On the speedboat which took us under the falls
Sooo... 3 weeks in to our trip and I´m finally writing our first blog entry! We´re in south Chile, in a coastal town called Puerto Natales, which is the base for trekking in the Torres del Paine National Park. We hope to go trekking in a couple of days, which will hopefully include visiting some glaciers, but I´ve managed to get ill (already!) so we´re taking some downtime at the moment.
We began our trip in Buenos Aires where we spent 5 days exploring the city. We had a great time there, and it was a great way to ease gently into Argentina, as it´s obviously tourist friendly and also quite european-feeling. Our biggest achievement, we felt, was cracking the public buses or "colectivos
" as their system was sooo complicated and you have to be a master of map reading and have a PhD in grid referencing to handle them, or so it feels!! We saw an amazing tango show with lots of sexy ladies and very slick men. It was loads of fun, the dancers weren´t just dancers, but actors too and they were really passionate. Mark especially liked the girls outfits ;-) We ate about a million steaks
(A bit of) the falls from the lower circuit trail
(traditional grill restaurants) and drank lots of coffee and chocolate con churros which are yummy sugary pastry sticks. As it was our first stop, it was hard not to get feeling you get on holiday when you know it´s all coming to an end soon, but when we got on the bus out of BsAs heading for Puerto Iguazu, it suddenly started to feel more like "real" travelling!
Puerto Iguazu was our second stop, and as the name suggests it is the town that serves as the base for visiting the incredible Iguazu Falls. There´s really no way to do the falls justice in a blog, they were honestly incredible. At first sight, they were very surreal, like maybe it was all a computer image or something but when you stand right next to them and hear the crashing of the water and feel the spray, it´s just amazing! We did the ultimate irresponsible tourism thing and took a speed boat right under the falls, which was lots of fun and very wet. We walked over a lot of metal catwalks across the river to get to the "Garganta del Diablo" (Devil´s Throat) where you stand right
San Lorenzo National Park
A national park outside Salta where we went for a day trip, amazing scenery and they farm cows in the forest. ItÂ´s a bit surreal to see cows climbing mountains!
over the top of an insane amount of water pouring over the top. It was so amazing that it was hard to turn around and leave knowing we´ll probably never see that sight again, but it got too cold in the end and we had to! On the second day we crossed over to Brazil (which was a bit of an experience, we spent a little while walking down a random main road in Brazil trying to find our way back in to Argentina, but that´s a bit of a story! Luckily Mark recognised the road and got us back OK!) From the Brazilian side, we got a panoramic view of the whole falls which was breathtaking - there are 275 falls in total apparently, although we weren´t really sure how they decide where one ends and the next one begins as it just looks like a mass of water cascading over the edge!!
After the Falls we spent a night in a town called Resistencia, which had a paragraph in our guidebook - but if there were ANY other tourists there I really don´t know where they were eating or sleeping!! That´s probably a bit of an exaggeration
as it does seem to be low season for tourists which is quite nice, but we found it very hard to find anywhere to eat out and a big protest in support of the elderly and the homeless was a bit hostile towards us (nothing more than gestures and shouting) so we felt a bit ill at ease there. As a result of the protest, the police presence on the streets over the 2 days we were there was huge, and although it was probably just a deterrent, it did make you wonder what exactly they were expecting! The highlight for me was an amazing museum about the local indigenous tribe populations and their development/decline over the years, especially a bit devoted to their spiritual beliefs.
After Resistencia, we went to Salta which is in North West Argentina, a city with lots of colonial architecture from when the Spanish invaded south America and settled in relatively big numbers in the 1800s. It was very touristy so quite refreshing after Resistencia, nice not to be stared at everywhere we went! In Salta we saw some mummified Inca children who had been "sacrificed to the gods" hundreds of years ago, and
End of the world...
Amazing scenery at the end of the world! MarkÂ´s first snowcapped mountains!
buried in the mountains high up where it was freezing, so that they were amazingly well preserved. It was a bit strange and sad but very interesting. The Incas made sacrifices in order to ensure good weather/harvests/the health of their cattle etc. They chose children for their outstanding beauty, often the children of chiefs, to be sacrificed. The child was dressed well, taken to the top of the mountain and given strong alcohol until they passed out, then they were buried with lots of important things and "left to the gods". The Incas didn´t believe that they would die, but be reunited with their ancestors. It was really interesting and I really hope we´ll make it to Machu Picchu in Peru.
From Salta we flew to Ushuaia, which is on the largest island of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, and the most southerly city in the world. We were as close to Antarctica as we were going to get! It is a ski resort in the winter and had a very resorty feel, but there were some really interesting museums, like the old prison. There was a prison colony set up on the island in the 1800s and apparently being sent to Ushuaia was considered as being sent to hell for the prisoners. You can see why with the inhospitable climate and total isolation - no way of escape except by sea, which very few managed. Some escapees disappeared and nobody knows what became of them, others just gave up and went back to the prison as they couldn´t survive on the Island. There were also museums about indigenous populations, which i loved, and we took a boat out to see sealions and an island of cormorants which was lovely, but really smelly! I´m not a fan of zoos, so I was really happy to see the sealions all chilling out together on their little island, they looked like a group of beach bums!
From Ushuaia we came here to Puerto Natales by bus. The border crossing from Argentina to Chile was a bit of a mission but we got here in the end! It´s cold and windy and quite like home really - one minute the sun is out and the next it´s tipping it down. We went out this afternoon and managed to watch part of a local football match. We know that the whole of South America is crazy about football, every time you turn on the tv here there´s a football programme on. But at this local match in this little town, with the wind hammering the players and the ball flying all over the place, the crowd were out in force to support their team! The stand (a small one on one side of the pitch) was full, complete with a band beating their drums non stop, and all around the edge without a stand, people had parked up in their cars to watch the match shielded from the wind, and they were beeping their horns madly everytime anything happened. When the home team scored they all went wild, it was crazy!
So ... this is a pretty long one so I´m going to leave it at that. Hopefully from now on I´ll be a bit better and do this more regularly so I don´t have to post mammoth entries like this!
I hope anyone reading at home has enjoyed hearing our news, we hope that you are all well and we send our love from Puerto Natales. Hope your weather back home is just as good as ours here ;-)
Amy & Mark xxx
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