I’m a bit of a skeptic so I don’t usually pay much attention to claims like Fin del Mundo or The Last Frontier. Ushuaia, the jumping off port for the Antarctic ships cruising south claims to be the southernmost city in the world or as Fin del Mundo translates - End of the World! As for the Antarctic being the last frontier I guess there are a number of arguments about that title, too.
So, forget the hype and let’s just deal with reality. It is a long way to the Antarctic from just about anywhere in North America. If you try to use frequent flyer miles it can be even further. Sometimes I think the airlines try to make it a bit difficult to use those miles, but in this case it worked in my favor. Instead of giving me a direct flight from Houston to Buenos Aires, where you have to fly first to catch a connection to Ushuaia, they booked me through Panama City. I like Panama City, but who wants to sit around for 24 hours waiting for a connecting flight when you’re on a long journey from one end of the globe to another? And what are you going to do with your luggage and personal belongings - drag it around behind you for 24 very long hours in an airport?
Well, this time the long layover worked wonderfully to my advantage. After looking long and hard at this ridiculous layover I tried to figure out how to make the most of a bad situation and did I ever get lucky! After a bit of research I discovered the Gamboa Rainforest Resort and made plans to spend my day there instead of at the airport or walking around the city proper. Upon arrival in Panama City, the Gamboa shuttle delivered me to my beautiful room overlooking the Charges River. The river flows directly into the Panama Canal and my guide for the day took me into the canal and I can tell you first hand that it is an exciting experience to be out among the giant ships and barges traversing this amazing man made engineering marvel. My guide insisted on taking me fishing and I caught a parrot fish. This was catch and release for me, but coincidentally, I had parrot fish for dinner that night in the resort dining room - it was delicious and especially fun since I had caught one myself that very day.
The Gamboa Rainforest Resort has excellent spa facilities and is the perfect spot for bird watching and other eco-tours. They even have a sort of chair lift that transports you at tree top level, but I didn’t have time for that. I did visit the butterfly exhibit and you don’t want to miss it. I wish I had room to tell you more but this is a story about Antarctica! You’ll need to go and visit on your own. It seems a perfect destination for a week long holiday - I just had one day!
On to Buenos Aires
Arriving in Buenos Aires almost 36 hours after leaving my home in New Mexico was a real treat. I fell in love with B.A. almost immediately. The broad streets and delightful neighborhoods make it a perfect walking city. Public transportation is cheap and plentiful, but if you walk you will have the opportunity to meet the cheerful people and to observe and participate in the joy of living found in this beautiful city. Luckily I had a room at the Crowne Plaza which is situated perfectly for walking tours of the city. Just a few blocks from the hotel is a street leading to Florida Boulevard. Here you will find no vehicles - just strollers. People out to enjoy the sights and sounds of an active and very social Buenos Aires. Street performers on every corner - and in between! I love the ones that dress in costume and remain silently and completely still until someone offers a few coins. And then the act begins and it can be anything. One of my favorites was a young lady dressed as an angel.
And, as you might expect in B.A. there are frequent groups of tango dancers. You can go to a tango show, but why bother? There are performances all over for the price of a free walk down the avenue! I have heard that the shows are very good, though and may try to catch one on my next visit - if I can pull myself away from the excitement of the street. With restaurants displaying famous Argentine beef in the windows and ice cream shops offering delectable treats in large containers - most customers seem to get about three flavors in their cups - about a half litre I would guess. My favorite was dulce de leche - fabulous! There is much to see and do in Buenos Aires and I will write another story just about my now favorite city in South America.