First night reception

Santiago Wine Lunch

Santiago Funicular Ride Up Hill

Puerto Montt, Patagonia, Chile

Rapids and Boat Ride to Puella

Touring around Puella

On the way from Puella to Llao Llao

Bariloche and Llao Llao Grounds

Bariloche Lunch and Chairlift

Exploring Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires - Crowds, Bridges and Ships

Buenos Aires - Tango Show

Buenos Aires - Parks

Buenos Aires - Ricoleta Cemetery

Iguazu Falls - Argentina, looking from the upper trail

Iguazu Falls - from the middle trail

Iguazu Falls - our hotel and the falls from the lower trail

Iguazu Falls - Brazilian side main photos

Iguazu Falls - Brazilian side panoramas

Rio de Janeiro - Carnival Performers

Rio de Janeiro - Ipanema and Copacabana

South America Tour with Tauck

January 2011

Cocktail Reception On January 17th, Kathy and I flew overnight from Austin, Texas to Santiago, Chile via Houston and Panama City. We arrived at 5:00 A.M., not having gotten much sleep on the planes. Luckily, the Ritz-Carlton had our room ready and we could crash for a couple of hours. That night at a cocktail reception we met the other 31 members of our tour group. And we met Carla Weston, the Tauck trip leader. The harp player pictured on the left entertained during the reception. Here are some pictures from the reception.

Tour Route During the next 14 days we explored many interesting places in southern South America. We flew down to Puerto Montt in the northern part of the section of Patagonia that is in Chile. Then we spent 3 days in the "Lake Country" going across the Andes from Chile into Argentina. Next we flew to Buenos Aires to explore the "Paris of South America". Then on to Iguazu Falls to spend 2 days hiking on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side of the falls. Finally we spent 2 days in Rio de Janeiro soaking up the "Carnival" atmosphere and climbing the Corcovado mountain to see the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

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On Wednesday, the 19th (day 2 on Tauck's itinerary), we toured Santiago and the surrounding area. After seeing the main square and the cathedral, we drove out into the country to the Maipo Valley for a tour of the Tarapaca winery. After the tour, we had a wonderful lunch outdoors under the trees. There were wines paired with each course. Everyone really enjoyed this outing. Here are some pictures from the lunch.

After lunch we drove back into town for a funicular ride up Cerro San Cristobal Hill for a panoramic view of the city and a close up look at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here are the pictures of the funicular ride. The evening was free; Kathy and I had dinner at Tiramisu - a very good pizza restaurant.

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On day 3 we headed south to Patagonia. We were up at 5:45 because they picked up our luggage at 6:00. Since we were up so early, I took pictures of Santiago with the moon from our hotel room.

Santiago Moon    Santiago Moon

At 8:00 we boarded a bus for the airport and our 10:00 A.M. flight to Puerto Montt. Our local guide Guillermo joined us at the airport in Puerto Montt. He would be with us for 3 days. We had lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the bay; there were lots of flowers and two St. Bernards. Guillermo led us through the local fish and cheese market while Kathy bought knit goods at the craft market. Here are some pictures from Puerto Montt.

After lunch we drove to Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue. I strolled the town and took pictures. We stayed at the Hotel Cumbres (pictured below) where we had a view of the bay.

Hotel Cumbres, Puerto Varas    Hotel Cumbres, Puerto Varas

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On day 4 we began our two day journey from Chile to Argentina across the Andean lakes. On the first day we would go as far as the small village of Puella. We left the hotel early in order to beat the crowds to our first stop, the Petrohue Rapids. After we left the rapids behind, we boarded a boat (the Catamaran "Lagos Andinos") for the ride to Puella. Here are some pictures from the rapids and the catamaran ride to Puella.

In Puella we stayed at the newer of the two hotels, the Natura Patagonia. We took a 4 wheeled drive vehicle around the area to see ostriches, llamas, deer, etc. After fording some streams, we took a small boat ride to enjoy the peace and quiet. After dinner, we hiked up to bridal veil falls. Here are some pictures from in and around Puella. The picture below shows the lake and marsh in front of the hotel.

Lake in front of Natura Patagonia hotel

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On day 5 (the 2nd day of our Andean crossing) we continued the trip across the Argentina Pass, going through Chilean and Argentine customs. We took a boat and a bus to Puerto Blest for lunch at a lakeside restaurant. Then we boarded a boat for the final hour long ride to the Llao Llao Resort near Bariloche, Argentina. Here are some pictures from the trip from Puella to Llao Llao. The pictures below show the resort during the day and at night.

Llao Llao Resort

Llao Llao Resort    Lake next to the Resort

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On day 6 (Sunday, January 23rd), we headed into the town of Bariloche, Argentina for some shopping and sightseeing. But before we left the hotel, I took a couple of pictures looking out the window from where we ate breakfast. The scenery is wonderful here from any vantage point.

Llao Llao Resort Grounds and Lake    Llao Llao Resort Pool, Grounds and Golf Course

Bariloche is a town with a lot of Swiss and German influence. The main thing to buy here is chocolate - so we bought some. Then we returned to the resort and I hiked around the grounds taking pictures while Kathy relaxed by the pool. Here are a few pictures of Bariloche and the grounds around the Llao Llao Resort.

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On day 7, we were off to Buenos Aires for what turned out to be a very long day. But first I took one last picture from the window of our room in the Llao Llao Resort.

Llao Llao Lake viewed from our room

Then we boarded the bus and went to a nearby mountain and took a chairlift to the top to take in the panoramic views. As we got to the top, a photographer took our pictures making it look like we were high in the air. After we came down, we headed into Bariloche for lunch at a local restaurant. The pictures that were taken on the mountain were available and most of us bought one. After lunch, we did a little more shopping and sightseeing in town before going to the airport. We learned that our plane would be two hours late. So it was after 11:00 P.M. when we finally got to our room at the Sofitel in Buenos Aires. It was so late that we decided to move our included dinner to the next night. The good news was that our room was the best of the trip. See some pictures of lunch and the chairlift here.

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On day 8 (our first full day in Buenos Aires), after breakfast at the Sofitel, we took a tour of several parts of the city. We saw the red presidential palace where Eva Peron gave her speeches from the balcony. We went to the Boca district which retains some of the characteristics of the early European settlements. We had our pictures taken with tango dancers on the street. Then we had lunch at Café Tortoni, the oldest café in the city. Founded in 1858, Café Tortoni has a very rich history. Over the years it has been visited by intellectuals, politicians and artists. Their web site lists the following quote: "What a treat to visit a piece of history and enjoy both the ambience and the delicious meal. Thank you." Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1997.

After lunch we walked along the pedestrian Florida street and did some shopping. That night we had our delayed dinner at the hotel. Here are some pictures of our explorations of the city.

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On our second day in Buenos Aires, Kathy and I went shopping for the good Argentinian leather. We shopped in an upscale area on the other side of the 9th of July Street (the widest in the world with 7 or 9 lanes in each direction). We had lunch at a nice Mediterranean café that was under the bridge of the 9th of July Street. Since we hadn't found exactly what Kathy was looking for in the morning, after lunch I took her back to Florida street where there were more leather shops (she bought 2 leather purses). While she was shopping, I walked down to the port to take pictures. On the way I was scammed by one of the pick-pockets who shoot you with some cream and then attempt to help you get the "bird doo" off. Luckily, we had been warned about this tactic and I backed away quickly and they didn't get my camera. After I took pictures of the "women's bridge", I took a taxi back to the hotel. Here are pictures of shopping crowds, the bridge and the sailing ship in the port.

At 3:00 P.M., I went with the group on a tour of the MALBA modern art museum. It was very interesting with works of Diego Rivera and Frieda Khalo, in addition to modern works by Argentinean and Brazilian artists.

At 8:00 P.M. we all went to a dinner and Tango show at another hotel. It was quite a show. Here are some pictures.

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On our third day in Buenos Aires, we checked out of the hotel (because we were going to Iguazu Falls later) and had another tour of another part of the city. We stopped at the stainless steel flower sculpture (where a pick-pocket tried to steal one of our group's watch) and at a park with vast rose gardens. Here are some pictures of the parks.

Later, we went to the Ricoleta cemetery and saw many interesting mausoleums, the most famous of which was the one of the Duarte family where Eva Peron is buried. Here are some pictures of the cemetary.

After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we went to the airport and flew to Iguazu Falls. Our room at the Sheraton looked out on the falls (see the picture below).

Iguazu Falls viewed from our room

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Day 11 (Friday, January 28th) was our first day to explore Iguazu Falls. We did 3 different hikes on the Argentine side of the falls. We first did the upper trail which was level and easy. Then the 2nd level with a lot of up and down; we walked out to "Devil's Throat" and got wet. We were hot and sweaty and exhausted. But after a hour and a half break for a fast food lunch (empanadas), we were refreshed enough to do the lower trail (again with a lot of steps). Some people opted to also take a boat ride under the falls, but we did not. Words cannot express the magnificence of the falls - the go on and on forever (1.7 miles). They are 65 feet higher and twice as wide as Niagara Falls. There are over 275 individual cascades.

Iguazu Falls viewed from the lower trail

Here are some pictures taken from the upper trail. Here are some from the middle trail. And here are some of the hotel and the falls from the lower trail.

After a very fulfilling but exhausting day, we relaxed on the hotel patio with a pizza for dinner.

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In the morning on day 12, we drove out of Argentina and into Brazil. Along the way we stopped at a gift shop with amazing crystal geodes. Then we drove into the Brazilian national park to see the Brazilian side of the falls. If anything, the views were even more spectacular, You could look back to see our hotel in Argentina and see the "Devil's Throat" from the front.

Iguazu Falls viewed from the Brazilian side Iguazu Falls viewed from the air

Here are a few pictures taken from the Brazilian side of the falls. And here are some panoramas.

After the hike to see the falls, we had lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the falls. Then we drove to the airport and flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We had a late dinner at the J W Marriott Rio de Janeiro hotel (overlooking Copacabana Beach) and went to sleep after a long day.

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Day 13 was our day to tour Rio. We headed out at 8:00 AM and went to the mountain (Corcovado) where the statue of Christ the Redeemer is at the top. We took the funicular (cog wheel train) to near the top; then an elevator and stairs. The view from the top was very impressive but I didn't like the height (over 2,000 feet) and didn't go to the edge.

Status of Christ the Redeemer View from the top of Corcovado View from the top of Corcovado

Next we had a surprise - Carla took us to a "samba school" to see Carnival floats being made for the parades next March. Then we went upstairs to see some of the costumes and were surprised when 4 drum players and 2 female dancers bounded into the room. We all danced with them until we were worn out. Carla said one of the dancers was 42 years old and had a daughter - she surely didn't look it. Also, they had all been up all night practicing and performing and hadn't been to bed. Here are a few pictures.

Carnival dancer with Kathy and Stan Carnival musician with Kathy

After dancing with the Carnival performers, we went to a restaurant at the foot of Sugar Loaf mountain. The typical Brazilian food was quite good. After lunch, everybody except Sarah and I took the two cable cars to the top of Sugar Loaf. They looked really scary. After 2 long hours of waiting the group returned and we went back to the hotel to fill out our evaluation forms.

Sugar Loaf Mountain    Sugar Loaf Mountain

At 6:00 PM we had our farewell cocktail party at the hotel. Kathy tried one of the famous local drinks, a caipirinha (pronounced kie-purr-REEN-yah). It is made with cachaça, an intensely sweet Brazillian style of rum made from sugarcane juice. The Caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil, where it originated, and is a common Carnavale drink.

Next we went to the Porcão restaurant (called a churrascaria) where they carve meat off a skewer at your table. The food was good but I had had so much meat on the trip that I stuck with the salmon and vegetables. The waiters kept re-filling our wine glasses and Kathy and I got a little tipsy.

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Day 14 was the last day of the official tour and many of the group (not us) headed home. We tried to sleep in, but we were up at 7:00 anyway (maybe 7:30 for me). After breakfast at the hotel, we had the jewelry store driver (from Amsterdam Sauer) take us to their museum and store in the Ipanema district. After much discussion we bought a parrot made out of semi-precious gem stones. Then we explored the Ipanema area, including the beach. After a nice Italian lunch at Alessandra and Frederico, we were driven back to the hotel. I took a few pictures on Copacabana beach and then we rested for awhile. Kathy got us reservations at the Tereze restaurant in the Santa Teresa section of the city. The restaurant was in the Santa Teresa hotel. The food was good, but expensive. The view wasn't what it was supposed to be. Here are a few pictures from our last full day in Rio.

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Day 15 (Tuesday, February 1st) was a day to pack up and get ready to head back to Austin. We slept in again on our last day. After breakfast in the hotel and a walk on the beach, we cleaned up and packed. We checked out at noon. Then a representative of another jewelry store (H. Stern) offered to drive us to Ipanema to see their museum and shop. After seeing their presentation on Brazilian jewelry making and having a salesman show us some rings, we decided not to buy anything. We had lunch next door at ViaSete and then returned to our hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon working on our computers in the hotel lobby and visiting with others from our tour who were leaving that evening.

We left the hotel at 6:30 PM for a 10:50 PM flight from Rio to Houston. We both slept several hours on the plane and didn't feel too bad when we arrived in Houston at 5:00 AM (9:00 AM in Rio). The bad news was that it was cold!! When we got to Austin it was 17° F; it had been 100° F that day in Rio. (And now two weeks later, it is 80° F here in Austin.)

It had been quite a journey!! We saw many new and interesting things.

C. Brandon Jones
email: Brandon "at"
updated February 17, 2011