Friday, February 21, 2014

Hiking Patagonia 1 Glacier Martial

Now don't get concerned! We are hiking in Patagonia but well within our limits. This is a "warm up" for when we are in El Calafate. We caught a taxi from our hotel up to the chairlift just below the tree line. Then we rode the ski lift style chairlift up to the top station taking about 20 minutes. Now this is hiking our style!. We were about 5 minutes into the chairlift when it started to snow.It was cold and windy. So windy in fact that they closed the port to toutist shipping. The chairlift was swaying and the snow was swirling.
We arrived at the top station and in no time were in the Hot Chocolate Cafe recovering from our Patagonian hiking.
Having recovered we set out for the top. As we emerged from the door the blast of wind hit us. We had donned our extra layers and waterproof trousers etc but perhaps we should have added more. The scenery was spectacular but the winds were fierce. We went up through the last of the trees and into the open. We started on the dash for the top and having reached the objective, raised the flag we retraced our steps. We seriously felt ourselves being blown sideways at times when the wind gusts hit.
We finally made it back below the tree line, made it to the chair lift and were on our way back down. It stopped snowing at about the same spot as where it had started on the was up! We found a taxi waiting and in no time were back in the hotels peeling off the layers of clothes. A hot bath is very tempting.

Train to the End of the World

It might sound like something from Jules Verne or Dante but it is actually a quaint little narrow guage train to the national park of Tierra del Fuego. The line was built by prisoners from the gaol and 6 days each week prisoners went out on the train to cut trees for fuel and building materials for the gaol. After being closed for many years, a section has been reopened and steam trains and diesel trains take tourists on a recreation. Our train was called Camilla and we were 2 of just 10 passengers on the train. We were on the 12.00 o'clock train as the 9 am train, actually 4 of them catered for the coachloads. We had a stop at the Macarena Waterfall - there were no dancers! We went past the tree graveyard as nothing has regrown and saw snowcapped mountains towering overhead. The summer wildflowers were out, especially the Patagonian swamp daisy (so named by Robert). A touristy but relaxing and enjoyable day.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kinky penguins

You will know that there is nothing in human behaviour that cannot be found in the animal kingdom.We are bombarded with wildlife films showing mass murder and kinky mating rights. We happened across a few penguins that demonstrated unusual behaviour and shows what
we have learnt from each other.

Penal colonies

On our 1st day in Ushuaia, we visited a series of museums built in the old gaol and explores this great little town/city With no permanent settlement in the south of the country, Argentina established a 2nd offenders gaol. The idea was to colonise with convicts and reminded us very much of Port Arthur without the gracious buildings. It was established in January 1896 and in 1902, the military prison was merged with it. The current structure was built by the convicts themselves and they had displays of many other gaols in other countries built in the same way. eg. Melbourne. Four of the wings housed displays - the Presidio Militair - the Ushuaia Gaol and Military Prison, the Maritime Museum with many models and artefacts, Argentina and the Antarctic, an Art Gallery and a temporary exhibits hall. Ushuaia is the world's most southern city, a bit of a frontier town and we are looking forward to our few days here prior to our departure for Antarctica.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Parrillada: The Uruguan Epicurean Event

They say "If you haven't visited the Mercado del Puerto, you haven't visited Montevideo."

We headed off for Uruguay's most emblematic, gastronomic offering.  To work up our appetite, we walked from our hotel, including a detour to stroll along a section of La Rambla, the pathway that extends for 26 miles around the coastline. 

We also visited 3 museums,  the Government House Museum that focuses on the life of the presidents; the Museo Torres Garcia, featuring the work of the Uruguan maestro of art who developed his own philosophical and aesthetic system known as "Constructive Universalism" and for contrast, the Museo del Carnival that includes many costumes from the city parades.

Lunch was indeed an epicurean event suited only to the carnivore.  There are dozens of parrilladas housed in a cavernous building, originally planned for a railway station which did not come!

The barbecue has a firebox at the back and the hot coals are raked under the grill that can be raised or lowered to obtain the perfect cooking temperature.  The offering is every concievable type of meat or offal with the occasional capsicum, potato or lettuce leaf.

We hope the pictures tell the story.  The afternoon was spent having a siesta to recover.

Gail at the Matriz fountain 

View of the city as we walked La Rambla on the way for lunch

Costumes from Canrival

Three characters from the parade

Preparing for the Epicurean event

Meat and more meat

A bit of capsicum with the meat

The Parrillada with it's fire box and angled grill . Meat of every kind

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday in Montevideo

Sundays start late in Montevideo.  We can only imagine what the locals got up to last night.

We headed out at 10 am a little later than the evening crowd had gone home.

We went the opposite direction from yesterday towards the city centre.  We visited several plazas and parks with modern and traditional statues and fountains and marvelled at the architecture built mainly in the 1920s and 30s that reminded us of Sydney of our youth.  There are old palaces now converted to other uses and old churches squeezed between new high rise.

Our real destination was Tristan Narvaja, the Sunday markets.  This is one of the largest markets we have ever seen taking up about 20 city blocks with about a dozen streets closed for the day.  There was every imaginable item on sale with sections for fruit and vegetables, clothing, a lot of old wares, much of which was reminiscent of our youth.  It was exceptionally crowded and you moved through at the same pace of the bodies in front of you.

We had a leisurely walk on the way to the markets with many stops for sightseeing and photos but it was only on the return that we realised how far we had traversed.

After lunch we did what any self respecting Uruguan would do on a Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a siesta.
Characters from Carnivale..The Gramillero or old wizard doctor with Mama Vieja

The drummers or Cuerda who play the chico,the repique and the piano drums

Lavalleja the distinguished political and military figure in Uraguay's independence

Three thinkers..Einstein, Vaz Ferreira and Robert on a park bench on Sunday

How much is that doggie in the suitcase?

The entrance to the markets before it got busy

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Day in Montevideo

A few years ago, when we were on a cruise, our ship could not enter the port of Montevideo due to a maritime fire.  Today we made up this lost opportunity.

From Buenos Aires, we travelled to Colonia del Sacremento which took about 1 hour by fast ferry,  We then caught a bus down to the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo.

This morning we set off from our hotel to see the highlights of the old part of the city, known as Ciudad Vieja.  These included Plaza Independencia which is surrounded by the grandest buildings in Montevideo.  The Palacio Estevez which for decades hosted the president's office, is now a museum and next to it the Torre Ejecutiva which is now the presidential office, the Teatro Solis (theatre) and the Radisson Hotel which now looks rather tired and shabby.

We particularly liked the Palacio Salvo which when built in 1928, was the tallest building in South America.  In the centre of the square is the statue of General Artigas, a national hero.  Below the statue, is his mausoleum, guarded by 2 soldiers in dress uniform.

We strolled down the Sarandi, a pleasant pedestrian street, towards the port and stopped at the Plaza Matriz with its centre fountain surrounded by an antiques market.  Adjacent to this is the cathedral.

We eventually reached the port and the very busy Mercado del Puerto.  The cruise ship, Celebrity Infinity was at anchor where we would have been and the place was very busy as a result.  There are many barbecue restaurants and the Uruguayans give the Argentinians a run for their money in the art of cooking a barbecue.

A most interesting stroll broken up with a pleasant lunch but we had to walk uphill all the way back to our hotel.

 Palacio Salvo..The tallest building in South America when constructed in 1922. Later the architect built one the same in Buenos Aires. He still has not been forgiven
 The former Presidential Palace
 The National hero General Artigus
 The Teatro Solis
 The markets in the Matriz Plaza.
 Gail at the Mercado del Puerto

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Day with Jorge Luis Borges

We were convinced by our friend Frank to spend some time in Buenos Aires looking up Jorge Luis Borges, the literary giant and poet who is a famous son of Buenos Aires.

After the slow proess of buying out tickets to Colonia and Montevideo in Uruguay, we set off to explore some aspects of Borges' life.  There is nothing in the tourist books about a Borges Museum but the Centro Cultural Borges is as close as they get.  It is located on the top floor of the Galerias Pacifico, an impressive shopping mall that we have previously visited.  There is not a lot to see, a few original pages from the "Aliph", original illustrations and newspaper cuttings of his life and death.

The centre also hosts other current artists and cultural events.

Our next visit was to La Ciudad Bookstore, frequented by Borges and used for meetings.  We were initially disappointed that it was closed but the owner left his lunch at a nearby cafe and came over to open the shop and insisted that Robert sit on Borges' old wooden chair at  his rather small desk covered with original editions of his work.  This shop is on Calle Maipu, just down the street from where Borges lived.

Our final stop was  Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires' oldest cafe.  We lunched on fillet steak and Argentinian wine.  We are not sure if Borges sipped absinthe or drank herbal tea!    In one corner of the cafe is a life sized statue of Borges and colleagues sitting at a table. This cafe has a wonderful ambience with a queue outside waiting to go inside.

There were other places we could visit - the former National Library where Borges was director, even when he was blind.  When people read to him, he would direct him to the exact passage with his incredible memory.  We could have visited the Borges International Foundation, run by his widow, Maria Kadoma.  It holds many 1st editions but by now it was closed!!

We did what we expect Borges may have done.  We returned to our hotel for a siesta.

 Jorge Luis Borges
 From the Centro Cultural Borges

 Robert at the desk of Borges
 Lunch at the Cafe Tortoni
 Borges at the Cafe
 Cafe facade

Robert discussing his work. We think he dozed off!