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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)

Iguassu Falls, Brazil and Argentina and the Itaipu Dam

What a dam good river!

sunny 30 °C

Tuesday 24th September - let the border hopping commence: Paraguay - Brazil

We left for the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay first thing in morning. The journey is only about 20-30km, yet took us the best part of 2 hours. The first bus for some reason left empty and would not take us. The second bus took us to within a kilometre of the border before we were kicked off and made to walk to the bus at the front of the queue, which was about 15 buses up. We explained to the driver we needed to stop at the border to show our passports as the locals do not need to go through immigration.

We then sat at the side of the road for 15 minutes for some unknown reason before changing bus driver. Maybe the new bus driver was late? We forgot we would need to tell the new bus driver we needed to stop and so went soaring past immigration. We got off the bus and walked the hundred metres or so back to immigration to be stamped out of Paraguay. Before alighting, we had been given a transfer ticket for the bus so that in theory we could board the next bus on the same ticket.

The next bus pulled up from the same company, yet would not accept our tickets, saying we had to pay. We decided that seeing as we still had to get off the bus at the Brazilian immigration after we had crossed the river, we would walk the 500m bridge of no man's land to cross the border and catch a bus in Brazil. We cleared the Brazilian immigration and flagged down a bus. It turned out this bus was a Brazilian company as opposed to the Paraguayan company we had started with; however they were more than happy to accept the tickets.

We were not looking forward to having to do it all again the following day when we crossed into Argentina.

Itaipu Dam

In the afternoon we visited the Itaipu dam, which is situated on the Paraná river and forms the border between Paraguay and Brazil. This dam generates 75% of all Paraguay's electricity and still leaves 90% of the supply for Brazil. Itaipu is a binational company and you could tell our guide loved this with endless binational jokes. The tour begins with a 30 minute brainwashing video about how amazing the Itaipu dam is, forgetting to mention any negative consequences which have come from its construction. Afterwards you're driven around the site and it is explained how they use the water to generate electricity. The dam is 200m high. It is unbelievably big. All the equipment they use to generate the hydroelectric power is completely oversized. The turbine hall is a kilometer long and each turbine has a diameter of about 25m. It was really fascinating to see something so different. For this tour, you have to wear a hard hat. For part of it, you are within the working dam; part of the tour takes you through the offices, where you still have to wear the hard hat, to the amusement of the workers.

After the dam tour, we found an all-you-can-eat churrascaria for £8. These are found all over Brazil and for your £8 you get a pretty decent self serve buffet of rices, pastas, salads and a couple of mains. This is not why you go though; the staff continually come round with various different meats on skewers and cut you a piece off. We must have had about 10 pieces of meat. And it was decent meat as well. I think we could be visiting a few over these over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday 25th September - Iguassu Falls, Brazil and border hop number two: Brazil - Argentina

We got up early to go to Iguassu Falls in the hope that we would beat the crowds. Although it was busy at the entry gate and on the bus which takes you around the national park, the bus nearly emptied as people decided to do the visitor centre first. This meant that at the Falls, there were only about 15 of us. The waterfalls were magnificent and well deserved of their title of one of the 7 wonders of the world. That are high, loud and powerful along some distance. They were beautiful. The speed at which the water travels was unbelievable. I am so glad we have seen the Falls as these are definitely something anyone who gets the chance should go to see.

Next door to the national park is a bird park which we decided to visit, not really expecting much. We ended up spending over 2 hours there and have never seen such a vast range of birds. There were a few walk through aviaries, including one with some very impressive toucans. Their beaks look so fake and stuck on the front. They posed very nicely for photos.

Afterwards, we collected our rucksacks from the hostel and crossed the border into Argentina, which was fortunately a lot more civilised than attempting to cross over from Paraguay with only one easy bus change. And back to understanding when you're being spoken to and what is written down. For Chris though, it's all in 'foreign' but at least he's 'got his translator back', which coincidentally was the first reason he listed for not wanting to travel alone. Nice to be valued by your husband.

Thursday 26th September - Iguassu Falls - Argentina and third and final border hop: Argentina - Brazil Enjoying the fact we got our passports back and can therefore re-enter a country.

Once again we got up early to beat the crowds; however this time that was not possible. The Argentinian side of the Falls is reportedly the better side from which to view them and is a lot more accessible with the majority of the route being completely flat. We personally preferred the Brazilian side as you can see the Falls as a whole and get an idea of the magnitude. With the Argentinian side, you are right on top of them and so you can only really see that section of the waterfall. The wildlife is probably better on the Argentinian side with more colourful and exotic birds, as well as a few different smaller breeds of toucan.

We also went on a speed boat ride up to the waterfalls and under 3 of them. It was worth seeing the Falls from water level and looking up at them.

That evening, we made our final trip over the border back to Brazil and went out for dinner. Over dinner, we began to notice the number of very attractive and natural women, to which Chris commented that we were going to need to tie his mouth shut. I didn't get this at first so questioned him. His response was so they can't tell I'm gawping at them and demonstrated his open-mouthed, transfixed expression. Hmm....

Itaipu Dam brainwash part two

Included in the price of our dam tour, were 'free' tickets to their eco-museum which showed more reasons why the Itaipu dam was so brilliant. It was a strange museum with a few unrelated themes, and only English or Spanish translations in the first couple of sections meaning we were really not too sure what was going on in most of the museum or what relevance it had to the construction of the dam. I mean one section was a dirty cartoon comic strip competition.

After a late lunch/early dinner, we caught the 16 hour night bus to Sao Paulo, where the temperature is in the 30s. I can't wait!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 08:23 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls river puerto dam border passport iguassu foz itaipu Comments (0)

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