Be aware in Argentina

This item appears on page 17 of the February 2012 issue.

On Nov. 30, 2011, while visiting the beautiful “Paris of South America,” as Buenos Aires is justly called, members of our tour group went exploring on their own. At around noon, one couple was waiting at an intersection to cross Avenida 9 de Julio, with many other Argentineans around, when the woman’s purse was grabbed. The thief got money and a copy of her passport (she had left the original in the hotel room’s safe). Another couple was going down to take the subway when a similar incident took place. In this case, the woman had some kind of money pouch inside her bra, but the assailant expertly took the pouch and the money. People visiting Buenos Aires are told to remove jewelry and anything that looks like gold, silver or anything of value. The long, pedestrian Florida Street is a favorite place to victimize visitors. On Dec. 1, our group of 39 travelers boarded LAN flight No. 4022 in Buenos Aires for a 9:15 a.m. departure to Iguazú on the Argentina side. We had our luggage checked as a group at the Buenos Aires airport. Upon arrival in Iguazú, members of our group discovered that a cell phone, an iPad and jewelry items were missing from their respective suitcases. Those travelers, of course, had thoughtlessly packed the items in their suitcases instead of in their carry-ons, but the fact remains that our luggage was raided in the Buenos Aires airport by people working there. (This robbery did not take place in the hotel where we were staying.) Since the eruption of Chile’s Puyehue Volcano on June 4, 2011, ash-covered clouds continue to periodically disrupt air travel in the northern Patagonia area of Puerto Varas, Chile, and Bariloche, Argentina. The airport in Bariloche remains closed. Because of the airport closure, we had to take a five-hour bus ride from Bariloche to the airport in Neuquén. We were lucky the Neuquén airport was open, as it closed again that afternoon. A group preceding ours was not so lucky and had to take a 24-hour bus from Bariloche to Buenos Aires! The ash fallout has caused tremendous damage in Arrayanes National Forest in Argentina’s Nahuel Huapi National Park. Puerto Varas, as well as Bariloche, have been adversely affected, and many residents have left the area due to bronchial and respiratory problems. People visiting this beautiful area should carry dust masks for protection. SONIA IBANEZ * At press time, volcanic ash continued to fall, and no date had been set to reopen Bariloche Airport.