Arthur Fromer rates Argentina at the top of world destinations to visit and this diverse vacation didn’t disappoint with its passion and scenic wonders. We began with several days in Buenos Aires, a vibrant capital with European style and a Latin flavor similar to Madrid. Our hotel was smack-dab city center and our guide Marcello was the best I ever had with my groups here. The dollar is strong here, so after tours, the group shopped. Here are the finest plaited raw leather goods on the planet. Terry bought 3 jackets custom cut to his “petite” frame. I got a unique pair of boots made from capybara, which is the world’s largest rodent – high fashion rat boots.
Our group of 35 was perfect size. Most attended one of the top tango shows in town for a delicious dinner and world-class tango. This melancholic dance born from the poor classes attracts everyone today with timeless entertainment. For cuisine, this is the world of beef. With 57 million cows it’s a carnivore’s dream and a vegan’s nightmare. At Las Linas restaurant we shared the 800 gram (2lb) steak. I asked Marcello why no one is fat here. He said, they live on an Atlkins diet of beef and salad and walk every day.
We spent a day with the gauchos (cowboys) at an authentic estancia (ranch) in the pompas (countryside). We rode horses and enjoyed a sizzling asado (BBQ) of more endless meats. There are 800 ranches in the region. Argentines love their horses. A top polo pony can run $400,000 and it’s embryo $40,000.
We flew up to Iguazu, “land of great waters” and stayed at the beautiful Panarama Hotel that overlooks the borders of Paraguay and Brazil. The highlight was a full day tour of the famous falls. It’s my fourth visit here yet the omnipotence of it all still inspires me with awe. And the area of Devil’s Throat is so shockingly powerful; it creates a sense of fear in me. Locals here say, “Niagara is just a trickle in God’s mind.” These falls 2 miles long have twice the flow! It rains 321 days per year here. We were blessed with sunshine and rainbows. It was breathtaking as we walked 6 miles of platforms both above and below the 275 cataracts. It ended with a thrilling boat safari. After donning rubber ponchos, the Indian drivers propelled us full speed into the falls. We didn’t want it to end.
Later we headed out over the lush terrain of Missiones Province that was founded by Jesuits in the 1700’s who came to convert the native Guarani’s. (See “The Mission” movie with Robert DeNero.) We then transferred to 4×4 trucks and headed into the remote wildlife reserve called “the green corridor.” 80 miles from the falls in extreme north Argentina just 3 miles from Brazil. We arrived to Yacutinga Eco-Lodge hidden deep in the rainforest. It was like entering the set of Avatar. The unique architecture of stone, adobe and tree trunks integrates in perfect harmony with nature. Our charming bungalows have no TV but do provide electricity, comfy beds, drinkable water, wood stove and hot showers. It is sustainable tourism with adventure under control. It included a pool, bar and organic meals throughout our stay. Unlike our past AFS Amazon trips, there are no resident “pets” at this lodge. They refuse to disrupt anything in its natural habitat and insist on keeping the wild animals wild.
Yacutinga promotes a dozen conservation programs and supports a village of 120 Guarani’s nearby. Guaranis are the poorest of the poor natives who strive to preserve their ancient culture. With the encroachment of the timber industry, they find it nearly impossible to adapt to the new world around them. The lodge employs Guarani’s who often don’t show up due to superstitions of the cosmos on any given day. Under the forest canopy at night, we hear a lecture about this fragile disappearing jungle.
There are 2 resident biologists and an ornithologist. The next morning they guided the group on a hike to identify the native plant and animal species. I slept in and went into the kitchen to fry some eggs just like home. The group returned covered in mud. I was amazed at their perseverance and good spirits. The canopy is usually ablaze with orchids and hummingbirds. Unfortunately that week we were greeted with the hum of omnipresent mosquitoes and intermittent rain.
Later we paddled kayaks down the San Francisco stream to Iguassu River. Here is a world of hummingbirds and butterflies. There are also giant tapirs, capybaras and ocelots. Aside from some monkeys and bird species. We saw no other wildlife. I wonder if it’s due to poachers and deforestation. It was nevertheless educational on the symbiotic relationship of every plant element necessary to sustain a rainforest. My group began to go into WiFi and cell phone withdrawals. 3 days here is enough.
Inflight home, I reflect on this varietal vacation of extremes. This Adventures For Singles trip was $1399 land. Argentina is one hot destination with diversity north, south, east and west. Next year I may present a cruise through Patagonia. Marcello begged to come along and guide us. He loved our group and so did I.