straight to a travel agency to ask for possibilities to go to Puerto Madryn because we didn't want to go again to the glaciers and directly around town is not much to do.
Strictly speaking going to El Chalten was an option but my girlfriend wasn't to keen about going ice climbing and so and we didn't want to spent another 3 days somewhere because of time and money. We thought about Ushuaia as well but we definitely wanted to go to Puerto Madryn and we didn't have much time and money left to spent on extra things.
The result was that we could leave the next day from El Calafate at 14.00 with Kaiken for Rio Gallegos and then leave at 19.00 for Trelew and for 165$ each. On Puerto Madryn it was not possible to fly the lady told us. With Aerolineas we could leave two days later and not the next day from Rio Gallegos for 130$. Concerning another 25$ bus you can fly for 10$ more but you will arrive quite late. Paying with Visa was not possible despite a sticker on the window because they had several problems with Visa and stopped their service. Cash we didn't have enough and it was sunday so banks were closed but 'banco de la provincia' turned out to have an ATM where I could use my normal card for automatic withdrawal. So far I could only use this in Europe.
At night we went for dinner at 'la Cocina'. A nice and cozy restaurant but the meat was not great though the wine was good and dessert as well. The bill of 42$ was a bit expensive. The next day we went to search for a phone for making an hotel reservation in Puerto Madryn because we would arrive late and didn't want to search in the dark. All telephone numbers in Argentina turned out to be changed with a 4 in front and in the LP we missed the area code in the piece about Puerto Madryn. The owner of the hotel helped us to find that and then I reserved 'hostal de rey' for 50$ per night. Calls inside Argentine turned out to be quite expensive as well.
When we went to for a late breakfast at the corner of the street where the telephone center we had to pay for two cokes, 2 fried samdwiches and 1 croissant the nice sum of 12$. The taxi to the airport was 5$ for maybe 2 or 3 km. El Calafate is nice because it's relatively close to the glaciers but is really expensive.
In El Calafate there is a small airport where we got a delay of 45 minutes because in Rio Gallegos a plane was stuck in the middle of the runway. We had plenty of tine for changing planes so no worry this delay.
The airport in Rio Gallegos has a bit more to offer so we spent our time with watching other passengers because the chairs don't invite you to fall asleep. There were for example two blond girls from Germany who got a lot of attention from locals and clearly enjoyed it. After again 2 fried sandwiches, one coffee and a tea this time voor 11$ we left at 19.05 for Trelew.
At 20.45 the plane landed and we got out. At the luggage belt our luggage didn't appear. After the last one a man looked inside to see if everything was gone and he saw us standing there. He then asked for our luggage label and told us this was Comodoro Rivadavia was. We were frightened and ran back to the departure hall. Nobody gave any trouble about boarding cards but probably the man recognized us from leaving the plane. This was clearly due to my faulty Spanish because I didn't hear this in the plane and the woman from the travel agency didn't tell it either.
At 21.15 the plan left for Trelew. When we left the plan at 22.15 we got another surprise because there was no bus going anymore and the taxi driver asked 45$ to bring us to Puerto Madryn. It's a distance of around 60km and because we didn't want to search at this hour for a hotel in Trelew we agreed. This driver also offered a day trip by taxi but he asked 150$ and that was far too much. When we had to pay him he didn't have change on 50$ so we got 10$ back. You should tip 10% but we were a little upset about this price and decided not to do this.
The hotel 'Hostal del Rey' is situated on a busy boulevard and we got a room with sea view so also directly facing the boulevard. The nightly noise were a disadvantage but besides that the hotel was fine. Here also the showers mainly have warm water.
The next day we went to inform at the local tourist office what possibilities there are. They told us that all agencies offer almost the same excursions for the same prices and that most of the whales already left the bay. We also asked what the price is of a regular bus to Trelew and they told us that it is 4$ per person.
On the boulevard there are a lot of agencies that offer the same excursions. We booked at 'Benitez turismo' for 25$ per person to see whales and to make a trip across the peninsula Valdez where we would stop twice to watch sea elephants, sea lions and seals. Not included was 10$ entry to the park. Here also the excursion was done by an other company because the man from the agency had to ask for a confirmation. This time of the year is not really busy and if there are not enough people they will skip the excursion.
Excursions can only be booked one day in advance so we had the rest of the day to see the town and to walk along the beach. During this walk we already burned ourselves because between 12.00 and 15.00 the sun is at his maximum intensity and with some wind you'll burn easily. Later we informed at another agency which possibilities there are for returning to Buenos Aires. With Aerolineas 3 days later this would be 145$ from Trelew. At night we went for dinner to 'Puerto Marisko'. We had 'abodejo', this is some kind of sole and salmon, both cooked. It wasn't very good but I had a sauce with all kinds of fresh sea animals and that was nice.
The next morning we were picked up at the hotel at 8.15. This time there was also a guide. Marcella the guide speaks both Spanish and English and tried very hard to explain everything in both languages. She was quite negative about our chance to see whales. The animals arrive already in July or August and start leaving in November for more cold waters. Each year between 700 and 800 whales come so best time is really September or October. After a little bit more than an hour we reached 'Puerto Piramide'. Around 10.30 we could leave after waiting around half an hour for more tourists.
After 20 minutes with the boat we reached a bay where two couples, mother and child still were. It was wonderful to see this majestic animals. The immense animals moved me because of theses beautiful works of nature made me realize how careful we should be with our heritage from nature.
No words can describe this when
you're watching this from 20 mtr
One time the boat almost got on top of the mother. She dived and I just couldn't take a picture because it was so close and besides that some blond Italian girl jumped in front of me. This was a disadvantage of so many people on one boat because everybody wants to take THE picture and almost will fight for it. I think there was about 5 mtr between the boat and the whale. I think that it is not very wise from the people who ran the boat to get so close.
At noon we went for 2 again too expensive hamburger at the local restaurant. We sat outside in the full sun and that we knew. Without protection you will know after about 15 minutes that there is an hole in the ozone layer. After lunch at 13.15 we took the bus and got out again at 'Calata' to watch the sea elephants. Through a path you can descend down the cliffs and on about 15 mtr from the animals you can stay on the cliffs. You are a little bit higher than the animals and you have a great view and will not disturb the animals. Just when we were there they were playing and teasing each other so we really enjoyed this.
Later at 'Punta Delgada' we got out again and could see another colony but this time you are really high above the beach and there is not apportunity to descend so this was a bit disappointing. In the evening we went looking for our return fight because we knew we would only do one other excursion and a day off in Puerto Madryn. Learned from other experiences we now looked for an agency that sells more then one airline and we got a deal with Dinar for 120$ to Buenos Aires and from the local airport in Puerto Madryn.
At the same agency as the last excursion we went for another excursion for the next day to see 'Punta Tombo', a penguin colony and to go for welsh tea in Gaiman. We were lucky to pay only 25$ because the previous time the man told us that if there would not be enough people the trip would be in a minibus and that the price would be then 35$. In the evening we went for dinner at 'Estela'. Here I had a very good 'lomo con champinones' (tenderloin with mushrooms) for 12$. The next day we were picked up in a minibus with just a driver who was the guide as well and just spoke Spanish.
Punta Tombo is a large penguin reserve where thousands of penguins reside. Here also you will have to pay 10$ entrance fee. You can reach through a short path and a small bridge rocks where you have a nice view on the beach. The remaining part is fenced to protect the penguins so the tourist are inside a fence. The bridge is in the middle of a path for the penguins to the beach and the sea so all the penguins walk under the bridge. On the rocks you have a great view and you won't disturb the animals.
Beautiful friendly animals
There are also a lot of penguins in the bushes where people come. Some almost crawl inside the animals just to make some nice photographs and those who even tried to touch them made me feel sick. I have the strong thought that you should enjoy nature and try to protect it so you should leave them alone and not try to rape nature. Here the places where people can come should be protected better just for the sake of the animals.
After Punta Tombo we went back to Trelew and on to Gaiman. At the teahouse 'Te Ty Caerdydd' there were another 4 big busses arrived just before us and everybody was waiting in line. Our driver went to inform how long we would have to wait and when he came back with half an hour, we decided to go to another teahouse. At 'Ty Gwyn' we were the only people with our two Argentine companions and enjoyed an enormous 'Welsh tea' where we ate all kinds of real Argentine pastries. for 12$ each.
In the evening we went to buy groceries and returned with bread and ham just because we had enough of going out for dinner. We had one day left in Puerto Madryn and went to the beach to finally understand how strong the sun is in Argentina. We were at the beach from 11.30 until 13.30 and in these two hours Louise was heavily burned despite sun protection of factor 4 which is normally enough for her to last a day. I burn quite easily so I put on factor 20 and was only burned on the spots where I didn't put any cream.
After some lousy cocktails at the little place on the boulevard at 'Avenu Roca' we went for another dinner of bread and ham. Unfortunately all kinds of people made a lot of noise that night in front of the hotel so we were glad that we could leave the next day. We had some money left and went form some postcards. After 6 cards for 1$ each we had to go to the tourist office for stamps. Here they sold us 1.5$ worth of stamps on each card so we send 6 cards for 15$. Never again also because they took about 4 weeks to arrive.
We took a taxi to the airport for 3$ and had nice conversation with the driver who asked what we have seen and if we enjoyed it. He also asked if we were treated well because he realizes that tourism is important for Argentina and for Puerto Madryn of course.
The security check at the airport was a bit strange because they didn't check the hand luggage with a x-ray machine but they only felt around our daypacks and asked if we were carrying any knifes. After 45 minutes delay and a nice meal we returned to Buenos Aires for the last time.
We had some days left and we to 'Freddo' first because my girlfriend got addicted to their delicious ice-cream. The next day we went to Tigre. This a town with a delta around several rivers just outside Buenos Aires. To get there you can take a train, 'tren a la costa'. First to get to the closest station we took a taxi and that was 18$. The train ticket was only 1,50$ and brings you in about 20 minutes in Tigre. The first thing you notice is the enormous stank from the main canal where the 'collectivos', regular boats and 'catamarans', tourist boats leave.
We took a 'catamaran' that makes a trip on one of the mayor canals of about 45 minutes for 5$ per person. It was nice to see but not very interesting. After this trip we went to 'puerto de frutos' where according to the name should be a fruit market. You'll mainly see carved wood in furniture and other wooden stuff. This was nice to see. Finally we took a bus back. The 'collectivo', number 60 goes back up to Recoleta and charged only 1,35$ but it took 75 minutes to do that. When we returned there was market in the park in Recoleta with music and that was really nice.
The next day we went to an 'estancia', ranch from a friend of my anut. This ranch is about 400 km from Buenos Aires between Rosario and Santa Fe. On this ranch of 2000 hectare they have about 600 cows and half is used for growing corn and sojabeans. We spent two days here and had a small impression by making a trip by car on a large part of the territory.
When we were back in Buenos Aires we went to the 'Fernando Blanco' museum. We took the bus and clearly said to the driver that we had to go there but when we got there he didn't say anything so you have to ask explicitly to warn you. So far the assumption that all Argentine people are friendly. By the way it was quite close about 1 km so we walked back. Entry to the museum was 1$. There were a lot of pieces from Peru and we thought it was a bit disappointing. There was also a special exhibition about religion and the way it's expressed in different cultures. Here they showed a large collection of crosses with a few bloody ones.
At night we met the sister of my aunt, so another aunt and here family. We haven't met them before because they immigrated a long time ago and this was the first time we met. It was strange but very nice to meet them. The next day we only went shopping for some souvenirs. That was not really a success but we had a nice day. Also because we walked to the center and if you take short cuts it is about 25 minutes to go to 'Avenu Florida'.
Our last day before departure was 24 december and we wanted to go to the Japanese garden. This was closed and also the rose garden and the zoo who are close by. All government organizations were closed because it's an official holiday in Argentina. We were a little bit angry because we were out of ideas and then we went to see the 'carrefour' close by. This a large shopping mall with 4 levels and after seeing everything we took coffee with pastry. The pastry was delicious and very big but when we asked the bill because we thought to pay around 10$ even in Argentina but we had to pay for 2 coffee and 2 pastries 17,5$.
To return we had to tack the bus. No of course it was not that worse. First we had to search for the place where bus stops. When the bus arrived they had an old machine for buying tickets. I first tried to put money in the wrong hole. After I found out how to do that I took the ticket that was printed and sat down. My girlfriend followed and asked if I didn't get any change from the machine. I forgot that and thought let it go but then the first man after us came and brought us the second ticket. In other busses you can get one ticket for 2 persons but not here and after him came the second one who brought us the change I forgot. This was a great example of how friendly and nice Argentine people are.
Finally we went on christmas eve to mass at the church of Recoleta. Nice was that it was held outside because of the big attendance and the high temperatures inside the church. Despite my faulty Spanish I understood some things and we liked it very much.
We love to go back to Argentina also to see my family but there are more nice things to see. Maybe we will combine it with Chili because we were told that's very beautiful as well and it's a lot cheaper. We already knew before we went that Argentina is expensive but it really expensive. there are rumors that the connection between the peso and the dollar will be dropped. If that happens it's good news for tourist and for export but bad for the people who have debts in dollars.
We're going to save some money in the meanwhile. It might look that I'm boring about money too much but my intention of this story is also to give as much information as possible so you can gain from our experiences and enjoy it even more because Argentina is worth it.
Finally I would like to thank Miryam and Teresa for their hospitality because it was an important part of our trip that we spent with them.
Last changed: 06-02-00
© 2000: Jeroen
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