Thursday, October 1, 2009

Visit with Dennis Gibson

Dennis Gibson, a missionary friend of many years ago in Uruguay/Paraguay came to visit to check out Argentina for a possible second mission.
No one can leave Argentina without eating a big steak, and any one who visits will write home about the quality of the beef. Almost all of it has to do with how the cows are raised. There are no factory feedlots in Argentina. The animals will eat pampas grass their whole lives, in open pastures. Since this is the way of life a cow was designed for it is not necessary to pump the animal full of antibiotics. The meat is leaner, healthier and more flavorful than that of corn-fed cattle. It has fewer calories, contains less cholesterol. You can taste the joy.
Of course we made a visit to the Salentein Bodega and went on the tour (that we almost have memorized). Dennis is standing next to the French Oak barrels where the very best Primus wine is allowed to age. These barrels are only used 7 times and then are sold to other wineries with lower standards. Primus wine is only grown in the best years.
The wine is stored in oak barrels from Europe (american made is not as good).
They were filling the barrels the wine that day, it was very interesting.
In the bodega is an art gallery. That day they had a display of dresses made from metal from various countries.
The Fransesco Restaurant has lovely gardens and was excellent food. We enjoyed our evening which was extremely warm for spring. The pumpkin soup was delicious.
In the plaza Indepencia, down the street from our home (in front of the Hyatt) this sign is lit up every night.
No one can leave this town without tasting the ice cream, it is the best tasting (loaded with fat) ice cream in the world.
There is a picture of Jim with Dennis and two other missionaries in our book shelf in the home. It was taken 38 years ago. These two men have aged gracefully, minus a few strands of hair, and a bit more gray. Life has been good to them and they are still great missionaries.
We were in the mood for a road trip (minus President) and the Assistants had a p-day coming to them, and so we decided to visit Villavicenci0 the old water bottling plant and old hotel and spa that has been closed. It was Elder Armstrongs last p-day before returning to the field. This is the entrance to the long drive to the hotel up into the mountains.
I was telling my missionaries to be careful as I spied Dennis climbing up the cliffs after tell me about his bad ankle. Boys will always be boys.
Elder Armstrong was kidding as he put his mouth out for a kiss, and the Guanaco came through the fence and got him. Hopefully his girlfriend will not be too jealous.
These little animals are Mara. They are related to the guinea pig family. They grow to be about 18" and weight 24 lbs. They walk normally, or hop like a bunny, and can leap. The can run 18 miles per hour.
We are not sure what this railroad contraption was, but the Elder Squires and Armstrong decided it was perfect for sled race.
The old Villavicencio Hotel known for it's thermal water springs.
Sitting in a beautiful arch, you can see the old hotel in the light in the background.
The gardens are quite beautiful at the hotel. This is just one of the stone areas in the garden where water fountains must have been flowing. There were probably 4 more of these areas displaying fountains of some type.
We heard there was a road from Villaviencio over the mountain on a switch back road that took about one hour to take. We all thought that sounded fun. Only problem is the road got pretty rough and it took us 5 hours to get back home. But what a trip it was riding into the mountains and seeing all the wild life and thrilling sights. We were in Uspallata at the top of the mountain and decided since we were almost there- to visit Aconcagua and the Inca Hotel. A tour of Villavicencio turned into a full day excursion.
As we were getting to the top of the mountain we spied herds of Guanacos. These animals are only found in So. America. They are from the Llama family and grow to be 4 feet tall and live 25 years. They have an unusual method of survival, they lick the nutrients and dew from desert cacti (ouch!). They will spit when threatened. They live up in the high altitudes up to 13,000 feet. They can do this because they have four times the red blood cells then a human.
We saw large herds of Guanacos. They say that a herd of male Guanacos can be around 50 head. So we must have seen four or five groups as we moved up the mountain.
The land is rich in petroleum products. The evidence is seen in it's rock formations.
My son Barrie would be envious- even on a cloudy day we were lucky to get a picture of the peaks of Aconcagua the tallest peak in the western hemisphere. The shelf of snow on the left side of the cliff is said to be 700-900 feet thick year round.
We stopped in Uspallata to take a picture of the little chapel we have in the town.
The end of the road trip that day couldn't have been more spectacular as the sunset filled the night sky. The picture is taken traveling in the car, but atleast the moment was caught. It took us the whole day to get back home, but it was worth the trip to see some more of God's most beautiful creations.

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