A Travellerspoint blog

Don't jump to assumptions about Asuncion...

it's really quite nice!

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Our bad luck with buses seemed to continue as about 2 hours in to the journey our bus broke down and we all had to get off. We then had to squeeze onto an already packed bus, and I felt guilty as the conductor evicted a couple of girls from their seats so we could sit down. It reminded of a similar incident in India. My guilt was eased though as the girls got off about half a mile up the road.

When we disembarked in Asuncion we were just sorting out our bags and a guy approached us asking if we had a guide book which covered Paraguay. We said yes and he asked if we knew were the majority of hostels were. This question opened up the conversation and soon we were sharing a taxi into the centre with Nico and his girlfriend Amber. We exchanged core information and they told us that Nico was from Paris and Amber was actually a Londoner but had moved to Paris five years earlier.

I explained that most of the hostels were centred around Plaza de los Heroes and that the hostel we'd booked was not far from there. They decided to come to the same one and despite the place having no record of our reservation we got rooms with no problems. By now it was getting quite late; Adam and I were both starving so we went in search of food.
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Asuncion has a very small historic centre which spreads out from the Plaza, here there are some really nice buildings including Panteon Nacional de los Heroes, inside of which there are the tombs of several national heroes, including an unknown child soldier.
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We found a really lovely place to eat, and were surprised by the number of expensive cars passing by. There is definitely a stark poor/rich divide in Paraguay and also rather surprisingly, a notable German influence. This strange fact dates back to 1866 when Nueva Germania was founded (about 100 miles east of Asuncion) by Bernhard Forster and Elisabeth Nietzsche (the philosopher's sister) to establish a pure Aryan colony. The descendants of these settlers are now producers of many regional products including tobacco, cotton, sugar, yerba mate, hides, meat and wine.

After dinner we went back to the hostel and with the tiring journey on the bus we had an early night. In the morning when we spoke to Nico and Amber who had opted for a fan room and were pleased we'd paid the extra for a/c! After Foz we were not up for suffering through hot, stuffy nights. When entering Paraguay in Cuidad del Este the bus Amber and Nico were on also did not stop at immigration but unlike us when they got to the bus station they decided it wasn't a problem and continued straight on to Asuncion. However when Adam mentioned to Nico that we'd gone back to get our stamps and the possibility of a fine I think they changed their minds. So before we'd arisen they'd found their way to some Government building and said that everyone there seemed very confused, as if this never happened despite the appearance of another tourist while they were there with exactly the same problem. They had to hand over their passports and were told to return later.

We were all hoping to head to Salta from Asuncion but there was no direct bus. We had to get to Clorinda which was about an hour and a half away, just over the border in Argentina and from there we could board a bus to Salta. Finding out about bus times though was a little bit tricky and we all seemed to be getting mixed information. We decided to get a bus back to the terminal and quickly stopped in at the tourist office to find out which one we needed to catch. Unfortunately our bus woes were not over, we were given incorrect information and after sitting on the bus for over an hour we ended up on the very outskirts of town, almost in the country side. We had reached the end of the line and I tried to explain the mix up to our slightly bemused driver. Another hour or so later and we were back in the centre having decided that buses to Clorinda would be frequent and no other bus trips would be necessary that day.

After a quick bite to eat in a little restaurant we had more of a look round.
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There were some stalls set up on the square and we bought our magnets here. As both of us are always losing/breaking sunglasses we were on the hunt for some more. Adam has a habit of buying two at a time and today was no exception! Unfortunately I couldn't find any I liked so I would continue to squint for a while longer. We walked down towards the river and sat down on a bench on Plaza de la Independencia for a while, it was really hot and we went about downing a bottle of fizzy water which we grudgingly bought as there was no agua sin gas available at the shop.

Hot and tired we went back to the hostal where we saw Amber and Nico. Their passports had been returned and as they were free to travel once more we arranged to get a taxi to the bus station together in the morning. Neither of us was really that hungry in the evening so we just bought a few snacks which we took back to the room. Soon enough it was bed time once more.
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More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 15:32 Archived in Paraguay Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Dam That's Big!

and free... we like free!

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Next morning our hypothesis had been proved, sleeping in a sauna is near enough impossible. We both felt drained, dehydrated and sticky. We got up, enjoyed a good breakfast while we chatted to a nice Australian couple and then left to catch a bus to Paraguay. Or so we thought. The town of Cuidad del Este, the place we had intended to go to before our Rio diversion, is about ten or fifteen minutes away from Foz. Well that's if you get the right bus. We entered the bus station though the designated and only entrance, any deviation from this and you get shouted at, and told a kind of guard working there where we wanted to go. It was probably a combination of my dodgy accent and him making presumptions that led him to direct us on to a bus that went first to the small local airport and then on to the Brazilian entrance to the falls. Thankfully with my limited Spanish I managed to explain the situation to the ticket lady on the bus and she didn't charge us to take us back to the bus station, if she had we wouldn't have had enough Real to get us to Paraguay. I glared at the man when we got off the bus and told him again where we wanted to go and he pointed us to a little bus stop on the other side of the main road. At least we hadn't lost too much time.

Crossing the Friendship Bridge into Paraguay was a slow process. Cuidad del Este is a shopping mecca for Argentinian's and Brazilian's as the prices are significantly lower and it is all duty free. For this reason the traffic is incredibly heavy, so to ease this and make the process more convenient so more people come to shop you don't need to stop at immigration if you are just visiting for the day. We knew this although for some reason we still expected the bus to stop, for those that wanted to stay for more than a day that is, but it didn't. It just kept on going and soon enough we were in Paraguay without being stamped in or stamped out of Brazil. The bus came to a halt at the terminal on the other side of the town and we wondered what to do. Our reason for visiting the place was not to shop but to see the Itaipu Hydroelectricity Dam which was a few miles away, it's one of the biggest in the world. First things first though we needed to get our stamps.

We got a taxi to take us to a hotel and after the first one was full we found ourselves at the very nice Hotel Munich. A little more than we intended to spend but the room was good and it had a/c! We then walked back to Brazil where at the entry point they begrudgingly gave us a departure stamp but told us next time we had to go over the other side of the complex. We both nodded and smiled but seriously doubted there would be a next time. We then walked back to Paraguay and got our entry stamp, done and dusted.

We spent most of the rest of the day enjoying the a/c, as I mentioned in the last entry Adam wasn't feeling too great and was blaming last night's Strogonof although I'd had it too and felt ok. Whatever the cause we basically stayed indoors for that reason and the fact that Paraguay was so far a little shotgun heavy. Most of the shops and certainly all of the banks had at least one armed guard which Adam experienced when trying to use an ATM, he was stopped by three men packing some serious heat who insisted on checking his card. We had also been warned in Argentina that Paraguay was unsafe. This said we weren't actually scared and the next day we wandered about quite happily. I think generally people overreact and with all these guns about we mused that it probably wasn't the best place to attempt a career as a thief.

The next afternoon we caught the bus to the Itaipu Dam facility. The bus driver explained that he would take us to the junction and then we would have to walk the rest of the way, how long 'the rest of the way' was was unclear. Thankfully not too far because the sun was really beating down and we would have got fried. Once inside the small tourist complex we waited outside with a few coach loads of other people for things to get started. Soon enough we were ferried into the main building and after signing in because we were not part of a tour, we were shown in to an auditorium where we were meant to watch a film about the construction of the dam. The projector however was broken which probably saved us from half and hour of not having a clue what was being said.

We were then shown on to one of four buses and driven out towards the dam. I should probably mention that all of this was free, which considering the service and the quality of the buses was quite amazing. The guide chatted away in Spanish and we picked up the odd word as we stared out the window. The first stop allowed us to see the dam from a distance as a torrent of water shot through the open gates, down a oversized slide and then blasted off the end into the river below creating a big cloud of vapour. The force, not unlike that of the Iguazu falls, was very impressive.
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After people had taken lots of photos, and Adam had a good movie or two we boarded the bus once more. We then drove through the facility, along the bottom of the dam and then finally over the top.
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Although we couldn't understand most of the information that was being relayed it was still very interesting and we were pleased we'd made the effort to come have a look.

Once back at the main building we disembarked and walked back down to the junction to find a bus to Cuidad del Este. Here we stopped in at the supermarket and then went back to the hotel. The following morning we had a quick look around the shops, contemplated buying a few things before deciding against it and then made our way to the terminal. Here we boarded a slightly battered bus bound for Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

p.s. Ten months in I would just like to say hi to Joan & Brian - we have been told you read the blog, hopefully you read this bit.
Love Adam & Laura

Posted by LauHot10 14:43 Archived in Paraguay Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

A whirlwind visit to Rio

Jesus, Sun, Sea, Sand and Poo!

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Our day spent in Puerto Iguazu revolved around trying to find somewhere cheap to stay in Rio, which we soon found out doesn't exist. In the end we decided not to stay in either of the main tourist hubs, these being Copacabana and Ipanema. We instead opted for the slightly cheaper option of Catete. It was described as a more cultural area, and perhaps not as safe as the other two but it was cheaper!

The next day we were at the terminal in good time and began waiting for the bus. It ended up being about an hour late so we were really ready to get going by the time it pulled in. It was fully cama so the seats were really wide and they reclined. We were looking forward to being served up the meals and snacks which are usually surprisingly tasty, unfortunately this was not to be. We got through border control and continued across Brazil from West to East towards the coast. As the time ticked by we became more and more surprised that no food of any kind was being given out, and by now we were really quite hungry. Finally at about 8pm we pulled into a service station and we all fell out, and hurried off in search of some sustenance. I guessed that perhaps the food was free, and hovered around the restaurant trying to figure out what was going on. Speaking no Portuguese we couldn't exactly ask anyone. There was another couple doing the same thing and in the end they came up and asked us if we knew what was going on, which of course we didn't. After a little while it became apparent you had to pay which scuppered our chances as we had zero Brazilian Real and there was no ATM. Thankfully the other couple, who had now introduced themselves as Tai and Christine from New Zealand, kindly offered to share their limited funds with us. We scurried over to the petrol station shop and bought a few snacks and sat down together to munch away on them. They were in South America for a couple of months before heading over to England where they were planning to spend up to five years. Christine had family in Newcastle and they were just going to get jobs and see what happened, I think they were mainly looking for a change of scenery.

The rest of the journey was smooth, we managed to get some money out at our breakfast stop and then it wasn't long before we were negotiating the traffic of Rio. When we got out at the bus station we were really on our guard, Rio is definitely a city where you need to be vigilant although in a way I think the fact that we were so aware may have prevented us from really enjoying ourselves, which was a shame. The first thing we did was book our ticket back to Foz do Iguazu (the town on the Brazilian side of the falls) for three days time and then we walked over to the local bus station. We really had no clue what was going on for quite some time, as I said before our Portuguese is seriously lacking but thankfully in the end we directed on to a bus and hoped it was going in the right direction. It was, I saw the street name we wanted as we passed by and we leapt up and only had to trudge back a little way.

We were staying at Hostal Republica which was large but well maintained. Once we were checked in we were given sheets, a pillow, a towel and a remote. We were to make our own beds, a little strange but we'd quickly completed the task. The room was not cheap but it was cheaper than most and came with a little flat screen tv, good mattresses, and a bathroom.
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By now it was getting pretty late and we didn't want to be wandering around after dark so we quickly headed out to grab some take away dinner which consisted of a whole chicken, our staple diet now. We located the Subway station and knew where our day would begin in the morning.

When morning arrived we were up at a reasonable time and went down to have breakfast which was included in the room price. I poured myself a nice glass of what looked like blackcurrant squash, but unfortunately it tasted more like a sweetened version of the stuff dentists give you to swill your mouth out after they've gone at it with their metal instruments. Adam didn't think it was so bad and the rest of the breakfast was good. Once we'd had our fill we made our way towards the subway and bought two tickets to the stop closest to Copacabana Beach.

It was only a short walk down to the coast and soon we were staring out at this famous stretch of sand.
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I think the fact that it was a Monday morning meant that most of the gorgeous men and women were sleeping off the weekend's excesses so the atmosphere on the sand was a little sedate and the beauty quota was pretty low. Still we walked along the promenade for quite some time, watching the residents of Rio begin their week. Quite a few people were jogging or power walking, one man however was simply hovering. Afterwards we both said that we'd noticed him and in hindsight decided we should have said something to each other, then stopped walking and let him pass. As it was though we didn't and we kept on walking. I saw that he was carrying a little pot of brown stuff in his hand but funnily enough I didn't connect the dots. Not realising what had happened I saw the little man run over to a bin and chuck the pot away, just before this he had tipped some of its brown, gloopy contents on to the top of Adam's shoe (which Adam had basically witnessed) and then came running over shouting (excuse the language) “Shit! Shit!” while dramatically pointing at Adam's shoe.
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Adam brushed him aside and we continued on. Although we were unsure of his intentions, we were almost certain that they weren't going to be good. As we walked along trying to find somewhere to deal with the situation, Adam was understandably seriously annoyed about the mess on top of his shoe. We discussed what had just happened and also the ridiculous fact of the supposed excrement being on the top of the shoe, how exactly did the man think that this was believable?? We both decided that he needed to improve his act and we finally sat down and I went to buy a bottle of water. After closer examination we came to the conclusion that it probably wasn't doggy doo doo but some kind of home-made concoction which was both pleasing and slightly disturbing. From further discussion between the two of us and other stories that we've heard we believe the guy intended to offer to clean the shoe and rob us blind in the process with some quick slight of hand. Apparently other people have had mustard squirted on their neck, again slightly odd, and other liquid such as paint poured on their person. Thankfully though there is always a helpful bystander with a need to clean (you out).

Although it had somewhat tainted our experience of the beach we continued our walk down and along Ipanema beach before heading back into the city in search of some food.
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We entered a shopping centre in Lebanon which was really quite fancy and ended up gobbling down a baked potatoe purchased from an English themed stall which made a nice change, I'd actually craved them on more than one occasion. We then considered the cinema to see 2012 but just couldn't justify the price.

Back on the streets it was an unbelievably long walk to the subway station through busy shopping streets, packed with people going at a very leisurely pace and by the end my knees were screaming abuse at me. Lots of the shops were selling swim wear and there were some nice looking boutiques where you could easily spend too much money. We both wanted to buy some Haviannas, which are a Brazilian brand of flip flop with the flag on the strap, unfortunately though neither of us had the energy to look at them. Adam also had knee pain which he's had on and off over the last few months, it seems to weirdly co-inside with when mine our particularly bad and we think it's sympathy pain. As we were both suffering with our knees we took the rest of the day easy and enjoyed our little flatscreen tv. Dinner was another chicken and then it was a nice early night.

One of the things we knew we had to do in Rio was go up and see the giant statue of Jesus. Although we did both expect him to look bigger when you were down in the city and also to be visible from most places but unfortunately he's not.
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Still we wanted to go and have a closer look. We caught the bus to this little train station where you jump on a small train which takes you up the hill. The ride up offers some really nice views if you're sat on the right side and it's a cute way to travel. Once you disembark at the top you have two options, you can either walk up half a dozen flights of stairs to the statue or you can take a lift and then a couple of escalators. We went for the stairs.
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They were doing a bit of maintenance work on the base of the statue which was a bit of shame but the greater annoyance was the amount of people milling about.
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It was impossible to get a photo without the crowd in it as well and the taking of any pictures became a battle as people vied for the best spots. In the end Adam got a bit creative and we leaned out over the barriers and basically had photos taken up our noses, not a flattering angle for me but Adam looked good!
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After that we did manage to get one or two good photos without a whole host of people in them.
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Jesus does look quite a bit bigger when you see him up close and of course most of the pictures you see are of him in the foreground and the city below which gives the impression that he looms large with Rio in his shadow.
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Not quite true but he is impressive nonetheless and worth seeing first hand. We both wished the weather had been a little better as our photos are grey on grey but ah well.
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Once down on street level we rode the bus into the centre of the city and set about looking for a tourist orientated shop. We were searching for our much needed magnet but they proved to be seriously illusive and we couldn't find one anywhere. After lunch we headed over to Flamenco and Botafogo but there were no shops here either. We began to curse the fact that we didn't buy one at the stalls set up below Jesus because we knew they'd be overpriced. As we walked on and on and on, my knees again began to protest and I would have liked to just forget the magnet but then it would be the first one we'd missed and that would be terrible. Adam said he had seen some around Copacabana but I was done for the day so we decided to go there in the morning before we checked out and caught our 1pm bus.

Which is exactly what we did and thankfully we didn't have to walk far to find one. We also both managed to purchase a pair of flip flops, and a postcard for Adam's Grandma. So with our tasks completed soon enough we were checked out and on our way to the bus station. The bus back was not as luxurious as the one here, so it was going to be a slightly less comfortable 23hrs. Actually it ended up being closer to 30hrs as we had a few hiccups along the way. Progress was quite slow to begin with and we stopped for a while in some kind of garage sometime before I managed to drop off to sleep. As I slept Adam was in and out of consciousness as he became aware of the fact that we were stopping and starting a lot and generally making ridiculously slow progress. At around 6am we came to a complete stop and soon enough another bus arrived and we were all had to change. By now I think we were about 4hrs behind schedule but at least we were moving along at a good speed now. Then there was a big bang and we all quickly realised that we had blown one of the back tyres. It was another hour or so before this was fixed and we were on the move again, Adam and I discussed how we were seriously sick of buses.

Finally we reached Foz do Iguazu and some of the passengers attempted to get a refund because of some small print written on the back of the tickets regarding delays, we were given a number to phone, I wonder if anyone actually rang it. We caught yet another bus into the centre of the town and ended up staying at a hostel called Laura. The man running it was friendly, the new owner actually and he jokingly told me he was changing the name because he didn't like it, ha ha! He recommended a place to have dinner which was tasty although Adam thought it made him ill the next day. Foz was a nice little place and our hostel was pleasant, the only problem was the temperature and the humidity. It was ridiculous and as we attempted to fall asleep with just a little fan to provide any relief we wondered how successful we would be.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 15:43 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

That's a lot of water!

where's it all coming from??

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The seventeen hour trip to Puerto Iguazu went by without a hitch. However it did start to pour with rain a little while into it and didn't show any signs of slowly up as we entered the town. We therefore had to make a bit of a mad dash to the hostel and I almost slipped over numerous times on the slick tiled pavement. We had found a real gem though, it was one of the cheapest places we stayed at in Argentina and the room or rather rooms were by far the biggest. We were shown into a little apartment with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a sitting/dining area and a kitchen. It was quite rustic but it was great and it had air con which was definitely needed because we were now on the outskirts of the jungle and it was humid. There was a supermarket over the road so after bolting there and back to avoid the rain we had enough supplies to make a couple of nice meals. We spent the rest of the day nicely settled in our spacious new abode and waited for the rain to stop. It did in the early evening and the sky burnt bright orange as the sun, which had been hidden all day sunk down over the horizon.
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The following morning we woke up to clear skies and we were planning to visit the falls, although maybe not at the crack of dawn. However in the end two things scuppered our plans. The first can be attributed to my good self. Adam happened to comment on the fact that my feet were a little on the grubby side so I decided to go and sort this out. I walked into the bathroom which was already quite slippery due to shower over flow but I ignored this fact and raised one foot into the sink. So far so good as I lathered it up and washed it clean. I then placed it back on the tiles and this is where things began to go wrong. As I brought the other foot up and set about washing it my other, freshly washed foot began to slide and I lost my balance. I yelped as I flung my arms about while tettering on one unstable leg, desperately trying to find something solid to hold on to but there was nothing, well nothing apart from the sink. I grabbed on to it as my leg completely went out from under me and gravity took over. I landed heavily, my side slamming into the raised shower surround and pulled the sink down with me. I had now made enough noise to alert Adam who came running and found me in a heap, screaming and hugging the sink. His first thought was my knees which were thankfully unscathed, it was my side that had taken the brunt of the impact and was now seriously throbbing. Still all things considered I got away pretty lightly, no broken bones just a sore side and a bruise which in the end looked disappointingly unimpressive.
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After the incident we were left with a slightly shaken me, a broken sink which Adam went into damage control mode to fix and finally the second factor which prevented us from visiting the falls, the heavens opened. Our second day in Iguazu was therefore a bit of a right off and we spent it inside again. Thankfully it looked as though we could repair the sink with super glue, and we haven't received an angry emails so it looks like it worked!

Finally on our second full day in Iguazu we were up nice and early and on our way to the falls. There are regular buses which take you from the local bus terminal so it couldn't really be easier. There is an entrance fee of about £10 each, which considering what you see I would say is worth it. Once in the park we followed a big crowd of people and climbed aboard a little train which is free and takes you to the first area. When we disembarked there was a little anteater wandering around an outside eating area. He was quite cute and I went for a closer inspection as did a few other people including a women who clearly wanted to touch it. She was about to give it some food when somebody stopped her, silly lady.

We then walked along the two well laid out trails, the Circuit Superior and Circuit Inferior both of which give you views of the falls from a distance as well as lots of smaller falls. The thing which is so overwhelming about Iguazu is the sheer amount of water, I just couldn't really get my head around where it was all coming from or going to. It is tumbling down all around you at such a rate it is mind boggling.
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There are also dozens of butterflies fluttering around you the whole time and one decided to take a rest on my hand for quite a while.
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When we actually saw the Iguazu Falls themselves it was really breathtaking and the noise, even from a distance is tremendous.
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Adam said that Niagra is more like one big waterfall whereas Iguazu is lots of separate ones all in a row. Although the water of the river is a muddy brown, as it tumbles down it transforms into a white cascade.
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You can go on a boat which will give you a soaking under the falls but it was a little out of our price range. After the Circuit Superior we walked along the Inferior which takes you down to the water's edge via a series of steep stairs and closer to the main falls.
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We wanted to take a free ferry over to the small, hilly island of San Martin but because of all the rain over the past couple of days the river level was too high and it wasn't running.
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After the two circuits we caught the train up to the centrepiece of the park, the Garanta del Diablo. Here there are some long bridges which cross the Rio Iguazu, the mighty river that feeds the falls and takes you out to a platform built above one end of the main falls.
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From here you look down and it is like the end of the world.
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You can't see the bottom, just white mist created by the water reaching its destination below. By now the weather had begun to turn again and the sky was also white, the whole scene was fairly devoid of colour.
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We got pretty soaked as the wind picked up and we got splashed. So we're both looking a little drenched in the photos. It was really a place which showed the power of nature, the unstoppable force was amazing.
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We walked back to the little train station but we just missed one so decided to walk back and we got fairly wet in the process but it was good exercise. When we finally reached the park entrance we didn't have long to wait for a bus back to town and soon enough we were in our little apartment once more.

The following morning we planned to catch the bus to Cuidad del Este which is a town just over the border in Paraguay. We packed up, checked out of the hostel and walked up to the bus station. As we were sat waiting for a bus we happened to be opposite a map which got us thinking. It really wasn't that far to Rio de Janeiro, no where near as far as we'd thought. We contemplated this for a while, considering how silly it would be just to pop there and back. We wouldn't be able to go anywhere else, we hadn't the time or the money. We decided to enquire and although it wasn't cheap, it wasn't outrageously expensive either. After a bit of a chat we decided to go for it, we were so close and who knew if we would get another chance, and after all it was Rio. Unfortunately though there were no seats available for that day so having made the decision and we were now quite excited by it we decided to book for the next day.

Having booked our new little detour, only 23 hours each way, we headed back to our hostel and got a different room which had the added benefit of WiFi and had another lazy day before the excitement of Rio!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 15:25 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Europe meets Latin America

with a dose of the Middle East

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We stayed in Puerto Natales for another full day after the trek to catch up on sleep and food. We also booked ourselves a flight from El Calafate to Buenos Aires (cheaper and much quicker than the bus) for two days time. This meant we had to retrace our steps and take the bus back across the border to Argentina then spend a night in the same hostel, but the thought of a nice short flight made it worthwhile. We did consider heading down to Ushuaia which is known in Argentina as the 'Fin del la Munde' (end of the world) but it was going to take a while and all research suggested that it wasn't a cheap place. Having spent quite a bit of money in the last couple of weeks we were eager to be heading towards cheaper countries. As it turned out our flight did head south and stop in Ushuaia before heading North so we caught a glimpse out the window.

You hear some horror stories about big cities in South America with regard to pick pocketing and robberies so we were a little unsure of how safe we would feel in Buenos Aires. If anything though it is known to be one of the safer metropolises. After disembarking from the plane and getting our bags we caught a bus in to the centre of town. A little bit of confusion regarding how to pay as we're used to handing the money to the driver, but generally in Argentina you drop your coins in a machine on the bus and out pops your ticket. Correct change is pretty much mandatory. We jumped off at the bus station and then were planning to take the Subte (subway) but our line was closed because of a strike, so we got a taxi.

We'd booked a place to stay, and the taxi dropped us outside the building. So far so good. We rode the old fashioned elevator with wrought iron slide gates
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to the second floor and expected to see a nice big sign say 'Casa de Papa' but unfortunately there was nothing. Just a piece of A4 paper with some printed writing on it (which we now know to be Hebrew), stuck to a big wooden door. After checking floors above and below we decided to press the doorbell and after some muffled noises from inside the door was opened. We asked if it was the right place and a completely zoned out boy nodded and we followed him in to a haphazard reception area. It was like someone had flicked his switch to slow motion as he fumbled about trying to figure out who we were and answer our very basic questions. His blood shot eyes and general demeanour screamed of recreational drug use, which seemed to be an all day, every day activity at Casa de Papa. The smokey haze which hung like a veil when we peered in to the lounge was also a good indicator.

We were still hopeful that we would have a nice room, the website described them as light and airy with high ceilings and cable tv, but this was not to be. We had a room at the back which was half the height of the other rooms, had a tiny window that looked down into an inner cavern between buildings and a tv which had a fork for an aerial. Tired and well aware that we would get no where trying to talk to the zombie boy we just closed the door. Adam pointed out that there was an Israeli flag in the hallway and therefore the likelihood was that it was a predominately Israeli hostel. Hence the Hebrew sign. Not wanting to offend or generalise but Israelis travellers do have a reputation so we were aware of what to expect.

After a bit of a rest we ventured out, past the raucousness in the living room and on to the streets of Buenos Aires. We were staying on Avenida Plaza de Mayo which is was a good spot (one plus). As we crossed Avenida 9 de Julio, which is one of the widest avenues in the world, we saw the giant needle shaped Obelisk pointing into the sky.
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We continued down until we reached Plaza de Mayo itself, then turned north and entered the central shopping/tourist district. Here there are lots of pedestrianised streets with shops and restaurants. By now we were both really hungry and tired so we had ate a lovely steak each at an obvious tourist spot before calling it a day.

We considered moving hostels but in the end decided it would be too much hassle and we would just keep our heads down. When we had returned the previous evening we did meet a couple of people who worked there that seemed nice enough. One gave us a new sheet for our bed and asked if we were from Israeli (our suspicions were confirmed) and when we said no we were from England he told us he loved Radiohead, so it could have been worse. The noise levels were pretty high during the evening but we both managed to sleep ok. One guy who reviewed the place on the booking website said the breakfasts were the best he had had on his entire trip and maybe even his life. We couldn't see anywhere to eat breakfast and there was a lot of shouting and commotion coming from the tiny kitchen so we just decided to slip out and eat somewhere else.

As I mentioned before we were both on the hunt for a leather jacket and we'd heard good things about getting them made to measure in Buenos Aires so we caught the Subte over an area we had read about. On one street there were lots of shops and we both tried on various jackets but none of them seemed quite right. Adam didn't want anything too shiny and size is really difficult because it can end up looking really geeky or wannabe biker. Suffice to say we weren't successful and no one offered to make anything for us, maybe we didn't look like we had enough money!

We went back to the central shopping district and ended up having a buffet lunch, which we then did everyday we were in the capital. It was a relatively cheap way to eat far more than we needed to! Part of it is a parrilla which is basically Argentinian bbq and you can get all sorts of different meats of varying quality. Then there is usually jelly and cream for desert which I've now got quite a taste for! After lunch we went to the cinema and saw Surrogates which was an alright film. It was in a really old fashioned cinema and the sound quality was bit dodgy but it was quite cool at the same time.

The following day we were both feeling a little under the weather and didn't make it out til lunchtime where we ventured to a different buffet restaurant. We both wondered whether the one from the previous day was the reason we weren't feeling so great. This one was much better than the first but we still couldn't muster the effort to do anything else for the rest of the day so we headed back to the hostel. As we walked through the hallway back to our room a girl said something but it didn't really seem as though it was to us and then she said 'you don't speak Hebrew?' To which we replied no and then she asked us about the weather before grabbing my cardigan and saying, 'so you think I'll need one of these.' I smiled and confirmed that I probably did before making our way back to our room.

That evening there was suddenly loud music playing outside and lots of shouting, it sounded like a parade of some sort. We managed to get the very dodgy WiFi working long enough to find out it was Gay Pride and although we still both felt rough we decided we should go take a look. There were a few floats and a big crowd of people gathered around them. Loud music and lots of frivolity as people got into the mood. We stuck around long enough to get a good feel for the atmosphere before retreating back to our cave.

Next morning we both felt a lot better and we were up early. The place was dead, it seemed everyone was enjoying a Sunday morning lie in. We stuck our heads into the kitchen but there just seemed to be cold rice, potatoes, raw onions, stale bread and butter for breakfast, the possibility of the best meal of our lives continued to allude us. We walked down to San Telmo and were there for the beginning of the very extensive Sunday market. It goes on forever and there are stalls selling lots of really lovely things. We bought a few items, including some little leather bags for about £3, you could spend a serious amount of time and money browsing!

We then walked all the way down to La Boca where there was a whole host of people milling round some brightly painted houses.
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It's quite a cute little area but very touristy. There were people performing the Tango in traditional costume and you could pose with them if you wanted to, but we opted to just watch for a little while. On the way back to the centre we passed by the La Boca football ground and there was clearly a match planned for that day.
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We both want to go to a football match while we're out here but looking at the state of the stadium and the general area decided it was maybe not the best idea and from what we've heard since I think this was the right decision.

After our obligatory buffet lunch we walked up the bus station and purchased tickets for the following day. Our next stop was to be Puerto Iguazu so we could visit the impressive Iguazu Falls. With this task complete we decided to head back towards the hostel because we were both knackered and a day of hitting the pavements had made my knees sore.

That night we were awoken at about 12am and kept awake for two hours by our fellow hostel guests. Our room was right next to the bathroom and one after the other it seemed that everyone was going to be having a shower. Some of them decided to do a spot of singing as well. Both frustrated we lay there for a long time and said nothing. Then came the final straw when a couple were in the bathroom screaming, shouting and laughing. Adam just beat me to the door, and he was about to unleash a tirade of abuse but managed to curtail it at the last second and said in a very tight voice 'Can you....keep it down a bit.' I think they got the idea and things were quiet from then on.

The following morning we stayed until almost check out time, may as well get our money's worth. As we were waiting at reception to pay a girl came up behind Adam and peered at him as if he was being inspected, she said nothing and then walked off. We were never sure if he met her standards! There was then a bit of confusion over the bill but in the end we waved a very firm and happy goodbye to Casa de Papa. We caught the Subte up to the bus station where we stowed our bags in a locker as our bus was not leaving til the evening. Then we had lunch and went back to the leather district we'd visited before. Unfortunately we'd simply left it too late to make any big decisions about jackets we weren't quite sure about and there certainly wasn't enough time to get anything made.

There was one final thing we wanted to see before we left Buenos Aires and was the Cemetery of the Recoleta. It is set out like a miniature city with streets and alleys separating family mausoleums built in every imaginable architectural style.
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Among the famous names from Argentine history is Evita Peron who lies in the Duarte family mausoleum.
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We were a bit pressed for time which was a shame because you could certainly wander round for a long time, some of the tombs are incredibly beautiful and touching. There are also lots of mangey cats stalking around the place which gives it a kind of hauntingly eerie atmosphere.
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As it turned out we needn't have rushed because our bus was cancelled and we were bumped on to another bus. Which really annoyed us because we'd finally secured those elusive front seats which we subsequently lost in the move. Still it was a nicer bus than the one we were meant to be on, so there was a positive!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 15:07 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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