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NOTL Travels: The Hartwicks go to South America

This story is part of a continuing series of interesting places or events experienced by residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake. To add to our series, email news@notllocal.

This story is part of a continuing series of interesting places or events experienced by residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake. To add to our series, email [email protected]

For Perry and Shari Hartwick, it was the unexpected that was a highlight of their trip to Argentina and Chile during a recent visit to Shari’s son, Connor, and his girlfriend Marie-Claire. Connor and Marie-Claire are “digital nomads,” Shari said, and were working from Argentina for the past three months. They have now returned to their current home in Montreal.

Shari and Perry had no real plans for their short visit to Santiago, Chile, except to enjoy a nice glass of wine to celebrate Shari’s birthday. But it was International Women’s Day, and the women of the city and environs came out in the hundreds of thousands. In 2019, Le Monde diplomatique estimated that more than 350,000 people marched that year through central Santiago, the capital of Chile.

Shortly after dropping off a rental car in preparation for their return home, the Hartwicks walked 10 blocks to check into their hotel. “We went through this park and there were all kinds of women there, and we said, ‘oh, that's pretty interesting.’”

They found themselves in a beautiful neighbourhood with lots of restaurants and lots of foot traffic, “and we walked out and we saw riot police, most of whom were women,” said Shari, who noted that the peaceful event was more of a celebration rather than a demonstration.

“Then we walked out on the main drag, which is kind of like University Avenue in Toronto, and there are hundreds of thousands of women,” said Perry.

Groups of women, dressed in varying degrees of purple and green, were carrying placards advocating for abortion rights, or decrying patriarchy, or were playing instruments and singing and dancing.

It felt “just like, wow, what great humanity,” said Perry.

Attending a soccer game, sleeping in a wine cask, and touring Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world, also landed high on the Old Town couple’s list of highlights. The Hartwicks became fans of Argentina’s Boca Juniors soccer team, each buying jerseys representing their blue and yellow colours. The team plays in the Argentina Premier Division, and while they watched from a packed bar near the stadium, they saw the Boca Juniors tie one game and win another. “It was a little messy there,” said Shari, but “it was piles of fun.”

Perry, a geologist, noted the terrain on their two-hour drive from Santiago to wine country in the Colchagua Valley in Chile. “The topography is fantastic down there,” he said “It's quite rugged to the valley, and so the grapes grow up on the sides of small mountains.”

They stayed in Cava Colchagua, a boutique hotel that offers large wine barrels as hotel rooms. According to the hotel’s website, the barrels are more than 100 years old and were used to ferment 45 thousand litres of wine.

Shari and Perry stayed in the medium-sized room for four nights, which offered two levels connected by an interior staircase; the bedroom on the lower level and a bathroom on the upper level. Shari noted that the walls of the wine barrel “had a wine-coloured tinge to it, but it didn't smell like wine.”

A day trip included a drive to San Antonio de Areco where they spent the day at Estancia El Ombu de Areco, a palatial old estate home that welcomed guests, which enabled the estate to keep running. “Here we rode horses, got eaten pretty good by feisty mosquitoes, had an amazing BBQ lunch and watched the ‘gaucho’ horse whisperer,” said Shari, “a very moving experience.”

Iguazu Falls is located on the borders of both Argentina and Brazil. “The views from the Brazilian side are magnificent,” said Perry. He explained that the falls host two parks that were created in the 1920s and are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. “They are beautifully laid out and very user friendly,” he said. The couple viewed the falls from both sides and suggest travelling by bus to the Brazilian side because the bus allowed them to pass “a kilometre of cars trying to get through Argentinian customs.”

After viewing the falls from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, the couple decided to take a ‘zippy motorboat’ (similar to a jet boat) to get up close to the incredible power of one of the bigger waterfalls. “We were taken close enough to get thoroughly soaked — happily, it was darn hot and humid — three times,” said Shari.

The couple noted that the pesos used by Argentians was a bit of a challenge to get used to. Last December, Argentina devalued the peso by 54 per cent in a bid to eliminate the deficit, according to a Bloomberg article. Visitors to the country buy pesos on the blue market, money changers on the street who give better rates of exchange than a bank, an ATM or a credit card. The currency is so hammered,” explained Perry. “They've had massive inflation.”

Counting out the money for a meal that was $120 in Canadian would be approximately 120,000 pesos, explained Perry. However, their biggest note is 2000 pesos, which banks only started distributing last May. Many vendors aren’t even used to seeing the 2000-peso note yet. “Imagine going out and spending cash somewhere and your biggest coin was $2.”

"They often give you a box to put your money in,” laughed Shari.