From Bariloche to Puerto Varas

We were forewarned: this OAT trip would include several long travel days, some by plane, some by bus. Today’s transfer from Bariloche to Puerto Varas was expected to take from 8 AM to 4 PM, including the border crossings. We need to pass thru security for BOTH Chile AND Argentina, and depending on the mood of the guards, that could be brief or it could take hours.

Our route. Laura thoughtfully marked it with yellow “stickies” We started in the lower right hand corner and ended in the left lower corner, going up and around.

But that’s okay. Days in transit allow us to see the country and decompress. Our time in Bariloche was so jam packed, a day to chill was most welcome. The beautiful pool, spa and terrace at our hotel? I had no opportunity (and no energy) to try them

During our stay, we were treated to two very interesting lectures. The first, a talk by Hans Schultz about Nazis in Patagonia, was fascinating. The second took place the next morning. We learned about the “people of the land” from a member of the Mapuche tribe.

I can’t do either speaker justice blogging from my iPhone, so those stories will have to wait till I get home. I’ll also be sure to include the stories our local guide, Fernando, told us during our bus ride. Coming attractions include highlights of those two lectures plus stories about a Texas cowboy (Jarod Jones) the famous bandits, (Butch and Sundance)and a local boy(Ernesto Che Guevara).

But let’s get back to our second day in Bariloche . After the Mapuche talk, we ALL decided to take the optional trip: a float down the Limay (Crystal) River. Our group of 12 is very cohesive and very active. We all are opting to do EVERYTHING together!

Could that be a Moai atop that mountain?

Mike and I went in different rafts so we could photograph each other and our friends.

In addition to gorgeous scenery and crystal clear water, we also saw beautiful birds, like this kingfisher that Mike photographed.

I was never fast enough. My bird photos are mainly empty branches!

We were told that at the end of the trip, we would have a “snack”. Well, that “snack” turned out to be delicious quiche, the very best empanadas we’ve had (so far), delicious fried dough pastries, breads and jams, AND a wine tasting.

Next stop, horseback riding at a family owned ranch.

Mike’s horse allergy meant that we had a skilled photographer taking shots of our group.

By the end of our ride, we were all pretty hungry. What could be better than authentic Argentinian barbecue of beef, lamb and chorizo.

What is Mike doing? He’s throwing meat on the roof of the barbecue.

Why? To get this bird to come out of the tree so we could photograph it.

Fortunately, he stayed still long enough so that even I could photograph him!

By the time we returned to the hotel, I was as too tired to take advantage of the two for one drinks at the hotel bar!

What about that long ride to Puerto Varas? It wasn’t boring at all. The scenery was beautiful, plus Laura had a few surprises for us.

First was our celebratory drink when we crossed the border into Chile. Their Dulce de Leche is their equivalent to our Bailey’s Irish Creme.

Then, our lunch stop provided more than just great food. It was also the site of a self described car museum.

But it was so much more! There was also a model train village and ancient household tools that made out grandmothers’ lives “easier”

An old fashioned wringer washing machine

My favorite part, however, was hanging with this sweet little guy who wanted me to admire his hot wheels collection.

Can you figure out why I decided to end this post?

Bariloche, Day One

So many highlights, so little time to capture them all.

I’m going to try to let our photos do much of the talking for me.

How wonderful it was to spend time with our dear friends, Sharmon and Luis, who took us to dinner at a fantastic Argentinian restaurant. It was an evening of great food and great company!

But first we toured their new business venture, currently under construction. That blue area to the right in the above photo? That will be a gorgeous infinity pool. Best of all — there will be zumba and yoga classes offered in another area of the building.

If you’re longing for a panoramic view, all you need to do is ride the chairlift to Campanario Hill.

Not satisfied with staying in the usual viewing area, we explored further and found this monument. I asked one of my new friends, Karen, to take my photo, and she did exactly as requested.

BUT, she went above and beyond. She thought it important to show how hard I had to work to get way up to that cross. It was a rather steep climb, which is probably why it is not part of the usual tourist experience!

Next was a nature walk with our local guide, Fernando.

That was just a warm up. Lunch at a family owned brewery would include a tasting, so we moved on for some serious hiking.

It is hard to gauge how high up we managed to get from this photo, but my iPhone said we did the equivalent of 66 flights of stairs. My Fitbit thinks it was closer to 100. I think I’m going with the Fitbit.

Whatever the true number, we were all quite pleased with ourselves.

Buenos Aires

Expect the unexpected and you’ll never be disappointed. That’s my frame of mind whenever I travel. That, and firmly believing that no matter what happens, “it’s all part of the adventure.” Fortunately, all eleven of my fellow travelers share that outlook. So, when Buenos Aires’ central square was completely blocked off, keeping us from visiting all of the major sites on our city tour, we were all perfectly content to go with Plan B.

The pink palace. Notice the balconies? Peron made his speeches from the one on the left (or was it the one on the right?) 

Mike and I had visited the cathedral when we were In Buenos Aires in 2005, so we were able to see the tomb of San Martin which is located inside. Before he became Pope Francis, this was the former cardinal Bergoglio’s church.

Our guide figured out a way to get us to the lovely London City cafe, where we drank coffee, ate the most delicious croissant and listened to her description of what life was like during the military coup.

During the late ‘70s, 30,000 Argentinians disappeared. Some were activists. Others were artists, poets, actors, students. About 400 were pregnant women. Until recently, no one knew what happened to the babies. A few years ago, the government set up a DNA bank, which resulted in over 100 of these babies (now in their 40’s) being reunited with grandparents and other members of their extended family. Unfortunately, no one knows what became of their parents.

Why was the square blocked off? On March 1, Argentina’s President Macri was giving a speech, as was the mayor of Buenos Aires, and both have offices around the square. This attracted demonstrators, which further disrupted traffic. We were safely inside the cafe, so missed most of the noise and chaos.

When things settled down, we headed for La Boca, formerly the “working class area of town, now a center for artists and (to me, at least) a bit of a tourist trap.

La Boca was significantly more crowded than when we visited in 2005.

Another notable event during our stay in Buenos Aires was our private tango lesson at the hotel. Not only did we learn a beginner version of the tango, but we also were schooled on the RITUAL of the tango: how a man asks a woman to dance, (with his eyes and head) when you are allowed to talk, (never while dancing) in which direction you dance (always counter clockwise, with woman dancing backwards).

Remember my motto: expect the unexpected? It should have been “have cameras ready for the unexpected”. After our lesson, our teacher demonstrated how un hombre asks una Senorita to dance, and to my surprise, I was chosen to demonstrate what we’d learned. My one big chance to dance the tango with a genuine Porteño, and there is no photo or video of it. Damn. I DID have the presence of mind to get a picture of him with his REAL partner.

I did NOT have shoes like those!

Next stop, Bariloche.

Reasons to Visit Rapa Nui

Were we leaving sunny Santiago to fly five hours for four days of continuous rain? That’s the forecast for Rapa Nui, the Polynesian island we Estados Unidenses know as Easter Island. That’s because a Dutch explorer stumbled upon it on Easter Sunday while cruising the Pacific Ocean. Since Rapa Nui is what the indigenous people call it, that’s what I’m going with.

But as is frequently the case, the weather report was only partially correct. Our rainy arrival date has been followed by two perfectly beautiful days. And so far, it’s looking pretty good for our departure at noon today. We figured it was a sign that the Moai looked favorably upon our visit.

We have probably all seen one or two photos of these iconic statues, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one surprised to learn that there are more than a thousand of these on the island.

The “man bun” must have started here.

So, for those of you wondering what Rapa Nui has to offer, here’s a short, but incomplete, list in no particular order:

1. Enjoy a Dinner Show

This one was complete with pisco sours, indigenous music and dancers, buffet dinner cooked in a pit and a chance to shake your booty with the locals. Yes, there IS a video, but I can’t upload it now. Did I pass up a chance to dance? I think my friends and family know the answer to that!

Much of the Rapa Nui culture is similar to that of the Maori. Made me want to go back to Rarotonga!

For those of you interested in learning WHICH dinner show we attended, I took a photo of one of the worker’s tee shirts. It has everything you need to know written on his back. You’re welcome.

2. Enjoy a gorgeous beach, with great waves, warm water, and soft, soft sand PLUS concessions with fresh pineapples, smoothies and beer. Oh yeah, and a chance to shop for the folks back home.

Remember the ladies I met in the funicular in Santiago? My new best friends, Shirley and Janis, are fun loving and adventurous. The three of us couldn’t pass up a chance to splash in the very bay in which the king of the Rapa Nui (according to legend) first landed.

3. Experience the Rapa Nui Equivalent of Plimoth Plantation minus the people in costume.

What may look like a stone wall is actually a chicken coop. You remove one stone, and out emerges an entire flock.

The wall is bigger than necessary to hold the flock. This was done to confuse rival tribes. It made it harder to find the magic stone that could be removed.

Another interesting structure is this one.

This is a boundary marker. If you cross it without permission from the rival tribe, you could be killed. Sorta like today’s gang warfare.

4. View Fantastic sunrises

Our driver took the five of us willing to get up at 6 AM to view the Moai at Tongariki. As the sun rose, the light changed, giving us gorgeous views of the sky behind the statues.

5. Have an opportunity to relive your childhood.

Remember when 5 or 6 kids piled into the car’s backseat? We were only able to fit 4 adults: Laura, our guide, and two of my new friends, Karen and Janis. Shirley is holding on for dear life in the front seat as José goes flying across the island. As for me, I’m doing what I usually do: taking pictures.

6. Get a Cool Passport Stamp

7. Learn about the Birdman Culture

I’ll let you read about the birdman competition on your own–I’ll just show you the island to which the competitors had to swim. More importantly, I’ll share the info our guide related to us. The chieftain of the winning tribe got to rule the island for one year. The COMPETITOR, however, did not end up empty handed. HIS reward was SEVEN pure women. How did he know they were pure? A “doctor” crawled between their legs, looked up and made sure everything was in order. If it wasn’t, that “impure” girl got tossed into the ocean. You can only imagine the comments from all of us women. I’ll just say there was quite a bit of laughter among us all!

8. Visit the Quarry from Whence the Moai Came

There are many more reasons, but we are heading for the airport for our flight to Santiago today, and an early morning departure for Buenos Aires tomorrow, so typos and all, if I don’t publish now, who knows when the next opportunity will arise.