Category Archives: HOLIDAY IDEAS

Johannesburg Explorer & Kruger Experience

Johannesburg Explorer & Kruger Experience  4 Star –
5 Nights / 6 Days

DAY 1 – Sunday  

On arrival at O.R. Tambo International Airport you will be transferred to your hotel.  Afternoon collection from your hotel for a scheduled afternoon Gold Reef City Tour.  This magical trip down memory lane will tell you all about how Johannesburg came into being, how gold was discovered on the reef and how the lives of men and women formed an integral part of a rich and fascinating heritage.  Return to the hotel in the early evening for overnight.

 DAY 2 – Monday (B)

This morning you will be collected for your scheduled morning Half Day Soweto Tour. Soweto is a cluster of townships located at the South Western flank of Johannesburg.  It is from here that most of the struggle was fought against the injustices of the apartheid  regime and is home to sites of historical importance. The tour ends with drop-off at your hotel in the early afternoon.

DAY 3 – Tuesday (D)

Morning departure from Johannesburg with your Travel guide.  Travel to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ – Mpumalanga.  Your 5 ½ hour journey takes you through incredible scenery – mountains, panoramic passes, valleys, rivers, waterfalls and forests characterise the landscape.  Arrive at your hotel in the late afternoon.  Check in to start your Kruger Experience immediately with an afternoon open vehicle game drive into the Kruger National Park.  All safaris in the Kruger National Park are operated in specially designed open safari vehicles and you  are accompanied by a qualified and experienced FGASA and SATOUR registered guide.

Kruger National Park consists of nearly 2 million hectares of unrivalled diversity of life forms fused with historical and archaeological sites – this is real Africa. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife  experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, the park is a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies. Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals.

After the sun has set on your first exhilarating day, return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.

 DAY 4 – Wednesday  (FIGD)

After breakfast, embark on a full day safari into the Kruger National Park.  The safari starts early in the morning and your guide will cover as much area as possible. Stops will be included at the various lookout points within the park and you will be given the opportunity to explore man’s interaction with the Lowveld environment over many centuries – from bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela. These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park’s natural assets. A packed lunch will be enjoyed inside the park. Return to the hotel in the early evening in time for dinner at the hotel.

 DAY 5 – Thursday (B)

After an early breakfast, depart the Kruger National Park and travel back to Johannesburg via the ‘Panorama Route’. The Panorama Route is best known for its cultural heritage and its dramatic landscapes. It leads through the rugged mountain range of the northern Drakensberg in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

Travel through “Gods playground” to God’s Window overlooking the green Lowveld. Further north along  the route, stop along many well-positioned vantage points from where one has a view of the 33 km long Blyde River Canyon gorge, which starts at “Bourke’s Luck Potholes” and ends at the “Three Rondavels“.

The Potholes are very impressive rock formations that were shaped millions of years ago by erosion. The bizarre swirl holes developed when the once rapid river carried masses of sand and debris. Time and weather permitting, stop at various waterfalls along the way. The tour ends on arrival at your Johannesburg based hotel by 18h00.

DAY 6 – Friday (B)

After breakfast this morning check out and transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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How To Explore Places Like Never Before: ARGENTINA

On Board the Train to the Clouds at Salta

WHAT: Originally built for economic and social reasons, the train service called Tren a Las Nubes (Train to the clouds) is now primarily of tourism value as a heritage railway.

WHERE: The train service starts at the provincial capital of Salta.

WHY: It is known as the Tren a Las Nubes because clouds can often be seen around and under the bridges and slopes of the landscape through which the railway passes. The train terminates at the giant iron viaduct La Polvorilla, which is 4200 metres above sea level – the third highest railway in the world.

HOW: Contact an Argentina Specialist at tours@compacttravels.com

VISIT: http://www.namasteargentina.com – Your Indian Connection to Argentina

 

All Year at the Capital of the Andean Patagonia


WHAT: San Carlos de Bariloche and the Lake Region is known as the Capital of the Andean Patagonia. The region is renowned for skiing but is also known for water sports, trekking and climbing.

WHERE: Province of Río Negro.

WHY: Truly a year-round destination, during the summer, the region is a gorgeous destination for walking, trekking and fishing and during the winter, it is home to one of the most popular ski centres in South America.

HOW: Contact an Argentina Specialist at tours@compacttravels.com

VISIT: http://www.namasteargentina.com – Your Indian Connection to Argentina

 

Exploring the End of the World at Ushuaia


WHAT: Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world.

WHERE: It is located on the shores of the Beagle Channel.

WHY: A visit to Ushuaia will not be complete without experiencing the Maritime Museum where you can find collections ranging from naval models to the history of Antarctic exploration – all housed in a former prison building. Ushuaia is also the gateway to Tierra del Fuego National Park and to Antarctica!

HOW: Contact an Argentina Specialist at tours@compacttravels.com

VISIT: http://www.namasteargentina.com – Your Indian Connection to Argentina

 

Crossing Argentina on Route 40


WHAT: The famed Route 40 is the longest and most spectacular road in Argentina.

WHERE: Running parallel to the Andes mountain range, the magical route runs along over 4900 kilometres from Cabo Virgenes in the southern Santa Cruz Province to La Quiaca in Jujuy Province in the north.

WHY: With an elevation ranging from sea level to 5000 metres, Route 40 crosses and gives access to 11 provinces, 236 bridges, 18 main rivers, 20 National Parks and Reserves, 27 Andean passes and showcases the vast palette of Argentina’s natural landscape.

HOW: Contact an Argentina Specialist at tours@compacttravels.com

VISIT: http://www.namasteargentina.com – Your Indian Connection to Argentina

Bella Argentina

What makes Argentina beautiful? How do you describe beauty? Bella Argentina is a visual feast inspired by the diverse cultural and natural landscapes of Argentina. From the unbridled force of the Iguazú Falls to the magnificent precision of the Tango, the beauty of Argentina awaits you in Mumbai from 26th Nov. to 2nd Dec. 2010. Email info@opportunitiestoday.co.in for venue and timings. Prize giveaways include Diesel T-shirts, cases of Malbec wine and a return ticket to Buenos Aires too!

San Telmo Market

ENERGY

The San Telmo Street Market in Buenos Aires is characterized by stall after stall of antiques, jewellry, glassware, linens, handmade crafts along the cobblestone streets – all highlighted with lively musicians and dancers.

Mate

TRADITION

Mate is prepared from infusing dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water and is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd. Those who share the mate are believed to be brought together by a bond of acceptance and friendship.

The Perito Moreno Glacier

MAJESTY

The Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the Los Glaciares National Park of the Argentine Patagonia. The terminus of the glacier is 5 kilometres wide, with an average height of 74 metres above the surface of the water of Lake Argentino. It is one of only a few ice fields worldwide that have withstood rising global temperatures and has continued to advance.

The tango is a social dance

PASSION

The tango is a social dance and musical genre that originated in the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires in the 1890s. Relying heavily on improvisation, the tango accentuates communication, coordination and the passion of its dancers. It is recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Treasure.

La Boca is the colourful and artistic heart of Buenos Aires.

ARTISTRY

La Boca is the colourful and artistic heart of Buenos Aires. The main pedestrian street, the Caminito, is lined with ornate houses, multi-coloured buildings, statues, fountains, street performers, dancers, musicians and art galleries.

Asado

CULTURE

Beef is a key component of Argentine cuisine. The beef is traditionally grilled on an open fire pit called an asado and is a staple of family and community gatherings.

Email info@opportunitiestoday.co.in for venue and timings of Bella Argentina in Mumbai.

Prize giveaways include Diesel T-shirts, cases of Malbec wine and a return ticket to Buenos Aires!

How To Explore Places Like Never Before: NEW ZEALAND

Experience the Bright Lights of Waitomo

Waitomo – Glowworm Caves

WHAT: Take a boat ride along the unique underground limestone formations of the Waitomo region which stand as one of New Zealand’s most inspiring natural wonders.

WHERE: The southern Waikato region of the North Island, 12 kilometres northwest of Te Kuiti.

WHY: The Waitomo glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand. The spectacle of thousands of these creatures radiating their unmistakable luminescent light across a vast array of limestone which is over 30 million years old is unforgettable.

HOW: Contact a Kiwi Specialist at info@compacttravels.com

VISIT: www.namastenewzealand.com – Your Indian Connection to New Zealand

 

Walk on an Active Volcano

White Island

 

WHAT: Explore the inner crater of New Zealand’s only active marine volcano – White Island.

WHERE: 49 kilometres off the coast of Whakatane.

WHY: White Island is one of the most fascinating and accessible volcanoes on Earth. As New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, scientists worldwide are attracted by its unique features. Walking on White Island is like walking on another planet – virtually no vegetation survives the harsh acidic environment inside the crater walls. Instead, lush beds of yellow and white sulphur crystals grow amongst the hissing, steaming, bubbling landscape.

HOW: Contact a Kiwi Specialist at info@compacttravels.com

VISIT: www.namastenewzealand.com – Your Indian Connection to New Zealand

 

Watch the Sea Come to Life at Kaikoura

Humpback Whale at Kaikoura

 

WHAT: The seaside settlement of Kaikoura offers year-round viewing of magnificent creatures of the sea. Because of the abundance of plankton, the local marine habitat is popular with an array of animals, including seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales.

WHERE: Midway between Christchurch and Picton on the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

WHY: When a mighty Sperm Whale flaps its tail at you, you will not forget it in a hurry. Also, Kaikoura’s unique combination of ocean and mountain landscapes offers stunning coastal alpine scenery and a host of eco-tourism oriented activities such as whale watching, dolphin swimming, nature walks and much more!

HOW: Contact a Kiwi Specialist at info@compacttravels.com

VISIT: www.namastenewzealand.com – Your Indian Connection to New Zealand

 

Immerse Yourself in the Heritage of a Māori Marae

Heritage of a Māori Marae

 

WHAT: In Māori society, the marae is a place where culture can be celebrated, the language can be spoken, tribal obligations can be met, customs can be debated and important ceremonies can be performed.

WHERE: In Rotorua as part of an organized tour experience.

WHY: Experiencing the hongi (formal nose-to-nose Māori greeting), seeing the deeply moving song and dance performances and eating from a traditional underground hāngi (oven) will bring you closer to New Zealand and its people.

HOW: Contact a Kiwi Specialist at info@compacttravels.com

VISIT: www.namastenewzealand.com – Your Indian Connection to New Zealand

Is NEW ZEALAND the right holiday destination for you?

√ Variety of Food √ Value for Money Warm Hospitality

 

But that’s not all…

 

SPECTACULAR NATURAL BEAUTY


When is the best time to visit New   Zealand

Summer and winter temperatures vary by about 10ºC over most of the country, making New Zealand an ideal holiday destination all year round. New Zealand has four distinct seasons; Spring (September to November), Summer (December to February), Autumn (March to May) and Winter (June to August). New Zealand is an extremely popular summer destination, both for overseas and domestic visitors. In summer there is plenty of sunshine, and activities in and around the water include rafting, snorkelling, diving and kayaking. You will find snow on the mountains in winter and excellent skiing. Away from the mountains, New Zealand winters are mild and temperatures generally do not fall below freezing.

When is the best time to go hiking in New Zealand?

Tracks such as the Abel Tasman, Heaphy and Queen Charlotte Sounds Walkway located at the top of the South Island can be walked all year round. The tracks at higher altitudes however, such as the world famous Milford Track, Kepler and Routeburn are closed in the winter due to snow. You must book through the Department of Conservation’s Great Walks Booking Office to walk the Milford and Routeburn tracks, which are open between October and April.

Should I go on a guided walk or  an independent walk?

If you like hot showers and other home comforts, you should book a guided walk. But if you are a seasoned hiker and do not mind ‘roughing it,’ then try independent walking, carrying your own pack and staying in basic huts or tents.

EXCELLENT INFRASTRUCTURE


Which types of accommodation are available in New Zealand?

New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation options from top-class hotels, exclusive lodges, motels, guest houses and farm-stays to holiday parks and backpacker hostels. There is also the freedom to discover New Zealand at your own pace in a campervan. Two, four or six berth vans are available to rent, offering all the comforts of home including a shower, refrigerator and microwave.

Where are the international airports located in New Zealand?

New Zealand’s international airports are at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Some flights from Australia also land at Hamilton, Palmerston North, Queenstown and Dunedin.

Can I use my credit cards/ATM cards in New Zealand?

All major international credit cards can be used in New Zealand and Travellers Cheques are accepted at hotels, banks and some stores. If your credit card is encoded with a PIN number, you will be able to withdraw cash from ATMs situated at banks and shopping centres throughout the country.

OFFBEAT ADVENTURE


SHWEEB

The world’s first human-powered monorail racetrack – the Shweeb velodrome – opened at the Rotorua Agrodome in 2007. The Shweeb consists of a 200-metre overhead rail track circuit with a series of fully-enclosed pods that hang below the track. Each pod carries one rider. Up to five vehicles can be loaded onto each track so that riders can race one-on-one or in teams. Riders can reach speeds of 60-70 k.p.h. Interestingly, the Shweeb velodrome in Rotorua is also the prototype for a form of mass transport that is being marketed internationally as an environmentally-friendly solution for short-distance urban journeys.

BLOKART

The Blokart is a wind-powered speed machine. Created, designed and manufactured in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty region, the Blokart is a three-wheeled land yacht, dubbed the world’s “ultimate sailing experience.” Created as a wind-powered toy that is portable and easy to use for people of all ages and abilities, the Blokart can be folded down into a lightweight, suitcase-sized bag that is easily transported and can be used almost anywhere from beaches to parking lots and even on ice.

Several New Zealand locations offer Blokarting activities – including Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s west coast, and the world’s only custom-made Blokart speedway at Papamoa, near Tauranga.

ZORB

An attempt to walk on water became the inspiration to create the Zorb – a giant ball that rolls down hills at up to 50 k.p.h. Invented in Rotorua, thrill seekers are strapped into the hollow plastic ball – surrounded by a thick air cushion – and then sent off on an exhilarating downhill spin. The popularity of Zorbing has lead to franchises flourishing internationally in Slovenia, Ireland, Guam, Thailand, the Czech Republic and Argentina. Adventure seekers in New Zealand can experience Zorbing at the renowned Agrodome.

SAFETY & SECURITY


Are their safe activities for  children in New Zealand?

New Zealand’s parks and large areas of unspoilt wilderness are ideal places to expand your children’s appreciation of wildlife and the outdoors. Horse riding, snow activities, whale watching, fruit picking and wildlife centres and zoos are just some of the choices available.

If you are visiting the larger centres, you will find a range of themed attractions including Rainbow’s End in Auckland, Splash Planet in Hastings, Marine Land in Napier and the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch. Te Papa, an interactive national museum, has a range of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Is it safe to drink the water in New Zealand?

New Zealand cities and towns have excellent water supplies and in all cases tap water is fresh and safe to drink. Water from rivers and lakes should be boiled, chemically treated or filtered before drinking to avoid stomach upsets.

Are there any poisonous animals in New Zealand?

New Zealand has no snakes or dangerous wild animals, making it safe for visitors to enjoy outdoor activities.

ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY


SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability in New Zealand is increasingly being recognised as good practice and the government has made moves toward this goal.

The New Zealand government has enacted legislation to enshrine sustainability principles in law. The Resource Management Act was passed in 1991 and was a landmark piece of legislation, being the first to adopt the principle of sustainability. In 2003, the government announced the Sustainable Development Programme of Action. Private efforts by individuals and organizations are also highlighting the importance of environmental sustainability and renewable resources.

CONSERVATION

The Department of Conservation administers the majority of the publicly-owned land in New Zealand that is protected for scenic, scientific, historic and cultural reasons, or set aside for recreational purposes. More than 80000 square kilometres – nearly 30 percent of New Zealand’s total area – is administered by the department.

There are 14 national parks, 20 forest parks, about 3500 reserves and about 610 square kilometres of protected private land that have been set aside for scenic, scientific or ecological reasons. The department also has responsibility for the preservation and management of wildlife, and has a role in management of the coastal marine area from the Kermadec Islands to Fiordland.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The relevance of climate change in New Zealand has become increasingly apparent in the scientific records, in New Zealand’s participation in international treaties and in social and political debates. Climate change is being responded to in a variety of ways by civil society and the government. An emissions trading scheme has been established from 01 July 2010 wherein the energy and liquid fossil fuel sectors have obligations to report emissions and obtain carbon credits.

VIBRANT HERITAGE


HAKA

Haka is a traditional dance form of the Māori of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Haka may be understood as a kind of symphony in which the different parts of the body represent many instruments. The hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, eyes, tongue and the body as a whole combine to express feelings relevant to the purpose of the occasion. Haka are performed for various reasons: for amusement, to welcome distinguished guests or to acknowledge great achievements or occasions.

WAITANGI TREATY GROUNDS

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, overlooking the Bay of Islands, is New Zealand’s pre-eminent historic site. On 06 February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Māori and the British Crown.

Highlights of the Treaty Grounds include the Treaty House which is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most visited historic homes, Te Whare Runanga which is a fully carved Māori Meeting House that is representative of all Iwi (regional tribes) in New Zealand and Ngatokimatawhaorua which is one of the world’s largest Māori ceremonial war canoes.

ART DECO

Beautifully preserved 1930s architecture is Napier’s special point of difference, which draws Art Deco and architecture enthusiasts from around the world. The rebuilding period after the 1931 earthquake coincided with the short-lived and rapidly changing Art Deco era and the Great Depression, when little “mainstreet” development was being undertaken elsewhere. As a result Napier’s architecture, with its Māori motifs, is strikingly different from any other city in the world.

BOLLYWOOD DREAMS


New Zealand has been given a big ‘thumbs up’ by Bollywood as Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan feature in I Hate Luv Storys (2010) which was partly shot in Queenstown.  Once filming was complete, Sonam and Imran took time off for a day of adventures including skydiving, jet boating and a helicopter flight to a mountain-top gourmet lunch.

“The landscape is spectacular and very diverse. We drive short distances and the dramatic scenery changes from steep mountains and lakes to green fields and river canyons. The people are extremely warm and friendly. And I love the food.” – Sonam Kapoor – Actor

“Absolutely everywhere you go, the place is sparklingly clean, the wildlife nature is just completely untouched and it’s really nice to see that people care that much about their country,” – Imran Khan – Actor

My film ‘I Hate Luv Storys’ needed this – picture perfect, postcard locations. No matter where you put the camera, the shot always looked stunning!” – Punit Malhotra – Director

CRICKET MANIA


New Zealand Tour of India, November 2010 Schedule

TEST SERIES

1st Test

04 November  – 08 November

Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad

2nd Test

12 November – 16 November

Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad

3rd Test

20 November – 24 November

Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur

ODI SERIES

1st ODI

28 November

Nehru Stadium, Guwahati

2nd ODI (Day/Night)

01 December

Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Chandigarh

3rd ODI (Day/Night)

04 December

Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad

4th ODI (Day/Night)

07 December

M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore

5th ODI (Day/Night)

10 December

MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

WORLD CUP FEVER!!!

The 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup will be co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Fourteen national cricket teams, including New Zealand and India, are scheduled to compete. The first match will be played on 19 February.

HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT


THE  LORD OF THE RINGS  TRILOGY (2001, 2002, 2003)

Choosing the location of Middle Earth for The Lord of the Rings trilogy was an easy decision for Peter Jackson, the films’ director and producer. Jackson and his team scoured New Zealand for the most beautiful and diverse areas. The rolling hills of Matamata became Hobbiton, while the volcanic region of Mt. Ruapehu transformed into the fiery Mt. Doom where Sauron forged the Ring and Queenstown – New Zealand’s adventure capital – was the setting for numerous scenes including the Eregion Hills, and the Pillars of Argonath.

THE LAST SAMURAI  (2003)

Much of the filming of the The Last Samurai centred on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley in Taranaki, which was remodelled slightly to imitate Japanese rural life in the 1860s. Mount Taranaki, New Zealand’s most-climbed mountain, turned on a stunning performance as Mount Fujiyama.

AVATAR (2009)

New Zealand technology and expertise developed the new generation 3D special effects for the phenomenally successful movie that was partly shot in New Zealand. Many Kiwi designers, cast and crew were also involved in the production. Most interestingly, the Māori language was the inspiration for the Avatar alien language!

PRIVATE ESCAPES


LAKE WANAKA

Lake Wanaka’s spectacular location at the foot of the Southern Alps with the wilderness of the Mount Aspiring National Park nearby makes it a magnet for outdoor lovers the world over.

Similar to nature and wildlife reserves, Lake Wanaka’s concept of a Lifestyle Reserve attracts those wanting to experience the ultimate Kiwi lifestyle. It combines spectacular scenery with a genuine sense of community, responsibility and passion for life. The concept also highlights Lake Wanaka’s long term commitment to ensuring the quality of experience is never compromised.

AORAKI MOUNT COOK

New Zealand’s highest mountain at 3754 metres, Aoraki Mount Cook is the hallmark of the famous Southern Alps. You can enjoy 4WD safaris, boating on the glacier lakes, horse treks, fishing, scenic flights with snow landings and numerous walks and hikes. During the winter, guided ski treks onto New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman, is a popular activity and a unique Mount Cook wedding location.

The alpine village of Mount Cook, located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, provides a range of accommodation from an international style hotel to backpackers hostels and camping sites.

PAIHIA

Rich in culture, history and natural resources, Paihia is the perfect stepping stone into the Bay of Islands, and a wonderful place for people of all ages to visit. Known as the jewel of the magnificent Bay of Islands, with shimmering safe waters and superb beaches, there are plenty of recreational activities offered amongst the 144 islands: sail, fish, swim, dive, snorkel, charter a launch or paddle a sea kayak around the islands.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE


English is an official language of New Zealand, along with Māori.  New Zealand slang however, has developed over time from a diverse mixture of backgrounds which may or may not sound familiar to you. All of the listed words and phrases are used with regularity throughout New Zealand and should give you a better understanding of what your Kiwi mates are really tryin’ to tell ya!

Arvo – afternoon

Bach – holiday home

Banger – sausage, as in bangers and mash

Barbie – barbecue

Big smoke – large town or city

Bit of dag – hard case, comedian, person with character

Bloke – man

Brickie – bricklayer

Bring a plate – bring a dish of food to share

Cardi – cardigan

Chocka – full, overflowing

Chook – chicken

Chips – deep fried slices of potato but much thicker than a french fry

Chuddy – chewing gum

Cuppa – cup of tea, as in cuppa tea

Dodgy – bad, unreliable, not good

Dunny – toilet, bathroom, lavatory

Duvet – quilt, doona

Flicks – movies, picture theatre

Greasies – fish and chips

Handle pint of beer

Happy as Larry – very happy

Hard yakka – hard work

Hosing down – raining heavily

Jandals – thongs, sandals,

flip-flops

Jumper – sweater, jersey

Knackered – exhausted, tired, lethargic

Long drop – outdoor toilet, hole in ground

Serviette – paper napkin

Togs – swimsuit, bathing costume

Tramping – hiking

Wop-wops – situated off the beaten track


How To Explore Places Like Never Before: Buenos Aires

My first major exposure to Argentina was when the President of Argentina, H.E. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner,  lead a high level delegation to India in October last year. I was assigned to do a special feature on Argentina to coincide with the State-visit of the President. It was at this time I discovered that Argentina, the eighth largest nation in the world, has lots to offer in terms of tourism opportunities.

This August I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of this wonderful country and truly Argentina has all that it takes to get a complete holiday experience in one destination.

South African Airways – a member of Star Alliance – offers the shortest connection to Argentina via Johannesburg and I had the opportunity to experience the exceptional service in Business Class with their award-winning lie flat bed and excellent hospitality. We were well taken care of by Molefi Molefe, a Steward who ensured that we were well looked after on this Airbus 340-200 series flight.

On my arrival, I had to change the dollars into Argentine Pesos and the best place to do that is the Banco de la Nacion Argentina at the airport.  It took us one hour to reach the Panamericano Hotel from the airport which is located on Avenue 9 de Julio and has the famous Obelisk which dominates the avenue.

The Obelisk, which is 67 metres high, divides the Corrientes Avenue and is surrounded by a small green park – Plaza de la Republica which represents the progressive spirit of the people of Argentina.  The Plaza is a vast square and dissects the three arterial roads – Ninth of July Avenue, Corrientes Avenue and Diagonal Avenue and is located in the San Nicolas quarter.

It is a rare sight to see a 12-lane street in the middle of the city centre, six lanes each for either direction of vehicular traffic. The Plaza was inaugurated in 1937 and is also known as the most important porteño or meeting point when the country celebrates major sporting triumphs. The Plaza which was originally a circular esplanade was enlarged to its current dimensions in 1962 and the Corrientes Avenue was rerouted through the plaza later in 1971. It is around the Obelisk that you will find the vehicular traffic heading into the city’s financial district.

Buenos Aires, along with its suburbs known as Greater Buenos Aires, makes up almost a third of the total population of Argentina which stands at around 39 million. Buenos Aires is truly a year round destination and one can easily spend days exploring this city which is also South America’s second largest city only after Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Located on the western shore of Rio de la Plata estuary, Buenos Aires is considered as an Alpha World city and the people are referred to as porteños or people of the port.  During the great immigration wave in 1880s, people of Italian, Spanish and French descent migrated to Buenos Aires and therefore the city has a great European influence and is indeed one of the most beautiful metropolises of the Southern Hemisphere.

On our arrival, I had the opportunity to stroll along Lavalle Street which was adjoining my hotel. This shopping street leads into the Florida Street near San Martin Square where you will find a wide variety of shopping – from leather goods to jewellery, books and souvenirs as well as some fine boutique shops.

The San Martin Square which is walking distance from San Telmo, one of the oldest districts of Buenos Aires and which is a must-visit for its cafes, tango parlours and antique shops in the cobblestone streets which offers unique entertainment with artists and dance performances. If you are in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, you must visit the San Telmo market known for its bohemian charms.  This quaint and funky neighbourhood comes to life every Sunday with its Antique Fair in Plaza Dorrego stretching down the cobblestone Calle Defensa or Defense Street.  From musicians to artists, from full-scale Tango orchestras to solitary singers, San Telmo is the place to spend your Sunday in Buenos Aires and be entertained – be it by human statues painted in gold or a frozen man and woman caught in a storm with blowing jacket or inverted umbrella which makes it a thoroughly entertaining experience.

Here are 10 other must-do activities for visitors in Buenos  Aires:

1.  Visit Plaza de Mayo:

Plaza de Mayo

The main square in downtown Buenos Aires, a focal point of political life of Buenos  Aires and Argentina. On one side you will find the  public administration office from early 20th Century. The Casa Rosado located on the eastern side of the square is the Presidential Office of Colonial Times. Go back in time and visualize President Peron saluting the people from the balcony of Casa Rosada. Close to Casa Rosado is the monument of Manuel Belgrano on horseback. Manuel Belgrano took part in the Argentine Wars of Independence and also created the Flag of Argentina and is regarded as one of the Liberatodores  or Principal Leader of the Latin American War of Independence from Spain.

Casa Rosada

On the northern side of the square is the Metropolitan Cathedral, to the west is the Cabildo – an imperial colonial building and a town hall of earlier times. Nearby is one of the oldest subways of South America –Peru which still has the original look which dates back  to the beginning of the 20th Century with wooden  wagons. A ride from Peru station is an experience. This subway  was inaugurated in 1913 as the first in Latin America.

Metropolitan Cathedral

2.            Visit Recoleta –

also known as “little France” or la Pequeña Francia. This traditional upscale district combines Parisian architecture with trendy high rise elegant buildings and a variety of cultural venues. Visit the Loisuites hotel and you get a bird’s-eye-view of the Recoleta Cemetery from the higher floors of this wonderful boutique property.

Recoleta Cemetery

A visit to the Recoleta    Cemetery is definitely recommended as it is the most    relevant historical and artistic monument in the country and was created in 1822. It contains the graves of some of the important Argentineans including Eva Peron and some of the past Presidents of Argentina. The cemetery contains many elaborate marble mausoleums    decorated with statues and various architectural styles.  A walk around Recoleta will take you to some fine cafés and restaurants and maybe on a cold day you could even sip a Mate – a drink prepared from dried    leaves of yerba mate along with hot water which can be      sipped with a bombilla or a metal straw from a shared    hollow calabash gourd which is similar to a bowl  made of dried pumpkin. You can pick up a calabash gourd with a bombilla as an important Argentine souvenir.

Grave of Eva Peron

3.            Living la vida Boca –


Spend an afternoon at the Boca district and visit the most important football stadium in     Buenos Aires – La Bombonera, the home of the Boca Juniors including the famous iconic Diego Maradona. The   old port district of Boca still retains its 19th Century ambience and a strong European flavour thanks to the early Italian settlers from the city of Genoa. Colourful houses, pedestrian streets – especially the Caminito where tango artists perform on the streets – is an excellent outing to also pick up a few tango-related memorabilia.

4.            Sip a coffee and try Alfajores or Dulce de Leche at the Havanna –


Havanna is to Argentineans what Starbucks is to the U.S.  Your trip to Buenos Aires is incomplete without visiting Havanna especially in the district of Puerto Madero – the old port now converted into a famous restaurant district and somewhat reminiscent of Hamburg.  This 1880 era dockland is now converted as the newest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. Havanna, besides serving some fine coffee is one of the most popular alfajor vendors in Argentina. Alfajores are light, round cookies filled with dulce de leche – milk caramel in Spanish and the traditional local sweet made of thick jam and caramel candy. Indulge in dulce de leche without worrying about the calories along with a cappuccino con dulce de leche and a few alfajores to go. There are over 50 Havanna stores and cafés across the city and you have no reason not to spend a couple of hours for a coffee, a light meal or over indulgence of fine tempting desserts.

5.            Tango and Theatre –


The Teatro Colón or Colombus   Theatre located close to the Obelisk is amongst the top  5 opera houses in the world and a must-visit attraction.  The theatre which opened in 1908 was closed for refurbishment from October 2006 to May 2010 and is    recently reopened and should be on your agenda whilst visiting Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires is the birth place of Tango and Piazzolla is one of the fine places in the Guemes Gallery where  you can experience the vibrancy of soulful music combined with modern tango and feel the spirit of the city created by the famous Astor Piazzolla. A dinner followed by an exhilarating 90-minute Tango song and dance presentation is a wonderful way to spend an evening in Buenos Aires. Other options would be to visit one of the Parrillas or charcoal grill places to try out a barbecue. La Estancia Del Gaucho on Lavalle street or Las Cabritas at Soldado de la Independencia     is a good place to order a Parillada or Asado, grilled meats or grilled beef which can be shared by two or more along with a glass of Trapiche – one of Argentine’s fine Malbec wines with produce from Altamira, Uco Valley, the premium area where Malbec is grown in Argentina.

6.            Shop at Avenida Santa Fe or the Galerías Pacífico –

Avenida Santa Fe

Avenida Santa Fe is indeed one of the well known places for shopping in Buenos Aires and stretches from Plaza San Martin to Belgrano offering a corridor of hustle, bustle and retail therapy with well known  boutique brands in one of the most important shopping districts of the city.

Galerias Pacifico

There is also Galerias Pacifico or the Pacific Gallery located at the intersection of Florida Street and Cordoba Avenue. This is one of the most elegant shopping malls with concreted domes, renovated in 1990, and houses with a shopping mall, the Jorge Luis  Borges Cultural Centre and Julia Boca Dance school. The dome is decorated with murals by famous Argentine painters and the large central cupola was   constructed and decorated with 12 frescos by artists including Manuel Colmeiro, Antonio Berni , Demetrio Urruchúa and others. These frescos are some of the most important in Buenos Aires.

7.            Flowering Art –


Floralis Genérica is a unique sculpture    made of metal and is the gift to the city by the architect Eduardo Catalano. The Arte en Flor or Flowering Art is located in the centre of a park surrounded by wooden boundaries and represents a large flower with an aluminum skeleton of reinforced concrete and is supposedly 20 metres high. The flower which opens to the sky has six petals and is located at the United Nations Plaza and weighs 18 tons.

8.            Night out in Palermo or a visit to the Cathedral of Polo –


Palermo is a trendy neighborhood filled with restaurants, shops and clubs called boliches. Located in the northeast part of the city, Palermo borders other important districts such as Belgrano, Recoleta, Rio del Plata river and is the largest neighbourhood in Buenos    Aires. It is further subdivided into Alto Palermo – the  main shopping area and transport hub around Santa Fe Avenue, Villa Freud – a residential area, Palermo Viejo or old Palermo which reflects an old Spanish style architecture and where well known figures such as   Jorge Luis Borges and Che Guevara once lived.

Bars around Plaza Serrano

Then there is the Palermo Soho area or Plaza Serrano  which is a chic fashion district with plenty of bars and street culture and has a bohemian feel to the region. Palermo Hollywood as well has a high concentration of restaurants, clubs, cafes and active night life and finally Palermo Chico which is an up-market area and houses the National Museum of Decorative Arts. The Barrio Parque area in Palermo is home to the rich and famous    and MALBA – the Museum of Latin America Art is located in the vicinity. Las Cañitas is an up-market area too and is located next to Campo Argentino de Polo – the Cathedral of Polo, a multi-purpose stadium used for polo, field hockey and has also hosted the World Hockey Cup in 1978. The stadium which holds 30000 spectators is also home to the Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo – the most important polo event in the world, a venue for the 1950 Olympic Games and at      times is also used for concerts performed by Shakira, Carlos Santana and for public events too.

The Cathedral of Polo

National Museum of Decorative Arts

9.            Browse through at El Ateneo Grand Splendid –

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

This amazing building on Santa Fe Avenue was designed by well known architects Peró and Torres and originally opened as a theatre during the 20th Century  with a seating capacity for over a 1000 spectators. This theatre was later converted into a cinema and the first sound films were presented in Argentina here in 1929. Subsequently in the 21st Century, this iconic building was converted into a 2000-square metre book and music shop and over 700000 books were sold in 2007. The cinema seating was replaced by massive book  shelves and over a million people walk through this amazing book store every year. An English newspaper,  the Guardian, placed El Ateneo as number two in the list of world’s top ten best bookshops and is a must-visit attraction for reading enthusiasts.

10.          Take an open bus or underground walking tour to explore more –

Open Air Bus

For those who are short on time, you can take an open bus tour covering the highlights of the city of Buenos Aires in less than 3 hours. A 2-day pass can take you through the major districts which can be further explored on foot. From La Manzana de las Luces you can walk through tunnels which were built in the 17th and 18th Centuries and formed a network linking churches and public buildings. This historic block is surrounded by Bolivar Street, Moreno, Avenida Julia de Roca and the subway of Peru from where you could take these walking tours which take you through the Cabildo, the Cathedral with the Church of San Ignacio, Santo Domingo, San Juan, old Irish convents and neighbouring buildings.

You need more than one visit to experience the various dimensions of Buenos Aires – be it culture, art, tango, football, night life, shopping, notable streets, neighbourhoods, parks or landmarks.  It was impossible for me to cover most of these experiences during my 2-day stay in Buenos Aires. However, those   who plan to visit the country of glaciers, deserts, waterfalls and more will need little encouragement to take a short stop in Buenos Aires – truly a city with varied and diverse experiences.

Interested in planning a holiday to Argentina?

Email a Destination Expert at info@opportunitiestoday.co.in and read about what more Argentina has to offer in a forthcoming issue.

PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR OF EGYPT – 6 Nights / 7 Days



Day 1

On arrival at Cairo Airport you will be met and assisted by our representative through customs and passport formalities. Transfer to the hotel.

You have the rest of day free for relaxation.

In the evening you will be transferred to the railway station to board the overnight sleeper train to Aswan.

Dinner will be provided on board.

Photography lessons – Introduction session

Day 2


After a nice breakfast on the train you arrive at Aswan. You will be transferred to the Nile Cruise boat for embarkation. In the afternoon, we offer you a felucca trip to enjoy magnificent views of the Nile, flowing through amber desert and granite rocks, around emerald islands covered in palm groves and tropical plants.

Dinner and overnight on board. Meals (B/L/D)

Photography lessons – Understanding Light, Color systems and how the camera perceives color,

Depth of Field introduction – Assignment 1

Day 3

Philac Temple, High Dam and Temple of Kom Ombo

Philac Temple

In the morning after breakfast the first stop will be at Philae Temple followed by visit to the High Dam which contains circa 18 times the material used in the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

High Dam

Back to the boat. Sail to Kom Ombo. In the afternoon, visit the unusual Temple of Kom Ombo. One side of the temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, god of fertility and creator of the world. The other side is dedicated to the falcon god Haroeris, also known as Horus the Elder. Later sail to Edfu. Dinner and overnight on board.

Temple of Kom Ombo

Meals (B/L/D)

Photography lessons – Understanding your camera and DSLR controls, understanding modes like Shutter and Aperture priority, focus systems etc and Exposure

Assignment 2 and Assignment 1 review

Day 4

Temple of Horus at Edfu


Today after breakfast you will visit Edfu Temple. Of all the temples in Egypt, the Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most completely preserved. Sail to Esna, cross the lock and sail to Luxor. Dinner and overnight on board in Luxor. Meals (B/L/D)

Photography lessons –

Advanced Shutters and Apertures

Day 5

Valley of the Kings


Today your tour in Luxor will start with the Valley of the Kings. In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tut Ankh Amun,one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. On the West Bank, you will also visit the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and see the Colossi of Memnon. Then, you will cross the Nile and visit Karnak Temple on the East Bank. The last stop will be at Luxor Temple. Transfer to the hotel in Luxor. In the evening transferred to Luxor railway station to board the sleeper train to Cairo. Overnight on board.

Meals (B/D)

Photography lessons – How to shoot amazing travel images, resolution, RAW files and Introduction to Post Processing

Assignment 3 and Assignment 2 review

Day 6


Today after a good breakfast onboard you get back to Cairo to visit the only surviving wonder of the Ancient World: the Great Pyramids of Giza. Beside the Pyramids, you will have the chance to see the famous Sphinx and visit the Valley Temple in Giza Necropolis. The next stop will be at the Egyptian Museum where you will find -without doubt- the greatest collection of Egyptian antiquities. It has more than 120000 items on display, with many more hundreds of thousands in its basement storerooms. One of the most famous collections housed by the Egyptian Museum is Tut Ankh Amun Treasures. The tour will end in the famous Khan el Khalili Bazaar which is for many, the most entertaining part of Cairo. Overnight at the hotel in Cairo.

Meals (B)

Photography lessons – Advanced photography techniques and how to shoot portraits

Assignment 4 and Assignment 3 review

Day 7


Today you say good bye to Egypt. Breakfast will be provided to you at the hotel. Check-out by maximum noon. You have the rest of day free for leisure / shopping. In the evening you will be transferred to Cairo Airport for your final departure. Meals (B)

Photography lessons – Color Corrections and editing portraits

Assignment 4 and Assignment 3 review

Inclusions

*  Airfare and Visa

*             01 night hotel accommodation in Cairo  on BB basis.

*             02 nights sleeper train Cairo – Aswan & Luxor – Cairo on HB basis.

*             03 nights cruising trip Aswan – Luxor with our Nile Cruises 5

*             or similar on FB basis with sightseeing ashore according to the under-mentioned program.

*             01 day use at the hotel in Cairo on bed   only basis.

*             Full day visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, the Valley Temple, the Egyptian Museum and Khan El Khalili Bazaar.

*             Airport / railway station transfers.

*             Private English speaking guide.

*             Present taxes and entrance fees for the               included sightseeing. In case raised by   the authorities, we reserve the right to         charge you the difference.

Exclusions

*             Any increase in the sleeper train rate.

*             Visit to any of Giza Pyramids from inside.

*             Visit to the mummies rooms at the Egyptian Museum.

*             Visit to Tut Ankh Amun Tomb in Luxor.

*             The fees for the tripods.

*             Any meals or services not mentioned among the inclusions.

*             Water/beverages with lunches and dinners not covered in inclusions

*             Tips.

TOTAL COST: Rs 69500

Note: USD 1 = INR 47

*Please Note: A minimum of 10 people are required to conduct this trip. In case we don’t get the required amount of people, prices are subject to change.

IMPORTANT

There are no permissions required for shooting pictures with still cameras at the tourist sites. This applies to all open air tourist sites like the temples, the Pyramids from the outside, Shooting inside the Egyptian Museum is not allowed. The same goes if any of the group members would like to visit any of Giza Pyramids from inside (which is not included in the itinerary). Also the cameras are not allowed at the Valley of the Kings.4On the other hand, please note that there are fees to be paid for tripods which are not included in the package rate. So if any of the photographers will be holding a tripod, he will pay a fee for the tripod on the spot. The fee of the tripod is different from one site to the other, but it is around USD 7 per tripod.

TRAVEL AGENTS are invited to book this tour for their clients.