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  • Cruising North Brazil

    Recife | Maceio | Salvador After spending a week on the Amazon River in Brazil, enjoying Christmas and New Year's Eve aboard the Marina with Oceania Cruises, we continue exploring the Northern coast of Brazil. Day 17 - Recife, Brazil After two days navigating out of the Amazon River and two days sailing the Atlantic, including crossing the equator again (this time, we could skip the ritual as we were no longer equator virgins), we arrived at our first port of call Recife. Recife is pronounced ('heh-see-fee'), a coastal city and the capital of Pernambuco, the Northeast State of Brazil. Recife is closer to Africa's west coast than the farthest western border of Brazil—just 8°3' south of the equator. After letting the passengers disembark throughout the morning, we then strolled off around noon, we had the option to take a shuttle to the city of Recife, but after experiencing the high humidity, we opted for an Uber to the nearby charming and far more tranquil historic town of Olinda that lies on Recife's northern edge, just 6km from the city centre. We googled our way to an Asian restaurant, 'Oishi', with very positive reviews by the beach, which deserved the 4.3 ratings. We filled our bellies with a giant spring roll, the largest we have ever seen, followed by vegetable tempura and shared a dish of Chop Suey for two; upon arrival, we were guessing we ordered for four! We did our best and admitted defeat, but it was delicious and excellent value at AUD 40 with a couple of cocktails too. After lunch, we strolled the beach, watching the local life and enjoying the holidays and came across a shopping mall, brand new, so it was great to cool off and purchase our essentials! We might have missed out on seeing more of Recife, we did enjoy the architecture and colourful homes as we drove by, but we had a delightful day and loved supporting the local businesses and navigating a new language; thankfully, we have Google translate helping with our Portuguese. Day 18 - Maceio, Brazil Welcome to Maceio; it feels like a city surrounded by beaches. Where you will find local tourists enjoying their vacations. Think Pattaya in Thailand. You have a long stretch of coast on the main road full of beach activities, beach beds, umbrellas, and beach clubs. It was buzzing with locals and families all enjoying the hot and humid sun by the water; it's where everyone has a drink in hand by 10 am, and you can buy everything from drinks, food, clothing and beach accessories whilst sunbaking. We stopped by a beach club for a morning coffee; we could only enter if we paid the all-day entrance fee of about $13 each, so we did this to watch the world go by for an hour or so! After our chill-out, we walked a little and returned to the ship for lunch to escape the heat! Maceio was a much wealthier city, with safer and excellent infrastructure and a great nightlife based on the vibe. Maceió is the capital city of the state of Alagoas, on the east coast of Brazil. An offshore reef protects the city; the shore is lined with white-sand beaches, palm trees, and many beautiful and tranquil beaches within a half-hour drive. Day 19 - Salvador, Bahia, Brazil You know how much you love a city based on the number of pics you need to clean up, and Salvador was clearly a favourite for Wayne and me. We researched Salvador the evening prior, and we were filled with excitement. It was the former capital of Brazil for two centuries before relinquishing to Rio in 1763 (then Brasilia); it is a vibrant architectural colonial rich city. A blend of Portuguese and African heritage blending seamlessly. Salvador sits on Brazil's South Atlantic coast, in the idyllic state of Bahia, home to some of northeastern Brazil's most beautiful beaches, over 1000kms of coconut fringed beaches and a popular culinary hub. With the largest population of Afro-Brazilians and a complex mishmash of African, Indigenous, and European influences, Salvador has earned the local nickname "the Black Rome." After disembarking, we set our sights on the historic centre of Pelourinho, full of cobblestoned alleys, beautiful colourful architecture and churches. We enjoyed strolling around and soaking up the energy, local cuisines and the African influence. It was bustling with tourists, a few ships were in, and quite the police presence to make everyone feel more secure. After the sweltering humidity got the better of us, we made our way to the restaurant we had planned for a slow lunch. After being caught in the rain (it is the wet season), we walked in looking quite the treat to the restaurant. Fortunately, the drowned rat appearance was approved, and we were seated, quickly freshening up in the restrooms to feel more presentable. We decided on an Italian restaurant in the Fasano Hotel, a beautiful luxury hotel brand in Brazil, originating from an Italian family. The hotel was on the top of the street overlooking the splendid water's edge in a century-old colonial building. The decor was also plantation-style, with relaxed and comfortable furniture surrounded by beautiful wooden hues. We settled in for a culinary journey; the menu looked so delicious we opted for the five-course degustation of meat-based pasta dishes with a lovely bottle of red, and a few cocktails pre and post, which were a pleasant surprise! It was the perfect introduction to Salvador and a place on our list to return and spend more quality time. An abundance of dining options and cocktail bars spoilt with magical views around the city of four million, and we haven't even scratched the surface. Pop Salvador on your list; we can't wait to unwrap this gem of a city in Brazil. Join us for our next 'Brazil' chapter as we continue cruising southerly the Brazilian border with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America.

  • Christmas on the Amazon - Brazil

    Santarem | Parintins | Manaus After four days at sea from the Caribbean on our 110-day cruise from Miami, we arrive on the Amazon River in Brazil to spend Christmas and bring in 2023 the new year aboard the beautiful Marina with Oceania Cruises. Day nine - Santarem, Brazil Yesterday was Christmas Day, which saw us sail into the Amazon River; we spent a day in awe of the vastness of the river and the colour change as we celebrated Christmas in a new country. We all woke with a little jolt as the ship ran aground, but we were back on our way after a few hours. The Amazon travels through four countries at 4,345 miles in length and holds more water than any other; the Amazon River has no equal in its significance to the global ecosystem. It is one of the world's longest, feeding and nurturing the equally remarkable rainforest surrounding it. The enormous rainforest covers over 2 million square miles and is credited with harbouring roughly one-third of all species of living creatures. As we cruised deeper into the Amazon, our first destination was Santarem, where the rivers meet. Two rivers surround Santarém: the Amazon, of muddy water, and the Tapajós, of clear and green water, forming a unique meeting of different waters that do not mix for several kilometres; it was pretty surreal. The "Meeting of Waters" phenomenon occurs due to temperature, speed and water density differences. We were booked on a boat cruise afternoon excursion today; we wanted to see more of the Amazon and get up close and personal, so we skipped the city. We were all aboard, about 20 of us making our way through the meeting of the waters, watching the local life on the water pass us by. It was interesting to see how the locals transit between towns; their seats are hammocks on boats and can take up to a few days to arrive. There were fuel stations out on the river for all the boat life and, surprisingly, dolphins in freshwater, pink and blue; we were lucky to catch a few glimpses as we navigated the rivers. About one hour in, we arrived at a narrow part and enjoyed the change of pace as we navigated slowly, taking in the peacefulness and new landscapes of the Amazon and pinching ourselves. We were in The Amazon, another Bucket list! Our captain found a shady spot on the river's edge, and it was time to all test our skills for Piranha fishing. It has been a while since I have been fishing or yabbying, so this would be interesting! They were kind enough to have the wooden reel tackled up for us, which would help avoid any accidents! Over the lines went, and we all spent an hour trying to catch a little one. Only two were seen amongst us all (Wayne & I were not successful), and they were tiny little ones who, of course, were returned to their natural habitat. After our fishing experience, we were to head back up the river; again, we ran aground, and our crew were immersed in piranha waters to push us out; it was an eventful afternoon. As we returned during the golden hour, we were blessed with more sightings of the dolphins, including the majestic pink dolphins, a first! Unfortunately difficult to capture, but the memories will remain with us. After a long and hot afternoon, we were ready to freshen up and enjoy cocktails before dinner. Day ten - Parintins, Brazil Wayne and I love capturing the personality of a city, and today in Parintins, we did just this. After arriving by tender boat at the pier, we turned left whilst everyone else turned right to get lost and unwrap the layers of the city street by street. As we followed the paths, we discovered the vibrant street art on the homes, shop fronts, and streets. Parintins is home to an unusual number of artists, artisans, musicians and poets to produce the festival. You will find such a concentration of talent in no other city on the Amazon. The architecture of the homes and churches was unique, and the local life surrounded us. Everyone was an absolute joy, and we smiled and waved as we walked by. Realising we need to learn a few phrases in Portuguese as this is now the local language. The city was operating as a public holiday the day after Christmas, so it was quiet, and only a few stores were open. After a few hours, we found our way back to the ship and spotted a few local young lads fishing by the water edge with a net and a bag to collect them, they gave us all a show and launched the net by the boats, and we watched them in awe as they pulled out a selection of fish for their bag! Fun fact: In Parintins, everything revolves around the ox, the 'Boi Bumba'. An ancient fairy tale from the Amazon tells the story of the pregnant Catirina who suddenly desires to eat beef tongue. Her husband Francisco kills his master's best ox and is imprisoned for the crime. After a lengthy imprisonment, Francisco is finally freed because Paje, a medicine man and witch, brings the ox back to life. There is an 86-year-old rivalry between the two Boi groups; the Garantido club uses red, and the Caprichoso club uses blue. This friendly and creative rivalry between the two Bois (oxen) is contagious and has divided the entire north of Brazil into two camps. The houses of Parintins are all painted red or blue. The public telephones, the tickets, the clothes, everything is either red or blue. Even the event's main sponsor, Coca-Cola, had to invent a new logo for Parintins. People refer to the rival club simply as the "others". Day 11 - Manaus, Brazil Welcome to Manaus, the heart of Amazonia, 900 miles inland on the Rio Negro from the Atlantic and home to the famed Amazon Opera House. Also just a few miles from the meeting of the rivers. We have heard about the Opera House from many fellow travellers. Hence, we opted for the Golden Era of Manaus tour to tick this off, in hindsight we should have opted to do the city independently as we became trapped on tour with the guide and 40 other passengers, also receiving a detailed history lesson on each visit, which extended the allowed time and became a very long day, without any free time to explore, eat or relax, definitely not Sal & Wayne style. Back to the tour, our first visit was to Museu da Cidade, a museum in a neoclassical palace featuring hands-on exhibits tracing the culture & history of Manaus. This was supposed to be a 20 min visit, which lasted over one hour. Following the museum, we arrived at Teatro Amazonas (Opera House), whereby we needed to wait out the front for 20 minutes before we could enter; we took a few snaps, and then we all entered the historical building from 1896 for a one-hour tour, it was impressive to see! Partway through the tour, we snuck off to visit the cafe and fuel up to get through the remainder! A few other passengers had the same idea. Our guide soon came to rush us back to the bus for the next instalment, a visit to an old mansion built in 1903, Palacio Rio Negro. Palácio Rio Negro is a former seat of government and residence of the governor of the state of Amazonas. The original name was Scholz Palace, built by the German entrepreneur Karl Waldemar Scholz, who was considered a "Rubber Baron". We were nearing the end of the tour, last stop was a visit to the local municipality market; we took advantage of our 'free time' of 20 minutes and sourced an ATM and phone shop to purchase a prepaid SIM to stay connected; this caused a few hiccups as Brazil time is anything, but fast, so we asked our guide if we could walk back to the ship; the response was 'No' again, and we had 3 minutes to get back to the bus full of passengers! There was only so much we could do to expedite the purchasing process, and soon he was storming up the stairs to personally escort us; no idea how he found us in the busy centre, but he clearly had his contacts! We ran back to the bus (successfully purchasing the sim) and were greeted with a bus full of passengers waiting to go home! Very pleasant! The bus drove the two minutes to the pier, and we were back on the tenders heading for the ship! We quickly cancelled all future tours and chose to stay with the 'Sal & Wayne' style of discovering destinations independently and with flexibility! We are just no good with rules and restrictions. Manaus was quite an intense city, with high poverty, pollution, rundown, and significantly populated, so you definitely need to have your wits about you. Uber was available to help you get from A to B safely and comfortably. Day 12 - Manaus, Brazil The ship stayed overnight in Manaus, so we all enjoyed a peaceful night on the Amazon. We opted to cancel our full-day excursion to the meeting of the rivers based on fellow passengers' feedback, having decided this would not be Wayne and Sal style. We chose to remain on the ship for the day and enjoy the quiet time to catchup on work. We were blessed with a beautiful sunset as we set sail to navigate our way out of the Amazon. Day 13 - Amazon River, Brazil Today was a day of enjoying cruising the Amazon River and making the most of the views from the balcony. It was also New Year's Eve, so a perfect excuse to pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate another exciting year of travel. Here are a few fun facts about the Amazon to soak up with some cruising captures from the day as we travelled to the Atlantic Ocean and cruised south. The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rainforest; it covers 40% of the South American continent and is home to over 2,000 species of animals. One in ten known species in the world lives in the Amazon Rainforest, as do one in five known bird species, meaning one-third of the world species can be found in the Amazon. Some animals that live in the Amazon include jaguars, sloths, river dolphins, macaws, anacondas, glass frogs, and poison dart frogs and the most famous residents of the Amazon River, the Amazon river dolphin or boto, which can grow larger than a human. It is unknown why the river pink dolphins develop their distinct pink colouration, but it is thought it is due to blood capillaries near the skin's surface. The electric eel is the only known species in the electric fish genus. Despite its name, it is not actually an eel but rather a knife fish. They are more closely related to catfish than they are to eels. They can produce powerful electric shocks of up to 600 volts as a defence mechanism and for hunting. Known for their unusual breeding behaviour, in the dry season, the male constructs a nest from his saliva into which the female lays her eggs. As many as 3,000 young can hatch from the eggs of one female. The Black Caiman is the largest of the Amazon reptiles and one of the largest and most effective predators. They have a dark, scaly skin, grow up to 10-14 feet in length, and sometimes exceed 800 pounds in weight. They hunt pretty much any land-based or river-dwelling animal. They've even been known to eat old or weak Caimans. The evening was filled with fun moments with our dear cruise friends and more mouthwatering food on the beautiful Marina. Join us for our next 'Brazil' chapter as we continue cruising southerly the Brazilian border with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America.

  • The Caribbean - Oceania Cruises

    St. Maarten | St Lucia We arrived in the Caribbean two days after leaving Miami on our 110-day cruise, sailing southbound to South America in preparation for our circumnavigation aboard the beautiful Marina with Oceania Cruises. Let's talk about the Caribbean islands we visited, where we got our little taste of paradise. St. Maarten and Saint Lucia. Day four - Philipsburg, St. Maarten Welcome to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. After two days sailing from Miami, we arrived at our first destination Philipsburg as we made our way to the Amazon for Christmas and New Year. Seven years ago, we first visited St. Maarten, an island the Netherlands and France share. We spent our time on the French half on our first visit, so we enjoyed the Dutch half this time. After the Spanish abandoned their fort in 1648, a few Dutch and French soldiers hid on the island and decided to share it; soon after, both countries signed a formal agreement to split the island. After a quick water taxi to the centre, we were hunting for decent wifi, so we bar-hopped until we found a great connection. We also had a small shopping list of essentials, so we took this time to prepare ourselves for the next few months at sea. The island vibe was in full swing, swarming with cruise passengers from the four ships docked and the sweltering heat, the beach was filling up fast, and everyone was enjoying the hot weather! We decided we preferred the French side as it offered more quality dining establishments and was further from the port and more peaceful. Day five - Castries, St. Lucia This morning we arrived in the tropical gem Saint Lucia, a small Caribbean island 27 miles in length and 24 miles wide, located north of Barbados. We were docked in Castries, where we could wander off the ship to explore the nearby town and enjoy the local vibe. We visited St Lucia in 2015 and fondly recalled finding a local cafe overlooking the square, so we searched to find it. After, we strolled the streets, saying hello to all the vibrant and friendly locals and discovering St Lucia was home to a few Nobel prize winners. We discovered a familiar balcony cafe, although we soon realised it was different. We were previously docked on another part of the island; we later determined the cafe we were looking for was another island entirely. We settled in all the same and enjoyed one of the most delicious coffees; we had to stay for two. We loved feeling part of the local life and watching everyone go about their day, the best way to immerse yourself into a new destination. After we were caffeinated, we took to the streets and enjoyed visiting the local market; everyone was super friendly and exuded the island's chilled-out vibe. Once we had reached our limit with the heat, we snuck back to the ship for lunch and then were spoilt with a golden hour sail-away, capturing the tropical gem of an island in the sunset. Thank you, St Lucia, for welcoming us back. Join us for our next chapter, 'Brazil', as we embrace and explore the Amazon over Christmas and New Year with Oceania Cruises on our 110-day voyage around South America.

  • Four months cruising South America with Oceania

    Join us as we embark on a new cruise, this time 110 days, circumnavigating South America from Miami to Miami. We joined the beautiful Marina ship with Oceania Cruises on 18th December and disembarked in Miami on 6th April. Over 110 days, we explored three continents, 17 countries and 51 destinations—a few bucket list destinations: Amazon, Panama Canal and Antarctica. We look forward to sharing our four months at sea, but first, we share our first few days at sea and our Oceania experience from Miami to the Caribbean. Our first time sailing with Oceania Cruises, and from the moment we embarked to the very last day of our 110 days, Oceania were exceptional. The crew was and is an absolute delight. The level of care and service was limitless, the energy and friendly nature of all the staff was infectious, and we fast became friends and family. We also have left with many new friendships from our sailing, both crew and guests, which we treasure and look forward to finding each other again on our travels. The food is divine, and after four months, we still missed out on some dishes we were hoping to try. (If you will recall our last three-month cruise with Hurtigruten, they repeated the same menu for two days in the suite restaurant with only three options, and then this would repeat the following week for three months; this was very disappointing), and it was refreshing to be on a ship with outstanding dining. Marina has four specialty dining restaurants (all-inclusive), and each restaurant prepares a distinctive set of dishes based on its culinary expertise. Classic French fare at Jacques to vibrant Asian cuisine at Red Ginger, or Toscana, where Tuscan cuisine evolved from rich family traditions, mothers and grandmothers of Oceania's own Italian culinary staff recipes and, of course, a favourite steakhouse at Polo Grill. All restaurants are world-class. The Grand Dining Room and a terrace cafe (buffet restaurant) range from continental cuisine with a fantastic selection of worldly cuisines changing daily, approximately on a two-week cycle. You are spoilt with choice. There are two private dining venues, Privee and La Reserve (both at additional cost). Privee is an opulent intimate dining venue that transforms dinner into a luxurious affair, tucked in between Polo Grill and Toscana. At La Reserve, you can enjoy a unique dining menu that creates distinctive pairing dinners. You also have Baristas with illy coffee (included in your cruise fare) for your morning coffee fix and afternoon tea in Horizons to treat yourself to tea and scones. Red Ginger - Asian (Specialty Restaurant) Toscana - Italian (Specialty Restaurant) Jacques - French (Specialty Restaurant) Polo Grill - Steakhouse (Specialty Restaurant) The Grand Dining Room - Continental and International cuisine (Lunch - sea days and dinner) Afternoon Tea in Horizons Marina, the ship was built in 2011 and has a capacity of 1250 passengers and 800 crew. We found the ship very spacious, and you could always find a quiet relaxing spot. The staterooms are spacious too, and it was a treat to have a bathtub in the room; the beds are heavenly and have ample storage; you pop your suitcases under the bed so there is no clutter. We spent lots of time in our balcony room and didn't feel claustrophobic over this duration. We loved being on the cruise over Christmas and New Year; it was a lovely way to celebrate and have all the decorations sprinkled around the ship. We were also very impressed with the beautiful Christmas gift from Oceania, a gorgeous handmade wooden chopping board and a beautiful card. Follow us on our incredible voyage around South America with Oceania; we will share our destinations as she navigates southbound to South America. Our first is a little taste of the Caribbean islands.

  • Miami - United States

    Miami, you were fun! It was a great idea to spend a few days exploring Miami before we embarked on our Oceania cruise to discover and explore the East Coast of South America. Miami is a simmering pot of sights and smells, seasoned by its diverse population and will show everyone a good time. Plenty to keep you entertained, a hub for shopping, with an abundance of dining options to satisfy every cuisine craving you can think of. When the sun retreats, it leaves you with a tangerine sky, where you can join the city's beautiful crowd as they light up beach parties and rooftop bars around town. We stayed in a beautiful new Airbnb downtown, part of a new hotel; it was always buzzing with a great bar downstairs for our nightcaps and meeting new friends. It was the perfect spot to knuckle down and get through work and all our laundry; it was also very close to Brickell Centre, the hotspot for shopping and home to Saks Fifth Avenue and Victoria's Secret, perfect! We took the opportunity to spend a few days enjoying fabulous and delicious lunches, shopping, shopping and more! Perfect for our upcoming cruise to flip the wardrobe, which we needed to make sure we blended in a little on the Oceania cruise, as there are country club dress codes throughout the ship. The sales were also on, and it was nice to have so many choices! Zuma Miami is a chic Japanese restaurant overlooking the Miami River; we had this first on our list, and as soon as we were shopped out, it was time to indulge, so we hastily made a booking by OpenTable and were there in a heartbeat with all the speedy Ubers to enjoy our lazy lunch. The food at Zuma was mouthwatering, and the wine to match. We were fortunate the lunch special was running, as you can enjoy tasting various incredible dishes; we hope to be back in April to continue. We had been planning for months an evening with our dear friend Redona and her boy Mark, whom we met on our travels two years ago in Albania; we stayed in the hotel she was managing in Durres. They were currently in Fort Lauderdale for a few weeks, so we took the opportunity to all catch up for dinner and drinks; it was a magical, fun evening full of laughter, and nice to have some familiar faces around. Unfortunately, we had so much fun over dinner, followed by cocktails on rooftops we forgot to capture the moments. We couldn't leave Miami this time (we have visited Miami about four times over the past ten years) without a slow lunch at the Versace mansion, which has been converted into a restaurant and boutique hotel. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and to experience the dazzling mansion and original home of Gianni Versace; tragically, it was also where his life was taken. We had a beautiful afternoon and were incredibly impressed by the team's exceptional service and warm welcome, a special thank you to team Gianni Versace Mansion: Villa Casa Casuarina. We followed this with an evening of cocktails at Rosa Sky, a Miami rooftop bar to enjoy the Miami skyline, where we met more lovely locals and continued with a night full of new friends and more laughter. It was the perfect way to end our short stay in this metropolis city. Miami, you are growing on us each time we visit, and we can't wait to be back in April.

  • Santa Cruz - Bolivia

    Welcome to Bolivia. Travel doesn't always go as planned! How did we end up in Bolivia en route to Miami? We were scheduled to leave Buenos Aires (BA) for Santiago, Chile, fully aware Aussies now need a visa to transit, so we applied over one month ago. The authorities confirmed it was received, but that was all we heard! As we were in Chile last month for a few weeks whilst on the cruise, we thought we would try our luck again; we already have the stamps from Chile accepting us and still have plenty of time remaining on our tourist entry of 90 days. Airports have much tighter border control than cruise ships (we have since realised this is not the case upon arriving in Chile on another cruise ship), and we could not check in to our flight! It was 6 am, and after an hour or so of chatting with the accommodating airline staff, who went above and beyond to help us, they confirmed they would be fined. They would have to fly us back to Buenos Aires if Chile didn't accept us for the two nights to transit to Miami; we had no choice but to skip the flight and lose our money. The flights were about AUD1000; fortunately, our accommodation was fully refundable. It was now 7 am, and we were packed and ready to leave Argentina, so out with the laptops searching for flights from BA to Miami! Boom, we found one; we would fly to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for a few nights and then bounce to Miami. Thank you, Chile, you did us a favour! We quickly cancelled the Oneworld flight from Santiago and jumped an Uber to the international airport in BA to wait for the mid-afternoon flight to Bolivia! Both wishing we knew Chile would be a pain and we could have avoided the 4 am wake-up call and hanging out at airports all day! Fortunately, the flight was on time. We had landed row 1 for our 3-hour flight, boarded, and were in the air bound for Bolivia. Never have we seen or heard so many dogs and cats flying (I am sure I even listened to a bird at one stage); other than the additional pet passengers, we had a very comfortable flight and caught up on some sleep! Santa Cruz is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and has grown from being a small outpost town to having a population of over 2 million, mainly due to the expansion of agriculture (notably soybeans, sugarcane, and rice) and petroleum and natural gas mining in the surrounding valleys. The city produces soybean oil, dairy and meat products, refined sugar, wood, leather, and alcohol. Oil refining is also essential. Unlike La Paz and the other major cities of Bolivia, located high in the Andes, Santa Cruz lies at an altitude of 416 meters, and its climate is distinctly tropical. It is also known for its exciting nightlife and as a base for a wide range of exciting tourist attractions, namely the salt flats. We safely arrived in Santa Cruz, thankful for the cooler weather, about 10 degrees less than BA, which was welcomed. Upon arriving at the airport, we gambled on the local taxi after converting some cash without asking for a price; 20 minutes later and not being ripped off, we were in the hotel enjoying a cocktail on the rooftop, celebrating country number 63! We opted to stay in a five-star hotel unfamiliar with the country, as there was no time to research when you book on the morning you arrive. Marriott Santa Cruz de la Sierra Hotel was located just on the edge of the centre, but it was modern, clean and perfect for a short stay. The team was warm and friendly, and the hotel bounced back from the past few years. On our first night in, we enjoyed a quiet dinner in the hotel's restaurant, and the food was delicious; also happy to know we were still in the land of empanadas, as you can't get enough of them! With only three nights to enjoy our new country, it was a fly-by visit as we needed to be in Miami to embark on our next cruise, but we managed to catch up on sleep, visit the city centre, and experience the dining scene, which is very impressive, including the local wine; we even squeezed in a morning of hair cuts at Peluquería Marco Tulio and shopping for new outfits! Our first day was spent exploring the centre, just roaming around Plaza 24 de Septiembre, the city's central plaza, where locals and tourists alike gather to hang out and observe each other and experience the local vibe; we feel it is a city of two tales, the old and the new. Parts were relatively poor, and then you would come across a modern and contemporary landscape with many quality restaurants and apartment buildings. We even checked on some pricing of an apartment off the plan, approx USD50k. After getting lost amongst the local life, we googled and Ubered our way to a steak house BRÍOS Restaurante that was highly recommended and enjoyed our afternoon with what we do best wine and dining! The meat was exceptional and nicely complimented with a favourite Malbec from Mendoza. The next day, we ticked off the essentials in the nearby shopping mall called Ventura Mall and followed this with another slow lunch. After reading the reviews on Piegari Restaurant, we had to squeeze it in; we don't like to miss out on dining opportunities. It was nice and quiet, with stylish decor, friendly staff, and outstanding food. We were very grateful we chose Italian for our last meal in Santa Cruz and also sampled a Bolivian red wine, which we were super impressed with. Our stay in Santa Cruz was short and sweet, but our little teaser of Bolivia has won our hearts, and we will find our way back to appreciate you truly! We walked freely; taxis and Ubers were plentiful and cheap, we felt safe, the people were warm and friendly, the food was delicious (and excellent value), and the little we saw, so much more to discover and enjoy! Fun facts and travel tips: Card payments were used in most places; we even found it interesting how the keypads were laid out; the numbers were all jumbled and different on each console Uber was very inexpensive and easy to use to get around Santa Cruz People are super friendly and kind The quality of food and restaurants was impressive Santa Cruz is the unofficial Sloth Capital of the World; these charming and iconic animals can still be seen frequently climbing trees on the city's outskirts today. Bolivia is home to the most incredible salt flats (the largest in the world); we have heard repeatedly from fellow travellers that the Uyuni Salt Flats are one of their favourite places in the world.

  • Buenos Aires - Argentina

    Welcome to Buenos Aires. Argentina's big, cosmopolitan capital city, also known as the Paris of Latin America, is home to 13 million. Buenos Aires (BA) is also the second-largest metropolitan area in South America. Buenos Aires is often described as a Minestrone soup of culture; it's decorated history of immigrants and settlers from wide and far; you have the best of everything due to the worldly influences over the years; over 6 million Europeans moved to Buenos Aires. Day 5 - Buenos Aires, Argentina Upon arriving last night from El Calafate, Exploration Journeys organised for us to be picked up by our local guide and delivered to the Hilton, it was dark, so we only saw the city at night. Today was the first light for us, so we could open our blinds and see the city; we always love this part, unveiling a new view! Our lovely guide Claudia was waiting for us bright and early to take us on a city tour. First up was a visit to the city square Plaza de Mayo, lined with stately 19th-century buildings, including the parliament. Claudia shared all the juicy details of the city's history, including some sad information too. They have been under six dictatorships, the last from 1976-1983. After the city square, we visited the impressive cathedral. From the exterior, you would be none the wiser, but on entering, you are overwhelmed by the beautiful design and collection of sculptures honouring those of importance. It was also the last home for the pope, who is now, of course, at the Vatican. The next stop was the neighbourhood La Boca, a working-class area with a cluster of attractions near the Riachuelo River. The main attraction is Caminito, a narrow alley flanked by brightly painted zinc shacks that evoke the district's early immigrant days; it is full of colour! Tango and football are up there with the president in this country. La Boca is also painted blue and yellow, as this neighbourhood hosts the football arena for their leading team. We stopped in the most colourful, cobblestoned and bright streets to explore the original abodes of those who came to Argentina from Spain, where up to 20 families would share the common space (kitchen and bathroom) whilst all living in a small room; the introduction of yellow fever. Following this, Claudia was very insightful; she was getting to know our style and took us for our morning coffee in San Telmo market; it was fascinating, a food market full of restaurants and fresh produce stalls; you could easily spend more time here, we were just before the lunch hour so fortunately, we skipped the craziness of the crowds. Once our coffee fix was in play, we stopped by to visit another old home that was initially for the wealthy and their family, but as the people migrated from the south to the north of the city, the rich would rent the rooms, and it would then become a shared living space, and yellow fever continued to grow with even more families sharing. Our final stop was to visit Eva, where she rests, quite the story about how she ended up there, will share on the weekly blog. We were a little apprehensive about visiting the cemetery, but this soon changed once we saw all the mausoleums where all the influential people of the city were laid to rest. The enormity of the expense and design was fascinating. Although we did start to get the chills shortly after, it was time to head home. Can you believe it is only lunchtime!! We thanked Claudia for the morning, and it was time for Wayne and Sal to enjoy Friday afternoon, of course, with a slow lunch. We found the perfect Italian restaurant Sorrento with a lovely view from the terrace, and settled for the afternoon. The food, wine and service were impeccable, and the friendly atmosphere was fun. Following lunch, we popped into a floating bar, which was hosting a jet ski competition in the city's heart and pulled up a pew and cocktail to join in the fun. A great first day in Buenos Aires! Tomorrow is a Tango show! Fun facts: The travelling corpse - learn all about the bizarre events that unfolded after Eva Peron's death and why it took over 20 years for her body to rest. Pesos exchange rate - Argentina is unique because they have two exchange rates, one is the official rate, so when using your credit card or ATM card, you are charged the bank rate, which is nearly half of the blue dollar rate (the informal rate), so cash is best at this stage as you get almost double for your dollar! For example $1USD = 163 pesos (official) or 280 pesos (blue). The government just announced that foreigners will receive the blue rate when using cards from last Friday to drive tourism, although it seems the world's banks haven't received the memo yet. (Update: Our Wise card now issues refunds a few days after as the initial charge is official, but you receive the blue rate a few days later) Football team colours were chosen by the players who worked in the port years ago based on the flag of the next ship to arrive in port, Sweden! Day 6 - Buenos Aires, Argentina Today was Saturday, and we had the day to ourselves until the evening. After a much-needed sleep-in, we were up to explore the city. We decided our first stop would be to exchange some cash. After we were cashed up, we headed to the fabulous San Telmo market for our morning coffee. Why try to find another when you have already seen the perfect coffee? We watched the city wake up; we were considering lunch there, but it was pretty warm as the weather was topping 30 degrees, so we jumped in an Uber and visited a restaurant we were impressed with in Recoleta the day prior. The restaurant 'Fervor' was located in a leafy tree-lined street in the post area known for Paris-style townhouses, lavish former palaces and boutiques. It was also home to the Recoleta Cemetery we visited yesterday, where national icons rest in extravagant tombs. A beautiful terrace table had our name on it. We spent the afternoon enjoying more fabulous food and wine and the mouthwatering pasta from the Italian influence in Argentina. This evening we were treated to a Tango show at 'Gala Tango', so on with our Saturday best, and we were ready to party! By 8 pm, we were seated in a beautiful dining setting, treated to wines of our choice and a three-course meal. We enjoyed the company of our tables alongside us and swapped many travel stories. The big event, the Tango show, kicked off at 10 pm, and for the next 90 minutes, we were all mesmerised by the talented musicians, singers and dancers. It was quite the show and very impressive; you can see it for yourselves in the videos! The speed at which they could dance was mind-blowing! Following an adventurous and fun few weeks exploring Argentina, indeed a country that has filled us with joy every step of the way, a special thank you to the most incredible travel agent, the excellent Fred Schejtman at Argentina Exploration Journeys. In a nutshell, we started in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, post our North to South Pole journey, we then experienced the icy wonders of the world, the incredible Glaciers of Argentina, including ice-trekking inside and on top of glaciers in El Calafate. Next up was Argentina’s Patagonian region called Bariloche; this picturesque gem borders Nahuel Huapi, a large glacial lake surrounded by the Andes Mountains. We then immersed ourselves in Mendoza to experience those fine Argentinian wines and saved the best for last, the magnificent waterfalls Iguazú falls, unlike no other destination. After the perfect introduction to Argentina, we were back to explore more of this vibrant and colourful city and live as a local for a few days before embarking on our next adventure. Day 24 - 30, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina We had booked a perfect Airbnb in Buenos Aires, located in a beautiful green and leafy neighbourhood, Palermo. After our research, this was the ideal neighbourhood for foodies like ourselves, so we booked immediately. It did not disappoint. Our Airbnb was located within a beautifully restored 1931 historic building Palacio Cabrera, and the apartment was immaculate. Our lovely host left no stone unturned in this prestige apartment and ensured your stay was as comfortable and effortless as needed. You had everything you need and more should you wish to cook at home; you were also welcomed with some treats. The interior was faultless with stunning design furniture, balconies were spacious and great to watch the street life below you, and a pool and laundry were also on the complex. The building was very safe and secure, with 24-hour security, which was reassuring when leaving at 5.30 am on a Sunday morning. The neighbourhood Palermo was exactly as researched; it was full of tree-lined streets, cafes & dining establishments, and all your essentials, we couldn't be happier with this stay and wished we had more time! We spent the first few days with our heads down and caught up on our work and some home-cooked meals. Fortunately, within a five-minute walk, we had a wine shop on our doorstep with an excellent selection of local wines, a butcher to satisfy our meat cravings and a local produce store too. We also loved visiting the newly opened organic deli for treats La Juana Mercado and fast became local customers at the coffee shop around the corner, Elocuente café y libros. The coffee was incredible, and we loved living local life again for a few days. It was the perfect way to practice our Spanish, and we can now order coffee (it's a start)!! When the weekend arrived, we were out exploring the tree-lined streets, loving all the local designer stores and getting lost amongst the cobblestoned streets and alleys, the neighbourhood has a wonderful energy, and you can easily find yourself in awe of the gorgeous stores. You won't be disappointed with the dining and bar scene too. We stumbled on a perfect restaurant for our slow lazy lunch with the best team, best food, and best wine; it was a true find! Thank you to Lo de Jesus for having us and for welcoming us back as we returned over the subsequent few visits to Buenos Aires, you always made us feel at home, and we left with very satisfied bellies full of delicious Argentinean beef and wine! We have both definitely left a little piece of us in Buenos Aires and Argentina with all the wonderful new friends we have made and experiences we will carry with us on all future travels; we can't wait to find our way back (which is soon on the cruise a few times)!

  • Iguazu Falls - Argentina

    Welcome to Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural world wonders and the widest waterfalls in the world - Iguazu Falls. The falls lie on the border of Brazil and Argentina sitting at the northern tip of Argentina. Our next and final segment of our 'Argentina Chapter' adventure with Exploration Journeys. (Warning, you might need a bottle of wine, not just a glass to get through this blog) Day 17 - Iguazú Falls Arriving late during the evening at the airport in Iguazu, we were immediately whisked away by our local guides to the only hotel, 'Gran Melia', in the middle of the National Park with panoramic views of the falls. As soon as we entered the gates of the park, our driver switched the headlights off as we drove gently through the National park to appreciate and immerse ourselves in the jungle - all the sounds of the night and wildlife, the rainforest scents accompanied by the open sky and stars, it was a perfect introduction to this wonder of the world destination. We soon arrived at the hotel, had a very efficient check-in and chuckled when guest relations reminded us the monkeys love to rack up our mini bar bill, so be sure to lock our balcony when leaving the room. They will pop in for a party and leave you with the check; this was a first! We checked into our room, super impressed so far; we loved the welcome champagne and treats. We could only appreciate the gushing sounds of the falls, and it was already thrilling; very excited for the morning as our room had views of the falls! As soon as we settled into the room, we were on an email asking our lovely tour operator Fred to extend our stay for six nights; we needed to enjoy this slice of natural paradise. The water volume is the highest in over 20 years, from 1500 to 2100 cubic square litres every second, so you can imagine the gushing sounds we were already hearing, the thrill of travel and being in the unknown; we couldn't wait for daylight to be upon us. We popped up to the rooftop bar for a nightcap drink and to celebrate a new bucket list destination and the adventures ahead over the next few days, catching a glimpse of the falls under the evening sky. Day 18 - Iguazu Falls, Argentina A bucket list item is checked! The morning was upon us; we were so excited to see the falls from our room. I was up with the sunrise; honestly, no words describe the falls. They are majestic and enormous; a total of 275 falls over 3km wide. Today we were booked on a jet boat experience to experience the falls from the water's edge and appreciate the falls, and feel part of the magnificent water flows. Our lovely guide, Veronica, met us, took care of our entry to the experience, and ensured we were safely on the truck. She also ensured we had water, repellant and SPF; we have started to call her Mum, she is taking the best care of us. After a short ride in an open-air truck through the national park, learning all about the sub-tropical jungle, we arrived at the water's edge. You navigate down 300 steps to the pier where you join the boat, the team were experts, and everyone was quickly kitted out with a vest and waterproof bag and seated on the boat. We navigated and sped through the Iguazu River and rapids to the falls, the three musketeers were first, and our captain definitely put on a show. We were soon up so close and personal with the falls and hearing the loud roars. The mist and gushing waters soon drenched us; it was quite the experience. Everyone had a blast and was on cloud nine. Although there was more, we soon sped along to the next set of falls, San Martin, where it was time for another shower, although once we started with the Aussie, Aussie, Aussie chant (with a boat full of Latin Americans, and the big game on Saturday is Argentina and Australia - remember football is the religion of this country), the captain decided to make sure we were well and truly drenched with another few showers in the falls, it was a load of fun and laughter amongst us all, and we were soon telling them Argentina is No.1;-) After 25 minutes of navigating, we were back at the pier to be transported back to the meeting point within the national park. The stop was only a few minutes from our hotel; the experience took about 2 hours. As you disembarked, you were also offered the video footage of the fun (below), which was great as it was challenging to take vids whilst being showered with the falls. We spent the afternoon basking in this gorgeous hotel, with access to a VIP lounge with complimentary drinks, food, and panoramic views of the gushing falls. We were also treated to a visit from the monkeys during the evening Families of monkeys come to search the rooms for treats, so you must keep your balcony doors locked. We were all in awe of seeing them so close and how cheeky they were. We now understand why your mini-bar bill can be higher than you expected! What a perfect introduction to Iguazu Falls! Day 19 - Iguazu Falls, Brazil Today marks our 62nd country. Welcome to Brazil! This morning we started with a slow breakfast, followed by an 11 am pickup with our lovely local guide Veronica and her hubby Fernando behind the wheel. Three excursions were scheduled today, so Wayne and Sal were feeling a little anxious about the day ahead and whether we would manage to tick them all off. Kudos to us, it was a successful day, and we managed to achieve all three activities in Brazil and still back home in Argentina by 4 pm. We made our way to the Brazilian border; 30 minutes later, we were being checked in by border control; it was a bonus, no stamps on the passport as we would return to Argentina within the same day Passport pages are precious. The bridge across the Iguazu River (the border between the two countries), halfway across it, is painted yellow and green, the Brazilian flag colours. Our first experience was a helicopter flight over the entire falls and the devil's throat to see the falls from the sky. We were most excited about this, as we love our joy rides and visiting landmarks from a whole new perspective; it truly helps you understand the scale of the falls. After a short wait, we were up and away; I was fortunate to be seated up front, so I was in the best position to capture this incredible flight, short and sweet, but we looped over and around a few times the falls, a total of 10 minutes, but it was magical We were on a natural high after landing. Next up, we were whisked across the road to the bird sanctuary 'Parque das Aves', a very well-structured bird park; it is home to many bird species that have been rescued and provided a safe space to recover in a more natural habitat, in an Atlantic rainforest, to enjoy a better life. We absolutely loved it; your proximity to the birds was enchanting as you walked the park. We especially loved the Macaw enclosure; you could relax and be amongst the birds as they would go about their day; there was also a few close calls as they would fly up above you. After about two hours, we completed the guided tracks, listening intently to Veronica, who was full of rescue stories and very passionate about this project. A husband and wife set it up in 1994; unfortunately, he passed away two years after the opening, but his wife and daughters have continued with the sanctuary and should be very proud. The skies were beginning to rumble and open up as we were to embark on our final experience, seeing the falls from the Brazilian side. 80% of the falls reside on the Argentine side, so to fully appreciate them and capture magnificent photos, you are best to see them from Brazil. So far, we have seen them from an aerial view and the water's edge, so this was a new experience. As we entered the Iguazu National Park in Foz de Iguazu (Brazil), the skies opened, and the rain set in. Still, we were waterproof (no need for those environmentally damaging plastic ponchos) and presented an excellent opportunity to see the falls with fewer tourists as most avoid the rain. Fortunately, local guides could drive in the park, so we were delivered to the two viewpoints easily and quickly. The first viewpoint was terrific, but the second was like no other. The volume of the water gushing down and being meters away from the falls was mind-blowing! Just below 2000 m2/s at present, it usually is 1500 m2/s. Iguazu translates to Big Water in the native language, and you can fully appreciate this being in such proximity! You can also experience the falls from a walkway suspended over the river; here, you are fully immersed in the mist from the falls; with the rain settled in, we were again drenched, but a treasured moment all the same. Thank you, Brazil, for sharing all these cherished moments during our visit; we look forward to exploring more of what you offer in the next few months. We returned to our hotel, ready to freshen up and enjoy a slow dinner! We had to celebrate this wonderful day of exploring with a delicious (and huge) Argentinean steak, a tomahawk paired with a fabulous Malbec. Day 20 - 23, Iguazu Falls, Argentina The remaining few nights were spent enjoying the beautiful hotel and the magnificent falls. You truly can't get enough of them, the sound of them, the views, the volume of water. Definitely, one of the most magical places we have visited, and we recommend everyone to pop Iguazu on their bucket list. Argentina has truly impressed us and has become one of our favourite travel destinations. Dining at Melia Grande Hotel, we enjoyed indulging in Argentinean Malbecs and meat. Sunsets from Melia Gran Hotel are mesmerising each evening. Iguazu Falls Fun facts: Only sub-tropical National park left in South America Iguazu translates to Big water Venezuela has the tallest falls at 930m, and Iguazu falls is 80m tall Iguazu is the widest, with a total of 275 falls. 3km in width, 80% in Argentina and 20%. in Brazil Brazil uses the water from the falls for electricity with power plants, and Argentina uses it for drinking.

  • Mendoza - Argentina

    Welcome to the wine capital of Argentina, Mendoza! Our next segment of our 'Argentina Chapter' adventure with Exploration Journeys. Argentina is the 5th largest wine producer globally, and Mendoza is home to over 1200 bodegas (wineries), and of course, Mendoza is the home of the world's finest Malbec. A fun fact we love about Mendoza is that the city has one tree per person; you feel this as you explore the city centre, as the greenery surrounds you. Day 13 - Mendoza, Argentina Our first day kicks off with an early morning pickup for Uco Valley, about 60 mins from Mendoza. Uco Valley is relatively new for a wine district, about 25 years old. Uco Valley is at the foothill of the Andes, a relatively new wine region; due to its infancy, it has investments from the world's best and is leading with state-of-the-art equipment and intelligent and innovative approaches to winemaking. Our first was a visit to Bodega Enzo Bianchi, one of the first wineries in Mendoza from 1928; they have expanded to Uco Valley. We started with a tour with the knowledgeable Deborah, learning about the climates, elevations and winemaking process before we settled in with a tasting. They are rich in their innovative winemaking ways, including their approach to sustainable barrels. We loved learning about the eco-friendly process they are adopting, such as the ceramic eggs, which are much more friendly to the environment than the oak wooden barrels, as they can only be used four times. It was a private tour with another couple from Brazil, who we fast became friends with over the tasting. Here in Argentina, a tasting is basically a full glass, so you really get to enjoy the wines, and at 15% alcohol, you can definitely feel it too. Our second stop was Bodega Gimenez Riili, a larger group for the wine tour and tasting, but we enjoyed chatting with everyone from different parts of the world. It consisted of a quick tour, which suited us just fine as we were getting hungry at this stage (we nearly devoured the BBQ lamb as we strolled on past), followed by another tasting. The wineries here are beautiful; most are set up for slow lunches and relaxing afternoons in the sun overlooking the vineyards, so an ideal destination for Wayne & Sal! After about eight glasses, we were definitely ready for lunch. Bodega Andeluna, our third winery, was in a beautiful setting. A table was waiting for us; we finally relaxed for the afternoon, enjoying divine gourmet food and more delicious wines! Argentine wines are consistently very, very good! We enjoyed the sunshine with some new friends from Argentina, and then we were whisked back to the hotel to get some rest for the following day's tours! Day 14 - Mendoza, Argentina This morning we dropped one winery to enjoy the beautiful Park Hyatt Mendoza and to start the day with coffee on the terrace; who needs wine at 9 am? Yes, that's coming from me! After a relaxing morning, we were ready for our pickup at 10.45 am to arrive at our first winery Belasco de Baquedano for a tour and tasting. Today was about exploring another region only half an hour from Mendoza. Our first winery is Spanish-influenced due to its owner. It was another beautiful winery with miles of vines! Interestingly, the wineries we visited all harvest in March, which is early autumn, providing the grapes with more growing time and higher sugar content. Our tour took us through their winemaking process, and just before the tasting, we all entered a large room designed to experience the large array of aromas that you may find in the wines; it was incredible! We have been to our fair share of wineries, and this is the first time we have experienced the joy of scents and learned about the wine culture in such a way! This aroma sensory experience is the largest in the world, and only their sister winery in Spain is believed to be the only other with the same experience. We loved it! The aromas indeed sharpened your senses, made you question your instincts and allowed you to store away in your memory vault all of the scents that can be discovered in wines. This was followed by a tasting where the girls would challenge us with the aromas of the wines and keep us guessing! We enjoyed the morning and the private tasting, chatting with the young ladies and hearing about their goals and dreams. Our next event was a slow lunch at Bodegas Norton, now owned by Mr Swarovski, and was the first winery to produce the famous Malbec, which an Englishman then held. We fell in love with the grounds; they were immaculate with the most incredible backdrop of the Andes. The restaurant was exactly what we were hoping for; we quickly settled in and upgraded our lunch to the five-course tasting menu with premium wines; the team were delightful, and the food, wine and views matched. The decor and design were minimalist, the attention to detail was immaculate, the pacing of food was slow, and you were thoroughly provided with the opportunity to enjoy your lunch with wines that showcased the food. Unbeknownst to us, on arrival sitting behind us through the enormous wooden doors was where all the grapes of the wine ferments using the latest technology, all the stainless steel wine vats. It is pretty surreal sitting there and across the luscious green vines, the snow-capped peaks of the Andes as your viewpoint. It was a privilege to be offered some exclusive wines only available at the winery, even some still in the design stage; think excellent whites, being Austrian owned they are focusing on producing award-winning Austrian varieties, genuinely unique styles that will broaden the appeal of Argentinian wines. We were also privy to a cleanskin dessert wine, which was perfection. We loved chatting with the lovely passionate sommelier Martina, who was enjoying it as much as we were. We loved the experience, and a four-hour slow lunch was the perfect ending to our winery journey in Mendoza. Day 15 & 16 - Mendoza, Argentina We took the opportunity to have a few days off from exploring, catch up on work and make sure we explored the city. Although after a short walk in the 40-degree summer heat, we opted to enjoy lunch, followed by watching the World Cup as Argentina was playing, their energy was infectious, and it was a great experience. We are even starting to like (and semi-understand) this game they call football!! (Yes, I know it's Soccer!) Mendoza needs much more time, and when we return to Argentina, we will give it the time it deserves to fully appreciate and savour the world-class wineries and wines it deserves. Truly a magical place! Next up is Iguazu Falls and a taste of Brazil, another bucket list adventure in Argentina; we can't wait to share the magic of this destination soon with you all!

  • Bariloche - Argentina

    Our next exciting segment of our 'Argentina Chapter' adventure with Exploration Journeys was Patagonia's Natural Beauty destination. Welcome to Bariloche, a beautiful town in the Patagonian region of Argentina, known for its natural beauty and pristine landscapes, and after one week, we completely understand why. Bariloche is nestled among deep-blue lakes and set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes mountain range. It's an excellent place for hiking in the mountains, traversing forests, navigating across lakes and embarking on exciting adventure tours such as rafting or horseback riding. It is also home to the breathtaking view from atop Cerro Campanario, one of the ten most beautiful panoramic views in the world, as rated by National Geographic), a nature lover's paradise. In 2020 Bariloche was selected by Forbes as one of the best 20 places to visit in the world, placing it in position number 4 on their list! Day 8 - Bariloche Let's meet some Gauchos! Day one in Bariloche was all about horse riding, one of our favourites! Ironically the last time we rode was precisely one year ago in Cappadocia, Turkey! We were picked up bright and early, along with our guide Juan of Che Patagonia, the lovely Fred of Exploration Journeys organised to ensure no language barriers throughout the day. We instantly clicked with Juan, and after sharing all our travel stories, we felt like lifelong friends, so it was great fun having Juan join us for the day. The horse riding ranch was located about 40 mins south of the city, where we all enjoyed the majestic scenery of the Patagonian landscapes and great lakes of Bariloche; this is definitely the lake district. November is the perfect time to visit Bariloche as one month a year, all the Scotch Broom is bursting with yellow flowers absolutely everywhere, so a constant pop of canary yellow borders the roads! We arrived at the campsite, which was also home to the horses, positioned by the beautiful lakeside. Everyone was matched up with a horse to commence the trail ride. As we had a bunch of beginners, it was purely a trail ride, whereby the horses would only follow the lead and were so disciplined they would not adhere to any commands; therefore, it was a very calm ride. Fortunately, we were surrounded by Patagonian snow-capped mountains, native trees and the lake, and we were lucky enough to go water's edge and ride alongside it for a moment. Our ride finished about two hours later, and we bid our new four-legged friends and gauchos goodbye. Next up, we were treated to a home-cooked lunch by the lake, with local dishes such as empanadas and BBQ, followed by a brownie with the Argentinian favourite Dulce de leche, which is similar to caramel, basically caramelised milk with sugar. It is delicious, although in small doses. The afternoon took us back to the hotel for an afternoon of rest and to prepare for the next few busy days of adventures in Bariloche. Day 9 - Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina Bariloche is captivating; you are fully immersed amongst the Patagonian mountains and emerald green and turquoise lakes. This morning was the perfect start to our day, with mesmerising panoramic views over Bariloche. Our lovely guide Facundo (who we had some fun with and his name!) and fabulous driver Pablo, picked us up and ensured we were the first on the chairlift to avoid the queues and the tourists. Pablo was kind enough to skip the football as Argentina was playing. However, in hindsight, we might have done him a favour if you followed the World Cup. It was a peaceful experience as the chairlift rose us up Campanario Hill nearer to the skyline, where we could take in one of the world's top ten best views as rated by national geographic! The lakes with backdrops of snow-capped mountains and green meadows flush with vivid yellow scotch broom; the views were like no other! Next was our hike; we were tasked with a 2 1/2-hour hike to the top of Mount Llao Llao to enjoy more sublime views! As you know, Wayne and Sal avoid this type of activity, but we assured it would be worth it, so we geared ourselves up and thought of the afternoon reward, a slow lazy lunch! We walked the same path as Barack Obama on his visit to Bariloche; Facundo shared his secret spots with million-dollar views and was void of humans! Perfect! Thank you, Facundo, for capturing some magical moments for us too! The views were worth the strenuous activity; we pretended to take a few pics along the way to catch our breath as our Facundo was a little speedy mountain goat. We were very impressed with ourselves; we even completed the hike in less than two hours, whereas most we were told take just shy of 2 1/2 hours! Go, Wayne and Sal, the steak and wine will be well deserved! After our hike, our lovely driver Pablo was waiting at the foot of the mountain to deliver us to a local coffee shop set up for hikers alike. We all enjoyed an excellent coffee and treat; thank you, Llao Llao Coffee Shop. Once caffeinated, we completed the picturesque circuit for a final stopover at the scenic summit for more breathtaking views of this stunning town of Bariloche. Pablo and Facundo delivered us back to our hotel, and we quickly cleaned up and rushed out to secure a table for a slow lazy lunch at the best steakhouse in town Alto El Fuego. It did not disappoint; the team were a delight, the atmosphere was beautiful, and the steaks and wine were divine! Although next time one steak to share with be plentiful! We finished the day exploring Bariloche and with a late afternoon cocktail back at our favourite new scenic bar. What a day, and kudos to us for completing our very first hike! Day ten - Bariloche This morning was about navigating the Nahuel Huapi Lake of Bariloche and exploring the myrtle forest and Victoria Island. Early pickup by Facundo to make sure we could stop at a local coffee truck for our morning fix; it was well worth it! Coffee was followed by a cruise, where we would navigate the lake and take in the magical scenery with a few stops throughout the day. We were seated on the terrace deck, which was for VIP ticket holders, and we were fortunate it was quiet, so we had an entire section to ourselves. We were kept hydrated with plenty of local foods to keep our energy up. Our first stop was Peninsula Quetrihue, an enchanted forest; it had a wooden walkway to guide you past the exquisite saffron-coloured trees of the forest, and it was unique. Facundo skipped all the crowds with his shortcuts and found more secret hiding spots for those uninterrupted photo opportunities. It was interesting to see the pumice surrounding the beach due to a volcanic eruption. The second stop was Victoria Island in Nahuel Huapi National Park, originally a nursery for exotic plants and trees. Still, now the focus is on natives, so they have been removing the pine trees to make space. It was also home to a secluded boutique hotel with the most beautiful views, and we could see ourselves spending a week here and enjoying the peacefulness of the surrounding nature. Previously the island was also set up for park rangers in training to prepare for their new occupation. There was also a school historically used for the park ranger's children, now repurposed as a home for kids who need a safe space and a break from their current situations. It was an island that provided a sense of tranquillity and being at peace with nature. We enjoyed walking around and relaxing by the water's edge, a hidden gem. Today was another magical day in Bariloche, and we thank you, Facundo, for all the laughs, photography tips, and advice and for showing us all your secret spots. Day eleven - Bariloche Our final day in Bariloche was a relaxing day; we took the time to catch up on sleep and work. We then treated ourselves to another slow lunch at the best steakhouse in town Alto El Fuego, it was great to revisit the team, and we were just impressed with the food. You always go back when you are lucky enough to find a hidden gem! We followed this with cocktails at a beautiful spot in the sun, enjoying the local life and catching up with Juan for farewell drinks; we always leave a piece of us in the magical places we visit and always look forward to reconnecting with the special friends we make. The next adventure is the wine region Mendoza; we couldn't travel to Argentina the home of Malbec, without missing Mendoza.

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