A Travellerspoint blog

Mi Buenos Aires.. Querido

or how not to try to go to Chile

sunny 23 °C
View South America on fuzzbuzz85's travel map.

So you will see from the map included above that we went to Chile... the map lies. It's not that we didn't try to go to Chile, but rather that our attempts were unsuccessful, finding us instead shivering around a tiny village asking anything that moved if it could provide us with accommodation for the night..

To go to Chile, one must cross the Andes, and during winter the border is closed after rather-early-o'clock.. and so our first failure in our grand Chile adventure was somewhat our own fault - oversleeping and a lingering lunch, to be exact - and we arrived at the bus station 15 minutes after the last bus left for the border. We spent several hours debating whether to have a go or not, and in the end settled for a bus halfway to the border, a little town called Uspallata. Upon arrival, it turned out that Uspallata is something of a ski resort, and that Argentinos are on holiday, so we had a nightmare finding a place to stay, and marched from hostal to hotel to hostal willing to pay anything to escape from the cold. We even started asking in shops, and one shop directed us to a Farmacia, who in turn directed us to a ski-hire place, where help was finally had in the form of Belen, an Argentina girl about my age from Buenos Aires. We had a lovely warm room for the night in the ski company's little hostel, thankfully, and when we woke early for breakfast we finally saw Uspallata's surroundings - the Andes at their best, dramatic rocks, covered in snow and glowing pink from the sunrise. Belen walked us to the bus station, where our second Chile failure took place - overnight snowfall had closed the mountain pass where border formalities take place, no buses to Chile. Fate had said her piece, and so we decided to go for a walk outside Uspallata instead, taking in the dramatic scenery and attempting to capture it all on camera. We walked a good 2 hours in the direction of the border, and passed a parking area in the middle of nowhere just off the road where buses and cars were waiting for the border to open, the inhabitants of the vehicles looking bored and anxious. We figured that Chile might not have been such a good idea after all - what if the border closure had taken place on our return, making us miss our bus to Buenos Aires, and perhaps even our flight home...

Anyway, we returned for lunch, and eventually back to Mendoza. Oh, and another novel piece of trivia for you - parts of the Brad Pitt film 'Seven years in Tibet' was shot in Uspallata. Random eh?

So here I am in Buenos Aires, only days away from my return home, both eager to see family and friends, and also really sad to say goodbye once again to Latin America.

Today we took part in Argentina's national sport: protesting. Argentinos protest with vigour and style, and today thousands turned out to support the President, Cristina Fernandez de la Kirchener in her ongoing battle with the Ruralistas - farming giants. The show-down has resulted from an export tax intended to redistribute wealth and ensure food availability in Argentina, in the face of a global food shortage. The ruralistas say that the taxes will hurt poor farmers (the ruralistas are billionaires, and the poor farmers are in support of the taxes), but I think it's more about the fact that their exports can make more money abroad than they could in Argentina. That said, the redistribution of wealth promised by CFK's government has yet to materialise..

All the same, banner in one hand and camera in the other we joined the masses, who were beating funky drum rhythms, waving images of Che and letting off ear-splitting banger things into the air. When in Rome.. right?

Later on I dropped my card down a slot in the cash machine. Not the slot one is supposed to put the card in, but another one. I know, a really special moment, and after a moment of 'oh.my.god', Lucy managed to pull back a layer of plastic to allow me to retrieve it, my hand emerging triumphant card in hand and covered in machinery grease. I do wonder at myself sometimes, really I do.

Fortunately the weather has picked up dramatically, and right now it's a slightly humid 23 degrees C.. much better than the rainy 0 degrees I experienced back in May/June..

So, until what will probably be the last blog.. Chao

Soph xx

Posted by fuzzbuzz85 13:17 Archived in Argentina Tagged events Comments (0)

Going west..

sunny 20 °C
View South America on fuzzbuzz85's travel map.

I'm sorry I've not written in the last week, it's been go go go leaving us only a few moments at a time to catch a few minutes online before dashing off to do something else. When I last wrote I was over a thousand miles away, in Curitiba Brazil. Now I'm popping up on the other side of the continent, in Mendoza Argentina. On the way, we've revisited the Iguazu falls, spent 60 minutes shopping in Paraguay and been horse-riding in the Andean foothills...

So we left Curitiba earlier than planned, and caught a bus to Foz do Iguazu, the Brazilian/Argentine/Paraguayan border. We dumped our bags in a locker and headed outside to catch a bus to the other bus terminal to get to the falls, when we had the idea of spending the afternoon in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay's city of shopping and madness. The falls experience showed us how much we had missed the first time around. The Brazilian side doesn't take that much time to visit, as it's more of a panoramic view, which is great because it gets you very excited about seeing the Argentino side the next day. So we took our passport and some cash and caught a bus to Paraguay for 60 minutes. I bought a new memory card for storing our thousands and thousands of photos (literally, that many now!), a new fm transmitter so I can play mp3s through my trusty little radio, and we together bought lots of silly cds (reggaeton, like latin hip-hop), dvds and so on. All good clean fun, and we dashed over the border back to Brazil at sun down along with Brazilians and Argentinos carrying tvs, laptops, playstations, huge bags of all manner of stuff back home at a fraction of the price they would have paid in their own countries... never mind in ours.
That night we found the tiny shack with a battered sign with 'Argentina' written on it, and the bus driver kindly awaited our border formalities before dumping us back in Puerto Iguazu once again. Exhausted, we fell into bed, having earned six stamps in our passports, taken 10 buses, seen one of the world's most incredible natural wonders and been in and out of Paraguay, all in one day.

The next day was Falls Day, and we did it properly this time, getting right up close to the falls both at the top and the bottom, at one point so close it felt that the tonnes upon tonnes of water were falling right on top of us. It was simply awesome, although there's very little that can describe it, not even photos (although we tried!). The weather was finally on our side as well, throwing in a splendid rainbow for free. We returned to Puerto Iguazu very glad we'd taken the time to give the falls the effort they deserved!

Our next day we planned to take a bus to San Ignacio Mini, visit the remains of one of the many Jesuit missions dotted around the region, then catch a bus to the province capital to take another cross country to Salta. Luck wasn't on our side, and we ended up stuck in Posadas. The ruins were pretty, but apart from a small museum about mission life, little effort had been made to explain what each part were the ruins of. Then we arrived in Posadas and found that no buses were available until the next days, so we spent a sad night in a grim, expensive hole of a hotel not unlike that featured in Psycho (complete with strange, serious young man). We went to a super market and bought some ready-meals to eat in front of super-dramatic latino telenovelas (like short soap operas), which made it all a lot more entertaining!

Very glad to escape the next day, we finally got our Salta bus and arrived 15 hours later shivering in the air-conditioned baltic temperatures – it wasn't a good night's sleep. An hour later found us asleep in lovely hostal beds, glad to be somewhere without having to move on for a few days. Salta in the foothills of the Andes, was worth every effort we went to to finally arrive there. The city itself is all colonial architecture (not unlike Cuenca, where I lived in Ecuador), lively outdoor events and gaucho culture – lots of chacareras (Argentina's folk music), horse riding, red wine and lovely traditional food, all of which we experienced in our few days there. On the first day we took a cable car up the Cerro San Bernardo to take in the view of Salta and its surrounding, beautiful countryside, picked up some llama clothing in a market and chilled out to live outdoor music and dancing (some really, really cute kids dancing as well, dressed in traditional gaucho gear. We were nearly moved to tears it was so cute!).
The second day we caught a bus to a little town just outside of Salta, called San Lorenzo, and hired two bikes and two dogs – a huge black one as big as a bear, and a small female dog with endless energy who kept leaping in front of our tyres. At first it was infuriating (we hadn't actually hired the dogs you see, they just came with), but when we stopped at a little hotel in the middle of the country to have a coffee and a sit down they managed to win us over, with lots of stinky licking and rolling around. Later, they were infuriating again, attracting the attention of the 3 dogs per household we rolled past, making the path erupt with large, barking and to us rather alarming dogs. Still, as we escaped the dog gauntlet to the main road, it was an awesome day with beautiful views and lots of very welcome fresh air. We delivered the dogs back to the bike hire place and they were absolutely wiped. That night we booked horse riding for the next day, and tucked into locro (lovely local stew) and tamales in a peña listening to chacareras drinking yummy local wine. Bliss.

So the horse riding, back in San Lorenzo and into the mountains. The saddles were pretty tough, and we're still aching, but it was worth it to see the Salta countryside the way it was meant to be seen. Our 7 hour excursion was to include lunch, which we thought might be a few sandwiches as normal, but when we had tied up the horses and waddled around to try and relearn how to walk, our guide Gustavo lit a barbecue and cooked up a feast of sausage, steak, red peppers and tomatoes cut in half with cheese melted in the cavity, crusty bread and lovely, local red wine. A little heavier, the horses hauled us back to San Lorenzo.

So now, another bus ride (18hrs) later, we're in Mendoza, home of wine, and tomorrow will see us visiting a couple of wineries, chocolatier and a olive oil plantation... three of the best things in the world, so I think I'll be pretty pleased with myself this time tomorrow!

Sorry that's a lot, and sorry no photos again – there are just so, SO many now! We're in serious danger of filling up that 8G card.. but I promise there'll be some soon... at some point. 8 days to go now..

Loads of love

Sophie xx

Posted by fuzzbuzz85 15:40 Archived in Argentina Tagged bus Comments (1)

Loving and leaving Rio

sunny 22 °C

We have now finally made a move from Rio, 2 days later than planned. There were two reasons for that extension - the first that the weather picked up so late, but most of all because we had fallen head over heels with the place, the hostal we were staying at and the people we met there. The hostal was indeed basic in terms of general comfort, and yeah it was a bit of a nightmare to queue for a shower, but that paled in the face of the great time we had there. Plus it´s the cheapest in Rio, bargain. We´ve done so much this week - including a very entertaining evening out with two lovely Isreali guys from the hostal to a hip-hop club (or, if you´re Brasileno, ´hippie-hoppie´), and were wonderfully out of place but very welcome all the same. We went up to see Jesus at Corcovado... he said his arms hurt. We were perplexed at the very well dressed foreigners floating around in fancy dresses and suits, then we found out that it´s possible to get married in the chapel under Jesus´ feet, which is exactly what happened at sundown. Rather oddly, however, the bride came up the escalator and had to walk past all of us tourists, which is probably the last thing she wanted on the big day (and just think of the potential for mishap involving the train of the dress and the escalator...) Anyway, the views were spectacular, and when I get a chance next I´ll put up some photos, so keep checking back here for when I get the chance to do that.

So Sunday finally came and we realised that it was time to move on, and after a lingering sit on Ipanema beach we mooched home to pack our bags and get moving. As we left, and said goodbye to the people in the hostal - Freddy, the Brazilian owner (and our Portuguese teacher) and Brian, the American who is co-running it, as well as the other travellers mostly from Latin America and a few from Europe - we each had a lump in our throats. The best way to leave a place, I suppose, is to be sorry to go.

So now, after a few bus rides (a relatively painless 12 hours this time), we´re here in Curitiba, a lovely little town which is the capital of the southern state of Paraná. The weather is lovely still and we´ve had a great time just walking around the city which still has preserved a lot of its colonial architecture - lots of baroque-looking pretty buildings. Yesterday we ventured on the bus to the botanical garden just outside the city, and today we checked out the art museum and a really, really tasty food market (including a taco stall with proper home-made tortillas - Dad, you´d have really loved it!). It´s very different to Rio, much more chilled, but it´s good to have a few more relaxed days after living it up in Rio. We had planned to take the train to the coast, apparently ít´s spectacular.. but as it turns out it only runs on the weekend, and we´re not staying till Saturday just for the train, so we´re moving on back to Foz do Iguazu and picking up an extra day.

Anyway, I´ll make a map of our next moves so you´ll have an idea of where we are, and also now that this is my tenth blog (whoo!) the links that I´ve made about the project *should* appear, so I hope you find them interesting, and I´ll add more as I find them. I´ll add the latest photos soon - there are so many from Corcovado I need a concerted photo session to figure out which are the best!

Love to all (and how is it July already?!?!?)

Soph xxx

Posted by fuzzbuzz85 11:54 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Waiting for the sun..

rain 20 °C

Having left Buenos Aires to escape the rain and cold, the rain and cold decided to come along for the ride. We had hoped for beautiful weather for our first glimpse of Iguazu falls, but as we got off the bus it wasn't quite the totally tropical experience we had hoped for... The bus ride itself was the most luxurious of my many, many bus experiences around the world. In Bolivia it was a case of wearing as many woolly jumpers my sleeping bag would fit in, then shivering for eight hours on a lumpy seat. In Cambodia, it was being wedged between the hard seat and five backpacks, rattling along a dirt track and emerging looking like a mud woman. In Argentina, it was food, wine, champagne, super-reclining seats. Brilliant. Anyway, all ready for action having had a good night's sleep, we got off the bus and found more cold miserable weather. All the same, no amount of cold wind or rain could hamper anyone's enjoyment of Iguazu, which is absolutely stunning. We're planning to go back, after a substantial faff trying to figure out when to go to Rio it turned out that we didn't have time to see the other side of the falls, but we were planning to return through Foz do Iguazu (the Brazilian equivalent of Puerto Iguazu) on the way back anyway, so no biggie. In the mean time, here's a taster...

So, another bus, this one 20 hours and similarly painless, and we're in Rio.. or frio de Janeiro, as we've called it since spending the first three days here either trying to dodge the rain or submitting to fate and getting ourselves soaked. The famous Rio attractions – taking in the view from Jesus' point of view at Corcovado, or chilling out at the beach with beer and coconut – are generally associated with hot weather, so while we waited for the sun we've been exploring other Rio activities. Our hostal, cheerful and cheap is an exception to the rule that Rio, and even Brazil in general, is surprisingly expensive (for budgeteers like myself). Our first hostal quote was 35 Reais a night for a dorm room (about £10, which is what I have paid in Edinburgh, and what we each paid in Amsterdam for a private room for three of us!), so that was a near hernia moment. Fortunately this place is less than half that price, although still a lot compared with the rest of South America, particularly the Andean countries, on which I had budgeted. Oh well, it's Rio, and we won't be here too much longer. Anyway, aside from being cheap this place is sociable and fun, with lots of activities to keep us amused while the rain poured down outside. The owner, Freddy, is teaching us some Portuguese, and with the Spanish I'm amazed at how much we've been able to get by and talk to people here. During the caipirinha mixing class we managed to hold up some sort of conversation with the chief mixer, a guy from Curitiba (our next stop) who speaks no English, just with Spanish, our tiny Portuguese and lots of pointing. We've also checked out a little market near centro, walked around Copacabana beach to the metro (not far from the famous Copacabana Palace.. Laura and Luke: I'm amazed!), and yesterday went to Cinelandia and Santa Teresa. Cinelandia is the home of the grandiose buildings, which are good for photos, and the Catedral.
The catedral was inaugurated in 1979, which may help to explain the choice of building materials: concrete. To be exact, a concrete cone, which can hold 20,000 people standing inside. The only architectural saving grace for what is essentially a monstrosity, is some lovely stained glass.
After being awed by the aesthetically displeasing catedral, we headed to the Tram and took the ride around Santa Teresa, which is a crumbling colonial district up in the hills, with cobbled streets and stunning views of Rio between the houses.
After that it was a slap-up arabic meal in Cinelandia, and a slow walk home holding our tummies having over-done it somewhat.
This morning I finally woke up to some sunshine, and we packed our bags with beachwear and did what we came here to do – nothing on the beach. Only after, of course, some lunch at a delicious comida a kilo place – literally, you pile some food onto a place buffet style, then they weigh it and you pay per kilo, inspired. Unfortunately, Lucy and I still approach the comida a kilo as if it were all you can eat, and keep getting carried away and over-doing it! (Can you sense a theme here?)
So, here's a beachy Ipanema photo, and watch this space from some from Corcovado soon...

Posted by fuzzbuzz85 16:58 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Phase 2..

rain 10 °C

I'm afraid that this is a flying update, letting you all know what I'm up to next. The project is now kind of over, since it's been a month and my housemate from Leeds has joined me here in Buenos Aires. The weather has also reflected the change of mood, and it's been raining solid for the last 2 days, time I think to head to warmer climes.

Our next move is to head to Iguazu falls - as Eleanor Roosevelt said 'poor Niagra', so I'm pretty excited about it, then we're heading up to Rio before returning south again via the nice-sounding city of Curitiba, before heading back to Argentina and exploringg the western towns of Salta and Mendoza (wine country, hurrah!)

Anyway, I'd also like to say a massive thank you for everyone's birthday messages, cards and so on, it was really lovely to hear from you all! I had a really lovely day, finished off with a really tasty mexican meal (I've really been missing spice here, and last night we went to an Armenian place too, mmmm).

Right, sorry that's not massively informative, but I promise I'll be in touch again soon with lots of Iguazu photos, and of course of Rio (too exciting!).

All my love


Posted by fuzzbuzz85 08:11 Archived in Argentina Tagged bus Comments (0)

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