My South America adventure

I was reminded recently of the South America trip I took last year.  I can’t believe more than a year has passed since my South America adventure.  Time sure flies even when you are not in a full-time job.  That’s what happens when you are keeping busy and having a lot of fun!  Honestly, I do enjoy my life now even though I have moments when I wish I was more useful and earning more income.  Some day soon, I hope.

A friend was traveling to South America recently and had vaccination questions.  What vaccination???  I didn’t know I had to take any.  I just researched the places I want to go, found a travel agency to make the arrangements, packed my bags and went.  She, on the other hand, was advised by her doctor to take vaccination for yellow fever.  I don’t even know what’s that!  No one asked to see my vaccination record during my 2-weeks trip in South America, so not quite sure what the fuss was about.  My younger sister is now planning a South America adventure too and asked for details of the travel agency I used.  She had already been to Machu Picchu in Peru before, a place I skipped on my adventure because I didn’t think I acclimatize to high altitude well, given my Bhutan trip experience a few years back.

About my South America adventure, I was visiting my sister in San Francisco in Dec 2015 and thought it would be a good opportunity to hop over to South America.  On Jan 5, 2016, I took a UA flight to Bueno Aires, Argentina, via Houston.  The flight took 14 hours.  I couldn’t imagine flying to South America directly from Singapore — the flight would have taken way too many hours for my comfort.  Argentina is a huge country — I only had time to visit 3 places — Bueno Aires, the capital, Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia (in the south), and Iguazu Falls bordering Brazil.

I found this travel agency Say Hueque online and got them to arrange flights, airport pickup, hotels and some group tours.  Since I was traveling alone, it was important to be met on arrival and escorted to the hotel and back for my flights.  I didn’t want to be lost all on my own.  Being on some group tours was also a good way to see and know the various places but I made sure I had enough alone time in each place to explore on my own.

Rental bike from Che Bike
Casa Rosada, Presidential Palace

In Bueno Aires, I rented a bicycle from Che Bikes for the day and explored the city on my own.  They delivered the bicycle to the hotel where I was staying and at the end of the day, I just left it there to be picked up.  Extremely convenient.  No need to spend any time looking for the rental shop.  It was very hot the day I went cycling — was sunburnt.  The city is huge and getting lost didn’t help.  By the time I got to the city center, it was rush hour traffic.  Sure, there was a cycling lane but everyone was using that lane — people, cars, motor cycles, buses….  I was lucky I didn’t get hit.  It felt like cycling along Orchard Road in Singapore!  I didn’t know it mattered but riding on the other side of the road meant I had to climb onto the bicycle and push off from a different side that I was not used to, unless you want to be hit by a passing car!  I had a hard time getting used to that, so I tried as much as possible not to stop so I didn’t have to push off — a feat quite difficult given the numerous slopes and traffic lights.  All in all, a memorable and tiring adventure.

I also did a day trip to Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay, which was only a 1-hour Buquebus ferry ride across the Río de la Plata.  I bought the tickets the day before, as a typical kiasu Singaporean would, worried that they might be sold out.  The ferry was huge and I hardly felt it moving across the waters.  Language was an issue in Uruguay — very few people could speak English.  I was trying to order a glass of orange juice with my ham and cheese sandwich breakfast and got a glass of water instead!  A visit to the Historic Quarter is necessary since it is a UNESCO site.  Definitely a more peaceful place than the bustling Buenos Aires.

I flew to Patagonia just to see the glacier.  I stayed in the town of El Calafate and it was a 2-hour drive to the glacier.  Unfortunately by the time I tried to book a seat on the tour that will let us walk on the glacier, it was sold out.  No amount of begging would get me a seat.  That should teach me to leave things to the end; it pays to be kiasu after all!  So I viewed the glacier from a distance – the north side and the south side.  If there was a wow! moment in my South America adventure, this was it.  It was just breathtaking and majestic.  The glacier is unusual in that it is advancing, while most glaciers worldwide are retreating.  As the ice melts and freeze, it sounded like thunder across the distance.   The blue colour caused by the sun’s reflection was absolutely beautiful.

My second wow! moment on this trip was when I saw the Iguazu Falls.  Sure, I have seen Niagara Falls many, many years ago, but this was something else.  I went on a boat trip that took us right next to one of the waterfalls and we got absolutely drenched.  Wished the water was cleaner — seemed like the heavy rain in Brazil a couple of weeks earlier pushed all the dirt into the water which explained the brown rather than clear water.  I saw the falls on the Argentina side one day and from the Brazilian side the next day when we crossed the border.  The Singapore passport gets me everywhere without the need for a visa — so convenient.

In Rio, the weather was colder than I expected.  In fact, it was overcast mostly and drizzling on my last day which made it difficult to walk around and take photos.  Was hoping to see dental floss bikinis but no such luck.  The MRT system was easy enough to navigate since it was very new and a simple network of tracks.  I didn’t know that on a public holiday, my last day in Rio, some train stations and most shops would be closed and the city was deserted.  It felt like a ghost town and all my shopping plans were spoiled.  I ended up with more Brazilian real after my trip than I had planned.  Hopefully, my sister’s trip will come through and she can help to use them up.

So that was my adventure.

Jan 6  Arrive in Bueno Aires

Jan 7  City tour and tango show

Jan 8  Flight to El Calafate

Jan 9  Tour of Perito Moreno Glacier

Jan 10  Flight back to Bueno Aires

Jan 11  Cycling trip of Bueno Aires (on my own)

Jan 12  Ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay (on my own)

Jan 13  Flight to Puerto Iguazu

Jan 14  Iguazu National Park, Argentina side

Jan 15  Iguazu National Park, Brazilian side

Jan 16  Flight to Rio de Janeiro

Jan 17  Tour of Corcovado and Tijuca Forest by jeep

Jan 18  Tour of Sugar Loaf

Jan 19  Tour of city (on my own)

Jan 20 Last look of the city before my midnight flight back to San Jose


I was very glad I took this trip at that time because I don’t think I would have the opportunity to travel that part of the world again.  I walked everywhere and saw many things.  Memories to last me a lifetime.

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