First of all, let’s actually see where we went on this trip.
How it all started
Late last year, my friend and I wanted to explore the option of another trip in May 2015. While having some beers in Amsterdam, we explored and discussed our desire to go to Bolivia. Unfortunately, it soon proved a little difficult in terms of travel, combined with a budget. We noticed air travel in South America is quite expensive, and as such, we decided to postpone the idea and look for other options.
Then over Christmas, my friend found this incredible fare to Buenos Aires, which almost seemed too good to be true. Lufthansa and Aerolineas Argentinas would fly us on 10 sectors for a whopping 425 Euro’s! I think we booked the flights the next day and we were set! But we didn’t really want to spend 12 days in Buenos Aires, so we started searching a bit for places to go/things to see. My friend really wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro, so that was added to the list. In the end, we both wanted to go to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) and El Calafate (Patagonia). Ushuaia is often referred to as ‘The End of the World’, so we agreed that this was a must-do. In El Calafate, we would be very close to the Perito Moreno glacier.
We booked our domestic flights, private tours in Buenos Aires and Rio and a guided tour to the glacier. In the end, our routing was:
Amsterdam – Frankfurt – Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires – Ushuaia
Ushuaia – El Calafate
El Calafate – Buenos Aires – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro – Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires – Sao Paulo – Munich – Amsterdam
Even for my taste a very full schedule and we would only be 40-72h in the same place. But at least it means seeing a lot of a country, which for me is the main reason to travel. With everything sorted, it was just a matter of time now.
Our first flight didn’t depart until 18:00, which meant that we had plenty of time to get ready. We decided to meet up early in the afternoon already and enjoy the weather on the panorama deck at Schiphol airport. Time went by reasonably fast and we soon found ourselves making our way to the gate. Everything went fine and things were pretty uneventful.
At the gate, D-AIST (an Airbus A321) was waiting to take us to Frankfurt. I had managed to secure seat 29F, based on a previous good experience. The Polderbaan was assigned to us, meaning that we had to taxi for quite some time. Our departure took us over the Amsterdam harbor and past the city. Quickly figuring out our heading, I realized there was a big chance that I could see my hometown down below. And sure enough, I saw some of the landmarks that marked the city and snapped a photo (bad quality, but nice for the archives).
The flight to Frankfurt went smooth, but over Germany we encountered a cloudlayer that wouldn’t disappear anymore. On final approach to runway 07R, I could see an Iberia A320 departing from runway 18. Pretty neat!
After arriving at Frankfurt, we were parked at a remote gate. A bus was waiting to take us to the terminal, but we had a good look of the all the nice aircraft that were present, including a line-up of Lufthansa 747-8i’s. A quick glance at the gate numbers revealed that our aircraft was parked in that line-up aswell. When we got to the terminal building, we had about 2,5h before our next flight, part of which was spent going through security again.
On the way to our departure area we had a look in some shops and making good use of the Wi-Fi at the gate. It turned out our Boeing had the “1500th 747” sticker on it, meaning it was the 1500th Boeing 747 ever built. A nice addition to my first flight in a B747-8.
Since it was a night flight, I didn’t take many photos. After dinner and a movie (I can’t remember which one), I tried to get some sleep. Due to some reshuffling before departure, there was an empty seat next to me and the passenger in the aisle seat. Definately nice to have a bit of space on the long (14h!) flight. I actually managed to get a good 7h of sleep, which is very good for me. Usually I can’t sleep a lot on a flight. After my nap, I felt quite awake and tried to shoot some night photos. The cloud layer that we were passing at that time was as high (or a bit higher) as our flight level. Pretty impressive!
When we got closer to Buenos Aires, it was evident that the weather wasn’t very good. It wasn’t long before the captain informed us that we would have to hold for 20 minutes, due to the weather. Low clouds, rain and wind reduced the capacity and we would be landing on the shortest runway because of the wind direction. During the holding pattern (partly over the city), we slowly descended and after those 20 minutes we were next to land. The landing itself was quite rough and the deceleration aswell. After a couple of minutes we were at our stand and my friend suggested to ask if we could visit the cockpit. The very kind crew of today’s flight granted our wish and we had a couple of minutes for some photos. After that, it was just a matter of clearing immigration.
Once we got through all that and picked up our bags, we started looking for the person who would pick us up. We had a private tour of Buenos Aires booked for this day and the driver would be be waiting for us in the arrival area. We soon found him, but it turned out he spoke little to no English. That was fine though, he knew where to go and after a ~30 minute drive we arrived at out hotel. With this, I’ll end the story about day 1 and will continue below in day 2 (it felt like it was all 1 day, since we flew through the night).
It was about 9AM when we got to the hotel, but check-in wasn’t until 14:00. We tried our best to get a room earlier, but to no avail (sometimes it costs a bit more, but that wasn’t offered either). We waited in the lobby for a while, using the Wi-Fi and thinking of our strategy for the next hours. Initially, we had booked our private tour for the morning, to start straight after arrival. Keeping an eye on the weather in the days before traveling, it was forecasted to rain, and thankfully we could arrange to postpone the tour until 13:00. This meant that we now had some time to kill before the pickup at the hotel.
Despite the fact that we couldn’t check in yet, the reception was very friendly and helpful. It was no problem to leave our luggage with them while we went out to explore the city. We set out to find a place where we could have an early lunch and soon found one called Café Martinez. While enjoying our sandwiches and drinks, we talked over our plan and about 45 minutes before our pickup, we headed back to the hotel. The weather forecast turned out to be right, as it was literally pouring down now. Just in time to get some things out of our luggage and prepare. The guide and driver showed up perfectly on time and we were soon on our way. And the weather was playing ball now aswell, with blue sky and sun. Lovely T-shirt weather even.
First stop was La Boca. Famous for its vivid colors and football team, but also not a place you want to go to without a guide/at night. We experienced none of that though, our visit was very nice. During the whole tour, the driver would drop us off somewhere and we would walk to where the driver was waiting again. We were dropped off near the river and at the start of the main area of La Boca. The stones on the ground were painted in various colors and everything looked pretty joyful.
There were stalls and café’s all around, perfect for catering all the tourists that were present. The guide explained a lot of the history behind the area, how La Boca was formed and what the people were like. At some point, we found ourselves on the ‘bomberos voluntaries de la Boca’-square (voluntary firefighters of la Boca). The 2 walls around this square were filled with amazing art (see photos below) and definitely well worth taking some time to look at it.
When walking back to the car, we passed the stadium of football club Boca Juniors. It was in full preparation for the following day, when they would play main rivals River Plate (also from the Buenos Aires; compare it to El El Clásico, the Manchester derby or the Old Firm).
Next was a visit to the Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada. On our way there, we drove by the famous Evita image on the wall of one of the government buildings. Unfortunately, I could only manage a photo from inside the car, while waiting for a red light. When we got out of the car for our walk to the square, there were a lot of teenagers walking by. As it turned out, there was a big demonstration going to achieve the legalization of weed. Police were present in large numbers and the demonstrators actually had the own area fenced off on the square, in which they could freely do their thing. As we were standing on the other side, in front of the Casa Rosada, we could see (and smell!) the smoke rising up from the fenced off area, a kind of amusing sight. Meanwhile, our guide explained a lot about the Casa Rosada and its relation to Evita and how the political system in Argentina works/used to work.
We carried on with tour by visiting the Fregata Sarmiento, a former training vessel for the Argentine navy and now a museum. We didn’t actually go on the ship, but it was still pretty cool to see. As visible on the photo below, clouds were rolling in at this point. We walked alongside the harbor and over a bridge to the other side, where we found the ‘Reina de Holanda’ water fountain. It made sense, since our current Queen is originally from Argentina, but this area wasn’t too impressive to be honest.
Last but not least; a visit to the La Recoleta cemetary. This cemetary is huge, which equally huge graves. Many of the tombs here are very impressive, some are the size of a small shed, with stairs leading down underneath the ground to the actual grave. Most of the tombs are decorated with statues, symbols, etc. It comes to no surprise that the majority of the people buried here played a very important role in the history of Buenos Aires and Argentina. I thought the tomb of former president Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín was particularly nice, with the mosaic in the ceiling. The photo of it (linked below) turned out exactly as I envisioned when I took it. Another high-profile tomb is of course the tomb of the Duarte family, where Eva lies. If ‘Duarte’ doesn’t ring a bell; it was Eva’s maiden name, before marrying Juan Perón. And of course Eva Perón was the famous Evita.
With this visit behind us, we made our way back to the car via Plaza San Martin. When we were back at the hotel, it was already late afternoon and we relaxed in the room for a bit, before heading out to dinner. We had researched for good places to eat and found one that was right across the intersection that is next to the hotel. But when we went there, they were still closed. For us Europeans slightly weird, but very normal in Argentina. People goout to dinner pretty late, usually not before 21:00. We had the choice to come back in 30 minutes or go somehwere else; we picked the former. The waiting time was spent in the cafe next door, sampling some of the local beer.
Since it was our first night in Argentina, I felt the meal had to be steak and so I ordered steak. It was delicious and in combination with the nice atmosphere in the restaurant, it was worth the wait. As we were both a bit tired after a long day of the travel and sightseeing, we didn’t stay out very late. With our onwards journey to Ushuaia already in my mind, I was looking forward to flying down there the following day, aswell as seeing ‘Aeroparque’.
Our flight wasn’t leaving until 16:00, so we just took it easy this morning. Breakfast was good, with lots of choice in bread, pastries and fruit. After breakfast, we packed our last stuff and headed down to the lobby to check out. We had booked our taxi the previous night, so we were all set. With an hour or 2 to kill still, we left our luggage at the reception to have a stroll through the city once more. We ended up in the same café as yesterday, and after a coffee, we headed across the street to the botanical garden. We figured we might aswell have a look in there and kill some more time. It was a nice day, weather was great (blue sky all around and sunny), which all made for a good walk.
After some 30 minutes, we made our way back to the hotel, picked up our luggage at the reception and shortly thereafter our taxi arrived. He would take us to ‘Aeroparque’, the city airport of Buenos Aires. Officially the airport is called ‘Buenos Aires – Aeroparque Jorge Newbery’, but everyone just calls it Aeroparque. I had already seen lots of photos from this airport and it seemed like a cool place. When we got there after about 20-30 minutes, I wasn’t disappointed. A small but really busy airport in perfect weather; I was already looking forward to experiencing this.
Since we were a bit early (we didn’t know how long traffic would take), we went outside again after dropping the bags off to take advantage of the weather. Despite the sun being out, there was a cold wind and a hoodie and winter jacket were necessary (it was winter time in the Southern hemisphere after all). After a good 1,5h of spotting at this great airport, it was time to head to the departure area.
The layout of the airport is pretty straight forward and it didn’t take us long to end up where we needed to be. We did some photography from inside the terminal building until our flight was ready for boarding. One last glance at the weather app on my phone revealed that we were still in for snow showers and heavy winds upon arrival. Luckily Ushuaia has a runway 25, which meant that we would have a perfect headwind into the airport.
Our aircraft was LV-FVN, the youngest member of the Aerolineas Argentinas Boeing 737 fleet and delivered just 2 weeks prior! In the inflight magazine its sister ship –FVM was even featured as being the newest member of the fleet, so I thought that was amusing. At least it meant no scratched windows, bonus!
During the climbout of Aeroparque’s runway 31 we got a brilliant view of the city before we banked to the right. The flight was good and uneventful until sunset. Unfortunately we were seated on the wrong side of the aircraft to get a proper view, but it looked A-MA-ZING from the other side of the aisle. On our side, we could see the moon rise, which was cool aswell.
As it got darker, it also got cloudier and I could tell we were getting near. Soon enough, I could see the snow coming over the wing horizontally and tried to see outside of the window. At about 100ft I could see the runway edge lights and the crew made a nice touchdown into Ushuaia.
Ushuaia is a pretty small airport with only 2 gates and we were the last flight of the day, so it didn’t take much time to get outside. We joined the queue of people waiting for a taxi, but it all went very smooth. There was one guy coordinating and he was in contact with dispatch about how many taxis were needed. After a few minutes, we were in a taxi and our driver had a football match on. We know Boca was playing River Plate that evening, so we tried to confirm this in our best Spanish. It was indeed the game, but there were only 10 minutes left to play.
Before we knew it, the famous “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL” was heard and our driver seemed content with that (obvious Boca supporter). Another “GOOOO[…]L” followed within 5 minutes and the game was over. Quite a nice experience.
The check-in at the hotel went smoothly and after dropping our stuff in the room, we decided to go into the city again for dinner. The reception arranged a taxi for us and we asked if she could recommend any restaurants. We opted for ‘La Estancia’ and it was a really good choice. The food and service were good and I can definitely recommend the place. After dinner, we just took a taxi back to the hotel and called it a night.
It was more or less the same as the breakfast in the hotel in Buenos Aires and again bread, pastries, some cereal and fruits were had before going out. The plan for today was to see the old prison (now also the maritime museum) and to just walk around a bit.
We asked the receptionist if she could arrange a taxi for us. How it’s done in Ushuaia is pretty cool; the reception actually has a radio to directly contact the operations center of the taxi company. They radio in, ask for a taxi to the hotel and before you know it your ride has arrived. Very smooth and fast way of taking care of this.
We told the driver in our best Spanish where to go and after a 10 minute ride we got to our destination. There is an entrance fee, but well worth it. In the lobby, there are also lockers in which you can stow your bag for the duration of your visit and you can take the key with you. First up were models of ships and some history behind them. Some of them are actually shipwrecks and also in the vicinity of the city. After that, you go into a hallway that reveals that this building used to be a prison. It’s basically one big cell block, but in each cell, there is a different display. Some cells (displays) focus on aviation in Ushuaia, some on shipping, some on the prison/prisoners, others on the Argentinian part of Antarctica etc. Very interesting stuff for sure!
When we got to the end of the cell block, we got to what was like a big gym hall, probably the main hall from when the prison was still operational. We opted to go into next corridor, which was a proper art exhibit. Again 2 floors full of paintings, crafts and art. The third and final cell block was what the actual prison would’ve looked like. They didn’t add anything, but just preserved this block. Some broken windows on the roof and snow being blown in created a nice atmosphere in there.
Once we left the prison, we walked towards the harbor, where our next target was. Before the trip, we found out that there is a sign there which says “fin del mundo” (end of the world). We figured this was a must-visit in Ushuaia and so we did. Once the photos and movies were taken, we tried to find this place where penguins were painted on the wall. With the help of a local, we were able to find it. Directly above this wall, there was a café, where we decided to have lunch. We could also make use of the Wi-Fi to check how things back home were going.
After lunch, we got going again to find the old airport, which had a DC-3 gate guard outside. I memorized the map of the city a bit and it wasn’t long before we could see it. Weather was still quite snowy, so I was fearing for my shoes (not very waterproof…). While walking over to the DC-3, we were joined by a black dog. We couldn’t see any owner around, but the dog kept walking with us. We called him Lightning.
After taking the photos of the DC-3, we walked over to the aeroclub building. Before entering the building, I saw an old floatplane outside with a German registration. Instant adrenaline boost with a find like this! We entered the building and a guy came to greet us. They sold some aviation stuff and my friend ended up buying a tag and some stickers. I asked the guy if he knew the story behind the floatplane outside. He explained that it was a replica of the Heinkel HD 24 that Gunther Plüschow (German explorer) flew when he was the first person to land in the bay of Ushuaia. Despite it being a replica, the propeller was the original from 1927! The wings were detached out of fear that they would break under the amount of snow.
Leaving the aeroclub, we headed towards the new airport, since I wanted to try and catch a specific airplane. We walked endlessly, until we got to a dead end street. At this point we realized we walked 1,5h for nothing. And we also had to walk back again… Yes, I take the blame for it.
Lightning was still following us when we got to the shipyard next to the old airport. We passed this on the way there, but this time stopped for some photos. There was an interesting vessel from the war outside the yard and a very colorful one inside.
At this point, my shoes were soaked and there was a puddle of water in my shoes. We wanted to get back to the hotel, so we went over to the first taxi we saw. Turned out he was waiting for someone, but he advised us to walk a few blocks back to the supermarket, which had a taxi stand outside. Before getting a taxi, we opted to go to into the supermarket to get some snacks and drinks for later that night.
Once we got back at the hotel, we couldn’t really be bothered to go out again. My shoes were all wet and I put them under the radiator in the bathroom, where they could dry during the evening/night. With a long and tiring day behind us, we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. Normally not something either of us do, but it was actually quite good food! But it was apparent that we were once again very early, as we were the only ones there for a while. Back home, 19:00 is a good time to go out, but in Argentina people go out to dinner very late, around 21:00ish even.
It was still dark outside when we went down for breakfast. During breakfast, the sunrise began and I was sitting with my face towards it. I found myself looking outside more and more as it seemed like the sky was on fire. It got more intense by the minute and eventually I just excused myself from the table and rushed up to the room to get my camera gear and coat. As my hiking shoes were still drying from getting soaked the previous day, I put on my sneakers.
When I got outside, the sky looked amazing and I couldn’t help think how perfect this was for our last day in Tierra del Fuego (land of fire). It proved a bit difficult to take photos, as the sky was bright and the ground/buildings weren’t. I tried to make an HDR (High Dynamic Range – several images of different exposures combined into 1 photo), but in my opinion I didn’t completely succeed. Nevertheless it shows exactly what I saw and it’s not bad for a handheld attempt. Meanwhile, my friend also got outside with his camera and we were both happily snapping away. Must’ve been amusing for the other guests who were having breakfast.
We were finished anyway, so we just headed to the room and packed our bags. The check-out time was coming closer and just as in Buenos Aires, we had some time to spare, since the flight was in the afternoon. The receptionist radioed for a taxi and within a few minutes, one arrived. Destination was the place where the penguins were painted on the wall, because opposite of it, there is a large souvenir store. Of course we couldn’t go home without buying some things and I wanted to send my girlfriend a postcard.
But first we had to buy the cards and write them. Since the café from yesterday was just across the street, we had lunch there again and at the same time we could write the postcards. Win-win! Sending it turned out to be pretty easy, as stamps and a mailbox were present inside the shop. When I asked how long it normally takes from sending to receiving, he said a month. After the initial surprise, I could put it in perspective; in North Korea it took about as long aswell and Ushuaia is after all in a very remote corner of the world. My girlfriend actually received the card yesterday (at the time of writing), which was 1,5 months after sending it.
Once the touristy stuff was completed, we took a taxi back to the hotel to get our luggage and then go to the airport. I was happy that we would be a bit early, since I wanted to walk around a bit and take some photos. It was a gorgeous winter day with blue sky and sun; too bad it wasn’t the case yesterday, otherwise we probably would’ve taken a scenic flight over the city and surrounding area. But for wandering around the airport perimeter it was perfect. I secretly hoped to see some exotic aircraft and apparently my karma was good.
While my friend was preparing his backpack for the flight, I had stepped outside to see what was going on there. I heard the sound of a turboprop and looked up. Above the airport, there was this aircraft I couldn’t recognize (I don’t have that often) so I was puzzled about the identity. It flew overhead and descended. I thought there was a good chance that he was now joining downwind and that he would land. It proved to be the case! The aircraft in question was an IAI-102 of the Tierra del Fuego government. Definitely a sweet catch!
Check-in went smooth and fast, we were one of the first in line. Afterwards, we walked around a bit inside the terminal and outside at the other end of the perimeter. The terminal is pretty small and it has 2 air bridges. After going through security, 1 Aerolineas Argentinas Boeing 737 was present at gate 1, where it was undergoing a tire change on the right main gear. During our time in the departure area, our aircraft arrived and also a government King Air. But the best was still to come!
Of course I had secured a window seat (left side) and it provided an amazing view on the departure. A tight left turn meant a great view of the airport and city, aswell as the mountains. We probably banked so steep to avoid Chilean airspace as the border was quite close. This reason also made sense for the rest of the journey (my sense of direction didn’t fail on me!). Flying over the mountains gave us an amazing view, but it would soon turn to sand and rocks.
Our destination (El Calafate) is located in Patagonia, which is also beautiful, but in a different way. During descent, we flew over a plateau that eventually sloped down and we were descending with the ground profile. For my feeling, I felt like we did a cool fly-by at relatively low altitude. Remembering that yesterday was Star Wars day (I’ll let you figure that one out), I could only imagine being on Tatooine. It looked like the desert and I felt that we were in the middle of nowhere.
Once we deplaned and got our luggage, we had to find a way to get to the city. We had the choice between taxi and bus; we took the latter. I think it was 170 pesos for a return and they actually wrote down when you needed to come back and the driver would pick you up at the hotel. Done deal!
Since the van (bus service) was filled with people staying at different hotels, we made a few stops before getting to our hotel. Along the way, we actually drove over the runway and apron of the former airport of El Calafate, which has now been turned into a main road.
Our hotel was rated 5-stars and it showed. The whole hotel looked excellent and service was good. Upon checking in, the receptionist handed over an enveloppe to me and I soon realized that this was the final info for the tour tomorrow. After putting the bags in the room, we chilled for a bit in one of the hotel lounges. It featured a foosball table, table tennis and a fireplace. We order some beers and got some complimentary snacks with them. Afterwards. we set out to explore a bit. We ended up at the boulevard next to the Lago Argentino (Argentine lake) and witnessed the beautiful sunset. On the walk back to the hotel, we came past a few other hotels, aswell as a gym and cocktail bar. We felt a bit thirsty, so we had a look inside the cocktail bar. Looked quite nice and the drinks menu seemed good, so we ordered some cocktails.
When we got back to our hotel again, neither of us felt like going out anymore, we enjoyed dinner in the hotel restaurant. Pasta and beer was the meal of choice and both were very tasty after another good day of travel. The next day we would start the tour to the Perito Moreno, so we called it an early night again to get a good amount of sleep.
When I woke up, I was instantly looking forward to the rest of the day. We had about an hour and a half before the pickup at the hotel, so we left ourselves plenty of time to prepare. And while we were having breakfast, our camera batteries and phones were charging upstairs in the room. The guide was perfectly on time and at 8AM sharp we boarded the minibus. We were the first stop of today’s tour; we picked up more people at the hotel next to us and at 2 or 3 other places. After some 20 minutes, we went on the road for real.
We seemed to be the only English speaking people on the tour, the rest all spoke Spanish. The tour guide spoke English well and translated everything for us after explaining things in Spanish first. While making our way to the glacier, she told us about the history behind El Calafate, Patagonia and the area around us. We made our first stop about 20 minutes into the drive, at what was apparently a vantage point where lots of other tour operators stop aswell. We had some 10 minutes to get out and enjoy the Patagonian landscape. It was located next to the Lago Argentino and in the distance the mountains were already visible. There was a big rock next to the road, so of course I climbed on it to take some photos and video. Once I got down from it, the road to the mountains was on my right and it looked brilliant. A lone road with the mountains behind it and the sun was trying to peek out. The perfect ingredients for a photo and of course I couldn’t resist.
The Perito Moreno glacier is located inside a national park, and as such, we had to buy tickets. The bus stopped at the entrance and our guide went inside to buy them while we stayed on the bus. It didn’t take long before she came back out and we went on our way again. The second stop was only a few minutes away and it was at a rest stop inside the park. It was mainly a bathroom break, but this area was also located at the water (but not the lake) and it proved a beautiful view of the Patagonian landscape.
The third stop was at a lookout point from where we could actually see the glacier in the distance. My first glimpse of a glacier and it was great! We had about 15 minutes for some photos and enjoying the atmosphere before setting off for the final part of the drive. Once we were on the road again, the guide confirmed which people had booked the optional boat ride. It turned out that everyone but us did and so the guide would go with the others and we would go by ourselves. When we arrived at the drop-off point on the side of glacier, she explained the routing to us; it was pretty straight forward, you can’t really get lost in this place. There are a lot of walkways and observation platforms, so plenty to do and many different points to take photos from.
We spent a good while on one of the highest platforms, almost directly in front of the middle of the glacier. With a temperature around 5 degrees, it wasn’t that bad, but after 4h my feet got too cold and it was time to move on. We hoped to shoot some video of ice breaking off the glacier and falling into the water, but it just happens so fast. We saw it a few times, but once you hear cracks, you look around to see where it is and it already falls just before you locate it and have your camera ready.
The pick up at the main area was around 15:00 and we made our way towards that area. On the way, we found the busiest viewing area, which seemed to be the main attraction. At the places we had been until then we were mostly alone, with few people walking by. It is also at this larger area where I made my panorama photo of the glacier (see all the way down this trip report. You can see the lower observation decks in it aswell).
About 30 minutes before we would leave, we arrived at the restaurant for food and drinks (we hadn’t had any since breakfast). I also went into the gift shop to score a fridge magnet. As for the drive back, I don’t remember much, because I basically slept all the way back to the city.
When we got back, football (Champions League – Barcelona vs Bayern Munich) was about to start, but our hotel didn’t have a channel where we could watch it. We remember the cocktail bar from the previous days and that it had some games on, so we walked over, but unfortunately they were still closed. However, the hotel next door to ours did show the game, so we just ordered some drinks and watched the game there.
Getting back to the hotel, we played some table tennis (naturally I won!) before it was time for food and headed to the main street to find a restaurant. There were several, but we chose a place called La Tolderia. They served good food, great beers and the TV’s on the walls showed some of the games in the Copa America. A perfect mix.
When we left, we took a walk through the remainder of the main street and arrived at the marketplace where crafts were exhibited and sold. Still on the hunt for some souvenirs, we bought this thing called “mate” (pronounced ‘mah-teh’). It’s a hollowed out pumpkin in which you put tea leaves. Add some hot water and you have tea. We asked the salesman about what leaves we could best use and got them at the local supermarket. With these souvenirs in the bag, a great day came to an end.
Today was another travel day and the start of our trip to Rio de Janeiro. Our flight was around 17:00 and involved a stopover in Buenos Aires. We would spend the night in the same hotel as the first night, with our flight to Rio leaving early afternoon the next day.
Yesterday, we inquired about things to do in El Calafate and they recommended us to visit the wildlife sanctuary nearby. It was a beautiful morning with lots of sun, so we wanted to make the most of it and went to visit the sanctuary. It was still pretty cold in the morning, as we exhaled small clouds and the streets were actually frozen a bit earlier.
Walking to the sanctuary was pretty nice and just opposite the entrance, we saw a horse. Not very spectacular you might think, but this horse wasn’t in a field or something, it was just walking around without any leash or fence. A little surprising, but pretty cool.
The guy at the reception was very enthusiastic in welcoming us and handed us the map and information. Entrance fee was about 70 peso and in theory you could stay at the park the whole day for that. He explained to us that the walk usually takes about an hour and with that info, we set off. I think we were the first people to enter that park that day, with 2 ladies entering sometime later.
Despite the fact that they entered later, they quickly caught up to us. Reason for that: we were taking our time with the photos. The first wildlife we saw were a lot of birds of prey, just sitting quietly on some of the poles of the fence. The light was amazing, so pretty much everything looked good. I found one of the birds sitting in a tree, soaking up the morning sun and I tried sneaking closer. Inch by inch I sneaked over, trying to be as quiet as possible and I could get up to a few meters of it and it wasn’t spooked.
As we were over half-way, we got to the lake edge (Lago Argentino) and the Flamingos. Yes, flamingos! I never knew they lived down here and I only know them from Bonaire, where they like the pink water that is filled with their food and where it is 30 degrees. Over here,, you won’t find any of the pink stuff around and temperatures can be around/below 0 degrees. Despite that, they seemed to enjoy life down here.
I desperately wanted to take some photos of them, but the group out on the lake was too far. However, in the middle of the sanctuary, there was another part of water that hosted a group of Flamingos. When we got closer, we had to really be careful to avoid making any sounds. Unfortunately, our sneaking didn’t really help as they got spooked by the two of us coming closer to the edge of the water. But with a bit of luck, we were in a good position to see them make a run for it and fly away to the other group that was further up in the lake.
There wasn’t much to see for the remainder of the walk and we had already spent 1,5h in the sanctuary. So we called it a day in terms of sightseeing and went back to the city for lunch. Since the place where we had dinner last night was good, we figured we’d go there again to have some food and drinks. As we had steak the night before, we went for the pizza this time. And as expected, very good!
By the time we were finished, it was time to head to the hotel, collect our luggage again and wait for the pickup. They showed up on time and we were the second to last stop before the airport, so all in all a very smooth journey. Same went for checking-in and we managed to beat most of the other passengers to the queue, without rushing too much. The security lanes opened a bit late, but we were the only flight at the time. It wasn’t long until we boarded and I had window seat with view of the engine and wing. Right after take-off we made a tight left turn, which enabled a great view of the airport, Lago Argentino and the mountains in the back. By this time, a cloud layer had already drifted in, but the view was still breathtaking.
The flight was pretty uneventful and not completely full, which resulted in both of the passengers next to me finding an empty seat elsewhere in the plane. More room for me, awesome! We had a good flight, but again pretty uneventful until sunset. This time, we knew we were on the right side to see it, and it was great! For the rest of the flight, I was trying to get some more sleep. When I woke up, we were almost over Buenos Aires, which is well worth seeing from above. Our approach into the city was spectacular, such a clear sky and all the lights down below, just amazing!
The arrival into Aeroparque was fine and a taxi was quickly found outside and before we knew it we were back at the hotel. We tried to quickly check in and put the luggage in the room, as it was almost time for football; another Boca vs. River match!
The café opposite the hotel showed the match, which seemed like a great location to mingle with the locals and enjoy some snacks and beer while watching the game. It ended in 0-0, but it made for a fun evening. On the way back to the room, we bought some sandwiches at the corner shop as we didn’t really have any dinner. We ate in the room while watching some TV and went to sleep soon thereafter.
It was a relaxed morning without being in too much of a rush. Our flight wasn’t until the afternoon, which left us plenty of time to have breakfast, pack our bag and be a bit lazy. Before going up to the room after breakfast, we arranged for a taxi pickup in an hour or 2, so we wouldn’t have to stress over that later.
Once again it was a nice and sunny day again and I was looking forward to flying. No spotting beforehand this time and we just went through security and waited in the departure area. Of course we did take some photos through the glass, but otherwise we just spent our time looking around. The gate to be was one in the 20’s, which meant a bus-gate (the aircraft is parked remotely and a bus takes you to it). The glorified platform tour was pretty nice, but soon we stopped at what was apparently our aircraft. To my horror, it was –FVM again, the same aircraft that flew us back to Buenos Aires yesterday evening. And if there’s something I dislike, how trivial it may be, it is flying the same plane twice. Oh well, atleast it was a relatively new plane, so the windows should be reasonably clean. As I was one of the last to get on the bus, I was one of the first to take my seat. And just like last night, the flight wasn’t full and I had 3 seats to myself again.
As is usual at Aeroparque, the departure involved a sharp right turn to avoid the city, and we were now flying over the Rio de la Plata, with Uruguay directly on the other side. The flight was just like the others, good and not too eventful. Once lunch (sandwich) was served, I just listened to my iPod and dozed off for a bit. When I woke up, we were approaching Rio. In the mean time, weather had gone from sunny to cloudy, with an overcast layer over the city. On the approach, we flew alongside a mountainrange, which I thought was pretty cool.
We took a good look around when we deplaned, to see what we could expect on the way back. Passport control went fast once it was our turn, but otherwise seemed a bit slow. Maybe also due to the fact, that we were almost the last people in queue…
Then came the ‘hard’ part – getting transportation to the hotel. When you leave the bag collection area and subsequent scan (they scan you luggage again on the way out). Directly opposite the exit, you have a more or less official private taxi kiosk, but when inquiring about the price, it was very steep. My friend was a bit mroe experienced in these kinds of things and said that we should not take this, but in stead try outside the terminal. So we told the lady ‘no thanks’ and went out. Walking past all the other private hires who asked if we needed a taxi, we ended up at the public taxi’s. We asked how much it would cost us to go to the Copacabana, (our hotel was at the beach) and it was significantly less than we were previously quoted by the other company. However, we did want the meter running to make sure they wouldn’t scam us, something the driver relunctantly did after a few minutes (but before driving off).
The ride was pretty good and we go tour first impressions of Rio. Driving past favelas, through tunnels in the mountains and seeing the Christ the Redeemer statue on the way aswell. Rio appeared to be very green and mountainous the nearer we got to the hotel and I was starting to feel a bit more at ease after the whole taxi ordeal. When arriving at the hotel, it was clear that insisting on the meter pad off, since the amount quoted was a bit less than they said it would be.
The hotel appeared grand, just like all the others at the boulevard. It was a little expensive when we booked, but we figured we should make the most of our stay here, not knowing when (if ever) we would be back. The reception was very helpful and after taking care of the formalities, we could finally head up to the room. As booked, we had a room with a view over the beach and ocean; it was better than I had imagined up until then. Many of the hotels have an open rooftop area and our hotel was no exception. It had a pool and gym, but the best thing was without a doubt the view of the beach/boulevard.
Once settled and unpacked, we headed out into the city. My friend had has mind set on a pair of Havaianas, so we proceded to one of the stores he had researched about. After he was done, we headed back to the beach and walked over the boulevard. No specific goal other than enjoying the atmosphere and look around. It was already getting a bit dark and we both were in the mood for our first cocktail. We sat down at a place at the beach and ordered the first Caipirinhas. Meanwhile, we had a look on the menu and the saté looked very tempting. Being kind of hungry, the choice was quickly made to have dinner here.
During dinner, it was time for a second and last round of Caipirinhas. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest to be at our best for the tour the following day.
Since the pickup for the tour would be at 8AM, we had another early start to the day. We were just about on our way out the door when the phone in the room rang; it was the reception. Our guide had already arrived and I said that we would be down in a minute. Once downstairs, introduced ourselves and it turned out his wife also joined us. She was doing on-the-job training to be a tour guide aswell, so today was a learning day for her. Transportation would be their car and after some minutes we set off to the first attraction of the day.
The Christ the Redeemer statue was first on the list. The statue is located on the Corcovado mountain, one of the highest in Rio. You can get there by car and then walk a bit, but our choice of transportation was the cable car. The cable cars go through the rainforest and offer some great views of Rio from above. But nothing compared with what we were still going to see though. After getting to the highest station, there were a pair of escalators to take us all the way to the top. Once we got there, the area was already crowded with people. A clean shot of the statue was very difficult, but at some point I did manage. After that, I just enjoyed the great view from up there and attempted a few panoramic photos. Weather was gorgeous and not too warm still.
We took the cable cars back down again and proceeded through the city to the Samba stadium, where the annual carnival is held. I always thought it was held in many streets of the city, but as it turns our there is one long street with stands for spectators, through which the parade goes. In the end, they get judged and a winner is determined. Very, very different from what I had always imagined, so definitely an educational trip aswell. Standing in the middle of this street, I could see the traffic to Santos Dumont airport flying overhead the city. We looked around there for a bit, before the next stop at the ‘Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião’
This Cathedral isn’t popular with some people, as it is very futuristic looking and doesn’t really fit the streetimage that well. But in my opinion, it looks good. It stands out and it’s very impressive from the inside. Especially the glasswork is amazing! We spent some 20 minutes here before continuing to one of the sights that I was really looking forward to see.
The Escadaria Selarón is one of the must-visits in Rio in my opinion. It started off as one man renovating the steps in front of his house, but in todays world it’s an icon for the city of Rio. It even featured in movie clips, documentaries, commercials and many more. Upon closer inspection of the tiles, I also found some Dutch one, including one from the province of Zeeland. Unfortunately there were other tourists present, so a ‘clean’ photo didn’t work. However, I’m glad to have been there and seen it with my own eyes!
When booking the tour, we expressed our desire to visit a Favela, so the next sight was probbably the most anticipated one. The Rocinha (little farm) is the largest favela in Brazil and also the most open to tourists (or so we were told). We parked the car on a hillside and walked uphill for a short while before getting the main area. We went into one of the alleys and it provided a good impression of what life is like in a favela. The guide took us to a place that is called ‘gate of heaven’; an open area on a rooftop, from which you have an amazing overview. There was an elderly man there (the owner of the roof), whom our guide appeared to know. The elderly man was a bit angry, because some tourists gave him dollars. He didn’t know that this was actual currency and thought that he got scammed. Our guide then offered to give him Real’s in exchange for the Dollars, but the man initially declined that, since he didn’t wanted to be sponsored (at least, that’s what I understood from the non-verbal communication). After a while, the guide managed to convince the man after all and the matter was settled. It was at this place where I took my favorite photo(s) from the trip; a large panorama of the favelas with the high condo’s and golf courses in the background. The contrast couldn’t get any bigger. Our guide also explained that usually the rich people live on the hills, above the poorer people. In Rio, the roles are mostly reversed. On the way back to the car, we were asked to put our cameras away, because the people didn’t really like it. A very fair point and we honestly expected this to happen a lot earlier.
We drove down to the other side, through the favela. We were now in Barra de Tijuca, a more upscale and newer area in Rio. It has a lot of water areas, with many canals and small lakes. By now it was already lunchtime, and our guide knew a good place to sit down and have food. It was said the serve a good Feijoada (rice black beans and beef stew) and they did. It was delicious! For drinks, they told us that we had to try a cachaça, a distilled drink from sugarcane with a high alcohol content. It came in several flavors and was indeed quite strong (but also good).
After about an hour, we were on our way again. The sun was getting lower again and we headed in the general direction of our hotel again. They offered to go to rainforest on the way home, which we of course accepted. They dropped us off at a certain point and we would walk up for a few minutes, where we would meet them again at the car park. It was quite a nice walk, but unfortunately we didn’t see any animals. There was however a nice waterfall next to the car park.
The last thing on the tour was a viewing point on a hill, from where you can see both the Sugar Loaf mountain aswell as the statue of Christ. It wasn’t too crowded there, so it made for a good experience. After taking some photos of the view, my attention was drawn to the parked cars behind us. When I got there, I noticed what all the fuss was about; there were monkeys around! Someone put some fruit on the ledge and we all waited. The monkey came over, grabbed the fruit and climbed back into the tree.
With the tour coming to and end, we drove back to the hotel, where we said our goodbyes. With twilight coming up, we went up to the roof of our hotel. From there, the view over the Copacabana was excellent and we were on the hunt for night photos. I brought my Gorillapod just for this, but the rail was too thick and high to shoot over. So I patiently waited for my friend to finish his photos, so I could borrow his small tripod afterwards. I shot 1 or 2 single images and then went for the stack. A stacked image is several photos of the same scene combined into one photo. So, I took 13 photos, with the purpose of being able to capture the light trails of the cars driving over the boulevard. Added bonus was a sightseeing helicopter in the frame aswell (there are a lot of those flying around!).
With the night photos taken, it was now time to have dinner. Walking down the boulevard, there are many placed where you can eat. We chose a restaurant that was fairly close to the hotel, which had 2 big screens that showed football matches. Some entertains while we wait/eat. It was one of those simple holiday restaurants, but the food was good and so was the beer. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the shop of a gas station to get a drink and snack for later in the evening. Back in the room, we just relaxed, trying to watch some TV and use the Wi-Fi for a bit.
Not a lot of plans for today, besides visiting the Sugar Loaf. We didn’t have time for that yesterday during the tour, so we decided to do that by ourselves today. I wanted to try some night photos from there, so we had pretty much the whole day for other things.
Another perfect day and one of the roads on the boulevard was blocked off to provide more safety for the people going to the beach. Since it was a Sunday, there were a lot more people around than on the previous 2 days. We figured we’d join them and went for a walk. The plan was to check out Ipanema beach, which was only a short walk from the hotel. By this time, it was already 29 degrees with no wind. Blazing hot!
There is a rock formation next to the fort and beach, on which you can climb (it has steps) and we did that aswell to get a better overview. On the rocks, we had some wind and shade, both of which cools one down a bit. The downside of that place is that it smelled like piss, probably due to the fact that people sleep there during the night. But strategically choosing where you stand eliminates the stench and it’s very nice to be there then.
After looking around and taking photos, we went down to the boulevard to get a drink. Soon we arrived at this stall that had some soft drinks, beer, but also fresh coconuts. It looked pretty good, so I ordered one. It was as fresh as can be; one guy cut off the top of the coconut, a straw was put in and I was all set. Very tasty and refreshing on this hot day. Afterwards, we walked over the beach to get back to the hotel.
After a small break in the room, we went out again for a walk in the city. We were minding our own business, just looking around a bit at the variety of stores, when all of a sudden a guy pointed out that my friend had something on his shoe, it kind of looked like he stepped in poo. After a quick glance down at his shoe, he walked off in a fast pace, leaving me trailing a few meters behind him. The guy who alerted us about it was next to me and he offered a handkerchief to clean it off. It was at this point that I realized why my friend took off so hastily and I quickly put some distance between me and the guy aswell. So what was happening:
Before our trip, I had read stories about how people could get scammed in Brazil and one of them was that a random person spills something on your shoes, then alerts you about it and while he’s trying to ‘help’ you to get the substance off, his accomplice pickpockets you. This was exactly what was going on with us, but it took me a few seconds to realize it.
Eventually we went into a store, where we asked if they had something to wipe my friend’s shoe clean and thankfully they were able to help. While we were in there, I tried on some T-shirts and ended up buying one (I needed one more anyway and this was a good opportunity). When walking back to the hotel, we were a bit more vigilant about our surroundings, but we didn’t experience any more issues.
It was already later in the afternoon and it wasn’t long before we were heading towards the Sugar Loaf. The reception arranged a private taxi to take us there. Traffic caused a slight delay, but all-in all very doable. When we arrived at the base of the cable cars, there was hardly a line and after getting the tickets we quickly went to the queue and luckily we could get on the first car up. This was an intermediate station though; you’re still high up already, but you can go even higher, to the top of the mountain. From there, the view is incredible. You have a great view towards the Copacabana, Santos Dumont airport and the whole city that is Rio de Janeiro. We were there during sunset, but clouds hindered the view, so I opted for an HDR. Lying on my stomach on the side of the viewing area, I tried to hold the camera as steady as possible and clicked away. The result turned out very nice and I’m definitely happy with one of my first proper HDR attempts.
With Santos Dumont airport just below us and a lot of aircraft on the apron, it promised to be a nice outbound peak. With some aircraft circling in front of us for landing, it was very interesting to see how this airport works. Of course I knew a little about it already, but it’s always better to see it with your own eyes. My aim was to make some long exposures and possibly a stack. However, unfortunately I forgot my shutter release cable at the hotel… And since I didn’t have a tripod with me, I was forced to put the camera on the ground, ‘stabilized’ by lens caps. I also used the 2” timer when taking the photos. I did get some nice ones, but I’d love to go back with proper equipment, just to try out my ideas for this airport.
We took a normal taxi back to the hotel, dropped our camera bags in the room and immediately went out again to get dinner. We didn’t feel like going anywhere fancy and wanted to eat near the beach. When walking alongside the boulevard again, we came past the restaurant from yesterday and figured we might aswell go there again. The previous day, we saw some guests having this big platter of fries and melted cheese. Very unhealthy, but it looked good. They were showing football again and combined with a beer or 2, it was a good meal. Afterwards, since it was our last night in Rio, we wanted to end this mini trip like it started; with cocktails! We went back to that same place for 2 rounds of drinks before calling it a day.
With a check-out time of 13:00, this was definitely a day for relaxing and not being in any kind of hurry. I switched up the breakfast a bit today and chose to have a lot of French toast, as it was ages since I last had some (It still tastes as good as I remember!). Basically the only thing we needed to before leaving was go to a fair, which was only a couple mintues away from the hotel. Before leaving the lobby, we arranged a taxi pick-up for 13:00. Checkout time was also the time we needed to leave for the airport, so it couldn’t be better timing.
When we walked to the fair, we realized that it was actually quite a big one, with lots of stalls, street musicians and art work. The main things I was looking for were fridge magnets and a necklace for my girlfriend. The former was easy to find, there were plenty of stalls that had magnets. I found a really nice one at the first place that we checked out, but decided to wait with the buy, to see if other stalls had better ones. After completing 1 full circle over the square, I did end up buying one at that stall.
The necklace was a bit harder to find. I noticed I was pretty picky and I think we walked 3 or 4 circles over the entire market, before finally finding something that I liked. With those 2 items in the bag, I was done. My friend bought some small paintings and other smaller souvenirs. It was already getting close to noon and the sun was gaining in strength. We opted to get a drink at a nearby smoothie bar. All the drinks looked excellent and we went full-healthy-mode and I got myself a delicious kiwi smoothie.
We walked a bit further to see what was over there, but many stores in that street were closed. We figured we should head back and chill in the room while we still could. We slowly prepared for the departure, using the Wi-Fi for a final time and going downstairs after a final check to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind.
It turns out it we had the same taxi driver as the day before and he was happy that we remembered to ask for him as our driver. We chatted a little bit during the drive, but I also took the opportunity to look outside and experience Rio for one the last time. Soon I saw the airport perimeter appear and we were there. We thanked the driver and went inside.
Atleast this time we didn’t have to kill time before check-in opened, but there was a bit of a queue. When it was my turn, the check-in agent saw my nationality and it made for some small talk. Always good when the atmosphere is instantly good when you can just joke around a bit and have a laugh together. He mentioned that we didn’t have seats next to each other, but we quickly said that that we did that on purpose, as we both wanted a window seat.
After the bag drop, we went through security, since the rest of the terminal wasn’t very interesting. The terminal building appears quite ‘tired’ and old at times (it looks like a concrete jungle from the outside), but at the same time it had a decent atmosphere to it. First stop was one of the shops, where my friend tried to look for a specific liquor, but unfortunately he didn’t find any. With the last time that we had food being breakfast, that was now the main priority. I settled for a bottle of water and grilled sandwich at the food court on the second floor. It turned out there was Wi-Fi there, so we just sat back at the restaurant area before heading down to the waiting hall. It wasn’t that crowded yet, but with an Air France Boeing 777 scheduled to depart from the adjacent gate, it was only a matter of time. At one point, we also saw a group of British spotters, who were walking around with binoculars and cameras.
In the mean time, my friend had checked flightradar and said: “I have bad news…”. “What?” “It’s –LVM again”. Turns out the same aircraft as in the previous 3 legs was operating the flight back to Buenos Aires aswell. That’s just very tough luck. It had a bit of a delay, but as long as we would arrive that day, we would be fine (we would leave Buenos Aires again very early the next morning). Boarding was completed fast and we were soon pushing back.
During our wait, we were looking outside a lot and tried to see if we could identify what runway was in use. Turns out we got it right and this meant that we could mentally prepare for a departure with the city visible on our side of the plane. Unfortunately though, the weather didn’t play ball, but we could still see the Sugar Loaf in the distance. The climbout from Rio was pretty cloudy and it seemed like the exact same circumstances as the day we arrived. After sleeping for a bit, it was time for another beautiful sunset as we neared Buenos Aires. The plane wasn’t very full so we had plenty of opportunities to walk around a bit.
After another great approach over the city of Buenos Aires, we touched down at Aeroparque. The terminal wasn’t busy at all, so we could make our way to the passport control pretty fast. When it was my turn, the guy knew a bit of Dutch aswell, which made for some fun small talk again. It didn’t take long before he handed my passport back and we set off to find a taxi. For this night, we had booked accomodation through airbnb, a first for both of us. Luckily our driver did know where the street was, roughly a 30 minute drive from the airport.
The street in question was quite dark and we pulled over in front of a medium-sized apartment building. We were questioning ourselves whether this was actually the correct building, when one of the security guards buzzed us in and came out of the booth to give us the key to the apartment. Obviously the person offering the apartment on airbnb has done this before and the guards had some sort of explanation/instruction.
We went inside to the correct floor and apartment and opened the door. The apartment looked pretty nice, with a long stretched kitchen, a roomy livingroom plus balcony and 2 bedrooms. But the one thing we didn’t manage to do yet was have dinner, so we simply went down to the cornershop to buy a drink and sandwich.
As we were trying to make ourselves comfortable, we had our sandwich while watching some TV. Suddenly there was the sound of someone opening the door. I was very surprised, as I thought we would stay at this apartment by ourselves. But it was indeed the owner who stepped through the door. He was a young student who rented out his apartment to help pay for the bills. We chatted for a while before we had to call it a night. At this point, we could sleep for a maximum of 6 hours or so, before departing on a long 29h journey back to Amsterdam.
After a very short night, it was time to prepare for the long travel home. First I just wanted to take a shower to help myself wake up a bit, before packing the final things. I did what I could last night,sorting out my clothes to wear, so packing consisted mostly of toiletries and charging batteries for the camera and my phone.
I wasn’t that hungry, so I figured I’d get breakfast at the airport. Our host was up briefly when we went out, so we shook his hand, said our thanks for the stay and went downstairs. By this time, it was 4am and we had to look for a taxi. In the street where we were, we didn’t see that many cars, but from the intersection we could see a main road a block away. So we walked over there and found our first taxi. But the driver was asleep and we didn’t really want to wake him up. After a minute, another taxi came by and we held out our hands to signal that we would like to use his services. The luggage was quickly loaded into the back and we were on our way to the airport.
It was quite an interesting ride, mostly due to the music choice of the driver. It was some sort of (speed)metal (if anyone knows the song, let me know!) and I can imagine that most people would immediately demand a change of channel, but I couldn’t be bothered. It wasn’t that bad and probably also the driver’s way to stay awake through the night.
I thought this whole situation was very amusing, since you’ll never find this back in Europe.
The drive went very smooth, as it was so early in the morning that there was hardly any traffic. Once we were near the airport, I wanted to record the music that driver was playing, so I just filmed outside with my phone, so the music could be heard in the background. You can find that short clip at the bottom of the page, together with the other videos. Check-in went pretty fast aswell and we headed upstairs, to the food court. Not all restaurants were open, so in the end we decided to sit down at a sort of bistro where they served a great toast.
Since we passed through the airport a few times, finding the way was a peace of cake. But this time, one of the agents at the security check asked me about the routing. We arrived from Rio the previous night and now we’re already on the first flight back to Brazil. I could see how that might seem like a strange routing, so I explained to her that this was part of our ticket to get home. That we booked this ticket in advance and decided to go to Rio for a few days inbetween, which is why it’s such an odd connection. She was satisfied with that explanation and I went on to the customs booth before entering the departure area. Since it was still dark, there wasn’t a whole lot to photograph and we just sat down and waited until it was time to board.
Our first aircraft of the day was an Embraer 190 of Austral, which would take us to Sao Paulo. Sitting on the right side of the plane this time, I would be on the ‘lower side’ of the turn we would have to make after the departure. The sky on the horizon was already getting lighter as we flew towards Brazil. I plugged in my music again and tried to get some more sleep. When I woke up, we were already getting close to Sao Paulo and it was light outside by this time. The remainder of the flight was spent looking out of the window and trying to take some photos. Soon enough, we landed at Guarulhos airport. As we arrived at customs, the lady behind the counter was also surprised about the routing. The conversation went something like (and I kid you not, she straight up asked me!):
> You were in Rio just yesterday?
> *pauzes for a bit* are you a terrorist?
> Are you sure?
> *doesn’t understand routing, asks me why*
> Ooh, ok! *hands passport over*
And with that, I was free to carry on.
In Buenos Aires we were told that we needed to collect our luggage at Sao Paulo, even though we saw it was being labeled through to Amsterdam. We waited at the belt for a while, before finally asking one of the staff wwhat we should do. Turns out that we didn’t have to pick it up.
At this airport, we had a 7-hour layover before our flight to Munich. When booking, we knew that this would be a b*tch, but there was no other way around it. Going to the city was a risk (even with a 7h connection), so we decided to explore the airport a bit, so we took the free inter-terminal shuttle bus to terminal 4. However, 4 was on the opposite side of what we expected, so in the end we traveled quite a bit. We tried to see if there was a good location to take photos from, but the aircraft were already pretty high up at that point.
We figured we should just go to the terminal from where we would depart and get food and drinks. First we walked around a bit, to see what our options were, before ending up at the Pizza Hut. Since the weather was pretty nice and warm, we went for some fresh air after lunch. The area is fenced off with very small holes in the fence to look through and taking photos is impossible through them.
We could see several widebodies of European airlines parked there, including our aircraft. Where we were standing, there was a corner and I wanted to see if I could take a photo over the fence, so I climbed on, operating the camera with one hand and holding the fence with the other. I could only sustain for half a minute, but it was enough.
About 3 hours before departure, we could finally check-in our luggage again and go through security. We quickly made our way through the terminal and found out that the end of the terminal pier was next to a taxiway and runway! With plenty of exotic movements around, this was our ‘base’ for the next 2 hours. Our gate was within 5 minutes walking distance, so there was no real risk in missing our flight.
The departure over the city of Sao Paulo was quite nice, but clouds hindered visibility and photo opportunities slightly. But the setting sun provided some great light on the ground. We headed North-East, in a pretty much direct line to Europe. It soon became dark and I wanted to sleep. I don’t sleep well on planes, unless I’m really tired. I had some trouble falling asleep like usual, but I was so tired that I couldn’t even be annoyed about the fact that I couldn’t sleep. Eventually I did end up getting about 3-4 hours or so. I only woke up when we were passing a thunderstorm; quickly grabbed the camera, but the exposure was too long and the result was a completely white photo. Oh well, better luck next time!
When we entered Europe, it was getting light again. It was a bit hazy, but the Alps could clearly be seen and it was an amazing view. Touchdown in Munich was as soft as they come, hardly felt it. Definitely one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever had and we complimented the captain on it when we deplaned.
The transfer at Munich was only an hour and a half, so we didn’t really have to come up with ways to kill time. During the transfer, we had to go outside the security area and then go back in, but during that time we walked outside of the terminal for a bit. While getting some fresh air, we noticed a lot of cars (Mustangs to be precise!) in all sorts of colors, convertibles and hardtops. Apparently there was this big showcase and people could go for a test drive. They also had a trailer with merchandise present, but despite the tempting goodies, we didn’t buy anything.
Getting through the security was a breeze, although a bit annoying because a group of ladies in front of us held everyone up. Once that was done, we just relaxed at the gate. Our aircraft was parked at a remote stand; this meant we were going for another bus ride on the platform. Always fun and interesting! I soon found my seat and felt sleepy. During the taxi to the runway, I suddenly woke up again and I realized I actually fell asleep in the few minutes we spent inside the aircraft so far. During the flight, I tried to proceed with my nap (partially succeeded). The flight itself was pretty uneventful, although on approach to Amsterdam, it was quite windy and the aircraft went through the motion. I’ve never been a fan of turbulence, but I think it’s improving a lot, as I found the bumpiness rather nice. As we touched down on the runway, another great trip came to an end.
During this trip, I tried to create several panoramic photos of the scenery. I’ve linked them below; when you click on a photo, it will open in a new window. You can also enlarge them there as they are all atleast 3000 pixels wide. Enjoy!
Amazing wall-art at the Plazoleta Bomberos Voluntarios in La boca. On the far left, you can see an image of Maradona in the jersey of Boca Juniors.
Unfortunately I messed up the panoramic attempt, but nevertheless impressive!
In Rio de Janeiro, we had booked a private guide. He took us to see most of the sights, including The Corcovado mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue. The below 3 panorama’s are taken on the top of the mountain.
In addition to all the photos, I also made several movie clips with my GoPro and DSLR. The top video below is the compilation of all those clips. When looking back, I wish I took shot more video while taking the tour in Buenos Aires. Below the main video, you have 2 smaller clips; one of the heavy rainfall we encountered on our first morning in Buenos Aires and one of the music that our taxi driver was listening to at 4AM in the morning. Enjoy!
Buenos Aires (hotel): click here
Buenos Aires (tour): click here (Madi Lang)
Buenos Aires (airbnb): click here
Ushuaia (hotel): click here
El Calafate (hotel): click here
Perito Moreno glacier tour: click here
Rio de Janeiro (hotel): click here
Rio de Janeiro (tour): click here