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Published: July 24th 2010
With only one month left in South America, we felt time really creeping up on us. This in mind, we crammed a serious amount into our stay in the fabulous Buenos Aires.
We arrived into the city on a Monday morning after a twenty-one hour bus ride and checked into a great hostel smack bang in the centre of town. We spent the day getting our bearings on the city and that night made our way out to the ‘Culture Centre’ to see an amazing concert by a percussion group ¨La Bomba de Tiempo¨. Getting to the gig was quite an ordeal however. We decided to take the subway instead of paying crazy taxi rates in rush hour. The line we needed to take was the line with the original ninety year old city trains running on it, with manually closing doors and hundreds of people trying to push onto already packed carriages. We stood in the front row on the platform, pushed out dangerously close to the tracks but as soon as a train came, the skilled locals rugby scrummed their way on, leaving us standing in the same place waiting on the next one. We have never witnessed anything
like this. The train was already moving while grown men pushed passed women and children to try squeeze on and somehow close the doors without losing limbs in the process. It took five trains and five scrums before we managed to squash onto a carriage but the concert on the other side made it all worth the effort.
It was close to eleven when the gig finished, about the time that the locals head out for dinner, so we made our way back to town to the famous El Desnivel steak house for a big juicy sirloin steak and a nice bottle of red wine. Our first night in Buenos Aires set us up nicely for what was to be a brilliant time in Argentina’s capital city.
With no time for headaches or hangovers in our tight schedule, we rose early the following morning to do a walking tour of La Boca, home of the Boca Juniors soccer team. Although this is the poorest and most dangerous neighbourhood in BA, it was our favourite. It is located along the port and has a beautifully preserved pedestrian area where local artists display their work. People dance the tango on the streets
and in cafes and there’s a Maradona look-alike who wanders around taking photos with tourists.
Unfortunately, because of the world cup, there were no soccer matches on while we were there but we took a tour of the stadium nevertheless. We learned about the rivalry between the two local teams, Boca Juniors and Riverplate and the complete craziness that goes on at these games. Fans urinate into plastic bottles and throw them at opposition fans and throw faeces onto the players on the pitch. It all sounds a bit bonkers and maybe it was for the better that there was no match on while we were there. That evening we went to see a tango show in Cafe Tortoni's, the oldest coffee house in Argentina. It was amazing.
At the crack of dawn the following morning, we set off on another walking tour. This one was around the city centre, the presidential palace, Independence Square, the house of congress and the beautiful European influenced architecture in Buenos Aires. Our love for the city grew stronger with everything we saw and did.
We met some lovely girls in the hostel and took a break from our cultural entertainment, heading out for
a night out with them instead. This sure is a city that knows how to party and with the D.J.'s not getting started until around 2am, the nights tend to last long into the following day!
The only places for us left to explore were the upper class neighbourhoods of Recoleta and Palermo. Recoleta is home to the famous cemetery where Evita was laid to rest. This cemetery is no ordinary cemetery however. Instead of the usual headstones marking the place where people had been buried, there were small, what I can only describe as houses where the coffins were placed on shelves on open view of people visiting; some housed just one coffin, others had whole families inside. We even saw a few new graves that were empty, built by rich people, in their own design for when their time came. What made it all the more eerie, were the many cats wandering around the cemetery and sitting next to the graves. From Recoleta we made our way to Palermo and wandered around the beautifully kept neighbourhood, stopping off for some coffee and cake in one of the many cafes around the town. We really enjoyed the time we
spent in BA and rate it highly amongst the big cities we’ve visited on our trip. But time was catching up on us so we pushed on to our last stop in Argentina and caught a twenty-hour bus to Puerto Iguazu to see the massive waterfalls.
When we arrived, the rain poured down heavily from a dull, dark sky; not the ideal conditions to visit a national park. We checked into a really cool hostel and kept ourselves entertained there with internet and a pool table, hoping that the weather would clear a little. Much to our surprise, we woke up the following morning to a clear blue sky and set off in our t-shirt and shorts, (first time they’d been worn in a long time). We walked many of the trails in the park and saw beautiful wildlife. We visited different waterfalls but the most impressive by far was ¨The Devil’s Throat¨. The deafening sound of the power from the water was mesmerising. We couldn’t even see the bottom of the waterfall because of the amount of spray coming up from it. That same spray was blown back up to soak us as we stood staring at this amazing
sight. The beauty of these falls was awesome and made all the greater thanks to the sunshine we were blessed with. It wasn’t until the days that followed, when the grey clouds and the rain returned, that we really appreciated just how lucky we had been. With that, we said goodbye to Argentina and set off to Brazil.
We arrived into the town of Foz de Iguazu with the best intentions of seeing Iguazu Falls from a different perspective, from the Brazilian side. However after two days of heavy rain and huge thunderstorms, we decided that seeing them in Argentina was enough for us and made our way to the colonial town of Paraty. When we went to the bus terminal in Foz we discovered there was no direct bus to Paraty so we booked onto a seventeen-hour bus to Sao Paulo. We soon realised that we left the comfy seats, complimentary meals and cinema entertainment on the buses back in Argentina. What we were travelling in was not too unlike a local Dublin public bus. There was a change in the people we met too. They seemed a lot rougher and tougher and although we never felt threatened, we
didn't feel fully safe either and kept our belongings close to us at all times.
Once in Sao Paulo, we had to take a four hour bus to Ubatuba and then another bus to Divisa followed by a fourth bus to Paraty. We left our hostel in Foz at twelve midday and reached our hostel in Paraty at four in the afternoon the following day! The main reason for us coming to Paraty was to visit it's many beaches and surrounding islands and when the locals informed us that the weather had been fab for the past few weeks, we were in high spirits. Those high spirits only lasted for a few hours and then our hopes of catching some rays were dashed the following morning. We woke up to dull grey skies and a whole lot of rain. Our luck with the weather was up. We hung around for a few days in the hope that the sun would return but with no joy.
With that, we began our journey to Rio de Janeiro with more hopes of the weather improving as we headed north.
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