A Travellerspoint blog

April 2009

Buenos Aires

semi-overcast 25 °C

Okay, so there were some bad things about the bus. The departure was delayed by a half hour, and we were stopped by no less than 3 sets of cops for ages who were checking everyone’s passports and the luggage hold, including using sniffer dogs. We saw a girl the night before lighting up a reefer before getting on the bus and were pretty sure she would have been pretty uncomfortable about then but she wasn’t dragged out. To compound matters, in the morning the bus got a flat tyre which had to be changed at some very dodgy looking garage using basic construction and farming equipment. All this culminated in our arrival about 4 hours behind schedule. The bus trip was already long enough at 18 hours, without tacking on the delays. All I can say is that I’m glad we were on a comfy bus.
The intercity bus station in BA, called Retiro is very confusing – especially after a 22 hour bus ride and the walk between the bus station, passing the main train station and market to the metro station (our next chosen method of transport) was thronged with people going every which way. We found the metro and as we descended, Kate realized she had just been pick-pocketed. Just before the event, Kate had taken 14 pesos (A$7) out of her bag to get a bite to eat and that’s when it happened, by an older woman walking the other way just before descending the stairs into the metro. By the time she reached the base of the stairs she knew that she had had some hands in her pocket a few seconds ago but it was too late. We had been so careful about such things to date and found it ironic that the crime had a occurred in the city that was supposed to be the safest of the entire trip. Fortunately though, it wasn’t much and I had some other cash to get us to our hostel.
We met Moira and Andrew from New York for the first time back at the hostel and after getting a shit and relatively expensive meal, we joined them for a beer at what turned out to be a Cuban Theatre Restaurant. Our entertainment for the evening was a heavily made up and dressed up, ‘experienced’ Salsa singer. When she started singing almost everyone except us got up from their tables to the dance floor to dance Salsa. Some didn’t even bother going to the dance floor. Apart from playing cricket, I’ve never seen so many white pants assembled together in the one room. We went back to the hostel and shared a few more 1l Quilmes beers (6 pesos/ A$3) with Andrew and Moira before crashing.

Posted by cromie79 21:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Puerto Iguazu and bus to BA

sunny 32 °C

After catching the bus to the national park, we realized that we didn’t have enough money to get into the park and they wouldn’t take credit. After Kate retrieved the money from the only ATM, inside the park, escorted by the Ranger, we paid, entered and proceeded to waste most of our day on a shitty nature trail whose only redeeming feature was seeing a troupe of capaucha monkeys on the way back. It had taken 3 hours return and we only had 3.5 hours to see the rest of the waterfalls, when we were told we should allow 9 hours to be comfortable – what idiots. We virtually jogged the rest of the day from lookout to lookout, overdosing on waterfalls. We caught a small train to the best one, dubbed the Devil’s Throat in Spanish. It was awesome. We were told it could reduce even a hardened grown man to hoots, cackles and giggles and we were no different. We bounced around, awestruck and grinning to ourselves saying over and over “How awesome is this?!”, “Now this was worth it!”. The lookout is reached after a 15 minute speed walk over the calm, shallow upper waters of the river on a raised catwalk. It is perched right on the edge of the biggest cascade, at the top corner of the ‘P’. Looking straight at it, it takes up your entire view – everything you try to look at is moving and mesmerizing and you stand agape before wiping your eyes clear of the mist coming up in gusts from the canyon.
We were happy and satisfied and ran to make the next train back to get on a boat tour under one of the water falls. We made it there with enough time to spare and paid our fare (75 Pesos each / A$28) before stuffing all our valuable into a waterproof bag and getting on. The driver motored around for a bit and showed us the main river leading to the devil’s throat before driving to the cascade that we would go under. He motored up to it and turned to the side, allowing the force of the cascade to wash us and it out to relative safety. Once under the falls, the spray and mist completely blinded you, but the noise (coloured with screams and hoots) was enormous. We did this three times over before returning, satisfied that all our running around the park was worth it.
We rushed back to the bus and to the hostel, had enough time to pack, shower and snack before jumping on the next, and best overnight bus of the trip so far. We were looking forward to this one after hearing fables and legends of massive comfy seats that became beds, warm blankets, videos, hot meals and drinks brought to your lap by waiters. We’re pleased to report that the prophesy was fulfilled. The seats were massive and they went far enough back to lay on your side, the meals were good (like good airplane food), the wine was palatable, the movie was not dubbed and the waiter brought us a ‘wikky’ for a night cap. Andrew had to ask him three times what he meant before understanding (picture Basil Faulty trying to get sense out of Manuel) that he meant whisky. We apologized, saying that we’d just come from Brazil. Deep sleep came swifty.

Posted by cromie79 21:40 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Foz d'Iguazu - Puerto Iguazu

sunny 35 °C

The Iguazu fall is, when at capacity the largest waterfall in the world. The Brazilian side promises the overall panoramic view, whilst the Argentinean side promises the close up experience. Keen to see the Brazilian side and stay on the Argentinean side that night, we caught two local buses to the national park and put our bags in a locker there. You catch a bus to the first stop and walk along a series of concrete and steel walkways to get various views of the falls. They are, of course very impressive, even at half of it’s capacity. If you imagine for a second, from the air the falls are the approximate shape of a capital P, where the Brazilian side is the straight bit and the Argentinean side is the curved bit. The straight bit is the river and the falls come down all around the curve of the P. So we walked up the river, up the straight bit of the P to the top, looking across to the literally thousands of cascades that when at capacity almost fully combine to form a continuous wall of rushing water.
What was also impressive was the amount of butterflies, which filled the air and covered the balustrades – closely followed by many fat and satisfied small lizards. The butterflies happily landed on you and drank from the perspiration on your skin combined with the mist from the waterfall.
As we approached the end where you get a closer look at one of the larger cascades by a series of steel walkways above a still-ish terrace, we saw a slide show of photos of when the falls were operating at their scary capacity – when the raging brown torrents ripped apart the catwalk we had just walked on. We left the park and transferred to a bus which would carry us over the Argentinean border. We had thrown away our immigration card (note you have to keep this if you go) however they let us through anyway. We caught another bus to the town of Peurto Iguazu close by and walked to our hostel. Getting a tip from three crazy Canadian girls who were just leaving to not take the room we were getting, we transferred to another dorm and were the only people in there – Bueno! It was bizarre to be hearing Spanish after 4 weeks in Brazil and finally beginning to get a grip on it, we kept saying words in Portugese, then realizing that they were wrong. Almost all words are different, but mostly quite similar so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. The hostel had a pool, which we used before getting some money, heading out and getting a steak and some wine. It was much more expensive than we were expecting, but it was good and still cheaper than eating out in Oz. Little did we realize that Argentina in general was much more expensive than we were expecting.

Posted by cromie79 21:16 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Florianopolis - Foz D'Iguazu

sunny 33 °C

This day we decided to try and have a look around the rest of the massive Island of Santa Catarina before getting on the bus that evening. Over the last few days we had really only explored the south east of the island and there was much more to see. We weren’t really successful though as the public bus system required us to change buses all the time to get anywhere. We saw the large lagoon at the centre of the island, reportedly the place for all the bars and clubs outside of the city of Florianopolis. It wasn’t very exciting in the day though and we had run out of time. The most exciting part was meeting a guy who served us some Acai for our lunch snack at a gym café. He had excellent English which was odd anywhere is Brazil but especially in this town. It turned out that he learned his English entirely from watching movies. He would first watch in English with Portuguese subtitles, before switching to Portuguese with English subtitles. We were quite impressed.
When we got over it, we rushed back to the hostel to collect our bags and back to Florianopolis to catch our bus leaving around dusk, overnight to Foz d’Iguazu

Posted by cromie79 20:33 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Ilha Santa Catarina

sunny 34 °C

Fri 27.03.09 Bus
The trip to Ilha Santa Caterina promised to be lengthy (6 hours to Sao Paolo, 12 to Florianopolis) so to offset our guilt about the sedentary day ahead, we went for a run. We check out the old fort up of the hill, complete with cannons from the 1600s then along the beach north of town. On the return Andrew made use of the chin –up bars, making him struggle back up the hill then we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and chatted with Wim & Martin before we said our goodbyes. We approached Sao Paulo around 7, just in time for their famous rush hour traffic, causing us to change our plans. We were hoping for a few hours to get a quick taste of the city and a bite to eat before jumping on the bus to Florianpolis at 10 but not wanting to risk missing our bus, we sat an ate an uninspiring meal in the bus terminal before boarding our third overnight bus.

Sat 28.03.09 Armacao
Arrived in Florianopolis, the main city on Ilha Santa Caterina. The sun was shining and we noticed it was already 30 degrees at 10am. On a whim in the tourist office, we decided to head to Armacao on the east coast of the island, south of Flori. After beating the price down a little, we checked into Bell Company Hostel, located right on the beach overlooking the water.
We then went out for a late lunch and had our first attempt at surfing with a 5’10” short-board borrowed for free from the hostel. Back at the hostel a guy (Jeremy – who hopes to run for the Greens as the federal MP for Stonnington, usurping Peter Costello) had bought 25kg muscles for R$40 (AU$26) and was cooking them up. Exhausted from travel, we went to bed earlier than the rest of the crew, who kicked on at the Elvis bar – the only place open in town, literally next door.

Sun 29.03.09 Armacao
Enjoyed breakfast on the Hostel’s terrace overlooking the water, enjoying the sound of the waves crashing below. Brimming with confidence & bravado we took the hostel’s short board and headed to Praira de Matadiero (lit. Bullfighter’s Beach), a bridge & a short walk over the ridge to the next bay where we joined up with some boys from the hostel. They’d hired a long board so all afternoon we took turns trying to carve up the waves. There wasn’t much success in the water from anyone really, especially on the short board but we did solidify our tans and later satisfied our appetites with dinner out at the same place as last night with good, large meals so it was a good day all said.

Mon 30.03.09 Armacao
Our task for this day was a 2 hour hike to a beach called Lagoinha d’Leste (lit. Small Western Lagoon) promising deserted sands and good waves. The walk took us along the Praia de Matadiero, then up through coastal rainforest over a ridge before the growth started to thin into scrub, heathland then grasses. We saw dozens of different butterflies, wildflowers and birds before the terrain became wild - dominated by the wind and granite cliffs and outcrops. The beach itself was very nice and well worth the hike. It was about 1.5kms long with nice sand, clear water, small but nice little waves and no more than 6 people on the long stretch at any one time.
After having a swim and basking for a while, we walked to the other end of the beach and hiked out, up and over the ridge for 30mins or so to reach the nearby sleepy fishing of Pantano do Sul to catch a bus back to our hostel in Armacao. We made dinner and then watched a bizarre Charlie-Chaplin style live comedic mime theatre show which our hostel owner was clearly very chuffed about, but was actually really crap. After the show, the local fisherman were getting drunk with some of the other guys at the hostel and busting out the kind of karaoke that could be used as torture in Guantanamo bay. We had a few drinks which turned into a lock-in, but nothing too late or crazy.

Posted by cromie79 22:44 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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