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Friday, Nov 24 – Santiago

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Place des Armes

This is the main square in Santiago, just a few stops on the wonderful subway here, from our hotel. We are staying at the hotel Orly in Providencia.

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Main Cathedral

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The Old Fire House along one of the Paseos – walkways

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President’s Palace

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Government House

The square in front has been blocked off by the police. The students were burning chairs yesterday at the main University as we drove in.

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Cerro Santa Lucia Neptune’s Fountain

There is a beautiful park built into a hill, with great views of the city.

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Charles Darwin Terrace with a Cardinal Statue in the background

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When we were at the top of the park, we tried the local drink, made with wheat and peaches, called mote con huesillo.


A Castille at the back of the Park

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The Arts Museum

We had a wonderful dinner and wines at Astrid and Gaston. Julia had the esferia de chocolat for dessert. There was a sommeliere who suggested separate wines for our dishes.

Thursday Nov 23 – Travel to Santiago, Chile

We had a seven plus hour bus ride from Mendoza to Santiago Chile. Actually it was much shorter, it took two lines and a baggage check at the border, a total of two and a half hours to clear customs. It was organized chaos, two windows to get stamped out of Argentina and the into Chile. The two agents could have just passed the passports over to each other, getting rid of a line, but both had to read the passports in their scanners separately.

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Julia in the upstairs, front seat of the El Rapido bus

We scored seats on the upstairs of the double decker bus. We had sequential seats, but not together.

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A Mendoza Vineyard

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Into the Andes

There is an abandoned narrow guage rail line on this route, abandoned after a tiff between the two countries several years ago. There is talk of putting the train back in service. It would be a spectacular run.

The Argentinian side road is a gentle climb. Just before the border, you go through a 3 km tunnel.

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Jam up at the border crossing.

On the Chilean side the scenery is spectacular and the road switchbacks down through the mountains.

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Where ther is no irrigation, the landscape is dry and full of cacti and other drought tolerant plants.

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Where there is irrigation, grape vineyards predominate.

We are staying in the Providencia part of Santiago. There are many street trees and parks. Our bank, Scotiabank has a strong presence here.

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Santiago Boulevard

Wednesday Nov 21 – Mendoza

We had our first disappointment of the day early. Our agent had cancelled our room reservation last night. It doesn’t seem likely that we will have a room until noon, when we will have started our wine tour. Were both feeling a bit scruffy after our long overnight bus trip. We have lunch at the first winery and then visit a second, so were are on an abbreviated wine tour.

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Hotel Argentino Courtyard

There are some gardenias wafting nearby.

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One of the wineries on our tour. We had an excellent lunch here. I had empandas, steak and a dessert. You can see the pre-andes in the distance.

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French oak barrels in the cask room. The wines are not over-oaked, only 25% of the final mix goes through a barrel. These wines are first press only. We tried a Syrah, Malbec and Cab with lunch. All were excellent. The home company is Swedish.

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Our Second Winery

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Tasting Bar

Mendoza was a pleasant surprise. Our hotel faces Independence Square. There are four more plazas in a 16 block square area. The streets are lined with trees, mainly sycamore, which must be watered weekly. Irrigation ditches are on every street to water the trees.

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Irrigation well for a street tree

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Fountains Independence Square

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Pedestrian Mall Dinner

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Park lighted sign

Tuesday, Nov 20 – Travel day Bariloche to Mendoza

Looks like almost all Aerolineas Flights have been cancelled, including our afternoon flight to Mendoza. Our agency is looking after us, the only option is a 20 hour bus ride. Fortunately Argentinos have some pretty exotic bus services, called Super Camas. (Pictures)

We left Bariloche on the 3:30 pm bus and arrived in Mendoza at 8:45 am on Wednesday. The bus worked well. We were able to catch some shuteye on nearly flat seats. The food was a bit heavy on carbs, but we had a nice red wine for dinner.

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The bus station in Bariloche – quite small.

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Julia in a comfy bus seat.

We travelled through cattle country most of the way. This morning we could see Mendoza ringed by the Andes.

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The dry end of the lake in Barlioche

Monday Nov 19 – Bariloche

Bariloche was settled by the Germans and Italians in the early 1900s. We are in the capital of Patagonia, in the far north of the region. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Lake Como area of Italy, complete with chocolate shops and fondue.

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Lake view from our balcony

It is called the Lake region, because of the string of them between the mountains. At the eastern end it is still arid cattle country. The Scotch Broom is in full bloom. It was introduced by the immigrants, along with pine trees, but has taken over the countryside.

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Scotch Broom

The view from a nearby chairlift is spectacular, with white capped mountain ski areas, blue lakes a green forests.

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There is an old hotel on the Llao Llao (pronounced ‘shao shao’) penninsula.

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That picture was taken from an old wooden church.

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Laburnum – Golden Chain Tree

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Julia & Keith at Lake Moreno

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The View Hotel

Tomorrow a big strike is planned against government austerity programs in Buenos Aires. We’re hoping we don’t get cught up in that vortex. Our plan is to fly to Mendoza, the big wine region tomorrow. We have our bording passes and fingers crossed.

Sunday Nov 18 – Travel day to San Carlos de Bariloche

A taxi picked us up and took us to the airport. We had to pay an airport tax, a first on this trip. It was less tha 20 Argentinian Pesos or about 4 dollars. The airport was started 11 years ago. It is very modern an spacious, with one runway, running along the edge of Lake Argentino.

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Aerolineas Argentine plane outside of El Califate terminal

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Plane taxiing to the end of the runway. You can see ice in the lake, from the MP glacier.

We took off over El Califate, and the turned north over Lakes Argentino and Viedma and past Fitzroy.

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Fitzroy in the center.

The flight to Barlioche was less than 2 hours. We checked into our hotel, View.

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Hotel Lake View

We had a wonderful dinner at Alto al Fuego. It was a traditional Argentinian parilla, or grill, pork cooked over an open fire and served on wooden platters. We tried the Les Perdices (partridges) Malbec.

The chef was playing Leonard Cohen when we arrived. He is quite a fan. We’ll probably go back tonight, we liked it so much. It was well off the beaten path, but a wonderful restaurant.

Saturday, Nov 17 – daytrip El Chalten

At the nortern end of Glacier National Park, is the small town of El Chalten. It has 700 or so souls, and was started in the ’80s to put Argentina’s, not Chile’s flag on the map.

It looks like this from above.

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El Chalten

It reminded us of a small town in Newfoundland, with bright colors in a stuning landscape. Yesterday we were hoping for a trip to Torre de Paine, in Chile. Turns out that is a 750 km trip. The only option was a private van and 3200 pesos, a bit steep. So we opted for a “14 K protrek” in the National Park. The actual hike was closer to 20 km, in spectacular scenery.

The Wikipedia article is here.

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Laguna


El Calafate town view

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Across the dunes Lake Argentino – Southern Glacier National Park to the right

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Yellow Paramilla

It is about a two and a half hour drive to Chalten (smokey mountain). We were fortunate to do it in style with this bus.

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We spent five hours on the hike, with an hour for lunch, and didn’t return to El Califate until supper time. Ten pm in these parts.

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The road went past the airport and over the Santa Cruz river which drains Lake Argentino. We went up another river and the past Lake Viedma. This is a picture of mount Fitzroy from the bus. The peak to the left is Co. Sierre, a very difficult climb. The weather here is often in hospitable, and climbers may wait up to three weeks for a small window to climb.

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Mountain Anemone

We had a guide for our hike. We were driven about a half hour to a small inn, and started our hike from there. The first 10 km were uphill, but the terrain was not that steep or precipitous. We started out in the low Neries beech forest, and then into the larger Legolan trees.

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Forest Path

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Fitzroy glacier and lagoon

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Toothy Peaks

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Plank Bridges across a high meadow

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Laguna

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Basecamp for lunch

We had cream of pumpkin soup, cypress mushroon spaghetti and chocolate mousse for lunch. A pretty good menu for roughing it.

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Ladyslipper orchid

We really enjoyed this afternoon hike.

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The view from our hotel lobby as I compose this. Off to Bariloche and the Argentinian Lake district this afternoon.