We are still happily sailing along the Eastern coast of South America on the Seven Seas Mariner. So far our weather has been spectacular. The staff and guests all appear happy. We were recently entertained by the staff’s “Crew Capers.” This musical event is always eagerly anticipated because we know the entertainers. We have interacted with them on a daily basis for almost two months. They have become “family.”
After the show we had dinner with nationally-known, fascinating Geo-Politician Mark Elovitz and his beautiful, sweet wife, Martha. Mark lectures all around the world and periodically he takes a “break” and both sails and lectures. Joining us were Alla and Allan Wolf-Tasker from Daylesford, Victoria, Australia.
Alla and Allan are so much fun. He is a prominent artist in Australia and Alla runs an extremely high-end boutique hotel and top-rated restaurant near Melbourne. It’s called Lakehouse and has all of its guest rooms in standalone buildings surrounding a lake. It is beautiful.
We sailed in to Montevideo, Uruguay and were immediately charmed. Of all the countries in South America this really is the loveliest. It would be my choice for a second home. The city is pronounced mon-ta-ve-DAYO.
The city is filled with elegant homes and public buildings. It has a population of just over a million which is nearly half of Uruguay’s population. The relatively small capital is the nation’s only major city. There are sidewalk cafes, fine restaurants, chic shops, casinos and miles of clean beaches. There are two striking, life-sized bronze statues of the wagons of early settlers being pulled by teams of oxen and of horses. They are being pulled out of a gully or rut, not just being pulled along the trail.
For such a small country, Uruguay boasts an astonishing literary and artistic tradition and the tango is nearly as popular here as in Argentina. Afro-Uruguayan Candomble music and dance add a unique dimension not present in Argentina.
Sheep and cattle estancias occupy more than three-quarters of the land, providing grazing ground for over nine million cattle and twenty-three million sheep. A popular drink is maté tea, made famous by the gaucho. Traditionally, the tea is sipped through a silver straw from a bombilla (special cup). The maté leaves are picked from the tree, dried, crumbled into the bombilla and sipped thru the silver straw, which has a strainer in the “spoon” when hot water is added.
The next day we took a bus tour out to Punta del Este, a well-heeled resort 85 miles up the coast. The enormous basin of water that extends almost from end to end of Uruguay is an estuary that is the confluence of two huge rivers. It keeps some of the salt water ocean at bay.
It is known for its trendy big-name boutiques, fine restaurants and lively beach scene. George Clooney has a condo there and the signs are up for Donald Trump’s new 50-story tower. It will be the tallest but won’t look too out of place among the other tall buildings.
The next day we sailed into Buenos Aires and did the typical “highlights” tour. We saw the Evita Museum which was interesting, especially seeing her beautiful designer clothes and news film clips from the day. Then it was on to the cemetery which houses her mausoleum.
That evening we went to a tango show which has an early ’50s flavor and really was fun to see. Then it was off to bed for welcome rest!
On Valentine’s Day we packed an overnight bag and flew to Iguazu Falls, known the world over for the beauty and magnificence of its 275 waterfalls. It is on the border between Argentina and Chilé but belonged to Paraguay until it was lost in a war. We checked in to a lovely hotel with a view of the mists and falls visible from our room. Three countries – Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina – come together here, connected by two rivers. It is famous for its biodiversity, one of the richest on our planet.
We walked down a path to the small train that took us on a jungle tour to the beginning of the walkway that takes you halfway across the gigantic waterfall to the “Devil’s Throat.” It is this enormous circle in the rock where an incredible amount of water pours down. It is also the place where, once a year, a beautiful native girl was sacrificed to the river. (This hasn’t happened recently.)
You cannot imagine the immense falls fed by so many rivers. It makes Niagara Falls look like Harrods Creek! Great plumes of spray are a permanent cloud above the falls. The roar of the water, the vastness of it, the wild beauty of it is mesmerizing. It truly is one of the natural wonders of the world.
A plus is the abundant wildlife. We saw families of monkeys playing above our heads on the walk. Tribes of ring-tailed lemurs frolicked on the path ahead of us. Possums, just a tad smaller than ours, were everywhere. Toucans brightened the forest as we approached the waterfall. I was disappointed to learn that they are nasty birds of prey. They look pretty with their orange bills, but they eat baby birds and eggs out of the nests of others. In the water we saw enormous catfish.
The next day everyone walked down 190 steps (some without rails!) to the river and boarded a motorized zodiac. Everyone had on ponchos and rain gear because they knew they were going to get wet. Not just sprayed. Wet! All were provided with a larger rubber bag to put in everything that they wanted to keep dry. Good thing, because the boat headed right into the falls with lots of happy, laughing, life vest-wearing people. When it was over it was quite a sight to see: 40 or so wet people tossing modesty to the winds, trying to change back into the little bit of dry gear they had in their rubber bags.
Tired, happy and exhausted, we flew back to Buenos Aires for dinner and a Sail Away Party on the Pool Deck. We headed back to Montevideo and Punta del Este for the next two days before moving on to Rio Grande, Brazil.