Kate´s World Trip from Rio - Koh Phangan!
Friday 17th October: eventually arrived in Argentina.... 5 buses later. From Florianopolis we took the overnight bus to Iguassu Falls, with some aussies and south africans we´d met at the hostel. We arrived early morning in Foz de Iguassu, Brazil and decided to only go to see the Argentinian side of the falls to save money and because most travellers said it wasn´t really worth doing both, so we had to get a bus (or in this case - buses!) across the border into Argentina. As none of us spoke good Spanish, we eventually worked out that we had to get a bus from the main station to the local bus station to catch yet another bus to Argentina (surely the bus to cross the border into Argentina would run from the main station - apparently not!). Amusingly, once we arrived at the local bus station (still in Brazil at this point) the bus stop was outside the bus station on a side street with a very small "Argentina" metal sign bolted to it - not the easiest thing to spot! We then had to cram onto a tiny bus (with masses of luggage and surf boards!) to border control. Offload our luggage, get our exit stamps from Brazil, then wait for another bus to the Argentinian border, to get off again to get our entry stamps and then wait for another bus to Puerto Iguazu - thats 5 buses in total, hence the lighter and smaller your rucksack the better! Finally, we arrived at the bus terminal in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina and caught a taxi to the hostel which was 5km out of town. The hostel was an old casino which had been converted into a huge Hostel International with a massive communal area, outdoor pool and football pitch which is clearly the most popular hostel in the area. Luckily there was room for us, so we dumped our bags and managed to grab a bowl of cornflakes before breakfast was whisked away 10am prompt! It was a really sunny day but we were too late to go to the falls, so took a shower and walked 5km back into town making the most of the sunshine. Puerto Igassu is a small town with not much in it, other than a few souvenir shops and rather poor selection of restaurants - people must come her to see the falls and not much else?! Looking forward to our first taste of Argentina, we went to a grill restaurant with an all you can eat buffet with salad, empanadas (meat pasties) and fried vegetable potato like things (that taste better than chips!) and mistakenly ordered some steak and fish as well. Eventually my fish arrived (no wonder it took soooo bloody long!) it was the size of a stingray! And Ellie was served practically a full cow - welcome to Argentina!! The weather turned as we got back to the hostel, it went dull and cold and poured down. The forecast was rain for the next day so we booked a trip to the falls for Sunday hoping the sunshine would come back, disappointed we had to spend two more days in Puerto Iguazu. It was such a large hostel it was difficult to meet or talk to people, and the fact that there were lots of annoying Americans make the whole place seem a bit like summer camp (but raining!), and i felt a bit like i was on a school residential trip. Saturday 18th October: it rained, rained and rained some more. No use of the pool today, the heavens had opened and it was cold and wet all day long. As we were going to the falls the following day, we decided to spend the day getting our washing done and updating our blogs. I realised i´d left my trousers outside the shower the day before, rushed off to reception assuming they´d have been handed in, but no luck. Most of my clothes were in the wash, so I had sandals, shorts and my pac-a-mac to keep me warm and dry - great! We caught the bus into town to look for me some warm clothes, but after a few miserable hours walking around a small town, with no decent clothes shops and very little else, we gave up. I was wet through to my knickers with rain dripping off the end of my nose, so we headed into an internet cafe to update our blogs. We decided the day was a complete write off and felt quite homesick for the first time, and headed back to the hostel for an early night, trying to get warm in our musty, cold room with creaky, metal bunk beds, hoping the rain would clear for our trip to Iguazu Falls the next day. Sunday 19th October: Iguazu Falls! Early Sunday morning, the minibus arrived to pick us up, the rain had cleared and it looked like it was going to be a nice sunny day - hooray! We were very excited about seeing the falls but felt like tourists for the first time, booked on a tour with a lot of Americans who were clearly on vacation... not travels. We arrived at the National Park at the falls, and started with an 8km jeep tour through the park (bit rubbish as we couldn´t hear the guide properly on the muffling microphone and would have preferred to walk). We were then dropped off at the river where we boarded the speedboat taking us up through the rapids to the falls - it was going to be another very, VERY wet day! The boat sped off and took us on an adventure ride through the rapids - a rough, but very enjoyable ride! The scenery was spectacular and the boat paused so we could take some photos, we we were then told to wrap our cameras up as we were heading straight into the first set of falls. I took a deep breath, pulled my pac-a-mac as tightly as possible and clutched onto the seat in front. You go so deep into the waterfall, you can´t see a thing as the water deafeningly pounds into the boat. Disappointingly for Ellie, we didn´t go into the devil´s throat, as she thought we actually went into ´the´ Iguazu Falls - i very much doubt we´d life to tell the tale if we did. Instead, the boat speeds several times into the surrounding falls and you get soaked, sodden wet through as the icy cold water plunges down onto you - an amazing and very exciting experience! After the boat ride, we are free to spend the day at the national park to dry off and take some photos. There´s a number of walks around the park with incredible views of the different falls. It´s very busy and touristy, but nonetheless the scenery is breathtaking to see. You also encounter some racoon looking animals , one of which took a particular liking to my plastic bag of food and kept trying to bite it - which Ellie found amusing, so took a photo, and THEN decided to help me, haha! The final part of the park is the little train to the devil´s throat - its so loud and powerful and the view is truly spectacular... and quite scary. We´re very lucky its a beautiful day and get some stunning photographs of the falls and a rainbow - which makes up for such a rubbish day the day before. After a full day at the park, we´re very hungry and get the bus into town for dinner before our overnight bus to Buenos Aires. We decided to go back to the buffet restaurant, but disappointingly its closed. We wandered around for a bit trying to find a similar restaurant (the selection of restaurants in Puerto Iguassu is not great) and end up choosing a grill restaurant as the waiter promises they have an excellent salad buffet too. Unfortunately, we realised it wasn´t at all the same as the waiter proceeded to bring out lots of bland, yukky Argentinian dishes. One of which is a large, whole cow´s tongue slapped on a silver plate! The waiter stupidly asks us if we know what it is - ¨Er yes - tongue!¨ I can´t even look at and Ellie asks him to take it away... immediately! Were then served us a selection from the bbq grill - some minging looking sausage, chicken piece - (i think?), black pudding - yuk! and some scabby ribs - all very, very overcooked and quite unedible. The scruffy looking waiter wants to practise his English and proceeds to tell us his life story, rambling on about how his dream is to leave the people he works for and hates at the restaurant, buy a boat and sail across the ocean - was this a hint for a tip!? We just wanted to be left alone, the food was rank and we didn´t have a lot of time before our coach left for Buenos Aires. We politely tell him we´ve finished (not really even started) and i ask for his recommendation from the set menu for desert - surely desert will be ok?). We´re told the fruit salad is very fresh, so we both take his recommendation and he returns with two silver goblets filled with what looks like chopped apple in juice - yummy?! The waiter tells us "Ï made this yesterday with sprite" (I thought it was fresh?), "Can you guess what´s in it ?"... "erm…apple?!" I ask keeping my face straight. At this point me and Ellie both burst into fits of giggles as we try to eat our soggy apple salad with flat lemonade. We ask for the bill, leave the restaurant, still laughing about the waiter and his apple salad. That night we caught the 8.30pm coach to Buenos Aires - it was the best coach I have ever been on and clear to see why all travellers rave about the Argentinian buses. A uniformed stewardess greets us as you board, the seats are large and recline really far with blanket and pillow. As the coach departs, the stewardess comes round with a tray of sweets, (its not like your on a plane and need the sweet to stop your ears popping?!). Then we´re served a hot dinner and drink (chicken with rice - no surprise there), wine, films to watch and whiskey before bed! We slept really well in our reclining seats and pleasantly arrived on time into Buenos Aires midday, very relieved to have a much more pleasant journey then the buses in Brazil.