A Sensory Overload – Argentina!
Buenos Aires — Paris of the South
From the comfort of our luxury bus, we enjoy the city sights of this beautiful city. First, we started at the colourful La Boca, site of the city’s first port, where we walk around, snacking on some excellent Empanadas, viewing souvenirs, trinkets and leather goods. And it was hard to resist the calls of the street tango dancers, who were so graceful in their dance moves. Later, we move on to San Telmo, famous for its late-colonial buildings where artists love to gather.
The highlight for me was the Plaza de Mayo. I take selfies outside La Casa Rosada (the President’s Pink House) with the balcony made famous by Eva Perón. She used to address the people from that very spot. We enter the Metropolitan Cathedral in the square to view San Martin’s Mausoleum and discover that our present pope once lived there. Another highpoint is a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery, burial site of Eva Perón.
That evening we learn the Tango, South America’s most sensuous dance. Mauiricio and Ivana were some of the best dancers I ever saw. But I soon discover that I have two left feet, much to my dismay. Following dinner at a traditional barbecue place or Parrillada, we head back to the tango hall. Truly, a flawless performance by professional dancers seemingly effortlessly play out their emotions through the dance, while a band belts out mournful numbers.
Statues of Maradona, Eva Peron and Carlos Gardel in Buenos Aires
Of course, while in Argentina, a visit to the pampas or grasslands is a must. At a working Argentine estancia or ranch, Estancia Santa Susana, there are horseback riding, carriage rides and walks to the stables, with the gauchos or cowboys dressed in their traditional best.
Food and more..
Lunch was held in a huge barn-like enclosure. We had Argentina’s famous barbecued meats, salads and sausages fresh off the barbeque, with local red wines flowing. Young gauchos did the tango, sang beautifully and swing a mean lasso. Then, they get the horses out. These gorgeous animals run around in teams like well-behaved children and the Gauchos compete in games against each other. The winner, of course, gets a kiss from the girl of his choice in the audience. It proves to be a fun day with lots of laughter and music though, of course, the horses steal the show!
By now, the members of the group swap a myriad personal stories among themselves. Everyone learns to be on time, concentrate on instructions and maintain team spirit. But none of us are prepared for the astounding sight that we are to witness shortly.
Our Tour director Fernando Bordallo orchestrates all the to-and-froing from airports with precise instructions on the how, where and what of each destination so that the large group seems to move as one.
Iguazu Falls — Thundering Wonder
A short flight from Buenos Aires takes us to the Iguazu Falls that border the Argentinian province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. The falls are shared by the Iguazu National Park (Argentina) and the Iguaçu National Park (Brazil); the parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1984 and 1987 respectively. A picturesque ride in the Rainforest Ecological Train on the Argentinian side brings us to the upper and lower trails.
Our local guide Wilson leads us onto the catwalk interspersed with viewing platforms at strategic locatons. We discover ourselves directly over these spectacular falls. The number of cataracts at any given time fluctuates between 150 and 300 depending on the water level. They are so spread out that one can hardly ever see 25%. However, the falls are magnificent. What made even more so on, this wonderful day, was a fortuitous spell of heavy rain this past week.
“Like dulce de leche!” says Fernando, of the brown, mineral-laden waters, as our luxe bus now takes us over the border to witness the view from the Brazilian side. Here, a treat awaits us in the form of the pastel-pink, Portuguese-colonial facade of Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. This was to be our luxurious abode for the next two nights. Located right at the falls, this is the only luxury hotel in the Brazilian park area. What a wonderful place to stay in!!
Into the Falls
Fernando asked us to get ready the next morning before the park actually opens for the public and the crowds get incessant. We take the footpath along the canyon that descends right into a narrow chasm called Devil’s Throat. Iguazu River flows to our right. A slight drizzle sets in, adding to the charm of the moment. At the end of this, gently descending pathway, we find ourselves directly under the cascades. The thundering of the waters makes the excitement palpable as we traverse the catwalk. And lo behold, a rainbow appears almost magically. A tremendous spray drenches us as the sun struggles through the clouds. We remain hypnotised by the majesty of nature. All of us in the group are grateful to be here to witness this tremendous sight.
Text and Photographs by Shirin Mehta
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