Cafayate is a really incredible place in Argentina, and one that I would highly recommend. I went only on a day trip from Salta, but I could definitely have justified staying a night or two in the wonderful little town.
The bus journey from Puerto Iguazu to Salta is scheduled to be 23 hours. We left at 11am and were to arrive at 10am the next day. It took us 25, which was actually pretty surprising considering all the delays we had. The only choice is Flechabus. While they are supposedly fine on other routes, I do NOT recommend them to Salta! Flechabus was terrible, especially for the length of the trip.
First off, I was a bit spoiled from my “suite” bus to Iguazu. On this bus I had “semicama” which was more like an airplane coach seats. And the food? Oh the food was terrible. Except for a small sandwich at lunch, all the meals were basically crackers, an alfajor, and some gross sweet cookies/hard pastries.
But the best part was breaking down in the middle of nowhere! We had already spent an hour in Posadas “fixing” something on the bus. Then we spent nearly two hours out in the middle of nowhere, at night, with trucks and buses stopping to try to jump start the bus. It didn’t work, so they put us onto two other buses to get to Corrientes. Luckily, these buses were way nicer, so we got to relax in big comfy seats and watch Pelham 123 on nice TVs, etc. (more…)
If it’s even possible, the falls may have been even more amazing today! Garganta gets most of the attention, but the rest of the park is just as incredible. Also, since I did Garganta yesterday, I skipped right ahead to the rest of the park and had it almost entirely to myself!
First you find yourself again walking across bridge after bridge, looking down and seeing that you’re indeed on top of one waterfall after another! Every three steps was another amazing view that took my breath away (see video)! Big waterfalls, small waterfalls, wide waterfalls, loud waterfalls…all kinds, everywhere! And rainbows abounded, as well.
And because there was usually no one else around, I could sit and appreciate the beauty and enormity of it all, the sounds of the birds in the trees and the waterfalls pounding down, the smell of jungle air. It was absolutely maravillosa.
Then after exploring the tops of the falls, I made my way down the park to the bottom, where you can explore the bottoms of the falls, along with a few other waterfalls and some jungle along the way. Finally I arrived at a point that I had seen from above and was dying to get to. Basically you could walk right up to the bottom of one of the huge, wide, powerful waterfalls. It was incredible! (more…)
Last night I took the overnight bus to Puerto Iguazu with Via Bariloche. I splurged for the “suite” class — and it was well worth it! The seats were huge and laid out fully into beds. Each seat had its own TV, privacy curtain, etc. Then we got dinner, champagne, and breakfast. Funny story about dinner. They brought out our trays of dinner, and I thought it seemed a little disappointing, but mostly like an average airplane dinner. There was a slice of meat, some coleslaw-like food, a roll, crackers, and a dessert (which I called a reverse cupcake, as it was 90% icing and 10% cake). I ate all of it, then I see them coming out with little tin foil containers. I think to myself, “Maybe that’s the vegetarian dinner, I should have ordered that.” Then the steward comes up to me, asks me to clear a spot on my tray, and sets a tin down on it. I open it up: chunks of meat and pasta. The main entree! I had already eaten dessert and they were just now bringing out the actual dinner! Oops!
Then I settled into my bed, drank my champagne, and watched Inkheart (with English subtitles). I slept fairly well (waking up a lot but falling back to sleep fairly quickly) then awoke to a croissant breakfast and watched Bedtime Stories (in English!) and soon we were in Puerto Iguazu.
I arrived at my hostel, Stop Hostel, desperate for a long hot shower. Unfortunately, I found that the shower is a) only cold and b) comes down in just one small strand of water. Not a good moment for me. The rest of the hostel is OK. So I was feeling pretty down. I was supposed to meet a girl from my past hostel in BA and go to the Falls together (she was going to stay at this hostel, but her bus was to arrive an hour later than mine).
I waited for a long time, and then finally at 2:00 knew if I didn’t go to the falls then I wouldn’t have time to (the park closes at 6:00). So, feeling a bit sad and lonely, I headed to the falls by myself. I only had time to go to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) — as I will go back tomorrow to do more — but it was already absolutely amazing! First you walk and take a train, then walk along seemingly endless bridges over tons and tons of water, moving really fast! You realize that this is all water that ends up in the waterfalls of Iguazu. It’s absolutely crazy to think about.
And then the falls at Garganta. They’re unlike anything you will ever see. All the people things say about Iguazu, and about how you really can’t imagine it or grasp how incredible it is until you’re there, is absolutely true. The falls are absolutely impossible to describe in words. Getting up so close to them, being on top of them, you really feel how incredible they are. And it’s just so overpowering, jawdropping, you can’t help but feel overcome with awe (see video).
The falls are just so unbelievably powerful. There are tons of water coming back up, spraying you with mist and sometimes more! I was soaked within five minutes of being there. But goodness, was it amazing! And I was lucky. It had been a cloudy day, but when I arrived the sun was peaking out and there was the most incredible rainbow! It stayed the entire time I was there, disappearing about five minutes before I left. Lucky me!
And then after spending my time there, I took a boat ride on the river. It was very cool. We saw caiman (alligator), toucans, and other wildlife. Then riding back we saw these weird little creatures that seemed to me almost like a mix between a raccoon and a lemur. It was very cool!
Watch the video from Garganta del Diablo
Accomodation: Stop Hostel – about 35 pesos per night (about US$9). OK hostel. The staff were friendly, the rooms alright. Showers left much to be desired! Bar/common area was so-so, probably better in the high season.
My second to last day in Buenos Aires, Stephanie and I went sightseeing. We visited Recoleta and the cemetary there. It’s very, very cool. It’s basically a small city of tombs, reminded me a lot of Italy. There were some really incredible tombs there, some so huge and quite pretentious. Some looked like churches or cathedrals. And of course there’s Evita’s tomb, which isn’t really that impressive but is covered in flowers and little gifts and trinkets people have left. Then we visited Puerto Madero, which is a nice, newly renovated area with lots of cafes and restaurants. We also walked through the San Telmo area of the city. That night we went with another girl, Kate from Oz, to get Indian food. A nice break from steak!
Yesterday I went with Stephanie and Gordon (another Aussie) to the botanical gardens and zoo. It was pretty cool. There were some interesting native animals wandering around everywhere, including one that looked like a cross between a weasel and an otter, and another that looked like a cross between a tiny deer and a rabbit or something. Very strange looking animals! The enclosures were also quite interesting. They didn’t seem overly safe/secure. But you could get really close to a lot of the animals! And they let visitors feed a lot more of the animals than we do in the U.S. People buy food and feed pretty much everything, even if they’re not “supposed” to, from elephants to sea lions to bears. And the brown bears they had kept sitting and waving (literally) to everyone. It was a little weird. It was a good time though.
I also wanted to note a few other things I’d noticed in Buenos Aires. For one, a lot of the young teens have piercings on their faces (usually above the lip, so it looks almost like a pimple or mole), which I found a bit odd. Another interesting thing is that all the street signs (where they actually have them!) are sponsored, mostly by Claro, which I think is a phone company. (more…)
The asado last night was tons of fun! Great meat, great company.
Today a group of us went to Tigre, a city about an hour away from Buenos Aires. It was a bit of a disappointment, as we took a tourist train that was supposed to have good scenery but didn’t really. Then when we got to the delta, there wasn’t really much to see. We ended up just having a really long lunch (that wasn’t that good either). However, despite the “disappointment” of Tigre, we actually ended up having a really good day just hanging out and making fun of the situation!
It seems that whenever I travel, I always find myself eating the same traveler’s diet, especially when first starting out, consisting of two basic staples: chips and yogurt. Almost anywhere you go, these items are available cheaply and in an assortment of “normal” (i.e. universal/what I’m used to) and “exotic” or local flavors (a good way to slowly ease yourself into the tastes and flavors of your new locale).
Therefore, these are a good option when you’re first arriving, don’t know what any of the foods are (by name or sight), are still figuring out the exchange rate, and are probably on a desperate shopping mission in a local convenience store or supermarket. There’s no mistaking that tube of Pringles or carton of yogurt for anything other than it is. And so, for the first days of my time pretty much anywhere, I find myself feasting almost entirely on chips and yogurt. Yogurt for breakfast, chips for lunch, snacks, and dinner. Though usually I’ll at least try something local for snack or lunch. Yogurt is also beneficial for keeping your digestive system strong and helping you deal with any new types of food you might not be used to.
Really, this traveler’s diet is almost like a signal to myself that I’m traveling, that things are different. I pretty much never eat chips in my normal life, and while I do enjoy yogurt, I don’t eat it every single day, let alone multiple times, like I tend to do on the road.
Thinking about this in the Atlanta airport, I realized that I had unconsciously started to fall back into these eating habits even in the days before I left for my trip. But the truth is, this strange diet was never a conscious decision. I just always seemed to find myself browsing shelves recognizing nothing but a bag of chips. Problem solved. Of course part of traveling is being adventurous and trying new foods, and that’s often one of my favorite things, but it’s nice to have something familiar while you’re adjusting to everything else.
However, being aware of this habit, I stopped myself at the supermarket earlier today. I was holding two yogurts in my hand and realized what I was doing. After much debate, I finally set the yogurts back. I ended up filling a small container with hot food from the kitchen of the market — chicken and rice and veggies. It may not have been a totally Argentinian meal (hey, that’s what the asado is for tonight!) but at least I got the yogurt and chips diet out of my system before my trip this time!
I’m in Buenos Aires at my hostel now. Already I’ve met some cool people. I sat sat next to a wonderful old Argentine-born American woman on the (very long, tiring) plane ride from Atlanta, and I’ve already befriended a couple girls at my hostel. I also met a very young couple on their honeymoon (in my shuttle from the airport, not at the hostel!) and I’m not sure they realized what the weather would be like here! It is the end of winter, after all, and it’s cold, gray and occasionally drizzly. Not exactly what I’d pick for my honeymoon, but I’m sure they’ll still have a good time.
Arriving in the airport was a bit trying. Apparently having just a backpack means you can skip ahead of everyone else in customs and forgo having your bag X-rayed. OK, fine with me. But then the first two ATMs I tried didn’t work and I ended up exchanging some of my precious US dollars before I later found an ATM that did work. I had some problems communicating with people (and when I didn’t it was usually because after I asked them something in broken Spanish they responded in English!), but in the end it all worked out, and my hostel is wonderful! They are hosting an asado (Argentinian BBQ) for us tonight. It will be a good opportunity to meet the rest of the people in the hostel (it’s quite small so I feel I’ve already met a lot of them — it’s just keeping names straight that will be a challenge!) (more…)
I leave for the airport in less than an hour. It still hasn’t set in yet. I’m starting to feel the worries about first arriving in a foreign city. Thankfully I will arrive in Buenos Aires in the morning, as I believe there is nothing worse than getting your first impressions of a city at night, scared and unsure about where you are and how to get where you’re going. I’m counting on the airport shuttle being able to take me right to my hostel, as an e-mail I received from my hostel said would be possible, as it’s always a hundred times better to be able to quickly and easily dump your stuff somewhere and get familiar with a map before going out and getting acquainted with a city, especially a big and crazy one like Buenos Aires!
Now my concerns are hoping I’ve packed everything and fretting over how my backpack seemed to gain ten pounds over night! Yesterday I thought it didn’t see too bad, yet today after adding just one or two things it feels like I’m carrying a ton of bricks! I just need to do some last minute adjusting and hopefully I will be all set to go.
My journey begins here. Two hour flight to Atlanta, four hour layover, then 8 1/2 hour overnight flight to BA. The in-transit stuff is my safe haven before descending into the real challenges of navigating my way into the life of a foreign land. The moment I step off that plane in Buenos Aires, everything changes and I will have to be on my toes and pushing myself all the time. Ninety nine days of travel, of getting by on my own, of the unknown. It’s scary, but after the past couple months of being far from adventurous and challenged, this will be a welcome and much-needed change!
Happy Labor Day to everyone, and I’ll see you on the flip side!