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Published: November 7th 2005
I wouldn´t believe it if I hadn´t seen it with my own eyes, but in a single day I saw Christie indulge in some good old fashioned ribs dripping with fat and sample as piece of steak . Even Vegetarians eat meat in Argentina apparently!
The last couple of weeks we´ve travelled from Bonito (Brazil) to Mendoza (Argentina). We´ve covered one heck of a lot of kilometers and are now less than 400kms, six hours by bus, from getting back to Santiago in Chile and starting out on our bikes. We´re just kicking back in Mendoza for a week doing a crash course in Spanish and sampling the local wine the region is famous for.
After the heat of the Pantanal, Bonito was a much needed oasis. Bonito is famous for its crystal clear rivers that emerge from underwater springs. But you knew that right, because it is famous.
We booked ourselves on the ´must see´ tour down some river about an hour or so South of Bonito. This is my kind of tour as after a short and easy walk to the source of the stream, the rest of the tour involves lying motionless in the water
When we were dry ...
as the current carries you downstream and you basically enjoy the view. Es tranquilo.
For the divers amongst you, the visibility was perfect and varied from 5 to 20 metres - the exact range of visibility depended on where you were looking and how far away the riverbank was from you in that direction. If you were looking directly towards the river bank, the visibility was generally 5 metres or less, and if you were looking downstream, then it was generally 20 metres or so to the next bend in the river, so you could see 20 metres. Got it?
The river is actually only a stream, usually around a metre or two deep, although every now and then you were nearly scrapping on the bottom as you dodged back and forth between rocks and logs. There was one cool little rapid you got to swim through, but generally it was very a very slow moving stream with the emphasis being on kicking back and enjoying.
The amazing thing about the tour is that the whole way down you are surrounded by schools or fish which completely ignore you as they eat and swim around. Unlike previous
That´s a lot of water ...
diving I´ve done it was really, really intimate I think because of the closed in proximity of the riverbanks and forest around you. The fish were usually so close you felt you could reach out and touch them. Above you was a forest canopy that often nearly closed in above you.
It is hard to describe what it is like to be see the interaction between life above and below the water so intimately. You could look at a small fern or rock protuding out into the river then glance back down into the river and see all the fish that are using the eddy below to live in. We saw some monkeys eating seeds in a tree above the river, and under the water the fished teemed around snatching the seeds that fell into the water below ... the interaction was incredible.
Three hours later we emerged (rather sun burned) and very happy. We were greeted by an all you can eat buffet (no fish unfortunately as I wanted some revenge for being ignored) and very comfortable hammocks for a nap.
After we had enjoyed each of these thoroughly, we went for a short detour to
Iguasu from Brazil
View fro the Brazilian Side ...
look down into this huge hole in the ground where they have quite a few rare birds of some kind (the big red parrot like things - starts with an ´M´- Mackaws?? anybody, anybody?). I confess that I spent more time jumping around avoiding mozzies than looking at the birds as we wandered around, but I guess it was still a worthwhile detour.
We considered kicking back for a few more days in Bonito (you can do underground diving in a nearby cave which sounded rather cool) but by this stage we´d realised that Brasil is rather too expensive for our budgets - especially nioticeble after staying in Bolivia for a few weeks. For example diving would have cost $US180 for one day ... you could live on that for a week in Bolivia. With the costs mounting up the decision was made to head South into Argentina ASAP, so it was off to the bus station to buy tickets after we got back from our swimming tour.
We had our transport problem of the day (you have to expect one, but only one, transport problem pretty much every day) when we were told we couldn´t buy tickets
Iguasu from Brazil 2
View from the Brazilian Side ...
for the bus the next day. We found this one strange as we knew three other people who had bought their tickets for the same bus an hour before we tried to buy ours. Go figure.
Anyway, it was no drama, we just went back the next morning and bought our tickets then. We knew buying the tickets wouldn´t be a problem when the taxi to the bus station charged us three times the price quoted to us by the hostel owners (in defence of the taxi driver, the hostel owner quoted us the price for a motorbike taxi and then called us a car taxi) ... The good thing about this was that you know once you´ve had your transport problem for the day, it all goes right after that and that´s what happened.
The next 24 hours were occupied by travel: an hour waiting for the bus, then a four hour bus trip to Campo Grande where we had one of those wonderful backpacker moments where a bunch of us who had been on the bus from Bonito all got off, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways only to all find ourselves in the
Just another one
same McDonalds several blocks away from the bus station 30 minutes later. It was hot and McDonalds had air conditioning and ice cream.
Six hours later we loaded onto a bus for the twelve hours trip south to Puerta Iguaza. You can guess how fresh and cheery we were!
We decided to stay at the local HI (YHA) Hostel - Paudimar. They had an office at the bus station which made things easy. We were told we could save some money by catching a series of three more buses to the hostel or we could take a taxi ... we took a taxi.
I liked Paudimar for several reasons, all related to learning how people can rip you off whilst never acutally doing anything to decieve you. I think I can learn a lot from these good people.
I liked it when their representative at the bus terminal forgot to mention the 10% surcharge on credit cards when we asked if we should get some cash out or whether we can pay our bills with Visa. ¨No, problems, just pay with your Visa Card¨.
I liked the way the travel agency at the hostel happily
lots of these
told us how we could save 40 reals by booking the boat tour on the Brazillian side through them (which was true) but neglected to mention that we could do nearly exactly the same tour for less than half the price we paid them from the Argentinian side ... they never lied, they just omitted certain details. In hindsight I can appreciate the skill with which they did it.
That little moan out of the way. There´s a reason why people go to the Cataratas / Foz de Iguazu. It´s just mind boggling. We did a combined boat tour / walk on the Brazilian side which took the best part of an afternoon (In hindsight I question why I paid 100 reals and rushed to the front of the boat so a guy could drive it (and me) under several hundred thousands cusecs of muddy cold water, but I figure most of you would figure that it´s a strange way to spend money in the first place, so I probably don´t need to mention it as something you could afford to miss at the falls).
We then headed over to the Argentinian side of the falls the next
and amazing flora ...
day (again we paid 25 reals to take the Hostels bus across so we could get to the falls early, rather than paying five or so reals to take the public transport because we´d been told to get there before the morning crowds - in true Paudimar fashion, the bus left 30 minutes late, stopped at a supermarket for 20 minutes so we could get supplies for the day, then the driver told us we wouldn´t go straight to the falls because it would be too busy so he took us to a cheezie market to wander around while he sipped matte and read the paper for another 30 minutes).
We finally arrived at the falls around 10:30am ... right in the middle of the bus tour crowds. This meant we spent over an hour doing the 600metre ´top tour´and probably an hour and a half doing the 1.2km bottom tour. By the time we arrived there were already over 3000 tourists already crammed on 1.8km of boardwalks and more arriving by the busload every minute ... Excuse me, coming through, excuse me. Oh you´re taking a photo, sorry, can i just get past .... I think I now
understand why some people´fall´over the falls because half way through the morning I was feeling quite disposed to assisting several people to get a closer view of the waterfalls ... if only.
All said and done though, even the crowding can´t detract from how amazing these waterfalls are, especially when you´re standing at the top of the devil´s cauldron looking straight down into this seething mass of water below you.
I´m really glad that we decided to go back the next morning and do a walk out to a lesser visited part fo the falls along the Macacu Trail. We got really muddy, we got swamped by mozzies*, but we saw less than 20 other people in over three hours of walking and enjoyed some really nice views and amazing displays of butterflies .... it was bliss!
That afternoon we left Foz de Iguazu ´Coche Cama´ (luxury bus) for Buenos Aires, an 18 hour bus trip from memory. Coche Cama seats are like the business class seats on planes ... they´re wide, they recline about 60 degrees and you can almost get enough sleep in them not to be too grumpy the next morning. They also serve
free food (I got two meals each time because they don´t have the concept of vegentarian food yet) and free drinks. Not too bad if you have to be stuck on a bus for 18 hours.
We planned to stay in Buenos Aires for a week or more studying Spanish, but we had a bit of bad luck (transport problem of the day) catching our taxi into the city. We (I) accidentally paid double what we should have because I thought I was paying the taxi fare to this guy who helped us lift our luggage from the sidewalk into the back of the taxi and tell the spanish speaking driver where we were going. But of course I found out when we got to our destination that I had just seriously overpaid the guy at the bus station for simply putting the luggage in the taxi and still had to pay the taxi driver his fare. At least I knew the transport problems were over for the day 😊. Don´t worry if you don´t think that´s funny. Christie didn´t find it very humorous either.
Strangely, neither of us found it funny when the hostel we´d travelled too
No Swimming Allowed
... I decided my barrel trip could be left for another day at this point.
was full, as were the next six hostels we visited over the next hour. We finally found a private room in hostel number seven or eight, which was both really cheap and not in our Lonely Planet guide. Bargain we thought ... until we noticed, as we sat down for a late breakfast, that we seemed to be the only English speaking people at the table (something quite rare). In fact we seemed to be the only non Hebrew speaking people in the whole hostel (a fact that later turned out to be true). Lucky us had found one of the Israeli Hostels we´d been hearing so much about.
Now don´t get me wrong, we´ve met, trekked and shared drinks with some wonderful Israeli´s on this trip, but like most nationalities, get enough of them together and you get a big party. It´s just with Israeli´s when you add the need to let their hair down after three or four years of militiary service you get an especially big, noisy, rowdy party that goes on all night, They´ve got a lot of pent up stress to get rid of I think ... basically our one night in Buenos Aires
Aren´t they pretty ...
is what I´d imagine it would be like to try and sleep in the middle of a popular pub on a Saturday night outside an army barracks filled with drunk teenage soldiers.
Bleary eyed and pretty darn grumpy, we booked our tickets out of Buenos Airies first thing the next morning. This still gave us the chance to spend nearly two full days looking around the inner suburbs, to do some shopping and most importantly in the milestones of our life go to a Parilla (Argentinian Steakhouse) and eat meat. Quite seriously, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, I offered Christie a piece of the ribs I was trying and almost fell off my chair when she actually took it and ate it right there in front of me. Truly a Kodak moment.
Seven O´Clock that night after a forced march through town because we found the subway was closed on Saturday nights, we set off on another 14 hour overnight bus trip. By the time we arrived in Mendoza the next morning we had spent two of the past three nights sleeping on buses and one night basically not sleeping. Weren´t we chirpy little birds!
Typical Bus Tour Crowds
They aren´t so pretty, but I´d love to see if they could fly ...
was the Sunday morning just gone. We had another couple of noisy nights after that in Mendoza because our room was right above the road and there was a lot of street traffic, plus we were right above the spot outside the hostel where all the smokers went after getting back from the pubs and nightclubs to chat, and joke and smoke, and there was even some guy who walked up and down the street for most of the night blowing some whistle ... unlike transport problems which limit themselves to one a day, insomnia has become a permanent part of our lives.
Fortunately, we were moved into a quieter room at the back of the hostel two nights ago and all is now bliss.
We´ve been studying a crash course in Spanish since Monday, and our heads are overloaded with Spanish words that don´t seem to ever have the right endings or correct pronunciation.
What´s more Intensive Spanish Courses seem to be a peculiarly designed torture whereby you spend four hours every morning studying and walk out thinking, ¨yea, now I´ve got it¨. You then walk out into the real world to practice and find yourself
Falls from the Argentinian Side
I´ve edited out the 3000 person crowd around me so it looks all serene and peaceful ...
less than an hour later with your tail between your legs, saying ¨¿Hablas Ingelsia?¨and pointing at menu items and saying things like ¨eso¨ or ¨esta¨ or whatever the bloody well ¨this¨is.
There were some rumours going around the class today that maybe if Christie and I spent less time visiting the local vineyards and sampling the local wines over dinner in the afternoon, and more time going on the school excursions to the local museums we may learn more, but come on ... vineyard tour or museum? ... what would you do?
Still, it´s only Thursday ... we´ve still got one more day to go and it might all come together 😊. Either way, we plan to head to Santiago this weekend, find a good bike shop and buy some necessary supples and then be in Villarica in the Lakes District by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, ready to climb a Volcano I´ve heard about down there and then if we survive that to begin the real part of this little adventure ... Cycling south.
* Did I mention that we both have sort of been pretty bad with our Malaria Tables.
I did better than Christie who only remembered to take two pills just before we got to the Pantanl, but that may also be related to the fact that when I took my Larium I got the coolest and most vivid dreams so I had more incentive to take them than she did for her boring old tablets.
Anyways, given Christie´s 264 Mozzie bits and my 3 or 4, there is a chance we could both have malaria sometime soon. Should give me something else interesting to write about I suppose.
Tot: 1.109s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 11; qc: 58; dbt: 0.0127s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb