Vineyards and Andes
Santiago,Mendoza, BA, Iguasu
Dazed. Confused. Wide eyed. We time warped our way to South America (gaining a day with the time change) like rabbits in the headlights. Arriving in Santiago Chile we felt out of our depth having not done any research about the next leg of our trip. Desperately hanging onto all the Spanish we knew ('Hola'😉 we realised this was going to be far more challenging than we had anticipated. Luckily we were eased into the experience by some of Charlie's family friends in Santiago having lunch at their mountain club and being shown the sights of the modern, European-esque, high rise, economic capital of Chile.
After only a couple of days in Chile we moved on to Argentina and realised that Argentinian travel was right up our street. Although it is more expensive than any other country, we were supplied with fully reclining cushioned seats with a footrest, a pillow and blanket, films, dinner with wine (albeit dodgy 80's aeroplane style food), and a glass of bubbly before bed. Considering we have been doing 24 hour bus journeys it certainly eases the pain of it and i think the Megabus to Wales could definitely learn a
thing or two.
We arrived in Mendoza to get back on a bike and sample the local Malbec wines from the copious vineyards that dominate the area. With the Andes on our right and olive groves on our left we meandered along the busy main highway and sampled a delicious selection of reds at the cellar doors. Having become quite the wine connoisseurs after our stint in New Zealand we felt it was only right to compare the two regions! Mendozians are so proud of their world famous grapes that they even dye all their fountains pink and its more readily available than water.
The other staple of any Argentinian diet is meat, meat and more MEAT. They are happy to serve you a hulking bleeding steak on a plate without any other accompaniments. This was a little beyond my comfort zone but I had to try some form of beef 'when in Rome' and succumbed eventually to a taste or two of Charlie's scraps. The only variation on the meat has been carbs. Whether its bread, crackers, pasta, stale cake, soggy biscuits or mashed potato it's always available as an optional extra and doled out like mad
Best restaurant in BA
on the long distance buses.
Argentina has shocked us with the cost of living and the hyper inflation. It is far more expensive than we had ever anticipated and to add to this confusion they also have two exchange rates, the 'legal' and the 'blue'. The 'blue' is so well recognised they even report on it alongside the legal rate. The 'blue' is 60% more than you would normally get but only available outside the country or if you have cash. We found ourselves booking a trip to Uruguay for the day to change some money (travellers cheques into Uruguayan pesos into Argentina pesos). Sounds bonkers but the Argentinian economy is bonkers. It should have been glamorous but was a total hiccup. It started with our taxi driver getting completely lost and taking some very unconventional routes the wrong way down a dual carriage way as we tried to beat the clock to get to the ferry in time. Akin to the stress of a delayed packed tube we finally arrived flustered and irritated but in time and determined to have a good day. Nevertheless, on arrival in Colonia our travellers cheques were rejected so we spent nearly three
hours standing outside a bank in huge queues waiting for an ATM that charged an arm and a leg and only let us take out a trifling amount. Turns out we are not the only ones with this idea and the Uruguayans are keen to cash in. To top it off we had a horrific meal. Charlie's 'homemade' burger was a dry piece of cardboard resting on some claggy powdered mash and mine wasn't much better. All in all a ridiculous trip that was only turned around by the extortionate ice cream we had on the way back to the ferry. Not everything can go as planned!
We had been desperately trying to acclimatise to the Argentinian lifestyle of closed shops most of the afternoon and dinner at 11pm before arriving in Buenos Aires (BA). Barely managing to reset our body clocks we were determined to see the best of the city. We arrived on a overnight bus only to find that all our freshly laundered clothes had been soaked in the luggage hold, so out came our best friend - the dental floss washing line again. I really can't sing its praises enough as a versatile piece of
kit! We managed to pack in an afternoon of culture in the pouring rain followed by a fantastic meal (the owner was dressed as a clown, as one does) and reunited up with our friends we'd met in Mendoza. Getting to the bar was no mean feat as the heavens truly opened up and the roads became gushing torrents of draining water. Sloshing past locals cowering under shelter we swam on as they kindly shouted out directions and laughed in our wake. Our Gringo determination finally got us to the bar with our friends and we wrung out our clothes, poured the water from our shoes and continued the night BA style by getting home at 8am. We are far too old for these antics and the next day was almost a write off until we mustered our strength to go in search of some more culture, we just can't seem to get enough.
BA certainly comes alive at night as we walked through streets full of bric-a-brac in San Telmo and stumbled upon open tango dancing in a local plaza under a canopy of fairy lights. Inspired by the tango hype in the city we thought we had
better give it a go and challenged our friends to a dance off. The class was supposed to be focused on working in sync and eventually being able to free-style the tango. It turns out that Charlie and I are not naturals. We stumbled across the floor muddling our way through the class. There was a unanimous decision not to take our tango moves into the public domain, we didn't dare venture onto the open dance floor!
A visit to the Recoletta cemetery completely absorbed us for half a day. We never thought a cemetery could be so fascinating but our guide talked us through the history and stories behind a select few of the 4,691 vaults. From mistakenly being buried alive to having dearest beloved pets taxidermitised so they can join their owners, it's full of intriguing history. It is a cramped city within a city full of architecturally impressive marble mausoleums, many with intricate statues, both old and new containing notable figures including Evita and BA's elite. This cemetery contains some of the most expensive and desirable real estate in the country. It is fascinating being in a country that used to be the seventh biggest economy
in the world and was then reduced to third world status. Mendoza and BA reminded us vividly of Europe filled with Italian and Spanish looking inhabitants and culture however, we were looking forward to moving out of the cities and experiencing some rural life.
Another long bus journey deposited us in Iguazu, home to the world's biggest waterfalls. They did not disappoint. The 3km arc of multitiered rock faces are probably the most impressive natural sight we have seen so far. 1,800 cubic metres of water per second rush through the gaps in the rock across the dissected rivers. Butterflies surrounded us as we meandered along the walkways to view the spectacle from various angles. We ended up spending two days visiting the falls on the Argentinian side.
Having had our fill of overwhelming beauty (yes, cheesy but true) we were ready to move on to our next stop. Alas, after arriving at the bus station to book our tickets we were informed of the nationwide bus strike that was to leave us stranded for four days! We finally succumbed to adopting a student lifestyle to get us through the wait by pilfering bread and butter at breakfast
Without speaking Spanish...
and muddling together sandwiches for dinner in order to save money until the strikes were lifted. This left us feeling pretty stingy but you can't beat the smugness of utilising our resources! After a couple of days of incapacitating rain we managed to capitalise on a day of sun by relaxing by a pool and doing nothing - what a treat! Finally the strikes lifted and we found our way back across the country to Salta.
Tot: 2.247s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 10; qc: 52; dbt: 0.0417s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb