Posted by: glenswatman | February 17, 2010

20100201-10 ARGENTINA Iguazu to Buenos Aires

2010 –
You wouldn’t believe it, for the first time our bus gets in
early, 6.15am instead of 7.00am. 
Consequently nothing is open on arrival at the long distance bus station
other than a cafe.   With no information
available we figure we will make our way to the local bus station to connect
with the bus to Argentina.  Boarding the
bus we suddenly come to a high turnstile at the side of which is someone taking
the money.  Balancing our bags whilst
bouncing down the street I ferret around for the money to pay, R2.20 (£70p)
pp.  Next we realise we cannot pass our
bags through or under the turnstile so much to the amusement of the other
passengers I squeeze through then Steve hauls the bags over to me.  At the bus terminal we soon find the stand,
just outside, for the buses to Argentina. 
We are both exhausted so after what feels like an hour waiting an no bus
to be seen we consider stopping in Foz and visiting the Brazilian falls
today.   Just down the street we can see
“Pousada Sonho Meu” where they have nice rooms with TV & Air-con, a
swimming pool and buffet breakfast.  The
price should be R$120 (£42) but we negotiate the room for R$80 (28).  After a quick freshen up we take the bus out
to the falls.  Entry for foreigners is
R$37 (£13) and with no queues we are soon on the bus taking us further into the
park.  At the bus stop we are greeted by
lots of coatis (a bit like racoons) hoping to scavenge food from the
tourists.  We have been warned not to
take any food out near them as they are accomplished thieves with sharp teeth –
but do look cute.  Setting out on the
trail down towards the river we suddenly turn a bend and get our first view of
the falls – an involuntary “wow” pops out of my mouth.  We are below the main falls and opposite an
escarpment with dozens of small falls and a few really spectacular wide ones
all surrounded by jungle.  The further we
walk the more breathtaking falls we see. 
There are lots of butterflies around and some even land on us.  We have to laugh at a warning sign “do not
overtake the banisters”!   At the end of the path we are directly below the
huge falls known as “Garganta Del Diablo” (the devils throat) where you can
take a walkway out to the centre.  Sorry
Canada but in our opinion this is way better than Niagara and probably just a
touch better than Victoria Falls.  There
is a scenic lift taking you to the top of the falls where we get a different
perspective.  Rather than go straight
back to the hotel we change buses and go out to Itaipu Dam, the biggest in the
world until recently overtaken by the new one in China.  I was hoping that we could just have a look
at it but the visitor centre is so far before it you can see nothing without
doing a tour.  The full tour R$37
(£13.50) is not an option as we are not wearing long trousers and closed in
shoes and the viewing only is R$20 (£7) so we pass.  Call in to “Super Muffato” supermarket and
are amazed to see someone sit their small child on the conveyer but no one else
bats an eyelid.  She even scrambles over
the scales to get off!  Back at the hotel
there’s a lovely swinging bed by the pool which lulls us both to sleep.  Spend the evening in the room watching TV.




Over breakfast we decide to visit Paraguay before moving on as it is
free to visit Itaipu dam there.   Gathering information is hard but it sounds
like you need to complete border formalities if you are going beyond the border
city.  We leave our bags stored at the
hotel and take an NSA bus, $3.70 (£1.35) towards Ciudad Del Este.  We hop off to complete the Brazilian exit
formalities and rather than wait for another bus walk over the bridge and into
PARAGUAY.  They are not interested in
stamping us into the country because we are not staying overnight so in fact
need not have done the Brazilian exit bit (duff information).    Ciudad Del Este is the cheapest place in
South America to buy electrical goods – but buyer bewares as some are fake or
don’t work well.   After walking the main
street we pick up a bus going out to the dam. 
Instead of a chicken bus this is a pineapple bus with crates of them
piled in the aisle, smells so much nicer. 
We’ve no local currency so guess the fare and give the conductor R5$5
($1.75) to cover us both expecting him to ask for more but by the happy look on
his face we have overpaid.  After being
dropped off it is about 500 metres to the visitor centre. Arriving at 11.30am we
find it is 10.30am and the morning tour left at 10am with the next tour in 3 ½
hours at 2pm.  The receptionist is very
helpful and suggests we spend time at the nearby free zoo and arranges a free
mini bus to take us there.   The zoo was
created to house the animals rescued from the flooding.  Time for a high horse moment, why rescue them
then trap them in very small cages when they could have been relocated to
another area where the same species live?   
It is moderately interesting to see the different animals along with the
stuffed animal exhibition and a bit of history about the native people.  The 1 ½ km walk back to the dam is a killer
in the heat.  The tour begins with a
movie in English (for us and a Japanese lad) and another in Spanish for about
100 other people.  On the bus we are
taken to the spillway with more water gushing out than I have ever seen in my
life – an incredible sight.  Crossing
below the dam wall we see the massive tubes through which water falls to the
turbines.  There is another viewing point
opposite the spillway with a huge sign saying “Itaipubinational” so Steve
suggests we take photos of us in the middle where it says pub.  The coach takes us over the dam and spillway
back to the visitor centre.  We are both
really impressed with what we have seen. 
On the bus back to the city the conductor happily accepts R$2 (70p) for
the 2 of us.  We walk back over the
bridge and complete formalities to re enter BRAZIL.  Catch the local bus R$2.20 (70p) back to the
terminal.  So had we not taken the
expensive bus to the border and overpaid on the first Paraguayan bus our whole
trip would have cost only R$12.80 (£4.50), a much more interesting option than
visiting on the Brazilian side. It is late when we get back, around 6pm, and
the receptionist suggests we stay overnight and induces us with a price of R$70
(£25).   Must say it is wonderful to
collapse into the swimming pool,




The Itaipu bus to Argentina, R$3 (£1.10) drops us at the
Brazilian border for exit formalities and we get a ticket for the onward
journey so we won’t have to pay again.  Whilst
waiting for the next bus we see kids having a great time “sledging” down the
grassy embankment on cardboard, almost daring each other to do it as the bus
comes past as there is nothing to stop them at the bottom.  The next bus takes us to the ARGENTINA entry
point (clocks back 1hr so now 3hrs behind GMT) which is so quick we get back on
the same bus to Puerto Iguazu.  This is a
small town and more manageable with lots of accommodation within a couple of
blocks of the bus station.  Exchange rate
approx A$6 = £.  The backpackers hostels
are all well over A$100 for a double room , not that nice and with staff who
don’t seem to care whether you stay or not. 
 A block down from the bus station
on Bompland is a small guesthouse set back from the road.  The friendly owner shows us a room at the top
with small balcony, air-con, TV, bathroom and breakfast and we negotiate the
price.   Although it is extremely hot (around 40C) we
set out to explore, luckily the town is designed with wide pavements and
canopies above so plenty of shade.  Stop
in a bar to share a large beer with snacks, A$10 (£1.65), and make use of the
free wi-fi.  Our waiters Dad calls in to
see him, he is in full traditional Indian style dress and carrying lots of
beads and bags that he sells.  Finish off
with an early evening watching TV. 




  After breakfast of
coffee and 3 mini croissants each we head to Iguazu Falls.  We buy return tickets, A$10 (1.65) each then
find we could have paid A$4 (65p) each way to the driver!  It is further than going to the Brazilian
side but along a similar type road lined with hotels and backpackers.  Admission for foreigners A$85 (£14).  There’s a long walk to the hub of the park
with information and shops.  After that
we are advised to take the green trail through the jungle to the train rather
than pick up the train at the start.  There’s
a long line at the railway station and we have to wait about ½ hour to make the
journey out to the “Devils throat” walk. 
We are amazed at the number and length of the bridges connecting the
islands and leading us to the main falls. 
We see many bits of the old concrete bridges that were washed away by floods;
the new ones now have mesh floors.  The
water level is so high that many trees now look like bushes.  Even before we get to the main falls we can
see the spray shooting up into the air over the tree tops.  They are magnificent, with a powerful flow
accompanied by a roar.  The train takes
us back to the central area where most walks begin.  The upper circuit produces more stunning
views of different areas below the “Devils throat” and many more dramatic
falls.  The lower circuit is equally
impressive with even more amazing views with one path taking us right down to
water level in front of a huge bank of waterfalls.  Again we see many varieties of butterflies
that often land on people.  It is
possible to take a boat trip to the bottom of the falls but one of the lookout
points is virtually in the same place and gives us enough of a soaking for the
day.  We take the buffet in the park
before leaving.  Unfortunately there are
many power cuts through the night and without the air-con it is unbearable but
opening the windows brings another problem, mosquitoes. 



Catch the Flecha bus, A$37 (6.20) at 10.45am with cama (reclining)
seats.   It is very comfortable and the
price includes lunch with a sandwich, biscuit and sweets.  Constant hot and cold water are available,
the hot to feed the Argentinean addiction to “mate”.   We travel through dense jungle with
overflowing rivers.  Arrive on time at
15.45hrs in Posadas and soon find our Hospitality Club host Walter.  He is with his cousin, 13 year old Ivan.   Walter speaks a little English whilst Ivan
none.  Walter drops us at his home saying
he must return to work and from there to night school until 11pm where he is
studying to be a lawyer.  Ivan is left to
look after us.   To pass the time we teach him the card game
“golf” then suggest a walk around the area. 
Realise it is not the best part of town when we see a wild horse eating
the street rubbish.  It is very hot and
we soon figure there really is nothing to see so pick up and ice cream and return
to the house.  On the computer I put on a
movie with Spanish subtitles and this sends Ivan to sleep leaving us to watch a
few other movies alone.  There’s a
portable swimming pool at the back of the garage in the open air and sitting in
it cools us a little. It is high in the30’s and with the humidity we are
constantly dripping.  Try to chat to Ivan
who is so friendly he keeps hitting us with really long sentences which we
cannot understand.  Walter arrives home
around 10.30pm then pops out to pick up chicken empanadas and “coke”.   He
suggests a drive out.  The airport is
high above the city and we are not the only ones enjoying the views.  Many cars are parked up with the occupants
sat out on garden chairs drinking and chatting – quite bizarre at this time of
night.  On the Costanera on the banks of the
Parana River, which separates Posadas from Paraguay, even more cars are parked
up.  We walk along the promenade and just
can’t believe the number of people there, sitting out drinking mate or beer,
even the park is full of small children and it is now past midnight.  In a way we can understand this as at least
there is a breeze by the river whereas the houses are stifling.  Ivan is not impressed by the fact the people
in England go to be so relatively early so doesn’t want to visit.  Ivan carried the bucket of water to top up
the “mate” and today he is adding cold juice so we are happy to partake in the
ritual passing around as this dilutes the taste.  He has now started calling us his
“grandparents” and seems quite attached. 
In the city centre we wander around the main square.   When
we get back we hop in the pool for ½ hour to cool down, a bit weird at 2am but



We get up around 6am for another cool down.  Walter and Ivan do not surface until after
10am.   They enjoy looking at some of our
photos, first picking the animals they want to see then countries.  At the end of it Ivan tells Walter he now
wants to visit England, but not because of the pictures of the country but
because he fancies our granddaughter Natasha! 
Steve is happy to watch TV with Liverpool beating Everton.  We head down to the city to buy our onward
bus tickets.  Walter calls in to the
supermarket on the way home and picks up a couple of hot roast chickens for
dinner for which we are joined by his 15 year old sister Angels.  After eating she learns to play “golf” with
Ivan and me.  Late afternoon more of
Walters family arrive, his 6-year old daughter Miracles plus his brother Danny
with his 5 children.  The eldest one
Tamara is very interested in our photographs and knows a lot about geography and
geology.  It is still really hot so we
sit out on the street which is the coolest place around but still enough to
make you leak!  In the evening Walter
drives us to the bus station.  Our Crucero
Del Sur bus, A$148 (£25) is a little late. 
The time passes quickly with a movie in English.  Just before midnight over half the passengers
get off in Corrientes.  After this our
meal is served, hot chicken in sauce with chips – the perfect midnight feast to
try to go to sleep on – not.  At least we
can now spread out with 2 seats each.



There is a glorious red sunrise beyond the bushy landscape.  We were supposed to arrive at 7.30am but at
8.30am I see a sign to Parana 152km.  A
relief in some ways as at least we know we have not slept through our
stop.  The scrubby land turns to crop
farming as we near the city.   We jiare
being slowed down by road repairs where many stretches are just mud made much
worse by the recent rains, all the rivers are flooded.  So much for our plan of breaking our journey
into short legs – we could have been in Buenos Aires by now!  Finally arrive at 10.30am and get a taxi to
our hosts home.  Mariela lives in a
modern apartment and immediately invites us to shower before breakfast of
coffee and toast.  The perfect
welcome.  It is still pretty hot here but
we set out to walk down to the Parana River to check out the Costanera
(waterfront).  The city has many trees
and parks so it is fairly easy to find shade. 
The river is so high that all the waterfront café’s are submerged and
the beaches completely gone – not that you would want to swim in the now muddy
water anyway.  We stop for lunch at a
café where Steve is very happy to find a litre of beer at AR$8 (£1.35).  After our 4-hour exploration we arrive back
to both fall asleep until 6pm.  Mariela
cooks us a tasty steak meal in the evening and we chat to her English speaking
daughter Gaby in Buenos Aires.



We are up at 8am and the water is off.  It seems the pump for the apartment block is
broken, no problem for us as we are English and took our weekly shower last
night!  We walk to the city centre which
is pleasant but not outstanding.  Parana
has a large Jewish community and 10 days ago they erected a new monument to the
holocaust.  Spend a lot of term
researching where we will stay in Buenos Aires.   In the evening Mariel takes escorts us to
the dentist as I have a feeling I need some crowns replacing.  It is a lady dentist and as we enter the
surgery she leans forward for the traditional Argentine greeting of a
kiss.  She finds that I need a couple of
crowns replacing but it would take a week so not an option here, no charge for
the consultation though.  We want to take
Mariel out for a meal so she leads us to a nearby restaurant where we order a
fish platter, A$36 (£6).  The drinks come
with a load of snacks and the fish platter feeds us all so very good value and
tasty too.



As we now have an onward plan we walk to the bus station to buy
tickets, recommended here especially in the holiday season as most buses are
full.  I call in to the hairdressers to
exchange my frizzy mop for a boy cut which is much more practical in this heat,
A$30 (£5). 



Mariela walks us to the Fine Arts Museum, free, a pleasant
stop for about 15 minutes.  In the
afternoon we take a taxi to the bus station, A$10 (£1.45).  Our San Jose bus to towards Buenos Aires,
A$95 (£16) will drop us in a small town so we can rendezvous with our host who
lives in Tortuguitas.   Whilst
comfortable there is far less leg room on the bus.  We head through the tunnel and across to Santa
Fe and for the whole journey see bad floods on both sides of the roads with
many shanty type houses submerged.  This
trendy continues for much of the journey with cattle wading waste high in
water.  The food consists of a triple
decker sandwich with ham and cheese, cereal bar and sweet plus the ubiquitous
hot sweet black coffee on tap.  Arriving
in Pacheco our host Christian is waiting at the bus stop.  He suggests we grab our bags and get into his
car as quickly as possible as this is not a good area to linger in.  On the way back to his home he tells us more
about his life and family.  Where they
live land and property are cheap so it is inhabited by many poorer people so to
protect themselves they have 3 German shepherds.  They have a large piece of land with the main
house and Christian’s studio where he has given us his double bed plus a
swimming pool.  His Dad Janos has a very
interesting history, Russian grandparents, and Hungarian parents, was born in
Austria and now lives in Argentina.  He
cooks a BBQ with the traditional spicy sausage, on huge link about 1 metre long
which is cooked whole then cut into pieces. 




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