“Pic of the Week”, June 23, 2017: Mate — South America’s caffeinated drink

04 El Tigre, Argentina 2014 (96)

If coffee is the morning beverage of North America (and most of the world for that matter), my limited experience in South America was that many people preferred a type of locally grown herbal tea called Mate (pronounced mah-teh). Mate, also known as yerba mate, is rich in caffeine and is especially popular in in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Southern Chile and Southern Brazil. A small amount is exported and sold in other countries, including in the Middle East, but mate has its home in southern South America.

The drink is prepared by steeping a handful of dried yerba mate leaves in hot water. As the beverage is consumed, more hot water is added to the same wet mate clump over …

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“Pic of the Week”, April 28, 2017: Arrival at Torres del Paine National Park

11 Arrival at Tores del Paine (9)

We approached Torres del Paine National Park from the east, entering Chile from Argentina.  Many people drive down the Chilean coast and enter the park from the west, so their perspective would be a little different than ours.

Our trip took us through large stretches of hilly and uninhabited grasslands (the pampas).  The first views of the National Park are among the most memorable of any mountain region I’ve ever visited (and I’ve seen many in my days).   Torres is a popular tourist destination, with good reason. Among its most iconic sites are the 3 granite towers from which Torres del Paine derives its name.

 

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.All Trips / Car Culture / Chile / South America

Great Cars along the Highway….Torres del Paine, Chile

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Came across this rather unusual van parked in the shadows of the granite spires of Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile.   The park is an amazingly beautiful place and the van definitely seemed a little out of place.

Wicked is a company that rents uniquely decorated minivans to function as transportation and sleeping accommodations for tourists.  A little cramped for me but I can see it being popular with a lot of travelers.  Certainly it was memorable and therein lays an important lesson in advertising.

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

The Parana Delta and El Tigre, Argentina

03 El Tigre, Argentina 2014  (5)

El Tigre is situated an hour’s train ride from Buenos Aires, a trip that will cost you less than US$1 (departs from the Retiro station — linea Mitro).  You can also get there by taking a cab (more expensive but faster).  We enjoyed the slower train journey and were treated to an interesting assortment of vendors, panhandlers, and train performers all plying their business.  Trains sure are a great place to people watch.

We visited El Tigre as a day trip but I wished we’d stayed overnight so we could have explored the islands around it.  The region is green and lush and built astride a river which was flooded when we visited (the Parana River is prone to flooding).   El …

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“Pic of the Week”, March 11, 2017: Leaving Puenta Arenas, Chile

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Our terrestrial journey in Patagonia was near its end, but we were leaving for a memorable four day cruise through the labyrinth of fjords and waterways off the Chilean coast.  It was a journey we would never forget.

We departed the harbor at Puenta Arenas aboard the adventure ship, Stella Australis, and were accompanied by the Harbor Master.  The wonderful rainbow in the distance seemed a good omen of things to come.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, then right arrow to advance the slideshow)

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.All Trips / Argentina / Chile / South America

Patagonian Roadtrip: El Chalten to Torres Del Paine

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It’s hard for many people from the “Old World” to envision the vast people-less places of the Americas, especially the closer one travels to the poles.  It’s equally empty in northern North America (Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories) as it is in southern South America (Patagonia).

There are stretches of road in these remote areas regions where you might not encounter a petro station for hundreds of kilometers (don’t worry, signs will warn you in advance so you’d need to be a fool to run out of gas).  No towns, often not even a rancher, to be found as far as the eye can see.

When visiting Patagonia, we made a rather long drive from Argentinian Patagonia to Chilean Patagonia.  A …

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“Pic of the Week”, July 8, 2016: Guanacos, Patagonia

El Chalten 2014 (6c) Guanacos

I’d the impression guanacos were not that common an animal in South America.  Yes, they were there, but like the Andean Condor you’d have to be lucky to see one.  After visiting Argentina and Chile I learned this impression was totally wrong.  They’re as common as corn in the fields of Iowa on a summer day,   As common as mosquitoes on the Canadian tundra after the spring thaw.  They’re everywhere!  These guanacos were standing beside the road and didn’t move when our tour van stopped for these photos, unconcerned about our presence.

Guanacos are related to camels and between 1 and 1.2 meters (3 – 4 ft) tall  at the shoulder, weighing a surprising 90 kg (200 lb).   Their color is very bland compared to their cousins, …

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“Pic of the Week”, June 3, 2016: La Leona, Argentina

El Chalten 2014 (50d) La Leona

La Leona Rest Area and Countryside Hotel is 110 kilometers from El Calafate, on famous Patagonia Route 40, about half way between El Calafate and El Chaltén.  It’s an isolated place in an isolated region — the Patagonian steppe.  La Leona consists of a small collection of buildings sandwiched between the La Leona River and Route 40, and is close to Lake Viedma.  The main building was constructed in 1894 by the Jensens, a family of Danish immigrants.

It was at this spot that Francisco P. Moreno (Argentinian scientist, explorer and namesake of the famous glacier) had previously been attacked and wounded by a female cougar (known locally as a “lioness”).  Because of this incident the river that flows beside the …

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