13 Day Patagonia Trek
10 Day Birding Trip
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As opposed to what happens in other regions of the world, Argentina presents itself to the visitor as a country in which it is possible to reach the unreachable with ease.
As one travels along the road the vegetation grows to such an extent that the sky is completely covered in certain parts of the route. The damp earth becomes more reddish, the river becomes tumultuous, increasing its turbulence so that, together with its increasing roar, we realize that we are arriving at a different and imposing place.
At last, within the rain forest, there appears one of the most beautiful and startling spectacles in the world, the cataracts of Iguazu, which have been declared as a Natural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is an impressive chute of water made up of 275 falls which plunge tumultuously into space from a height of 80 meters.
From the observation point or from amongst the cataracts, reached by paths, footbridges or rubber rafts, it is possible to observe them from distinctive perspectives and to even get near to the imposing Garganta del Diablo (The Devil's throat) which is considered to be the best example of this wonder of nature.
A semicircle formed by almost three hundred colossal falls, which raise delicate iridescent veils from their noisy impacts, is the magnificent scenario where nobody can tear themselves away from the seductive sensation produced by this demonstration of Nature's forces.
Only the stroke of a brush would thus help one to be able to understand that in Argentina lack of restraint is a constant. In this land Nature seems to have forgotten its normal size as it exceeds its limits and gives way to exuberance.
For instance, the "Esteros del Iberá" - or Iberá Swamps - (provincial nature reserve) take up some 20,000 square km. of a wonderful wild aquatic world with lakes, marshes and swamps of unpolluted water.
Located in the Corrientes province, the word "iberá" in the Guaraní Indians language means "brilliant waters".
The Corrientes province (88.000 square kilometers), located in the north-east of the country, is part (together with the Missions and Entre Rios provinces) of the so-called "Argentinean Mesopotamia", a 200.000 square km area limited west and east by the large Paraná and Uruguay rivers.
The Esteros del Iberá enjoy a closed, unpolluted system. Although to the north it almost meets the Paraná river, there is no direct inflow. The swamps and lakes of Iberá are only fed by rain water (2000 mm in the year). A slight slope to the south east (10 cm per kilometer) causes the water to run off very slowly, both in the winding Miriñay river (and finally into the large Uruguay river), and in the Corrientes river (flowing south into the Paraná river). There are no industrial or mining activities all the way around.
Some parts of the Iberá Swamps area are covered by sand dunes, relicts of a very dry period before the swamps were formed by a radical climatic change. Within the swamps area there are some lakes, the largest in the south-west, like Laguna de Iberá (52 square km) and Luna (80 square km).
The Iberá swamps huge area is very humid and almost uninhabited but for the great variety of wildlife. The variety of birds is staggering 380 different kinds of birds,predators such as hawks and owls; numerous species of ducks and other fishing birds, like the juan grande stork, spoonbills and herons; woodpeckers, flamingoes, ibis, anhingas and many others.
How can one comprehend a country where the width of the rivers prevents one from seeing the other bank; where the fertile lands of the Pampa appear to have no end making us believe that we are in the presence of a green and immeasurable ocean; where the ice fields extend for kilometers with heights greater than 80 meters; or where it is possible to see and even get within a few meters of the whale from the South, one of the giant species that continue to live on our planet.
Such vastness, such exuberance is nonetheless accessible and near to hand. In a little more than four hours a plane will take you directly from Buenos Aires to the most southerly inhabited part of the world, the Tierra del Fuego.
At the other end, one of the best ways of discovering the landscapes and cultures of the high peaks of the Andes is with the Railway to the Clouds in Salta, an unusual form of tourist transport which climbs up and penetrates into the Andes.
To these destinations others less well known can be added, such as the Delta of the Parana river which flows into the River Plate, the widest in the world. It measures 14.000 square km, five times the size of Luxembourg. It has an infinity of islands separated by innumerable rivers and streams where different nautical sporting activities take place, thick woods, a large variety of fruit trees, an incredible native fauna and excellent tourist facilities which are reached in passenger launches, boats and private yachts, which are essential for trips and excursions.
And all these at less than 50 Km from the center of Buenos Aires. These concepts of vastness and accessibility are applicable to the whole of the country and have contributed to correcting old conceptions.
The Republic of Argentina, located in the West of the Southern Hemisphere, in the continent of America, has 3.5 million square Km. It stretches from North to South from above the Tropic of Capricorn down to the Antarctic (part of which with its tip in the South Pole belongs to it); and from East to West from the Atlantic Ocean to the mountain range of the Andes.
However, to get a more realistic idea of its size Spain, for example, would fit more than five times into its surface area, or that between La Quiaca, on the Northern boundary, and Ushuaia, the most Southern city in the American continent, there are some 3.700 km in a straight line, a similar distance to that between Lisbon and Moscow.
Nevertheless, current techniques and methods of communication have got rid of the old idea of this country as a place which is remote and of difficult access. A look at a map of the world would show us that Patagonia is within those latitudes whose corresponding ones in the Northern Hemisphere cross the city of Cordoba in Andalucia and Copenhagen, that is to say, a land situated at the same distance from the Equator as the Continent of Europe.
In the middle of all this exuberant nature, the front door to Argentina is, paradoxically, an enormous and modern city, the capital of the Republic, which extends for kilometers making up the Grand Buenos Aires which houses a third of the country's population in an area which only covers 0.1% of the country.
With almost 13 million inhabitants, Buenos Aires is the cosmopolitan gate to Argentina, a melting pot of races as somebody once described it. It is the city of Borges and Gardel, of Julio Boca, of Gabriela Sabatini, of the Nobel prizewinners Andres Saavedra Lamas, Bernardo Houssay, Federico Laloir and Cesar Milstein, it is the cradle of the Tango, the city of all those inhabitants of the world who have chosen it as their home and who have made it as it is.
But above all it is the city of the "porteños" (people from Buenos Aires), which is the name by which they are known and which they bear with pride.
Buenos Aires, a city of architectural contrasts, a metropolis with an intense cultural, artistic and sporting life in which, as important as its 80 museums, its innumerable theaters, shows and art galleries, are the famous cafes of Buenos Aires. Some of them are famous for their architectural beauty, for their literary gatherings and for being a meeting place for artists and politicians or simply for their "cafe chats", a genuine city institution, in a meeting place where almost all the inhabitants of the city, no matter their social background, meet frequently.
It is unthinkable therefore not to see visitors mixing with the habitants of the cafes of Buenos Aires in order to appreciate, within such scenario, this unique experience.
One of the most interesting trips that you can take on leaving the city of Buenos Aires is to go to what were the dominions of the Gauchos, in this immense sea of grass which is the Argentinean Pampa, of which everybody has heard of but few have experienced its true magnitude.
The true pampa seems like a land of fantasies which is impossible to explain or take in with just a simple visit. In order to understand it one has to be in it, live through its days and nights, contemplate its dawns and its twilights, scan its infinite horizons, walk it, ride it facing the sun, the wind and the rain, watch its flocks and herds grazing, hear the song of the birds, its music and the profound silences and fill your lungs with its totally pure air.
Get to know this legendary personality, an unyielding lover of liberty, the Argentinean Gaucho, of proverbial nobility and gallant air, who still carries out his country tasks and share a Creole roast washed down with the excellent wines of the country are other ways getting to know the Pampa.
There is a way of getting close to and trying to understand the character, traditions and the vigor of the Pampa, a land which has contributed to determining the personality of a country. This way is by visiting the vastness of one of its many ranches which include lordly mansions and palaces, most of which were built in the XIX century as dwellings on these huge arable and livestock ranches which today have been converted into comfortable lodgings.
The Estancias (ranches), which still play an important part in the national economy, allow the visitor to take part in all the tasks typical of the Argentinean countryside, as for example herding the livestock, branding the cows, milking, breaking in horses, the sowing and harvesting of cereals, as well as going on excursions and horse rides and hunting, fishing and taking part in other sports.
There still remains to be described regions and areas of extraordinary natural beauty, different and congenial places to live, hospitable cities and cultural matters appropriate to an immense country with contrasting landscapes and climates.
It is the sensation of open country, of exuberance, of wide open spaces where there still are places to be discovered, of Nature in its pure state which gives Argentina a unique and special attraction. A sensation which encourages the visitor to go not only to the great urban centers and the tourist spots but also to explore all its aspects, its secrets full of nuances and agreeable surprises and which above all encourages one to make contact with its people who are open and very hospitable, rich in customs and traditions which the immigrations over the years have taught them that there is no such thing as a stranger in their land.