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.