My always busy travel-mind was wandering a few years back, to a strong desire of wanting to visit several incredible natural wonders on Planet Earth all in a single trip.
My bride, Ms. Debbie, and I, as usual, quickly followed our travel hearts. We booked one of the longest trips we have ever taken; this one almost 3 weeks in length.
We visited unbelievable Iguazu Falls in the middle of the South American jungle, as a pre-excursion booked with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). Of course, we also visited several other incredible sites, too, during this special outing. It definitely was a cruise to remember.
During this installment, which begins your humble scribe’s 5th year of Sunday writing for readers of Our Town and far beyond, I will explain the first third of our entire adventure that took us from the South Atlantic Ocean to the South Pacific Ocean. Yes, we came “Around the ‘Horn”, cruising through the turbulent waters near the bottom of the world, where the tips of Argentina and Chile meet. It was an awesome experience, as we traveled in our calendar’s spring, but during the southern hemisphere’s autumn season calendar.
So, our initial route of travel on Delta Airlines was Oklahoma City to Atlanta, non-stop to Argentina’s vibrant capital city, Buenos Aires. There, we stayed in a beautiful J.W. Marriott Hotel property, centrally-located in the city center. I vividly remember the coach ride from their international airport to our hotel, driving past an intense concentration of extreme poverty-housing areas, located just off the super, elevated highway we were traveling. It was probably the most extreme poverty I had ever seen, or have seen since then. Those sights have given me a pause for reflection many times over since then.
Because of the extreme length of our travel, we rested briefly in our hotel, before going out on a grand city tour, and later, enjoyed a delicious supper in a nearby restaurant. Following the traditional steak dinner with all the local accompanying trimmings, our group was treated to a magnificent tango dance show. My bride and I were fortunate to have a table right next to the elevated dance floor, so we saw the dancers extremely close. We were almost part of the production! The dancers’ coordination and movements were certainly breathtaking for the audience.
The next day, our small tour group flew north to witness one of the greatest natural spectacles on earth, Iguazu Falls. It is located where 3 separate countries come together, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. This geographical marvel is in the middle of the jungle, and, therefore, it is always warm/hot and humid there. It is the largest waterfall system in the world, composed of 275 separate waterfalls, and is 1.7 miles wide. The entire water area separates the upper Iguazu (which literally means “Big Water”) River from the Lower Iguazu River in a perfect, spectacular example of Mother Nature’s sheer might and beauty. We were given an excellent guided walking tour, along the safe, elevated pathways directly over some of the many falls. I was also adventurous enough to take an exciting jet boat ride, directly near the bases of some of the falls. That evening, we stayed in a lovely hotel property, very close to the falls, and since it was Earth Day around the world, we ate by candlelight in their beautiful restaurant. That entire brief time we spent in the Iguazu jungle is well-remembered today in our minds’ eyes.
We flew back to Buenos Aires, and embarked on our extensive cruise, along with a ship full of other NCL guests. Our first port stop was almost “next door” in the beautiful city of Montevideo, Uruguay. Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America (Suriname on the northern coast is the smallest), and has a population of 3.5 million. About half of their country’s people live in their capital city of Montevideo. Their beautiful central city revolves around their Plaza Independence. It is a very clean city, with almost no poverty or crime. 60% of the country’s people are considered middle class, the highest percentage of any country in Latin America.
For our land excursion in Montevideo, my bride and I elected to go completely “out of the box”. We chose to visit various Jewish sites in the big city, even we do not practice that faith.
This shore excursion choice proved very interesting, as we entered an old Jewish Temple of worship, and were told many things we did not know. We also saw several other points of interest dealing with the Jewish religion around the city, including a ethnic cemetery, and other structures. During and after World War II, many European Jewish and German citizens relocated to tiny Uruguay to begin new lives, far from their previous homes. We certainly would highly recommend visiting the small, clean country of Uruguay.
The next port stop was isolated Puerto Madryn, Argentina, a desert-like coastal city of less than 100,000 population. located at the northern end of the vast Patagonia region. Here, Ms. Debbie and I elected to take a shore excursion that took us to a remote sheep farm, where we appreciated the vast expanse of the huge Patagonia. We also tried to understand the Argentinean peoples’ brave attempts to tame a fractional part of Patagonia by raising livestock there. We heard the local rancher explain his lifestyle, living in this untamed land, and we also witnessed some sheep-shearing performed for us. What a education in the various ways-of-the-world this place was for us!
Speaking of new and exciting experiences, our “Round the ‘Horn” cruise continues in next Sunday’s edition, with our next port stop at the incredible, isolated, Falkland Islands.
Please bucket your reading seat belts, and stay tuned.
Robert Breedlove is an Oklahoma State University news-editorial journalism graduate, and a former newspaper (including News Press) reporter. He resides in Stillwater, and has for most of his life. He has been a contributing writer to various media over the United States for years. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.