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Published: January 25th 2018
One of the World's Great Natural Wonders
The Iguazu Falls from the Argentine side - facing the rough Salto San Martín
Steak, Malbec, Dulce de leche - we were always going to love Argentina!
Our first stop was the Iguazu Falls from the Argentine side. There is a lot of debate over which side of the Iguazu Falls is more impressive. For us, Argentina stole the show. Whilst the Brazil side enables you to appreciate the falls from a distance, the Argentina side has a number of walking trails that bring you right up to the drops, including the aptly named Devil's Throat. Witnessing the power and strength of the falls from up close is just incredible. It makes you forget everything else - including the fact that you are getting absolutely soaked!!
Argentina is a country that we underestimated in terms of size. To put it in perspective it's about 40 times the size of Ireland! A quick look at the map (and the cost of bus tickets!!!) was all it took for us to treat ourselves to an internal flight from Iguazu to the capital Buenos Aires AKA "the Paris of South America" where we rang in the New Year.
Having had severely limited food options in the Iguazu area (to the point where we were forced
to order a takeaway via whatsapp in Spanish because all the fruit and vegetables in the stores were gone off), we were delighted to finally sample some of Argentina's famous steak, Malbec and ice cream. Sampling has turned into everyday dining - let's hope we're recognisable at the airport!
After being on the road for almost 3 weeks we decided to slow things down and ended up spending a full week in Buenos Aires. A "Useful Spanish Phrases" book will only get you so far, so we took a Spanish lesson to help us with some of the basics! Ordering off Spanish menus has probably been our biggest challenge to date but we're getting there. Another challenge has been the search for food options - there's only so much bread, steak and chips one can eat in a day! Vegetables are a rarity on menus but at least staying in self catering AirBnB apartments has allowed us to continue to do some of our own shopping and cooking!
We stayed in an area called San Telmo which is a popular barrio (neighbourhood) amongst backpackers for its cobblestoned streets, colonial architecture, cafes, street market, etc. It is the oldest
neighbourhood in Buenos Aires and with many European immigrants having historically arrived into the nearby port of La Boca, it is a real melting pot of cultures.
North of San Telmo, we visited the more affluent area of Recoleta, known for its lavish former palaces - some of which are now Embassy buildings. Having become "experts" in street art over the past year, we also visited the trendy barrio of Palermo.
But no visit to Buenes Aires would be complete without a visit to the colourful immigrant barrio of La Boca. Being the poorest and most dangerous barrio in Buenos Aires and not overly safe aside from the main tourist areas, this visit was part of a walking tour! La Boca literally means "The Mouth" in Spanish due to it being the old port area at the mouth of the Riachuelo river. Immigrants arrived here at the end of the 1800s, mainly from Italy, and with nothing to their name, settled around the port to develop the neighbourhood.
One of our favourite things about travelling is learning more about the geography and history of the places we visit. On a walking tour around Buenos Aires, we got
If there's a coffee / ice cream shop nearby, she will find it!
One of the many dulce de leche ice creams that was consumed in Buenos Aires!
some insight into the view of some Argentine people on the Malvinas islands (as they are known in Argentina) or the Falkland islands as they are more widely known. The islands have been under British rule since 1883 but obviously the local view is that it is part of Argentina. In 1982, Argentine forces, under the country's then military dictatorship, invaded the islands which led to a 10 week war with Britain. The invasion had been an effort to boost support for the Government and with a population of 2,500 people who are mostly focused on sheep farming, they didn't envisage much resistance. However, Britain did resist and won quite easily which ultimately led to the demise of the military government and the restoration of democracy in Argentina.
Unfortunately the budget doesn't quite stretch to internal flights all over South America so it was back to the overnight buses for our trip to Mendoza - the wine region of Argentina. Nestled in the foothills of the Andes mountains, Mendoza's high altitude areas - Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley produce some of Argentina's most highly rated Malbec wines. We decided we were due a treat so we booked
into the famous Andeluna cellar door for a wine tasting and lunch with wine pairings. Our lunch was amazing and definitely worth the splurge!
Our original plan was to cycle from the nearest village of Tupungato to the vineyard but the weather went against us so we ended up ticking another item off the bucket list instead - hitchhiking! On the way out, we were picked up by a lovely couple who drove a few kilometres past their destination to bring us to the vineyard. On the way back, we hopped into the back of a pickup truck that already had 10 people in it! Lost in a sea of bodies, Donal somehow managed to take a group selfie!
We started our South American adventure in Santiago - and ironically despite travelling thousands of kilometres over the past month, we are almost back to where we started as Mendoza lies a mere 360km from Santiago. Our next stop is the town of Bariloche, our first taste of one of the major highlights of our trip - Patagonia. But first, a 19 hour night bus to contend with......
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