chiapas photo tour

San Cristóbal de las Casas

We just returned from one of our favorite places in Mexico, San Cristóbal de las Casas in the beautiful mountains of Chiapas. This will be More »

riviera maya wedding photographer

Best Wedding Photographers Riviera Maya

  Here is the thousand(s) dollar question that brides who demand quality are asking: “Who is the best wedding photographer in the Riviera Maya?” The More »

Fes, Morocco

We wanted to go to Morocco for three reasons: architecture, art and food. We didn’t expect more and we weren’t disappointed. But, first, you gotta More »

Beautiful and Edible Spain

We were looking forward to our time in Spain for two reasons: the food and the architecture. Let’s face it, those two things are the More »

Italy in the Summer

All of my previous trips to Italy have been in the off-season, usually April or October. I love that time of year since there are More »

Category Archives: South America

Uros Islands Lake Titicaca

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a series of stories from our work and travel in South America December 2009 through February 2010. Every effort has been made to provide updated information.

 

After an amazing month of visiting Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, it was time for us to head south toward Bolivia. Luckily, our route would take us by scenic Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titcaca sits on the Peru/Bolivia border and is the world’s highest navigable lake for commercial traffic. At, 12,500′ the climate is cold and dry, and living conditions are challenging. Indigenous people inhabit several islands worth visiting in the lake. One of the more interesting sites is the floating islands of Uros.

 

They are called the floating islands, because they are actually floating islands, built from reeds cut from the shallow areas of the lake. The reeds are piled high enough that they float, with the downside being that they become waterlogged and need to have more reeds piled on. Walking on the island feels like walking on a large water bed.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Toward the end of our work and travel in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina we had a week or two to decide where to visit from our Buenos Aires base. Pantanal? Estancias? Uruguay or Montevideo? How about one of the natural wonders of the world, Iguazu Falls?

Iguazu isn’t exactly next door to Buenos Aires. Only Patagonia would be further out of the neighborhood. Which meant airfare there would be expensive (foreigners pay a higher rate for domestic airfare than Argentines). But, we discovered we could take our favorite mode of travel to Iguazu – the cama bus. We could buy a first-class bus ticket which included seats that folded nearly flat into a bed; sparkling wine and proscuitto for starters, and malbec and beef for dinner. A traveler can read or watch one of a couple of movies on the private screen at each seat and arrive in the morning. The cost was around $180 USD round trip compared to $350 USD round trip airfare. Today the costs are $310 USD bus RT and $464 USD airfare RT.

Lots of colorful creatures in the humid climate.

Iguazu Falls are on the Iguazu River which forms the border between Argentina and Brazil. It is considered one of the premiere parks in South America, both for the natural beauty and the impressive, natural infrastructure the Argentine government has installed. The falls span a linear distance of nearly 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) with the river broken up by islands on the fall’s edges. Sturdy, metal platforms reach between the islands, taking visitors to the most impressive falls.

Approaching the Devil’s Throat

Most of the river pours through a narrow horseshoe-shaped area called the Devils Throat (garganta del diablo), which is 82 meters high and 700 meters long. The sound and the spray are impressive. I forgot my umbrella.

HoPe Foundation in Cusco Peru

From a humble soup kitchen started by a couple from the Netherlands in 1991 in Cusco, Peru, the HoPe Foundation (Stichting HoPe in Dutch) has grown into one of the most sustainable, efficient NGOs (non-governmental agency) I have ever seen.

A few years ago, while Jennifer and I were working on photo projects in Peru, we learned of a foundation that built schools and helped start community projects among the Quechua people of the Peruvian Andes. Descendants of the Inca, they live above 12,000 feet (3,000 meters) where only they, llamas and potatoes thrive. Walter and his original partner saw the need for schools for the mountain-dwelling Quechua, who often migrated to Cusco looking for work. With no skills and no education, they eventually lived in slums, begging for a living or posing for pictures for tourists (nearly the same thing).

From the start in 1997, the foundation insisted that each village take part in their school’s construction, doing most of the labor. The foundation would pay for the materials, then the teacher’s salaries for one year and then the village was responsible for their salaries. The demand for the solid, efficient buildings was overwhelming. Today, they have built more than 150 schools. The curriculum includes history, math, science and current events. More importantly, the classes are taught in the native language and in Spanish. A little English is thrown in to broaden the student’s learning experience.

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni

EDITORS NOTE: As we spend most of the summer working at home on Cozumel, we are publishing a series of stories from our travels through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina in 2009 and 2010. Enjoy!

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. January 7, 2010

As the bus negotiated the switchbacks down the mountain, the wide valley of Uyuni and the salt flats spread out before us. At least it did on paper, since the current dust storm blowing through the valley obscured what probably was a fine view.

The highway into town was lined with wire fences and scrub brush adorned with hundreds of plastic bags, setting the stage for the grim town of Uyuni. Other than being annoyed by the howling wind, and hoping it would stop or calm down, we weren’t fazed by the ugliness of Uyuni, because we were here for a four-day trip through the magnificent Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest and highest salt flats.

Our arrival during the first week of January was perfect. It was during the rainy season and the vast salt flats had been turned into a vast lake with a surreal mirror effect.

After a night in a basic guest house, we met our driver, Fredi, and his wife, our cook for the next four days. We had chosen Licancabur Tours, primarily because none of the online forums dissed them, a few praised them, and they gave us a good price for a one-way trip to Tapiza. They also seemed to understand that the trip was about the photo opportunities, just not seeing the requisite sites, and would be our jumping off point for Argentina.

Argentina Wine Country

Although the headlines have barely changed since I first visited Argentina in 2005, Argentina is hot!

Great food!

Lunch at Postales Argentina

Great wine!

Malbec at Finca Adalgisa

Amazing scenery!     Wine Country!

Vineyards around Estancia Colomé

Here are a few ideas for visiting the wine country. It’s not just Mendoza, which gets most of the press. There is also Cafayate in the north, which is where a lot of Argentina’s popular white wine grape, Torrontes, is grown.

It is also near the home of one of the more amazing wineries and hotels you might ever visit, Bodega and Estancia Colomé. Way off the beaten track and equally off the grid, Colomé is owned by the Hess Group which also owns Hess Collection in Napa and Peter Lehman in Australia. It is a sustainable resort, vineyard and winery, that produces its own power and food and is at the forefront of biodynamic agriculture. The vegetables, rabbit and the pork on the menu are grown on the property or by locals in the small community.

It seems that there are as many places to stay in the Mendoza area as in Buenos Aires. One of our favorites is Finca Adalgisa. A small boutique hotel with a small boutique winery that was started by Italian immigrants.

Finca Adalgisa

Another wonderful place, set in the vineyards with the Andes looming to the west is Postales Argentina. I realize that we have put up two pool shots, but it was 104 degrees F when we were there. Hope you understand.

Postales Argentina

Tell them we sent you!

Going to Argentina?

I realize that most of us in the Northern Hemisphere plan a trip to South America during our winter and their summer. But, for those of you who like to avoid the crowds, or who are planning to ski the Andes, we wanted to throw a couple of hotel choices your way.

Maybe winter would be a good time to visit Buenos Aires for those tango lessons you promised yourself?

In this amazing city, you have so many places in all budget ranges. Then, you have to make the hard choice of neighborhoods: San Telmo, Puerto Madero, Recoleta, Palermo, Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Viejo, Palermo . . . . . . OK, that’s enough of the hip Palermo sub-neighborhood choices.

But, one of our favorites was in Palermo Hollywood. You’ll truly feel at home at The Home Hotel. A little bit hip, a little bit retro, but all class.

The rooms are stylish, to be sure, and you can have basic, or you can go waaaaaaayyyyy upscale. Like a two-floor suite, with your own private sundeck for tanning your naughty bits and a private pool that is one roll and a bounce away from your bed.

There are great restaurants in the neighborhood, but you’ll be happy with the included breakfast and might find it hard to leave at all, since the restaurant and bar do everything well.

Tell them we sent you!
http://www.homebuenosaires.com/