Saturday, December 31, 2011

Iguazu and Iguassu

I did my first overnight bus ride, which everyone who comes here should do. It's a very South American way to travel and the buses are well pimped out, not like the crappy Greyhounds at home. Plus it was significantly better than flying Aerolineas, in fact they could probably learn a few things from the Via Bariloche bus company.

The ride was pretty comfortable. I sat next to a Canadian farmer guy travelling with his two farmer mates. Nice to have someone to talk to and I learnt some things about agriculture. These guys spoke no Spanish at all, so I did some ordering (of wine mostly) for the one sitting next to me. I even managed to get us some scotch, which I hate, but if was free and the service guy didn't offer it to anyone else. Obviously he liked I was making the effort with my Spanish, or he liked my blonde hair (which also got me cheap tuk tuk rides in Cambodia).

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) around 12pm. Oh my god, getting off the bus was something else. The humidity smacked you right in the face. It feels like being in Darwin in summer, so being in Darwin now. When I was there a few years back I spent all day in a pool drinking cocktails. Good times. Anyway back to this story. I headed up to the hostel for check-in and a quick shower and change into something I hadn't been wearing for 24 hours. Then it was back to the bus station to find one that would take me to the falls. These are about a 30 minute bus ride a away.

Wow, is all I have to say about them. Stunning and so powerful. Here's some pictures.

The park they are in is huge. You have to get the train between places. It's pretty cool.

Apparently the Argentinean side is best for getting up close to them, whereas Brazil gets you the best overall view. I thought the view on this side was impressive enough.

I grabbed the bus back to town after and came back to the hostel hoping to go for a swim and meet some people. The pool was nice but hardly one seems to be staying here. Basically there is one British family with kids and that's it. There's at least one other person in my room but not seen them, so basically it's a night of catching up on sleep for me. I didn't even have a beer today. It feels wrong.

Got up early the next day and jumped on the bus over to Foz do Iguassu in Brazil. This was an interesting experience. It stopped at the border for Argentina and everyone got off the bus and stamped out. Then we got back on the bus and went to the Brazil immigration bit. But this time I was the only one who got off the bus. Que? No entiendo! Anyway the driver gives me a ticket so I can get on the next bus and off it goes. So after waiting in line for 20 minutes I was stamped into Brazil. Hooray. Then I went back to the bus stop and waited with the other tourists (since no locals seem to need immigration) and started talking to a Russian girl. She ended up coming to the hostel and then we headed off to the Brazilian side of the falls. On the bus was an English guy also from the immigration bus going to the falls. He is living in Paraguay so his Spanish is really good and his Portuguese is not bad either.The Russian girl spoke some English and some Spanish so it was a mixed conversation of Spanlish with her. I've decided that listening to tourists speak Spanish is way easier than locals. I think because they speak much slower. So I probably spoke the most Spanish so far with these two, especially Anita cos she didn´t understand some English.

Anyway, here's the Brazilian side of the falls.

Glenn, you totally missed out by not doing the Brazilian side. Seriously, you should have pretended to be local and stayed on the bus and not paid for a visa. The Brazilian side was fantastic. Actually both sides were. They also have a walkway out towards the falls so you can get some great photos. And you get wet from the spray which is nice since humidity is about a million percent. I wonder how many people died making it?
After, it was back into town to the supermarket go pick up some food for dinner, then back to the hostel. This one in Foz do Iguassu was much more fun the Puerto Iguazu so beers were consumed with my Russian and English friends, and four Germans.

The next day in Iguassu involved a trip to the bird park next to the falls. This place was fantastic. I thought Australia had an impressive array of birds, well it turns out South America's are equally impressive. Some birds were in cages (decent size) and others were in big averies you can walk through. The birds appear to be in good health and some of them have been rescued from poachers, which is good. Like these, which could represent Australia or Brazil with those colours. I wonder if I could take one to the cricket? 

The poachers pull their feathers out so they look like chicks. What arseholes. People suck.

This place also has reptiles including turtles, anacondas, boas, turtles, alligators.


These birds are scarlet ibises, much prettier than those boring white ones at home.

Apparently tucans share parental responsibilities. Seems fair.

These flamingos are gorgeous. There is a mirror behind them. The sign says it gives them a sense if security cos in the wild they live in large flocks. I think its cos they all like looking at their own reflection. Half of them appeared to be in love with themselves.

This nest is huge, seriously you could sleep in it. Although probably not that comfy. The owner is an eagle. Apparently they eat monkeys.

Speaking of monkeys, they were also in the park, but quick and hard to photograph. Some were trying to get into one of the aviaries (not the eagle one that eats them).

This place also has a butterfly house. Gorgeous. Mmm, this fruit meal DOES look pretty sweet. I was tempted to stick my finger in.

Here is a tarantula skin. There was a real one in his burrow. It didn't photograph well behind glass. I'm hoping not to see one in real life. Those things scare me more than all Australian spiders combined.

Speaking of Aussies, they have one - the evil cassawary.

This guy put on a show for us.

At the end you could hold one.

And a snake.

Probably should have brushed my hair for the photo but whatevs. I'm off to Rio this afternoon. I've thoroughly enjoyed Iguazu and Iguassu.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Buenos Aires

It's my first full day here and I've been wandering around the city today. It's quite nice. I left the hostel early after breakfast and a cold shower.

First I went past Obelisco which is culturally important pointy thing and according to the guidebook is 67m high, I didn't bother taking a photo. You can look it up if your that interested.

Next I headed through the shopping bits, mostly trying to scout out the veggie restaurants I'd marked on my map. I was a bit worried they'd all be shut today since it is a public holiday. Some of them were.

Anyway I ended up walking to Recoleta which is a posh bit of town. Very nice tree lined streets. Nice buildings. I'm also liking that a lot of them are one way. Makes it far less likely I'll get hit by a car since they drive on the wrong side of the road. I found a supermarket called Disco, how good is that? Their quality of fruit was really good so I stocked up. Seriously the amount of white bread I've eaten since I got on the plane is terrible. Totally missing fruit and veg so was pleased to find somewhere that looked good.

Anyway, I kept walking and ended up at some church next to cementerio de la recoleta. Here's Jesus wanting something.

Here he is looking sad.

The cemetery was quite interesting. Lots of famous people I've never heard of are buried in what can only be described as mini houses.

After wandering around following groups of people who looked like they knew where they were going I found Eva Peron "Evita".

Some chick named Betty.

Next up was lunch. I found one of the veggie restaurants and it was open. Hooray, greens. I've missed you over the past few days. I also had some soy milk fruit smoothie thing. Yum. So far being vegan is not too bad.

Next up was a walk over to Casa Rosada, (government house) where Evita stood on the balcony and made famous during her hayday. There was a photo exhibition on outside of famous government people I'd assume. I think Argentina has a female president now, and I'm assuming she is the woman in most of them.

Tim, here is your water feature for the day.

Next up was a walk around the harbour thing. It was nice. Lots of cafes and restaurants. Got back to the hostel mid afternoon and met one of my room mates from Canada. She wanted some vegetables for dinner instead of bread and meat. We decided to go to a veggie restaurant in Palermo. This required getting the subway. OMFG I have never seen anything so busy including the tube in peak hour in London. This was crazy, apparently because it was a public holiday and they were only running every 10 minutes according to local who spoke English to us. We couldn't get on the first two then pushed our way onto the third. At the next stations more people pushed their way on and you were fully pushed up against everyone around you. I wouldn't like to be claustrophobic. Getting off was obviously our next challenge. That too required effort to squeeze past everyone.

This photo doesn´t really do it justice, but here you go anyway.

But dinner was really nice and worth the effort. We sat at a table in the street watching cars not give way to each other. No one crashed but there were a few close calls. Still they drive better here than in Asia. Vietnam is still winning by a long way for being the worst drivers ever!

After dinner it was obviously beer o'clock back at the hostel so upstairs to the bar we headed.

We starting drinking with the orther backpackers and before we knew it, it was midnight and time to go out (no one here goes out before midnight. Lots of places don't open until 2am). This is a very strange concept but it kind of creeps up on you and feels normal. So a quick change into a dress, some makeup, and off we all went to the clubbing district of San Telmo. Apparently we didn't line up to get into the club, we just bypassed the line, looked like we knew what we were doing, and went straight in. Love that. Sorry people in the line.
Here's me and my Canadian room mate

The clubbing lasted til about 5am. Turns out I'm quite popular with Brazilian men (I'm looking forward to Brazil!). Although I'm not used to seeing 5am at the end of my night. This is usually a getting-up-to-go running time for me now.

This morning was a struggle but I had to check out of my bed at 10. I met the guys from last night in the breakfast room and they were heading to la Boca. So I hauled my hungover arse to La  Boca with them. Our first challenge was getting on a bus. You need coins only here but they are very hard to get. It makes no sense and there is only one machine on the bus so its very slow. There are definite efficiency savings to be made here. Anyway we all managed to get about the 40c each for the ride and off we went.

What can I say about this place? It's fantastic. Bright colourful, lots of tango happening everywhere. Very touristy but in a good way. It's quite unsafe at night and even during the day if you stray too far off the tourist drag. So we hung out there for the day before struggling with bus change again and coming back to the hostel.

I then said goodbye to the guys and made my way to the bus station. I was worried the subway would be packed again after last night's adventure but it was fine, I even got a seat. This station is huge, it took me 10 minutes to find it coming out of the subway cos there's markets everywhere and a train station and no signs that I could see. I got to practice my Spanish again asking for directions. Then I had to find the correct ticket office to pick up my ticket which I prebooked over the internet. Now I'm sitting around waiting. I have about 30 minutes to go then I'll be in my business class equivalent seat to Puerto Iguazu. It is an overnight bus ride and I'm looking forward to having a sleep before the next party starts!

Loving my trip so far. Hasta luego!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Getting here

Hola everyone, I've decided to try and do a blog for my time in South America. I was inspired by friend Glenn although I don't think mine will be half as funny (sorry all our mutual friends, he set a high bar). I will also not be eating frogs in blender or any kind of rodent. I don't care if there's a tv crew filming me or not. That said, Glenn are you sure it was for a documentary and not some show about tourists being dickheads and eating gross things for the amusement of locals??? I'll look out for you on tv while here.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas day. Mine started by getting up at 5am. I was already hot and sweaty by the time I got to the airport, a sign of things to come I assumed. At least until I got to Auckland where it was just 19C Bro! WTF? It's meant to be summer. And my cardi was checked in so I was shivering for about 4 hours at the freezing airport. I kept having to go into the bathrooms and use the hand dryers to warm up.
There is a massive map of the world in Auckland airport and I was looking at how far south some of the places I'm going in Chile and Argentina are, and now I think its going to be much colder than the north end of NZ. In fact, I think it will be the southern hemisphere equivalent of an Aberdeen summer and my UK friends know what I think of that - shit! I only bought one jumper, but its for 3 days then back to the heat. Update: I flew over lots of snow capped mountains on the way up to Buenos Aires (the flight heads south in NZ towards Antarctica and then back up again when it gets to South America). Also Buenos Aires is not that warm so far, only 25C, and definitely not humid. It reminds of summer in Adelaide or Melbourne. Some French guy in the hostel said it was really cold here the other day (that definitely sounds like Melbourne.) He said he had a jumper on. I'm worried!

I got upgraded to Emirates business class between Brisbane and Auckland. Basically I got an email from Emirates the other day saying I have a bunch of points that are about to expire. I looked at what 20k points gets you and its not much, basically a $50 Westfield shopping voucher or business class upgrade between Brisbane and Auckland. Hmm, not really a tough choice. Ah to be rich and travel business class all the time!

So I am now in Buenos Aires. The Aerolineas flight was horrible. It was like flying Qantas domestic the whole way. No entertainment system, no footrest, very little room, and of course it was running about 2 hrs late. The veggie food was ok though so that's at least something. However, I do not recommend it for long haul flights. Wish I'd flown LAN or better still, Emirates (but sadly they don't fly here from Oz/NZ).

Bought myself a Portuguese phrase book in Brissy airport. My goal in the Spanish speaking countries is not to speak English with locals, even if I'm shit and they can't understand me. Monica, you'll be pleased to know I've been practicing rolling my Rs and I'm getting much better. Back to the Portuguese phrasebook, I will also try speaking it in Brazil but it will be harder since I know far less words. Still, there's nothing like setting yourself a challenge, because travelling by myself for 6 weeks clearly isn't enough. Update: I managed to only speak Spanish on the plane, buy a bus ticket from the airport to the hostel, and buy my first dinner (which was vegan in a regular restaurant). Unfortunately check in at the hostel was a little harder cos the guy gave me a map and had to explain stuff to me in English.

I'll assume India is winning the boxing day test already. Someone please keep me updated.

No photos with this one, since I don't go around taking photos at airports.

Adios amigos!