30.06.2008 - 11.07.2008 20 °C
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