Saturday, 31 May 2014

Iguazú, Argentina: The Waterfall & 3 Frontieras

After another long bus ride, this one just shy of 20 hours, I was in the town of Puerto Iguazú and my 5th Province of Argentina. Argentinean buses are probably the best in the world. For the first time in a while I had a hostel pre-booked for a couple of nights.

Iguazú Falls is one of the most impressive sets of falls in the world. The falls are predominantly in Argentina with the most impressive part, Garganta Del Diablo (The Devil's Throat), splitting Brazil and Argentina. The largest drop in the falls is 82m. The falls stretch 2.7km, however, there are up to 300 mini islands separating this giving a water length of about 1.8km.

After checking into my hostel I was straight off to the falls. There were a series of circuits with many separate falls and loads of wildlife, mainly coaties. I decided to walk the lower circuit first.


It was now time to take on the upper circuit in my freshly wet clothes.

The upper circuit was equally impressive. It was now time to take a train to the most impressive part of the falls, The Devil's Throat. We were joined by coaties on the train, they managed to steal a little girls candy bar and run up a tree.

One of the many streams that head over the falls

The Devil's Throat
The photos and going near the rail had to be timed as the mist was shooting up to 150m from the water below.

The Brazilian side has the better viewing point of The Devil's Throat but I decided that it is not worth a visa.

The water was actually flowing a lot more than usual on this day due to rain in Brazil and the falls closed a few days later due to dangerous water levels and submerged platforms. The falls were incredibly impressive but the amount of mist on this day was not so great for photos.

It was now time to return to the hostel where I ran into Matias, an Argentinean I met at a steak dinner I organised in Uruguay. My 2nd chance repeat encounter on my South American leg but the beginning of a flow of repeat encounters.

The next day I explored the town of Puerto Iguazú and the river downstream from the falls marking the meeting point of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. I have now seen Brazil and Paraguay, although I never touched foot in either country.

They must have run out of Paraguayan and Brazilian Flags.

From Argentina, Brazil on the right across the river and Paraguay on the left (the far side of the T).

The next morning I was on another huge bus trip to meet a friend I met in Spain.

Next stop Rosario!

Lessons Learnt:
The greatest sights, as impressive as they are, aren't the greatest experiences.
 Photos can't show a full experience, especially when the sound of crashing water is unbelievable.
I need to try to remember people's names because you never know if you will see them again.
I definitely don't travel to tick countries off a list.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Part 2: Bondiola, Beer Pong & Bicycle Tour

I arrived to Buenos Aires via a ride on the giant catamaran once again, this time with all of my luggage arriving. I walked straight back to my hostel for a third visit. It's social but not a party hostel and has the best breakfast I've ever had at any hostel in the world. I asked for a dorm by myself and my wish was granted. As with most hostels I just book one night at a time to stay flexible.

The first couple of days just involved a bit more exploring and arranging a meet up with a guy from the internet to exchange some of my US Dollars for Pesos in a McDonalds' toilet. I received 50% more than the official rate... Dodgy Argentina.

On my third night I ended up at a beer pong tournament in a bar (I can't imagine that in Australia). We lost in the 2nd round by 1 cup... I nailed 9 out of our 11 cups so I'm blaming my partner for the loss. Beers here were 2 pints for less than 4 bucks with my new exchange rate.

I ended meeting Victor and a Chilean girl, Estefania. Victor has about 100 nationalities. I think he was born in Chile but has lived in NZ, Scotland and USA. All 3 of those accents come out when he speaks english. All 3 of us went back to Victor's place for more drinks before crashing out. Victor had to get up ridiculously early for work. Estefania and I didn't make it up until noon.
In a city of 13 Million people somehow Victor and I ended up standing next to each other at a set of traffic lights on my way back to the hostel... Crazy odds. I finally made it back after 2pm with 11am checkout. The girl at the front desk was worried about me. I booked another night and she shared her lunch with me... I was supposed to fill in for soccer that evening in a team with one of the other staff, I'm glad it was cancelled.

A couple of nights later I went over to a girl's place out in the suburbs for drinks. I decided to return to the hostel around 3am. On the bus I really needed to pee so I disembarked. After watering a tree I walked up to a black guy (from Liberia) and asked where I was. He said "It's not safe for you to be here, get in the next taxi or they will take your clothes and your shoes" He was dead serious... I was drunk and couldn't stop laughing. I went to pull out my phone to show where I needed to but he said "Don't!  It will be gone in 5 seconds then they will take your clothes and your shoes".

He walked me one block to the main street. I could see the McDonalds from the toilet exchange so I knew it was only a 40 min walk. I put both my hoodies on (as I always do in dodgy places) so I look like the bad guy and not the gringo.... I made it home with my clothes and my shoes.

The next day I went over to a guy's house from CS for a bike tour. We spent 6 hours riding around the city of BA. This city is so beautiful and ridiculously big. All the streets in BA are one way but the bike lanes are 2 ways so you need to be careful when crossing an intersection from the wrong direction as the cars won't be looking that way... I had one incredibly close call. Literally centimetres from death with the car and I both a high speed through an intersection.

The Law School

An Old Abandoned Prison

The next day I went back to my 2 favourite places from the tour. A massive row of BBQ stands that sell the best and the cheapest Bondiola Completos in Argentina and possibly the world. Argentinean asados are BBQs that use coals instead of fire so everything is slow cooked over hours. The 2nd place was Palermo Lakes, one of the biggest city parks I've been to and certainly the most populated. Here you will find live bands, runners, people using anything with wheels, free aerobic dance classes, acrobats in the trees and many picnics. The day ended with a visit to a party hostel and a night of clubbing.

Just over half of my Bondiola Completo - About $3.50

One of about 50 of these that line the strip
The next day was 25 May. 214 years since the beginning  of the revolution to claim indepence from Spain... I will talk about the revolution/independence more in a later post. It was a chaotic celebration with streets closed everywhere and buses parked everywhere. I avoided the celebrations as there were smashed bottles lining the streets.

It was now time to say adios to Buenos Aires one again.

Next stop one of the most famous waterfalls in the world Iguazú.

Lessons Learnt:
People actually will take your clothes and your shoes.
I need to practice my beer pong skills.
Making someone worry about you is rewarded with a free lunch.
Riding a bicycle in BA is more dangerous than Paris & London.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Montevideo, Uruguay: 3 days turned to 10

I left Buenos Aires on a massive ferry (possible the biggest catamaran that I have ever seen). I soon arrived in the city on Colonia, Uruguay. My sleeping bag was missing from the baggage train. After talking to the baggage staff it was established that my sleeping bag loved Buenos Aires and decided to stay longer. They assured me they would send it the Montevideo the following day. So I jumped on a bus to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.

Uruguay is a country I new very little about except for Australia beating them to qualify for the 2006 world cup, it is expensive and I can take USD from the ATMs (very important for going back to Argentina). The population is 3 million with 2 million in Montevideo.

When the bus arrived in Montevideo 2 guys holding shotguns outside of a bank caught my eye. The guards always work in teams of 4 in Uruguay, 2 with shotguns that stand guard and 2 that get the cash with handguns holstered... Uruguay is actually a very safe country.

And they love statues of dudes on horses.

I walked to my hostel that was recommended to me by a girl from CS, Mar (Sea in Spanish). After checking in having dinner and mingling Mar came to the hostel with her friends to drink out the back. She introduced to a drink Grapper Miel (Miel is honey in Spanish), it is drunk straight and a must try in Uruguay.

Soon we were walking down the street passing around 1 litre bottles of beer before 4 of us squeezed into the back seat of a car that I assume were 2 of Mar's friends in the front. It was a squishy ride and my lap was a seat for a girl I just met.

We soon arrived at a bar. In Uruguay people buy the drinks in the bar but the party is outside on the street and sidewalk. I was soon handed a drink of Fernet (an Argentinean/Italian spirit) by some randoms in another group I got talking to. It's a spirit everyone told me to try in Argentina but it never happened. It was immediately apparent that Uruguyans are incredibly friendly and talkative. I ended up mixing with many people before leaving with Mar and her friends to another bar and then back to the hostel for bed incredibly drunk... This was my introduction to Uruguay.

The next few days involved more parties, meeting many new people, reuniting with my sleeping bag and playing soccer. On the Sunday I also went to the biggest street(s) market I have seen in my life, it literally sold anything you could think of, covering around 10 or so blocks. I also spent one day taking photos.

Somehow I end up spending 2 night in the 2nd top floor of the tower.



After 5 days in the hostel I was off to meet my CS host, Hailey, an American girl. She lived in the 21st (3rd top) floor of the building I was snapping photos of the day before. She is an awesome girl that has done a lot of travelling and living in other countries.

The first night involved dinner at Hailey's place with her friends and her boyfriend. We ended up pretty drunk and somehow I ended up with a brand new toothbrush. The next day involved exploring and taking more photos, before inviting a Canadian guy I met through Mar, Brendan, to come play soccer with my hostel friends and I. The night was capped of with an asado (BBQ) and drinks at one of Hailey's friend's places.

The famous port or Star Wars?

From the window of Hailey's place

The next day I was off to Brendan's place for a few days. Brendan had actually lived in Brisbane for a year, small world. He hooked me up with a free ticket to the South American version of UEFA. We had a Canadian taxi driver on the way to the match and an Australian on the way home... we couldn't believe it. The Uruguyan team also beat the Colombian team.

Brendan lived in the beach neighbourhood so the next day I went off exploring the beaches. I saw a group of people slacklining on the beach so I thought I'd better go say hola. One of the girls, Fio, spoke good English so I spent the next couple of hours slacklining and talking to them.

A Capital City on the Beach!

Fio and su amiga

That night Brendan and I started drinking roadies before making our way to Hailey's place (apparently everybody knows everybody in Montevideo). After more drinks we were off to go to watch Mar sing with her band in a bar, all the people from the hostel I stayed at happened to be there as well. Mar has an incredible voice and sings soul music... another big night.

The couple of days just involved chilling out, drinking many mates (kind of like tea) and failing in getting the stoners I  the hostel to play more soccer. I also met a few more people.

After 4 nights at Brendan's and 11 nights in Montevideo it was time to head back to Argentina.

Next stop Buenos Aires!

Lessons Learnt:
Uruguayos are incredible friendly.
You can see Montevideo in a day but the people will make you stay longer.
Couchsurfing is awesome.
Mate is everywhere in Uruguay,  everyone has a furness under their arm.
Restaurants are expensive but street food is cheap and good.

If anyone wants some funny Spanish reading then Mar writes a blog (Anti-Novia = Anti-Girlfriend)