In late 2015 my wife and I decided to visit South America--Argentina and Chile, in particular. Friends of ours made the trip the year before and used Say Hueque, a travel agency in Buenos Aires, to put their trip together.
So, we called Say Hueque and talked to Henry, a sales representative/travel agent. We laid out our plan and asked Henry to "Make it Happen."
Henry called back about a week or two later and had an itinerary to discuss with us. Yes, 5 weeks was fine, and yes, about $10,000.00 per person sounded reasonable. Henry took it from there.
We wanted Say Hueque to make all the internal/domestic transportation arrangements while we would do our own round trip international flight arrangements to Buenos Aires from PDX. Henry took care of all our domestic transportation to include flights, buses, boats, and vans. Except for one very overcrowded van, all went smoothly.
Then Henry left Say Hueque for another job, so we became quite concerned about our trip arrangements. However, our concerns were of no consequence and unfounded. Pia took over and carried the ball very well.
We also wanted to do shared transportation. We love to meet and travel with people from all over the world. That worked out well for us except for one side trip where we felt the 4X4 (Ushuaia) we were using was very overcrowded and the seat belts in the back did not work. That was a local problem, not a Say Hueque problem.
We requested all 3 and 4 star accommodations, to include breakfast. We wanted to make our own dinner arrangements. Furthermore, we wanted beautiful views from our hotels. Henry made that happen, although some of the hotels were quite some distance from town. For us that was fine. Joan and I love nothing more than a wonderful glass of Argentinian wine and beautiful views. All the views were just wonderful. There wasn't one that we didn't like.
At every destination we were met by the local travel company. They were never late, easy to identify, courteous, and efficient.
Our guides at each location were very good except for two. Of the two, one spoke almost zero English, and the other knew his material, but was verbal non stop, switching back and forth in Spanish and English. One never knew when the "switch" was going to happen! However, all the others were excellent. In fact, we got to know them so well it was difficult to say good bye, knowing we would probably never see them again.
Our drivers were equally as good. We felt safe at all times, except the one time we had no seatbelts in the back of the van. Generally, between our limited Spanish and their English, communications were quite good. In fact, I would say very good.
All our itinerary daily excursions were well planned and wonderful. We learned so much about the history, culture, geography, people, flora & fauna, food and drink.
The only thing we might have changed on ur itinerary was to perhaps build in a rest day once in awhile. For example, we had several occasions where we had 3, 10-hour days in a row. We are in our mid- 70s, and a rest day might have been nice. We are experienced travelers, and in quite good shape. But we did get tired. People who were not in as good a shape as we were might have encountered issues without some rest.
Lots of folks have asked us about favorites. That is a very difficult question to answer. Each city we visited had its own charm. S. C. de Bariloche is a standout city for me, as well as Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, and El Calafate. I also liked Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile. Patagonia is an experience never to be forgotten.
Favorite experiences? How could you beat the wonderful asados, if one is a carnivore, and I am. Come on, you are in Argentina! They were just wonderful and beautifully prepared. We also loved our walks through the beautiful national parks. Who could ever forget Iguazu Falls or a walk to Perito Moreno Glacier--and the glorious Upsala Glacier! How about the seafood and chocolate in Ushuaia. The daring trip by bus over the Andes from Santiago to Mendoza. The beautiful Mendoza wineries. Vendimia--amazing! The beautiful parks and museums in Buenos Aires. The charming sea cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. The island of Chiloe. The brewpubs in Bariloche. All the penguins. The list goes on and on.
Places to stay: We loved Candelaria del Monte Estancia outside Buenos Aires. It was a great place to rest and rewind before our long grueling trip back to Portland. The Bobo Hotel in Buenos Aires where we rested before our trip actually started. The Los Yamanas in Ushuaia, Esplendor Hotel in El Calafate, Casa Molino in Puerto Varas, Chile, De la Isla Hotel in Castro, Chiloe Island, Su Merced Hotel in Santiago, Cacique Inacayal Hotel in S.C. de Bariloche, Verde Olivia in Mendoza, Loi Suites in Iguazu!
One more positive experience, if one can call taking his wife to the doctor a positive one. While we were in Mendoza, my wife got a severe cold and persistent cough, and we deemed it necessary for her to see a doctor at a clinic. The hotel, Verde Oliva, took care of all arrangements, including transportation. Once we got to the hospital we were met by an English speaking nurse, and she helped us fill out all the appropriate forms. We were seated, and since we had no appointment, sat for about 40 minutes. Finally the doctor came out to get us, examined Joan, and prescribed some meds. Within a couple of days Joan was back on the road to recovery. I would like to say at this point that upon our return to Oregon, Joan went in to our family doctor and he said the Argentine doctor did exactly the correct things. Oh, our bill? $28.00.
How well do we like Argentina? We are returning next January/February 2017. We are returning to Bariloche, one of our favorite cities; Mendoza because Joan was ill and never had an opportunity to wine taste, and then Salta. Salta will be a first time for both of us. We have even asked for exactly the same hotels and exactly the same guides in Mendoza and Bariloche. Salta is brand new.
And, what company will be putting our trip together? Say Hueque.
We would highly recommend Say Hueque to anyone contemplating a trip to South America. They are a great travel agency: efficient reasonable, friendly, and knowledgeable.
Now, if there was some way to get to and from Buenos Aires quickly, easily, and comfortably, we would be very happy. Flying is no longer fun.
One exception might be LAN Airlines, used for all international flights. They were not crowded (We flew coach.), the food was at least a 2 1/2-3 stars, they used real glass for wine, real ceramic plates, and real reusable metal utensils. Their service was 5 stars, Believe it or not, even the bathrooms were kept clean.
So I believe we could give LAN Airlines 4 stars.
Aerolines Airlines, used for domestic flights, wasn't bad, but did not compare to LAN.
Yours in travel,
John and Joan Schindelar