New Year & the Dakar

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January 4th 2010
Published: February 10th 2010
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Iguazu FallsIguazu FallsIguazu Falls

one small section of the 3km length
Its the holidays between Xmas and New Year so its not surprising that Iguazu waterfalls are pretty busy, however, they are large enough and spectacular enough to cope with lots of people. On the Brazilian side of the falls you can walk along the edge of the canyon and get spectacular views of the falls that stretch for nearly 3km. Its another case of believing that the views cant get any better then going round the next corner to find that they just have.

On the Argentine side there are board-walks that let you get right up close and personal to the falls; in places they go right up to the bottom of the falls or right along the top edge to the point where the water plunges over the edge and disappears into the clouds of spray below. There are a lot of people walking around in swimsuits which seems odd, I know its very hot and humid but still seems strange walking around in public in your swimsuit. Then it all becomes clear - you can get so close to the waterfalls that the spray soaks you to the skin, which is actually quite pleasant as its so
Iguazu FallsIguazu FallsIguazu Falls

another small section of the falls - the boat is much bigger than it looks. Up in the top right you can just see the walkway above the falls with people on it - you have to look very closely
hot and sticky and you, and your clothes, dry out pretty quickly. The waterfalls are spectacular and so are the butterflies - the whole area is alive with brightly coloured butterflies who are constantly landing on you to drink up the moisture on your skin. Everyone is walking round with half-a-dozen butterflies on them, some sit on your hand quite happily for 10 minutes or so as you are wandering along.

From Iguazu we head back to BA for New Year on yet another overnight bus. In Argentina New Year is a family affair so BA is absolutely dead - most of the restaurants are closed and those that aren't are putting on fancy shows at over US$100 per person. Luckily we are not here for New Year itself, we are here because the Dakar Rally is in town (as in 'the Paris-Dakar Rally' which now runs in Chile & Argentina). The Rally Village has been set up in the centre of BA and is abuzz with activity - the competitors vehicles (bikes, quads, cars & trucks) are lined up in the park ferme, there's lots of merchandising stalls and hospitality tents where teams are relaxing before the trials
Iguazu Falls - butterfly attackIguazu Falls - butterfly attackIguazu Falls - butterfly attack

there are at least 5 butterflies using me as a snack bar
of the next 17 days, there's lots going on and there's a real festival atmosphere to it.

As you walk round town Dakar support vehicles are parked everywhere. In one lively car-park we caught up with two friends, Charles and Jeff (the Van Man from the Trans-am trip), who are both driving support vehicles for motorbike riders. There's lots of last minute preparations under-way with vehicle contents being double-checked and repacked - there's an air of calm anticipation as the various riders and support crew perform their final checks, the calm before the storm. Most of the support vehicles are big ruffty tuffty 4x4 trucks affairs, however, there is also a little Chevy Meriva in the car park, a normal everyday car that's commonly used as a taxi round here - this is what Jeff will be driving as a support vehicle!!! And he's taking it over Paso de San Franciso - that's the one we came over, the one that reaches 4800m, is all dirt road with deep sand and gravel where two riders crashed their bikes and several riders came off (not us for once) - will we ever see him again?

On 1st Jan the
Iguazu Falls - multi-coloured butterfliesIguazu Falls - multi-coloured butterfliesIguazu Falls - multi-coloured butterflies

someone should tell the butterflies about the no touching rule!!
Dakar Rally starts with each competitor leaving from the podium and riding along Avenida 9th de Julio (the widest road in the world) which is full of cheering crowds. First the motorbikes, then the cars, then quad-bikes to much applause as the two top riders are Argentinian, and finally the trucks that are enormous and probably have the craziest drivers. There's lots of cheering and flag waving and only a half-hearted attempt at security so its easy to get up close to the vehicles. Its dark by the time the last trucks leave town and as the crowds drift away BA feels really empty.

We only have a few days left before we have to head back to Ushuaia to continue our journey south to Antarctica so we decide to nip over the river and spend them in Uruguay. On the fast ferry it takes an hour to cross the 25 miles of the Rio de la Plata which separates Argentina and Uruguay. The ferry goes to Colonia del Sacramento which is the oldest town in Uruguay (founded in 1680). It was originally built by the Portuguese and it feels distinctly different to all the Spanish built towns we
Iguazu FallsIguazu FallsIguazu Falls

one of the walkways to the edge of the falls
have been to. Its laid out differently, the main square is almost like a village green rather than a typical Plaza Major and it has a really sweet historic quarter full of cobbled streets and colourful houses. Its quite small and its a beautifully sunny day so its a pleasure just wandering around aimlessly discovering small alleys and street cafés. Looking back across the river its so clear you can just see the towers of BA on the horizon 25 miles away. Some of the original houses are now museums so you can see all the beautiful internal brickwork and vaulted ceilings. Much to Edwin's delight the place is also full of old cars like a scaled down Havana

Sunday is the only day we have free to go off and explore Montevideo which is unfortunate as it totally shuts down on Sundays. Still it allows us to wander round the historic downtown district and appreciate the amazing range of architecture in peace and quite. There's a real mix of styles from colonial to art deco and luckily the tourist info office is open and provided a detailed leaflet explaining it all and telling us interesting facts e.g. the
Iguazu FallsIguazu FallsIguazu Falls

being showered by Bosetti falls - you really did get soaked to the skin
Palacio Salvo was once the tallest skyscraper in South America. The liveliest place is the market opposite the port which is full of locals indulging in enormous meat feasts for Sunday lunch. Elsewhere there are enough small cafés open to keep us fed and watered as we wander around admiring buildings.

And that's it - we have used up all our time and must head back down to Ushuaia to catch our boat for Antarctica.

PS - Jeff and the Chevy Meriva made it over the Paso de San Franciso and the motorbike riders Jeff and Charles were supporting (Philip Noone and Tamsin Jones) both finished the Dakar Rally - quite a feat as less than half of the bikes managed to finish.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Iguazu FallsIguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls

water cascading over the edge
wildlife at Iguazu wildlife at Iguazu
wildlife at Iguazu

the wildlife seemed to like sitting in the trees watching the tourists as demonstarted by the capuchin monkey, plush crested jay and family of coatimundis
Puerto Iguazu - the end of the roadPuerto Iguazu - the end of the road
Puerto Iguazu - the end of the road

the triple-border point - over the Iguaza River to the north is Brazil, over the Parana River to the west is Paraguay both with the same marker painted in the colours of their flags.
The Dakar Rally The Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally

Rally fever has definately hit Buenos Aires
The Dakar Rally - Parc FermeThe Dakar Rally - Parc Ferme
The Dakar Rally - Parc Ferme

the competitors vehicles lined up waiting to go
The Dakar RallyThe Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally

Jeff with his support vehicle - yes the little car not the big truck!!
New Year New Year
New Year

low key fireworks at Puerto Madero
The Dakar Rally - the startThe Dakar Rally - the start
The Dakar Rally - the start

motorbikes leaving the podium and riding through Buenos Aires
the Dakar Rally - the startthe Dakar Rally - the start
the Dakar Rally - the start

the trucks departing, they are pretty big - its not nice being on a motorbike when one of these goes blasting past
Colonia de Sacramento, UruguayColonia de Sacramento, Uruguay
Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay

the original city gate and drawbridge
Colonia de SacramentoColonia de Sacramento
Colonia de Sacramento

the main square - not at all like most South American main squares
Colonia de SacramentoColonia de Sacramento
Colonia de Sacramento

Calle de los Suspiros - typical colourful cobbled street
Colonia de SacramentoColonia de Sacramento
Colonia de Sacramento

an old car - the others we saw were actually running
Colonia de SacramentoColonia de Sacramento
Colonia de Sacramento

sunset over the Rio de la Plata - that's Argentina & Buenos Aires way off on the horizon
Colonia de SacramentoColonia de Sacramento
Colonia de Sacramento

just to proove that BA really is on the horizon

Palacio Salvo (1922) - once the tallest skyscraper in South America

Edifico Banco Montevideo (1928) - apparently its based on the Plateresque Style

architectural details

novel bollards on the street corners
an old car in actionan old car in action
an old car in action

she was waiting to collect her grandchildren at the bus stop

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