Buenos Aires, Argentina
The bus station is a massive structure about a 10 minute walk from our apartment. So, late Friday, around 6 o'clock, we headed down to catch a bus north. When you enter the building you think you have made it, but after another 10 minutes of fighting through the crowds of other travelers, constantly being aware of the possibility of a pickpocket, you finally arrive at the area where you are told your bus is leaving from. Talk about organized chaos. There are thousands of people waiting to get a bus, arriving by bus, and seeing people getting on the bus. The public address system is a constant stream of Spanish, and we can pick out the odd word or two, but mostly they could be speaking Greek for all we can learn.
We were instructed to go to section D and there we would find the bus we wanted. After what seemed to be miles and miles of miles and miles we went into a small room, painted orange for D, and on the wall was large board, similar to what you see at an airport. On it are listed all the buses leaving in the next half hour, but since our bus didn't leave for 45 minutes (as per instructions) it wasn't there. We decided to wait there until ours came up, but with the number of people pushing, and the security person waving, we had to move out of that room to the docking area.
If you can imagine what it is like in Toronto airport Christmas Eve, after a major storm delay, filled with Maritimers and Newfies waiting to get on a plane, you will be close to the scene at this bus depot. They told me it would get worse closer to Christmas; I can't see how. No signs, just gate numbers 35 to 49, packed with people dragging their luggage. We found one official and he told us to stand in a certain spot and he would tell us when our bus arrived.
There are many bus companies, all very colourfully decorated. How they decide which spot to stop at I have no idea. You can watch for the colour of the bus, but the problem is that they each have 3 classes of travel and unless you can see inside it is hard to tell which is which.
The people are very helpful and everybody seems to be in good cheer as they wait. Wandering around is a man with a portable PA system and when a bus arrives he stands in front and blares out the destination of the bus. Fortunately, it is also on the front of the bus. So the station announcements are constant, the portable PA spews out every minute or so and of course there are 100's talking and yelling. Talk about sense overload.
Contrary to all our anxieties ours bus arrives. We give up our bag and climb on board. As I mentioned earlier, there are 3 classes on the long distance buses. The cheapest have standard seating as you find at home, in the next the seats recline quite a bit. In the top class the seats recline almost 180 degrees. As our trip was around 17 hours, leaving at 7 p.m. we chose the top class. 2 meals were served and the seats we wide and comfortable. On the lower level, where we were, there were only seats for 6 people. 2 seats on one side and a single on the other. I actually had a reasonable night's sleep.The next day, feeling a bit grubby, we arrived at Puerto Iguazu, taxied to the hotel and took it easy for the rest of the day.
From our bedroom window we can see where the Rio Iguazu meets the Rio Parana. Across the Parana is Paraguay and across the Iguzau is Brazil.
The reason we made the trip was because of the falls on the Iguazu. Iguazu Falls consists 275 individual falls along 2.7 km of the Rio Iguzau. Some are as high as 270 ft with most at 200 ft. 2/3 are in Argentina and the rest in Brazil. (Niagara is around 170 ft)
The next morning we arrived at the park just before 8 so we were there before all the bus tours got there. The main attraction is a particular fall "Garganta del Diablo" the Devils Throat. It is a u-shaped water fall, around 240 ft high, 490 ft side-to-side, and 2300 ft long. You can take a short train ride and then a walk of about 20 minutes to overlook Diablo. It is wet. With the enormity of it, the moisture from it and noise of it, it is awesome. What a site to behold. Pictures don't do it justice. Unfortunately, because of the moisture, and the push of the crowd, even though the bus crowds haven't arrived, you couldn't stay too long. It alone was worth the trip.
After leaving there we took a much more quiet trip by rubber raft down a part of the upper falls area. Very pleasant . The butterflies are everywhere. In fact, they almost become a nuisance as there are so many. Difficult to get pictures as they flit from one spot to another, often on a person. One just stood on my finger for awhile, another on my shoe. On the trip we saw a toucan and a yacare (a species of caiman native to South America. Basically an alligator.
There are two trails to walk to see the rest of the falls. The Superior (upper) and the Inferior (lower). That first day we did the Superior and enjoyed the walk and the view of the falls from the top. By noon it was getting very hot so we packed it in and headed back to the hotel.
The next morning we were back at 8 and did a 7 km nature walk where, we were told we would see lots of wild life. Nobody told the wildlife we were coming, I guess. We did see a few animals and birds, but mostly we heard the birds and the cicadas. We did see an agouti, basically a rodent.
Next was the Inferior trail and a view of the falls from near the bottom. We saw more birds, butterflies, and many coatis, which are S. American raccoons. They were every where.
At the end of the hike around the Inferior trail we took the train back to the business area of the park and as we went about 50 or so golden butterflies followed along beside the car. Unfortunately, I was in a position to get a picture. It was a wonderful memory to leave with.
Our bus back to BA didn't leave until 3:10 in the afternoon. The checkout time at the hotel was at 10 in the morning. We spent an hour lazing around the hotel and then decided to go to the station, store our luggage, and wander around the town, have lunch, and kill the time until the bus left. Part of that worked out. We checked out the town, 30 minutes was all that was needed, had our lunch and headed for shelter from the sun. This area is in the rain forest, so it is not only very hot but the humidity was high. What happens at this bus station, as it is at the end of the line, is that the buses arrive from the south and unload, then they leave for 30 to 40 minutes to refuel, and clean up. Sitting across from us were a young couple who were from Ireland and they had checked at the bus company and had been told that no buses had arrived from the south for over 3 hours, and they didn't know why. This couple were interesting in that one was from Belfast the other from Dublin. He was legally blind and they were traveling for 6 weeks, so my aches and pains became quite insignificant. Anyway, we finally we left around 6.
You probably are wondering why we are traveling by bus for such a long distance. Argentina, either doesn't like tourists, or they believe we are all rich. For all in domestic flights they charge a premium price for tourists. One hint if anyone plans to come this way is to purchase an on-going ticket when you buy your international flight.