Archive for January, 2019

Part 11: South America – Rio de Janeiro and Petrópolis, Brazil. (March 2018)

Saturday, January 26th, 2019


March 9, 2018. The Amazon and Manaus to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Today we were leaving the ship and flying to Rio de Janeiro.

We were up on deck at 6am to see the Meeting of the Waters. This is where the black waters of the Negro River joins the muddy waters of the Solimöes River to create the mighty Amazon. 

The Negro River has a ph balance of 6.2 and a temperature of 28°C, while the Solimöes River has a ph of 4.6 and a temperature of 22°C. On joining, the the two rivers run side by side for about 6 kilometres without mixing.

When the waters meet, the fish from one river can’t survive in the other.

The other big difference is in the colour of each river. The Rio Negro is like black tea, while the Rio Solimöes is the colour of milk coffee. 

After we docked and had our bags put into storage we went for a walk around Manaus. Which was rather silly as it was 32°C with a humidity of 90%. 

The Manaus Municipal Market, Adolpho Lisboa was our first stop. The market stalls weren’t that interesting but the architecture was. There were two distinct pavilions. The first was built in 1882 and was constructed with wrought iron. It had wonderful stained glass windows at the entrances. The other was built in a Neo Classical style in 1906, with an imposing painted brick facade. 

From there we walked to the Palacio Rio Negro. Completed in 1911 by the German ‘Rubber Barron’ Karl Waldemar Scholz and originally named as Scholz  Palace. It was renamed in 1918, when it was acquired by the government and used as the seat of power.

Built in the architectural style known as ‘Eclectic’ it borrows its features from many different eras.

Unfortunately it didn’t open until the afternoon, so we only got to see the outside. 

After that we walked back to the main square for a cup of coffee. 

Then it began to pour. This was tropical rain that made the tin roofs shudder and Thea got trapped in the toilet, which was outside, during the second deluge. 

Not wanting to get soaked we opted to get a taxi back to the port to collect our bags and then head to the airport. 

All in all we walked over seven kilometres in the heat and humidity. But it was good to get out after having been virtually confined to the boat for four days. 

It was almost a four hour flight from Manaus to Rio de Janeiro, and that included a one hour time change. 

This would be our last stop before heading home later in the week. 



March 10, 2018. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

We were staying at the Best Western Premier Arpoador Fashion Hotel. The ‘fashion’ aspect of the hotel was delivered by a series of photos of fashion models that were around the hotel. There was also a catwalk video playing in reception.

It was a good hotel with an excellent restaurant that served a great breakfast.

The restaurant was also open in the evenings for dinner. We ate there on our first night and I had a very tasty seafood with black rice.

The hotel was very close to Ipanema, a small shopping area near the famous beach.

After breakfast we walked to Praça General Osório, a park close to the hotel, then onto Ipanema Beach. 

On the way we found D.O.N. Barber Beer, where I had a much needed haircut. When we walked in the door it seemed to be more about the beer, until we discovered the barbers shop was upstairs. 

I decided that we should return, as they had a good range of Brazilian craft beers. Unfortunately we never did.

Overlooking Ipanema Beach is the Arpoador Rock. From there you can get a great view of both the beach and Sugar Loaf, one of the granite and quartz monoliths that dominate the Rio skyline.

It was 30°C with 60% humidity so we stopped for lunch at Copacabana Beach. While having lunch we were hounded by vendors selling everything imaginable.

In the evening we had dinner at Carretão at Ipanema. This was a classic steakhouse with a fixed price and an all-you-can-eat buffet on the side.



March 11, 2018. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

There is an excellent Metro system in Rio, so we hopped on the train and went to see the Museum of Modern Art. 

MOM, as you would expect, is full of abstract art, with many of the artists choosing not to title their work.

I have an issue with this. 

By titling abstract art the creator can give it an extra meaning, especially if the title is in itself abstract and needs thinking about. 

So the question is, should an artist title his art or leave it untitled?

The exhibitions at MOM we all created from works owned by the gallery. The curators cleverly themed each exhibit and chose gallery art to complement their idea.  

There was one original show by José Bechara. These featured his paintings as well as metal and glass sculptures. 

Apart from a Jackson Pollock print, a Henry Moore sculpture and a few other internationals, the majority of the work was from Brazilian artists. 

The building is also a notable example of Brazilian Modernism. It was was designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy and completed in 1955. 

The gallery is situated in Flamenco Park, an urban planning project, on the coast of Rio.

After visiting MOM we walked back through the Flamenco Park area until we found another Metro station.

There are constant warnings about safety in Rio, especially for tourists. We never encountered any problems but we were told on several occasions, by concerned locals, to keep our cameras out of view.

However there must be serious security issues in the city, as everyone seems to live in a cage. All apartments, shops and businesses have very strong looking steel grills in front of the buildings and CCTV is everywhere.



March 12, 2018. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

We booked through the hotel to go on the ‘One Day in Rio Tour’.

In the morning we only visited two sites, Sugar Loaf and the Cathedral. The rest of the time was spent picking up and dropping off passengers. 

In the afternoon we only visited one site, Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado. We took the train through Tijuca Forest National Park to get there.

All in all it wasn’t good value for money, as the rest of the sites that were promised on the agenda were just a ‘drive by’ visit. 

Then to rub salt into the wound they took us to Carretão for lunch, the same restaurant we had been to two nights earlier.

They need to use smaller busses, to reduce the pick-up and drop-of times, rather than trying to ferry large groups around in full size coaches. 

We would have been better off using taxis and just paying our own way at each of the sites we visited. In fact by doing that we would have been able to get a lot more out of the day than we did. 

And it would have been a lot cheaper. 



March 13, 2018. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After doing a ‘drive by’ of the city centre on the previous day we decided to see it in more detail. 

Re-charging our Metro cards we headed into central Rio de Janeiro. 

No sooner had we arrived than it started to rain – this was becoming all to predictable.

Like many cities, Rio’s street names reflect the history of the city and the people who created it. 

The authorities have made this a feature in Rio by including dates and accomplishments along with the name of the person. This is all contained within the street sign.

For example, Rue Martim Alfonso (1500-1564) commemorates the Portuguese explorer and colonial administrator who was the first Royal Governor of Brazil.

The rain cleared in the afternoon and we continued our city tour. We then hopped back on the Metro and went to the Botanical Gardens, which is near the very posh suburb of Leblon. 

Founded in 1808 by King John VI of Portugal, the gardens were originally intended for the acclimatisation of spices that came from the West Indies.

There are now 6,500 different species in 54 hectares of very well maintained area. 



March 14, 2018. Rio de Janeiro and Petrópolis, Brazil.

On our last day of touring we took a trip to Petrópolis, or The Imperial City. 

The town’s name means City of Peter in honour of Pedro II, the last Emperor of Brazil. Petrópolis is the spiritual home of the Brazilian aristocracy. Founded in 1843, it was the summer residence of the Brazilian Emperors

The area was first settled by Emperor Pedro I who found the mountain climate a good change from  the heat of Rio. His son, Pedro II, ordered a settlement be build with the assistance of the newly arrived German immigrants. 

It’s about 70 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro to Petrópolis, an alpine town of over 300,000 inhabitants. 

Leaving the city we got a feel for how big Rio really is. With over 12 million inhabitants in the metro area alone, it’s not surprising.

Our guide to Petrópolis was Julio, a retired history teacher. He knew his facts and gave a good commentary. 

Our first stop was at a German inspired café, Casa do Alemão where we stopped for a coffee.

Palácio Quitandinha was next, but we could only see it from a distance. Designed by the Italian architect Luis Fossatti, and built in 1946, it was a luxury resort hotel for the rich and famous of Rio. Today the hotel rooms have been converted into privately owned condominiums. While the public areas, originally decorated by the famous American designer Dorothy Draper, have been fully restored.

Part of our tour took us past the Imperial Museum of Brazil. Built in 1845, it was the former summer palace of Emperor Pedro II (1831-1889) and is one of the most visited museum in Brazil.

Germans have had a huge influence on Brazil, especially in Petrópolis. German immigration started in 1824, decades before other Europeans came to the country. The population of German/Brazilians rose rapidly due to the highly successful birthrate among women of German origin.

In fact about one third of the population of Petrópolis have German ancestors.

The last stop in Petrópolis, before heading back to Rio, was the House of Santos Dumont.

Santos Dumont (1873-1932) is regarded, especially in Brazil, as the first person to fly a practical airplane in 1906, preceding the Wright Brothers.

He is a national treasure with countless roads, schools, monuments and of course airports named after him.

He spent most of his adult life in France, designing and flying lighter-than-air balloons and heavier-than-air flying machines.

He believed so much in the future of powered flight that he freely published his ideas and designs without every patenting them.

On our last night we again ate at the hotel restaurant, as we had a very early flight to catch the next morning.

March 15, 2018. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Melbourne, Australia.

We were up at 2:45am to get our flight home. 

It was raining again in Rio de Janeiro so a good time to leave. 

Our flight took us across South America, over the Andes and back to Santiago in Chile. This was only a stop-over before getting a connecting flight back to Melbourne. 

This route took us south, very south. In fact we passed closer to the south pole than we had been on our Antarctic cruise.

Part 10: South America – Foz do Iguaçu to Manaus, Brazil. (February/March 2018)

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

February 27, 2018. Puerto Iguazú, Argentina to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.

Today we were crossing the border into Brazil, the last new country on this trip. 

We walked the kilometre or so into town to get money and try and find a coffee.

We then took the long way back to the hotel along the Iguazú River. 

It had been raining and was now hot and steamy, we haven’t had tropical weather for a long time.  

Puerto Iguazú is a very tired and rundown looking place. It suffers from the fact that all the big hotels, catering to the many tourists, are out of the town centre. 

They are mainly self sufficient and the punters have no reason to come into town. 

Also many of the restaurants in the town centre only open at lunchtime and not in the evening, when the tourists normally eat. 

During the middle of the day the tourists are visiting the falls.

Crossing the border was very easy. The hotel booked us a taxi and he took us from Puerto Iguazú to our hotel in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. 

The immigration leaving Argentina was at a kiosk, where we didn’t even have to get out of the taxi. 

We went over the Tancredo Neves Bridge (1985) and crossed in Brazil. 

Our biggest problem was remembering our limited Portuguese. 

When we arrived at the Viale Tower Hotel it started to rain again. Once it cleared we had a wander around the town area close to our hotel. We also needed to get some Brazilian Reals so needed a bank. There were none open so we ended up a a money changer.



February 28, 2018. Foz do Iguaçu and Iguaçu Falls, Brazil.

We took Public bus number 120 to the Iguaçu National Park. 

It was a slow 14 kilometres. 

There were evacuation signs on the emergency exit, which had a number of graphics showing who had priority. Obese people were first, which was a sure signal that obesity is part of life in Brazil, as it is in much of Central and South America.

We were in Foz do Iguaçu to view the Iguaçu Falls from the Brazilian side – it was a very different experience. 

There were fewer people and the experience seemed less hectic.

From the visitor’s centre we caught a double decker bus down to the falls and from there we walked around the Devil’s Throat, this time viewing it from the Brazilian side. 

We put on our wet weather ponchos (plastic bags) and ventured out into the mist. 

The walk to get there is pleasant, with many viewing points along the way. 

The Iguaçu National Park, created in 1939, was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. It has an area of 185,262 hectares and borders the Argentinian side of the falls. Together the two National Parks are about 260,000 hectares in area.

In the end we decided that it was really worth seeing the falls from both sides. 

In the afternoon we crossed over the road, from the National Park entrance and into Parque das Aves.

This Bird Park has a wide variety of tropical birds, with many of them being rescued from smugglers. A highlight was seeing the Tocu Toucans. The park was opened in 1994 and is about 16 hectares in size.



March 1, 2018. Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.

Having now visited the falls on both sides we decided to do something completely different.

The Itaipu Binacional is a huge dam and reservoir, on the Paraná River, just outside of Foz do Iguaçu. The dam has a volume of 12,300,000 cubic metres.

The name Itaipu was taken from an island that was near the construction site and means ‘sounding stone’ in the local Guarani language.

It’s a joint project between Brazil and Paraguay. Construction starting in 1974 and was completed in 1991. 

It has 20 generators producing 103,098,366 megawatt hours of electricity, more than any other dam in the world. Ten generators produce electricity for Brazil and the other ten for Paraguay. Interestingly the Paraguayan generators produce more than the country needs so they sell it back to Brazil.

March 2, 2018. Foz do Iguaçu to Brasilia, Brazil.

Most of the day was spent travelling, as we were off to Brasilia. Unfortunately there were no direct flights so we had to go via Sao Paulo. 

I have come to the conclusion that budget airlines are fooling themselves by putting profit before people. 

Good evidence of this was our flight to Brasilia. We were charged Brazilian Real 80 (A$30+) each to check our bags into the hold. It was cheaper if we had done it online. However it wouldn’t accept our international credit card. 

This exorbitant cost means that most passengers opt to pack everything into their cabin baggage. 

They are often larger than the official size. Then some passengers even carry two bags, where they should only have one. 

Just prior to boarding there was an announcement asking if passengers would like to check in their hand luggage – at no charge. 

There were a few takers with most opting to take their cabin bags on board. They then had to fight for overhead locker space.

Then there’s a repeat of the bun-fight once you land.

Now everyone, who was forced to put their bags in lockers that were behind their seats, had to scramble to get them. They usually do this before the seatbelt sign is turned off, causing more confusion. 

If the airlines didn’t charge, there wouldn’t be a problem and flights would be much more enjoyable, for everyone. 

But then the airlines wouldn’t make extra profit by carrying cargo. Which, to them, is far more important than the safety and comfort of their passengers. 

There needs to be a point where business has to balance their profits over the well-being of the consumers and their staff. 

That night we ate at Coco Bambu in Brasìlia Shopping, a mall just over the road from our hotel, the Culling Hplus Premium.

It was a very pleasant restaurant with great staff. They didn’t speak English but alerted us to the fact that we had ordered too much. 

How many restaurants do that?



March 3, 2018. Brasilia, Brazil.

Brasilia is the capital of Brazil and situated in the Brazilian highlands. It’s a modern city, purpose built to be the nations capital, much like Canberra in Australia.

Founded in 1960 it is now Brazil’s third largest city. The city was planned and developed in 1956 by the urban planner, Lúcio Costa and the modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer.

We were in Brasilia for the architecture. 

The hotel booked us a day tour and we hoped that we would get to see some of the most famous buildings. Our guide was Ira and our small group raced around trying to get a feel for this most contemporary of cities.

In 1987, only 27 years after its foundation, Brasilia was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the youngest city in the world to be given that honour.

Some of the building we visited were; Mané Garrincha Stadium (1974), Juscelino Kubitschek Mausoleum (1960), Dom Bosco Church (1970), Our Lady of Aparecida Metropolitan Cathedral (1970), National Congress Building (1970), The Three Powers Square and the Alvorada Palace (1957).

The highlight for me was the JK (Juscelino Kubitschek) Bridge, constructed in 2002 and based on the idea of a pebble skipping over a pond.

Concrete cancer is the scourge of Brasilia.

It is a particular problem with modern, reinforced steel and concrete buildings. The steel begins to rust within the concrete causing it to expand. It then becomes brittle and cracks and in some cases falls from the structure.

Evidence of concrete cancer is everywhere in Brasilia. There has been some restoration but much more is needed, especially considering the cities heritage listing.

The day was marred by us both getting a touch of food poisoning. 

Ira suggested that we all go and have lunch at a local Brazilian restaurant. It was the kind that you only pay for what you eat. You select what you want and then they weigh it. 

There was obviously something in what we chose that we didn’t intend to get. 

For the rest of the afternoon and the night we felt very sorry for ourselves. 

No dinner that evening.

March 4, 2018. Brasilia to Manaus, Brazil.

Felling better but not yet over our upset stomachs, we were grateful that we had arranged a late check-out. 

The only flight we could get to Manaus, on the Amazon, was at 11:30pm so a day to ourselves in the hotel was welcome. 

We did return to Brasìlia Shopping and had a light lunch but that was about the extent of our travels and our food intake.



March 5, 2018. Manaus and the Amazon, Brazil.

After checking into our Manaus hotel at 3am we tried to get a few hours sleep. 

After a late breakfast we went for a walk around the town. 

As we came out, the rain came down. 

We were on the Amazon and 3° south of the equator so it was to be expected. 

The main feature of Manaus, apart from being the gateway to the Amazon, is the Amazon Theatre.

The Amazon Theatre was built in 1896 during the ‘Belle Époque’ period of the rubber boom. It was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by the Italian architect Celestial Sacardim. The dome is covered with 36,000 ceramic tiles painted in the colours of the Brazilian national flag. 

Manaus is the capital city in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. It is on the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers. It was founded in 1669 as the Fort of São José and became a town in 1832.

Manaus is slap bang in the middle of the Amazon rain forest and the embarkation point for boat trips into the Brazilian Amazon. Which is exactly what we had planned to do.

Part of the afternoon was spent trying to book our return flight to Australia.

We have used LATAM Airlines a lot in South America and found that they were the fastest and most economical way to return to Australia. 

Booking this trip wasn’t without its issues. 

As I have winged about before, nothing comes free with these low cost airlines. 

That’s fine if you can work out how to actually pay for the extras. 

Thea spent an hour trying to pay for our seats on the trans Pacific leg from Santiago to Melbourne but couldn’t get the credit card to work. She even phoned the help desk and they were no help at all. 

After battling unhelpful help desks, we got a taxi down to the port at 3 pm and checked in to the Iberostar Grand Amazon. 

Our cabin on the boat, especially the bathroom, was larger than some hotels we have stayed in. In fact it was more like a hotel suite than a ship’s cabin. 

It also had a Nespresso machine and a range of pods. 

For a couple who have sworn off ‘cruising’ here we were, on yet another ship, only a month after we were sailing in the Antarctic. 

The Iberostar Grand Amazon was sold as an all inclusive tour – meaning everything is included in the price. 

Of course there is a caveat on that. 

Everything, doesn’t include the two indulgences we enjoy. 

Good wine and craft beer. 

You could buy wine by the glass, but this was limited to a house red and white, of dubious origin. 

There were four beers on offer, all of them Pilsners. 

What the!

At dusk the ship headed north west, up the Rio Negro, for our first night on the water. 

Compared to the SS Expedition travelling to Antarctica, we were barely moving. 

It was hard not to compare the Antarctic trip to this one within the Amazon region. 

Both were small ships on an adventure cruise, with a large crew. 

However they were very different. 

Antarctica was English language oriented while the Amazon was very much Portuguese. 

Antarctica was wilderness, wildlife and conservation, while the Amazon was more about the indigenous people, experiences and shopping opportunities. 

We didn’t actually sail on the Amazon River until the final morning. 

Which in a way was good for me. 

Because of the ph balance of the Negro River, apparently mosquitoes don’t breed on the water. They only reproduce in the bromeliads, up in the tree canopy. 

Whereas on the Amazon River there is no such issue. 

I liked the Negro.

It was a good theory, until a few days later, when I discovered that there still are things that bite on the Rio Negro. 

And naturally they found me. 



March 6, 2018. The Amazon, Brazil.

In the morning we walked through the Jaraqui Stream area and Luis was our guide.

It wasn’t about animals but about the life, death and regrowth of the Amazon Rainforest. 

Everywhere we looked there was dead, dying or decaying plants and new life springing up. 

The rain held off for the morning but it looked very threatening for the afternoon. 

The itinerary was changed about, as we had to return to Manaus. Apparently one of the generators needed replacing. 

They assured us that none of the activities would be effected. 

Our afternoon boat trip to Trés Bocas was therefore cancelled and replaced by a visit to Cambebas, an indigenous village. 

There was a lunchtime talk about the Amazon Forrest and the effects of the wet season on the water levels, as well as the plant and animal life. 

Thea’s technical problems have followed us to the Amazon and are now effecting everything around us. 

When we first arrived, our room safe wouldn’t work and needed a new battery. Then our cabin door wouldn’t open and we were locked out. 

Even the ship’s breakdowns continued with the outboard engine on our tender dying on the way back from Cambebas Village. 



March 7, 2018. The Amazon, Brazil.

The morning adventure was the boat trip to Trés Bocas and this time Jefferson was our guide. 

This is part of Anavilhanas, the second largest fluvial archipelago in the world. It’s a huge collection of river islands and beaches. 

Tres Bocas is one of the largest islands in the Archipelago. 

This trip was more about being on the river and experiencing Amazonia. We saw Toucans, Macaws, Green Parrots as well as Dolphins. 

This was all done at a distance and made good photography very difficult. Especially as the cloudy skies caused everything to be backlit . 

At one point Jefferson stopped the boat and we just listened to the jungle. It’s too easy to spend time on photography and forget to enjoy the moment. 

In the afternoon, as part of the on-board program, there was a talk on the fish of the Amazon.

Entertainment seemed to be a very important part of life on board the Iberostar Grand Amazon. 

On our first night, after dinner, there was a magician. Then the staff band performed after dinner on night two and then again at lunchtime on the third day. 

The South Americans, especially the Brazilians, love to dance. The performance was definitely aimed at them. 

I can see why Carnival is so popular. 

There was a group of Germans and they were always holding a drink. They never let go of their glasses during lunchtime, while the band was playing and even when they were in the pool.

They were definitely making the most of the open bar policy. 

The afternoon activity was Piranha Fishing. 

We decided to participate in this for two reasons. Firstly it was catch and release, so no fish were actually taken and secondly I wanted to see this mythical creature in close-up. 

Apart from the thrill of being on the river and in the backwaters it was a frustrating experience. 

Firstly it poured down and everything got wet. But worse than that, I didn’t catch a thing. 

And I was the only one. 

There was yet another performer after dinner. This time it was an indigenous member of staff. 

His specialty was flutes and he played at least six different types. 

It was cleverly done as a soundtrack to a documentary video about Brazil, the people, culture, animals and land. 

This played on a screen behind. 

He concluded the short show with his own rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ 

The background video, to this classic song, featured indigenous people from around the word. 

It delivered a very powerful and poignant message. 

In the evening we went Caiman spotting and only managed to get a glimpse of one reptile scurrying into the water – that was it.



March 8, 2018. The Amazon, Brazil.

We were up at 5:30 am for the sunrise.

The sun didn’t rise but Luis had a surprise for us anyway. He took us to see the Ariaú Jungle Tower, an abandoned eco resort.

When it was operating it had about eight kilometres of elevated walkway through the jungle. The guests could drive golf carts from one part of the resort to the other. There were six tower blocks and 288 rooms elevated over the jungle.

It only closed at the beginning of 2016 and very quickly the jungle has reclaimed the site.

After breakfast we were to visit the Pink Amazon River Dolphins. This was with Jefferson, our guide guide from earlier in the week. 

However because of the number of people wanting to do the dolphins trip, we did a nature cruise first. 

There were monkeys, sloths and a variety of birds. 

We also passed through the abandoned resort again. This time from the other side. 

After about ninety minutes we arrived at a small floating platform that was very close to the ship, and our original starting point. 

This is an a opportunity to be in the water at the same time the dolphins are being fed. 

It is supposedly an eco and environmentally conscious activity. However these are wild animals that now rely on humans for their food and therefore survival. 

I was disappointed that Jefferson also fed the monkeys on our way to the dolphins. 

It was great for the tourists but not good for the monkeys. 

At lunchtime the band played again. They normally only play twice, but it was International Women’s Day and the ladies loved to dance. 

The last off-ship experience was to the Rubber Tapping Museum. 

This part of the Amazon region was the heart of the wealthy Brazilian rubber industry, during the late part of the 19th Century. This was the golden age for rubber and there was a large expansion of European colonisation in the Amazon Basin. The rubber was extracted from trees in a very random way, as there were no plantations as we now see in South East Asia. The trees were in the jungle and rubber tappers would spend days at a time out tapping the trees. Slavery, murder and brutality were widespread.

The Rubber Barons got rich but at the expense of the indigenous population.

The Vila Parasío Rubber Museum is built within a film set for a Portuguese movie, titled, ‘The Jungle’. 

The movie was about these barons and their excesses.


Part 9: South America – Argentina again.
(February 2018)

Friday, January 4th, 2019


February 20, 2018. Buenos Aires to Mendoza, Argentina. 

After a late arrival back into Buenos Aires the previous night it was a very early start for a 6:55 am flight from Buenos Aires to Mendoza.

We were back in Argentina again.

Fortunately our accommodation, Solandes Apart & Wine, allowed us to check-in at 9:30 am, so we could have a bit of a rest before we headed out.

Mendoza is the capital of the Argentinean wine district and everything is geared towards that.

There is also skiing, mountain biking and hiking but we were there for the wine.

The area around Greater Mendoza is the largest wine growing region in Latin America. Mendoza is one of the Great Wine Capitals off the world. The others are regarded as: Adelaide in Australia, Bilbao and Rioja in Spain, Bordeaux in France, Lausanne in Switzerland, Mainz and Rheinhessen in Germany, Porto in Portugal, SanFrancisco and Napa Valley in the USA, Valparaiso and Casablanca in Chile and Verona in Italy.

Mendoza was founded in 1551 by the Spaniard, Pedro del Castillo and named after the governor of Chile, García Hurtado de Mendoza.



February 21, 2018. Mendoza, Argentina. 

Thea’s technical woes continued. 

Two computers had died and now her back-up drive had surrendered to the gremlins. We were now down to one computer and one back-up drive. 

Not a good situation to be in. 

Then, due to the total incompetence of Thea’s website provider, Host Sailor, her site was shut down. 

And they hadn’t even backed it up. 

We felt very vulnerable so decided we urgently needed a second back-up drive. 

In the morning we took the Mendoza Hop-On Hop-Off Bus to explore the town.  

This was a gruelling three hours, on very hard seats. There was a wait of one hour between buses so we chose to stay on. They didn’t follow the route on the map and only about one third of the narration was in English. 

By the time we were back in Mendoza the shops were opening again, after siesta, so we went off and bought another back-up drive. 

To add to our tech frustrations, when we got back to the apartment there was a message from Kate. 

The DHL package had arrived from Buenos Aires, without the broken computer. 

Will this saga ever end?



February 22, 2018. Mendoza (Wine Tour) Argentina.

Main income for the Mendoza region comes from olive oil production with wine next. 

We were staying at Solandes Apart & Wines and, as the name suggests, they had involvement in a winery and could also organise wine tours. They had a arranged for us to have a wine tour with Jorge, a local driver and guide.

Our first stop was at Budeguer a very contemporary winery with great labels and an obvious love of art and good design.

CocaCola is still widely consumed in Argentina and some of the locals do very we’ll out of it.

The Budeguer Winery was started by a wealthy sugar cane grower, Juan José Budeguer from Tucumán in Argentina. He is obviously doing very well out of selling his sugar and this is evident in his extravagant gallery and winery, both of which are run as a hobby.

Interestingly the advertising for CocaCola is still stuck in the 1950s’. Their strategy is all about putting the product on a pedestal – it’s almost a brand worship approach.

Our guide at Budeguer was Jorge’s daughter, who had excellent English and a good understanding of the Argentinian wine industry.

We then had lunch at La Azul, a winery with a pleasant restaurant under a canopy of vine leaves and set with the Andes as a backdrop.

The final stop for the day was at Salentein. This was a much more traditional winery with huge cellars and an abundance of an art in their onsite gallery, all housed in a very contemporary building.

Apart form a great experience we leant two very interesting facts on our Argentinian wine tour.

Wine fact 1: In Argentina they don’t produce champagne in the same building as their still wine.

Wine fact 2: Between tastings, don’t clean your glass with water, as the minerals effect the wine. Use wine instead.



February 23, 2018. Mendoza to Córdoba, Argentina.

Even though we had a kitchen in the Mendoza apartment we couldn’t find a decent supermarket nearby. 

We did manage to get some basic breakfast supplies but they were very average. 

Providing your own breakfast can be one negative when staying in an apartment. It’s much easier at a hotel, especially where breakfast is included.

We arranged to get Jorge to take us to the airport for our flight to Córdoba, our next stop in Argentina. 

There was a small scrap of good news regarding Thea’s broken computer. DHL emailed that, for safety reasons, they had separated the computer from the rest of the package. 

Apparently it was on its way. 

We arrived in Cordoba in time to check into the Hotel de la Cañada and still do some sightseeing in the afternoon.

We were out of the old town area but it wasn’t too far to walk there.

We visited the Córdoba Cathedral, which was originally constructed in 1582 and renovated 2007-2009. Next to San Martin Square, in the centre of the old town. Then down towards Plaza España, past the Church of the Sacred Heart. Built in 1928-1932 and designed by the Italian architect, Augusto Ferrari. It is an interesting construction as it’s not made from stone but concrete.

It was then back into the old city to do the tour of the former Jesuit Block, Convent and Society of Jesus Church which was built around 1600.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, it contains the University of Córdoba, one of the oldest in South America.

As well as the university the area contains the History Museum, Jesuit Community, History Archive and Historical Library.

To tour the complex you have to have a guide, which was great as it gave us a good insight into the history.

One of the last pieces we came across was a tiny statue of the Virgin Mary. What made it unique was that she was visibly pregnant.



February 24, 2018. Córdoba, Argentina.

Córdoba is a strange town and seems to lack a soul.

It is the second largest city, next to Buenos Aires, with a population of over 1.3 million. It was founded in 1573 by Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera and named after Córdoba in Spain. It has many historical buildings and of course the Jesuit Block.

Maybe we were comparing it to Buenos Aires, which is probably unfair, but it just seemed to be rundown and lacking character, compared to the capital.

For example Bicentennial Park, like Plaza España, was a garbage dump of tagging and spray cans. 

Lake Crisol in Sarmiento Park wasn’t much better – there was rubbish everywhere.

We were looking for some culture so we wandered into the Emilio Caraffa Museum. Entrance was free as the air conditioner was broken. 

The museum featured works from five Argentinean artists. The program even had an English narrative which was a change.

There were two painters, Aníbal Cedrón and Adrián Doura as well as a photographer, Franco Verdoia and a sculptor, David Rivolta.

The gallery was a pleasant change and the exhibition was well curated with a wide variety of styles. However when we reached the top floors of the gallery it was hot.

They certainly needed the air conditioner up there.

You can tell if you’re not in a good restaurants area, just by Googling, ‘Good restaurants near me’. If McDonalds and Subway come up on the top of the list, you are in trouble. 

We were in trouble in Córdoba, as there was nothing but bars and a huge disco near us. And of course Maccas.

Surprisingly there were 35 brewpubs in the area, so finding a good ‘pinta’ wasn’t difficult. 

Finding wine was another thing.

Córdoba is a university town and in general students are poor and don’t drink wine. Getting both wine and a craft beer was a problem. 

The women drink beer, so wine isn’t in demand, especially in the brewpubs as they cater for the younger market. 

The only students who drink wine come from Mendoza and that understandable – its in their blood, so to speak.

We eventually did find a great brewpub that served both wine and beer and also had an excellent menu as well. It was here that we got the lowdown on how Córdoba ticks from the manager, who was in for a chat.

Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest has never been more evident than in South America.  

Especially when it comes to the breakfast buffet.

It’s a battleground.

They push, they shove and when they eventually get to the buffet, they pile their plates with Andean size mountains of food.

Then they come back for more.



February 25, 2018. Córdoba to Iguazú, Argentina.

We had almost an entire day, after checking out, before our flight to Iguazú. 

And it was raining. 

What else do you do on a wet Sunday but visit a shopping mall. 

Patio Olmos was originally built as a boy’s middle school in 1909. It was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1977, then redeveloped into the mall in 1995. 

There is over 25,000 square meters of retail space, which includes a cinema run by Hoyts. 

I thought that it was strange that the Australian cinema chain would be running a shopping mall in Argentina.

Then I did some research.

Hoyts is actually owned by the Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational based in Beijing. It is the world’s largest property developer and owner of the world’s largest cinema chain.



February 26, 2018. Puerto Iguazú and Iguazú Falls, Argentina.

After getting the public bus to Iguazú National Park we bought our day tickets to explore the Argentinean side of the falls. 

They wanted to know our nationality at the ticket office. When we got our tickets we found that they thought we had said we were Austrians, not Australians as we were even greeted with ‘Guten tag’ when we went through the gate. 

We took the train to Devil’s Throat Station and walked from there to Devil’s Throat. We weren’t the only ones as there we hundreds walking along the path with us.

Devil’s Throat is a spectacular section of the Iguazú Falls and the lookout puts you right over the edge.

The first European to record the existence of the falls was the Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez de Vaca in 1541.

He must have been overwhelmed.

Between Niagara, Victoria and Iguazú, I think Iguazú Falls are by far the most impressive. 

Victoria Falls maybe larger but it’s the views that you get from all the vantage points that sets Iguazú apart.

After spending many hours at the falls we took the bus back into town and then walked back to the Three Borders Lookout, which was jut near our hotel. This is the spot that you can see both Brazil and Paraguay while standing in Argentina.

Our hotel, the Raices Esturion, was a fair distance out of down so we were confined to the area surrounding it. On our first night we couldn’t be bothered looking around so ate at the hotel.

It was a buffet, even though the blurb proudly boasted an À la carte menu.

On our second night, determined not to eat another ‘buff’ we discovered the Amerian Hotel. It was right next door and did serve À la carte, which was excellent.