“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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.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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Patagonian Roadtrip: El Chalten to Torres Del Paine

01-El-Chalten

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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Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 5) Viedma Glacier, Argentina

Viedma Glacier, El Chaltan 066

Situated close to the small Argentinean town of El Chalten is Lake Viedma, a large glacial lake.  You can take a boat tour to visit the largest glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the Viedma Glacier, from a dock on the northwestern shore of the lake, near El Chalten (which you can reach by bus from town).

The following overview photo, courtesy of NASA, will help orient you a little better.  Viedma Lake is obvious, as is the Patagonian Icefield.  The Viedma Glacier is at 12 o’clock in this photo (actually direction is west).  The boat launch is in the little thumb at the top right of the lake at about one o’clock.  El Chalten is in a non-snow …

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Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 4) El Chalten, Argentina

22 El Chalten 2014 (186)

Our next stop in Patagonia is the small town of El Chaltén in Argentina.  This town rests in the rain shadow of the massive spires of the Patagonian Andes and is a dry, windy and cool place.

The region around El Chaltén is part of Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is very remote.  It is usually reached by taking the bus or driving from El Calafate some 220 km to the south, El Calafate itself a remote town which we’ve previously discussed here.

The town resides in a glaciated valley adjoining the Rio de las Vueltas. The most dramatic aspect of El Chaltén is the beautiful mountains that frame it to the west, including the amazingly steep and narrow spire …

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The Church of our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta, Argentina

Buenos Aires Recoleta Cemeteryand Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar tower  080

The historic and beautiful cathedral, Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar (The Church of Our Lady of Pilar), is situated in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Recoleta.  The church adjoins the famous Recoleta cemetery, which we’ve previously visited on this website.

Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Buenos Aires’ Colonial architecture.  It’s the city’s second oldest church and has retained its original altarpiece and icons.   The church is named in honor of the patron saint of the city of Zaragoza in Spain, and was completed in 1732.  Its original architect was a Jesuit, Andres Bianchi, and was built in conjunction with a convent of Franciscans.

Altarpiece, The Church of Our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta

Altarpiece, The Church of Our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta

The monks of Recoletos were expelled from …

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