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Cafayate - Quebrada de las Flechas - Colomé

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We wake to a glorious sunrise over the vines, with mist hanging above the mountains in the distance.


San Carlos

Passing through this small town, we stop for a while to watch the folk dancing in the main square.


Quebrada de las Flechas - Arrow's Gorge

Bridge over Calchaqui River

Much as I love getting out into the wilderness, there is one major problem with dirt tracks: dust! Every time we pass a car, a whole cloud of dirt particles rises from the road.


The valley is spectacular, with some impressive jagged mountains (looking like arrows, hence the name of the gorge) and other rock formations protruding up to 50 metres above the Calachaqui Valley floor. I get very carried away with my drive-by-shooting this morning (photographing from a moving car).


Santa Rosa Cemetery

While David and I take photos, videos, and send up the drone, Gastón pours himself a cup of coca tea.




Note the empty champagne bottles


El Vendisquero – Windy Place

Also known as Arrow's Cut, the road cuts between two high, sharp rocks here.


I send up the drone, and after a few shots from various angles, I have a go at videoing as I fly it at low level through the cut in the mountain ridge.


David climbs the hill while I fly the drone


As the drone approaches the gap and starts to go through, the battery warning light on the controller starts flashing, with a message suggesting that I should bring the drone back to base.

I try to retrieve the drone, but it is no longer talking to me. I am beginning to panic a little at this stage, as the drone is still quite some distance away from me. Guessing that the rocks are preventing transmission, Gastón takes the controller from me to walk down to a place that has better reception. Yet again that guy impresses me, he has experience of flying that particular drone. Is there anything that man cannot do or doesn't know?

The route offers more stunning scenery with dust and desert giving way to more greenery the nearer we get to Molinos.


Rock formations known as The Towers

A good view of Cache Ice Fields in the distance

Hacienda de Molinos

Off the small square in the town of Molinos, we stop for lunch in the home of the Esas Mendi family, which was once the residence of the last Royal Spanish governor. It has since been restored, and is now a popular place to meet friends for a meal. We arrive just as they are starting to serve lunch, and are the first people there, but the courtyard soon fills up.


David and I enjoy some empanadas, whereas Gastón orders Huevos Hacienda.


Estancia Colomé

It is just a short distance from Molinos to our overnight accommodation at a winery.

We soon leave Route 40, the main road we have been following all day today, (one of the longest and most famous roads in Argentina), and enter a rough dirt track meandering amongst rocky outcrops. The track leads to some impressive iron gates, which open magically as we approach. By the time we arrive at the Estancia itself, a smartly uniformed staff member smilingly greets us, extending her hand, introducing herself, and welcoming us. It feels very special.

The ranch is set in sprawling semi-desert grounds, surrounded by vineyards with distant mountains beyond.



Our room is located off the central courtyard


Our private balcony with beautiful views.



Bodega Colomé

The winery attached to the hotel offers wine tastings to the public twice a day, whereas the last time slot in the afternoon is reserved for residents only (there are just nine rooms). Yet again we see evidence of Gastón’s incredible kindness, as he changes his accommodation to a room nearby so that he can drive me from the accommodation to the winery.


The first wine, a white Torrontes, is dangerously easy to drink, fruity with undertones of peaches and pineapples – a little like biting into a grape. The alcohol soon hits me, though.

Malbec, our second tasting, is the main wine produced here at Colomé. The wine has an aroma of raisins, and is super-dry. This is one of those altitude blends, with grapes from 1,200, 2200, 2600, and 3111 metres above sea level.

Also a Malbec, the next wine is from a later harvest, with a much moire mature taste. It has not been stored in oak, and is incredibly smooth. I like it very much.

Lastly, we taste another altitude blend (2600, 2300 m), which has been stored in oak for 18 months. This one is much stronger, to the point of biting my tongue.


James Turrell Museum

Donald Hess, the owner of the estancia and bodega here at Colomé is an avid art collector, and amongst his collection is a museum dedicated solely to James Turrell.

This is not a traditional museum, as there are no exhibits, all the artwork is created solely with light. James Turrell is an American artist known for his work within the Light and Space movement. He has a fascinating history, including buying a cinder cone crater in Arizona with the plan to turn it into a massive naked-eye observatory. I won’t bore you with all his details here, but look him up if you are interested in alternative art.

Photography is strictly prohibited inside the museum, as are any bags, and shoes must be removed and replaced with provided cloth covers. You can get an idea of the sort of work he produces from the screen print of Google images below.


The museum is almost impossible to describe without being there. I had read numerous articles about him beforehand, but still am not prepared for the reality. Some of the rooms have light projected in such a way that there appears to be objects within the room, whereas it is just shadows cast from the light. A long corridor with changing coloured lights and no discernable corners, removes your sense of distance as you are looking around. Is that wall 2 metres away, or ten? I can’t tell. The only way I can describe it is to imagine a pitch black room where you can see no details, except this room is white, or green, or purple…

Another room features cascading steps leading up to a wall. Except the wall is two metres away, not at the top of steps. All sense of distance, space and orientation is removed in these rooms, it is most disorientating. There is also a completely dark room, which I don’t find as interesting as the others.

At the end, an installation called Sky Space consists of a colonnaded courtyard with a square in the centre of the roof open to the element, giving a view to the dark sky above. As the light on the pillars holding up the ceiling changes colour, an optical illusion means that so does the colour of the sky. It is curious, mysterious, and totally outlandish. Here visitors are encouraged to lie on cushions on the floor and look straight up. With my back, this is not recommended, so I sit on one of the long benches along the side of the room. This whole display lasts around 45 minutes, which I feel is too long. After about 20 minutes, those people on the floor start getting uncomfortable, and many get up to walk about. One person falls asleep, and even starts snoring.

All in all the experience is pretty mind blowing, and my head is buzzing when I exit into the real world, where Gastón is waiting to drive us back to the hotel.


As soon as we return to the estancia, we are invited for a welcome drink in the Gaucho Room where we are offered a glass of wine and some toast with escabeche.



The waitress explains that the wine gets its dark colour because the local grape develops extra thick skin to protect itself against the higher UV light here at this altitude.

We both have the same starter: warm beans, aromatic herbs, and potato salad

For the main course, I choose onion soup with croutons and cheese


David is not yet feeling the need to eat something other than steak, so he has the tenderloin with Malbec wine sauce and seasonal vegetables


My dessert: fruity pavlova with mango ice cream


David has a homemade flan with dulce de leche


Our wine of choice this evening is a 'special' from their own winery


It's been a full and fascinating day, and our bed is calling. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for yet more amazing experiences.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:37 Archived in Argentina Tagged road_trip museum argentina winery south_america vinyards cafayate empanadas wine_tasting san_carlos molinos drone undiscovered_destinations quebrada_de_las_fleches arrows_gorge santa_rosa_cemetery el_vendisquero windy_place hacienda_de_molinos estancia_colomé colomé bodega_colomé james_turrell Comments (3)

Cafayate Wine Tasting

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I did not have a good night last night – every time I laid down, I felt like I was drowning in mucus, and I was up a couple of times with an upset tummy.

We are having an easy day today, so after a really good breakfast, I return to bed for another snooze.

Strike Action

At 11:30, Gastón picks us up to visit a winery for a degustation. It should be a quick and easy journey, but the local teachers are on strike and holding a demonstration, blocking the road and burning tyres for attention. We see the smoke long before we realise what it is – our initial thoughts are that it is from an accident.
There is a long, long queue in both directions, and a bus trying to get through this way. We see many people walking towards us, carrying luggage. Others order a taxi to meet them on this side of the protesters.


Gastón turns the car around and heads up a small side street, hoping to find it meets up with the main road on the other side. It does. We're on our way again, and will only be slightly late for our appointment. He has already phoned ahead to warn them.

Burbujas de Alture Bødega


We are met by Tanya, the daughter of the owner of the vineyard, and first of all, she takes us down to the plantation, explaining about the varieties they grow (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Torrontes), when they are pruned (in June and July), and the time they are ready for harvesting (usually between January and April.


They also grow some varieties of grapes for eating, which they sell at the local market. The grapes for eating are harvested by hand, whereas those that are destined for bottles, are collected using machinery.

Workers heading off

Later we visit inside the bottling plant, where Tanya explains to us about the fermentation process, and how the bottles are stored upside down so that the sediment collects in the neck of the bottle.

You can clearly see the sediment in this bottle

The bottles are given a quarter turn each day, and after 3-4 weeks, they cool the very top of the bottle to freeze the sediment, which then drops like a stone when the bottle is opened (and immediately turned up the correct way, of course, to avoid any of the precious liquid to escape).

The A-frame holds the bottles to be turned

Bottles in storage

The cork going in

A couple of their finished products

Wine Tasting & Lunch

Lunch is included in the tour today, and is served at the winery, along with the opportunity of sampling the produce, of course.


Starter: quinoa and tomato from their own farm, cooked with sparkling wine.


To accompany this, we have a choice of white or pink Torrontes from the Tinquiao range, which means 'tipsy' in Spanish. We try both, of course.


The main course is beef cooked for several hours in a rich Malbec sauce, served with onions and different types of Andean potatoes. There is also a homemade mango chutney on the side. Two different reds are available to try with this, a Cabernet and a Malbec.


Just as we have finished the main course, the chef comes running out with a mobile phone and heads for me. “Phone call for you” she says. For me? I expect it is Gastón letting us know there is another roadblock and that he is going to be late picking us up. “Hello Grete, I just wanted to welcome you to our vineyard and home,” says the deep male voice on the other end of the phone. In perfect Norwegian. I am flabbergasted, and taken very much by surprise, especially as he sounds just like my late uncle Harald. It is a while since I last conversed in my mother tongue, but Andrew Høy, the owner of the wineries we are visiting, is easy to get on with. Apparently, his father came over from Norway and settled here, and Andrew learned to speak the language as a child. I guess the ø in the name of the bodega should have given me a little inkling.

For dessert, we are served a barbarois made with sparkling wine with marmalade from mature grapes. The last tasting is their sparkling wine.


We buy a bottle of sparkling wine as a gift for Gastón to take home to his wife.

After this marathon eating and drinking session, we spend the rest of the afternoon chilling in the hotel.

Bad Brothers

Gastón has been very good at finding interesting places for us to eat on this trip, and this evening is no exception. The restaurant, with its curious name, is very popular this evening, and only has one table left, which is in a private room off the main outdoor courtyard. The room has a table large enough for eight, and is used for storing bottles of wine and vats of beer.

I choose a dish called Extreme Altitude Blue Potato Gnocchi, which is creamy and tasty (and makes a welcome change from beef), while David goes for a burger. Unfortunately, I forget all about taking photos this evening, until we get to the dessert – a chocolate mousse with berries and marshmallows.


And so a day of eating and drinking has come to an end. I love how varied the itinerary has been on this trip, and it is not over yet. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for organising this.


Posted by Grete Howard 15:03 Archived in Argentina Tagged grapes farm argentina wine lunch winery south_america demonstration farming vinyards quinoa cafayate strike adventure_travel wine_tasting cabernet torrontes malbec phone_call wine_tour undiscovered_destinations strike_action burbujas_de_alture_bødega wine_producers high_altitude_wine wine_degustation bottling_plant sediment wine_flight home_made_food sparkling_wine bad_brothers Comments (5)

Salta - Quebrada de la Conchas - Cafayate

A spectacular day

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Last night was the first decent night's sleep I have had since falling ill. The hotel has a pretty good breakfast buffet, but I am somewhat surprised that the cakes, butter, jam etc are all behind the counter and we have to ask for them. I guess people have been taking them to make packed lunches (something I strongly disapprove of).

We are now back on the last few days of the original itinerary but in reverse order. We drive out of Salta on a smooth tarmacked road with beautiful yellow flowers on either side. The flowers, while they are really pretty and brighten the countryside, are apparently a much-hated weed. Known as Cuban Grass, it came over with imported coffee and now has become an invasive species that they are unable to get rid of.


While it is nice to be driving on a smooth surface with no dust, I do miss the wilderness, the remoteness, and the sense of adventure.

This gaucho seems to have swapped his horse for a motorbike.


Parador Postas de la Cabras

We stop to use the toilets and have a cup of coffee, while Gastón treats David to a slice of apple cake. This place is well known for its delicious homemade cakes.



Gaucho Gil

During the 19th century, Gauchos were not just 'mere cowboys', they were heavily involved in fighting in the war for independence from the Spanish.

Antonio Gil was one of those soldiers, and very much a local hero. He's a Robin Hood-like character who’s said to have stolen from the rich and given the spoils to the poor — and is also said to have performed healing miracles.

All along the road, we see several shrines dedicated to Gil, recognised by their red flags and various offerings.


Quebrada de la Conchas (The Gorge of Shells)

Today is a day of scenic drives with spectacular views. The area has revealed a number of fossilised shells, fish, and other palaeontological findings from the Cretaceous period, proving that this area was once under the sea.

The 75 km long canyon contains incredible geographical formations created by tectonic shifts, volcanic activity, erosion, and earthquakes over millions of years. It is said to be one of the most iconic drives in Argentina, and Gastón stops the car at every viewpoint for me to take pictures. Where there is nowhere for Gastöon to pull in, I engage in frequent drive-by-shootings (taking pictures through the window of the moving car). The scenery is beyond spectacular, so I make no apologies for the number of photos of the incredible rock formations, with a selection of the various named sites.





Amphitheatre - El Anfiteatro
It's an easy walk into the depths of the narrow gorge, in which I feel like I am part of an Indiana Jones film (if it wasn't for all the other people here). It is certainly impressive, and the acoustics are great.




We even have a chance to send up the drone.



Three Crosses – Tres Cruces
There is a hill with three crosses on it that you can climb, but we both decline and take photos of the view instead.


The Toad – El Sapo
This one is fairly obvious from this angle.


The Friar - El Fraile
This one requires a little bit of imagination in order to see a friar dressed in his robes.


Gypsom Pit - La Yesera
Multicolored layers of deposits from 100 to 66 million years ago.


The Obelisk - El Obelisco
While it is known as The Obelisk, we agree with Gastón that this 26m high rock formation, made up of sedimentary layers of sandstone and clay, looks more like a Toblerone. I now want chocolate!


The Windows - Las Ventanas
Holes in the side of the mountain shaped like a window give this rock formation its name.



The Castles - Los Castillos
Erosion has carved impressive columns and towers, giving the impression of a giant rock castle.


Brea, an evergreen tree that is unusual in that it its trunk and branches are green, which is said to help with photosynthesis.

La Carreta de Don Olegario

Once we reach Cafayate, we stop for lunch in a restaurant that seems to be overrun with unruly children running amok, standing on chairs, banging tables, and throwing things on the floor. The food isn't all that brilliant either, the chicken with ham and cheese is not a patch on the one Gastón had the other day.


Wine Resort, Cafayate

We check into the lovely lodge where we have a room with a patio overlooking the Amalaya vineyard.


The accommodation is set around a central courtyard and features colonial-style single-story buildings in a beautiful setting




The complimentary starter is some sort of confit beef on a bruschetta.


I order a filet steak - I have been looking forward to a good Argentinian steak, and this one does not disappoint. I know it will be enormous when I see the large solid steak knife.


This is not a steak, this is half a cow! Look at that slab of meat!


In many places, when I order my steak rare, it still comes as medium-well done, but the chef here has cooked it just how I like it.


I make a brave attempt, but the cow has me beat!


David, who is still not feeling at all well tonight after last night's sickness and diarrheoa, and initially doesn't want to come to dinner as he has no appetite, chooses teriyaki salmon as it seems to be the lightest dish on the menu, and he enjoys it more than he thought he would.


When we ordered the wine – from the local Amalaya vineyard, of course – we didn't realise that we had picked a rosé wine. I am pleasantly surprised at how well it actually goes with a hearty steak. It is light, fruity, and tasty.


As I make notes of the dishes and photograph my food, the waiter asks if I am writing a blog. “In Spanish?” he asks, hopefully. He seems surprised when I tell him that it will be in English only. Perhaps this is why I was given a Spanish menu this evening and David got one in English?

Neither of us has room for puddings, unfortunately, so we stroll back to the room for an early night. My steroids have finished now, so hopefully the bleeding will too (I have been suffering from postmenstrual bleeding ever since starting the steroids, something that is apparently a known side effect).

Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for yet another day on this amazing trip.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:18 Archived in Argentina Tagged canyon cake lodge argentina wine salta winery obelisk vinyards toad cafayate amphitheatre toblerone private_tour drone bruschetta undiscovered_destinations apple_cake bespoke_tour cabrada_de_la_conchas parador_postas_de-la-cabras goucho_gil gouchos antonio_gil scenic_drive guachipas viewpoints drone_shots three_crosses tres_cruces the_toad el-sapo la-yesera the_window the_castle la_carreta_de_don_olegario wine_resort amalaya amalaya_wines fillet_steak rare_steak Comments (2)

Exploring Salta

Urban civilisation - we're not used to it.

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Today is dedicated to exploring Salta and its surroundings.

St Bernard Hill

We start at the top of one of the surrounding hills for a fantastic view over the city. The viewpoint can be reached by cable or road, and we drove up – with Gastón as the driver, of course.



There is still a fair amount of morning mist hanging around, so we take a coffee while we wait for the clouds to clear.


And they do, revealing Salta in all its glory below. After so many days in the wilderness, it seems strange to see such a built-up area.


It's got to be done, right? Another Instragrammable sign.

It's a hard life being a dog

Yep, the time is correct!

We return to the lower part of Salta to take in some of the main sights of the city.

Monument to Martín Miguel de Güemes

Considered a national hero, he was a military leader who defended northwestern Argentina from the Spanish royalist army during the Argentine War of Independence. He died in 1821.

Salta Cathedral

This beautiful Neo-Colonial building was finished in 1882, and has a rectangular plan with three naves, as well as an amazing Carrera Marble Floor with a fascinating 3D-effect pattern that plays havoc with your eyes.



As there is a service this morning, I am not permitted to take photos inside the church.

Archbishop's Palace

Next door is the Archbishop's Palace


Gastón leads us on a walking tour of the main sights in the city – something I would not have had the energy to do just a couple of days ago, so hopefully the antibiotics are working their magic. It feels good to be able to move a little again without being totally out of breath.



Town Hall

San Francisco Church

Doria Salta

Salta is Gastón's home city, and he takes us to a traditional restaurant he knows well, for lunch.


The place has a real gaucho feel, with exposed brickwork on the walls, and lots of leather (including on the staff clothing). When we arrive, the place is empty, but by the time we leave, it has completely filled out.

As usual, we let Gastóon choose for us, or at least suggest what would be the best option for some traditional local food.

A selection of empanadas: chicken, beef, cheese, jerky


Tamale: corn pastry with beef, eggs, potatoes, and vegetables.



Chill time

We go back to the room and chill for the rest of the day. This afternoon it is David's turn to not feel well, with a nasty bout of sickness and diarrhea - he was feeling nauseous before the lunch stop, so it is unlikely to be the food we ate then. he spends most of the rest of the day in bed.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing trip, and also re-arranging the itinerary after I became ill with a chest infection.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:13 Archived in Argentina Tagged monument church argentina salta cable_car walking_tour sundial town_hall empanadas tamale catholicism sun_dial undiscovered_destinations chill_time st_bernard_hill monument_to_martin_miguel_de_gu martin_guemes salta_cathedral catholic_cathedral carrera_marble church_service san_francisco_church doria_salta Comments (2)

Tilcara - Purmamarca - Salta

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Today we are mostly just transferring to Salta, but there are a few things to see along the way.

Maimará Town Cemetery

An unusual necropolis, spreading up a hillside, the cemetery here is famous for a festival in July every year, to commemorate the celebration in honour of Saint Anne. All kinds of food and objects are presented there at that time.


Hill of Seven Colours

Not a patch on the view at Hornocal yesterday, this colourful hillside is nevertheless pretty – and it is very much more accessible, as we can just pull in off the main road to view it.


There is a big, colourful sign here (Jujuy is the name of the district), for people to take their selfies for their Instagram stories (I love how the description for a picturesque place has now been changed to 'Instragrammable').


How the hills came to have such bright colours
Legend has it that the hills originally had no colours to them, just plain old brown and green. The children of Purmamarca, the little town at the base of the hills, were unhappy with the dullness of the mountain and decided to do something about it. For seven nights, the children would sneak out of their beds, and every morning a new colour had been added to the hills. Every year on the seventh day since, the town celebrates the children and their innovative painting.



Considered to be the most picturesque (or is that Instagrammable) village in the whole of the valley, the sleepy little town of Purmamarca has a daily handicraft market.




We take a little wander around town, to photograph the colourful wares.




Camino de Cornisa

On the road to Salta, Gastón takes an interesting route, on a narrow winding road through the Yungas Forest. The Yungas is a subtropical bioregion of a moist forest reaching from Peru to Northern Argentina along the eastern slope of the Andes.


Here it mostly takes the form of a cloud forest.



Don Sanca Restaurant, San Lorenzo

We stop for lunch in the leafy suburbs of town, in a popular restaurant set in large grounds with indoor and outdoor seating.

Gastón orders a dish of chicken topped with ham and melted cheese, I have chicken chop suey with rice, while David chooses a pork kebab.


For dessert both David and I have a pancake – David's with apple and ice cream, and mine with dulce de leche.


Yet again, we order some of the fresh lemon juice with ginger that seems to be available everywhere here in northern Argentina.


Design Suites

Situated in the centre of town, the outside of the hotel offers a few seats and a path leading past a rather odd shallow pool with water – it is not a swimming pool, nor does it have any water features, it's very simplistic and plain. The reception is open and modern, but no interesting features and the walls in the corridors are untreated concrete. Most peculiar. The room is also quite plain, apart from two very 1960s-style cow-hide chairs!



We take a little siesta and end up sleeping for five hours and missing dinner completely. I am rather concerned, and totally embarrassed when I discover a huge patch of blood on the sheets. Google reveals that post-menopausal menstrual bleeding is a known side effect of taking steroids! It is a relief, of course, but it doesn't help the discomfort and inconvenience of having a totally unexpected period! I guess I should be grateful that I am not pregnant... Ha!

The bare walls and lack of soft furnishings in the hotel mean sound travels way too well. The occupants of the room next to ours arrive back at 23:00, and while they are not purposefully loud, I can hear every word they are saying (not that I can understand it, as they are talking in Spanish). I am sure my incessant coughing disturbs them through the night too.

I have just stopped coughing and am nodding off to sleep when I am woken by a group of Americans arriving back at 00:30; discussing their evening, discussing where they are going tomorrow, laughing loudly, and saying their goodbyes in the corridor. They seem to go on chatting forever, but I finally manage to get back to sleep.

This amazing trip was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations. Check out their website for lots of travel inspiration.


Posted by Grete Howard 16:54 Archived in Argentina Tagged san argentina salta south_america period lorenzo tilcara jujuy siesta purmamarca menstrual yungas undiscovered_destinations cloud_forest handicraft_market son_sanca maimara hill_of_seven_colours instragrammable handiicrafts camino_de_cornisa yungas_forest don_sanca_restaurant design_studios postmenopausal Comments (3)

Tilcara - Uquía - Humahuaca - Hornocal - Tilcara

Breathtaking scenery

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I sleep well for six hours until 06:00, then wake up numerous times coughing, and suffering several horrid dreams and coughing fits as I try to get back to sleep again. I feel like a wet rag when I finally get up, so David kindly goes down to the restaurant and brings me breakfast back to the room.


Museo en los Cerros

Gastón has tried to find interesting things for us to see and experience along the new route that doesn't involve too much walking for me. This morning he is taking us to a photography museum.


The museum is located at the bottom of a pretty gorge, in huge grounds, set amongst hills, trees, and vineyards. A path leads from the car park to the low-level building that blends cleverly into the landscape.




The photographs are not all recent, and not all from the same photographer, and could best be described as being in a documentary style. While the photos are excellent and tell some interesting stories, the photographic judge in me (I am a fully qualified camera club judge) struggles to make positive comments on most of them from a competition perspective. The museum gets rave reviews online and I wonder what I am missing, as it leaves me completely cold.

In an adjacent building, a silent room plays music through headphones while you sit or lie on cushions on the floor.

I swear this cactus is giving me the finger on the way out as a result of my indifference to the exhibits.


Tropic of Capricorn

From here we head toward the hills again, passing the Tropic of Capricorn on the way, where, on the 21st of January, the sun casts no shadows.



We stop in the small town of Uquía to visit the church of San Francisco de Santa Paula from 1691. The small and unassuming white church with one-metre thick adobe walls, a cactus wood ceiling, and an impressive gold-plated altar; draws visitors, not for its architecture, but for the unusual paintings hanging on the walls.


These paintings are attributed to the Cuzco school of the 17th and 18th centuries, where the baroque style painters integrated Catholic iconography into topical motifs: in this case, angels carrying guns!

No photography is allowed inside, but you can see some pictures online here.

Known as the Arquebusier Angels, the images feature archangels dressed in the customary King's Guards style at the time, holding a traditional firearm known as an arquebus. Apparently, there are around 800 such paintings around the world.

Pachamanka Restaurant, Humahuaca

We stop in this little town to take lunch at this eclectic and colourful restaurant in the centre of town.


First, we are served some interesting rolls and fresh lemonade before letting Gastón choose some typical regional dishes for us.




The starter of Llama Escabechada con Pan Especiado. Yes, that is really a starter, albeit to share between David and me. I love the multicoloured bread!


For the main course, we have Cremosa de Quinoa con Hongos de Pino – a risotto-style dish made from quinoa with pine mushrooms.


Gaston also orders three empanadas de quinoa con queso (pasties filled with quinoa and cheese) for us to taste.


A delicious ginger lemonade

Serrania del Hornocal

I know I promised the doctor in San Pedro de Atacama that I would avoid high altitudes as much as possible, yet I find myself leaving the main road and travelling up a dirt track to Serrania del Hornical. I am making an exception for this, which is truly one of the highlights of the entire trip, as it will be a brief visit, and I don't have to walk more than a few metres. I also feel reassured that Gastón carries oxygen in the car, in case the altitude affects my chest. We leave Humahuaca, at 3012 metres above sea level, to climb slowly higher to the viewing platform at Hornocal, which is at an altitude of 4,350 metres.


As the air gets thinner, the excitement grows. I don't think anything of it when Gastón puts Nessan Dorma on in the car, as he plays some great eclectic music on our drives. As we pull onto the viewing platform at the top, he turns the sound up on the already rousing music and the track reaches its crescendo as this view opens up before us.


The view is surreal, mesmerising, and simply breathtaking, and I feel surprisingly tearful. Known as The Mountain with 14 Colours, some say there are up to 33 different shades visible here. This is what happens when two tectonic plates collide: horizontal sedimentation layers are pushed up, compressed and folded into incredible shapes.



As Gastóon says: "A special place needs special music".

While I could stay here all afternoon gazing at those unbelievable colours and shapes, we don't linger stay long at this high point for the sake of my health. I do feel a little light-headed but I am not coughing as much as I expected. Hopefully, the medicine is already starting to have an effect.

We see some vicuñas on the side of the road on the way down, but other than that, the journey back to Tilcara is pretty non-eventful.




I stay in bed while David and Gaston go into town for some food. Moments after they leave, the power goes out in my room. No big deal for me, I have a torch and my phone to light the way should I need it; however, someone from reception turns up and switches on the emergency light in the room for me. Power cuts are a frequent occurrence around here, and apparently not just at the hotel, but throughout the town.

David and Gastón, meanwhile, have a romantic dinner by candlelight in a restaurant in town

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for another day of another amazing trip. You guys are the best!


Posted by Grete Howard 11:32 Archived in Argentina Tagged church cactus museum argentina llama south_america tilcara humahuaca uquia vicuñas power_cut undiscovered_destinations photography_museum san_francisco_de_santa_paula angels_carrying_guns arquebusier_angels arquebus pachamanka hornocal 14_coloured_mountain nessan_dorma Comments (3)

San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) - Tilcara (Argentina)

We're finally on our way again

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Seeing the breakfast buffet this morning, I am excited about the apple cake. Thinking I might have a bit more appetite today, I pick up two slices. Halfway through the second one, I am done. Thankfully, David is not only happy to eat the other half of my cake but also three of his own!



I am becoming quite well known at the clinic now, with the nurses bumping fists with me as I arrive. The doctor is pleased with my blood oxygen levels, but wants to know what I am like moving around, so he tells me to go for a walk around the town square and come back. I am pleased to report that I have no pain, no cough and no tightness in my chest on return from my amble.

I have a second visit with the specialist, who discharges me on the condition that I go straight to ER should my SP0² drop below 85%, I have a headache, my fingers or lips turn blue, my nostrils become “like a bull” or I have neck strain. I promise.

We'd already packed the car ready to go, hoping for this outcome, so as soon as I receive my papers for the insurance company, we are on our way.

The scenery along the way is pretty good.





Jama Pass

Although we promised the doctor that we would avoid high altitudes as much as possible, this is one of those unavoidable places, we have to go over this pass at 4,830 metres above sea level. Thankfully, I feel OK and my SP0² remains at 88%, so I am OK.

Gastón has warned us that the border formalities are painfully slow and a bureaucratic nightmare here at the border between Chile and Argentina. He shows us the five copies of the paperwork he has to present to the officials.


There are two official buildings here, and Gastón goes in on his own to the first one, comes out, crosses the road to the other one, re-emerges from there, and returns to the original one. Finally, all three of us have to go into the immigration building in person: at the first window we are stamped out of Chile, I am not sure what the second person does, but after visiting the third counter we are officially in Argentina.

I risk a sneaky picture through the car windscreen

As per my motto: “Never pass a toilet without using it”, I pop into the facilities while I am here. I am glad I did as I seem to not just have the runs, but I am also bleeding. Oh dear, that is not good. Hopefully, it is just the effect of the altitude on the body – I feel somewhat light-headed walking around.

The road is no less spectacular on this side of the border.


Salinas Grandes

Billed as one of Argentina's seven natural wonders, these salt flats are not on the same scale as those in Uyuni, Bolivia, but are very impressive all the same.


There is a large car park here, and local indigenous people have stalls selling handicrafts, many made from salt.



We are still at a reasonably high altitude of 3,450 metres above sea level, so we don't hang around for too long because of my promise to the doctor.


Later, as we travel along the Argentinean National Highway RN52, we see big machinery involved in the harvesting of the salt.




Our first guanacos, another member of the cameloid family

Cuesta de Lipan

Translated as the Lipan Slope, this is the name given to a steep zigzagging section of the RN52, dropping 2000 metres in 33 kilometres. It's an impressive road for sure, with amazing views around every sharp hairpin bend. This is one road we would have missed if we'd stuck to the original itinerary – I would rather look on the bright side, and concentrate on the positives about the new route, rather than wallow in self-pity over the sights we are missing.


Posada de Luz

This charming boutique hotel is located on a dusty side street on the outskirts of the small town of Tilcara, with several low-rise accommodation buildings set in pretty grounds.






We have a lovely split-level suite, with a small living room down a few steps and access to a patio area beyond through double doors.




Gastón kindly arranges for us to have a meal delivered to our room this evening: A thick pumpkin soup, followed by hominy (a dish similar to polenta, made from corn). My appetite seems to have almost completely gone as a result of this chest infection, so I struggle to eat much of the food. I always feel guilty when leaving so much food.



David enjoys a bottle of wine with the meal, whereas I stick to water as I am sure the antibiotics and alcohol don't mix very well.


It feels good to be down at a lower altitude this evening – Tilcara is at 2,457 metres above sea level. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for not just arranging this amazing tour for us, but also re-arranging the route when I became ill.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:26 Archived in Chile Tagged scenery chile argentina border_crossing hospital guanaco san_pedro_de_atacama altitude salt_flats immigration customs tilcara salinas_grandes undiscovered_destinations hairpin_bends room_service high_altitude passport_control chest_infection sp02 blood_oxygen_levels insurance_company bronchitis jama_pass national_highway_rn52 salt_harvest cameloid cuesta_de_lipan lipan_slope zigzag_road posada_de_luz bureaucratic_nightmare apple_tart medical_clinic medical_discharge high_altitude_pass Comments (2)

Bristol - London Heathrow - Buenos Aires

...and we're off!

View High Altitude Landscapes Tour - Bolivia, Chile & Argentina 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

When we booked this trip, we were unaware of the fact that today is the Coronation of King Charles III. Quite how it will affect our travel plans – if at all – is uncertain. The strike by 1,400 security staff at Heathrow, however, may make much more of an impact on the smooth running of our day. Ironically, it is only Terminal 5 that is affected – which means British Airways, and us.


With all that, we leave extra early for the journey up to Heathrow, which is just as well, as according to the overhead gantry signs, there has been an accident, and the slip road to the M25 is closed. We come off the motorway at the previous exit, which – according to the Sat Nav – only adds an additional 7 minutes to the journey.


Heathrow Airport

While David sorts out for the Valet Parking company to pick our car up from the Short Term Car Park, I ring for a wheelchair to pick me up from there rather than walk into the terminal myself. Although my knee is much better than it was, that, and my arthritis means I struggle to walk long distances, and even more so, stand still for extended periods of time. Heathrow being such a huge airport means that the schlep to the gate can be as much as a mile at times, and if Terminal 5 is going to be as busy as the media suggests, with long, slow queues, I would really struggle.

The wheelchair and driver arrive, and he pushes me to an area dedicated to Special Assistance Check In. There is no queue whatsoever, and we arrive directly at the desk. Still feeling a little paranoid after the drawn-our palaver with booking the spare seat, I mention it to the agent as we check in. She confirms it is all OK and the middle seat has indeed been reserved for us. Phew. We’d already printed our boarding cards before leaving home, so it is just a case of dropping off the luggage, and we are on our way.


The wheelchair driver pushes me into a Special Assistance Holding Area, from which we carefully conduct a daring escape to the nearby Pilots Bar and Kitchen for lunch and a pre-flight drink. David chooses a chicken and chorizo pizza, while I select a decadent smoked salmon tartine.


We make it back to the Holding Area in plenty of time before we are reported missing.

At the allotted time, a small army of pushers (wheelchairs, not drugs) arrives to take passengers to the flight. I am allocated a small slip of a girl who really struggles to navigate some of the inclines with my heavy frame in the chair.

Flight BA 145

As soon as I sit down in seat 23K, I am eternally grateful that we persevered with booking that middle seat (see the story here), as my legroom is partially blocked by a metal box.


As soon as we are airborne, the lady in front of me reclines her seat – which she is perfectly entitled to, of course, but it does further restrict my legroom. She struggles to be able to raise it again when the food arrives – it takes three of us: the air stewardess and the passenger pulling on the seat and pressing the button, with me pushing from behind. Finally, it goes back to an upright position. The person in the row in front of David doesn’t even bother to try.


The dinner consists of two choices: beef or vegetarian. I choose vegetarian, which is a delicious mushroom stroganoff with rice. It seems that I chose well, as David says that his beef dish is dull and tasteless. I give him my apple crumble to compensate. We both make the mistake of thinking the small reddish dish is some sort of cake or fruit mixture, but it turns out to be a beetroot salad. Oops.

From then on I sleep on and off – I can’t say I am all that comfortable, but I guess it is better than being squeezed in as I would have been without the spare seat. At least I can keep shifting position. I take painkillers for my aching back, and feel a little better.


Shortly before landing, we are served a “traditional British Breakfast” of sorts.


I have to give kudos to British Airways for using much more eco-friendly wooden (bamboo?) cutlery than the usual plastic you get on other airlines.


Without warning, David’s phone goes crazy, emitting a piercing high pitch tone, and it looks like it is trying to reset itself to factory settings. Oh dear, I hope he doesn’t lose all the information he has on there, that would be a bit of a disaster.

As we near the South American coast, the sun starts to rise, casting a gentle light on the wing of the plane.


I am intrigued and rather taken with the automated window blind – at the touch of this button (situated below the window), the glass takes on a darker shade. For a gadget lover like myself, this is a new toy!


The rest of the flight is uninteresting, and I am disappointed to see the number of passengers who do not raise their seat-backs for landing, and that the crew checking the cabin as the captain starts his descent, do not – or choose not to – notice.

Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport

There is a very nice man waiting for me at the gate with a wheelchair to take me to the taxi rank, where we catch a cab to a hotel near Aeroparque, the other, smaller airport in the city, where we have a connecting flight later this evening, to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia.

Hotel Intersur Recoleta

At the hotel, there is a bit of a queue to check in, with just one person behind the desk. The room, when we get to it, is very nice, but it does seem to be a bit of a rip-off at £130 for a day room for just a few hours. Our flight from London arrived here at 08:20, and our next departure is not until 00:30, leaving us with a 16-hour layover, hence why we chose to book a day room.


Our first task when we get settled in, is to check in for this evening’s flight with Aerolinas Argentinas. Before leaving the UK, we selected seats 21 C and D on this flight, but when we go to check in, we find we have been moved to 3 C and D as a result of requesting Special Assistance (they keep the first row after business class for people who are disabled, old, pregnant or just need a little extra help).

The £130 for the room does include breakfast (I would bloody well hope so), so we make sure we get our money’s worth before trying to catch up on some sleep.

Our plan was to sleep for a while, then get a decent dinner before making our way to the airport. What we forgot to take into consideration, is that Argentinians eat dinner very late, and the restaurant doesn’t even open until 19:00. When we arrived at the hotel, we asked them to arrange a transfer to the airport, and they suggested 19:30, leaving us plenty of time, as there is an important football match on here in Buenos Aires tonight, and the stadium is located between the hotel and the airport.

With the restaurant closed, we head to the hotel café, where we are told that it is not just that the restaurant doesn’t open until later, the kitchen is in fact closed until 19:00. They can, however, make us a cheese and ham sandwich. I guess that will have to do.


And very nice it is too.

After having to vacate the room at 18:00 (making the £130 cost of the day room even less appealing), we spend the next 1½ hours hanging around in the lobby of the hotel, where we can hear the aforementioned football fans quite clearly.


There is a mezzanine floor above the lobby, with the most amazing chandelier spanning two floors.



The taxi arrives, and the driver is listening to the match on the radio. It is all going well for his team, Boca Juniors, until 3 seconds into extra time when Plate River scores, giving them a 1-0 lead. I have never heard a grown man wail to such an extent, alternating between banging the steering wheel and throwing his arms in the air with loud and pained exclamations of “nooooooo” and “¿por que”. The man is inconsolable! It would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that he obviously takes football extremely seriously. I guess this is not the time to say “It’s only a game”?

The taxi pulls up outside the Departures, and I ask the parking attendant where I can find a wheelchair. She kindly phones ahead and soon a young man turns up with my carriage. He pushes me to the Special Assistance check-in, although technically there is no need to ‘jump the queue’ in that way, as there is not a single person in line for any of the counters.

From there we continue to the usual holding area, where I am given a choice: would I prefer to wait in the small, dull, holding area, or, if I prefer, they can push me to the bar, and pick me up from there at 21:30 for boarding. You can see from the photos below which option I go for!


Two glasses of Malbec later, I walk the short distance back to the Holding Area, where, as promised, I am picked up at the allocated time and wheeled throw immigration and security (very smooth and hassle-free) to the gate to wait for boarding.



David looks a trifle fed up at this stage

When boarding commences, the wheelchair driver takes me off in the completely opposite direction to the gate. I try to protest, but he appears not to speak any English, and my Spanish is nowhere near good enough. We take the lift down to the ground floor, and exit the building, making our way across the tarmac towards the waiting plane.

Despite stating that I am able to walk stairs and only need assistance to and from the gate, I am being taken up to the plane in the catering lift. What fun!


The only problem is, we arrive at the rear of the plane, and our seats are at the front. The steward phones through to the crew at the front entrance, who stops any more passengers boarding, so that we can make our way down the aisle to our seats in row 4. This row is reserved for disabled passengers and those who require special assistance (pregnant ladies, the elderly and infirm). I wish all airlines would do this – take note British Airways! There is plenty of legroom here, as it is the first row after business class.


As the air stewardess is making the announcements for take-off, a kid nearby is playing a noisy game on his phone, someone else is talking loudly on their mobile, and a third phone rings. So much for switching off your devices!

It’s a relatively short flight (three hours and five minutes), and we receive a surprisingly fresh crustless cheese and ham sandwich during that time, as well as a drink and a cereal bar.

We encounter some serious turbulence, making for an ‘interesting’ and bumpy ride.

Look out for our arrival in Bolivia in the next installment.

Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for making this dream come true.


Posted by Grete Howard 20:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged taxi flight airport sunrise breakfast phone argentina security buenos_aires accident south_america luggage heathrow mobile boca_juniors mobile_phone wheelchair strike malbec british_airways coronation turbulence undiscovered_destinations legroom check_in cell_phone special_assistance comfort_seat king_charles_iii king_charles_coronation terminal_5 boaring_card window_blindezeiza ezeiza_airport aeroparque aerolinas_argentinas intersur_recoleta football_match seat_pitch Comments (3)

Iguaçu - day trip to Argentina

A new day, a new country, a new viewpoint

View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

This morning at breakfast, we pick up an extra cookie, which we break up on our table hoping to attract some of the colourful birds. You could say “that's the way the cookie crumbles”. We don't have to wait long before the first visitor arrives.

Saffron Finch

Plush Crested Jay

We deliberately sit at the table nearest the one that staff use as a bird feeding station, despite the seats being outside the covered roof, thus damp from the spray of the falls overnight.


Melissa comes along, puts some crumbs in her hand, and a jay almost immediately lands and stuffs its face while perched on her fingers. Apparently, only one bird will eat from the hands, and they have affectionately named it Philhelmina.


David tries to do the same, holding his arm out at a right angle for so long it begins to hurt, but he only gets one very quick grab-and-go visit.



While we wait for Carini to pick us up for today's excursion, we do some more bird watching out the front of the hotel.

Black-fronted piping guan, colloquially known as Jungle Turkey. I can see why.

Southern Lapwing

Scaly headed parrot

We make a quick stop at another viewing platform on the Brazilian side of the falls before continuing.



Unlike yesterday, which had a reasonably thick cloud cover all, day, today the sun is shining; creating beautiful rainbows over the falls.


Since the start of the Covid Pandemic, the park is closed for cleaning every Monday, so the only people we see today are those who are staying in the Belmond Hotel.


From the viewing platform, we continue out of the park and the short distance to the Argentine border. 80% of the falls are in Argentina, and while Brazil has the best views for that very reason, there are some interesting boardwalks on the Argentine side, including one that goes right up to the edge of the most impressive of all the falls, The Devil's Throat.

But first, we have to get into the country.


Getting out of Brazil is reasonably quick, but the official at the Argentine immigration claims that we should have filled in and printed out an online application before we arrived. Carini is confused about this, as she came through here last week with British tourists and was not asked for this paper then. “They can be so bureaucratic,” she says. We are sent to a 'special immigration office', but to get there we have to make a U-turn and join the original queue again. Carini is having none of that and opens up a new line by moving some bollards.


Carini is gone for ages, and we can see the official typing away on his keyboard, completing the online forms for us, and we are each issued with a number, which we then take back to the original immigration booth for them to access our online form.


The official studies us intently (David and I have been in the car all this time, letting Carini sort out all the paperwork – that is one of the many reasons we like to have a guide!), before declaring that David's date of birth has been typed in wrong. Sigh.

Being sent back to the 'special immigration office', Carini is at her wit's end, and states that she is prepared to use tears to get what she wants. David and I both burst into song: “Don't cry for me Argentina...”

After one hour and lots of frustration, we are finally in!

The last time we came to the Argentine side of the falls, some 32 years ago, we parked up at the then Sheraton Hotel (now the Grand Meliá) and walked down from there. These days it is very commercialised, very modern, very well organised.

The entrance is huge and the distances great, so Carini arranges a buggy to take me to the train station. Despite there being plenty of room in the buggy, Carini, as a local guide, is not allowed to travel with us, but has to walk.


Train tickets are timed, and at the station, there is a large waiting area with a souvenir shop and cafeteria.


The announcer is a perfect character for the job, and obviously very funny, as he creates a lot of laughter. It's a shame I can't understand what he is saying. He comes over to me and explains that despite having tickets for the following train, he will not only get me on the next one, but ushers me onto the platform to ensure I get to board first!



At least Carini is allowed to travel with us on the train!


The train makes one stop at the start of the falls, before continuing to the end station and the trail leading to The Devil's Throat.


On the map below, you can see the route from the car park, through the Visitors Centre and Entrance, then the train track down to the station at the end.


Last time we only walked the yellow trail along the top of the different cataracts nearest the hotel, so this is an all-new experience for us.


David and I make a slow start on the boardwalk, while Carini goes off to get a wheelchair for me.


The trail is around a mile in each direction, so theoretically I should be able to do it under my own steam. I don't want to completely ruin my already painful knee at this early stage of the trip, however, so the wheelchair is very welcome when it arrives.



Along the way, we cross little islands while turtles and birds rest on rocks jutting out of the river.



Arriving at the end of the boardwalk, there are many people and a kind of one-way roundabout system to relieve congestion. It works very well.



From a distance, the cascade looks impressive, but that is nothing to how overwhelming the view is once you are literally on the precipice of the falls.


Devil's Throat
The horse-shoe-shaped cataract gets its name from an old legend in which an indigenous chief's daughter, named Naipi, was considered so beautiful that she was able to stop the waters of the Iguaçu River. Learning that her father had offered her to the god M'Boy, she escapes across the river in a canoe with her young warrior lover called Tarobá. M'boy was furious, and in retaliation, opened up a huge chasm in the river, turned Naipi into a rock, and Tarobá into a palm tree at the edge of a nearby abyss. It is said that M'boy stands at this spot to guard over the two young lovers to this day.


Devils Throat is made up of 14 separate powerful waterfalls and at 82 metres, has the highest drop of any of the cataracts in the entire waterfall system; and is also the most photographed.


The sheer power of the water tumbling over the edge of the river is mind-blowing, and the spray gets everywhere, as you can see from the video below.

I am forever cleaning my lens!


The image below, taken from a helicopter, shows just how close to the edge of the waterfall that viewing platform is!


The whole experience is totally breathtaking, and I am so mesmerised by the fast-moving water that I don't want to leave!



The time has come to return to Brazil, however, and we head back to the train station, where there are as many coati as there are passengers.



I rename the station Coati Central.


One of them manages to get into the pushchair storage area of the train, making a passenger in our compartment completely freak out.

The same lovely buggy driver takes us back to the entrance area where we grab a quick burger before returning to the border.

Getting out of Argentina is way easier than getting in! The officials on the Brazilian side want to see our Covid Vaccination certificates – we do have hard copies but didn't think to take them with us today. Doh! We can show digital versions on our phones though, which is good enough for the officers. While David goes with Carini to the office, I stay in the car. They come back for me to find my document on my phone, but by the time they get back to the office with my phone, the screen has blanked and the image 'disappeared'. Thankfully David is able to find it again after some searching.

Insect bites
Both David and I seem to have suffered quite a few insect bites since we've been here at Iguaçu.


With David, it is his legs that have been attacked, for me, it is my arms.


The Belmond Tower
I politely decline when David suggests he wants to climb the tower at the hotel, which offers great views over the grounds and the falls beyond. I give him my camera with a fish-eye lens attached and send him on his way.


David gets creative while photographing the staircase, and I apply a creative edit



As we are getting ready for dinner, we notice that there is a beautiful sunset this evening.


Forgetting that Brazilians eat their evening meal much later than we do in the UK, we arrive at the restaurant at 19:00, only to be told that the à la carte dinner is not served until 19:30. We are offered some nachos while we wait.


Tonight's waitress Ana, is delightful, and we have many laughs. She later comes back to apologise for a joke she told about 'musical condoms', which she feared may have been inappropriate. She obviously does not know our sense of humour.


We order a small pepperoni pizza each, which, when it comes, really is small.


At least it means that we have room for dessert.

David's lemon pie

My meringue with berries - I love the design of the plate!

Ana persuades us to try a glass of dessert wine – she suggests two different ones, so we try one each and swap.


With coffee and liqueurs to follow (Baileys and Cointreau), we are not surprised when the bill for the evening comes to around £200.


Goodnight from Iguaçu and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 15:59 Archived in Brazil Tagged birds sunset tower waterfall dinner rainbow argentina brazil birding pizza iguazu jay south_america cascade helicopter turtle dessert bureaucracy anhinga boardwalk coati immigration iguacu devils_throat wheelchair guan finch spray baileys devil's_throat cataracts fish_eye undiscovered_destinations nachos belmond lapwing insect_bites belmond_hotel_das_cataratas feeding_the-birds lemon_pie meringue cointreau ecological_train torn_ligament lens_cleaning fish_eye_lens dessert_wine Comments (2)

Iguaçu - Parque das Aves, and the falls from the hotel

A taste of things to come

View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After a good night's sleep, we wander down to the pool area for breakfast in Restaurant Ipé. The pool looks quite inviting, as the pool boy removes the POOL CLOSED sign, turns all the mattresses down, opens up the parasols, and turns on a coule of fountains.



At the restaurant, Melissa (the maître d' from yesterday lunchtime) greets us: “Good morning Mrs Howard, did you sleep well?”

The buffet is massive, with 20 different breads, cold meats, cheeses, cereals, and a counter where chefs to cook items to your liking.


At Melissa's suggestion, we order a tapioca pancake – a first for us. It is quite pleasant, and nowhere near as dry as it looks.


We are joined outside on the terrace by some gorgeous colourful birds.


Green Headed Tanager

Mr and Mrs Saffron Finch

Plush Crested Jay

Greater Kiskadee

Parque das Aves
This bird park came recommended, not just by Trip Advisor writers, but also the hotel staff. Set within the 40 acres of sub-tropical rain forest, the park provides shelter for around a thousand birds (150 species) from all over South America. The privately owned park focuses on reversing the conservation crisis that these birds and the Atlantic Rainforest are experiencing.

Our first impression is not the best: being Sunday, the entrance is heaving with groups and families on a day out. It seems they have lost our reservation, so we face a long wait just to get in.


To be fair, as a result of the sprawling grounds, it does not feel all that crowded once we get inside.


Some of the birds are within reasonably-sized cages, but there are also some enormous walk-through aviaries where the birds fly freely all around you.

Scarlet Ibis

King Vulture

Chestnut-Bellied Seed-Finch

Black Fronted Piping Guan

Buff Necked Ibis

This area used to hold flamingos until a couple of months ago when a jaguar managed to get into the enclosure. I remember reading about it in the news at the time.


As well as birds, the park is home to reptiles, turtles, snakes, and butterflies.

Black Bellied Sliders

Broad Snouted Caiman

At the halfway mark is a nice little café where we sit down to rest my weary knee. David has been carrying a foldable stool for me, although there have been plenty of benches around too. While we are drinking our cool orange juices, David notices that his shoes are coming apart.


The large enclosure housing parrots and macaws, is definitely my favourite part of the park. I desperately try – totally unsuccessfully – to capture these brightly coloured birds in flight as they whizz past me with their wings-tips almost touching my face.


Red and Green Macaw

Chestnut Fronted Macaw

Jandaya Parakeet

Blue and Yellow Macaw

Blue Winged Macaw

An unidentified bird in the park

By the time we reach the exit, David is completely sole-less on one foot, so we stop in the gift shop at the national park entrance. Carini arranges a Personal Shopper for him, and he comes out, not only with a new pair of walking shoes but also with a long-sleeved top for the jungle.


David wearing his new shoes and carrying his heavy (?) shopping bags.

New shoes

Getting ready to keep the insects at bay in the jungle with a long-sleeved top

We head back to the hotel for lunch by the pool. We don't want a proper meal as such, just a little snack, so we order from the pool menu: fried potatoes with a tasty dip and Brazilian pastels (savoury pastry squares) to share.

Notice how my bag has yet again got its own chair?

The potatoes and dip are so good we order another portion.


Out of the corner of my eye, I see something moving on the hill behind the patio: coatis. Lots of them running down towards the pool.


They seem to be attracted by a particular bush, or rather the yellow fruits dropped on the ground underneath the bush.



Its flexible, pointed, pig-like snout, used for sniffing out food under leaf litter and in crevices, has earned it the nickname “hog-nosed raccoon.”


Meanwhile, up by our table, hummingbirds flit in and out of the climbing flower, so fast, and severely backlit, that I really struggle to be able to capture them with my camera. With a fair amount of help from Photoshop and Topaz later, I manage a semi-decent picture of the Panalto Hermit.


We take a bag of ice back to the room with us for my poorly knee.


Unfortunately, it doesn't remain on my knee for very long, after a few minutes, an ice cube landslide occurs, and they all end up on the floor.


Iguaçu Falls
After resting my knee for a while, we wander down to the falls. That's the beauty of staying in the Belmond Hotel, you can visit the falls any time of day or night. When we arrived back from the bird park earlier, there were dozens of people at the viewing platform, now there are only a handful. I find a lonely abandoned chair and sit myself down, put up my tripod, and spend the next couple of hours photographing and watching this magnificent spectacle.


Iguaçu Falls (spelled Iguazu in Spanish) is a series of 275 cataracts on the border between Brazil and Argentina, and together they become the biggest waterfall in the world. 80% of the falls are in Argentina, but the best views are from Brazil.




On both sides of the border, a number of different walkways lead out to vantage points where you can get incredibly close to the cascades (often getting very wet in the process)!




Queueing up for selfies

Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have exclaimed on first seeing these falls: "Poor Niagara! This makes Niagara look like a kitchen faucet."


Photographs cannot do this natural wonder justice, in fact, not even a video can convey that feeling of power and magnitude!

By the time the light fades and I decide I have enough photos of the waterfalls to last me a lifetime – or at least until tomorrow – there is only me left at the falls. I go back to the room for a shower and get changed for dinner.

I start with a Caipirinha, naturally, when in Brazil and all that! We order a bread basket while we wait. The selection of five different types of bread comes with a trio of dips: spiced butter, whipped cream cheese, and a red wine reduction. It is so good!


The waiter then brings some thin flatbread with garlic and Parmesan cheese.


For mains we both choose filet mignon on a bed of Gorgonzola ravioli. The waiter asks if we want side vegetables, but having gorged ourselves on bread, we decide not to. Just as well, as the portion is enormous: one fillet would have been plenty. I struggle to finish it, but it is so superb that I battle on until the end.


David still has room for dessert, whereas I settle for another drink instead.

Apple crumble brûlée with pistachio ice cream

When we return to the room, housekeeping has yet again been in for turndown service, and in addition to a chocolate on the pillow, they have given each of the items I left on the little table each own face cloth to rest on. How sweet.


Goodnight from Iguaçu. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for organising this trip for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 20:57 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls birds wildlife shopping ice breakfast dinner parrots argentina lunch birding brasil iguazu jay south_america caiman tanager ibis coati iguacu iguassu finch bird_watching hummingbird macaws parque_das_aves bird_park undiscovered_destinations parakeets tapioca_pancake kiskadee sliders broken_shoes new_shoes elanor_roosevelt filet_mignon turnback_servce Comments (6)

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