Next day it was off to Argentina, El Calafate by public bus. I was dreading this a bit but the bus turned out to be a very comfy coach. The journey went well with fairly swift border crossings. We arrived in El Calafate in time for a late lunch before taking a 4x4 trip up into the mountains behind the town. The weather was great and afforded us great views of Lake Argentino. This area is being developed for winter sports and we were able to have a ride on the new ski chair. Our hotel for the next 3 nights was the Sierra Nevada (all hotels and restaurants reviewed separately).
The following morning we set off for the Perito Moreno Glacier where we took a boat ride close to the glacier face. We were lucky enough to see two large pieces of ice break off and make a huge splash and wave – so exciting. The afternoon was spent along the walkways which give really good views. It was quite busy while we were there but I think the red route was probably quieter. We returned to El Calafate and ate at Pura Vida.
For our final full day in Patagonia it was an early start to catch a boat across Lake Argentino to Estancia Cristina. The boat ride takes about an hour but is a great trip sailing among the icebergs. Once at the Estancia we took a 4x4 jeep up the mountain for spectacular views of the Upsala Glacier. The weather was fabulous and we ate our packed lunch looking out towards the glacier. Returning to the farmhouse/restaurant we had some free time before being shown around. The river was full of spawning salmon and trout. We were taken to what had been the old shearing shed which was particularly interesting for two members of our party who worked for the engineering company that had supplied much of the original equipment to the Estancia many years ago. We then had a leisurely sail back to El Calafate.
The following day we sadly left beautiful Patagonia for Buenos Aires. This was part of the holiday I was not looking forward to, convinced I would be robbed or scammed in some way or other! However, we spent two perfectly safe days in BA without incident. The first morning we had a guided tour taking in most of the sights. In the afternoon, we took ourselves for an enjoyable if somewhat expensive lunch at Cafe Tortoni. That evening we went to the tango dinner show at Esquina Carlos Gardel theatre. I was expecting this to be very touristy but it was fabulous. The theatre is really classy, the food was very good but the tango was amazing – so passionate. Even my husband who is not a dance fan thought the evening was excellent.
For our second day in BA I had arranged a train, bike and canoe trip to Tigre. However, due to the very heavy rain and storms of the previous two days the company, Bike It, had cancelled. Not wanting to spend a second day in BA, which for us had limited attraction, we decided to catch the local train to Tigre. The trip took about 50 mins. On arrival we did a short walking tour and then tried to arrange a boat trip among the Islands. Again because of the earlier bad weather and a general lack of tourists many of the trips were not running. We eventually opted for the hop on hop off bus trip and boat back to BA combination. Both of these turned out to be much better than we were anticipating. There are some lovely old houses in Tigre. The market area was a bit touristy but had some interesting craft shops. The boat to BA was lovely, it took us around the outer islands before joining the massive River Plate which went onto give great views of BA from the water.
That evening we stayed in the Puerto Madero area to eat and then walked back to our hotel (Bisonte Palace). So for all of you contemplating going to BA but like us completely neurotic about being robbed please stop worrying. Just dress down, use common sense and have a great time.
It was an early start the next day for our flight to Iguazu falls. From the airport we went straight to the Brazilian side of the falls which gives the best panoramic view of the falls. I have been lucky to go to Niagara and Victoria Falls but I think Iguazu wins hands down. The extent of the falls is just amazing. It was a bit of a rainy afternoon but we would have got wet anyway from the spray. After spending the afternoon at the falls we were taken to our hotel the St George and ate at La Rueda restaurant – fantastic.
We decided to do our own thing the following day. So we got up early and caught the bus to the Argentinian side of the falls. On arrival we caught the first train straight up to the Devil's Throat which turned out to be a good decision as it meant we missed most of the crowds. The power and amount of water at this point is just unbelievable, you just can’t imagine where it all comes from! We then booked a boat trip. In retrospect it is probably best to do this straight away on arrival as you then have more choice of when you want to do it, and it is something you really must do. We were quite limited as to the timings and then we kept losing the slots. In the end we booked a package, a calm raft down the Upper Iguazu, the adrenalin filled ride to the waterfalls and then a vehicle ride along the Yacaratia Trail. This in fact worked out really well for us. We did the calm rafting straight from viewing the Devil’s Throat., we then had time to do the lower circuit trail (in my view the better of the two trails) which led us to the embarkation point for the waterfall boat trip. Here they were able to bring our timing forward an hour so we didn’t have to wait. We stripped down to our swimsuits and put all our belongings in the waterproof bag they gave us. There is time to take some great shots and then they tell you to put your cameras away before the boat takes you so close to the waterfalls you cannot believe it. YOU WILL GET WET. It was amazing and so much fun. They then take you down the river through some rapids (quite tame when we were there because the river was high). Finally, you do the vehicle ride, this gives you time to dry off a bit. In the afternoon we walked the upper circuit before returning to the Devil’s Throat late afternoon when the weather was perfect and we were able to get some great shots with rainbows! We also saw a turtle, a toucan, a catfish and a caiman as we walked out to the Devil’s Throat. Finally, we caught a really plush air conditioned coach back to Iguazu, (actually I was convinced we had got on the wrong bus and would end up in Uraguay), all in all a fabulous day which surpassed any expectations I had. Also it worked out much, much cheaper than booking the day with a guide. That evening we returned to La Rueda for dinner.
Overall Argentina surpassed my expectations. Patagonia and Iguazu Falls were fabulous. Buenos Aires was much more enjoyable than I was expecting and the people were very friendly.
Part 3 in the Brazil Forum.