South America: Argentina & Uruguay
November 2010, by Gini
After getting yet another stamp in the passport and crossing our first border, we waited for another bus to pick us up on the Argentinean side, as it would seem buses just don't wait for foreigners to have their passports stamped! It was easy enough and we arrived at the bus terminal on the Argentinean Puerto Iguazu side to see the closeup view of the amazing falls.
We did noticed there still seemed to be lots of white VWs driving around, reminding us again of our lost Smurf in the UK. One day we will buy another that we are sure of. Tom did find out that Brazil still makes the old split screen VWs, all we need to do is get it back to NZ hmmm. After hopping off the bus, it was a short walk to the hostel we had emailed a day earlier. With the heat we decided to see the falls the following morning and voted for a hot steak instead?!
Tom was dying for a tasty piece of red meat (and so was I!) everyone talks about the Argentinean meat and now we know for good reason! We definitely got our iron intake that lunchtime. After the food it was nap time - I never said traveling was an easy past time! So we relaxed the evening away with red wine and some good old fashion emailing by the pool.
Before we hopped on another bus to the falls, we booked an overnighter bus - lido style for the next day to Buenos Aries (18 hours) our longest yet. it would seem buses in South America are like individual travel agencies in one building all with bright colours, big promises and cheap rates, we soon realized gone are the days of easy jet cheap & fast travel - hello to the next 6 weeks of long travel but business class comfort!
We wandered through the many boardwalk bridges to the edges of the falls and even over them, got amazingly wet but could really feel the full power of the falls. Even managed to get a few rainbow connections and watched the crazy birds flying in and out of the cliffs the water ran over. With all the lovely greenery surrounding the huge amounts of water that spills over anything in its path it really does take your breath away. After speed walking the pathways back to the little train we headed back to the hostel for some cool air conditioning and a vino out of our plastic cups. Nothing but class here.
After an interesting jam and bread breakfast care of the hostel we boarded the bus early afternoon. It seemed a shame to be in a bus on a lovely day but then it would seem everyday was a lovely day and the bus trip would still take 18 hours no matter what time we left. We got in a habit of watching a few movies or TV shows on the laptop, read our books - I think even one of us discovered the beauty of the paper book as apposed to an electronic one when the power ran out and the solar charger just didn't want to work. The bus service did feed us on a regular basis and it had a toilet (my biggest concern) as we had heard some horror stories but Rio Uruguay was a good service.
Bumping around on the road I guess is a huge part of the South American experience looking back on it. We got to see a lot of the landscape and it saved on a few nights accommodation too. With hours upon hours to sit and think and of course sleep, we planned our next stage of the trip. By the time the bus pulled up to the terminal at 9am in the capital, Buenos Aries we had changed our minds and decided we wanted to board a ferry and pop over to Uruguay for a few days in Colonia before exploring the big city. After failing to understand the local buses we hailed a taxi to take us to the ferry terminal and bought the next available tickets to Uruguay on the lunchtime sailing. We enjoyed very expensive coffees for breakfast and free WiFi in the cafe while we waited. We checked our packs in and went through security like an airport, even got a stamp for exiting the country. Not exactly like the inter-islander.
We enjoyed the last of our red wine aboard and after 2 hours we arrived in a cute little colonial style town call Colonia Del Sacremento, which was originally a Portuguese settlement. It had large open streets, lined with plain trees which were a lovely green. The town had a lovely sea front cafe culture as it was a popular getaway for locals on the weekends. We enjoyed more steak (I was starting to worry we would get the meat sweats!) but walked it off by looking around the old colonial building scattered along the waterfront. We also enjoyed the hostel with its large courtyard, funky old wooden doors with windows and interesting tiled shared bathrooms. It really did feel like an early settlers accommodation, all we needed was a pair of tights for Tom, a musket and me in a lovely dress with an inch of mud around my petticoat.
Our short visit to Uruguay introduced us to the Alfajor, which we later found out is Argentinean. They seemed to be everywhere an American chocolate bar would be. They were amazing. A giant double flipped toffeepop one might even say all wrapped up for one. After enjoying a few nights in the sleepy town we took the ferry back to Argentina to see the big city of Buenos Aries. They city everyone we had bumped into who spoke English loved so much.
Being the cheapies we have been known to become when measures have to be taken, we walked about 5km well it felt like 5 but was more like 2km to the Milhouse Hostel across town and through the main shopping streets which gave us a taste of the a more western influenced South America. We found the hostel after consulting the guide and discovering we were standing right outside it, It had little to no branding which probably was more for security than anything. It was an old apartment mansion and was lovely with an inner courtyard, large shutter doors and the classic stand alone bath tubs. Not a bad price either! The catch came later when the bad taste in music dance party started downstairs for all the solo travelers looking to score danced the night away. Ear plugs were worth their weight in gold!
Over the next few days we managed to walk everywhere but always through Mayor square with the huge advertising. Even managed to spot the dog walkers, which was just crazy with all the different colours, shapes and sizes that trotted by with one very strong man supposedly in charge. Enjoyed a few smoothies and of course some fine steak and started noting the types of wines we were trying. Wandered past the pink Palace and walked all the way to the cemetery to see the famous Evita's grave and brief history lesson on her life. The cemetery itself was just amazing. The amount of money each plot put into its final resting places was just astounding and the price of the land itself, one only can say wow!
I managed to drag Tom off to a Tango show across town, which I just felt we had to see. The dancing was great but the general 'show' was so touristy and a bit disappointing. The next day we finished our city visit to the hip side of town by bus with the iconic coloured buildings, tango street performers left, right and centre and lots of market stalls for the tourists. We managed a super quick meal before being picked up by the minibus - destination the airport. With 6 countries in 6 weeks and us wanting to see all the highlights the wallet took a hit, a whopping 400 pound hit to fly to Lima in Peru which was a 5 hour flight. Air travel it would seem is still very expensive in SA. If we had had more time we would have bussed it. The flight was even more budget than easy jet so that is saying something. We had started to become accustom to the luxury bus seats and services a costly error!