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Uyuni - Day 42

Tour Day 2

20 °C

It was a 7am start for an awesome day ahead. After a quick breakfast we set off to the first stop, which was some quinoa fields. Along the way we saw the snow capped mountains ahead and lots of Llamas. The quinoa plants are in beautiful colours and made for some lovely pictures. Unfortunately the old lady who owns the crop wasn't too please that we were taking pictures for free, so we all ran straight back into the car!
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We then drove to an area called Valle de Rocas, the result of a volcanic eruption. It was vast. You could climb around them and Andrew decided to go up to the other side on top of the large rocks. He got up there ok but ended up with a few grazes up his arms :(
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While he was climbing, I was chasing one of the only animals that live there, to try and get a picture. I got one! It's like a rabbit but with a long tail:
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A bit like cloud spotting, see if you can see the faces or creatures in the rocks:
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Moving on, on the journey we saw a volcano, which I think is called Ollague, with steam coming out of it!
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The day was really about all the different landscapes here in Bolivia, and the colours in the rocks, mountains, hills, fields and waters around here are unbelievable.

The next stop was a lagoon, that smelt of sulphur but had flamingos swimming on the surface. We must have been getting higher up as it was getting windy outside.
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A drive then took us through sandy desert like roads and the sand clouds blew so hard that you often couldn't see the car in front and the trail behind was like something out of a movie.
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We then had lunch by another lagoon, with ruins next to it that apparently used to be used for making cocaine. I guess in the middle of nowhere like this, you were unlikely to get caught?! Lunch was schnitzel, but the driver told me it was flamingo wing! After yesterday's Llama I almost believed him!! The thing about being in the middle of nowhere is that there are no toilets so the group are now accustomed to using Bolivia as our toilet. Here most of us went behind another set of ruining that must have been a building of some kind, but Barry decided to go inside this chimney ruin, which was possibly something important?! Anyway, looking out over the lagoon the reflections of the mountains in water were really beautiful and there were lots more flamingos too.
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Higher up still, we stopped at another lagoon with lots of piles of rocks in front of it. Everyone got out the car, the strength of wind hit us and Caroline's hat went flying in the air and was spinning through the desert. She started a run for it, but it was going further away. We thought she was going to stop but she didn't and Gonzalez went with her. It seemed like an impossible task to get it back but they carried and soon they were over the sand dune and out of sight.
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In the meantime we carried on and looked at the lagoon. The idea behind the piles of rocks is that it was an offering to Pachamama - Mother Earth - to say thank you. Now, people generally build them to get a cool picture, and that's what Andrew and George did. The built the biggest one then, and in the wind it was quite a feat.
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We'd all finished building and taking pictures, but still no sight on Caroline and Gonzalez. Eventually, two tiny stick figures came over the horizon, walking in completely the wrong direction it seemed, and it was them. This is a super zoomed in picture of them! The poor things had been walking in the heat and wind for about 45 minutes and didn't even get the hat!

Back in the cars, we drove to another lagoon with flamingos and the colours of the water, mountains and flamingos were almost surreal. We walked around the edge to get some good pictures of the flamingos and I managed to get one in flight.
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The next destination was to get a picture of a famous rock, the Arbol de Piedra. The rock looks like a tree in shape as the gusts of wind have shaped it that way.
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There are some other rocks there too and Andrew climbed to the top again, giving us some fantastic catalogue poses?!
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The final stop of day was at the red lagoon, which is this colour because of the algae and the sun. Apparently you have to get there by a certain time of day to see it this colour. It was much more red that it shows on the camera, but it still looks pretty cool.
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We headed to our hostel for the night, in the middle of nowhere, at about 5pm. Unfortunately, we didn't have a reservation and they were booked up! Luckily there was another next door (as there was really nothing else around for miles!) so it all worked out fine, but even the driver looked worried for a while. The hostels here had hot showers until 8pm but you had to pay, which was fine, and they only have electric from 6-8pm at night, so we had to get our beds ready before the lights went out. We all sat around having a drink and waiting for dinner. Roger got his guitar out and, in our most 'traveller-type' moment yet, everyone in the group started singing along to Oasis and Beatles songs.

We were told we were having lasagne and everyone was looking forward to it. Turns out it was vegetable lasagne, which sounded good too. What came was onion and tomato, but predominately onion lasagne. It was disgusting, which was a shame after the nice meals we'd had on the tour so far, and most people couldn't even finish one tiny piece.

After 'dinner' we were given hot water bottles - we already had sleeping bags and duvets so I wondered how cold it was really going to be?! - and then the lights went off. We all decided to get our coats and hats on and go outside, so we took benches, drinks and Roger's guitar and just hung out until it got too cold Roger and Ken couldn't strum the guitar anymore.
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This is when we first saw the stars properly in South America. It was absolutely breathtaking! The sky was lit up so bright with thousands of stars, you could see the Milky Way sweeping across it, it was incredible. George took out his camera and tripod to get a shot, but even with his amazing camera, it didn't show half of what was actually there in the sky (again, we're going to try and get a picture of this for you). This made us really excited about our Stargazing evening in Chile in a couple of days, where we get to see the stars through massive telescopes too.

It was about 11pm when we were all frozen and tired enough to come inside. We got our thermals and socks on and got into bed. I'd put everyone's hot water bottles in their beds for them and Andrew's had leaked - oops! but I was glad it wasn't someone elses - so his sleeping bag was a little wet!

Then to sleep, ahead of our 4.30am start tomorrow!!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:13 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes mountains animals birds desert volcanoes llamas flamingoes lagoons Comments (4)

Sucre - Day 38

Markets, Monasteries and the dancing man!

21 °C

Breakfast at Casa Verde was great, with fruit, yoghurt, juice, omelette and bacon, and we had good company too. We got talking to a lovely Australian couple called Nick and Caitlyn about our trips and gave each other advice. We also chatted to a couple from New Zealand who had been away from home for almost 2 years and had a nightmare getting into the B&B at 3.30am this morning. Their bus had got in 4 hours early, which in itself is remarkable given they don't set off on time here and the journeys are usually 25% longer than they tell you, so having nowhere else to go they came to the B&B expecting a night reception or similar. They knocked on the door but no one came, and this continued while they sat in the cold and dark hugging their belongings. They heard an American couple in the breakfast room a few hours later say "I think that's someone knocking on the door"/ "Well I'm not answering it". They were outside until around 7am when the man who ran the B&B let them in. They told him they'd been outside since 3.30am and he said "I know, the guests have been complaining about this noise". This led to a big argument, the guy saying they shouldn't have been knocking and he didnt have a room for them as they weren't supposed to be here til 7.30am, they said they didn't care about the room they just wanted to be off the street! Not a good start to their time in Sucre.

We booked our 3 day salt flats tour with Red Planet this morning, which were really looking forward to. It covers the Salar de Uyuni but also lagoons, geysers, hot springs and lots of different landscapes, and it drops us off in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. We had a look at hostels to stay at in Uyuni and San Pedro and they are both so expensive.

Andrew had discovered he'd lost his lifeadventure towel (sorry Steve & Kate!), he thinks it must have been when we did Death Road - Andrew survived it but the poor towel didn't - so we went on the hunt for a new towel. Tourist information told us to get the bus to this little village as it sold camping items, and after the short trip there we realised we weren't getting a travel towel! It was a long row of market stalls with a few that happened to sell a sleeping bag or a tent. We should have known. We decided to just get a normal towel, but Andrew being Andrew, he had to go to every towel stall and find out the price in order to make a decision. At one stall, we walked in and the man quickly glanced up then put his head down to read. We said 'ola' - a few times - 'disculpe' but nothing, he just kept his head down pretending to read, ignoring us. That's the first time someone has been rude to us on this trip, so not bad going after more than 5 weeks, but it wasn't very nice! And after all this, Andrew decides we'll look at the market in town for a towel, because the cheapest he found was the first one he looked at and it was down the other end of the village.

Back in Sucre proper, we hit the market and it is enormous. A big white building with two or three different levels housing meat, vegetables, fruit, dried food, toiletries, cleaning products, cafes and more potatoes than I've ever seen in my life! We (but Andrew particularly) love markets, you get to see all the different kinds of food a place has, what the people who live here really eat, see how they shop, eat and work. They're always a hive of activity within a town. This market has fruit juice stalls just like La Paz so we got a massive cup for about 80p.
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Andrew did have some trouble getting around it though!!!
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Today we walked the right way and found the viewpoint! It's up a steep hill (everything is up a steep hill at the moment!), which once again took our breath away, even though the altitude is a bit lower here. At the top there's a cobbled square and a monastery, and through the arches in front there is the impressive view over the pretty white buildings in the town and the mountains in the background.
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Under the arches is a cafe and we met up with Nick and Caitlyn from the B&B there for lunch and to chat more about our trips. It was a really hot afternoon and with the views it was a lovely place to spend it.
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On the way home we had some delicious biscuits from a woman with a cart on the street

Tonight we went to La Florin, a pub and restaurant we'd been recommended, and we ordered a Mexican sharer with burritos, nachos, quesadillas, dips, jalapenos, garlic bread and salad - delicious! George and Lucy came to meet us for a drink, they'd booked the Red Planet tour today too, and they told us they were thinking of going horse riding tomorrow. A few drinks later, we were going horse riding with them!

After beers, happy hour (9.30-10.30pm here) started and we ordered Mojitos and Caipirinhas, but you can't share the buy one get one free, so 8 drinks came for the four of us. Music started coming from the courtyard of the pub, which seems like a quiet little place when you arrive, so we headed out and it had turned into club with a DJ, light system, massive speakers either side of a stage, and everyone was drinking and dancing. The music was a mash up of just about every style I can think of and the place was filled with mainly students from the University and other travellers, who were dancing on the stage and standing on top of the tall speakers. However, there was one old boy, maybe in his late 70s, and everyone was trying to dance with him - maybe he was a local celebrity?! At one point, he did a forward roll to get on to the stage to dance! (That's not me dancing with him!!)
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As you can tell by the last sentence - it was a great night! And this is where we did our first Harlem Shake! Under the stars in Bolivia :)

Posted by staceywaugh 05:36 Archived in Bolivia Tagged animals markets views funny dancing monastery Comments (2)

Isla del Sol, Copacabana - Day 32

A real floating island, a faux one and an amazing sunset...

23 °C

Today we took a boat ride to Isla del Sol, which is in Lake Titicaca. We bought the tickets yesterday, which includes drop off and pick up on the island and a trip to the floating islands in Lake Titicaca before heading back to Copacabana. We'd never heard of the floating islands here, but we figured as we missed the islands in Uros it was worth a try.

At 8.30am we were on our way, on a packed, super slow boat. It takes 2 hours to get there, which is unbelievable given I can see the island. I started to feel sick towards the end.
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Isla del Sol is stunning. Over the street where the boat docks was a small beach with people camping for £1 a night. I'm not suggesting they were all like this, but we saw a group of proper travellers in hippy clothes (for want of a better description), juggling and playing the accordion!
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The next part of the island was lush and green, with a neat path and lovely views across the water. There were crops in the gardens as well as pigs and donkeys. It was really peaceful and pretty.
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Out in the lake then, I saw the strangest thing. It was another much smaller island that looks like its floating on the water. See what you think...
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This part of Isla del Sol was more barren, with stone paths and bare rock, which led us to the ruins. I think the pictures speak for themselves, but it was so tranquille and beautiful we could have stayed there for hours.
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Back at the pick up point we had some lunch. I was still full from dinner the night before, so just had a sandwich, but Andrew had what seems to be a common snack in Copacabana, chopped up hot dogs, chips, ketchup and mayo?! Apparently it was nice!

There were much fewer people on the boat on the way back, which was much better for the heat and sea sickness. I actually laid down and fell asleep for an hour, waking up just before we got to the 'floating islands'. This must have been a joke! It was like Copacabana's version of Lapland UK. The 'floating islands' were wooden rafts, made to float by plastic barrels, and part covered in reeds and straw. There were three or four rafts with a couple of huts, and a couple of reed creations, one a miniature traditional boat that they had the cheek to ask you to pay to take a picture of! They certainly weren't lived on, just there for us tourists, but they didn't fool anyone. We sat with an Australian couple, laughed about the 'floating islands' and then chatted about our travels. There were fish being farmed on there too, so Andrew paid for some fish food and fed them, which was about the best bit!
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Returning on the boat...
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Back on Copacabana, we decided to walk up the mountain for sunset. This was the hardest walk we'd done yet, I thought my lungs were going to burst!! It was a steep walk up but once again, worth it. The view was amazing and only almost spoiled by a drunk Bolivian man rambling at us and then taking my picture without asking.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:40 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes beaches animals Comments (0)

Machu Picchu - Day 26

The magnificent Machu Picchu

19 °C

We started early, around 5am, as the train to Machu Picchu left at 6.10am. The hostel organised a packed breakfast for us and we ordered a packed lunch too, so our bags were full to the brim with food for the long day ahead. The train journey was easy going, looking out onto the mist covered mountains, the powerful river and the life around. It was a bit shaky at times though and I did wonder how the train attendant was serving hot drinks without burning himself or other people at times.
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Just before 8am we arrived at Aguas Calientes and after a quick toilet stop, we didn't know where to go next. A woman in front of us didn't either and she had been to Machu Picchu 15 years earlier - it had changed that much. We got directions, passing over the same gushing river we saw on the train to get the bus stop, and another £25 later (the price of the return bus journey) we were on our way, winding up the side of a steep mountain. It was a little scary when buses coming down passed us! This is the view of the bus route once we were at the top:
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Then we were at Machu Picchu. What can I say? It is stunning, absolutely breathtaking. The location is beautiful and the fact that this city had been carved out and built on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere in the 15th century is mind blowing. And then to think that it was rediscovered as recently as 1911 and we're lucky enough to be able to travel here only 102 years later. It feels really special.
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After a short walk around the bottom of the inca city, Andrew had to get ready to climb Huayna Picchu - the mountain in the back of all the picture postcards of Machu Picchu. Here is what he says about it:
"The first part was really easy as it was downhill where you cross from Machu Picchu to Hauyna Picchu. Then it was pretty steep all the way to the top and there bits where you were very close to the edge. Some people, who were on the way down the mountain, were laughing at me because I was really heavy breathing! But I got up there in only 30 minutes, which is probably record time?! The way up wasn't as scary as I had expected, after reading all the blogs. To get to the very top I had to climb through a rock and up a little ladder, then you stand on some large boulders - a bit like Morecambe's stone jetty but a bit higher! I asked someone to take a picture of me right at the top and they didn't even get Machu Picchu in the background?! The view was really good." (Dictated by Andrew Waugh, Scribed by Stacey Waugh*)

And that's as much enthusiasm and embellishment as you will get from Andrew Waugh!! You can see from the photos that it was pretty incredible.
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While Andrew climbed I sat on a wall, taking in the view of the mountains, ruins and Llamas, and reading. At one point, a Llama decided it wanted to get involved, walked to the edge of the square, had a poo, walked to the top of the square and had another, then left us.
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Once he was back (Andrew, not the Llama), we walked around the rest of the ruins and had lunch sat in the shelter of one of the settlements.
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We then took the trail to the sun gate, which is the point that those who take the Inca trail (a four day trek to get to Machu Picchu, which is closed in February) first see the inca city in the distance. It's about an hour and a half round trip, uphill for the first half, but worth every laboured breath.
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And finally we took the short trip to the Inca bridge, which has some good views but the bridge really isn't worth seeing. Apparently it's where they used to kick the wooden plank away if they were being invaded.
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The best part of that was seeing some Japanese guys stand on the edge of the rock and pretend to lift up Simba on Pride Rock and sing! Andrew joined in:
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Just as we were walking to exit the park the rain came - we were so lucky with the weather. It was a long journey back to the hostel in Ollantaytambo, via a hot chocolate in Aguas Calientes and some sort of festival, and we were so tired when we finally arrived.

  • Andrew wanted the 'Dictated' bit in as he thought I wouldn't make him sound like him!

Posted by staceywaugh 16:43 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes mountains animals buses mist 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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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The third mile long trail took us below the same waterfalls, some feeling so close you could touch them!
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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.
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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.
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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:
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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!
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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)

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