February 28, 2010

On the Ground in Buenos Aires

February 27. So far, everything has gone swimmingly. The group assembled without incident. The flights went off on time and landed safely. The views coming into Buenos Aires were amazing – flat, flat land running off into the hazy horizon and, on our route, wet, wet land, with a huge braided river (the Parana?), with many back channels, sloughs, ponds, and ditches.

We made our way through fee payment, passport control, customs, and a final baggage check, where we met our guide, boarded our bus, and drove into town. Along the way, I saw fields of pampas grass and then it hit me: the Pampas are just out there! The real Pampas!

Our hotel is across from Plaza Libertad, just off the main street Av. 9 de Julio. The Plaza has its own Facebook page, according to the sign. It's comfortable and will do fine. I expect it will be the fanciest we'll see on this trip.

After an early (for Buenos Aires) lunch, a group of us headed south for the Museo Historico National, in Parque Lezama. One taxi driver knew the way and gave the riders the thumbnail version of Argentina's history. Our cab driver needed the map to find it, so we were glad to get there. It's housed in a mansion-type building and has some interesting artifacts, but it is not impressive. A set of twelve or so displays offers to tell three hundred years of the country's history. I can't be sure because all of the text was in Spanish, but I doubt it was successful – there was just too little for so much history. Still, there are some valuable artifacts, including three enormous paintings of various epic scenes in Argentine history and enough San Martin paintings and other artifacts to support a cult.

We left the museum and headed north, toward the Museo de Arte Moderno. It's being refurbished, so we continued north, out of closed commercial into weekend commercial, Plaza Dorrego, which was hopping with crafts and food, and through the Mercado de San Telmo, which blended antiques, plain old junk, and fruits and vegetables. We soon arrived at the Plaza de Mayo, which was festooned with banners supporting the veterans of the war over the Malvinas (the Falkland War). As we passed out of the plaza, we passed the Chilean embassy, around which the streets were blocked off and filled with camera setups. Was that because of the earthquake today near Santiago?

Just got back from a restaurant in Puerto Madera, a section along the river that has seen considerable redevelopment of old buildings and is now in the midst of a run of new building construction, which look like a lotof office and residential towers. We had dinner at a very respectible buffet-style retaurant, with an Italian slant, called La Bisteca.

We've had an excellent start to the trip. The group is great, the weather is very summery (25° and somewhat humid), and the city is fascinating. Tomorrow, we see more of it.

February 23, 2010

I’m Going to Patagonia

It's been months to get to this point, but in a couple of days, I'm boarding a plane to fly over the equator for the first time. I'm one of a dozen Mountaineers on a two-and-a-half week trip to Patagonia, in the mountains of southern Argentina and Chile, for hiking and sightseeing.

We'll spend a full day in Buenos Aires for sightseeing. After that, we'll fly to El Calafate, in southwestern Argentina, from which we'll travel to glaciers pouring off the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and hike to view some spectacular peaks, such as Cerro Fitz Roy and Torres del Paine.

As before, I plan to blog the trip and will upload when I can get a connection.