You could take a thousand pictures and none of them would accurately capture the magnificence of Argentina’s Iguazu Falls.
Situated on the border of Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Parana, this waterfall system was shortlisted as one of the new “seven wonders of the world.” Surrounded by rainforest, there are more than 275 falls along 2.7 km of river, with some falls more than 82 metres in height.
In December 2008, Cliff Soper, John Chapman and Gerry Paradise travelled to Argentina to experience some of its wonders.
The three Central Albertans were particularly amazed by Iguazu Falls.
“We spent two nights in the area near the falls and it wasn’t too long,” explained Cliff Soper. “There are many different trails and walkways that wind in and out of the rainforest and along the canyon’s edge. We did a lot of hiking and really enjoyed the time we spent in this beautiful Argentinean national park.”
The journey began for the three friends in the capital city of Argentina, where they spent five days exploring the sites and experiencing the culture of South America’s second largest metropolis.
“We really enjoyed Buenos Aires,” said Soper. “There was plenty to see and do and we walked everywhere or took public transportation. The architecture, the food, the history and the shopping were all phenomenal and most things cost about a third of what they do here.”
While in Buenos Aires, they enjoyed a tour of a farm just outside the city to experience the gaucho lifestyle.
“In the past century, South American cowboys were called Gauchos,” explained Soper. “In the 19th century, gauchos made up the majority of the rural population. They made their living herding cattle and hunting on large ranches outside urban areas. Beef production is still an important industry in Argentina.”
In addition to experiencing rural Argentina, the Gaucho Tour provided an opportunity to sample some local foods and to learn how to do dance the tango. “The tango originated in Argentina and Uruguay,“ said Soper. “They had instructors at the ranch to teach you how to dance. I hadn’t intended to dance, but they actually got me to do it. It was fun.”
After spending several days exploring the capital city, the friends travelled to Iguazu Falls and then to Mendoza, where they enjoyed a wine tour complete with a driver.
“Situated two hours by plane from Buenos Aires, Mendoza is the heart of Argentina’s wine country,” explained Soper. “There are more than a thousand wineries in the Mendoza area and boutique wines have become more popular in recent years. It was really helpful to have a guide along and the driver was vital — most wineries gave us more than what could be described as a sip. We typically visited two wineries per day and some of the tours included dinner or lunch.”
They also rented an SUV in Mendoza and travelled to the Chilean border. The journey provided excellent views of Mount Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America.
“We wanted to see some different scenery, so we decided to travel to the Chilean border,” explained Soper. “Although we couldn’t drive across the border, it made for an interesting afternoon. We took the highway to the border and then took a dirt road back down the mountain. There were lots of hills and switchbacks and we had to drive around large rocks a few times, but it made for an interesting road trip.”
Soper was pleasantly surprised by Mendoza as a city and as a destination.
“When we first arrived in Mendoza, I noticed papers blowing all around the streets,” said Soper. “It looked like a rough place to be and I wondered what I was in for. By morning, the papers were cleared up and it was a great place to wander around and explore.”
Soper would definitely recommend Argentina to other travellers who want adventure and to experience another culture.
“It’s not an all-inclusive kind of vacation,” he points out. “Visiting Argentina is a real adventure that is a little more unique than the average package holiday. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit.”
If you go:
• In Buenos Aires, the group stayed at the Wilton Hotel. Located on the fringe of one of the exclusive areas of the city, the hotel was reasonably priced, clean and comfortable. Rooms start at about US$85 per night, depending upon the season of travel. For reservations or information, visit www.hotelwilton.com.ar
• Trip arrangements in Argentina including excursions from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls and Mendoza were arranged with Esteban at BA Private Tours. The company was formed by a group of local tour guides born and raised in Buenos Aires. For information on tours, visit the website www.baprivatetours.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Flights to Buenos Aires will cost about Cdn$1,500 per person, including taxes, depending upon the season of travel. Several airlines offer service into Buenos Aires from Calgary or Edmonton, but there are no direct flights. Seat sales may provide a significant cost savings. For exact pricing on specific dates, contact a travel agent.
Three Famous Argentines
Argentina has many famous sons and daughters, but none more beloved or controversial than Evita, Maradona and El Che. Even today, you will find pictures of these three adorning billboards, posters and T-shirts in Buenos Aires. Soper and his friends visited the gravesite of Evita during their stay in Buenos Aires. Here’s a little information about each of these famous Argentineans.
Evita — Her supporters have called her the mother of the nation and some still revere her as a saint, while others still dislike her for her radical politics. Eva Duarte de Peron became internationally famous in Hollywood films before she became half of the most famous presidential couple in Argentina’s history. She died from cancer in 1952 at the age of 33.
Maradona — Diego Armando Maradona grew up in one of Buenos Aires’s shantytowns and became one of the country’s most famous soccer players. His 1986 goal in the World Cup won the country the cup and immortalized him with soccer fans. Today he hosts a television show in Argentina.
El Che — Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, better known as El Che or Che Guevara, was born in Argentina. He is best known for his participation in the Cuban revolution, as well as his attempt to start a guerrilla uprising in Bolivia, where he was assassinated in 1967. He remains a pop icon in Latin America.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email to DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, T4R 1M9.