A Travellerspoint blog

Simply put: Wow.

Iguazu Falls

sunny 90 °F
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Taryn and I had breakfast together and she figured out her next steps. She'd had her camera stolen in Bariloche, and wasn't really feeling going to Bolivia as she'd originally planned. She had three weeks until she left for Thailand, and the airline was going to charge an exorbatant fee to change to the next available flight. I told her about Maria telling me about the Uruguayan beaches and convinced her to check them out. It is amazing how one person influences another, and then it grows from there. We said goodbye, she was heading on to Uruguay, and I was heading to the park.

I arrived at the park, and took the park's small passenger train to the Devil's Throat falls, and then took the long walkway out to the observation platform, passing the wreckage of a former walkway destroyed by a flood.
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What can one say about one of The natural wonders of the world, that won't come off as trite and cliche? Breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magical, awesome, amazing? It's all those things, but I'll leave the cliches to the hack travel writers and simply say it is a must see if you're at all interested in natural wonders. Having never been to Victoria Falls I would say this has to be the greatest waterfall on the planet, or an extremely close runner up (the people I've met who've been to both give Iguazu the win).

The water at the Devil's Throat rages with such force it shrouds the entire gorge in mist. Many a dare devil has gone over Niagra Falls in all manner of barrel and managed to live to tell the tale. Niagra falls is a trickle compared to Devil's Throat. I can't concieve of a contraption that would allow a person to go over the Devil's Throat and survive.
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The falls are surrounded by protected national park land making it a beautiful oasis of flora and fauna. I was struck by the number and variety of butterflies in the park. They are so numerous that they actually land on you. I actually had one land right on my sunglasses and hang out there for awhile.
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Fish!


I followed the natural progression of the park and went to the Argentinian Falls next. The Devil's Throat is impressive for its pure power while the Argentinian Falls are impressive for their stunning beauty.
large_Iguazu_Falls_083.jpglarge_Iguazu_Falls_111.jpgIguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

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Walking the trails around the Argentinian Falls I came across wild capuchin monkeys. I can't describe the excitement of seeing my first wild monkeys ever! I also saw a beautiful bird species, and something everyone kept calling a raccoon but was not at all a raccoon, it had a long snout. There are also toucans in the park apparently, but I never saw any. I was lucky to see the monkeys though, as most of the people I talked to had not seen them.
Monkeys!

Monkeys!

large_Iguazu_Falls_080.jpgOi, I've really been meaning to get a manicure

Oi, I've really been meaning to get a manicure

Birds!

Birds!

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I headed down to the launch for the boats that ride up under the falls. My fears were confirmed, the ferry to the Isla San Martin, an Island under the falls where you can go hiking was closed due to high water levels. The boats under the falls were still launching though. I unfortunately discovered that my waterproof camera was useless, having left the battery in the charger back at the hostel. I missed an opportunity for some really great shots :(

The experience was very cool though. After hiking around in the heat and humidy the shower is refreshing. The water pelts you much as I imagine a hurricane would. Even with glasses on and my hands up to shield my face I couldn't overpower my reflex to keep my eyes shut against the torrent.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the rest of the park. I came across the parks old abandoned hotel, now replaced by a modern Sheraton with rooms starting at $270 according to a couple I met at the airport who was staying there.
Deserted Hotel

Deserted Hotel

large_Iguazu_Falls_140.jpglarge_Iguazu_Falls_138.jpgFaro

Faro


I decided to walk back to the park entrance instead of take the train and took on a stowaway who hung out on my arm for quite some time.
I made a new friend!

I made a new friend!

Stayed with me all the way to the train station and beyond

Stayed with me all the way to the train station and beyond


After returning from the park, I spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the hostel.

Posted by RyRyGoByBy 15:33 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

To Iguazu

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Let me share with you a little tip only us travel pro's know: you don't need an alarm clock. Just catch a little bug, and let the TD wake you naturally. Trust me nothing has gotten me out of bed faster, and 40 minutes early at that! Really puts a spring in your step.

Lovely I have to catch a flight and my intestines are at DEFCON 1. I began taking imodium with each bout, I don't know if it helped or not, but I managed to make it through the short 1.5 hour flight intact.

As a side note, the alternative to the 1.5 hour flight is an 18 hour bus ride, which many of my fellow backpackers underwent. Forgive me for being a bit princessy in the beginning while I get used to this whole backpacking thing.
large_Iguazu_Falls_001.jpgMist Plume from the airplane

Mist Plume from the airplane


I got to my hostel around noon, unfortunately check in time was 2 pm. I was weak and tired. Unfortunately when it comes to stomach upsets of any kind my natural reaction is to stop eating all together (and before I get any motherly comments I stay well hydrated just to be clear). Don't want to add fuel to the fire so to speak. My two and a half days in Iguazu were effectively down to two.

The hostel was very nice, more resort than hostel. I was finally able to check in, and then went to relax around the large pool.

My social anxiety seems to peak my first day at a new hostel, which I suppose is only natural. I was very shy, and everyone at the hostel looked like they'd been hand selected for the camera's of Mtv's springbreak.

I ended up meeting Taryn, South African, but now living in London. She felt much the same way I did about the hostel and its guests. We had so much in common and clicked right away. That night the hostel was having a BBQ, so I decided I would go into town to see what I could find for dinner. Taryn decided to come along.

I got ready and then went to make arrangements for the following days with the tourist concierge in the hostel. I booked the boat ride under the falls which came with a free transfer to the park, and on the following day a jungle tour which included a zip line through the canopy, hiking and wet repelling.

Taryn and I took the bus into Puerto Iguazu the small town on the Argentinian side of the falls. Passing a long line at the atm at around 8:30, Taryn explained that the atms ran out of cash very quickly and were restocked at 8 at night. I'd heard of issues with withdrawaling money from atms in iguazu. I hoped my 1000 pesos would last.

We chose a restaurant set in a courtyard, where two musicians were playing guitar in a very interesting and unique style. It was at the restuarant that I experienced my first bit of white guilt. Cute little boys would come up to offer various wares for sale. We'd send them away with a "no gracias."
Mishaps in English as a Second Language

Mishaps in English as a Second Language


We headed back to catch the bus which stopped running sometime before 11. Four buses passed and the first one's bus driver looked at us and without prompting said, "no go to hostel inn." One of the little boys that had been selling stuff in the restuarant, was at the stop, and tried to explain to us in spanish the situation, which we failed to grasp. The next bus came and the people at the bus stop all said that it was not our bus. The next came and again everyone said it was not our bus. Yet another came and again we were told it was not our bus.

We began to imagine the whole town in on an elaborate game of trick the gringos. We began looking for the camera.
Finally a bus came with a red sign in the front that said 5 kilometres. It was our bus! The little boy who was trying to earn money selling trinkets, was just being helpful. If he expected anything in return he hid it well. We got the sense that if we'd offered him money he would have proudly refused it. Its not the first time I've asked myself and it probably won't be the last time, but I wonder why I was born to a life of privelage while others were born into abject poverty. I certainly never did anything to earn the spot. I am not rich in America, but I am far more wealthy than a vast majority of the world's population. I guess like so many things: it is what it is, and yet that answer feels so... lacking.

Posted by RyRyGoByBy 13:13 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Oh there's lettuce in this?

Ooooh.

sunny
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It was a little after 6 am by the time I got back to my hostel. When I checked in they told me they only had a bed available until today, and check out was 10 am. I asked at the front desk and the only option was to get on a waiting list that didn't open until 8:30, and hope for an open bed or on little sleep pack all my stuff and try to find a new place. Both such smashing options!

I began to look for backup plans. I tried a few hotels near the hostel they were either booked or the receptionist spoke no english. I then started searching online. Everything I came across was too good to be true and I really didn't want to schlepp to find a more expensive but crappier place.

The really nice guy who worked the day shift came in and asked me what I was doing up so early looking so exhuasted. After explaining to him, he said to get some sleep and we'd work it out later. He was the greatest.

I woke around 11 and was able to switch to a single room since I was leaving early in the morning the following day. I went out in search of a pack cover and an alarm clock. A pack cover to prevent the staps and buckles on my pack from being ripped off by the airport conveyor belts, and an alarm to make sure I woke up for my early flight to Iguazu Falls the next day. I was able to buy a watch with an alarm for 40 pesos, about $10 in a shop that catered to tourists. No luck on the pack cover though. Unfortunately even though BA is a modern metropolis of over 3 million people, with an additional 10 million in the surrounding area, just about all shops and businesses are closed on Sundays.

Afterwards I had a late lunch at a sidewalk cafe. I don't remember the food, but I do remember it is where I picked up my first bout of travelers diarhea! Oh the glamour of travel. I know what some of you are thinking, "Ryan, you need to pace yourself. There'll be plenty of time for TD down the road." I know, I know, what can I say I just have to have every travel experience as soon as possible.

I then went for a stroll around the Plaza Congreso site of the Argentine National Congress. I continued to wander the streets rather aimlessly until I felt another bout of the TD coming on and hightailed it back to the hostel.
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large_Buenos_Aires_082.jpglarge_Buenos_Aires_060.jpgCongreso de la Nacion

Congreso de la Nacion

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Uh... Skipping Businessmen Crossing?

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I stayed in the rest of the evening packing and preparing for my flight the next day.

Posted by RyRyGoByBy 11:48 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Buenos Aires,

Blah I say

sunny
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I woke up some time between 11 and 12, and waited for Kris to come get me. He never showed so I got up and went down to his floor. He wasn't in his room. I went back up to my floor. Perhaps he was in the shower. I waited a half hour and then went back down. He still wasn't there. He'd flaked! Lame.

I grabbed my bag and went out into the city not really in the mood to sight see. I began to miss Maria and Valmor completely. I walked down the Avenido de Mayo, looking at the pretty buildings and hating Buenos Aires. Not for any qualities the city itself had or didn't have, just because I finally realized it wasn't about the destination but the people you meet along the way.

Well I hope Kris is having fun in Tigre I sarcastically thought to myself. I went to the Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada. After a quick tour, I went back to the hostel to hang out.
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Buenos_Aires_010.jpgLa Casa Rosada

La Casa Rosada

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Plaza de Mayo, view from La Casa Rosada

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Some of my fellow hostel guests offered a spot at their table and to share in some of the pasta they'd made for dinner. One of the girls explained that after serving in the army many Israelis wanted to get away from the army and their parents so they came to South America or India to get away. She said because of compulsory military service they get a late start on life, as they don't start college until around the time Americans are finishing college.

It is interesting to imagine American demographics under such a system. With young Americans already waiting longer to get married and have children in order to pay off student debts, get established, and buy homes, imagine pushing the whole time table back another 2-4 years.

After eating I caught up on some computer time and Kris eventually showed up. He thought I was going to come wake him up, and since I hadn't he thought I didn't like him and was bailing. Ah so this is what it's like on the other side of crazy. Nice to see it from the otherside's point of view for once.

We got ready and headed out to get dinner with Javier. Kris really wanted to go to a restaurant called Kansas he'd been to before. It was a good choice because the food was delicious. It was American style, we ordered guacamole and champagne, and I had the grilled swordfish with creamed spinach. It was one of the best meals and nicest restaurants I've eaten at so far, made me wish I had a bigger stomach.

Then we went to club Human. I liked it a lot more than the club the previous night. I got back to the hostel a little after 6 am, and oh the regret from staying out late this night...

Posted by RyRyGoByBy 08:09 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Transition

Getting to Buenos Aires

sunny 79 °F
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Friday morning I had to get serious about moving on. I had a flight to Iguazu Falls booked for Monday morning, leaving from Buenos Aires. With three days, I decided it was best to head straight to BA, rather than squeeze another destination in. It was disapointing as I really wanted to go to the beach, and I was having so much fun with Maria, who was heading on to a beach town.

Saying goodbye to my first true travel companion was suprisingly easy. We said goodbye with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, as if one of us were going to the store, instead of parting ways for potentially ever.

I had to figure my way back to BA. I wanted to take the Buquebus ferry directly from Montevideo to Buenos Aires, however there were only first class seats left. I asked about making a booking at the hostel's front desk. They only did bookings with ColoniaExpress another company and they had a limited number of seats to sell and didn't have anymore. To make a long story short after running all over I ended up having to take a bus from Montevideo back to Colonia, and then catching the ferry from there. Taking about the same amount of time but adding numerous steps.

On the upside, as I went to the hostels front desk to have them call me a taxi, two Aussie chicks were doing the same thing. We ended up sharing a taxi to the bus station, and taking the same bus to Colonia. Always great to have good company on such excursions. They were four weeks into a five week trip. We chatted about our trips, exchanging experiences and laughs from taxi to terminal to bus.

At one of the stops a young guy boarded the bus, and his seat was next to mine. He struck up a conversation, when he realized I was from the US. He'd ridden his bike from Colonia through the open fields of Uruguay's countryside to the point where he boarded the bus. He was from Buenos Aires, and had just recently come back from a round the world trip. He went to work on a farm in Australia and New Zealand out of necessity to save up money and then went to southeast Asia amongst other places.

When the bus pulled into Colonia, we had to figure out the ferry schedule. I wanted to get to BA as soon as possible as I had dinner plans, and didn't want to get into the city after dark. Ivana and Belinda, the Aussies, wanted to explore Colonia before catching the ferry. I went to catch the 5:30 ferry leaving Ivana, Belinda and my new Argentinian buddy behind, they were going to take the 9:30.
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I met Kris online through Couchsurfing.org. He was from New York City, and currently in Buenos Aires. He'd met up with some locals and he invited me to join them for dinner and then to go to a club. I had no idea how to coordinate without a phone, so I decided having not already picked a hostel to stay at the hostel Kris was at. I was anxious the whole way to the hostel hoping they'd have beds for the sake of convience and also not wanting to schlep my bags around in the evening to find an alternative.

The hostel was... interesting. Located in a six floor building, floors 1, 2, 3, & 6 all share the same name. Floors 1 & 6 are affiliated with one another, but keep seperate reservation books apparently. Those floors are listed in my guidebook as one of the best hostels in the world. Floors 2 & 3 are apparently not affiliated with 1 and 6, even though they share a name. More interestingly 2 & 3 caters specifically to Israelis, and you have to be from Israel to stay there. I learned all of this after the fact. I don't remember them turning anyone away, but they always made a point to say that you had to be from Israel when a new person walked in and inquired about beds.

When I got to the hostel 1 and 6 had no beds available. I checked 2 and 3, and they had a bed available (FYI: they did not mention anything about being Israeli to me). I did not care for the hostel from beginning. The hostel's I'd come from were orderly and laid back. This one was... it had the air of a frat house about it. There were no luggage lockers built into the beds, and people's things were strewn about all over the place. Aside from that I just didn't feel I belonged (to clarify it was the atmosphere not the Israeli thing).
Across the Street from the Hostel

Across the Street from the Hostel

View from Hostel Balcony

View from Hostel Balcony

Hostel staircase and old fashioned lift

Hostel staircase and old fashioned lift

From hostel's roof terrace

From hostel's roof terrace

Back of the hostel

Back of the hostel

View from Hostel Balcony

View from Hostel Balcony


I used the hostel phone to call the number Kris left me. It turned out he'd forgotten he had tickets to a concert, so dinner was out. He was still coming back at midnight to get ready for the club though.

Kris came to my floor later and we headed out to meet Javier and Julio, local guys, to go to the club. Kris is laid back, a little shy, and a little self concious so I immediately felt comfortable with him, and we clicked instantly. In DC and NYC last call is at 2 AM, in BA people don't start going out until 2 AM. The club we went to didn't start charging a cover until 2. I have no idea how the city manages to function.

One thing I've learned in my travels, clubs are basically all the same, with the exception of minor and usually superficial details, no matter where they are. We had a good time, the highlight for me being when they dropped giant balloons on the dance floor and everyone had fun knocking them back up in the air like beach balls for awhile. Kris and I took a taxi back, getting to the hostel around 6 AM. We made plans to go to Tigre the following day with another local he'd met.

Posted by RyRyGoByBy 16:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

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