OUR SOUTH AMERICAN ADVENTURE
After spending most of our lives in the continent of North America, we decided that it was time to explore the land that is occupied by our South American neighbors, so on Thursday, January 29th, we flew from Tampa down to Miami and from there, down to Santiago, Chile, where we spent three days touring this lovely and very interesting city both on foot and by bus before our long and final bus ride to the pier where our cruise ship, the Celebrity Infinity, was docked, awaiting our arrival for the beginning of our two week cruise down and around this fascinating continent.
We arrived two days later at Puerto Montt, where we enjoyed a most enjoyable half-day tour of this very interesting city, which is the capital of the Lake District, where we saw colorful shingled houses, the neo-classical cathedral in the Plaza de Armas and the picturesque Angelmo Fishing Wharf, followed by lush countryside to Puerto Varas overlooking Lake Llanquihue, Chile's largest lake.
Not far from Puerto Montt and near Chiloe, we entered the Chilean Fjords, which are among the world's most beautiful, offering mountain cliffs that soar out of the darkness and touch the blue sky above. In addition, we saw beautiful glacial valleys.
On the following day, we cruised the Strait of Magellan, which is located north of Cape Horn and is 2 1/2 to fifteen miles wide, separating Tierra del Fuego from the South American mainland and first discovered by the Portugese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in 1520.
Our next port of call was Ushuaia, described as the end of the world, as it is the southernmost point of South America and located in the Tierra del Fuego (Land of the Fire) on the shore of the Beagle Channel surrounded by the Martial Mounts. It is the capital of the Province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands, which belong to Argentina. While there, we enjoyed a lengthy catamaran cruise which allowed us to admire the stunning landscapes and natural wonders that surround the town and the great panoramic views of this southernmost town and its dramatic setting, with jagged mountain peaks as a backdrop and took us into the waterways of the Beagle Channel past the Isla de los Pajaros (Bird Island) where many species of birds congregate, including a large colony of cormorants. Farther along we cruised around the Isla de los Lobos (Sea Wolves Island), where we encountered a large number of seals and sea lions which were enjoyable to watch as they interacted with one another on their rocky home. On our way back to Ushuaia we cruised past the Faro del Fin del Mundo (the Light House at the End of the World), enjoying once more the town's beautiful setting.
Following this, we returned to the ship for lunch, then resumed our tour which took us up to the mountains where we enjoyed an exciting chairlift ride up to the breathtaking Martial Glacier from the town of Ushuaia.
The following day found us in Punta Arenas, the southernmost city on the planet Earth and overlooking the Straits of Magellan. With more than 110,000 people, this is the oldest and largest city in Patagonia. While there we enjoyed a half-day excursion. En route to Rio Verde, we visited Palomares Hill, a nesting area of condors and eagles. Located 56 miles from Punta Arenas, the farming settlement of Rio Verde contains pristine beauty, mountains and valleys and abundant vegetation harboring diverse fauna.
The following day presented us with the highlight of our entire cruise: rounding Cape Horn. In anticipation of this event, we were prepared for the roughest of seas and highest of winds, but neither of these greeted us as we sailed around the Cape, which extends into Drake Passage, the Antarctic strait that connects the South Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans.
Our next port of call was Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, where we boarded a minibus which took us to the top of a hill for a panoramic view of this capital city, which located in the South Atlantic Ocean, is a British dependent territory, where English is the official language. With a population of approximately 1,750, it is the smallest and most remote capital city in the world, is built on a north-facing slope to catch the sun throughout the year and looks across Stanley harbor with its wealth of sea birds and shipping.
On Day 10 of our cruise, we reached Argentina, which is a federal republic located in the southern part of South America and occupies most of the southern area of South America. Because the country also includes the Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands, Argentina claims a total of more than one million square miles of space.
Our next Argentinean port of call was Puerto Madryn, located in the northwest region of Argentina in the Chubut Province. As part of the Valdez Peninsula, resting on the shore of the Golfo Nuevo Bay, Puerto Madryn is a town founded in 1865 by the first Welsh landing, which included 150 people on the "Mimosa", and has a population of approximately 50,000. While here we enjoyed the "Patagonia Adventure", where we traveled through the residential area of Puerto Madryn to the Ecocenter and learned of the fauna of the region, then continued towards Punta Loma Natural Reserve, where we had the opportunity to see the sea lion sanctuary. Our tour continued to Estancia San Guillermo, a ranch where we learned of the region's flora during a rough and rocky hike on foot up and down hills and through valleys that bordered the ranch, then enjoyed a typical Argentine barbecue lunch and witnessed a sheep-sheering demonstration.
Following a relaxing day at sea, our ship dropped anchor at Montevideo, Uruguay, where we enjoyed a comprehensive overview of Montevideo's monuments, parks and gardens. Highlights included the Old City, Constitution Square, Cathedral and Colonial Town Hall, Solis Theatre and Independence Square, at the center of which stands a monument dedicated to national hero, Jose Gervasio Artigas, and his Mausoleum. We also viewed the Government House and the Congress Building, drove through the Prado neighborhood, one of the oldest parks in the city that hosts the famous sculpture La Diligencia, Monument to the last Charruas Indians, and the Rose Garden. We then drove through the Battle y Ordonez area, passing by the Obelisk, La Carreta (Covered Wagon) Monument and the Soccer Stadium, thereafter making a brief stop at Plaza Virgilio with the monument dedicated to the Fallen Soldiers of the Navy and an impressive view of the city. The return drive to the port was along the coast and its many beaches.
Our final and most anticipated port of call was Buenos Aires (fair winds), which is the capital and largest city in Argentina. This city is open and spacious with an abundance of parkland and elegant shops. We spent two days here and enjoyed a comprehensive tour of this fascinating city, often referred to as "The Paris of South America", which included a drive down one of the widest boulevards in the world, past the Obelisk commemorating 400 years of history, and a stop at the Plaza de Mayo bordered by the Casa Rosada, the Metropolitan Cathedral with the mausoleum of San Martin, and the Cabildo, the colonial town hall. Our tour also included a drive to Caminito in colorful La Boca where the first Italian immigrants settled in 1751. We also made a stop at Recoleta, the city's aristocratic cemetery, where we visited Evita Peron's tomb, and enjoyed a visit to an "estancia" "asado", where local musicians entertained us with traditional music and some beautiful tango dancing while we enjoyed our meal. Later the famous Gauchos from the huge ranches in the Pampa region demonstrated their athletic skills and horsemanship.
This tour ended at the international airport from where we flew back to Miami, then to Tampa for our ride home, complete with happy memories and valuable souvenirs from one of the most delightful journeys we have ever had the pleasure of sharing with our friends and acquaintances, both near and far.
By: Dena and Ellis Meyers