A Travellerspoint blog

Buenos Aires - Day 16

La Boca and Puerto Madera

32 °C

Today we visited a two neighbourhoods, La Boca and Puerto Madera. This meant taking a bus to La Boca from a couple of blocks from our hostel. The bus driver was trying to tell us something when we handed him a note, but we couldn't understand quickly enough and we had to get off the bus. The phrase book came in handy here, as we searched for words that sounded similar to what he was saying. What we didn't know was that in Buenos Aires you need coins for the bus - 3.70 pesos each - for the bus, but in a country that has 2 pesos notes, 7.40 in coins is not the easiest thing to come by! We had to go and buy tictacs for change, so in the end it was win win!

La Boca is a colourful area of the city, with bright buildings and art on every corner. The main street was full of restaurants and bars, with entertainment - Tango dancers, an elderly Argentinian crooner and some men doing some sort of Latin-style tap dancing in what looked like cowboy boots - I could have sat and watched all day.

There was more dancing when a local band took to the streets

Andrew was more excited to see the Boca Juniors stadium. A few streets from the main area was an enormous blue and yellow stadium, La Bombonera, the home of Boca Juniors who are apparently a really famous football club!?

We also saw Messi hanging around in one the shops

We took another bus and walked to Puerto Madero. This is a really modern part of the city, on the riverbank with apartments, offices, shops and cafes. You can tell from the cafes alone that it must be an affluent area, and I can imagine an apartment with a balcony on the riverbank would be a lovely place to live here. As a side note here, we've come to love Starbucks already. Not for their coffee or sweet treats, but that their staff always let you use the toilet even when you're not a customer :)

As well as the modern buildings, there is a pretty white footbridge bridge ("better than the millennium bridge in Lancaster", Andrew Waugh 2013) that turns to let boats passed, called Puente de la Mujer, "Woman's bridge". It is supposed to look like a couple doing the Tango?

Over the bridge was a old training ship, Presidente Sarmiento, which is now a museum ship. It was built in the late 1800s in Birkenhead and has travelled the globe six times.

After a long walk back we headed back to the hostel for dinner and Argetinian red wine. We had a night time walk around the plaza and saw the Argentine National Congress building, amongst others. So many people we're out running and walking their dogs - I don't blame them when it's 32 plus degrees in the day, but it's still late 20s/30 late at night!

Posted by staceywaugh 12:27 Archived in Argentina Tagged bridges art buildings boats colour tango dancing Comments (2)

Buenos Aires - Day 15

Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo and Avenida 9 de Julio

29 °C

After the travelling and activities of the last couple of weeks we needed a lie in, and we managed one until 8.30am in our comfy new room. Breakfast was a little chaotic, with not enough seats to go round in the breakfast room, but the coffee was strong and there was croissants and spreads, so not too bad in the end.

We had a lazy morning and then decided to stay local today, walking from our hostel down to Plaza de Mayo. The buildings around the city really are beautiful and at the bottom of the Plaza was Casa Rosado. This was where Eva Peron, the first lady of Argentina, stood in the balcony to address the masses and where Madonna stood later when she played Evita.

More buildings off the plaza

Continuing our walk, we visited the neighbourhood of San Telmo, which has lots of shops and antique markets to look around. In Plaza Dorrego, the square was full of restaurants and bars with tables and chairs outside, and we watched a couple doing the Tango.

Away from the square we had lunch a little cafe. I ordered a chicken salad sandwich, which came out with a whole chicken thigh and leg in it - bone in leg and all?! - plus cheese and ham. Everything in South America so far seems to come with cheese and ham. Really tasty though.

Our walk then took us to a busy shopping area called San Nicolas, where we were constantly being shouted at "Cambio, Cambio". Exchanging Argentine Peso is not allowed, so these are people who illegally exchange money (cambio)...needless to say we didn't do this.

Heading back to the hostel, down Avenida 9 de Julio - the widest avenue in the world apparently, and so busy as I said on the last blog (see picture)- we passed the beautiful Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires' main Opera house, but unfortunately there was nothing on until March.

There is also the Obelisk, which was built to commemorate the city, and just by it an enormous image of a couple doing the Tango on one of the buildings. I've since read this space is used for different works of art, and this was linked to the Tango World Cup and Festival being held in the city.

And beyond that, artwork of Eva Peron on the side of one of the buildings...

Back at the hostel we did some research for our trip, in particular to see Machu Picchu, looking at the climb up Huayna Picchu, which is the mountain you see at the back of the ruins in all the picture postcard shots. After reading a few blogs and watching some YouTube clips, I've decided against it, being scared of heights it's not for me, but Andrew is definitely going to do it!

Posted by staceywaugh 07:22 Archived in Argentina Tagged art buildings tango Comments (2)

Puerto Iguacu to Buenos Aires - Day 14

£3 Pepsi and fishing rods

32 °C

We arrived at the airport in Puerto Iguacu 4 1/2hrs early for a domestic flight, because we thought it was better than waiting at Pop Hostel. The airport was tiny, with no wifi, so we headed to the cafe to write the blog and read. We paid almost £6 for two 500ml bottles of diet Pepsi, so we sat there sipping it like it was champagne ;) We nursed those drinks for a couple of hours, then had a sandwich before we were called to gate. The flight was only two hours, so by the time we'd eaten the snack they gave us and had a drink it was time to land.

In Buenos Aires, we took a taxi to the hostel and once we'd got away from the airport, the city was beautiful. Big, ornate buildings, tree lined avenues, it reminded me of a mixture of New York and Paris. As we got closer to the centre the traffic was mental. At a standstill for a long time, street sellers passed the window with the usual ice creams and water, but also pocket tissues and fishing rods?! We arrived at our new hostel - home for 5 nights, which is our longest stay in one place yet - BA Stop Hostel, located just off Avenue 9 de Julio. The reception area was nicely decorated with big awnings outside the rooms coming off it, a good kitchen, big communal area with a ping pong table and best of all, our room and bathroom were clean, a good size and we had a lovely view of one of the old buildings from our window. We were glad we chose to stay here...

Posted by staceywaugh 04:43 Archived in Argentina Tagged buildings airports Comments (0)

Puerto Iguacu - Day 13

Iguassu Falls from Argentina

33 °C

The Argentinian side of Iguassu Falls, we've been told, is the best side to see the falls from so after yesterday's amazing trip to the Brazilian side we were so excited about today.

We were up at 6.30am to catch the first bus to the Falls, as we'd been advised it got really busy as the day went on. Andrew was on a mission to be one of the first at the Devil's Throat - the main, large section of the falls that we saw yesterday from a distance - so after an uneventful bus trip and park ticket purchase, we power walked to the first train of the day that took us to the start of that trail. Unlike yesterday, the park felt like more of a safari or ecological park than a zoo and there were four trails to take rather than one. Oh and no open top buses, a 15kph train instead.

Jumping off the train to start the 2/3 mile walk to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's throat in Spanish), I practically had to run to keep up with Andrew's massive strides, passing swiftly any of the few couples that had managed to get off the train in front of us. He was ruthless! I wasn't even allowed to stop for photos along the way as "you can take them on the way back!".

It was so worth it though. We were two of the first five people up there that morning, and the waterfalls were incredible, just breathtaking. The power and sound was immense. I couldn't believe how close we were to the largest part of the falls and from here you could barely see the platform we stood on yesterday through the mist they created. As they fell, the falls looked like they were bursting like fireworks, it was memorising. We really didn't want to move on from them.

Soon there were tens of people on the platform at the Devils Throat, with more constantly piling in, and picture taking became difficult. The peacefulness of before left and made me even more glad we got there early. One guy must have got a taxi up to the falls and then walked from the entrance as he was up there on his own for half an hour before we arrived, which must have been incredible. I think Andrew was a bit jealous!

Walking away from the falls more and more people kept going towards it. Mostly it was grey hair, after beige safari waistcoat, after wide brimmed hat and for a moment I thought we were on the set of Cocoon! I joke, of course!! It was fantastic to see that at 70 year old plus, these people were travelling the world to see new sights. It reminds you that you don't need to rush to see and do everything in life, health allowing, there's time for it all.

The next 1/3 mile trail took us above and around the other waterfalls in the park, with viewpoints hanging over the top of the waterfalls and looking out to the larger falls.

The third mile long trail took us below the same waterfalls, some feeling so close you could touch them!

This also led us to the spot where we took a boat (for an extra cost) under the falls. I was wearing my bikini under my shorts and vest top, as we'd been told we'd get wet in the boat and that we could swim in the falls from this side, so I changed into some 3/4 leggings, so not to get my denim shorts wet for the rest of day, changed my converse for havaianas, but left my vest on - mistake! We put on a life vest, got into a rib full of other tourists and after sailing into the middle of the water, the boat stopped for everyone to take photos and then told us to put our cameras away.

We sailed down the falls towards the Devils Throat (first picture above, after the dazzling shot of me and Andrew in life vests!), stopping at a relatively small waterfall (2nd picture!), and the boat got as close as they could to it, wetting us through! After a couple of these we then sailed back the opposite way, towards a very large, powerful waterfall (3rd picture) but stopped before it - for the boats crew to put on full jacket and trouser waterproofs on! The boat then powered towards the waterfall and turned into it (see 4th picture, which is of course of someone else doing it!), the force was incredible and we could barely open our eyes - if you go, definitely sit on the left side like we did, you get the most wet! It was so much fun and definitely worth the £20, even if just to say you've been under a massive waterfall! I came off more soaked than id ever been, the Australian couple we met on the boat had kept their trainers and socks on and she was literally wringing her socks out afterwards.

From there we then took the 'ferry' over to the island in the middle of the lake. It had a tiny sandy beach and we walked up to the top of the island via steep steps to look out at the waterfall we'd just been under (first shot) and back over at where we'd been stood on the Brazil side yesterday.

Up there we saw a massive lizard, dragonflies the size of the palm of your hand, white and yellow butterflies (Andrew says to add I spent about 20 mins running up and down the little beach after a shot of butterflies!) , vultures. And across the park itself itself we saw lots more wildlife - more colourful birds, turtles, fish, spiders, geckos, and something like looked like a guinea pig or gerbil?! Here are some shots:

After some much needed lunch - a couple of empanadas and a spicy chicken tarta, which is a bit like a pie without the lid - we then headed out onto the final trail. This was a 4 mile (round trip) woodland walk and at 32 degrees in the afternoon, it felt long! Along the way we saw the most enormous ants and a massive black and blue butterfly the size of my hand. Finally, after going down some steep wooden steps, we got to a waterfall that we could swim under. There were a few other people there, sat on the rocks, but Andrew got straight in and under the waterfall - he said he was like the old Timotei advert?! I got in eventually, after Andrew gave me a piggyback away from the fishes, and even though the waterfall was tiny in comparison to the ones we had seen earlier, the pressure on your hands and legs was immense!

By the time we got back to the entrance we'd spent 9 hours walking around the park, and back at the hostel we were tired, sweaty and hungry. Only problem was the shower wasn't working and the hostel receptionist didn't speak English. We used Google Translate to communicate to each other - so handy! - and now she understood us. Noone came to fix it, so we went back, used the translator and then we understood she would get the technician out...what had she been doing about it before?! This went on and more than an hour later, still no technician so we gave up, went down the road for a pizza and by the time we got back it was fixed :) Thanks Google!

Posted by staceywaugh 14:26 Archived in Argentina Tagged waterfalls animals Comments (2)

Foz do Iguacu - Day 12

The amazing Iguassu Falls and awesome Argentinian steak

33 °C

It seems like the nice hostels have rubbish breakfasts (apart from Casa Curitba) and the bad hostels have good breakfasts. Anyway, after sleeping on top of towels on the bed without decent air conditioning, it was a good start the morning. After packing our bags, and the nice staff at the hostels keeping them in a room for us, we headed out to see the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls. We were really excited about this part of the trip, and it did not disappoint one bit.

We jumped on the bus in Foz and after a few stops the bus was rammed with people. Andrew made a joke about it being worse than the Victoria Line and we got talking to a group of two guys and two girls. One guy was from Crouch End (that's two connections to our old home in six days) and the girl, noting our Northern accents, said she was from up North, somewhere called Lancaster! Unbelievable what a small world it is.

The Brazil side of the national park feels a lot like the entrance to a UK zoo, with the style of the buildings and the open top buses, giving it a 'day out' touristy vibe that I wasn't expecting. I wasn't complaining though, as it makes it so much easier to get around. From the entrance we got straight on to the open top bus and made our way past the zoo and ecological parks to the start of the viewing trail.

The walkway quickly took us to the first viewing point and although small in comparison to what we were about to see, the waterfalls and landscape around them were still beautiful and were probably the biggest I'd ever seen in real life.

My Dad had told me that the park was home to some animals called Quati (on the Brazil side, they have a different name on the Argentinian side), and they often steal people's food. Practically as soon as we walked past the first viewpoint I saw a large one on a bin:

As well as the Quati there were lizards too:

As we continued the waterfalls got larger and more impressive, we took videos to capture the sound, strength and speed of them.

The closer we moved towards the falls, the noise became louder and you could see and feel the mist and spray of the falls. The first sight of the main falls was breathtaking, it felt like you were on a movie set. It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen - their beauty and power was overwhelming. As we stood on the platform out in the water, looking up at the falls, we were constantly being sprayed by the water and as a result some of the pictures and videos have watermarks but it adds to the impact! As we looked down, there was a a rainbow stretching out beneath us, it was just perfect.

This was the end of the walkway but there was also a glass lift up to a viewing tower to take a look at the falls from a different angle. As we've covered, I don't like heights and the floor at the top of the tower was basically metal grates so I could see all the way down! Needless to say I was scared but it was once again worth it.

After the tower we went to get some lunch and on the way saw a family of Quati's with their babies and what I assume to be the mummy or daddy Quati jumped up and grabbed a packets of crisps out of a man's hand!

The flies and wasps joined us for lunch (annoying!) over looking the falls...
...then we headed back on the open top bus, where a very cute Brazilian 1 year old girl played peekaboo with Andrew! Another bus journey back and we were at our hostel to grab our bags and go to Argentina - we were so excited about seeing the falls from that side tomorrow as everyone had said how much better it is. Today was only a couple of hours, where as tomorrow would be a full day at the falls.

We lugged our tired bodies, and our backpacks, in the afternoon sun up the road to the bus station and waited for the bus to Argentina. It seemed strange getting on a bus to a whole new country, especially when it only cost £1.30 a ticket! At the border, the bus left us. We quickly got stamped out of Brazil and then realised we need to get on another bus, get stamped into Argentina and then potentially get back on a bus to take us to Puerto Iguazu, the town for the Argetinian side of the falls. We waited for the bus in 'no mans land', as we liked to call it, in 33 degree heat under a tin can shelter. We ran out of water and went a little crazy wondering whether our mums or the British government would come pick us up and take us to Argentina because we were boiling?! Luckily the next bus waited for us to get stamped into Argentina, meaning that we had 'only' been on 6 rather than the expected 7 buses that day!

Our next hostel, Pop Hostel, was a short walk from the station (once we knew which way we were going). We had a large room, big enough for our double bed, a set of bunk beds and so much more space for activities (you're welcome Stepbrothers fans)! It was cleaner than the last place, had a shower that didn't look like a death trap, Internet that worked and it was quiet. All in all an improvement.

We hadn't been out for tea for 5 nights and Andrew had heard good things about a restaurant called Color, and they were right. We sat outside, in between a moaning Australian couple in their 60s (they didn't have her usual Cinzano and she liked capers, but not this many!) and a nice policeman from Bangor, Wales who now lives 6 hours inland from Perth, Australia. There was a band of three Argentinian men with guitars, singing what sounded like traditional songs mixed in with the Girl from Ipanema and the Greek plate smashing song!

We weren't sure what to order but when the Welshman's plate came out we wanted exactly what he was having. The tenderloin steak was enormous, crusted pesto and served with saffron potatoes, sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers, in a Malbec sauce. It was gorgeous! Washed down with mineral water and a couple of bottles of Quilmes, and it only came to about £34 with tip and they gave us bread and chicken pâté to start on the house.

The end of a perfect day!

p.s I saw two hotels in the Iguacu National Park today, made a note to Google how much they cost to stay at?!

Posted by staceywaugh 12:02 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls animals buses steak Comments (3)

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