Monthly Archives: April 2019

Iguassu

I jumped onto the little ¨train¨ that winds through the park to transport visitors to the starting point of the many walks in the park and went straight to the end stop where the walk to Garganta del Diablo is. The walk is all along raised walkway constructed over the actual river as it winds around to form part of the falls complex. Part way along there is the remnants of the older walkway destroyed by floods in 1992 killing several tourists. As if, in the presence of this example of the forces of nature, we needed any reminding of the intrinsic frailty of humanity. At the end of the walkway is the most awesome and brutal display of nature that I have ever witnessed. Garganta del Diablo means Devil´s throat and it was as if one was staring into the throat of the beast looking into the jaws of hell. The actual drop of this central part of the falls complex is only about 70 metres but because of the volume of water and the force with which it falls the actual bottom of the falls is never visible. Instead a spray of water rises above the height of the falls and is visible around the countryside looking for all the world like smoke from a bush fire. The sunlight plays with the spray forming capricious rainbows which further add to the spectacle of beauty and brute force.

That is an extract from my travel writing in 2005 when I was last here. At that time I was on a basic backpacking trip by myself. I stayed in a dorm in a hostel on the Argentine side. I was blessed with 2 sun days out of my 3 day stay here which, sadly represents the only sunny days I have had here. Iguassu is one of the “big three” waterfalls in the world the others being Victoria Falls and Niagra. This, though, is my favourite. It is bigger, has more water and many more falls than the others. The power of nature and its raw force is on display here and I was keen to share the experience with my life partner this time. Of course if “she who must be obeyed” is with me then dormitories are out of the question and it is 6 star luxury at the famous Cataract Hotel. We are upgraded from a junior suite and most certainly not disappointed.

 A couple of observations about the experience. Firstly it shows that Brazil has not had the troubled economic times that Argentina has had. The cost of anything on the Brazilian side is more than comparable to western prices whereas Argentina is “bargain basement”. Secondly, 14 years on the presence of an extra 2 billion people on the planet is obvious. In 2005 I seemed to have the place to myself. The walkways had few people on them whereas now there was a steady conga line of humanity everywhere. Finally and sadly the weather this time was atrocious and while we still enjoyed the experience, I am going to indulge myself and throw in a few old shots with sunshine and blue sky for what is to be my final post for this trip. Until the next trip (June/July this year), enjoy!

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Now some of the 2005 pictures

76- Iguazu, Sheraton 88- Garganta del Diablo 115-Salto Santa Maria below, Salto Floriano above 116- Garganta, Salto Belgrano 118- Salto Floriano

Buenos Aires

BA is the most European of South American cities. First settled by Europeans in 1536 it was almost 200 years before it was declared by Spain to be the capitol of the territory of the Rio del la Plata, the river that separates Argentina from Uruguay. It was to be another 100 years later in the 19th century that BA became an affluent thriving city on the back of agricultural exports. Wealthy European settlers built European style mansions and established green leafy boulevards.

Today mismanagement by successive dictators and elected leaders has run the economy into the ground. For a western traveller this means great exchange rates and a cheap holiday. Nonetheless the old world grandeur of this city remains along with a vibrant cultural and food and wine scene. This is a truly desirable tourist destination.

The once seedy La Boca district down south near the wharves has now been transformed into a bright and colourful tourist precinct with shops, outdoor cafes and tango dancers on the street.

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San Telmo district is more genteel with tree lined streets and old mansions.

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The Catedral Metropolitana opposite the Casa Rosada is the main cathedral of BA and is famous as the parish church of our pontiff Pope Francis. It also houses the mausoleum of General San Martin, national hero who led Argentina to independence.

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The floralis generica is in massive area of parkland surrounding the art gallery. It was designed and paid for by Argentine architect Eduardo Catalano. The aluminium petals open during the day and close at night.

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Our tour de force for our last night in BA is seeing Verdi’s Rigoletto at the magnificent opera house, Teatro Colon. Opened in 1908 it is considered to be one of the 10 best opera houses in the world. Seven stories high it dazzles with gold paint inside. We secure seats just 3 rows from the front for a fraction of the cost of a ticket back home.

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Halfmoon Island

It is with sadness that we don all of our thermal layers and venture out looking like “teletubbies”. The gloom and the steady snow has thinned out the numbers going out which is disappointing. This island gets us up close to chinstrap penguins and as an unexpected treat we see a row of juvenile elephant seals.

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The reverse crossing of Drake’s passage back to Ushuaia is rough and more reflective of its normal state right up until we round Cape Horn.

Cape Horn

Cape Horn

Deception Island

Dawn on our last day in Antarctica sees me on the bow of our ship at our arrival at Deception Island. I have 3 layers of clothing on but the wind chill as we approach Neptune’s Bellows has me cursing inwardly that I didn’t don my parka. I am not alone and many of us drop down to the deck to allow the ship’s railings to provide some protection from the wind chill.

Neptune's Bellows

Neptune’s Bellows

Deception Island is the remnant of a collapsed volcano. A breach in the crater walls allows acces into the submerged caldera and this is the evocatively named Neptune’s Bellows. To the right there is a large gap in the volcano’s wall named Neptune’s window. As we pass through the Bellows a vast sea “lake” opens up and low snow capped hills surround us, the land around is like a moonscape. Through the dark overcast gloom we make out the various abandoned buildings on the volcanic “black sand” beach, all in a state of disarray courtesy of eruptions in 1966 and 1969. The latter eruption resulting in the abandonment of all human habitation here. Despite the icy waters and the snow all around this is still very much an active volcano and one that could erupt again at any time.

Neptune's window

Neptune’s window

Wilkin's Hangar

Wilkin’s Hangar

Ruined British Base

Ruined British Base

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Deception island is near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. As such it is the de facto gateway to Antarctica and it is a microcosm of man’s involvement in Antarctica. Initially it was a whaling station and as we come to a halt here I close my eyes eyes and imagine those days. Whalers harvested the blubber from the whales and cast off the rest of the carcass. The pebbly black sand beaches must have run red with whale blood, the surrounding waters a foul “soup” of decomposing whale. The stench must have been revolting! Ashore there are rusting massive fuel tanks and smaller rusting vats used to boil and purify the blubber. The whalers left in 1931 and the British arrived here in 1944 to establish Base B.

Deception Island was a safe and sheltered harbour. In 1928 South Australian explorer and adventurer Hubert Wilkins sailed down here with 2 aircraft with a mission to be the first to fly over the South Pole and across Antarctica. The plan to use sea ice was thwarted by a warm season so a hanger was constructed on the beach as well as an airstrip 2300 feet long and 40 feet wide with a couple of 20 degree bends all rolled out with a basic primitive roller. From here he conducted the first flights over Antarctica but failed to fly over the South Pole or over the continent.

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Today on whaler’s beach all is deserted and be buildings that remain lean precariously and are crumpled as a result of the volcanic eruptions. It was the last eruption that forced the evacuation of the British research station in 1969.

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Before returning to our ship we were offered the option of undertaking the polar plunge, braving the icy Antarctic waters. Unsurprisingly I took up the option and stripped down to bathers. At the request of a bikini clad respiratory physician we buddied up and ran into the frigid water. People have asked me if it was exhilarating and my response is more prosaic, it was freezing!

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Cierva cove

So far we have only sighted gentoo penguins. This afternoon’s zodiac cruise through Cierva Cove promises sightings of chinstrap penguins.

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A petrel walks on water

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Primavera is yet another Argentine station. This one is occupied over summer.

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Leopard seal

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Our final patch of sunshine in Antarctica and some interesting sunset effects

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Trinity Island

At this stage of the trip we have mastered the art of dressing and undressing for our trips ashore. Gone is the stress of getting ready and out onto the zodiacs. This morning’s trip has us on Trinity Island the site of whaling operations from last century. Once again Antarctic conditions preserve everything and the wooden boat and whale bones on the beach are particularly atmospheric.

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A quick trudge over the hill through the snow there is a small unoccupied typically bright orange Argentine hut overlooking the bay. Just outside is a little freshwater pool which the local gentoos are using as a “fun park”.

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Whimsical Weddell seal

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Fur seal

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