Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iguazu Falls

We were lucky enough to grab some relatively cheap flights up to Iguazu to see the famous waterfalls - can´t come to Argentina and not see them if you ask me. So off we flew, back to the jungle. After the overcast weather of the previous few days we were pleased to get back to blue skies and 35 degree temperatures.

Iguazu Falls marks the bordor between Argentina and Brazil, about 1600 km north of Buenos Aires. If we hadn´t flown it would´ve taken about 3 weeks on the bus. Having been to Niagra Falls in the US of A many years ago, I was expecting something very grand. We weren´t dissappointed. Its not the size of the falls that is impressive (a measely 70 odd metres) it´s the number. With over 250 indivdual falls the sheer expanse of the place didn´t fail to impress.
The first day we observed them up-close and personal on the Argentinian side, including a boat ride under some of them (during which we got thoroughly drenched to the skin). The second day was spent on the Brazilian side of the river, where a better full-scale panoramic view can be taken.

Being in the jungle, some of the wildlife was excellent to boot. There is a specie of bird that lives behind a lot of the falls that just wizzed around them, indifferent to deafening noise and oblivious of the 2,000 or so tourists pottering about.

Noisy, impressive, wet and pretty as a peach. Glad I went.


The three of us took a nice and short bus-ride along the coast to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay where we stayed for a couple of nights. It was a very different capital to Buenos Aires, with a very different feel to it. Unfortunatley, it rained on us for the first time since the jungle and we were shocked with the overcast skies. Being right on the coast, we had a nice walk along the sea-fronts and whatnot, but the place felt inherently like Whitley Bay for some reason. Cold and wet. I didn´t fancy a dip.

Some lovelly air-conditioning units on this baby.

The old town has suffered quite a lot of neglect and in parts was a bit of a dump, but it still had some lovelly plaza´s and the like.

Canny lookin´ columns.

We returned to Buenos Aires on the ferry with high spirits, despite the weather.

The Man We Met on the First Day of Spring

After a brief couple of days in Buenos Aires, some clever accountanting and some good luck with booking flights, we were able to accurately schedule our time till we leave South America. We figured we could get the ferry across the River Plate to Uruguay for a few days, get another passport stamp and still be back in good time for other events. So off we went. Popped on a ferry and away we sailed.

First stop in Uruguay was Colonia. A little coastal town with some good history - it´s where anyone who wanted to invade Buenos Aires normally started - and a lighthouse with view. Wonderful. Not much was really happening here, or so we thought.

The view from the already legendary lighthouse. We watched a man from the top painting the roof of his house for about 20 minutes. It was all about to kick off, I can tell you!

Half way through the afternoon there was a big parade as it was the first day of spring and there was a carnival type atmosphere as the town came alive. We got involved and joined in the festivities nicely and I got to fulfill one of my live-long dreams; to meet the Bananas in Pyjamas. A magical moment as you can see.

Can´t believe my luck! Note Emma "grinning" with jealousy in the background.

Then something very bizarre and surreal happened - I bumped into someone from school. He just knocked on our door and said "Alright mate". It was a Mr. David Southern. Here´s physical proof for the Doubting Thomas´ amoungst you:

Myself and Mr. Southern. He´s a big Colin Jackson fan.

I was aware that Southern was vaguley about in South America at the time, but never thought I´d bump into him, especially not on the same day as the Bananas in Pyjamas fiasco! What are the chances!? Anyway, he only had about a week left until he was shooting off back to Ryton (the glamour of it all, I know) so we decided to join forces. To the capital!


Mendoza was very nice, lots of fancy buildings and sights to see, very European feel about the place. Even the tramps were well educated. One guy berated us for saying "No, gracias" to him before he´d even said much and told us off in the most perfect Queen´s English. Bizarre.

It had a nice park in which we got terribly lost. Accurate tourist maps indeed.

We didn´t really do much apart from mincing about having a shufty at things and sitting in cafes. Very relaxing couple of days that were very welcome to nurse our aching muscles from skiing.

Next stop: Buenos Aires.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ice Pimps and Snow Queens

After arriving in Mendoza, we attempted to finally make sense of our flights, as we didn´t really know when we were meant to be off to New Zealand. A wonderful man with a goatee sorted us out nicely. When Marie-T and Leon tried to sort theirs out however, there was less success. They couldn´t rearrange as they wanted and realised they had 10 days to get to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. No mean feat. Good luck to them. So sadly, after far to long together for my liking, we parted ways.

Penitentes. Half way between Mendoza and Santiago, Chile. The backbone of South America. The Andes, not Santiago.

One of the main reasons we wanted to come to Mendoza was for the skiing opportunities close by in the Andes. So, on a bus we hopped to Penitentes, a 1 and a half hour bus ride we were told. 4 hours later we arrived at our destination. I´ve only ever been on a dry ski slope a couple of times, but Em has done more and is relatively competent. The original plan was to stay a few days and get some lessons etc. However, there were no cash machines in this tiny resort, and after some extreme accountancy we calculated the fun could only last for the grand total of a day. Shame.

The man in black.

Me "eating snow" as the lingo goes.

Half the fun was the ski lifts. Canny view throughout.

Was a hoot though! I was rubbish and fell over several hundred times, but was skiing like a pro at times. Not really as easy as it looks.

So after a day of incredibly cheap skiing, we had to return to Mendoza due to cash flow problems. Nevermind. More in NZ no doubt!

Steak and Red Wine

After the fun of the Bolivian countryside we got across the border to Argentina. The original plan was to go into Chile, but we being the "off-the-cuff" and crazy people we are, we changed our minds and chose Steak Land instead. Over the next week(ish) we seemed to whizz through lots of different places very quickly on various buses in an attempt to get to Mendoza, our next major stop.
Team Dust-Eaters.
Salta was a bit of a shock - the first large westernised metropolise we´d been to since we begin our little flaunt. The cultural difference from Bolivia was staggering, it had a very European feel. Traffic lights a-plenty! And a lot less dust. I think maybe dust is Bolivia´s chief export. Our stay here was relatively short lived, but we had enough time to have our first steak, which cost about a penny and was the size of my arm. Leon and I were greatly satisfied.

Next stop was Cafayate which is a little town in the middle of wine growing country. Lots of old people come here as a country-get-away. Nice wine and that, but too many "auld biddies" if you ask me. We did a nice trek up a gorge to a waterfall. Nice and chilly, but fun. Was a strange one cos there wasn´t a path and we were walking on hearsay and rumours alone. Em and I had to rock climb at parts, quite extreme, but tons of fun. Not one for the faint of heart.

The waterfall, very brass. If you look carefully, Em is naked. Nearly. One for the gents indeed.

Tucuman was another large city with more steak. We were there for less than a day, but we still managed to go to a 5 star restaurant wearing shorts. Not the same pair you understand, just me wearing them. The others were wearing more sensible attire. We were greatly frowned upon as we´d just fallen off an overnight bus, but the food was still tasty, albeit with the waiters spittal included.

During this one week period, Em was poo-pooed by varying birds no less than 3 times. Good luck indeed! There was much rejoicing. Haha.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bolivia: Conclusion

If your an old women with; impecable balancing skills maintaining the small bowler hat on you´re head in position and the 3 children you´ve got carrying in the multi-coloured rug wrapped around your back, a tray of small pasties and finger puppets, and the ability to brush several tons of dust from A to B very quickly then Bolivia is the place for you!

Cracking country. Wanted to see more, but time restraints dictated otherwise. Local people are ever friendly and helpful in spite of the abject poverty some of them live in, particulary in La Paz. Well worth a glance if your in the area!

A Bolivian beast.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Are you hungry? Do you want some Salt?

Finding ourselves in the southern part of Bolivia, we decided to go on a 5 day trip around the countryside, which is supposed to be a giggle. Don´t think I´ve ever been to such varying and mind-blowing environments. As we wiggled through the countryside in a Land-Rover, the environment changed about every half hour. I´ve put on as many photos as I can (be bothered too), but they are just some of the highlights.

The Salt Lake, where lack of perspective reigns supreme. It used to be a big lake until a volcano went off and all the water left in somewhat of a hurry, leaving lots of salt. We stayed for one night in a salt hotel which was fun - the whole thing being built out of salt. Was a bit miffed the bar didn´t stock tequila. Didn´t have much of a slug problem mind. It was virtually impossible to grasp sheer scale of the place, the mountains in the background were over 100km away.
Em being very acrobatic. Don´t worry, the world wasn´t wonky, I just can´t hold a camera straight.
Flamingos at 4500m. Bit mad. I thought you only got them in Flamingo Land and Hawaiian themed bars. Don´t believe the rumours.

A red lagoon. Loads of algae course the water to be red, which the Flamingoes eat, amking them pink. Ahh, complicated ecology, my favourite. Doesn´t look too impressive in the photo, but at angles it was red as a post box. It was very cold at this point and as we were walking along next to this staggering setting, absorbing the natural awe of the place, Em stopped and declared "It´s at times like these...." leaving a powerful and dramatic pause, "I wish I´d tucked my t-shirt into my pants." Can´t win the all.

Me and Leon mincing around in the desert. Felt quite Grand Canyony this bit, not that I´ve been there. Skippings fun though isn´t it?

Some Geysers. Naturally, Bolivian health and safety being a tad shody, you could stand right next to them and do what you liked. Our guide, who was a bit crazy, liked to chuck things into the bubbling goo just to infuriate them so you´d get bigger steam and explosions. Lots of fun for all the family! It all looked the more impressive because at this altitude (close to 5000m) water boils at about 70 degress, so extra special effects all round.

I am also pleased to announce another victory for the tour and another left volley. So thats the Bolivians dominated. 4-1 FT.