Tour of Chile and Argentina

My wife and I spent a couple of weeks on a group trip organized by Overseas Adventure Travel. For about 5K each, which includes all airfares, hotels, busses, guides, and most meals. Customary tipping was not included and ended up costing $300 to $500 each. It was not always easy to have the right denominations in the proper currency to tip the guides and bus drivers; in retrospect I would bring lots of US$5 bills. As soon as we landed in Buenos Aires we met our tour leader and any sense of stress vanished. The days were planned out and the trip leader made everything go smoothly. Our group consisted of a dozen couples and individuals from the US. My wife and I took about 2,000 photos with phone cameras and edited them down to the following photo essay.

First stop, Buenos Aires. Looking down Florida street, a pedestrian shopping zone about a mile long


Your author prior to caffeination at the historic Cafe Tortoni. Behind me are a group of over-caffinated patrons having such a good time they had to be cordoned off.



The Recoletta, a cemetery downtown full of amazing stonework. Also the resting place of Evita.
One of the many load carrying bikes I saw in the streets of Buenos Aires. This one carried  bakery bread.
Thats an image of Evita on the building; emphatically speaking her mind to the wealthy neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. The less well off neighborhoods on the other side of the building see an image of Evita in a tranquil pose.
At the restaurant/home of a family in Buenos Aires.  Our trip leader Luis is translating the story about the 1800s structure narrated by the matron of the house to his right.
We had an interesting meal in this very old Argentine restaurant, starting off with a variety of meats that reminded me of how little variety existed in the meat I am used to eating. Mostly good but one organ meat, possibly from a bird, left a brassy bit in my mouth that looked like a partial crown that fell of a tooth. I took it home and my dentist wasn’t sure about it until she actually saw that I wasn’t missing any gold crowns. A bit of birdshot I suppose.
We tried the extensive subway system in Buenos Aires. It was a Sunday morning, when all the locals were probably just going to bed…


I liked the way this jaunty walker looked on the signal. There were no “beg buttons” to push so common where I come from.

While traffic was rather frenetic, pedestrians crossed streets when they felt bold enough and motorists skillfully swerved around them as able. There was very little honking, and no road rage I saw. I saw a small group of inline skaters taking a lane on the widest boulevard in the world one evening, and everybody was okay with it!

Then it was to another area of town near a soccer stadium, that caters to tourists.  Lots of trees had a tree-cozy on them.
Rental bicycles near the stadium. Bamboo frames, including the forks.
Many of the parks had large, rooty fig trees.
Taking a tour inside the Colon theatre.
Inside the magnificent theatre. One man in our group volunteered to sing. He filled every inch of the place with his wonderful voice, no amplification needed. This place is considered to be one of the most acoustically perfect theaters in the world.
Here we are taking tango lessons. The teacher is the man with the excellent posture.
Upstairs in the same building we sat in the milangro where locals come to relax and tango. Buenos Aires is the birthplace of this dance.
We went to a theatre in Buenos Aires that does only tango shows. The dancing was wonderful to watch  but the live orchestra (above the dancers) was just amazing.

The next part of our trip took us by plane to Bariloche, Argentina (the lake district).

A good view of the surrounding country after hiking up a hill.
Downtown Bariloche was a busy place. A band appeared and drew a crowd.
Female Monkey Puzzle cones. They take 2 or 3 years to mature. When they fall off the tree, you can get about 50 almond sized seeds from each cone.
Monkey puzzle tree branches with male cones. Most trees are either male or female, but some trees have it both ways (monecious vs diecious)
I was hoping we would see a natural monkey puzzle tree forest, but we were about 100 miles away from the closest area they grew in. There were plenty of cultivated trees about though. The seeds are good to eat and still gathered by indigenous tribes. They can be found in local farmers markets during the season.
We took an optional rafting trip on a river of water “so clean you could drink from it” says our guide.  The water was clear and sparkling but participants stuck to their plastic bottles.


Next we went to a small horse ranch owned by an Argentinian family for generations and rode around the property.  Ponderosa pine is seen in the background, cultivated here but native to N America. Here is is grown in small tracts for wood and cover. Trees did not grow here before the introduction of this one.
The dogs came with us on the horse ride. One of them managed to catch a rabbit.
A special structure for barbecuing had been constructed on the property.
We enjoyed dinner in the house with the family. Hosting tour groups makes it easier for the them to survive financially.
Someone in the family put a lot of effort into making each of us this dessert.
Crossing the border into Chile, there was an increasing amount of ash visible from a recent volcanic eruption
We stopped by this amazing Studebaker museum in a rural area of Chile. There was a lot of other antique items on display as well.
On arrival in Puerto Varas, we learned how to make a pisco sour. A potent, tasty cocktail made with brandy.
Looking up at this power line, I wonder how an electrician figures it out.
Dogs of Puerto Varas

There were lots of stray dogs about almost everywhere we went. In the smaller towns they were especially numerous. Luis explained that they are simply regarded as residents, and treated with respect. This attitude to the strays goes back to how the native tribes treated dogs. One may give a part of his sandwich to a dog; a shopkeeper may give them what they otherwise would throw away. None of them looked underfed. All the ones I met were well mannered. During the day, they liked to take naps in sunny spots.

 The only dogs that growled or barked were the ones that somebody owned; they tended to have collars.
looking for a empanada crust from the shopkeeper?





This one liked to chase cars. His injury-free appearance may reflect the relative skill of Chilean motorists.


The front yard view from the house of a family that hosted us for dinner. That volcano is about 10K tall.
View towards some Andes volcanos from Puerto Varas, with scrap metal sculpture.  The horse is 8 feet high at the shoulder.
When the bus driver spotted these guys with the oxen, he hit the brakes. They were out training the young ox on how to work with the yoke, with the help of the older ox on the right
At a small school in Chiloe, these children came by (on a non-school day) to perform some traditional dances for us.

heading out to the boat to view penguins…
…and the birds were on the job.
2 second video of a man operating his pedal-powered cotton candy machine. You can make it last longer by pressing the play button repeatedly.
The fish and produce market at Castro.
Houses built on stilts in Castro on the island of Chiloe.

Palafitos, or stilt houses, are not legal to build now, as the coast is considered public land. But these existing ones are grandfathered in, and considered the major draw for tourists in Castro.

What you see off the back porch of a stilt house.


Stonecarver holding his monument.
We were fortunate to meet a man who invited us into his stilt house. Here he is showing us 3 days of work, a just finished memorial commission. This will cost his customer $100 (US). He is not lacking for work; people come by every day asking for monuments.
The tiny kitchen of his stilt house, with wood burning stove…
…and the cozy living room.
Wooden interior of a Church in Castro.
We are learning about herbal medicine from a Mapuche native. One of our guides uses a very dark green herbal tea that she makes for his diabetes.
Buried under the moss clods are giant leaves, potatoes, dough, sausage, more leaves, raw chicken, pork, more leaves; all atop super-hot stones. In that order more or less. It took an hour to cook.
The resulting feast was enjoyed by all and accompanied by pisco sours and Chilean wine.
After a flight to Puntas Arenas, we visited a replica of a ship that Magellan sailed thru the strait.  For an interesting tour of the boat, look at this video.


There was no bathroom aboard the ship. Sailors climbed up the mask to the first  lateral beam and made their way across, far enough to be above the ocean water.
looking down on the colorful town of Puntas Arenas
Some of the older houses were sheathed with tin that came from the metal boxes tea was shipped in.
Trees were trimmed to be aerodynamic to survive in the wind. A dense leaf layer is on the outside while everything inside is just branches without leaves.
Downtown Puntas Arenas with sidewalk rope. A pedestrian trying to walk around tall buildings when the wind is up will simply get blown across the street. These ropes are strung out in those conditions for people to hold on to.
On the way to Torres Del Paine our bus driver stopped so we could meet a gaucho.  The guy was a good sport, granted permission for photos, and asked if he was now a movie star as he saw all the cameras. It’s mostly single men who do this type of work, getting paid minimal; perhaps $150/mo. They are stoic, self reliant, don’t go to the doctor, and may breathe their last while working in the saddle.
Guanacos became common on the way to the park. I could walk to within 20 feet of them before they decided to run away.
Rheas were seen at times. This large flightless bird  lives on the Pampas  and  gives us a large berth.
We took a boat ride out to view a glacier, from the hotel in Torres del Paine. Sun, glaciers, rainbow, how can you top this…


On the way back, a complimentary pisco sour with glacier ice. The ice tasted dusty to me.
We took a hike to a viewpoint on the windiest trail in the park.  Around the first corner, I was knocked to the ground. Here we are all trying to stay upright.
Why is it so windy in Patagonia? Look at a globe and you will see that there are no other land masses to slow the wind around the earth in that latitude. The same wind that knocked me down may knock somebody else down in the same spot perhaps a week later.


Dramatic scenery and weather in the park.
The mountains beyond bear the third largest ice sheet on our planet; only Antarctica and Greenland have more glacial ice.


One of Marys favorite patagonia landscape images.
An extensive walkway took us quite close to the Perito Moreno glacier
A view of the Perito Moreno glacier. Hanging out here, we heard lots of cracking and saw some ice falls. Glaciers are always on the move. This is a rare type of glacier that is not retreating. Which is a good thing, considering the extensive walkway infrastructure.
Call me what you want but don’t call me late for dinner. Found this in a gaucho shop in Calafate. Now I will always be prepared for the next steak dinner with this totable knife/fork/wooden plate.
We stopped at a natural history museum in Calafate. You can spend half a day here studying the exhibits.


Bolas were used on the pampas, and Australia. 3 rocks are connected by cords. The rocks would have grooves cut around them to hold the cord, and to make it easier for fossil hunters to identify them.
Back in Buenos Aires, a bookstore situated in an old theatre.


A few of us went to an ice bar in Calafate. We were allowed 20 minutes inside the -10c place, and all you can drink from ice cups ordered from the juggling bartender. Imagine flashing lights and loud thumping music.
We had enough time on the last day for a short visit to the national art museum. Art lovers could spend a whole day here.

This long post ends with some works of art from the national museum that I liked:



Portrait by Rembrandt



by Degas
and a Manet.
If you read this far, you may like this free e-book on a Patagonia horseback trip taken in the 1880s by the author, Florence Dixie.

2 thoughts on “Tour of Chile and Argentina

  1. Thanks for the time spent to create a descriptive panorama of such a wonderful trip, from the little common details of everyday life to the spectacular highlights.. I'm envious!


  2. Drew, This is wonderful blog. I love finding out about the interesting things you captured, that completely escaped my notice. I really treasure this memory of the trip. LInda Budan (I tried to comment 2 days ago but don't see it here). Thanks and thanks again!


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