Monday – December 17, 2007 –
We skipped breakfast for a long good sleep. We then checked out of the hotel around 8 a.m. and took a taxi to the Recoleta cemetery with our big backpacks. It is considered one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries and is like a city into itself. We walked around trying to find Eva Perón’s grave, but I lost Jeff for about 20 minutes. Honestly, I didn’t think I would find him with us both moving, but were relieved to find each other. We stuck together from that point and then shortly afterwards found the mausoleum of Evita, aka Eva Duarte. Apparently, her body was taken to Italy before brought back and is buried deep underground in a nuclear-proof shelter!
One of the most interesting things we saw was a funeral taking place. We heard a guide telling a group that even many very wealthy families cannot afford spaces here. Instead, they will rent a tomb for a few weeks before the body is removed to another cemetery. And for those families who do have plots, they sometimes remove older family to other cemeteries and put newer members in their place!
After several minutes of not being able to find a taxi, we finally found a crazy taxi driver around 11:45 a.m. This guy goes down as one of the scariest drivers I have ever ridden with. He was weaving in and out of traffic, cutting people off and laying on his horn, all while on his phone and doing some crazy hand gestures!
We arrived at Aeroparque Newbery, the domestic airport. The lines were absolutely ridiculous inside and outside the terminal. We didn’t think we would make our Aereolineas Argentina flight, but we did and still had time to eat some bife de lomo steaks for lunch in the food court. A shuttle bus took us to our plane on the tarmac. Inside, there were two really cute Argentine flight attendants who were dressed to the nines with their sexy dresses and blinging jewelry. When one young lady made it to the English portion of the safety announcement (which she was reading), I could swear she was not speaking English! Our flight left at 3 p.m. as we flew down the spine of South America.
We had to make a brief stop in Trelew, Chubut province to let passengers off and pick up a few others. Then it was on to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. The descent into Ushuaia was the most terrifying flight I have ever been on. The world’s southernmost city is surrounded by mountains on the Beagle Channel. Of course, it didn’t make things better that the weather there is notorious and we flying into strong winds and rain! The pilot made three loop descending lower each time. During the last descending loop, he banked it hard, when a huge gust of wind dropped the plane many feet. You could see people in their seats hop underneath their seatbelts and several people screamed as we gasped. We were only a few hundred feet above the water as the pilot level off on the final approach. The plane shook from side to side as the pilot brought us in for a smooth landing around 5:45 p.m. Everyone on board gave him a standing ovation. It was a great piece of flying.
After waiting forever on our luggage and going through agricultural screening (we explained we didn’t have any farm products), we grabbed a taxi into the city. It was amazing how cold it was outside … probably around low 40s compared to 90s in BA. The taxi took us down a causeway connecting the airport located on a spit to the heart of town.
After checking in at our hotel, the Villa Brescia, Jeff and I went out to dinner at a steak restaurant in town. Ordering a steak in Argentina is one of life’s great pleasures because Argentine (along with Brazilian beef) is arguably the best in the world. The cattle graze on the world’s best grasses on the pampas giving the beef a unique texture compared to American cattle, which are fed corn. Choosing your cut of beef is confounding – there are just so many choices! At most steak restaurants a diagram of cow will be presented on the table. The patron must decided among more than 100 different cuts of the cow! I think my favorite though is bife de lomo, which was highly recommended by the restaurant.
That evening Jeff and I walked down to the waterfront and saw the port where 90 percent of all ships leave for Antarctica – about 700 miles south. We decided one day we would have to do one of those trips when we saved up enough money. Then we walked through a waterfront park dedicated to Argentine sailors who died in the Falklands War, know as the Guerra de las Malvinas in Argentina. A monument with a cutout of the islands stood underneath a huge Argentine flag whipping around briskly in the strong winds. We watched the sun set around 10:30 p.m. there on the Canal Beagle, which has long days this time of year at this latitude in the southernmost city in the world. A sign declared “las Malvinas son Nuestras,” reminding visitors from the UK that Argentina still claims the islands. Many of the sailors and soldiers from Argentina departed from Ushuaia on their way to the Falklands.
That evening we went to bed early for our first long-night sleep in Argentina.