Saturday, February 7, 2009

Feliz Cumpleanos Greg!

Happy Birthday Greg!

Greg started the day with a run along the river in Olavarria and then came home to the apartment to a hearty breakfast of medialunas (croissants) and dulce de leche (sweet toffee flavoured spread- yumm!) and a birthday cake filled with more dulce de leche!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

olavarria - at the hospital

it's been a while since i commented on the experience i'm having at the hospital.

in buenos aires, most people spoke some english, and some spoke very well. i got to do about 10 intubations, i could have put in IVs and art lines - but was put off by the sharps handling here in argentina - OH&S doesnt feature strongly here. i had some great clinical conversations with the anaesthetists and the airway experience was good. a lot of time was just watching though - it's hard to inspire confidence when you don't speak the language, and being a private hospital i think they were a little reluctant to get me too involved.

here in olavarria, my first day was just observing - as the anaesthetist didn't speak any english. people were extremely friendly though, had a good chat with frequent use of gestures, pointing and reference to the spanish - english dictionary with the tecnicians and nurses in the tearoom.

day 2 in olavarria, i met a younger anaesthetist who speaks very good english. he's been to france for residency, and he was very slick clinically. he got me to intubate an 8yo child as soon as i arrived (which was easier than i expected). After that went OK he treated me like a trainee anaesthetist, left to do another case while i took care of a patient having a total hip joint replacement under spinal anaesthesia. he gave me instructions like - give 2l saline fast, then slow it down. if the BP drops, give ephedrine, any big problems call me - kinda scary, but this is really how i will learn best - and it's exactly the experience i was hoping for.

The rest of week 1 : after a difficult day on wednesday where i was with 2 anaesthetists who spoke no english, I've had 2 great days working with the same anaesthetist I was with on my second day. I've done all the intubations, airway management, and use of the anaesthetic machine. The anaesthetist has said, you give the anaesthetic - I'll supervise - perfect! I'll be with him again next week too - should be interesting! Olavarria is a nice enough little town, but the medical experience has been fantastic.

Monday, February 2, 2009

architecture in Buenos Aires

This entry is well overdue ! many of these photos come from the retiro and recolleta barrios (neighborhoods), which are the more ritzy areas. some of these are taken with my iphone because i was out without the good camera, and are just snaps - oh well.

cars, trucks, and buses

OK, so there are many different types of cars, trucks and buses here. some very modern european and american cars ... but there are also plenty of older cars, trucks and buses still in use here - and they have a certain character... see below

Sunday, February 1, 2009


well, we arrived yesterday evening. bus trip took 5.5hrs to cover about 350km with quite a few stops. it's a real country town - no tourists here. in fact i'd say we may be the first people who dont speak spanish to stay here.

our apartment is fantastic though, it's got 2 bedrooms, a good sized lounge, a dining room table, a full sized modern kitchen and a nice bathroom. it's enormous for the two of us... iit also has wireless broadband internet, Australia is so far behind Argentina in terms of access to broadband it is just ridiculous. Telstra and the government need to get their act together.

olavarria itself, is a nice enough country town. a few nice looking cafe's and restraunts. some nice old buildings and the odd nice park. but that's about it. their is also a club with swimming pools and some other stuff that we will check out tomorrow. the weather is cooler here, so it's better for running - fantastic as i'm behind schedule getting ready for busselton.

i'm told the anaesthetists speak very little english here, so tomorrow will be interesting ...

It's carnaval time here in olavarria. Rio it isn't, but it was bigger and more colorful than I expected.

and more cheeky :-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 3 Iguazu Falls

We had decided not to risk trying to enter the Brazil side of the falls without a visa and Yellow Fever vaccines, this was helped by the comments of others we met that the Argentinian side was a better opportunity to get great views and up close to the falls.

So, an even earlier start attempting to beat the crowds and the heat, we were at the park by 8.30am. Well, I don't know about beating the heat but we certainly felt like we were ahead of the crowd and it was very peaceful and a sensational final day.

Today we decided that a great finish for us would be to go on the Adventure boat ride which took us in a speedboat for a shower under two of the waterfalls. First just a warm-up (I mean a cool down) under Salto Dos Mosqueteros (just a small one really) and then around San Martin Island to the furious cauldron of water we had been admiring from every viewpoint, Salto San Martin. This was extremely frightening and then exhilirating as the waterfall showered on our heads in an open speedboat! A great way to wash and cool down!

We weren't quite ready to leave after this so another last wander along the Upper Circuit and Greg finally dragged me away! Highly recommended, a must see! The photos are great but it's really hard to do it any justice!

Day 2 Iguazu Falls

A lot better prepared and sun protected today, we even purchased some hats! We had an early start after a light breakfast at the hotel and set off to explore the Lower circuit first which was about 3km. This included lots of trails, bridges and viewing platforms giving awesome, up close views of the falls and a lot of refreshing spray which we needed to try to keep cool. This track descended to the level of the river below the waterfalls.

From the base of the Lower Circuit, we got a boat across to San Martin Island which also has trails of its own giving good views of several waterfalls. The best view was looking down on Salto San Martin, a huge furious cauldron of water, one that we later explore in a much closer encounter.

After lunch we tackled the Upper Circuit which was actually an easy (when you are dripping in sweat and fighting the crowds) 650m walk each way with many viewing platforms looking down over the edge of the falls and at the masses of flowing water supplying them.

This is definitely the most amazing sight and certainly the most impressive natural wonder I've ever seen. I was speechless and overwhelmed and could have stayed forever.

Day 1 Iguazu Falls

We arrived relatively fresh after a 16 hour bus trip. Super Cama (first class) helped with seats that fully recline therefore 7-8 hrs sleep. The service was great also, food and drinks are served with a little tray table like on a plane, the highlight was the vino tinto! You know how you usually cringe at tasting those tiny 200ml bottles they provide, this was great! It was Santa Florentino 2008, a Malbec Syrah (shiraz) blend from the Rioja wine region. Then the glass of argentinian champagne to settle for the night was a great touch and helped us sleep.

The humidity and heat hit us immediately, much as it does on arrival in Bali in the wet season. The landscape was a tropical wonderland which lush green jungle for as far as the eye could see.

We checked in to our boutique hotel and quickly found out how to get to the national park to start our adventure at Iguazu Falls. We arrived at the park just after lunchtime and started with the train trip towards Garganta del Diablo, the largest of the falls. It included a 1.5km walk across the river on an elevated walk way unshaded by any of the surrounding jungle. We saw an alligator, butterflies, a turtle and then rainbows!

A fantastic afternoon although we focused so heavily on insect protection, we forgot about sun protection and got quite badly sunburnt on the first day- when will we ever learn!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Iguazu Falls

Well i can't wait! We're booked on the bus to Iguazu on Saturday, and flying back to BA on Tuesday night.

here's the wikipedia link to see what we're looking forward to

just back, WOW - that was AMAZING.
the most incredible natural sight we've seen. more commentary to follow when we're not so tired.

here's a taster of some photos - oh, some of you might not have realised, if you click on any of the photos you get a larger version.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

mendoza - argentina's wine region

I took a Friday off so we could get a bus to mendoza - argentina's premiere wine region. The bus trip takes about 12 hours, but was much better than i expected. we went on the first class bus - all the seats recline to be completely flat, and are quite roomy and comfortable. we ended up sleeping for 8 hours on the bus, and arrived in surprisingly good shape.

The day we arrived, we checked straight into the very nice hotel argentino - had a shower and caught a taxi to the next town - maipu -where the wineries are very concentrated. first up was "lopez" - which is a big high volume winery, that produces table wine that is on every winelist we've seen in BA. we figured this would be a good reliable first stop - it was. they also produce some premium wines that were quite good, and we then got a recommendation from one of the staff for a boutique vineyard - "el cerno".

El cerno was awesome - we bought 6 bottles here, for tasting notes see liza's wine blog. we had a great time here - a tasting involves drinking 3 full glasses of wine (same deal at lopez) - so we were quite merry after that. (no doubt liza will post a photo she took of me looking quite intoxicated - i will get her back). el cerno also did fantastic steak sandwiches which was very fortunate.

Day 2 - we wanted to get into the mountains, but the tours were astromically expensive, taking advantage of tourists. some of the wineries grow malbec at high altitude, i wanted a photo of the vineyards with the snow capped Andes in the background, but with the price of the tours it wasn't to be. try to see what i mean - we just drank a bottle of their wine at dinner instead.

So instead of going on the tour, 100km each way to Andeluna and surrounding wineries, we decided to grab a picnic of baguette, proscuitto, cheese, green olives, chocolate, strawberries, and a bottle of wine from el cerno. we caught a taxi 65km into the mountains, i managed with the aid of the dictionary to tell the taxi driver to take us somewhere for a good view (buena vista) of the mountains (montana) for a picnic (comida). you can see from the pictures we succeeded. the taxi still came to $100 return - but this was a small fraction of the cost of the tours, we escaped the tour groups, and had a fantastic time! we also managed to give a local taxi driver some cash, rather than some tour company so we were all happy.

Day 3 was a quiet day, wine tasting in bottle shop in mendoza, a nice steak sandwich, and then caught the bus back to BA. arrived OK but a bit late. bus trip obviously wasn't too bad, as we went straight to the ticket counter to buy tickets to Iguazu Falls for next weekend. We're going to go one way by bus, and then fly back though.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Shopping in Buenos Aires

What a spectacle are the shops and markets! Some highlights are included here to give you an idea.


We went to a gorgeous old theatre along the Avenue Corrientes and saw a fantastic live production of "EVA", better know to many as Evita! The theatre was several tiers in a horsehoe shape, with private balconies for the "who's who" of BA, decorated with lots of red velvet, and gold gilding it was a breath taking sight.

What an amazing experience, definitely a highlight of our time in Buenos Aires. The stage settings were authentic and elaborate, and there was also historical footage projected onto the background of the set, which added to the atmosphere. The costumes were spectacular as were the music and the singing voices! It was all in Spanish, but would have to be the most enjoyable live production we've seen.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

i have obviously lost my mind

i just registered for the busselton half ironman on Saturday May 2nd.
It involves a 1.9km swim, 90km ride, then a 21.1 km run (probably a cliff young style shuffle for me ... if i don't drown in the swim leg). anyone who wants to come see the carnage is most welcome.

more info

Friday, January 9, 2009

Liza's wine blog (and some food)

After a number of requests for further details about our Argentinian wine tasting, I will be describing our wine journey in this ongoing blog entry.

We've started off with house wines (copa de vino tinto de la casa), table wines and half bottles at the lower end of the market. Interestingly we are enjoying these and haven't found much need to go upmarket yet - but we'll be sure to try them soon enough!

Rincon Famosa 2003 - a blend of sangiovese, malbec and merlot from the Mendoza region of Argentina. We really liked this one (hmm you'll hear that comment a fair bit). The color was a bit more rustic - brownish red - showing its age, but still very fruity and smooth - we happilly consumed this half bottle unaccompanied by food. (18 pesos --> $7 AUD)
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Lopez - a Malbec from Mendoza. Another half bottle for about $8 AUD. Good with food- beef of course!

Valmont - a blend of cab sav, malbec and pinot noir from Mendoza. Perfect with a plate of green olives before dinner on Christmas Day!

San Felipe - a Malbec from Mendoza (as is 70% of Argentinian wine). We have tried this a few times and it is an easy drinking cheapie as above.

Bianchi Nuestro Borgona - a blend from Mendoza, a beautiful dark red colour and easy to drink. It was also a 1/2 bottle for 26 Peso or about $11 AUD.

Norton Clasico 2006 - another Mendoza blend, so far we have a preference for the blends. deep ruby red colour, the best so far!

Luigi Bosca Reserva 2005 - Now I had the opportunity to taste a more pricey Malbec today and was very impressed so I lashed out and bought a bottle, yes a full 750mls, for $59 Peso- approx $25 AUD. Will reserve further judgement and comment on this one until we make an occasion of it!

Well we finally tried it! Very impressed from the first taste, packed with flavour and still very smooth. Deep purple colour, no it's deep burgundy in colour, just a minute we better have another glass......

Navarro Correas Colleccion Privado 2005 - At dinner last night at Los Chilenos, a Chilean restaurant in Retiro, we tried this full bottle! It was a cabernet sauvignon, a beautiful dark red colour but much lighter than an Australian Cab Sav, very smooth and light, made for a long evening. It was their most expensive bottle (at 59 Peso/ $25 AUD) so we attracted some attention from the staff and an ice bucket to try to cool it to 18 degrees!

Mendoza Wine Tasting

Well, as we have already highlighted, this was a fantastic long weekend of wine appreciation.
The first day, after arriving on the bus early that morning we went to 2 wineries (bodegas). We only made it to 2 because there was a risk of buying significant amounts of anything if we ventured further after consuming such large quantities of wine at these two.
The suggestion of hiring a bike or scooter to tour the wineries soon became obviously an extremely bad idea and not something we would attempt. Taxis were a sensible and much safer option!

Lopez Winery:

We skipped the tour and paid 16 peso ($6) each for wine tasting and that entitled us each to three generous glasses of good quality wine, the only way to taste!

Casona Lopez 2002 -
a light, smooth and fruity (?plum) malbec. Very easy to drink and would be good with or without food. It was pink to red in colour and Greg's favourite out of these 3, but he does like a bargain. At 20 peso ($8) a bottle, the price was right!

Chateau Vieux 2000-
this blend of cab sav, merlot and pinot had a fantastic smell, and was woody like some Aussie blends with an earthy pinot influence. A brownish tint gave it an aged appearance and this is my favorite so far. At 25 peso ($10) still very affordable.

Montchenot 1999 -
another blend, this time cab sav, merlot and malbec and very different to the other two. It also had a slight dark brownish (aged) tint and was quite dry. It smells oaky and would go well with Lomo (great cut of Argentinian beef). I am undecided which I prefer between the 2nd and this one but think that this one needs to go with food, or maybe that's just me after 600mls of vino tinto on an empty stomach! At 42 peso ($18), it's a bit more pricey!

El Cerno Winery:

We asked Lopez to recommend another bodega and this was it! This was a small boutique winery but also had Lomo sandwiches so it was a winner! Again 16 peso each for 3 glasses for tasting.

Wayna - a young fruity unwooded malbec (just the way Greg likes them), but not as fruity as the Lopez malbec. It had more body than expected, yet was still soft and and a deep red colour. A bargain at 18 peso ($7) a bottle.
Vina El Cerno Barricado 2002 -
another malbec but smoother and more aged than the Wayna. Greg liked it as he purchased 6 bottles of it at 36 peso each ($15).

Was there a third one, there was definitely a third one, there are three glasses in the photo, my notes have disappeared, I'll ask Greg if he remembers..........

Oh! he doesn't look like he'll remember either.

Park Hyatt Mendoza- the vines wine bar

On our final day at Mendoza we stayed in town and did some more tasting before catching the overnight bus back to BA.

Cavas de Crianza Malbec - a young fruityMalbec with an aroma of berries. Greg really enjoyed it but thought it might be a bit 'young' for me (I'm not sure what that means!). 28 peso a glass.

Montecinco Oak - Was awarded 'best Malbec in the world' according to the sommelier! The aroma was sensational, I didn't feel a need to drink it, smelling it was a treat. For the purpose of this blog I thought I should drink it; it was initially sweet on tasting, with a soft, dry finish. Greg thought it was sensational too, with much more oak and body than the previous one above. 38 peso a copa.

Mairena Bonarda - unsure what the varietal was- we had never heard of it, but usually used in a blend. This was was solo this time and very good. It had a sweet aroma which was quite unusual but perhaps plum. It was a deep red colour like a cab sav. Greg nearly finished it off for me, I think he enjoyed it too! 25 peso a copa.

Sin Fin Cab Sav - the aroma was not great initially but improved over a short period of time to smell like berries. The flavour also opened up quickly. It was a deep red cab sav colour. 25 peso a copa.

At a great restaurant in Mendoza- Casa 3 we had the best meal so far in argentina, I had pork with baked apples and pears- yumm! We had a bottle of Andeluna 2006 Malbec as we didn't make it to that winery but thought we could taste it with our dinner. It was very good!

Back in BA at another great restaurant - El Federal which cooks Patagonian food in San Martin Greg had lamb and I had goat. Both were cooked perfectly and were very tasty. The wine we had with it was a full bottle of Weinert 2003 a malbec from Mendoza, which had an intense ruby colour, opened up very nicely, and matched well with our food.

The same restaurant again El Federal, (became quite a favorite as it has some mildly spicy foods such as garlic, onion and chilli). This time we tried a Latino Chicken meal and a beef sirloin with roasted garlic, onions, potatoes and mushrooms. The wine we enjoyed with it was full-bodied for a change, a deep red-color with a soft berry flavour- Cinco Tierra 2oo6 Bonardi.

Greg's favorite parilla also in San Martin, Centro was El Establo and it did the best steak, ever! We became regulars at this place and got an animated welcome and kiss from our mozo (waiter) each time.
This is the place where we progressed our steak appreciation; Greg has moved from preferring medium-well done steak to ordering 'punto' which is medium and quite a lot rarer than he would have previously liked. Likewise, I used to order medium, and finally at El Establo I ordered 'jugoso' or rare, which was fantastic!
On one visit, I had decided to have an alcohol free day, since we were ramping up the gym work and trying to get fitter, so Greg ordered a copa de vino tinto della casa (glass of red house wine). The look of horror on our mozo's face quickly turned to disgust as he hurried off to the wine shelf and came back with a half bottle to show Greg. It was a cab sav from Patagonia, Postales Del Fin Del Mundo 2007, and it was 18 peso a half bottle compared to 12 peso for a glass of house wine. So I had to help Greg with that, it was surprisingly smooth with a cherry finish.
To finish the meal, the mozo also bought us a glass of Limoncello each- well! it's the thought that counts!

We haven't only been drinking vino although from the volume above that may seem hard to believe.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

they're a friendly bunch

i've never really been into the cheek kissing thing - has always seemed an odd custom to me. but they take it to a whole new level here in Argentina. I was in the operating theatre today, and the surgeon walks in after we've just finished putting the patient to sleep. He then proceeds to walk up to and kiss each person in the room. male or female makes no difference. being scrubbed and in full gown and gloves also makes no difference - the surgeon just approaches from the back leans over and gives the facemask a peck.

i dont think i'll take up there custom - but it does improve the atmosphere in the operating theatre when each person is greeted, and some friendly chatter seems to accompany each kiss. it has to improve teamwork. :-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

my first day in the hospital

my first day was interesting - i managed to ask where theatre was, and that i wanted to see the head of anaesthetics. but meeting him was a more difficult experience - he spoke no english at all. so he says something and leaves, and i stand there dumbly not knowing what i'm supposed to do. 5 min later an orderly escorts me to the 2nd floor change rooms to get changed (probably what i'd been told to do).

out the otherside of the change rooms - straight into a cardiac theatre. i'm met by an anaesthetist who thankfully spoke better english than i do. he did an anaesthesiology residency in the usa. so we chat about the case, and all was good.

the hospital is pretty good - clean, cardiac theatre has the important stuff - but not the bells and whistles. they're very efficient with consumables (no fancy opsite here - just some sticky tape -micropore goes over drips and incisions) - probably makes little difference in reality.

was pretty hard in theatre despite the anaesthetist speaking perfect english - the rest of the team talked in spanish (though the surgeon later said hi in the changeroom again in perfect english). that kind of makes it hard to be useful - even simple things like responding to the surgeons asking for the table height to be adjusted resulted in me staring blankly and saying " lo siento, me no hablas muchos espaniol".

the icu is old (we delivered the cabg patient to icu) - and has old equipment but it does the job. i must be getting old because i've used all of their equipment before - 12 years ago ! (eg. the bennet 7200 ventilators they use were old in australia in 1997 - but hey they worked OK even for lung transplants back then).

i didnt get to do much today - just watch and chat to the anesthetist. but i think now that that anaesthetist knows me, i've got more of a chance to get involved next time. unfortunately he's not on tomorrow - so the first part of this story will repeat tomorrow.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

el establo parilla

el establo is a traditional argentine steak house, we went there for dinner last night. like most of the parillas the steak was tender and tasty. what stuck in the memory though was the waiter dividing our steak in two at the table so we could share it ... with a spoon - it was that tender.

Friday, January 2, 2009

our new apartment

our first apartment was in montserrat, which was ok - but a bit of a hike to the more interesting parts of BA. On the upside, it was spotlessly clean, nearly new, and comfortable. After a week we decided to move to a more central location.

we found our new apartment through bytArgentina - an agent. the new apartment is in a SENSATIONAL location, on viamonte st near florida st. it's on the 11th floor, and has a fantastic view from both the lounge and the bed room. we're 200m from galerias pacifico shopping centre - which has all the fancy (expensive - good for looking only) shops, and the florida st mall - which has all sorts of interesting shops, restraunts, and cafes. Liza will be busy while i'm at the hospital!

it's bigger, and the windows open to let in lots of fresh aair and a cool breeze. on the down side it's a ugly 60's concrete box building - but it's ok once in the apartment looking out.