In my last post we were in Montevideo, Uruguay. Nic and I had gone to a basketball game which was a crazy cultural experience. The next night Nic and he gals, Moire and Rose, went to a Tango show with Rose's friend Hannah. I decided to go part way through the first basketball game that night and catch the second game. I had been sick for a few days and fell asleep. In the end I decided to stay in bed. So, I missed the second night of basketball. On the upside however I was feeling much better the next morning for our 6am bus and ferry excursion back to Argentina. The ladies enjoyed their tango show.
The next morning we had a 7am bus from Montevideo back to Colonia. It was an early rise. The bus ride was about 2 hours ending at the ferry terminal in Colonia. If you recall, our ferry to Uruguay was crazy. More than 50% of the passengers were seasick. The ride back was much different. It was very calm and I did not see anyone getting sick. Thank goodness.
Back in Buenos Aires, our plan was to get to the bus terminal and get a bus to Rosario. We had to take a local bus to the bus terminal. I jumped off about halfway there to run back to our hostel where we had stayed in BA. We left some things in a bag that Moire had left in storage at the hostel. She brought the bag for us so we could send our Antarctica parkas home with her. Now that we are going to see my parents in Las Vegas, I wanted to grab my suit for Emily's grad to send back to Ontario with them.
I hiked with my 20kg pack uphill to Florida St. I was looking for the guy that I had exchanged money with before. In Uruguay we took out $600 US from an ATM. You cannot do that in Argentina. As soon as I turned the corner on Florida St, there he was. He almost seemed happy to see me. Why not I guess, we brought him lots of business. Now I was exchanging another $800 US. This time however the exchange rate had dropped to 10.8 pesos to the dollar. The first time we got 11.3, the second time 11.1, and now 10.8.
Then I hiked to the hostel and made the quick pickup. My backpack was now heavier. I decided to hoof it to the bus terminal. Along the way I stopped to pick up a couple of cheap Big Mac meals. The bus terminal was further than I thought. I found the train terminal but was confused about where the bus terminal was. The terminals had the same name. I got directions about four times. Eventually I found it and found the ladies almost immediately. All tolled I only took about an hour and a half maybe to do all that.
At the bus terminal, I ate both Big Macs as Nic had already eaten. I was sweaty and tired now. It was about 30 degrees outside and I am sure I was in the sun the whole way. The ladies put me on baggage guard as they went off to buy our bus tickets. The bus we would take was at 3:30pm and we had about 50 minutes. At 3:25pm I gave up on the 3:30 bus as the ladies had not returned. Then with about four minutes to spare the came running up. It seems they got lost… or something like that. At least that was the story I got. I had hiked all that way and now had to run for our bus… without being able to go to the bathroom before a five hour bus ride. Luckily there was a toilet on the bus.
The bus ride to Rosario was uneventful. We had a cama coach which is one of the better types. Cama seats recline to about 160 degrees and are a bit wider. Semi-cama only goes to about 130 degrees. We got a meal as we'll on the bus.
Rosario is a small city north of BA. We picked it just to get started on our way north to Iguazu Falls. Direct to Iguazu is more than 20 hours by bus. The gals had wanted to see Rosario. So we went to Rosario. Upon arrival in Rosario we had to take a local bus to the hostel. The taxis were on strike because a taxi driver had been murdered the previous week. We had no change for the bus and the choices we're change or a bus card. We could not find anywhere to buy a bus card. We decided to get on the bus with cash and hope for the best.
The best happened. While the driver would not take cash, a woman in the front seat used her card to pay for all four of us. She did not want to take our money but we forced it upon her. I think we probably paid much more for it however it was reassuring to know that there are still people in this world who do random acts of kindness.
The hostel we stayed at in Rosario, La Lechuza, was all about the atmosphere. It was run by the owner and his sister. They went out of their way to make sure that people felt welcome. As new people arrived they introduced them to everyone that was around. Juan, the owner, was quite funny. He was always teasing people, mostly about where they come from. It was entertaining. Javiera, his sister, was sweet and went out of her way to serve us. I think we are a different kind of guest than they usually get. Certainly Moire and Rose are not their typical guests.
In Rosario, we went for a long walk down a walking street. We found a high monument tower that was dedicated to the guy who designed the flag of Argentina who came from Rosario. From there we walked to and then along the river. We were looking for a seafood restaurant that Javiera had recommended. It was further than we thought and it was hot. Eventually we found it and had a very nice meal of Boga. Boga is a type of fish they catch right here in the river. It was grilled and tasted very good. Nic and Moire continued on after lunch to find a mall that was converted from an old train service station. Rosa returned to the walking street to do some shopping. And I returned to the hostel for a shower and a nap. This is the type of place that Rosario is. No major sights, just Argentinian life and culture. Many backpackers come here to learn Spanish because it is cheaper than BA and less hectic.
We spent two nights in Rosario. From Rosario to Iguazu is still 19 hours on the bus. So, we picked another stop halfway or so. No one really had a full commitment to going anywhere specific. We had toyed with a couple of different options. In the end we told the gals to pick where they wanted to go. We ended up taking a night bus to San Ignacio Mini… about 11 hours.
San Ignacio Mini is famous for one thing. There are ruins of a Jesuit mission here. The native peoples of this area are called Guarani. The Jesuits moved in here and essentially colonized them. There were a lot of similarities to the Aboriginal people of Canada. However, it all stopped when the King of Spain kicked all colonizers out of it countries and dependencies. The Jesuit were then kicked out. There is a small museum and then you can wander about the ruins. It was about 35C so we tried to stay in the shade. We went back in the evening as well. they do a sound and light show that is quite neat. They broadcast video on trees, walls and mist sprayed in the air. It is quite ingenious. It tells the story of the Guarani before and after the Jesuit.
We only spent one night in San Ignacio Mini. This left us a 5 hour bus ride to Puerto Iguazu. We took an afternoon bus that we actually had to stand on the side of the highway to catch. It was again a cama coach. Nic and I sat on the first level and Moire and Rose said upstairs. They almost got off in Eldorado. If we had not stopped them we might have lost the gals. Everyone upstairs seemed to be getting off in Eldorado so they followed the crowd. It is easier to happen than you would think.
In Puerto Iguazu we stayed at Hostal Park Iguazu. It was alright but our room was quite small. Moire and Rose decided to upgrade. They actually had a family room. It could sleep five. Nic and Imstuck with our bunk beds. It was incredibly hot that day. We arrived in the early evening so we just stuck around the hostel. We immediately began investigating our options to see the falls. That is after all why we came all this way.
It was Friday March 15th and we got up early to spend the day at Iguazu Falls. We took a bus from town to Iguazu National Park. You can see the falls from the Argentinean side or the Brazilian side of the border. Everyone says that the Argentinean side is much better. Some people do both however going to Brazil was not an option for us. We would have needed a visa and that was not realistic during our short time here. Maybe if the Brazilian side was better but we were getting the better side.
We got to the park and paid our 170 pesos admission. Once per month they also do a full moon walk at the falls. They do it for five nights; 2 nights before, 2 nights after and the night of he full moon. We had tried to book a ticket for this the night before but we were too late. So, when we arrived at the park we made our reservation. Without dinner it was 300 pesos and with dinner it was 450 pesos. For reference, $30 US or $45 US using blue market rates. We chose without dinner on the 16th, the night of the full moon.
It was cloudy on the 15th. Moire said she had prayed for clouds so it would not be crazy hot hat day. We hoped her prayers would not affect the next night. We had booked a boat trip at the falls for 1pm. It is somewhat like the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. However, you get much wetter as the boat goes right under the falling water practically. Some people there actually had Maid of the Mist rain ponchos on. I wondered if they were Canadian or just on a world tour of water falls. Iguazu Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It attracts a lot of visitors as does Niagara Falls. I must say though that Iguazu seems much more natural. No casinos or wax museums in sight.
We got quite wet at the falls from the mist. At times it felt like someone was throwing a bucket of water on you. Even so the falls were spectacular. You see them from multiple spots. While Niagara Falls might have the most water flow volume in the world, Iguazu is much bigger in terms of breadth of falls. You have to cross the river on metal walkways for about a kilometre before you get to the Devil's Throat to see the main falls. Like Niagara I think it is amazing to feel the immense power of the falls. There are a couple of hikes to get to other areas of the falls. We did the smaller falls before we did the big falls. In total, we spent about 8 hours there that day.
We saw lots of wildlife in the park. There are lots of Coatees around. They look a bit like a raccoon with a long ringed tail. They have a long snout with gnarly sharp teeth. They wander around the public areas in and amongst the visitors. They can be vicious so you are not supposed to feed them or approach them. We also saw a couple of toucans with brilliant beaks. There was only a couple of monkeys that we saw. There are jaguars in the park but they are illusive.
I think I was most excited to see a carpincho. This is the largest rodent on the world. They get to be about 75 kilograms and are bigger than a large German shepherd. We saw one swimming in the river and it crossed right under the walkway where we were standing. They are apparently very docile.
The next day we had nothing really planned except for the full moon visit to the falls. I just hung out at the hostel. I needed a break. The ladies went out in the afternoon. They went to a point where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet. Two rivers converge into one bigger river. The water from one is brown and the water from the other is blue and you can see the merge.
We took a taxi to the falls for moonlight. It was only 20 pesos more than if the four of us took a bus. We got to the falls at around 9pm. Out ticket was for 9:15pm. We picked this time because we figured this would be the brightest time. There was a lot of waiting though because we found out that it actually starts at 10pm but they give you that time to make sure you are there on time.
The tour starts with a talk by the park rangers. They only spoke Spanish so a guide took the English speakers aside and gave them a separate orientation. Next we took the train from the welcome centre to the Devils Throat. As you walked along the metal walkways you could see the water of the massive river shimmering in the light of the full moon. It seemed to add some suspense to the big moment.
At the falls, it is hard to describe the view and the feeling. The falls were spectacular in the moonlight. It is so hard to take pictures though. I had the camera on night mode. You cannot use flash though, it just won't work. The pictures actually look better on the camera than on the iPad. I need to edit them to get them to be better but I think they are still a bit grainy. We used Moire's head torch to try to get a picture of them while the camera was in night mode but again nothing is great. Pictures or no pictures, the images are still in my mind. Spectacular! The tour was over at midnight.
The next morning we were off… Nic and I that is. Moire and Rose had one more day in Puerto Iguazu while we headed to Cordoba. I will save the rest of Argentina for another post. We finished our three week visit with the gals. It was a nice visit. It was nice especially for Nic to have three whole weeks with her mom. Moire and Rose will head home and we will be heading soon to New Zealand. Thanks Moi and Rose for being good travelling companions.
Ciao for now!