Paraíso en Providencia

A blast of warm, salty air greets us as we step off the plane at Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport. Breathing is suddenly a lot easier, and my track jacket feels quite redundant in 29C (84F) weather. After a night spent in Bogotá, San Andrés certainly feels like the sea change we needed.

Armando has already spotted us at the left-luggage area, and is quick to offer his services. We negotiate with him for 20,000 COP (~$7) for the 20-minute ride down to San Luis, a little village on the southeast of the island. Filing into his dated Chevrolet, we follow the coastal road south, past many colorful homes, a smattering of Baptist Churches, and several vendors hawking coconuts.

Buggies line the narrow lane leading to Donde Francesca, a popular seafood eatery located on San Luis‘s sprawling beach. Lunch hour is busy here, and aptly so. Far removed from the commercial hustle of the island’s main town, the food here is excellent, and the setting is hard to beat…
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Patagonia, parte dos

The glacier-fed waters of Lago Argentino, the country’s largest freshwater lake, shimmer in the late afternoon sun. Marking the northern limits of Comandante Armando Tola International Airport, its striking turquoise color is a sight to behold. On the road to El Calafate, windswept plains, so characteristic of this part of the country, stretch far into the horizon. Over us, an incredible, otherworldly Patagonia sky…

That Patagonia sky! #elcalafate #lagoargentino #patagonia #provinciasantacruz #argentina Continue reading “Patagonia, parte dos”

Devil’s Point

With the outskirts of Montevideo behind us, we join Uruguay’s Ruta Nacional 9, a lightly trafficked, two-lane affair, which rides the country’s southern rim, connecting it to the Atlantic coast. Hemmed in by sprawling ranches or estancias, the highway meanders through gently undulating countryside, as it makes its way east.

The estancias here are known to rear some of the best cows in the world, and as a result, the tastiest beef too. In this, the heart of Uruguay’s farm belt, don’t be too surprised if you come across signs displaying crossing times for cattle…

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To the End of the World

It’s only been a couple of hours since online check-in opened. Unhurriedly, I glance at the seating chart and there’s plenty of space available in the center section, but not a single window seat for the taking. Amateur hour strikes again!

Three hours into our flight, as final cabin checks are underway, I begin to get a little restless. The gent to my right, hogging that precious window seat, is still asleep, with the blind down. I tap him gently, podes abrir la ventana por favor? The good señor obliges, and I stretch my arm across him rather obnoxiously, eventually planting my phone against his window. The approach to Ushuaia is pretty spectacular, and if you’re smart, you’re going to secure that window seat as soon as you can…

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Fiesta de la Cerveza

In the lush Calamuchita valley of the Sierras de Córdoba in Central Argentina, lies the picturesque town of Villa General Belgrano. Its name betrays its origins though, for this little town of about six thousand people is made up mostly of German immigrants. And its claim to fame: hosting the second largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich!

Think Lederhosens and Dirndls, ginormous Steins brimful of Bier and plates stacked full of Wurst. Throw in a colorful parade, the traditional breaking of the keg, a Beer Queen contest, several Chicken Dances, and many thousand revelers, and you’ve got yourself a fiesta.

The celebrations kick off early in October, lasting 11 days in all. I was there for the opening weekend, accompanying a friend, who had a writing gig for VICE channel’s food blog, Munchies. Her article, This is how Argentina does Oktoberfest, was published a week later, accompanied by photos taken by me.

Since she’s already gone through the hassle of penning it all down, I’m going to leave you here with a few selected images from the fest. A full set of pics can be seen on my Flickr.

Prost!

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Las Cataratas

In 2011, South America scored handsomely when the world’s new natural wonders were announced, grabbing almost a third of the coveted spots. One of those was Iguazú, an area well supplied with waterfalls, claimed equally by Argentina and Brazil. For Argentina though, it didn’t exactly move the needle; Iguazú was already its most visited destination, outside the city of Buenos Aires.

Located in the northeastern province of Misiones, the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazú is well served by flights from BA (90-minutes, with prices averaging $300 for a round trip), and has accommodation options to suit most budgets. If you find yourself in the country with a lot of time on hand, you could also consider doing it on the cheap and taking the bus. But given that it’s an 18-hour slog from BA, you’re probably better off flying.

Parque Nacional Iguazú lies 17-km (11-miles) from the town of Puerto Iguazú, and although you’ll come across several eager cabbies offering their services, you can save your $$ by hopping onto one of the frequent shuttles that run from the city center to the park. Once at the park, you’ll have a choice of trails to choose from. Circuito Inferior (lower trail) is the one to pick. Up to that point, you’re all set. What you probably will not be prepared for though, is your first sighting of Las Cataratas

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Across the Rio de la Plata

It’s a little past 7 AM on Saturday and the Buquebus ferry terminal is already a beehive of activity, full of Porteños eager to begin their long weekend. They’re leaving behind a weeklong spell of rain and gloominess, and looking ahead to plenty of sunshine, some juicy asado, and sacks full of duty-free goods – one of the perks of traveling into neighboring Uruguay.

For me, its all a little surreal – my visa only arrived two days ago, and between that and scrambling to get tickets and hotel bookings, I’ve had almost no time to plan my trip. But here I am, in business class no less (not sure how that worked out), journeying across the Rio de la Plata, on what is to be my first international border crossing by boat…

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The Train to the Clouds

The drive from the airport to the city center isn’t terribly long, but Eduardo insists on engaging me in conversation. Never mind the fact that his English is almost as lousy as my Spanish! I’ve learned by now how to say one billion in Español and when I reveal to him India’s population statistic, he can’t stop shaking his head in disbelief. Mucha gente, he says from under his breadth. The rest of his questions about my homeland run the gamut. Do people eat meat? Do they drink alcohol? And most importantly, how are the chicas? Muy lindo, I assure him!

Having sufficiently beefed up his knowledge about India, he sets me down at No.770, General Güemes, my address in Salta for the long weekend. Conveniently located, Espacio Mundano is a quaint little bed and breakfast, kitted out in traditional Salteña aesthetic; plenty of potted plants, heirloom furniture, and the all-essential patio.

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Tigre and the Delta

Estación Retiro is a particularly pleasant place to embark on any journey. Its century-old shed is evocative of an era of steam locomotives and grandiose rail travel. It’s a different matter though that only commuter trains originate from here today, and I’m headed out on one of them, merely 30-km north of the city. While the station has remained largely unchanged, the trains themselves have been upgraded considerably since I was in BA last, and mine is made up of Chinese-built carriages, offering an exceptionally smooth ride.

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