I am Bruce Good, Seabourn’s director of public relations. I am currently sailing aboard Seabourn Sojourn on a Patagonian Passage East from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a region I’ve always wanted to visit, and I thought I’d blog from here to let you know what it’s like. Hope you enjoy it.
The penultimate day of my Patagonian Passage voyage was a half-day visit to the capital of Uruguay. After weeks of marveling at albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, this morning I looked out the window from my treadmill and saw a standard-issue urban pigeon flapping by! We cruised up the wide La Plata river and soon the skyline of Montevideo hove into sight. The port was busy, even on Sunday, the cranes ceaselessly lifting containers from one end of the huge cargo ships and setting new ones at the other end. I had been to Monte several times, although that was a long time ago. I didn’t book any excursions here, although there are some good ones. I planned to walk into town and try to get some pictures of the vintage architectural details in the old town, which I remembered fondly from a couple of decades ago. The helpful tourism person gave me a good map and pointed out the well-marked pedestrian streets that criss-cross the old town to and from the main Independence Square. I should mention that we are now officially back in summer. The weather is balmy and the sun is bright. I walked along the streets, lined with shops mostly closed but quite a number of street vendors of everything from fresh produce to hand-crafted jewelry and antiques. I did manage to get shots of some interesting buildings and especially entryways, but I found that since my last visit a lot of the ornate Art Nouveau and Art Deco entries had added security gates or shutters, and, this being Sunday, these were closed, so the pickings were slim. Nevertheless a few examples are below. I strolled around for a couple of hours and then went back on board, passing a Brazilian military vessel just ahead of Sojourn that had a pop combo in uniforms performing on deck, presumably for visitors. Tonight after dinner I went to my suite to, as the saying goes, “Set on my grips” to get them out for pickup later that night. After that, I sat a while on my veranda watching the play of lightning along both shores of the river as we slowly threaded our way through the tortuous channels between Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
Next morning, I woke early and prepared to disembark. I had hoped to visit the incredible Natural History Museum in nearby La Plata, which is filled with huge fossil skeletons of dinosaurs and prehistoric beasts such as mastodons and the giant ground sloths and tank-sized armadillos that once roamed the Pampas. But it was Monday and the place was closed. So I opted for a “Day with the Gauchos and airport transfer” which would give me a different experience before my 10:15 PM flight home. This turned out to be a fun day and a great way to say bye-bye to Argentina. We drove about 90 minutes north and west of the city into the Pampas, which our Porteño guide reminded us went on for “days and days” just like what we were seeing right now. Hernan filled the trip with information and anecdotes about Argentina, Buenos Aires and various other topics. When we finally reached the entry to the estancia, the driver missed it, and backing onto the shoulder of the two-lane road, immediately mired the wheels in mud from last night’s rain. In vain he gunned the engine, which only caused the rear to sideslip and mire deeper. Sheepishly, Hernan said we’d walk across the road and into the estancia. It wasn’t far. The estancia was lovely and pastoral, and as we walked up the drive the hostess came out and gave us each a traditional “Hola” and a peck on the cheek. She was charming and energetic, and ushered us to the house for empanadas and wine. Later we went outside and those who wished took a short ride either in a horse-drawn carriage or on horseback on the traditional gaucho saddle stacked with plenty of sheepskin. A young beef was roasting on the spit in front of an open fire, and we enjoyed a luncheon of barbecued chicken, beef, and plentiful vegetables and salads. A concert of folk music and dance followed, with opportunities to take part in both. Then we repaired to an open pasture to witness the Gaucho “games” which are contests of horsemanship and skills at hunting, droving and retrieving suspended rings from the back of a galloping horse. But probably the highlight was a demonstration of the “Indio” way of horse handling. The gaucho in question began by climbing to a standing position on the saddle of his horse. From there, he began what I can only describe as a slow, sensuous survey of his mount, touching and in some cases massaging it, revealing along the way the tremendous bond of trust and affection that he had established with the animal. This was no slouch horse. We had just seen it galloping the length of the pasture and back, and believe me, it was a good strong horse. He crawled between its back legs and forward between the front. The culmination, for me, was when he lifted the horse’s foreleg and slowly tipped it onto its side, where it lay seemingly content and trusting as he lay on top of it, curled up under its foreleg, and finally turned it onto its back and lifted its forelegs onto his shoulders, give it a kiss. It was an astonishing performance, accompanied by the soft plucking of guitar music by his associate. Later a woman from Texas was overheard to say “My father used to shoe horses, and he’d lift their legs up and put them on his legs so he could get at the shoes. But I imagine he’d say that there was just perverse!”