Argentina and Uruguay.
Saturday 4th August
Our wedding anniversary
We arrive at Villazon fairly well rested and having had breakfast on the train. We change our watches 1 hour forward, now 5 hours behind GMT. From here we have a short taxi ride to the border, which is straight forward. Whislt crossing the border we yet again bumo into the group who have had a day's travel on horrendously bumpy roads and a bush camp to get here. Some of the group have had travel sickness, the rest look tired and fed up.
After the border crossing we head to the bus station which is a short walk. The next bus to Salta leaves at 11.15 and should take 7 hours. In fact we don't arrive until 7pm after what seemed a long and arduous journey. Shortly after the border we were stopped by immigration and police who searched our baggage and the bus.
The scenery was initially very pretty but then turned to grass lands that are flat and uninteresting.
Salta is much larger than we thought. We take a taxi from the bus station to the main square from there we look for a descent hostal, as this is the first time we haven't booked in advance. We part company with the Irish girls at this point as they are able to find a dorm room.
Eventually we check into La Posada Del Parque, a private small double room with ensuite in a new hotel a 10 minute walk from the main square with views over a Park. For dinner we have an Argentinian steak. Yes it is good and comes in huge portions, we could easily have shared.
Sunday 5th August.
Today was a chill out day and catch up on some sleep. We watch Andy Murray win Gold in Olympic Tennis and then Usain Bolt get gold in the 100 meters. In the evening we met up with the group again at a steak restaurant. All are well and have enjoyed horse riding with the Gauchos.
Monday 6th August
Salta is a city located in the Lerma Valley, at 1,152 meters (3780 feet) above sea level in the north west part of Argentina and it is also the name for the capital city of the Salta Province. Along with its metropolitan area, it has a population of 1,215,207 inhabitants according to the Digital Encyclopedia of Salta, which makes it the second most populated city in the northwest of the country. Within Argentina, Salta is the city which has preserved its colonial architecture the best. The city center features a number of impressive buildings dating back to the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Clockwise around the Ninth of July Square are the neoclassical Cathedral, the French style Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cabildo (in former times, the city's town hall, nowadays a historical museum) and the neoclassical Museum of High Mountain Archeology, which houses artifacts from the Inca civilization, including the magnifically preserved mummies of three Inca children. The Plaza is almost completely surrounded by a gallery,
Today we wandered into Salta main square, enjoyed the architecture and atmosphere. We sat enjoying the cafe lifestyle while people watching, we have missed being able to do this. Planning for the next few days and laundry.
Tuesday 7th August
We catch the train to Tucaman this morning, setting off at 10am and arriving at 3pm. We had initially booked into Mundo Hostal, but when we arrived it was not clean and very basic, so we decided to go elsewhere. Found Hotel Astoria - double ensuite with breakfast. Went to train station to book train for tomorrow and then afternoon tea at a local cafe selling some lovely sticky pasties, another thing that we have missed over the last couple of months.
San Miguel de Tucumán (usually referred to as simply Tucumán) is the capital of the Tucumán Province, located in northern Argentina at 1,311 kilometres (815mi) from Buenos Aires. It is the fifth biggest city of Argentina after Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario and Mendoza, and it is also the most important city of Northern Argentina. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish Conquistador Diego de Villarroel during an expedition from Peru.
The city sits on the slopes of the Aconquija mountains, the easternmost mountain range before the large Chaco-Pampean flats. It is the commercial center of an irrigated area that produces large quantities of sugarcane, rice, tobacco, and fruit, and provides the province with its nickname, the Garden of the Republic
Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th August
Breakfast consisted of warm fresh croissants, bread, jam and tea. Wandered round the town looking at main square, taking in the culture, atmosphere and the architecture.
At 3.45pm I took a taxi to the train station ready for my 24 hour journey to Buenos Aires. Andy on the other hand could not face the journey so booked a flight and hotel, I don't blame him as this will give him more time to rest. I wanted to see a little of the landscape and experience the journey. Unfortunately we were too late tot book a sleeper cabin, they are booked out months in advance apparently. So I have a semi recliner seat in second class for the cost of £19. The carriage is very busy with lots of families travelling. The train leaves at 5pm on time, just as it is getting dark so I am able to take in the sunset. The lights remain on in the carriage until the small hours as the train makes several stops. Eventually they are switched off. There are no blankets supplied, luckily I have brought warm clothes and manage to remain fairly warm. There is a buffet car which sells simple food, warm drinks and it is open through out the journey..After a restless night's sleep I awake to bright sunshine. The scenery I was hoping for is not apparent as we are travelling through cattle and arable land.
We travel through big cities, such as Rosario Norte, the train track seems to follow the poorest of houses and in some cases slums, with no electric or running water - not what I expected for Argentina, which I was led to believe was a fairly affluent country. The children here throw stones at the train, they are a good shot and several hit the windows, I now understand why they are made for several layers of toughened plastic.
The train arrives in Buenos Aires at 8.45pm, which is 75 minutes late. I wait for my baggage which seems to take forever. I get a taxi to the hotel, just as Andy is leaving to come to the station to find me. He was worried as the trams are on strike and taxis are very busy.
We have take away pizza for dinner in our double room of Tango & Bandonean Hotel. This is an amazing hotel, it would have originally been a wealthy family house. It has very tall ceilings with carvings and lots of character. It has been well decorated and still feels very homely. We have a balcony onto the street, which is busy and quite noisy but allows sunshine and fresh air. The heating is on all the time, so it is very warm and the showers are hot, the bed is also so comfortable. These are luxuries for us after the last couple of months.
Friday 10th August
Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina and it is one of the largest cities in Latin America. This vibrant city, that especially comes alive at night, is located on the southern shore of the Rio de la Plata River, on the south-eastern coast of the South American continent. Strongly influenced by European culture, Buenos Aires is sometimes called the "Paris of the South" or "Paris of South America".
The city is home to about 3 million people and the population of Greater Buenos Aires is around 13 million. The City covers about 203 km² (78.5 sq mi) area and the Metro is spread over 4,758 km² (1,837.1 sq mi) area.
In Spanish, Buenos Aires means 'Fair winds'. As the name suggests, it is an open and integrated city that offers a large variety of cultural activities to suit all tastes of visitors. It is one of the most diversified tourist destinations.
I am excited to be in a city once again, never thought I would say that but I love the hustle and bustle, especially in Buenos Aires as it resembles a European city with it's French Architecture and Italian influences. It is a clean city with good transport and infrastructure. We are amazed by the main motorway which cuts directly through the middle and is six lanes in each direction, it takes three sets of pedestrian crossings to get across the whole thing.
This morning we visit the area of Recolata, which is a very wealthy area with posh hotels and designer shops. It is also where the Eva Peron (Evita) is buried. This is no ordinary Cemetery, the people are buried as they died with great opulence. The shrines are huge blocks of shiny marble with lots of gold carving. The Crypts contain coffins that are in visible sight, which is a little eerie. Some of the crypts are very old and have not been maintained so the coffins and bodies are clearly visible. Very interesting place none the less.
We walk back to the hotel via Plaza de Congress, where the parliament buildings are with lots of statutes and fountains. We also see several homeless communities in the parks.
We eat dinner tonight in an Italian restaurant just down the road. It is very busy and obviously popular with the locals. I have never seen so many different freshly made pasta's with various sauces. The Argentines enjoy their Italian food.
On our way back to the hotel we witness people going through the rubbish that has been left our for the refuse men to collect, they are looking for items to recycle, but leaving a mess in there wake.We seen gangs of young men with large trolleys on which are cardboard for recycling etc. This appears to be a second level of employemnt.
Saturday 11th August
Today is very rainy with massive thunder storms so we do not venture very far, luckily the hotel has good internet and a great lounge to sit and read in. We have some good Empanadas for lunch, cooked fresh from a local cafe.
Tonight we meet up with the Oasis group to say goodbye. We eat at a steak restaurant near the hostel they are staying in. Everyone seems to have enjoyed their time in Salta, but they are glad to be moving on and are ready for a change. They all agree that the last week or so has not been the same, the atmosphere on the truck has changed, people have been ill and unhappy.
Scott and Lesley, the tour leaders are not happy tonight as they have read the feedback forms and people have been very honest on them and some comments have been very cutting.
Sunday 12th August
Hannah and Mark join us at the hotel for the remainder of our stay.
We went to Sunday Antique and Craft market in San Telmo, there are so many stalls selling all manor of items. Great just wandering, looking and people watching. There is also street entainers like Tango displays, mime artists, puppeteers etc. We had lunch in a nice Italian restaurant in the area of the market.
Next we walked to La Boca area, this was originally where the immigrants landed and worked on the docks. They made houses from any materials they could find lying around and painted them with boat paint. So it makes for an interesting mix of buildings. Also in this area is the football ground of Boca Juniors. The ground has advertising hoarding with Coca Cola in Black and white, there rivals play in Red and white so they had to seek permission to change the colour.
Dinner at an all you can eat buffet restaurant, which even had BBQ steak and pork chops included in the price.
Monday 13th August
City Bus Tour today - this is an open top bus that goes round the tourist hotspots where you can jump on and off. It is quite expensive, but the ticket lasts 24hours, so if you time it right you can nearly get two days worth out of it.
Tonight Hannah, Dave, Fiona and I went to a Tango Show also included in the price was a Tango lesson, 3 course dinner, wine and transport to and from the venue. The Tango lesson was great fun, I haven't laughed this much for a while. The meal that followed was very filling and not at all skimped on and we were offered bottles of good wine too. The show went through the history of Tango and was informative as well as entertaining. Well worth the money and a good evening out.
Tuesday 14th August
Rain and thunderstorms today, so Andy and I catch up on our sleep, laundry and planning.
Tonight we go to a British Comedy Show, which takes place on the second floor of a San Telmo pub. It is a small venue so feels very intimate. There are 4 acts, of which only 1 is of any good, but is was an entertaining evening out. The compare was an attractive woman, who was half American and half Italian and although she kept the show together fairly well, some of what she said was lost in translation.
Wednesday 15th August
Today we take an overnight trip to Colonia, Uruguay. We are told that it is a tranquil beach town that provides an often necessary break from the chaotic city of Buenos Aires. Which is a short hop across the sea, Rio de la Plata, a similar journey to that of the English Channel to France. The ferry is due to leave at 8.45am, it is a fast ferry and should only take an hour. Unfortunately things don't go to plan and it is delayed due to weather conditions, we eventually leave at 10.15am and arrive 1.00pm. We are concerned about the return journey tomorrow being delayed and then us missing our bus to Iguazu. So we spend the next hour trying to change our return tickets to an earlier time, not easy with a limited understanding of Spanish.
Colonia del Sacramento was the only Portuguese settlement along the Rio de la Plata when the Spanish were colonizing this area. It was founded in 1680 with the name Nova Colonia do Sacramento by Manuel de Lobo. Colonia's founding kick-started a struggle between the Spanish and the Portuguese over control of this area. For years Colonia was a smuggling port, evading the strict trade measures imposed in the Americas by the Spanish. Due to this situation, the city changed hands many times between the Portuguese and the Spanish. Even Brazil controlled it for a short while, until the new country of Uruguay declared independence in 1825.
An interesting thing about Colonia is that its colonial center (Barrío Historico), offers an idea of what buildings in Buenos Aires might have looked like back in colonial times, before the city was successively modernized down the years. Colonia was recently made a UNESCO heritage site, so it should remain a time capsule of the Rio de la Plata's colonial past for many years.
A couple of interesting historical sights in Colonia de Sacramento are the Calle de los Suspiros (street of the sighs), a beautiful little cobblestone street lined with colorful houses and Colonia's trademark yellow lamps and the historical city gate and walls.
We check into our hostal, La Casa del Teresa, we have a 4 bed dorm room with it's own bathroom. It is very basic, cold and beds are not too comfy. We wander down the high street to find something to eat. Whilst doing this we see the Uruguayan Olympic Team being welcomed home. Then we make our way to the Old town, where we see some pretty coloured buildings and old cars. We climb a lighthouse to get views of the town. We get some great photos of the sunset over the sea.
Thursday 16th August
The weather this morning is cold, misty and wet. The ferry leaves at 10.30 and arrives on time back in Buenos Aires. We walk along Avenue Florida, which has lots of shops including designer shops. From here we make our way to Casa Rosa, which has the balcony where Eva Peron stood and talked to her public.
Tonight we catch the overnight bus to Iguaza. We have booked fully recliner seats with pillows and blanket, with only 31 seats on the coach it is very comfortable. We are upstairs at the back. The bus leaves at 19.40 and after about an hour into the journey we are served a hot meal, desert and wine.
Meanwhile back at home A level results are released and for a change there are less students getting A's.
Friday 17th August
We are woken up with breakfast and hot tea. We are due to arrive at 12.15, but run late arriving at 1pm. Iguaza is warm and sunny, which is great. We check into Garden Stone Hostal, we have a four bed dorm with it's own bathroom. The Hostal has a lovely garden with open air dining room and hammocks. We take a look round the town and suss out the bus journey to the falls for tomorrow. We have a late lunch at a cafe on the main street, sitting outside in the sunshine, followed by ice cream. The town seems quite affluent with some very nice houses, obviously fairly dependant on the passing tourist trade.
Saturday 18th August
Breakfast is included at the Hostal, it is buffet style with choice of cereals, pastries and fruit. We walk up the street ready to catch the bus to the Falls, which costs 50 pesos each and leaves every 20minutes, when we are stopped by a taxi driver who offers a return journey for the same price as the bus. We decide to go with this offer as we can then travel in comfort and not have to wait around for the bus. We arrive at the falls 9am before the tour buses, so hopefully it will not be too crowded
The falls themselves sit on the Iguazu River and rest on the border between Brazil and Argentina. Visited by many people every year, the Iguazu Falls are one of the more popular natural tourist destinations in South America. The name Iguazu comes from a local Indian language and roughly translates as "Big Water".
The first European explorer to find Iguazu Falls was Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish Conquistador, who came upon them in 1541. The falls went mostly unvisited after that until being rediscovered once again in the late nineteenth century.
The Iguazu Falls divide the waterway into the Upper and Lower Iguazu River. The northern bank of the falls is in the Brazilian State of Parana while the southern bank sits in the Argentinean Province of Misiones. The falls themselves actually consist of over 270 separate falls that stretch for more than one and a half miles. Most of the individual waterfalls are about 200 feet in height. The most famous of them all is known as The Devil's Throat which is a U-shaped waterfall that is almost 500 feet across and well over 2,000 feet in length. When appearing in movies, post cards, and elsewhere, The Devil's Throat is usually the section of Iguazu Falls that is pictured.
At peak water flow Niagara Falls has a surface area of approximately 600,000 feet, while Iguazu Falls has a surface area of approximately 1.3 million square feet of water at peak flow time making it just over twice as large
Facts you might not know about Iguazu Falls
1 - The Iguazu Falls stretch for over one and a half miles on the Iguazu River.
2 - Not only do the Iguazu Falls separate Brazil and Argentina, they separate two national parks: The Iguazu National Park in Argentina and Iguacu National Park in Brazil.
3 - In terms of surface water flowing over the falls, Iguazu Falls is more than twice as large as Niagara Falls.
4 - Two-thirds of the popular Devil's Throat section of Iguazu Falls sits on the Argentina side of the border.
5 - Iguazu Falls was featured in the following movies: Moonraker (1979), The Mission (1986), Mr. Magoo (1997), Miami Vice (2006), and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008).
6 - The local name for The Devil's Throat section of the falls is Garganta Del Diablo (or Garganta Do Diabo in Portugese).
7 - One of the falls on the Argentinean side of the Iguazu Falls is named for Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca who in 1541 became the first European to discover them.
Iguazu Falls is definitely one of the most beautiful and majestic waterfalls in all of the world.
We completed middle falls first, then went onto the lower falls, saving upper falls to last to miss the crowds. San Martin Island is closed today, this is disappointing. The falls are truly beautiful and I can't believe the amount of water that goes through them by the minute. We take the Nautical Boat Adventure, a 15 minute boat ride that takes you to see the Devil's Throat Falls and some other falls close up. It also takes us under a smaller waterfall so you get really wet. It was great fun and well worth the money. You are guaranteed to get wet no matter what you wear, so take spare clothes to change into. Andy and I wore out waterproofs and still got wet. Also look out for Tapirs, little raccoon type creatures with a more pointy nose and longer tail, they like human food and will hunt in packs, chasing humans away. This was very funny to watch if you are not the humans being chased. They have a nasty bite and are not to be encouraged, although they look super cute and cheeky.
Back to the hostal after a full day.