Our flight from Sydney to Buenos Aires was notable for two reasons. Firstly, as we checked in we found out that we had been upgraded to Premium Economy
, which the attendant informed us had saved us around $3500. For anyone thinking about spending the additional $3500 on such a flight, don’t bother. However, seeing as we weren’t paying, we appreciated the slightly larger seats, marginally more legroom and somewhere to plug in our laptop. The second notable aspect of the flight was that due to crossing the international date line we landed at exactly the same time as we took off, on the same day. As you can probably imagine, the jetlag associated with such a flight is pretty horrendous.
Despite unseasonably heavy snow nearly delaying them, we were met at Buenos Aires airport, by Alex’s sister, Cassie and her boyfriend Dave. They had been travelling in South America for a little over six months and the last three weeks of their trip overlapped with our stay on the continent. Our rough plan was to travel together through Argentina, whilst trying to glean as much useful South American information from them as possible.
Having moaned about Australia being cold,
we soon realised we hadn’t seen anything yet, as Buenos Aires was truly freezing. Despite the temperature, it is a very pleasant city and one of those places that isn’t overrun with tourist attractions, but is the sort place that we could very happily live. What it lacks in tourist attractions, the city more than makes up for with food and drink, being home to some of the best, and cheapest, steak and red wine in the world.
As well eating and drinking, we took a couple of days to relax, recover from our jetlag and catch up with Cassie and Dave. We also tried to plan what we would do with our time together. Despite it being the middle of winter, Cassie and Dave were keen to venture South to Patagonia, before they flew home. Therefore, our first port-of-call outside the capital, was the Valdes Peninsula a national park located a 20 hour bus ride away. Here we sheltered from the cold in a fantastic, cosy little apartment and went on a few wildlife watching trips.
A short walk away from the village we were staying in, live a colony of sea lions. We are not sure
on the exact definition of the word, “colony”, but we are fairly sure that it implies a number greater than one. However, when we visited, there was indeed only one sea lion to be seen. Fortunately he was a fairly entertaining individual and we enjoyed watching him play in the waves as the sun set. We also caught the occasional glimpse of whales further out to sea, something we were going to see much more of the next day.
Having been whale watching before, we set our expectation levels for this trip on the low side. However, even if we had been optimistic, our expectations would have been surpassed. This was whale watching as seen on TV. The bay seemed to be teeming with the huge creatures (Southern Right Whales
for any whale enthusiasts out there). Not only were they present in numbers, but they were on good form, leaping out of the water (breaching
to you whale enthusiasts) and raising their tails out of the water (technical term for this on a postcard, whale enthusiasts!)
The impressive whales were a hard act to follow and any subsequent wildlife viewing trip was likely to seem disappointing. Unperturbed by
this, the next day we took a tour of the peninsula. Although not in the same league as the whales, we had a good day and managed to see elephant seals, guanacos, rhea an andean fox and a skunk.
Saying a sad to farewell to our apartment, we backtracked to Buenos Aires. Barely pausing to sample yet more excellent food, we boarded a ferry across the River Plate to Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay. Here we found a quaint town of cobbled streets and colonial buildings. Our next stop on our brief tour of Uruguay was Montevideo, another pleasant city, although it could easily have been in Argentina, albeit a little more expensive.
We then headed back to Argentina and our travel hub, Buenos Aires. Sadly, this was on a night bus and therefore afforded us little more than the opportunity to pass through the pie capital of the world, Fray Bentos. Whilst waiting for our next night bus, this time west to Mendoza, we spent the day visiting the cemetery containing Evita’s grave and the zoo, testimony to dearth of tourist attractions in the city.
Our principal reason for visiting Mendoza was wine, with an amazing
number wineries located in the vicinity. We opted for the economical option of taking a cycling tour of said wineries. Prior to embarking on the trip we envisaged quiet country lanes reminiscent of rural France. Sadly we were very much mistaken, as our route took in a number of busy, fairly major roads. This, combined with sampling a good few glasses of vino
made for a potentially dangerous combination. Fortunately, the day passed without incident, save for purchasing rather more of the excellent local produce than intended. Before leaving Mendoza for Salta, we took a bus into the mountains and spent a pleasant day walking and enjoying the scenery.
From Salta we hired a car and drove south to Cafayate. Although Cafayate seemed to be a pleasant enough town, the main reason for trip was the journey itself, passing through the beautiful Valles Calchaquies along the way. For quite some distance the road is lined with weird and wonderful sandstone formations.
Salta also provided us with of the more memorable culinary moments of the trip, with Alex and Dave sharing a Parilla
(essentially a mixed grill). One of the items on the grill was sufficiently unlike anything we
have eaten to warrant asking the waiter as to its origin. His reply, in Spanish, drew a blank from all four of us. We later looked the word up and it transpired that it was a cow’s udder that we had been taking tentative bites of. We are fairly glad our Spanish wasn’t good enough to understand at the time!
Previously on Cassie and Dave’s trip they visited Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side. As we, and anyone else who has visited the falls, will tell you, the Argentinean side is the more impressive. Therefore, we encouraged them to revisit on their way back to Sao Paulo to catch their flight home. We were more than happy to return to what is probably the most impressive natural wonders we have ever seen.
If you were a crow flying between Salta and Iguazu you would pass directly through (or more likely over) Paraguay. Although not quite as convenient a bus staying within Argentina, we opted for the more direct route, with the added bonus of another stamp in our passport. Although that said, passport pages are becoming something of a premium these days. So as to make organising a
bus to Sao Paulo as easy as possible, we opted to stay on the Brazilian side of the border and hence achieved the feat of visiting three countries in a single day.
We were blessed with excellent weather for our return visit to the falls. It was then time for our seventh and final night bus together as we made the long journey to Sao Paulo. After a hectic but amazing three weeks together, we said an emotional goodbye to Cassie and Dave. We then prepared ourselves to continue our journey, and for the first time in a while, it would be just the two of us.
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