Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We're baaack!

Thanks to some fantastic planning on my part, we only have pictures from Montevideo and Buenos Aires.... All the other ones are on the other card that I took out of the camera and stashed in the cabin safe, since I was worried about pick pockets in Uruguay, and if they got my camera, at least they wouldn't get all my precious vacation pictures, so then I forgot them in the safe.... we are hoping to get them back somehow, but if not, we just might have to take that cruise again.... or not. We left on the 31st and spent the night in SLC. We flew to Atlanta the next morning and were surprised how short that flight is, if you don't have to stop somewhere else. Kim and Duane picked us up and we had a nice dinner and visit with them. Then it was on to Santiago, Chile. Sam had been there on his mission, and so somewhat knew his way around. We rented a car and took off for our hotel. Amazingly we found it without too much difficulty. I was ready to sleep for a while, with the all night flight and being really tired, but no rest for the weary, Sam decreed on a city tour now. We set off on foot and after a very long and hot walk, found our red double decker bus and were off. It was fun. Next day we located the Santiago Temple and went for a session. We got talked into staying for a sealing session, and that went well too, with Sam squeezing my hand when it was time to say"Si". He met a nice brother from another town in the locker room and invited him to ride with us, since we were going to his home town that afternoon. He got a free ride home and we had our free tour guide! We met his 2 sweet sons and even got to go to a baptism in his ward. The next day we had another tour scheduled to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Very nice too. We paid close attention on which roads to take, so we only got lost twice the next day, when we drove to Valparaiso to catch our Cruise. We had a balcony cabin this time.... that was the very best, we'll never be happy with anything less!.
The cruise was great, I say more about it when I finally get my pictures... hopefully.
Our stops were Puerto Montt, Puntarenas, Usuaia, Some Glacier, Cape Horn, Falkland Islands, Monte Video, and Buenos Aires. In Montevideo we did a city tour. It appeared a lot more drab and poor than Santiago. Everything was grey, most buildings were just concrete and not much green, since they were experiencing a severe drought. Somebody needed to point out to them that they were sitting on one of the largest fresh water bays in the world, and that they could put that water to good use, irrigating their parched parks and lawns!. We were not too impressed by Montevideo; Santiago was much nicer. Our final destination was Buenos Aires. Total chaos. After collecting our luggage, everyone was pressing towards the street and the place where the taxis stopped. There were roughly 4 lines of people, and 2-3 taxis would back up and people would load their stuff and drive off. It took us a while to understand what was going on.... this worked on the" greased palm" principle. If you paid off the guy with the clipboard, he would direct the taxi to you and load your stuff in the trunk, then you paid him for the taxi ride. If you didn't pay him first, he'd direct the taxi to a different line and you got to stand there until you had it figured out.. .A lot of things operated that way in Argentina. So, we finally got to our hotel and found the room adequate, if not quite as nice as the one in Chile. We went to talk to the guy at the desk to arrange for a city tour, when we started talking to fellow tourists... they had just been out walking around, when someone on a motorcycle drove by and cut his Rollex watch off his wrist!!! Argh!!! The guy was lucky he got to keep his hand. I later learned that if a woman was sporting an esspecially desirable rock on her finger, they wouldn't hesitate to use wire cutters, to relieve her of her ring.... and her finger!!! I left all jewelry in the hotel safe! That's when I discovered the missing photo card. We walked around for a block or so, me clutching my purse and my camera, and feeling very scared. The city tour was nice. We drove all over town, saw the casa rosita, of Evita fame (don't cry for me Argentina), one Evita monument and all sorts of other stuff. I will label the pictures. The next morning, after we had enjoyed breakfast, (and I must say, they do know how to dish up breakfast in south America! Nothing like the stale sweetroll and tang deal you get in US motels). At any rate, we were done with breakfast, sitting in the lobby, waiting for the tour bus to pick us up, when Sam said: look who is here! There are several million inhabitants in B. A., a gazillion tourists, tons of hotels, and all the other variables.... but who would be right there in the hotel lobby, but my visiting teaching companion and her husband here from our IF ward!!! What a coincidence! After a short visit with them, our bus arrived and we were off to the Goucho Ranch. We really enjoyed that, it was the best part of our B.A. visit. The bus dropped us off at the hotel, we collected our luggage, they let us use a room for a bit to freshen up, take a shower and then the taxi took us to the airport. The nice taxi driver noticed that I was hyperventilating in the back seat and took the next exit and then stopped so I could get out and take pictures of the Buenos Aires Temple!!! that just so happened to be right off the freeway on the way to the airport. After that, we thought, nothing could go wrong... little did we know. As soon as we got to the airport, we were there around 6pm, our flight was at 11... we had tons of time, so we thought, we were confronted with the saran wrappers. They insisted we needed to have all our luggage saran wrapped, to the tune of $12, all credit cards accepted. After they were done, they applied a large rubber stamp to our foreheads that said: "Sucker". After over an hour in line, we finally got to the ticket counter to check in. "Sorry, two of your suitcases are overweight, that will be $150 for each!" No, we didn't pay, but it took tooth and claw to rip thru the saran wrap to dig out our dirty laundry and lighten the suitcases. Now we got to drag that around in our carry-on, how delightful. Come to find out that the weight limit from here to there is 60 pounds but from there to here it is 23 kilos.... and their scales were off by 6kilos... if we had gone to the counter nextdoor, we would have passed!!! grrrr! The flight was long and totally uncomfortable, esspecially, since the guy next to me decided my shoulder would be a nice pillow and when I tried to push him back to his seat, he took over my entire seat, until Sam bonked him on the head and told him to leave his wife alone.
In Atlanta we had 2 hours to catch our connecting fligt... no problem, we thought, until we got to stand in line to get our passports checked for over an hour and a half, then it was coustoms, immigration and security, and 4 tramstops and the wrong gate at the end of the concurse.... and a missed flight. And they all couldn't care less. Matt later told me that airline passengers are no longer customers, but rather all potential terrorists. After not getting on the stand-by flight, we finally got on the next one, so instead of arriving happily at 10 am in SLC, we got there after 4pm. tired and grumpy with partially shrink-wrapped luggage. Our mood did change when a very cute and pregnant Dacia picked us up and took us to Buggy's were a very cute and adorable Grace was standing up and making funny faces and a very delicious dinner was waiting for us! On the drive home, all I could think was: A hot bath and my own bed, Yea!. It was great fun, but next time we are going to drive to our cruise port!. Sam was talking about Europe... I guess the FJ can handle a frozen Bering Strait.

A bit blurry, but that's Sam and me doing the tango NOT.
90% of the Buenos Aires residents live in high-rises.

El Buco area. By the big Soccer stadium

La Casa Rosita, with the famous balcony

The Evita memorial

Since so many live in apartments, they have their gardens on the balconys! I was puzzled why so many people had pulled off the freeway to the green areas next to the roads.... having picknicks... but if you don't have a garden, I guess you take what you can get.

Here hare some spontaneous tango dancers. The dresses are rather... skimpy and the dance is very suggestive. It looks very smooth and artistic, but sometimes it looks more like it belongs in the privacy of their bedroom!

Our surprise visit with the Hanks in our Hotel.

The Goucho ranch horse show, and the lady that greeted us with wine (or tang) and hot empanadas... south american meat pies... they were really good, I had two. Sam was stunned, because he thought he would have to talk me into having at least one bite.

And here is the Sammy Cowboy on his nippy horse. It tried and sometimes succeeded to take bites out of other horses rear ends. Mine only tried to brush me off by going really close to fence posts and under low branches. I told him in no uncertain terms that I didn't appreciate that behavior and yanked on the reins.... I think he understood English, because he started to behave a bit better after that.

The buenos Aires Temple.... isn't it pretty!

Our amazing shrink-wrapped luggage. We didn't see the big "Succer" forehead stamp until it was too late.(j/k)