A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

South American Highlights and Summary

A quick round up of our amazing trip to South America, before we start on South East Asia.


View South America 2013 on Roaming Rolts's travel map.

Number of days in South America:81

Countries Visited:
Peru: 21 days
Bolivia: 11 days
Chile: 13 days
Paraguay: 3 days
Brazil: 20 days
Uruguay: 4 days
Argentina: 9 days

Accommodation
34 different accommodations
+2 revisits
+3 nights camping (Inca Trail)
+7 night buses
+1 airport (São Paulo)
+1 night flight

48 different places gives an average stay of 1.7 nights.

Most frequent change: 7 nights, 7 different accommodations when
travelling from Chile - Paraguay - Iguassu Falls

Top 3 Accommodation
1. Apartment in Rio de Janeiro - just generally good, reasonably
priced accommodation.
2. Hostel in Foz Do Iguazu - good room, really helpful, friendly owner
and the best breakfast we had all trip.
3. Pousada in Paraty - nice room, 2 gorgeous friendly cats, lovely
outdoor courtyard with hamocks and swinging bench.

(Turns out they were all in Brazil, yet one of our worst was Alameda
Park Hotel in São Paulo, unless the payment for that never goes
through....The bed was literally solid and the whole place was
incredibly dated.)

Worst Accommodation
1. Calama, Chile - really skanky thread bare sheets, paper thin walls
and disgusting shared bathrooms. Seemed to just be lone men staying
there.
2. Uyuni Salt flats hostel - no electric, no heating (even though it
drops below zero at night), no showers, no hot water. Dorm room for 6.
We didn't get a choice on this one.

In our whole time in South America, we accidently booked bunk beds for
the twin room once (hehe!) And had to share a dorm room only twice. We
had ensuite the rest of the time on all but 2 other occasions.

Travelling Times

Time spent on buses: 141.5 hours
Time spent on flights (excluding connection times): 37 hours
Time spent on ferries: 13.5 hours

Total time travelling: 192 hours (8 days)

Stuff stolen

Robbed 3 times :-( + 1 hotel dishonestly taking $75

3 kindles
2 rucksacks
2 tablets
2 cameras
2 iPods
2 driver's licences
2 passports (amazingly handed in!)
1 mobile phone
Various amounts of various different currencies
Various tops

Highlights

We started this list on paper and it almost became a list of everything we did, so we've tried to condense it to our top 3 choices for each country.

Peru
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu were a given for Peru, and so cheated by coming up with three more. (And even then we've got plenty more to add.)

Huacachina - Sand buggies and running down sand dunes
Lake Titicaca - Uros floating islands and Isla del Sol (I know this is Bolivia, but was more to save on our list!)
Cusco - Saqsaywaman Inca ruins and pony trek

Bolivia
La Paz - Mountain biking down death road and pedestrian day.
Sucre - Dinosaur prints park
Uyuni - 3 day excursion to the Uyuni Salt Flats

Chile
Iquique - Ghost towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura
Chiquimata - Copper mine tour
Santiago - Bella Vista Patio - restaurants and quirky little shops in a hidden courtyard.

Paraguay
Asunción - Train museum
Asunción - Regenerated neighbourhood by night

Puerto Iguassu - Argentina
Iguassu Falls and wildlife
Speedboat trip through the waterfalls

Foz Do Iguazu - Brazil
Iguassu Falls - We preferred the Brazilian side as you could see all the falls and get a greater impression as to their size and magnitude.
Bird park - good collection of toucans.
Churrascarrías - Eat as much as you like for about £8, which included about 15 different types of meat served to you from skewers.

Brazil
Paraty - Colonial coastal town with narrow cobbled streets and cute buildings plus relaxing boat trip to surrounding islands and beaches.
Ilha Grande - Car-less beach island on the way to Rio de Janeiro with white sand beaches (Lopez Mendes), jungle walk and colourfully lit beach bars by night.
Rio de Janeiro - Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer and favela tour around the largest favela Rocinha.

Uruguay
Montevideo - Wandering around the town and the best steak ever from the barbeque market.
Colonia de Sacremernto - Colonial port town
Colonia - Bike ride along the coast to the former bullring and a train museum, stopping at picturesque and deserted white sand beaches.

Argentina
Buenos Aires - Tango show and dinner - one of the highlights of our trip.
Buenos Aires - bi-century museum showing Argentina's history since 1810 to the present day and the MALBA contemporary art gallery.
San Antonio de Areco and Tigre - Excursion into Las Pampas and the Paraná Delta.

Overall our favourite country was Peru, as we felt this offered the greatest variety of attractions and you could easily spend a fortnight to 3 weeks visiting here as a normal holiday and would have the best experiences.

We thought Brazil was a very close second; however felt this was less culturally different to a lot of other more western cities. If you were to spend a week in Buenos Aires, you must add on an extra 3-4 days and take the boat to Uruguay to visit Montevideo and Colonia as they are such a contrast to the massive capital of Argentina.

Now for 26 hours flying on 4 different flights across a 10 hour time zone and 4 days to South East Asia to start the next part of our big adventure. Bangkok here we come!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 19:47 Archived in Argentina Tagged waterfalls boats rain travel bus chile plane highlights border bolivia isla_del_sol summary pedestrian_day itaipu Comments (4)

Excursions from Buenos Aires

A couple of short excursions from the capital to San Antonio de Areco and Tigre

Wednesday 23rd October

San Antonio de Areco

Our first trip was an overnight stay in the town of San Antonio de Areco, a traditional Gaucho cowboy town about two hours away from Buenos Aires within Las Pampas.

The town did not really have any attractions as such, but more than made up for this with a traditional but slight faded western style ranch feel to it, with dusty streets and restaurants set up in old pulperías. Pulperías were former local shops which also doubled up as a bar and meeting point for the locals. There is one famous one in this town, which has been maintained to look like an authenitc pulpería, with old fashioned bottles lining the dusty floor to ceiling cabinets. On the walls are original posters and signs either advertising or informing you of the rules! Here we enjoyed a very nice steak, which was the best contender for stealing a point off of Uruguay, but still did not quite make the cut. ;-)

We visited a couple of museums and ejoyed horse watching alongside the idylic river, which flows through the green fields of las Pampas.

Tigre

Rah! For our final day in Buenos Aires, we took a very slow commuter train out to a place called Tigre, which you wouldn't believe was only an hour away from the capital. Last week, a commuter train failed to stop at the end of the line in the station, and it looks like since then they have installed new signs saying the train stops here, some 25m back from the end of the line.

Tigre is the gateway to the Parana Delta. There is a small town along the river, and the rest of the place is further up the river and is only accessible by boat. The whole area is made up of small rivers, which meet either the Rio Plata or the Rio Parana. We took a 2 hour guided boat tour around the area, which goes around the 'residential streets', and past various tourist attractions. It's like a suburban neighbourhood on a river, with the houses on the riverbanks on stilts, mixed in with various, schools, shops, restaurants and the occasional floating petrol station. All the properties had their own jetty, with most having their own little speedboat.

In the evening, we had a tango dinner and show booked and were both really looking forward to it hoping it would make a nice memorable ending to our time in South America. Dinner was at 9 and we arrived at five to, having argued with the taxi driver for literally taking us round the block, attempting to rip us off. The whole place was shut up and no-one was there waiting. We rang the bell to be told it had been cancelled tonight, could we come back tomorrow? (No, flight home was tomorrow). He suggested we went to another tango show, La Ventana, and they would do it for the same price. We walked the 5 blocks to the next place and instantly thought that this show was supposed to cost more, as it was in a beautiful building. We were taken down to the restaurant and given front row seats. We had probably our best and most delicious meal in South America and our first proper 3 course dinner, which hadn't been the £2 set menu with soup and ice cream in Bolivia. And the best part was it included a bottle of wine! There must have been 200 people dining there, yet we both got our steaks cooked exactly as we asked. They were lovely and thick and probably weighed 16oz. This meal probably beat Uruguay.

After dinner, the tango show started which was absolutely amazing. The band was live and there were about 10 different dances, sometimes doing duos and others doing group dances. Their legs moved so quickly! All the ladies wore beautiful outfits and several pairs of gorgeous shoes. Throughout the dancing, the band would be reacting to and interacting with the dancers, and bantering with each other.

During the interval, one of the ladies came on and sang 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' in Spanish, with a screen show of Eva Peron behind her. Towards the end of the song, the other dancers spaced themselves out along the edge of the audience and for the final chorus enthusiastically waved the Argentinian flag.

The next section was a Peruvian band, with pan pipes and a solo dancer who started off doing just some footwork, like tap, before unrolling on ropes what looked like hard plastic balls on the ends. He swung these around making shapes, pretending to nearly hit the band and continuing with the footwork. After about 5 minutes, he started swinging them round so that they hit the floor rhythmically adding to the dance. He then looked at me and offered in English to come and dance on our table, and so a joke began with me, the dancer and the band as to whether he should or not. (Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, he didn't.)

The final section was back to the more traditional tango, with 3 accordion players. I loved the accordionists because they were so animated as they played.

This has definitely become one of the highlights of our trip to South America.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 22:46 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Buenos Aires

The most Spanish feeling place we have visited.

sunny 25 °C

Saturday 19th October

After our exciting trip almost into the bad lands of Boca, we finally arrived at our appartment, in one piece late on Friday evening at our apartment block to find that we had been moved to a different building some 8 blocks away. The lady also decided to put us in a standard studio as opposed to the 'deluxe' apartment we had booked, claiming they were comparable as this one actually cost more. We finally managed to track her down the night before we left, and the company we booked with agreed to refund us $75, by card and so we needed to pay in full, and we'd submit receipts. Anyone reading our blog regularly will see we have no luck with valuables or money... She rang the company back after we had left, claiming she'd refunded us the $75 (which she hadn´t) and to cancel the refund with them. And so the fun commences!

Our first day was spent wandering around the city, visiting the main square and the government building La Casa Rosada, the main square and the bi-century museum from 2010, which marks Argentina's 200 years of independence. This museum showed the Argentinian history of the past 200 years up to 2010. I found it really informative, particularly for understanding a lot of the influential events which took place during the 20th century and shaped Argentina into the country it is today. Chris enjoyed a cup of coffee and some 'me' time as the whole exhibition was in 'foreign' (Spanish).

After lunch, we visited the neighbourhood of San Telmo, with its streets lined with retro antique shops and a massive indoor antiques market. There was one really cool stall, which sold original 1960s plastic food containers which were all brand new. There was also a large Colonial house which had been converted into a little shopping arcade and another very white narrow arcade with the buildings jutting out at awkward angles.

Sunday 20th October

Today wasn't a particularly successful day. We'd planned to go to a cowboy fair, which took place every Sunday; however despite saying online it was open, it clearly wasn't. As you have to buy a top-up card to use the bus to get to the feria, and these aren't sold on a Sunday, we wasted a little more money on a taxi there. Nevermind! This is how it seems to be in Argentina! We spent the afternoon walking along the docks lined with architecturally interesting converted warehouses and some of the famous high rises which make up Buenos Aires´skyline, before stopping for some dinner at a very tasty mexican.

In the evening, we visited a huge bookshop in a beautiful converted cinema, with a café on the stage area and books lining the balconies. About half of the people in there were just fellow tourists visiting the building for its originality.

Monday 21st October

In Buenos Aires, there exists the prestigious profession of pasaperros, which to you and me is a professional dog walker. These dog walkers will take up to 30 dogs out daily, and will groom them and check them over for any problems. Most have some sort of veterinary training. There is a famous park called el 3 de noviembre, where all the dogs are taken for their walks. There were so many dogs all over the place with non-stop barking (and humping). Within this park is a fairly authentic Japanese garden, which brought back memories of our honeymoon.

Across the road from the Japanese garden is an art gallery called MALBA. Chris and I are not really into art galleries; however with the exception of the first room which we did not get at all, we rather enjoyed this collection of contemporary and abstract art. The best display was a pile of broken stuff on white blocks with tiny figurines hidden within the objects, with many performing clean up tasks.

Tuesday 22nd October

Within the district of Boca, there is a small area considered safe for tourists, or rather set up for tourists! There are about 5 roads, the most famous of which, Caminito, which used to sit alongside the former railway. When the railway closed, the area was earmarked for demolition, however an artist saved it by painting all the buildings in various different bright colours.

In the afternoon we went for a pleasant stroll around the nature reserve, which is located just the other side of the docks. It was most strange being in a nature reserve in the middle of a large capital city.

In the evening, we went out for a steak at a parrilla recommended in the guidebook, to give Argentina the chance to catch up with Uruguay on the steak front. Unfortunately, although a sterling effort, Uruguay took the point to make it 4-0.

The following day, we are doing a short overnight excursion to San Antonio de Areco, a town within las Pampas, which is Gaucho cowboy country.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:21 Archived in Argentina Tagged art river nature_reserve Comments (0)

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