Uruguay, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro - Waterfalls, mountains and the end of our South American adventure...
Hungover and with bulging waistlines we finally managed to drag ourselves away from Buenos Aires and headed for Uruguay, where we spent a few days visiting Montevideo and Colonia before heading to Puerto Iguazu, the base of the Iguazu falls.
The falls themselves are located on the border of Argentina and Brazil. There are 275 falls over 2.7 kilometres of the river Iguazu and they are truly incredible. The most spectacular of all is the Garganta del Diablo or Devil's Throat which is 150-metre-wide and 700-metre-long and, despite the huge number of tourists in the park and its resemblance to Alton Towers, it's impossible not to be impressed. We had though forgotton how badly we cope in tropical conditions and within 24 hours we'd been sunburnt, bitten to death by mosquitos and had seen more cockroaches in a day than we'd seen in the last 4 months and after a few days here we were happy to be on our way to Rio!
The journey to Rio was thankfully our last long bus journey and the longest of our trip to-date at 21 hours. And no 21 hour bus journey would be complete without Paddy battling a stomach bug!! To add further to his experience, 21 hours turned into 24 as we were delayed at the border for 3 hours as somebody on our bus had tried to smuggle through a bag containing thousands of 1 peso coins - only in South America!!!
On our travels we'd met several people who'd been robbed at gunpoint in Rio and so we were understandably a little apprehensive about the city but thankfully we had no problems at all and found it to be a fantastic place. We hired an apartment in Ipanema - a part of Rio favoured by the beautiful crowd which was not quite what we needed after piling on the pounds in Argentina! To escape the cries of 'who ate all the pies' we went for a few runs along the beach but felt even worse about ourselves as we were overtaken by model-like girls running in their bikinis (which Paddy approved of) and muscle-bound men in extremely tight running shorts which left very little to the imagination (which Paddy didn't!)!
We spent 5 days in Rio, visiting Cristo, the Sugar Loaf Mountain and even risked another football game - this time at the Macanara Stadium but thankfully the fans were much better behaved than they'd been in Buenos Aires and despite being prepared this time with umbrellas and bin liners to protect us there was no repetition of our experience of the Boca game!
From Rio we flew back to Santiago, Chile, where we spent our last few days of the South American part of our trip wandering around Santiago and visiting the nearby city of Valparaiso. We've had an amazing time in South America - it's an incredible place and we've had some fantastic experiences that we'll always remember - from snorkelling with sea lions on the Galapagos islands to walking through geysers at sunrise in Bolivia and we were very sad to leave. However, we were looking forward to meeting Hobbits and Orcs and being able to drink cappucinos and speak English again so off we headed for our next destination - New Zealand...