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Published: October 1st 2016
Sept. thru Wednesday, Sept 28.
Hola from Argentina, where the food is good, the wine is better and the people are helpful and friendly. We have had a lot of fun with random persons met over the past two weeks. Waiters, waitresses and taxi drivers have been especially helpful as we fumble along with our our limited Spanish. We are always smiling and laughing and this just attracts like minded people. Observations worth mentioning, Graffiti is rife, we have always felt safe in BA, also most Argentinian girls are tiny and wear ridiculous 5" platform shoes to compensate for their lack of height.
Our last two days days in BA before the long trek North; the decision is made to hang around the apartment, relax and leave only for lunch and tango lessons. Outside it is blowin and we're still coughin and spluttering from flu and headcolds. In fact, Malcolm and I have both been sick since our arrival, but are still able to travel around the city, spreading our sunshine and germs. I think we are making progress with tango and the last two lessons with Lucia and Gerry are very good, but
not good enough to worry Juan Tango. Maybe if we had another 3 months on the dancefloor we might graduate to beginner tangoist status.
On the Tuesday, our friend Richard Avery arrived from the US and the next day we complete the paperwork for the hire car and head point towards Puerto Iguazo. When we leave the apartment to find Europcar and because there are 3 of us, lots of luggage, and are big guys, we take two different taxis. Both drivers have problems finding Europcar and even though Dick leaves before us, he arrives at the car hire 30 minutes after we do and at an added cost of US $20. I was beginning to get concerned, I don't have a mobile phone or even Dicks number. The car hire place is only 10 minutes from our apartment and a maximum $8 taxi ride, and yes the thoughts of “We've lost Dick” were at the forefront of my mind. Anyway, we finally reunited and are let loose on the Buenos Aires roads.
Even though there are two of us as designated drivers, Dick offers to take the wheel and I take up navigation
duties. Later in the trip, when we need to use reverse, none of us can work out how to get the car into reverse, so every time we want to go backwards, myself and Malcolm jump out and push the car. A day later in Iguazu, the car park attendant shows us how to put the car in reverse and three red faced old geezers feel more than a little silly! The drive from BA to Iguazu is 1300km and takes 2 full days of driving. We refer to Dick as our “Cochinero” and Ar gentians look at us a liitle strangely, we find that Cochinero means “messy in a dirty way” and we should have been referring to him as a “Cochero”. Thankfully, our insults are not held against us and we are allowed back into the car.
The hotel in Iguazu is for three nights and a little up market for the “Three Amigos” it is approximately 10 km from the national park. Iguazu, what can I say! These falls are amazing and seem to go on for ever, water springing and falling from every nook and cranny and what's more there's lots of it.
The weather is fantastico and my cameras are forever in click, click,click mode. How many waterfall pictures do I really need, the answer is lots! Over the two days and three nights we spend in Iguazu we see the falls from the Argentinian side and also from the Brazil side. Personally, the Argentinian side is my favorite, mainly because they are up close and personal and the walks are more extensive. On the Brazil side it's a little more Disneylandish, all walkways are paved and being a Saturday there are major amounts of people.
On our final in Iguazu evening we have selected a restaurant that was packed the evening before. The greeter it turns out is a Danish lady, Malcolm believes she is called Greta the Greeter, while my pick is Daniella the Dane, of course she is called neither of these, but Tonya. The food is the best we have eaten and as always the wine flows freely, at least between myself and Malcolm and Dick has his customary Agua sin Gas.
Now on to Salta, with Dick doing his best Fangio impersonation behind the wheel for the next 1450km. It takes
us two days solid driving with a overnight stay in a town somewhere in the middle. On going for a walk around town we encounter what must be the nightly Isle of Man TT races, played out by the ounger people on their motor bikes. I think the rules insist that there be two per motorcycle and no helmet. However, there doesn't seem to be a clear winner when the police step in to take over traffic control. Noisy, but what else is there to do in Bum F**** Egypt. Dinner turns out to be special in an Italian restaurant “Guissepe's” and it's probably the best homemade pasta in Argentina.
Police are a constant presence on the main roads and there are checkpoints about every 200km, I believe they are still looking for Che Guevara. Many times we are waved through but occasionally we do get stopped and questioned in Spanish. I always greet with a smile and the requisite “Hola” and our destination. This seems to do the trick and we are waved on.
Salta, in Northern Argentina near the Bolivian and Chilean borders has a desert climate and around 600,000 population. Our
hotel is close to the main plaza and when we ask the price we also ask if there is a cash discount. And, we get a discount of 10%. Anyway, we will stay in this town for 5 nights before heading back to Buenos Aires. Our first day, we take the wine tour and drive the through the desert before finally finding vineyards. I want to eat at a winery and drink our daily bottle of Malbec. After two false starts and Dick driving the car across streams we find the perfect stopping point “Bodega El Estico” and its wonderful restaurant. The waiters are first class and attentive, the food is exquisite and the wine is fabuloso! Our waiter even keeps filling our glasses after we finish our bottle. The perfect place to stay if we ever find ourselves in Cafayete on a future trip.
Salta and the train trip, yes we have booked an excursion on the “Tren a las Nubes”, Train to the clouds. Up at 5.30 in the morning and a taxi from our hotel to a train station. The bus leaves at 7.00am, however we have to check in for the trip and
need passports as well as tickets. It all reeks of bureaucracy as we have to show the passport again at a later time, even though we have a wristband to specify we are in the coach and the train. The train is full, and Malcolm and I quickly interact with fellow passengers, Dick is a little more reserved, but everyone in our immediate area soon warms up to us. The train trip reaches 4,200 meters and that's about 13,800 feet. On stepping off the train by the viaduct the altitude hits you, the air is thin and the head is reeling, several of the passengers on the train keel over and are given oxygen. It's a good thing there are good medical staff on the train and I applaud them for their quick responses. By the viaduct there are many Indians selling their wares, I purchase a llama for my granddaughter, not even bothering do do my normal haggling. On return to San Antonio De Los Cobres It's time to have lunch, this is done at a restaurant close to our coach pickup point, to be honest the food is bland, the servers are average and unfriendly, and overall it's
crap! On our way back to Salta we interact with people from Patagonia and after arriving at the Salata Estacion quickly find a restaurant to enjoy an pleasant evening meal!
Next day, as we walk around Salta enjoying all the architecture and cultural events the city has to offer and run into people who were on the train to the clouds with us and are greeted like long lost friends.
After 5 nights it's time to leave Salta, although it would have been nice to have additional days to explore closer to the Bolivian border. Our next stop is Cordoba, a ten hour drive. Argentina is big and the distances between major cities often take 2 days to drive, in this case it is a ten hour stretch. The only thing of note, we misjudged a distance between gas stations and ended up arriving in one town on fumes with the low on gas light flashing. So, so, lucky!
Cordoba, for 2 nights and to be honest it's a bit of a hole, except for the people dancing in the square at night.. However, a side trip to Alto Gracia where
Che Guevara grew up is a wonderful find. A charming town and “The Che Guevara Museum” is certainly worth a visit. The photograph of Che, stylized on posters is a memory from days living and working on the outskirts of London. Dick is not happy about making this pilgrimage and considers the man a murderer rather than a revolutionary.
Onwards towards Buenos Aires and an overnight stop in Rosario on the banks of the Rio Parana. A final steak meal, again too much meat and too much wine. From what we saw of the city, it would appear to be worth more than one quick night. The next morning it's back in the car and Buenos Aires, I have booked Malcolm and I into a hotel close to Ezeiza airport, it's a hovel, so we quickly leave and return to San Telmo, drop off the car and deposit Dick to continue his vacation in BA . The next afternoon myself and Malcolm are due to continue on to Brazil. The last supper turns out to be most fortuitous when the three of us stop at a curry house, run by an Englishman. He and his Argentinian partner,
suggest we check our tickets to see whether we leave from a second airport, rather than the large International, whoops it turns out that we do in fact leave from Jorge Newberry, rather than Ezeiza. Oh how lucky we are........
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