Welcome to the second leg of this trip around Argentina. The report for leg 1 is also available.
This time we'll begin with a brief tour of downtown Buenos Aires, visiting some landmarks like the Obelisco, Puerto Madero, the Casa Rosada, and the Japanese Garden.
The correct way to read this bonus is by clicking on the following YouTube link and letting the background music play as you read.
Done? Here we go.
Tourism Bonus - Downtown Buenos Aires
Our Lady Saint Mary of the Good Air - now known simply as Buenos Aires ("Good Airs") - was founded by Pedro de Mendoza in 1536. Even though it's one of the most populous cities in the world - with about 15 million inhabitants - walking along its wide avenues, embellished by the beautiful architecture of its high rises, is a stunning experience.
One of its most renowned landmarks is the Obelisco, in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio…
…which also happens to be the widest avenue in the world.
A photo with the obelisk is mandatory. In the distance (lower right), in that giant portrait of Evita Perón on the wall of the Ministry of Public Works…
…her eyes might be closed…
…but others are watching you closely.
On the sides of the obelisk you learn about the importance of this place. The Argentine flag was hoisted here for the first time on August 3, 1812…
…and Buenos Aires was designated Federal Capital in 1880.
Only meters from the Obelisco you'll find the beautiful Teatro Colón.
Corrientes street, at the very foot of the Obelisco, became my favorite street because of its many theaters and second hand bookshops. I found a huge lot of novels by Agatha Christie in English!
Enjoy a walk from the obelisk to the east through lovely narrow streets…
…brimming with examples of the most magnificent architecture, like the Bencich building…
…designed by a French architect who was famous, not in France, but in South America! In no time you will come to…
Puerto means port. Puerto Madero was the main port of Buenos Aires until it became obsolete as the size of ships increased and a new port had to be built (the docks we saw while landing at AEP in my previous report)
According to Wikipedia, "mothers whose children "disappeared" during the military dictatorship, between 1976 and 1983 […] began to march in 1977 at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, […] in public defiance of the government's state terrorism intended to silence all opposition. Wearing white head scarves to symbolize the diapers of their lost children, the mothers marched in solidarity to protest the atrocities committed by the military regime."
On the north side of the Plaza de Mayo…
…stands the Metropolitan Cathedral…
…which hosts a mausoleum with the remains of General José de San Martín. Never heard of him? Shame on you! Chile, Argentina and Peru owe him their independence.
This inscription on the front of the cathedral reads "Here lay the remains of Captain General Don José de San Martín, and those of the unknown soldier of the independence. Salute them!" Well, "saludar" can also mean "say hello", so… Hello?
Bolívar station of the Subte, next to the impressive tower of the Legislative Palace.
Lunchtime. The traditional and ubiquitous milanesa. You can enjoy one on your own…
…or in the company of some feathered friend. In the end I succumbed to his birdly charm and tossed him a crumb. Craso error!. His 20 siblings and 30 cousins immediately gathered for the feast.
Let's finish this tour of downtown Buenos Aires surrounded by the peace and quiet…
…of the Parque Japonés, which is very close to AEP.
Proving that we live in a small world…
…a Japanese man who was cooking under that white tent couldn't believe it when he learned that I came from Valdivia, in Chile. His son lives in my neighborhood!
It's time to go back home and get ready for tomorrow's flight to Puerto Iguazú. But why call an Uber when we are in such a beautiful city on such a beautiful day?! I prefer to walk the 4km to my accomodation…
…and risk getting run over so you can see how wide the avenues are here.
And here we are. I'm staying in this neighborhood only a couple of streets west of the Obelisco.
But before I leave….
…I'm sorry but this is bigger than me!! XDDDD
This very enjoyable video contains stunning aerial views of the same landmarks in this bonus, and more. Highly recommendable!
The Mysterious Flat Rate
As I commented in my previous report, I purchased my tickets in December 2017, six months before the trip. At that moment The three fares offered by the airline - básico, intermedio and premium - were at the same price! In this case, 2081 ARS (55 USD) which is ridiculously low for a 90-minute flight.
Of course I chose the premium fare, which allowed me to carry all the baggage I wanted, and didn't have to pay for choosing my seat.
But things have changed radically and the prices for this year's winter holidays have NOTHING to do with what I paid. If I had taken this flight this year, I would have had to pay a whooping 9755 ARS! (257 USD) Almost five times more!!
I'm telling you: I have my serious doubts that Andes will make it to the end of this year with those prices. Competition is getting tough in Argentina with the arrival of LCCs like Flybondi, and now the Chilean JetSmart!
Whatever. I was lucky. Here's the seatmap for the flight.
AEP - La Puerta, Pleeeeeeeeease
Buenos Aires has three main airports: Ezeiza, mainly for long haul international flights; Aeroparque, for domestic and regional flights; and recently-opened El Palomar, serving a couple of LCCs.
Aeroparque is located downtown, so getting there is the easiest thing in the world. The Uber trip cost me 5 USD. However, notice how far from the traditional taxis I was dropped. The relationship between taxi and Uber drivers in Argentina is not good. Your driver will probably ask you to be cautious and pretend that you're family or friends. This will imply sitting in the front seat, and saying goodbye with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, even between men. I'm not complaining! :D
As explained in my previous report, AEP's terminal is a long and narrow building tucked between the street and the only runway, so the only ways to go are left…
…and right. Of course, you also have to go up because check-in is on the first (ground) floor, and the second floor is for departures.
Hm… FIDS, FIDS FIDS, can anyone see the FIDS?
Oh, there you are.
Iguazú at 12:35… hmmm…. On time but no gate assigned yet. Understandable. It's quite early. But the check-in at counters 1 - 6.
Over there. And it's open already!
I'm not checking any baggage this time, but.
…I want to get the printed boarding pass…
…even though I got the PDF version when I checked-in online. Just in case, you know?
I did very well coming early. The line is getting longer.
It took me less than five minutes.
So, what's around here? ATMs. Very important.
Going towards arrivals…
…there are restaurants and candy shops.
On the other end are the counters. This is getting crowded.
It must be nicer upstairs.
On the top of the escalators is the access to the international boarding area…
…and a long hallway leading to domestic departures…
"¡Have a nice trip!" LOL. Spanish must be the only language with inverted question and exclamation marks, but very few people use them nowadays, except in formal texts.
10:36 and no gate has been assigned to our flight yet. But the status changed from On Time to Estimated. Ouch! I hope this won't mean problems.
As you can read there, this is the access to the boarding area for gates 1 - 16. What if my flight is assigned gate 17 or higher? Only later I realize that gates 17 and higher are for international flights. Duh! Anyway I sit outside and write some mails in the hope that I'll soon see the gate number next to my flight.
But at 11:24… still no gate! Gosh! Boarding is at 11:50! To h*ll with it. Let's go in.
Long line and few scanners. We're moving very slowly. Two thumbs up to SCL in this regard!
I'm through at 11:46. A large group of passengers is staring at the monitor. Still no gate! Only 4 minutes for boarding time!
11:50 comes and goes. Eventually, at 11:56, gate 5!
We run en masse to our gate…
…to find that Andes' flight to Bariloche is still boarding there. Grumble.
There seems to be a little problem with that lady in the light top. She is yelling at the guy in glasses, but he seems to have finished the conversation long ago.
With her screams in the background I go to find a seat. At least in this section, AEP is very spotter friendly, and even has a row of seats facing the apron (left)
The problem is that you won't see much more than Aerolíneas Argentinas around here. But look! Don't tell me that LV-GWL is my ride for today. I am expecting an MD-80!! :'(
Interesting livery with the IATA codes of the airline's destinations. PDP? Ah! Punta del Este, in Uruguay. I can't forget that terribly lousy - and terribly expensive - lunch.
At last! Whatever happened to the yelling lady? She must be in hadcuffs by now. XD Boarding starts. We are divided into two lines according to seat row.
Just to remind us that Andes is not an LCC…
…the newspaper is included in the price of the ticket.
Woo - hoo! Let's go board our…
…Embraer??? :O Something's wrong here.
Oh, I see! The jetbridge leads to some stairs.
The bus was already waiting for us at the bottom. It's not funny when the weather is beastly and you have to wait for the bus here in the open air, like that time in transit to MVD. What about sliding doors, AEP?
So, will it be an MD-80 this time? Holy guacamole! Look at that! An MD-80!! Is it waiting for us??
I think we are going its way!
Wait. There's a 737 over there, too.
Please, don't spoil my happiness!!
Woo - hoo! We drove past the 737 and are heading towards the MD-80!!
Thing of beauty! Look at that sexy tail!
And that… tubular body!!
I waited for so long! After so many years of flying nothing but 737s and A319s, it's going to be the ride of my life. OK. Let's stop. Wait…
Oh, I see. That 737 is taxiing only. We stop until it taxies past.
Phew! For a moment I thought this great moment would be ruined. Haha.
Here we are. OK. Stop, Mr Driver. Mr Driver? Stop! STOOOP!!
Somebody please KILL MEEEE!! Somebody put an end to my suffering!!!!
My seat. Bwaaaaa..
…and the view out of the window. Snif!
Old seats are not a problem for me. On the contrary, I think they're more confortable than modern ironing boards.
The problem is when they're falling to pieces.
The legroom looks even better that on LV-HKK. I'm 170cm tall.
Does anyone still use these?
Those are not stains, but the dirty window.
Contents of the seat pocket.
The magazine is actually closer to a brochure than a magazine.
Whale spotting in Puerto Madryn.
Thank goodness oxygen is an element. I hope the FA won't ask if I want C12H22O11 with my coffee! XD
That light looks really vintage! How old is this plane?
LV-GWL is 18 years old and, according to planespotters.net, it was withdrawn from use and stored in Toulouse Francazal three months after this flight.
Maybe that's why no-one cares that the decals are peeling off!
A Domestic Flight with an International Twist
As you see below, we'll fly along the Uruguay river - i.e. the border between Argentina and Uruguay/Brazil - up to the tip of the panhandle in the north-east of Argentina.
I'll mention three rivers - Uruguay, Paraná and Iguazú - repeatedly in this and the next report. It can be confusing, but this simple map can be very enlightening. We are travelling from AEP all along river Uruguay, up to the point where rivers Paraná and Iguazú meet. Keep that in mind. More details in the next report! :D
So, even though it's a domestic flight, the view out of the window will be Uruguay and Brazil most of the time. And a bit of Paraguay, too.
Needless to say…
…we're leaving quite behind the schedule.
I - HATE - YOU
Does Macri really fly on that?
We'll take off westwards this time. Makes sense.
The fate of everything and everyone who has become old and sick. :(
Here we go.
As soon as we start climbing…
…over the Río de la Plata…
…we bank to the north…
…which allows for some cool views…
…of AEP and downtown Buenos Aires.
In no time we are flying over the islands at the mouth of river Uruguay.
The largest one is Oyarvide.
The port of Punta Pereira is in the Uruguayan department of Colonia del Sacramento. We'll visit Colonia in a report very soon!
Just in front of the cape of Martín Chico there's an island…
…called Martín García. In fact, only the forested part (with the runway) is Martín García island. The north half used to be a different island called Timoteo Domínguez, but sediment from river Paraná accumulated until both islands joined together.
Even though both islands are in Uruguayan waters, Martín García is Argentine territory.
Carmelo is also part of the same department.
It lies by river Arroyo de las Vacas. The mother of former president José Mujica was born there.
Dolores. They say that the first wheat plantation in America was grown here in 1528
The area is still an important wheat producer in Uruguay.
On the shore of river Negro…
…lies the town of Mercedes. Here's a short video by an expat showing what life is like in the town.
…where corned beef was produced and exported around the world, feeding everyone, from the modest working-class people to the British royals.
Another example of German immigration in South America? Behold New Berlin.
I'd call it "ein winziges Berlinchen". XD Bad joke. Like many German jokes.
But even smaller is San Javier. Or should I spell it Сан-Хавьер? Because it was founded by Russian immigrants looking for religious freedom.
A Jesuitic settlement became…
…Concepción del Uruguay, in the Argentine province of Entre Ríos.
Very close to it, the heroic city of Paysandú, in Uruguay. It's called heroic because it stood the siege by Portuguese and Brazilian invaders three different times.
It's connected to the Argentine side via the General Artigas bridge.
It's time to see what's in the menu for today. Oh! The same as in the previous flight. Cabrales, by the way, is an excellent Argentine coffee brand. But don't be misled to buy the fancy, more expensive versions of it. You'll regret it. I recommend the simple yellow packets.
The contents in the (noisy!) snack box are the same as before. salty cookies, sweet cookies, and a small madeleine. All very cheap and more suitable for a little child's (unhealthy) birthday party than a flight. Where's the "legacy airline" in all this? If Andes is going to charge four times more for this flight this year, they should definitely improve the quality of their snacks. A cereal bar or a bag of nuts wont lead them to bankruptcy, for God's sake! What about a sandwich?
I'm curious about the future of good ol' LV-GWL. Will it get a modern cabin? Or will it be retired for ever?
Having finished my snack, it's time to go back to that wonderful landscape outside…
Oh - my - God. Whatever happened to the land?? Where are the trees?!
It looks like the land has been shaved with a razorblade! Barely any trace of the dense jungle that was supposed to cover this area!
This is, dear readers, only the first little glimpse of the devastation that is visible everywhere around here. In fact, by the time I finish my visit, the extent of the devastation has ruined the joy of my trip. The view is unbearable.
We are flying above Uruguaiana, in Brazil, and Paso de los Libres, in Argentina.
But the devastation will not come to an end…
…until the last tree has burned.
We cross the panhandle into Paraguay above the town of Posadas, on river Paraná. In the photo, its eastern neighborhood of Villalonga…
…and the bridge over the mouth of river Pindapoy Grande.
I wonder if these crops in the south of Paraguay…
…are intended for the production of bio-fuels…
…in an effort to reduce pollution by destroying the jungle. Should I laugh or should I cry?
You might notice that from the San Ignacio peninsula to the north, there are larger patches of jungle on the Argentine side.
I was told that tourism is the main reason for this.
Though it's evident that many of those forests are plantations, not native jungle. Anyway, notice the difference between Paraguay (right) and Argentina (left)
We cross the river Paraná back into Argentina.
You can't imagine how difficult it was to locate those buildings (granaries?) in the map. It's Puerto Torocuá, in Paraguay.
Paraguay on the right, Missiones province, Argentina, on the left.
That is the spray from the largest fall, Garganta del Diablo…
…or Devil's Throat.
The cloud of spray is visible…
…almost until the very moment…
Welcome to Mayor Carlos Eduardo Krause airport…
…better known as aeropuerto Cataratas del Iguazú.
It's a bit lonely on this side.
In a matter of minutes we are going down the jetbridge.
The three airlines serving this airport have coincided here today.
From those windows…
…you have a great view of the back of the terminal. Poor Mayor Krause. He died fighting for the Falkland islands, but he has fallen into oblivion in his own airport!
Down to baggage claim…
…where I don't have any baggage to claim…
…so I head for the exit.
Transportation to the city is abundant and cheap. Can you see all those signs announcing taxis and buses to the city? Well, I didn't, so I went out of the building and then had to come back to get my ticket. DUH!
The exit looks a little messy because of the building work at the parking lot.
There's the transfer. I never saw a more obvious name. I feel like asking him Does this bus go to the city? XD
Wow! Brand new bus!
Evidently Argentines are bad at English and even worse at designing logos! Am I the only one who sees a reprochable silhouette in that map of Argentina? That panhandle… and other protuberances… This is disgraceful! I'm starting to doubt of my own moral and psychological integrity.
Are we leaving soon, Mr Driver?
Yes. We leave after some ten minutes.
There's a lot of work…
…going on out here.
After a long…
…long curve to the west…
…we head for Puerto Iguazú among countless reminders…
…that wildlife is still abundant here.
I like that there's a clean area on each side of the road in case some animal suddenly comes out of the jungle.
We pass by the access to the waterfalls. I'm coming here the next day!
Don't miss the next report. You'll see the most stunning views of the waterfalls. And something good will happen… at last!!
Thanks for reading! :)
Andes Líneas Aéreas
Buenos Aires - AEP
Puerto Iguazu - IGR
Feels like this airport is working under an enormous pressure. I think that serving so many flights with a single runway is a feat. But other aspects like the lack of scanners for the huge amount of passengers, and the delay in assigning a gate... Could that be a sign of impending collapse??
IGR Undergoing deep renovation. The runway was renewed last year, they are enlarging the parking lot now, and there are plans to revamp the terminal building, too.
Andes Líneas Aéreas If you're looking for older cabins with cushier seats, this is your airline. (Let's see the bright side!) We fell a little behind the schedule this time. I don't know the reason. But I would appreciate a BOB menu more than the current snack box.
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