Our 2-week South America trip (Peru, Argentina and Brazil) was so picturesque that we ended up with over 2,000 photos! Here are just a few of the pictures to summarize our spectacular journey which included 7 cities and 2 new Wonders of the World:
Peru: Machu Picchu
The sight of the ruins of this ancient, once "lost" city took our breath away. Perched atop a mountain and surrounded by a forest of clouds, the panorama was nothing short of celestial.
All the positive "M" adjectives came to mind to describe Machu Picchu: Magnificent, Marvelous, Mesmerizing, Mysterious, Miraculous etc. Machu Picchu was an Incan city built around 1450 and abandoned about 100 years later during the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire. It was never discovered by the Spanish conquerors and it remained hidden until 1911, when an American anthropologist named Hiram Bingham discovered it.
It is a maze of empty plazas, chambers and palaces connected by stairways carved out of solid rock. The glorious terraces are simply unforgettable! It is no wonder that Macchu Picchu was recently voted as a new Wonder of the World.
Peru: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest And River
Puerto Maldonado is one of the gateways into the Peruvian side of the Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon encompasses 1.2 billion acres and it is located within 9 countries, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world. Interestingly, as we entered the town of Puerto Maldonado (Motto: World’s Most Bio-Diverse City) we felt as if we could have been in India. The most significant similarity was the mode of transportation: Bajaj scooters and Rickshaws!
It was as if we had traveled to the Amazon, and accidentally landed thousands of miles away in Mangalore 🙂 The familiarity of the sight made the world just a bit smaller, making us feel right at home, even in the Peruvian jungle! After a rocky ride, we ended up blowing a tire right as we arrived in the gold mining region: the riverbanks of the Madre de Dios.
The Madre De Dios is a tributary off the Amazon, which is the largest river in the world by volume. Length-wise, the Amazon is just 400 meters shorter than the Nile. Photos of the Amazon both at day and night are shown above:
Argentina: Buenos Aires
My husband and I had danced the tango for our wedding, so we were thrilled to visit the city of the tango, the so-called "Paris of South America," Buenos Aires. We started our sightseeing on Avenida 9 de Julio, the city’s widest street, where we saw the city?s famous Obelisk.
The center of the city has an overwhelmingly European influence. The scenes were reminiscent of some of the historical sites in Madrid, indicative of its colonial past. As we walked through the city center, what was apparent was the Argentinean vibe, which could best be described as frenzied urban sophistication. From the Obelisk, we made our way to the Pink Presidential palace (Casa Rosada), where Evita once greeted her visitors.
We then walked to Iglesia San Ignacio, the city’s oldest Catholic Church.
The first night concluded with a visit to Puerto Madeira, a revitalized waterfront neighborhood which is now the hottest spot for dining and nightlife.
The following day, we made our way to one of the most famous historic sites in BA, the Cementario de la Recoleta, a huge cemetery that spans several city blocks, filled with over-the-top, some beautiful some outright gaudy mausoleums and tributes to the former BA residents, mostly wealthy socialites. Though the idea is a bit grotesque, people were clicking away, trying to find the most audacious memorials. We peered through the glass of some, and were shocked to find that insides of many resembled a room with an altar, along with the entombed remains of the dead. Some had staircases to underground vaults. Some were insanely ornate, to a point which seemed ludicrous, but whatever the judgment call, all of it was certainly fascinating.
We ended the day by hitting Cafe Tortoni for a tango show. As expected, the audience drew a very international crowd, though mostly from Europe, the US and Japan. Before the show started, there was a wonderful introduction by the cast members, in which the lead female dancer asked audience members where they were from and then instructed the band to play a song from that particular country. There were at least 20 different countries represented in the audience and the band was able to play a song for every nation represented; however, when we mentioned India, the band was totally stumped, which gravely disappointed us 🙁 I later wrote a huge suggestion to the show’s staff that they should ensure that they have an Indian song ready so that next time, we would hear it and be proud.
When the actual tango show commenced, we were blown away. The moves were so rapid that even our professional camera wasn’t fast enough to capture the drama. It was gorgeous to see?definitely money well spent. I promised the owners that many Indians would be coming to see this tango show at Cafe Tortoni soon, so please, please, I urge you to go to Argentina and see this delightful, exquisite show!
Argentina-Brazil Border: Iguazu Falls
We opted to trek toward Iguazu Falls (2nd largest, after Victoria) and see it from one of 3 vantage points. It was a bit of a walk, especially in the 90 degree heat, but we were motivated to keep moving based on the sheer joy on the faces of the people who were returning from having seen the Falls. The exhilaration on the visitors’ faces was a clear sign of something extraordinary. And, when we finally got to the Iguacu Falls, it was no longer a mystery. The Igua?u River hurtles 60 meters over a cataract several kilometers wide into a churning cauldron below, sending clouds of spray high into the air. My husband and I were astounded and wanted to stay there forever. The water was overpowering and gorgeous and even grown men were giggling at the thrill of beholding such a daunting sight. I came to the conclusion that this main section of Iguazu shouldn?t be called Devil’s Throat. It should be called Heaven’s Throat because it was as if we were in the inside a celestial place. I kept asking my husband to try to capture the many rainbows we kept seeing, like the one below:
It was just brilliant. We spent a good 15 minutes basking in the sun and in the amazingly powerful strength of the Devil’s throat portion of the falls. Spectacular was an understatement. I don’t think we can ever compare seeing the falls to any other natural wonder that we have experienced. Certainly, now I understood why when Teddy Roosevelt’s wife saw the falls, she exclaimed "Poor Niagara!" because Niagara is just 1/100th of the splendor of Iguazu!
Brazil-Rio De Janeiro
We took a morning cog railway ride to the top of the Corcovado Mountain (710 meters), to see the famous and newly nominated "Wonder of the World" Christ the Redeemer statue, which is 40 meters high.
At the top, we were greeted by a crowd of awestruck visitors and as we finally got to the base of the statue and looked up, we understood why. The statue itself was grand, magnificent and with its arms wide open, a great symbol of God’s all-encompassing love. The magnificence of the statue was only partially due to its sheer size; the cause for the splendor was the Christ statue’s placement atop a 360 panoramic view of Rio in all its grandeur, city, beaches and all.
Standing atop of Corcovado, time somehow stopped, and between the statue and the views, we, along with the other visitors, took our sweet time enjoying the poignant spirituality of our location.
Our 3 days in Rio was enough to convince me that we really were in Cidade Maravilhosa, the Marvelous City. It was no wonder the locals loved it so much, here was a municipality in which its residents could enjoy the beach all year round, with no more than a 10 minute commute. This city, also known as the City of God, was blessed with mountains, beaches, rainforests, samba, Carnival, and so much more. There was a distinct rhythm to the way the city and its people moved, and it was enchanting and inviting. My husband and I, even as foreigners, felt extremely at home in the heart of Rio. In fact, the readers of Mangalorean.com would be delighted to know that one of Brazil?s delicacies is Feijoada, a dish made of numerous unmentionable pork parts, just like Mangalorean sorpotel!
After our brief stay in Rio, I could conclude that of all the names Brazil is known for, Brazil de Todos (translation: Brazil for Everyone) made the most sense. A notable part of the Rio portion of our trip was seeing a huge statute of Gandhi in one of Rio’s many parks.
The plaque below the statue stated Gandhi’s message of loving all human beings, regardless of creed, race etc., and that his message was the ideal that Rio strives for. It is a universal truth that peace among all is not particular to any location on this planet but to all of humankind. Seeing Gandhi?s powerful message, combining the hopes and dreams of our temporary home of Brazil with our native home of India, was indeed a fitting and wonderful end to our South American adventure. (On a side note, our entire South American trip literally brought back memories of India— from the 2 Indian clothing stores we stumbled upon in the midst of both the commercial streets of Lima, Peru and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to the restaurant called "Pub Bangalore" in the middle of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was clear that India was just about everywhere we went…even in South America!!!)
Photographs by Roshan Lewis, USA
Author: Diana M. Lewis- USA