Tag Archives: Argentina

End

My bags are packed, so now all I have to do is wait for the plane to leave Buenos Aires for JFK late tonight. This adventure has been wonderful, starting with the sail to Antarctica aboard the well found Pelagic Australis with seven sailing colleagues and her highly professional crew of four. Could not have been a better experience that lived up to, and exceeded, my expectations.

Exploring the Inca ruins in Peru was also better than I expected, but I could have spent another week there, exploring even more sites.

To end it all in Buenos Aires was somewhat fitting, or maybe not. To go from the wilds of Antarctica to the ruins of a highly developed pre-Columbia society was, in certain respects, not that much different. Both were remote with traces of human history around every corner. Both offered me landscapes to work with that were grand, even epic, if I can make such a pronouncement, and I feel I have some good pixels to work with. We’ll see. Buenos Aires is clearly a city built from 19th-century European influences, but seems well rooted in the 21st century today. In spite of the political and economic issues plaguing Argentina, Buenos Aires seems, on the surface, to be thriving.

This will be one of the last posts entered into my blog. When I return to Portland, I plan on editing the text to correct some typos, some misspellings and add some of the photos from the sailing voyage that got lost in the ozone or the cloud or wherever. That may be the last post.

I want to thank Lori Harley, graphic designer of great talent, for guiding me through the creation of this blog and then bailing me out when stuff didn’t work the way we planned when I arrived back on dry land. If you need a great designer, check her out.

Thanks for following my adventure with me.

John

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Musings

Took a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood Sunday afternoon and came across a big photo show by an Argentine photographer, Marcos Zimmermann. Good, solid, black-and-white images in the documentary or, as the French call it, reportage poétique style. Nice to see.

I recently did a tour of the Teatro Colón, the Buenos Aires opera house, and couldn’t help thinking about Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo. No relationship, I know. But still, being in the building conjured up scenes from the film. I had similar visions while taking the train along the river to Machu Picchu—scenes from another of his films, Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Herzog actually filmed Aguirre on the same river that flows past Machu Picchu, but further east in the rainforest, just before it joins the Amazon.

OperaHouseInterior

Teatro Colón

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Sailing on the Rio Parana

Yesterday, Saturday, I was invited for a sail on the Río Paraná by Juan Pablo, Juan Corradi’s (Concordia Westray) nephew. The boat is a beautifully maintained German Frers 1938 designed and built 27-foot double-ended sloop. I spotted Juan Pablo immediately since he was wearing a Westray Concordia cap, a gift from his uncle. Also joining us was a friend of his, Santiago.

The yacht club where we met is on the mainland, not far from Tigre where I saw the wooden pulling boats the other day, but is on the edge of a huge delta where the Río Paraná flows into the Río de la Plata. The delta is interlaced with many dozens of canals, some deep enough to navigate, others shallow and only accessible by kayak, so we had to motor a ways to get to the river itself. The tide is not that great here—only a half meter or so—but the river’s current affects all these small canals, as does the wind. The wind from a certain direction can pile the water up in the delta or can drain it if coming from the other way. One could probably explore these canals—and the whole delta—for years, not unlike us never tiring of exploring the islands of Maine.

Once we got to the river it was a short, quick sail with the wind and a two- to three-knot current in our favor, but a long, slow beat back against the current.

I was really impressed by Juan Pablo’s boat, the Vigia (a sentinel or lookout), both in its condition, which is excellent for a 75-year-old wooden boat, and how easily she sailed. She was easy on the helm, which did not change whether the winds were light or stiff. Vigia is a one-of-a-kind, but Frers designed a few sisters at the same time. One, slightly longer, is moored near Vigia and Juan Pablo mentioned that a slightly shorter model is also in the area. An interest in classic wooden boats, both sail and power, has been developing over the past few years with at least three regattas a year for classics. He also mentioned that there are skilled shipwrights in the area, so maintaining them is not a problem.

It was an enjoyable day with perfect weather since Friday’s thunder and rain cleared the atmosphere, good company, and a opportunity to experience a classic Frers design in ideal conditions. Thanks, Juan Pablo!

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Rain

Not a great day for walking around. The late morning brought some serious thunder and lightning followed by much rain, so it was a good day for a long lingering lunch while reading the local English-language daily. Read the paper twice and ate slowly. Very slowly.

I bought the paper, the Buenos Aires Herald, at a newsstand run by a grumpy woman who tried to sell me the $8 peso paper for $8 dollars. A big difference, like a seven-dollar difference. (Both pesos and dollars are indicated by “$”.) I handed her a 10 peso bill, telling her it was 8 pesos, not eight dollars. When she handed me the $2 peso coin as change, she said that if I wanted to read the English language paper, I should pay in dollars. I almost gave her a lesson in vernacular English. Oh, well.

During a momentary lull in the rain, I managed to catch a cab back to the hotel without getting soaked. A good day for letting the aging joints rest.

imageI type these messages to you while sitting on this fainting couch in my hotel room.

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Big Boats and Little Boats

Plans change, which is the fun part of traveling.

The plan was to take the train to Tigre, a town away from Buenos Aires close to where the Rio Parana de las Palmas meets the Rio de la Plata, to visit the Museo Naval de la Nacion—the national marine museum. All went according to plan until I stepped off the train, looked up and down the river, and saw many varnished mahogany lap-strake pulling boats. Some singles, some doubles, some doubles with a seat for a passenger, but all with sliding seats. A few were in use on the water, but more were pulled up on ramps in front of rowing clubs. Many rowing clubs. I now had another mission.

Mar 12_big modelMar 12_LEHG IIThe museum is a good one with many models showing early boat types going back to early Greek and Roman biremes and triremes, reed and balsa craft, Viking cargo and war craft, and more. Very thorough. But of course the core of the museum is dedicated to models of Argentine naval vessels from early sailing ships to the more modern types. Well crafted models that come close to rivaling what’s in the Paris museum as well as a series of paintings done in the 1960s of naval encounters from the early 19th century. Good work.

There were also many references to the little ongoing disagreement that Argentina has with Great Britain over the Malvinas or Falklands or whatever you’re into calling them.

In the last room is the fully restored LEHG II, Vito Dumas’ Colin Archer derived 31-foot ketch that he sailed alone around the Southern Ocean, becoming the first man to sail solo past the three great capes—Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin—south of Australia. He did this at the start of WWII. Dumas is a hero to Argentine sailors as well as a mythical figure for all solo sailors.

After lunch I accosted a fellow who was hauling a boat up one of the club ramps to ask about anyone who might be building these boats. This fellow turned out to be an American from Saratoga, NY, who was deeply into the horse scene (it’s big here) in Buenos Aires. He introduced me to the fellow who keeps his club’s boats in repair. He does not build new, but he told me about another fellow at the Club de Regatas America who is actually building new boats.

I found him. Angel M. Gil, about 50, builds and repairs these pulling boats in his shop adjoining the Club de Regatas storage building. Gil speaks no English and I speak no Spanish, but we could communicate due to the universal language of boat nuts—gestures and drawings.

They’re of conventional construction with seven planks per side, copper riveted, on a small keel, stem, stern post and tiny transom and thin, sawn ribs copper-nailed in place. They’re built upside-down on a waist-high strong back with molds set up about every half meter. Gil adjusts the shape of the mold depending on whether it’s a single (no adjustment) or a double, when he adds width, especially down low, for more buoyancy. Enough technical stuff. They appear to be nice boats and judging both by the number in existence and how easily they seem to row, time has proven them to be a worthy hull form. There sure were a lot of them on the river today.

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Over the Top

20140311-193058.jpgA rather uneventful day of walking around, getting the lay of the land and checking out different areas. One highlight was seeing the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, the Palace of Flowing Waters, the late 19th-century pumping station that is an over-the-top full-block building of multi-type and -colored stone, much of it with carved stone, terracotta ornamentation and tiled walls. Too much. When Buenos Aires did something during it’s economic height, they let you know it.

I asked the fellow at the hotel’s front desk for a recommendation of a restaurant where I could get a light meal. He sent me a few blocks away to El Mirasol, the sunflower, which sounds rather fresh and wholesome and light, yes?

Nope. It’s an upscale steak house, but not the traditional Argentine grill place like we encountered in Ushuaia. The menu was almost all red meat and the patrons were about six men to each woman. I went for it and ordered the tomato salad, country potatoes and a sirloin tip, all washed down with a few glasses of red and finished off with a flan. That was probably the most flavorful cut of beef I’ve ever had. The Argentineans do know how to raise good beef, that’s for sure.

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Art and Mausoleums

A day of visiting the newest and latest and the oldest and deadest. MALBA is the equivalent of MOMA in that it shows the best in what was happening here during the 20th century. I’m so used to the NYC-centric scene in the States that a bit of gear-shifting was in order. What became obvious was that the artists in the collection were looking at Europe—primarily Paris—as a source, not New York. But, the early 20th century NYC artists were looking at Paris, also, so it’s all the same. I sensed a more vibrant palette, more figurative work, and references to indigenous culture, in general.

What I’ll miss is a show opening in a few days of the work of Mario Testino, a Peruvian  photographer who someone said is the South American Mapplethorpe. Not sure about that. I’d say he’s more like Helmet Newton.

20140311-095210.jpgMy last stop of the day was the Recoleta Cemetery, a small city of mausoleums. Nice, but I’m just not into dead people and their over-the-top monuments to themselves. Sorry. But, I’ll admit that these structures kept an awful lot of designers, modelers, pattern makers, bronze foundry men, stone carvers and more very busy.

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Buenos Aires

I’m now into the third and final leg of my great adventure, ten days in Buenos Aires. My Concordia friend Juan Corradi, Westray, suggested his favorite, the Unique Hotel, which is in the heart of the Recoleta area where he grew up. The hotel is funky, quiet and seemingly in the center of almost everything that I’m interested in walking to.

My initial impression of both the hotel and the city is that they are like an elderly wealthy dowager who is running out of money at the same rate that she’s running out of time. The city is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it needs a good scrubbing behind the ears, a bit of TLC and she’ll be set for another century. I can’t help compare Buenos Aires to Paris since much of the architecture and design here derived from the best of the turn of the last century’s equivalent in Europe, particularly Paris and Madrid.

Sunday, yesterday, my first full day here, was spent walking around the old dockyard area which has, like so many other waterfronts, been turned into a tourist destination. And, of course, I cannot get away from Antarctica, it seems. Tied up along the quay is the Buque Museo Corbeta A. R. A. Uruguay, a barque-rigged, steam-powered, steel-hulled ship built in 1872 and acquired by the Argentina Navy two years later. She was used extensively by the navy before being modified for use in the Antarctic. One feat includes an early rescue of a Swedish scientific team that lost its ship to the ice in 1903. Later, she functioned as a supply ship for the Argentine Antarctic stations. But, I’m glad I did our Antarctic adventure on Pelagic Australis. Creature comforts for the crew seemed lacking on Uruguay, and Rupert’s cooking is probably far better than the real gruel served aboard this ship.

Off to the museum of modern art [Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA)] today to check out what’s happening in that scene. One problem I have is that the not-so-cheap point-and-shoot camera I brought specifically to photograph here had a stroke and went into a coma at about the time we stepped aboard in Porto Williams. The advice is not to carry or flaunt a real camera here, or for that matter, anything else of value, so I’m not sure yet how to deal with images. Play it by ear, as they say.

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Flying across the Andes

Flying over the western region of Argentina, there seems to be nothing below. The terrain at first glance is a rust brown but is actually colorful due to the variations in color from rust to sienna to ochre brown. I did not see any roads, but I did see what looked like a small town. Buenos Aires to the foothills of the Andes was cloud-covered, so I saw nothing.

Once we passed into Chilean territory, I noticed an occasional absolutely straight line running across the flats and hills. Then more lines, then what I at first took to be iced-over lakes which did not make sense since there was no sign of snow. One of these lakes had what looked like a salt works—a series of blue rectangles like what you’d see in coastal France or the Baja. My guess is that they are in fact evaporation flats for the salts and minerals that wash down from the surrounding hills. We passed over at least a dozen of these flats.

More straight lines, including one set going east and west crossed by another set going north and south. Perfectly straight, evenly spaced, and they continued that way as they moved off the salt flats and up into the foothills. Weird. There was also a slightly snaking, wider black line running to the ocean that I took to be a railroad, carrying out the minerals. All this seemed centered around the Chilean city, Calama, which is a huge mining area that at one time had the world’s largest open-pit copper mine.

As we descended to the Pacific, more green appeared along with more roads, towns and civilization.

No pics. I was on an Airbus this time, and the windows are way too small and badly placed for making pics. Hey! There’s always Google Maps. Check it out.

Given the choice, I’d fly Airbus any day over a Boeing plane. Quieter, smoother, fast-braking, smooth landing, just feels better. But on the leg from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, we boarded a brand new, just-out-of-the-box Boeing 737. Not a mark or blemish anywhere, with a new vinyl smell. I asked one of the cabin crew if we were the first passengers and she said, “well, sort of,” whatever that meant.

 

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The Plan

February 2 – 22 | 3 weeks in the Antarctic

Sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the Antarctic Peninsula…I will not be actively posting for the three weeks while on the boat, but during that time, you can track our vessel.

February 23 – March 8 | 2 weeks in Peru

Exploring the Inca ruins around the Cuzco area with long-time friend from NYC.

March 9 – 22 | 2 weeks in Buenos Aires

Exploring that beautiful city on my own.

 

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