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A TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO SOUTH AMERICA

Nov. 12, 1962
Nov. 12, 1962

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Nov. 12, 1962

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  • By Herman Weiskopf

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A TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO SOUTH AMERICA

Ten airlines now fly jets to South America from the U.S.A. 45-day first-class excursion ticket costs $950 from New York, and first-class passengers are truly pampered on the 12-hour flights to Buenos Aires. Less luxurious, but one of the best buys in travel, is the round-South-America economy flight to B.A. ($599). On this ticket one can visit every major capital on the continent, traveling 12,240 miles. Pan Am jets fly along the east coast from New York to B.A. three times a week. Panagra flies the western route to B.A. six days a week. BOAC has three weekly flights to Lima, stopping in either Nassau or Jamaica. KLM flies three times a week from New York into Caracas via Cura√ßao. Varig has jet flights to Buenos Aires from New York three times a week, from Los Angeles twice a week. The round-trip Los Angeles flight costs $1,336 first class, $736 economy. Aerolineas Argentinas jets fly from New York to B.A. three times a week via Trinidad and Rio. Braniff goes down the west coast of South America and back up the east five times a week; Delta flies from New Orleans to Caracas twice a week, stopping in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Viasa flies to its home port, Caracas, and Avianca to Bogotà four times a week from New York.

This is an article from the Nov. 12, 1962 issue Original Layout

Grace Line, Delta, Moore-McCormack, Argentine and Swedish-American all have cruises to South America. Moore-McCormack's "Carnival in Rio" cruise on the S.S. Brasil sails 13,898 miles starting Feb. 1 for 38 days, $1,620 minimum. The new France has a Caribbean cruise that touches Rio at carnival time (Feb. 23-26 this summer). Minimum rate is $1,080 for 25 days starting Feb. 15. Swedish-American's Gripsholm will make the complete circle of South America on a 45-day cruise leaving New York Jan. 18. Minimum rate is $1,525, double occupancy. Cruising can be cheaper. Alcoa Steamship Co. has a jungle cruise from Trinidad through the rivers of Surinam (six days for $125) which can be taken in conjunction with their freighter cruises from U.S. ports, and indeed by anybody who happens to be in Trinidad on the right day. Travel agents have all cruise and flight schedules.

ARGENTINA

The Plaza Hotel in Buenos Aires is well located and luxurious ($11-$12.50, double room with bath, without meals, plus the high 24% service charge imposed by all hotels and restaurants).

Sports: In Argentina the horse is king, and in addition to flat racing there are gaucho rodeos, polo and pato (a kind of basketball on horseback). For personal riding. El Salto Riding School near Palermo Park rents horses for a minimum charge of $1.10 per hour; for golf there are half a dozen good courses (see page 66). Panagra's office will help you acquire guest cards.

In Mar del Plata, the gambling and beach resort 250 miles south of B.A., there are more than 200 hotels. The Provincial (from $7.20 double, European plan) is right next to the casino but fronts on the most crowded beach in the southern hemisphere. The Tourbillon and the Hermitage ($10.70 and $15.70 respectively for a double room with meals) are more attractively situated. One can make a trip to the ranches at Chapadmalal and Ojo de Agua, where these two famous breeds of Argentine racehorses originated. Near Bariloche on Lake Nahuel Huapí 820 miles southwest of B.A., the well-known Llao-Llao Hotel ($15.70 double, with meals) has charming rooms, rather pretentious food. The Tunquelen is also recommended ($12:80 double, American plan). The Cumelen Country Club on the other side of the lake takes nonmembers ($11.30 double, American plan) in November, March and April—the best fishing months anyway. To taste the local trout and salmon one must catch them—the hotels are not allowed to buy them commercially. Bariloche is in the mountains and cold; take a heavy sweater and a raincoat.

Restaurants: Beef is the staple, and it is eaten fresh, not aged. In B.A. less than $2 will buy a steak-salad-red-wine lunch at La G√ºeya, a typical Argentine restaurant. There is a pleasant place in Palermo Park called El Rosedal del Lago. Try baby beef at La Tablita or Corrientes Once (dinner for two, with wine, $5-$7). The word parillada on a menu means broiled meat, and it comes with chimichurri, a sauce composed chiefly of hot red peppers and garlic. Achura includes, among other innards, the intestines of the cow, interesting fare for the adventurous. When you tire of steak, there are satisfactory French restaurants (Le Coq d'Or, Le Bec Fin, Goyo—about $6 for a meal for two, with wine). A pleasant Italian restaurant is called Spadavecchia. The Plaza Grill, one of the most fashionable restaurants in the whole of South America, serves a superlative egg dish called Huevo Poparisky and excellent pepper steak.

Night life: The nightclubs in the Olivos quarter have gardens stretching down to the River Plate. An evening at the Atelier (dinner with wine followed by three Scotches) will cost about $6 per person.

Liquids: Tap water is drinkable in B.A., but watch what goes into a San Martin (Martini); locally brewed gin is dreadful. Argentine wines tend to the rough and earthy, and Argentinians drink Chilean wines when they get the chance. But Viñas de Orfina, a red Cabernet, is quite all right and so is Bianchi's Chablis, both local products.

Shopping: Pedro Mayorga is good for handbags of caiman and jacaré (two relatives of the crocodile) ranging from $30 to $90. Vicu√±a and guanaco throws that will adequately cover a queen-size bed ($130-$170 for vicu√±a, $50 for guanaco) can be found at Lopez, who will ship.

Souvenirs: There are gaucho dolls, gaucho knives (they have embossed silver handles and make good steak knives), gaucho hats in black felt for men.

BOLIVIA

The Crillon Hotel in La Paz ($9 double, European plan) has friendly but slow service. There is only one restaurant worth leaving the hotel for: a large brasserie-type place called the Daiquiri (avoid the drink of the same name). Draft beer (called chopp all over South America) is cheap (20¢) and good, and so is imported Scotch (60¢). Food is not Bolivia's strong point. but the Daiquiri, where dinner costs $5 for two, can provide delicious trout and an adequate parillada (mixed grill). The avocado pears and the pineapples (paltas and pi√±as) are at their best in November. La Paz has an extremely dark bar, the Carrousel, where one can dance to records and drink from phosphorescent glasses.

Sports: The skiing season is from September through June. The Club Andino Boliviano of La Paz rides up to Chacaltaya every Sunday in buses. Guests are welcome for a small charge ($4), and lunch is provided in the ski lodge. Just bending down to fasten one's skis makes one dizzy (the ski lift reaches 18,300 feet). It is impossible to rent equipment, so bring your own. The train ride to Lake Titicaca for salmon and trout fishing is one of the world's most spectacular journeys. Lake Titicaca is a rich source of early Inca relics, and it is possible to skin-dive for artifacts. However, the lake is two miles above sea level, and diving into it is rather like diving into a freezer. There is an overnight boat trip from Guaqui in a 66-passenger British ship (circa 1900) to Puno in Peru ($15). There the train trip to Cuzco, at about 11,000 feet, is a breathtaking day's experience, even literally—not for the faint of heart.

Shopping: Silver is an excellent buy: the craftsmanship is not as fine as in Peru, but it is much cheaper. The Joyería Sucre is a good source. The Peleteria Santiago is the best place for alpaca and vicu√±a (a vicu√±a throw generally costs about $50, depending on quality; bargaining expected). Vicu√±a is protected in many countries. Be sure you have a certificate of origin before you take your vicu√±a across a South American border.

BRAZIL

Rio's Copacabana is a cheerful, highly democratic beach, with good hotels. The current favorites are the Trocadero ($6.50-$7.50 double, European plan) and the Ouro Verde ($7.50-$9).

Restaurants: Brazilian food can be very good indeed. Try the Churrascaria Gaucha (about $5 for two). The specialty is the churrasco, broiled meat. Taste the farofa (roasted manioc flour) with which Brazilians accompany their meat. Bahianinha is another place with typical Brazilian dishes, such as vatapà, a peppery concoction of fish, shrimp and manioc. Draft beer is first-rate and so is the coffee, if you like it strong.

Night life: There are plenty of dark little bars and boîtes which begin to show signs of life around 11 p.m. Sacha's, the best-known, gets the fashionable crowd; Fred's is a supper club; Drink is a bar with dancing; and Night and Day has the best show.

Shopping: The best buys are semiprecious stones. It is much cheaper to have them set in Brazil, and takes four or five days. A huge topaz will cost about $20-$100, an aquamarine $50-$2,000, depending on quality.

Sports: Rio has 16 extraordinary beaches, and there is plenty of skin diving in Guanabara Bay and nearby Angra dos Reis and Cabo Frio. The Gavea Golf and Country Club (card can be arranged) has one of the most beautiful courses in the world. There are good fishing and hunting in the highlands near Rio (boar, duck, water hen, even alligator). West Virginian Charles A. Cabell, Brazil Safaris Ltd., Caixa Postal 390, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, can arrange hunting and fishing trips and also safaris. This is a good time of year to hunt the black buffalo on Marajó Island, near Belém in northern Brazil. Belém, at the mouth of the Amazon, offers the Hotel Grande ($5 double, European plan). There is a good restaurant, the Malocca, which serves regional dishes (try the pato no tucupí, a duck specialty). In the Belém market there are snakeskins, alligator skulls and teeth, curious pottery, tropical fruit, dried Amazonian fish. To see the jungle at close quarters one can take a boat trip to Manaus in an old wood-burner without creature comforts. The passenger eats his feijoada (black beans, dried meat and rice) with captain and crew. Brazil, outside of Brasília, Rio, S√£o Paulo and Salvador, is a rugged country, and tourists who want to see everything shouldn't be too delicate, either.

CHILE

The best hotel in Santiago is the Carrera-Hilton ($9.50-$11.50 double, plus 21% tax, no meals), with a swimming pool and a solarium on the roof. Tennis, golf and swimming are all available in and around Santiago. There are two racetracks.

Restaurants: The best are Chiaranda, a garden restaurant with Italian food; Sarao, a colonial farmhouse serving Chilean dishes outdoors; Escorial, which specializes in paella (about $10 for two, with wine, at all three). Chilean seafood is excellent, and so are the wines. Two good red wines are Concha y Toro's Santa Emiliana and Carmen's Margaux; a recommended white is Santa Carolina 3 Estrellas. Santiago is a formal city, and restaurants and bars do not serve men in shirtsleeves or sport shirts. Women should remember not to wear slacks or shorts in town (this applies to all South American cities except beach resorts).

Shopping: Chilean Arts for native rugs, half-ponchos, pottery; a good place for copper-ware is Fortunato Riveros.

Sports: Chile's great beach resort is Vi√±a del Mar, about 90 miles from Santiago. The Miramar ($9.50-$11.50 double, plus 21% tax, no meals) is open all year, has private beaches and swimming pool (the sea is often quite cold). The Casino is world-famous. There is racing every Sunday at the Sporting Club, and the Chilean Derby will be run on Jan. 27. There is good golf. The ski season is June through September in Chile, and the great summer sport is freshwater fishing. This is reached by overnight train from Santiago (very punctual and comfortable) or by DC-3 (Lan-Chile). Near Pucón, one can fish Lake Villarrica and the Trancura and Liucura rivers. The Hotel Antumalal has 18 double rooms, each with its own pine-log fire, and quite good food ($36.30 per day, double, with meals, tax included). Try for a room facing north. Going south, the new Rainbow Fly Fishing Club (same auspices as Peru's Cabo Blanco Club) is located near Panguipulli, fishes the Enco and Fui rivers. Rates are $16 a day with meals, and nonmembers are welcome. For further information write Room 1616, 247 Park Avenue, New York 17, N.Y.

COLOMBIA

Bogotà's newest and best hotel is the Tequendama ($13.25-$16.25 double, European plan).

Restaurants: The Monserrate Room in the Tequendama usually has one native dish on its menu. A typical example: ajiaco de pollo a la Colombiana, a chicken stew spiced with oregano. La Pampa is an Argentine restaurant serving steak. Dinner for two with guitar music at La Zambra costs about $15.

Shopping: Emeralds are the great thing, and it is best to buy them at the federal bank, where they are cheaper. U.S. duty on unset emeralds is only 4%.

Sports: There are many golf courses, polo matches, horse racing Sundays. The big bullfighting month is February. Barranquilla is the great hunting and fishing center. The best hotel is El Prado ($12-$15 double, European plan). There is deep-sea fishing from November through January; and spin casting and lagoon fishing all year. The Touring Club de Colombia, Apartado Aereo 42-33, Bogotà, offers eight days hunting jaguar in the upper Amazon River basin for $995, including round-trip transportation from Miami (minimum of four). Colombian Safaris Ltd., Apartado Aereo 460, Barranquilla, offers a 14-day special for $1,500 (minimum of two). Colombia is one of the two South American countries with a tourist office in the U.S. (the other is Surinam), at 608 Fifth Avenue, New York 22, N.Y.

ECUADOR

Quito, practically on the equator, has a year-round spring because of its altitude (9,200 feet). The spectacular Hotel Quito (from $10.50 to $18 double, European plan) is very close to the Golf and Tennis Club. The hotel has a casino. The Mesón Andaluz serves excellent Spanish food, and the restaurant of the Colon Hotel is very good. Quito is a good place in which to shop for modern art (try Painter Guild).

Sports: The season at Playas, Ecuador's smartest beach resort, is January through March. The Hotel Humboldt ($12 double, American plan) overlooks the Gulf of Guayaquil. There is swimming from the vast white beaches, and guests have full membership in the Shangri-La Golf and Country Club. Guayaquil, Playas, Salinas and Manta are springboards for excellent deep-sea fishing (April-Dec). The Galàpagos Islands (650 miles from the coast) are reached by ship from Guayaquil. One must sleep aboard, but there are inns on San Cristóbal for food. The Ecuadorian jungle contains, among other things, 150 varieties of hummingbird, jaguars, ant-eaters, tapirs, pumas and vampires. Safaris can be arranged through local travel agencies.

PARAGUAY
Only the superb gamefish, the dorado, could lure the sportsman to Paraguay at this time of year (the average maximum temperature is 94°, and it rains hard, too). Dedicated fishermen may write to Sportsman Tourism, Oliva 667, Asunción.

PERU

Lima's 350-room Gran Hotel Bolívar charges $16.70-$19 for a double room, European plan. Don't accept a room on the streetcar side. The Lima Country Club, a topflight hotel with 150 rooms, tennis courts and swimming pool, is 10 minutes from town. Rates are from $14.75, European plan.

Restaurants: Peru has really good food—the best in South America. Las Trece Monedas recreates the Spanish Colonial atmosphere in an 18th-century mansion (dinner for two, about $12). Peru's favorite fish, the Pacific corvina, is prepared here a la Chiclayana, with onions, tomatoes, herbs. Corvina is also the basis of the famous ceviche (SI, Jan. 25, 1960). Peruvians eat their bay scallops (conchitas) on the half shell like oysters, with a squeeze of lemon. Two typical restaurants are Rosita Rios and Karamanduka, where you eat hot, spicy dishes to a guitar accompaniment. When you tire of the 270 edible fishes found in Peruvian waters, there is always Chinatown. There is barely any wine in Peru: all the grapes are made into pisco, the national drink. Try it straight as a change from the pisco sour.

Shopping: The alpaca rugs and blankets woven by the Peruvian Indians arc beautiful, hard-wearing and cheap (a large blanket costs $20 at El Chasqui after bargaining, and they will ship it home). Ancient Peruvian-Indian pottery, textiles and masks can be found at Roma. Silvania Prints sells linens and cottons with typical Peruvian designs in bright, clear colors. They make rather good beach shirts.

Sports: Just 600 miles north of Lima is the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club, with a year-round season. Every known Pacific game species, except for the wahu and the allison tuna, is there for the taking. Accommodations and meals are $35 a day from November to May, and boats are $125. Safaris start at Iquitos, on the Peruvian Amazon basin, where the Tourist Hotel ($14 double, without meals) has eight air-conditioned rooms and 16 others. Amazon Tours, Jirón Lima 265, Lima; Amazon Service, Calle Pebas 150, Iquitos and Universal Travels, Jirón Arica, Lima take care of jungle trips. They promise paiche, a 300-to-400-pound river fish, and alligator; jaguar is not so sure. In Lima itself you can find almost any kind of sport: horse racing and cockfighting on weekends, boxing, soccer, polo, bullfighting. Lima has two excellent 18-hole golf courses and two tennis clubs. The Waikiki and Kontiki Clubs have excellent surf-riding (cards can be arranged). At Pasamayo, about an hour out of Lima, one can ski down the towering dunes (ordinary skis are used). Lima's National Museum of Archeology has the finest collection of Inca and pre-Inca treasures in the world, and no traveler should miss the trip to Machu Picchu.

SURINAM

Of the three Guianas, Surinam is the best arranged for tourism, with a tourist bureau at 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 20, N.Y. The Surinam Torarica, in Paramaribo, opened last July with 80 air-conditioned rooms ($19-$23 double, European plan, and $10 a day per person for meals). It has a pool, a casino and gardens full of orchids. The population of Surinam includes Creoles, Hindus, Indonesians, Bush Negroes, Amerindians, Chinese and Europeans, and the cuisine is correspondingly varied. Try the pom (a Creole chicken pie) at the Palace Hotel and the Indonesian rijsttafel (SI, Aug. 24, 1959) at the Vervuurt. Dinner in Paramaribo is about $7 for two.

Sports: The rivers are full of huge kwie-kwie, kubifish, piranhas. There are tapir, jaguar, wild duck and deer waiting in the jungle. The Surinam government is building airstrips and fishermen's guesthouses. The first of these, at Stoelmans Island, is now ready. The CeTeCe Travel & Tour Bureau in the Torarica and the Surinam Travel & Tour Bureau, Weidestratt 47, Paramaribo organize fishing and hunting trips. Guns and tackle can be provided, and the cost is around $85 a day.

URUGUAY

The best hotel in Montevideo is the 400-room Victoria Plaza. A double room, European plan, costs $15-$20, plus 26% service charge. Also recommended is the new Columbia Palace, with 150 rooms ($8-$10 plus the 26% for a double, without meals). Closer to the beaches are the Parque Hotel on Ramírez Beach, with a casino, and the Hotel Casino Carrasco on Carrasco Beach, 12 miles up the coast. The Parque charges about $16 a day for a double room, European plan, 18% service added. The Carrasco opens only during the season, Dec. 8 to March 24 ($20 double, European plan, plus 15%).

Restaurants: The Golf Club is the fashionable place for lunch. Chichilo's is lively and Italian (the owner will sing an aria if you ask him). The Aguila has wooden paneling and pavesa (a local soup, almost a meal in itself). The check for two ranges from $5 to $10, plus a service charge of 22%.

Sports: There is golf at the Montevideo Club, which has a championship course. Horse racing is on Thursdays and weekends. Cattle roundups are held at nearby estancias, and a visit is easily arranged through a travel agent. There is dorado fishing at Rincón del Bonete on the Río Negro, at the Fray Bentos Fishing Club and at Salto Grande near the Argentine border. Accommodations are pleasant and cheap (about $5 per person per day) in a ranch-style guesthouse. The lush South Atlantic coast of Uruguay has about 50 resorts strung along the 200 miles between Montevideo and the Brazilian border. There is deep-sea fishing all along the coast for shark, pompano, Atlantic corvina (a kind of sea bass), bonito. At Punta Ballena you will find a charming modern hotel, the Solana del Mar, where a double room with meals costs from $20 to $30 plus 25% service. The most famous of the resorts is Punta del Este, a completely informal place where women wear slacks even to the casino. A man wearing a tie would be run out of town. Accommodations are at a premium in the summer. The nicest place is the Cantegril Country Club, which takes transients ($21 for a double room, European plan). At Punta del Este comes the best chance to get out of the steak rut. The fish is almost jumping with freshness. The Mariskonea Restaurant makes a specialty of the tiny, succulent clams of the region (a meal for two costs from $7 to $10). El Mejillón, a café in the center of town, serves plates of mussels cooked in white wine.

Shopping: Antelope bags, gloves and coats are of excellent quality in Montevideo, and very reasonable. A full-length woman's coat costs about $40. Nutria fur, which makes marvelous linings for both men's and women's coats, is a good buy. For men there are well-made buckskin shoes ($20) and sweaters of native wool in sophisticated colors for $8 to $13 at Adam.

VENEZUELA

Caracas is a swinging Caribbean city. The 400-room Hotel Tamanaco charges $18.50 a day for a double room, European plan. Dining is dear (about $20 for two) in the many good restaurants: El Jardín, Hectór, Quasimodo, Monseigneur, Paprika, Tarzilandia (for steaks grilled on open-air spits).

Night life: The city has plenty, and it's all expensive. (Let's face it—nothing is cheap in oil-rich Venezuela.) Try Mon Petit Bar, which has a good twist combo.

Sports: The best month to watch bullfights is January. At Los Cortijos Club on the last weekend of each month there are bull-tossing contests, where riders compete in tossing a bull by the tail. In February the Sheraton-Macuto is scheduled to open in Macuto (20 miles from Caracas) with 400 air-conditioned rooms, an enormous private beach, two pools, golf privileges, deep-sea fishing (from $14 double, European plan). Isla Margarita's season is January through March. The place to stay is the Bella Vista in Porlamar ($20 double, American plan). There is superb swimming, fishing and pearl diving.

There are no agencies in Venezuela to organize safaris, but a few private-plane owners will, for a fee, take explorers into the jungle near Ciudad Bolívar and then wish them good luck.

PHOTOSaucer-shaped soccer stadium in Rio seats 155,000, stands another 50,000PHOTORio's Jockey Club has cantilevered roof sculpted of reinforced concretePHOTOThe streamlined indoor paddock at Caracas' La Rinconada is work of Aqueduct's Architect Arthur Froeldich