Eighteen Badger travelers. Thirteen days. Five luxurious hotels. Two amazing countries. Add it all up, and that equals one unforgettable South American adventure.
I've’ve always been a fan of the television show The Amazing Race, on which teams race around the world for the chance to win $1 million. Now I can safely say that I’ve experienced my own version of the show. Granted, my globetrotting didn’t promise a million-dollar prize … but I did take home nearly a million memories. And those are priceless, right?
Here’s a recap of this fabulous tour:
Days One through Three
Our first few days in South America were spent exploring Buenos Aires, Argentina … although I could’ve been very content lounging around our upscale hotel, the Caesar Park. But then I would’ve missed a remarkable dinner/tango show (Dancing with the Stars, eat your heart out), a tour of the Recoleta Cemetery where Eva “Evita” Perón is buried, and a peak into the church where the current Pope, Francis, used to serve. This was also where I got my first taste of an empanada. Delicious!
Our group was up and checked out of the Caesar Park at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Iguazu Falls, located on the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
When we touched down, our bags were taken to the Sheraton Iguazu Resort — the only hotel located within this national parkland — while we were taken directly to a tour of the falls. The highlight is called the Devil’s Throat. But it was about a mile’s walk along a winding catacomb to see this massive water feature.
The lower falls were also breathtaking to behold, easier to access and less crowded. After a day of soaking in the falls (literally, for a few in our group who took a boat tour through them), it was back to the hotel for a different magnificent view of the falls and the forest. Badger travelers took over the lobby restaurant and bar that evening, enjoying each other’s company and some tasty meals and drinks.
Days Five through Seven
Bright and early the next morning, we took a plane bound once again for Buenos Aires, but this time, only for an extended layover. We were on the ground long enough, though, for our travel director, Cecilia (a worldly and witty person), to come up with an added-value itinerary that gave us the chance to venture out even more into this renowned city. We ate lunch at one of its oldest restaurants and then toured the famed Argentine Opera House. After that, it was back to the airport for a flight to San Carlos de Bariloche, located in the southern portion of Argentina.
We arrived in Bariloche in the dead of the night. Some in the group stayed up to enjoy a LATE dinner and drinks, but I headed to my room for some shuteye.
The next morning when I awoke, I was taken aback by what I saw out my window: whereas the Buenos Aires and Iguazu areas were relatively flat, the Andes Mountains now surrounded me! Almost as breathtaking as the scenery was the hotel we were staying in. The Llao Llao Hotel and Resort looks something like a northwoods lodge in Wisconsin — to the extreme!
While in Bariloche, our group explored the town and its many chocolate shops (the decadent chocolates rivaled any made in Europe — who knew?) and took a soaring chairlift to the top of Mount Campanario. The final evening at the Llao Llao was spent with my fellow Badger travelers at the WAA Reception. We all enjoyed good company, spirited drinks, our group photo and a rousing rendition of “Varsity.” There was no better way to send us off on the next leg of our adventure.
The morning rain didn’t dampen my spirits because we were about to embark on a crossing of the Andes via three boats and one all-wheel-drive bus. The mountains, the lakes, the waterfalls — they all formed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And when we finally came to the end of this all-day journey, we found ourselves in Chile! We arrived late at our next lodging, the Hotel Patagonico, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner together.
After waking up to explore the Zen-like Hotel Patagonico, our group ventured out to see a traditional Chilean ranch and rodeo exhibition. It was a hoot to experience this working ranch, chow down on a barbecue lunch and do some dancing … even I got roped into kicking up my heels! I also got a taste of a Chilean empanada — spoiler alert: they add olive pits to theirs, so be forewarned — and drank my first Pisco Sour cocktail. (Don’t ask. Just enjoy.)
After the rodeo, we motored back to our hotel, and many of us decided to explore the town of Puerto Varas. I found a quaint coffee and ice cream shop to sit outside of and gaze at the Osorno Volcano and its snow-capped cone.
Days Nine, Ten and Eleven
From Puerto Varas, it was on to Santiago, Chile, our final destination. Santiago felt as bustling and as lively as Buenos Aires. Then, after a city tour that included a museum filled with Easter Island artifacts (I love that sort of thing!), individual excursions and the WAA Farewell Dinner (complete with many more Pisco Sours), my race around South America with fellow Badgers came to an end. And by all accounts, it was amazing!