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'I've been Tangoed'
ARGENTINA - Sep/Oct 2003
'I see dead people'
Saturday 13th September 2003 Hospajeyda Alumada, Mendoza

The border crossing was pretty slow. and it was about 8 by the time we where on our way towards Mendoza. The bus then stopped for 30 minutes in Upsallata, which is a small Andean town where they filmed '7 years in Tibet' with Brad Pittt. By 11:30 we drew into Mendoza bus terminal. First stop was the cash point and then we phoned a hostel to see if they still had spaces. The phone call got cut off in mid sentence so we just jumped in a taxi and tried our luck. They didn't have any space but led us to a sister hotel around the corner. It just had tiny double rooms at really cheap prices so we where quite happy to get to a bed and some space on our own.

Well we finally got off the bus at 11ish but had to put our clocks an hour forward for the time difference so it ended up quite late to look for somewhere to stay. Phoned up the nicest looking hostel in the book and got a taxi only to find it was full. We arrived at the door the same time as 2 American girls who also couldn't get a bed for the night so the nice man from the hostel walked us over to another hostel/ hotel around the corner which they seem to share accommodation with when full. The place was pretty basic and cold but we found ourselves in a double for the night for a very low price which was cool, the room was quite horrible but by that time we both didn't care and fell into bed exhausted.

Sunday 14th September 2003 Campo Base, Mendoza

Took the hotels option for breakfast - 2 really stale rolls and a crap coffee. I popped back to the Hostel round the corner and reserved 2 dorm beds whilst Sarena took a shower. We where packed up and back at the Campo Base International Hostel by 10:30. We checked into a small 4 bed dorm and where joined by a californian girl, Lilly.

After a quick sandwich for lunch, Sarena and I took a walk around the town. When I arrived last night I was a little disappointed as I didn't expect Mendoza to be as big as it is. But walking around today with the warm sun and much needed fresh air was great. For a city, Mendoza has a very sleepy feel to it (probably something to do with it being sunday). We found a bit of a park, although I think it was the middle of a huge roundabout, and took a lie in the sun to warm our bones up.

Got some supplies and then returned to the Hostel. Managed to work out what the pound to pesos exchange rate is for agrentina.This made my day as I then discovered that everything is so cheap. Sarena wasn't too impressed with my attitude as she thinks all I worry about is money. She's not entirely right but it sure helps to know things are a lot cheaper than you expect.

Sat around in the Hostel in the evening chatting to everyone there. Met a really nice Dutch couple who travel every 6 months of the year, usually by cycling. This trip they are cycling from Alaska to Santiago. So have nearly finished their trip. Ate dinner by torch light due to a power cut and socialised for the rest of the night.

Woke early and had a quick b'fast then walked around to the previous hostel to find ourselves some beds. The hostel looked really cool inside and was all geared up for the travelers - very cozy. We had to wait for a while for fresh bed but soon found ourselves in a 4 bed dorm sharing with a girl called Lilly from California who seemed very sweet but quite typical of that part of the world - bless, always stated the obvious and spoke like the characters from a High School teen film - you know what i mean. She didn't seem to understand a word we said though which was funny.

We dumped our stuff into the lockers then investigated the place and found out the area and what tours were happening. We went for a walk in the sunshine and were impressed at how much cleaner and prettier Mendoza was from Santiago. The sun was lovely and hot so we soon ended up laying in the grass in a park and soaking up the rays - wonderful. We then went to a supermarket to get some food and coffee and went back to the hostel. I cooked some fresh pasta which i found but turned out to be bloody horrible! We also booked up for the wine tour the next day which looked cool. Spent the evening just chilling out and talking to fellow travelers, ended up spending most of the evening talking to a Dutch couple who had been traveling around the world on and off for the last 10 years (going home to save each time) but they went around on push bikes! they had been currently cycling around South America for the last 3months. They were so interesting and very funny, especially the guy who kept coming out with the most funny statements.

We had a power cut later on in the evening which after 20mins Lilly chirped up and said - it's dark, guess it's a power cut eh......... then later asked a guy from Quebec whom we had all been speaking to for a while, - oh you speak French? wow.......... then asked where Quebec was.

Now that's what i'm talking about Helena and Taggart............... (you know i only jest with you - bloody yanks)

Monday 15th September 2003 Campo Base, Mendoza

We booked ourselves up on a wine tour for the afternoon. In the morning we met up with two american girls who caught the bus with us from Santiago, Kate (New York) and Sydney (San Francisco). They where very funny and we all had a great time. Also met our other room mate Pascal from France. He lives in Buenos Aires and seems to be able to speak every language fluently. He was very friendly and keen to give us information on Argentina. I don't know, all these really cool French and Americans, its really spoiling my stereo typical assumptions!

Jumped in the hostel minibus for our wine tour. The first winery (Wheinhart) was quit an industrial place but we got to taste some decent wine and bought a bottle. We then went to Niento Seminat winery which was more traditional, managed to try a few more wines and buy a bottle. Our guide, Nicholas, took us to one more winery as a bonus. can't remember the name of this one, and the wine wasn't so good. We then took a drive into the park behind Mendoza and up Cerro Gloria where Nicholas cracked open a couple more bottle of wines that we sat and drunk. There was a huge party of 14 year old Argentinean school girls on the hill and it didn't take long for us to become the main attraction. Our new dutch friend kept them entertained whilst they all took photos of us. There English teacher then introduced herself and corrected us. 'I am not an English teacher, i am a teacher of English.' -ooooh we beg our pardon.

Got back to the hostel at about 6 and then rounded up a big gang of us and went out to an all you can eat buffet in town. Basically for 3 pounds we could eat any kind of food we wanted. I mainly went for steaks and salad but the choice and quality was just amazing. Obviously we all ate too much and felt pretty stuffed by the end of it, so we went back to the hostel by midnight to try and sleep off our full bellies.

Toby went out and about whilst i did some reading and relaxed making friends with a couple of American girls who are studying in chile for a year and are on a little trip in the holidays. A group of us left at 2.30 then went and visited 3 wineries and then went up a really big hill in the local park to drink some more wine that the guide had got given for free. Had a really good afternoon and ended up buying a couple of bottles to take back with me.....

The view from the top of the hill was really good but we were soon engulfed by hundreds of school kids who were up filming something or other. They seemed to find us fascinating especially the Dutch guy with the really blonde hair. The kids all spoke really good English and were asking so many questions and wanted to have their pictures taken with everyone. We all got back to the hostel at 7pm and then a massive group of us then went out to a restaurant where for 12pesos -£3 you can eat as much as you want. Absolutely fatal as we were all by now really hungry and the amount of food was just pure gluttony and shameful. They had so many different areas serving all different kind of foods and racks and racks of meat which they cook for you to your liking, pasta bars where they cook fresh pasta of your choice and sauce of your choice. Help yourself bars of a huge variety of foods all of which were good. then you had the sea food area and the desert area where you could get the chef to make you fresh pancakes or just eat all of the squillion deserts offered. We all ate far too much and all complained terribly, i wondered how much food the place must waste on a daily basis and do they give the food away to homeless? I honestly found the restaurant quite shameful in the fact that the amount of food they had in just one day could keep people alive for a year in some areas of the world - it was just gluttony and i honestly felt quite ashamed of myself.

Some of the gang wanted to go out to a bar but Toby and I just went to the bank to try and draw out money which was like the cryptan factor - but did get some in the end, then went back to the hostel where i went to bed.

Tuesday 16th September 2003 Campo Base, Mendoza

I was up early and in the hostel minibus by 7:30 to take a 5 hour drive into the Andes. Sarena stayed at the hostel, but I went to take a walk out to get a decent view of Aconcagua mountain which is the highest mountain in South America (6962 meters). The drive was pretty long but we did make a few stops in the way. First was a massive lake made by a dam for supplying water to Mendoza, then we stopped of at Upsallta for a coffee. Finally we got to Aconcagua by 1. We where in the snow now and took a walk up a valley to a lake at the foot of mount Aconcagua It was great to be in the cool mountain air and walking over the snow was pretty good fun as people kept randomly sinking down in big drifts as we walked around.

After the mountain walk we started heading back to Mendoza but stopped at Puenta del Inca for some lunch and to take a look at a historical Inca site. Puenta del Inca is basically a thermal site in the andes where Incas set up a village to cure illnesses by bathing in the natural thermal pools. SInce the Incas though a hotel was come and gone (due to an avalanche) and the remains of the pool house are set into the cliff edge and covered in a sulphuric yellow. It all looks very mysterious. A couple of Israelis stripped of and bathed in one of the pools, while the rest of us just paddled with our feet.

Didn't get back to Mendoza until 9:30 where I found Sarena just starting to eat a chili she had made. What perfect timing. After dinner we started on the bottles of wine we got a at the winery yesterday. These went down very well and we where joined by Kate and Sydney and ended up in hysterics taking the piss out of each other. By 1 am Sarena went to bed and a few of us went out to 'El Rancho' which is a club which reportedly had some live music.

It was pretty quiet when we got there, but the one man band soon got on stage and it got a lot busier. We all had a glass of tequila (the shots are very generous) and by the time the band was into his second set we had consumed a far bit of beer and were up on the dance floor. It wasn't long before I was teaching these Argentineans how to dance. Which I think they appreciated as one big fat hairy guy came up and gave me a kiss. By 6 am everyone in my group were copping off with each other so I called it a night and wobbled back to the hostel. I haven't felt this drunk in ages, and my spanish had definitely improved and I spent a good 20 minutes yabbering on the the guy on night duty. Then things got pretty bad as I tried to go to bed and immediately started being sick. So I spent the next 2 hours in the toilet with Sarena popping in occasionally to make sure I was alright. by about 8 I had settled down and got some sleep.

Toby got up early and went on a trek up into the mountains which i didn't fancy, wanting to save myself for some nicer treks with some greener scenery. Obviously the surroundings are baron and rocky which is lovely but i like jungles and wildlife so declined. I did spend the day walking around the town and trying to find out where we should next go. I walked down to the bus terminal to get some info to talk to Toby about later then spent a few hours looking around the shops and just enjoying myself. I was going to hire out a mountain bike but didn't want to keep locking the bugger up each time as i wanted to have mooch around the shops. Spent a few hours in the afternoon reading my book and talking to Lilly who had come back from a shopping day from an afternoon nap. I cooked a chili for when Toby got back from his trip as i knew he would be starving, he didn't get back until gone 9pm and had left at 7.30am so he was really tired and very hungry - gosh i'm good to him. We then spent the evening drinking our purchased wine and laughing hysterically with 2 American girls, Sydney and Kate who were so bloody funny, they were only in there early 20's but i just clicked with them both. Sydney especially, had me crying and my stomach aching with cramps, Toby was also crying with laughter. We ended up doing stupid dances and basically acting like fools - highlight of my stay so far. At 1.30am they all went out drinking whilst i just went to bed as i new we had to get up and pack in the morning. Toby stumbled in at 6ish very very very drunk and not even able to stand up. So i stuck him on my bottom bunk whilst i went on the top one, thought that prudent......

He then had to stumble back and forth the to toilet to throw up numerous times so didn't get any sleep until 8am when i was starting to get worried so sat in bed with him trying to get him to sleep. I hadn't seen him that bad since New Years Eve a few years ago when he had drunk so much he stopped breathing and i had to nurse him all night.

 

Wednesday 17th September 2003 Campo Base, Mendoza

We had planned to leave today for Buenos Aires, but I didn't even wake up until 1 so we though we will postpone our trip until tomorrow. Sarena was being very caring and provided me with fluids and even a Big Mac which went down very nicely. By 4 I made it to the shower and was feeling a lot better by 6. Ours friends from Santiago, Jesus and Edith appeared later in the day as they are staying 1 night in Mendoza.

It ended being a good idea to stay as the Hostel was putting on an 'Asado' (BBQ) in the evening. Sarena had got our bus tickets to Buenos Aires in the morning so In general I had a very relaxing day. must get drunk more often! By 11pm the BBQ was ready and we all tucked into huge chunks of meat and veg. Not bad at all, but after a few glasses of wine and all that food I was ready for bed. I sneaked up to the room just before Sarena and ended up chatting to Lilly who was being very personal and philosophical with me. Thank god Sarena turned up 20 minutes later.

I was really tired after going to bed at 2am then woken up at 6am and running around after a sick Toby, but i got up at 9am and apologised to Lilly for all the noise of Toby banging the dorm room door and his general drunken groaning he was doing in bed. I thought it best to stay for another day and let him stay in bed to sleep it off so said goodbye to Sydney and Kate who left to catch the bus at 11am and feeling a little worse for wear ( they had no sleep) i then settled down to write my dairy then go back to the bus terminal to purchase some tickets to Buenos Ares on the night bus for Thursday evening.

Pottered around all day and went to get a McDonalds for Toby later on in the afternoon as i thought he would be craving for some stodge. He didn't get out of bed until 4pm and looking quite chirpy considering, we didn't do much for the afternoon but did have a lovely surprise as Jesus and Edith from La Casa Roja turned up for a overnight trip. The evening was a big BBQ set up by the hostel but wasn't as good as the last one in Santiago. Did drink some wine and had a good conversation with a Israeli guy who had been really ill over the last few days but had now ventured out of his room for a few hours. Went to bed at gone 12 to find Toby and Lilly deep in conversation - must have been a shock to Toby's system having a conversation.

Thursday 18th September 2003 On A Bus to Buenos Aires

Took a walk around town after we checked out. Then spent the rest of the day in the Hostel doing my diary and generally hanging around until our 8:45 night bus to Buenos Aires (13 hour trip).

The bus that Sarena had booked was really smart. we had the front seats on the top floor which where very comfy so managed to get a few good hours kip during the 13 hour ride.

Checked out all our stuff at 10am then just dondered around for the day waiting to catch the bus in the evening. The bus turned out to be a right posh affair and we soon settled down to our 14hr bus ride to Buenos Aires

Friday 19th September 2003 Lime House, Buenos Aires

Woke up just as the bus arrived at a small city called Lujan. It had a very impressive cathedral which is apparently a bit of a pilgrimage for a lot of people. We only spent 2 minutes at the bus terminal though. By 10:30 we where pulling into the main terminal in Buenos Aires. We decided to catch a Cab to the hostel that had been recommended to us. it only cost us about 90 pence so didn't feel to extravagant. The Lime House hostel is an old building on the main road through the centre of town. They had not reserved our room for us which was a shame as we had pre booked a double room and where keen to have our own space for a few days. Never mind! We checked into one of there dorms instead. Then I hung around and chatted to a few people in the Hostel.

Some of them seemed a bit strange and the atmosphere didn't seem quit right although the guy in reception, 'Thomas' was really helpful and booked us a table at a Tango show in the evening.

At about 9pm Sarena and I took a 20 minute walk to the Area of San Telmo to the restaurant called 'Taconeando' where we had booked a meal with a Tango Show. It was a great little place with small dimly light tables around a smoky stage. The meal was from a fairly set menu an by 10:30 the show started, The musicians, dancers and singers where excellent. It was the first time I had really seen Tango and it was amazing. Really worth seeing. They kept us entertained until 12 when the show finished and they tried to tempt us on stage. For once it was Sarena who had to get up and dance, which is pretty unusual as she general squirms out of it and makes me do it. We ended up getting back to the Hostel by 2 and pretty much went straight to bed.

Can't believe i slept quite well, i usually don't sleep on public transport but the bus was so comfortable.

Arrived in Buenos Aires at 11.00 and caught a cab to the Lime House Hostel which was quite hard work, the driver didn't speak a word of English whilst we found it hard to explain in our broken Spanish. Did finally find it though, and it was just a door in the street so couldn't see what the place was going to be like. A marble staircase took us upstairs where we then found ourselves in an old cool looking building which had tons of character. They hadn't booked us up a double room though, we had booked over the internet.........................so we ended up in a dorm room which i don't mind i just fancied a bit of space for a bit.

I went and sat in the little library and investigated all the rooms and balconies which over looked the huge 16 lane main road. The people didn't seem over friendly who were staying in the hostel so i just kept to myself whilst Toby booked us up an evening of dinner and Tango - bit of a shock i know as i didn't think he liked things like that!

At 9pm we made our way to the Tango club in the posh part of the City, San Telmo. Taconeando turned out to be a really fantastic place and looked just like the tango clubs you see on some films, smoky with small candle lit tables clustered around a dance floor, lovely waiters with smart uniforms bringing out the food and wine - just fantastic. We had our 3 course dinner that was part of the package then settled down to watch the dancing and singing. The Tango dancing was just amazing to watch and looked so technical but i think Toby was taken by the amount of legs being flashed everywhere. The had a great little band consisting of 4 elderly men playing French Accordion, violin, piano and double base - so cool. At the end of the show the dancers picked out a few people to drag onto the dance floor and humiliate, one was me! It was then a free for all and soon everyone was up of all ages doing all sorts of dances - Salsa being the main one.

We got back to the hostel about 2 and went straight to bed only to find i had the most uncomfortable bed in the whole world due to having broken wooden slats, a paper thin mattress and sticking out nails - not a good night sleep.

Saturday 20th September 2003 Lime House, Buenos Aires

Most of the others in our room came back t about 8 in the morning. One guy was pretty drunk and had bought himself a 'gentlemen's magazine' but didn't hardly get to the first page before he was out cold. We didn't hang around much in the morning and went straight out to explore Buenos Aires. The city has a great feel to it, in fact Argentina has impressed me so much more than Chile already. We to a walk to the district of Retiro to visit the famous Cemetery there.

It was pretty impressive. Basically Retiro cemetery is a huge area packed with mausoleum and tombs for all the dignitary of Argentina, Some of the monuments are really impressive. We spent ages walking around the site and barley saw half of it. I did manage to find Eva Purons (Evita) tomb though but didn't really stop to take a look as it was crowed by a massive group of american tourists. Sarena got pretty upset as her camera finally gave up on her, which apparently was my fault as i said she should make do with the nearly dead camera she had and not get a new one.

Just outside of the cemetery was a little flea market that we took a brief walk around, We then decided to go to the cinema and ended at one of those ugly leisure complexes which now seem to exists in every country in the world. We watched the new Sean Connery movie - 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' which was pretty entertaining for a few hours. After the film we wandered along a few shopping streets in search of a camera shop, but by 6 we hadn't found anything so ended up catching the Subte (underground) back to the hostel.

We where both pretty tired when we got back so didn't do much else's except eat, play pool and go to bed. Sarena's bed is really bad. It has missing slats and nails sticking up. I ended up swapping beds with her during the night and we decided to try and find somewhere else to stay tomorrow as neither of us like the feel of this hostel.

The rest of our room seem to come in between 8 and 9am that morning, all quite drunk and banging around. One in particular obviously thought it was a good time to start reading his porno mag whilst i looked on. We went and explored the City and the first thing i wanted to do was visit the cemetery which someone and said was worth going to. It took about 40mins to get there walking but it was a great way to see all the fantastic buildings and get the general feel for the City. I fell in love with it straight away and couldn't believe how different it was to Santiago, so cosmopolitan and beautiful. The cemetery turned out to be a fantastic place unlike any other i have ever seen before, all the family of local richies had been buried on top of each other for years and year then a huge stone crypt was placed on top and more bodies placed in the crypt. Some of them were like little churches with small alters and huge crucifixes on the wall. Others were much smaller and less fancier with just the coffin and some flowers but the whole place was like a maze. The statues and art work on some of them were stunning and the more fancy then the richer you were.

There were also loads of stray cats all around the cemetery, some of them living in the crypts amongst the coffins, as some of the tombs were so neglected and old you could just walk in. Some of then you could look in and see through the grid floor layers of shelves with coffins of ancestors all piled on top of one another - fantastic! I had a fab time walking around but was gutted when my camera just gave up and didn't work any more. I was annoyed because it had been starting to go wrong in NZ but Toby had said not to waste money on getting a new one as the one i had worked fine - now it had completely stopped with only half a film used.

After our tour we walked around the market selling all the local arts and crafts situated in the pretty park outside the cemetery. But after a roll of the eyes and a sarcastic remark from Toby (he hates walking around these things) i gave up looking and we went to watch the new Sean Connery film which turned out to be quite good fun. We went home at about 6ish but this time caught the train back saving us a long walk, we then just played a couple games of pool and had some pasta then went to bed. I don't think either of us were quite happy with being in the hostel as it just didn't have a good feeling about the place made worse by my dreadful bed which kept me up most of the night until Toby swapped and i got a couple of hours decent kip in his comfy bed.

Sunday 21st September 2003 The Mill House, Buenos Aires

Got up and took a walk to find a new hostel in the morning. I chose the generally clinical Hostel International one just around the corner as they had a vacant double room. It was a bit pricey but just what we need for a night so I booked it then walked up the pedestrian mall and found a couple of camera shops. They where closed as its sunday but hopefully this will cheer Sarena up a bit.

Sarena checked us out of the Lime House and managed to get one of her nights for free as her bed was so bad. We then dumped our bags at the new hostel and took a walk to an area of town that was recommended to us. We ended up at Plaza Dorrego which is a small square full of little antique stalls. In between the stalls where various couples singing or dancing the Tango and around the plaza where cafes set in historic buildings. All in all it was the perfect place to come for a sunday lunch time. We slurped a few coffees in Bar Plaza Dorrego and then went back to the Hostel to check into our room for 1. The rooms where more like Hotel rooms than a hostels, we even had our own toilet and the door led out to a balcony that looks over the court yard. It is all very pleasant and justifies the massive cost of the room (12 pounds!!). Had a bit of a relax in the afternoon and did my diary.

I said to Toby that i think we should find somewhere else to stay, this place was just depressing us for some reason. So first thing Toby went out to find another hostel whilst i packed my bag and paid the bill only paying one of my nights stay due to the shit bed. We then troddled over to the International Hostel which looked really nice and dropped our bags into storage to wait for our double room. We then walked off to find an old cafe that had been suggested to us for some morning refreshment, the cafe was situated on the corner of a little square which was holding an arts and antiques fair - just a wonderful place to wonder around and take in the sights and sounds as well as watch the street artist dancing the tango to the crowd. We found a seat at the back of the Cafe and i ordered a hot milk which you then melt in a block of chocolate - scrumptious. The Cafe was wonderful, all old and rustic inside and lots of noise of waiters calling out orders, clinking of coffee cups, smell of coffee and Spanish conversation. After some more drinks and bread and butter we went and took some pictures of the streets and building and the market. This place is a must for everyone to visit, i so recommend a good couple of weeks just taking in the beautiful buildings with balconies and little courtyards leading into gardens and passageways with more rambling old mansions, curiosity shops and cake shops. I think my mum would just love to have a holiday here.

We went back to the hostel for 1pm and checked into our very lovely room situated over looking the indoor courtyard and chilled out for the afternoon doing our diary and for me to catch up on some sleep. Ended up giving Toby the biggest back massage in the whole world as he had twisted his back whilst lifting the backpack.

Monday 22nd September 2003 Hostel Delta, Tigre

Had a great quiet nights sleep and was up by 7 packing and getting downstairs for breakfast. We then checked out of the hostel and left our bags there will we spent a quick hour looking for a new camera and posting some postcards. They quick hour ended up turning into 4 and we did a very thorough search for the right camera for Sarena. We did find one in the end which Sarena seemed very pleased about. We picked up our bags at 1 and then caught the Subte to the train station where a train was just about to leave for the northern suburb of Tigre. Tigre is a quiet town built on the delta of the rio del parana which makes up part of the water system that seperate Argentina from Uruguay. The idea was to spen a few days in a more rural part of the country. Tigre itself isn't very rural but most of the accomodations are on small islets of the delta itself. There is only one hostel so we tried phoning but got no answer. The tourist office gave us directions to get there but said we had to phone so that they could pick us up in their boat. First though we had to get a taxi. he assured us that if he took us to the edge of the river we would get a lift across with no trouble. So after a short taxi ride we found ourselves on the egde of a river in a rather industrial area of town. A oat soon pulled up though so Sarena and I jumped on. He had nothing to do with the hostel though and refused to take us across, even a 5 pesos bribe wasn't enough. In the end I had to resort to phoning again. This time someone answered but he could speak no English and only seemed to manage a very strange dialect of spanish. We had a very muddled converstation and just before my money ran out I manage to say . Boat, Camping, Harbour, Now. Good, in spanish. Not knowing if he git the message or not we waited for 5 minutes at the waters edge before I tried phoning again. The message did get through though and a chripy little man appeared in a tiny boat and we jumped on.

It was a very short ride to the hostel (via the river side off licence) when the enigne dut out we managed to introduce ourselves to Julio. The hostel was deserted expcept for a couple that where just packing there tent up to leave. We also decided to go for the camping option as the dorm rooms where pretty mank. Julio was very helpful and jolly and the more he tried to speak to us the more I could understand his strange accent although I don't think he understood us any better over time. We spent the rest of the day chilling out on the rivers edge. It was beautiful and sunny and great to be surounded by trees and wildlife. A few Argentinean people turned up in the evening as they where staying in a shed at the end of the grounds. Julio cooked us a beef sandwhich and chips for lunch and laughed at everything we said. We where in bed by 9 though (typical camping time). By midight though some claps of thunder started in the distance. I quickly rounded up anything we had left outside so that it didn't get wet and pegged in the guide ropes. We then took shelter in the tent for the rest of the night listening to the non-stop thunder bursting all around us. The rain got pretty heavy too but I still managed to get a failry goodnights sleep in which included a pretty strange dream... 'It was the olympics in WWII and I was spying for the British by joing the german womens hockey team, we only had 3 players and I had to find out war tactics from the other 2 team mates and report them back to Shelly Tucker who was the communictions expert in the British team. Then the war started which was probably due to the thunder.' - very strange.

Slept really well thanks to quiet and comfortable room and felt refreshed and raring to go. We packed our bags and left them in reception so we could spend a couple of hours looking for a new camera for me - wahey! It took 3hrs in the end to walk up and down the streets testing out all the cameras and then sussing out the prices on the Internet. We were seriously thinking of buying a proper camera, the one with a big ole lense etc but we found out it was more expencive to buy in South America than the UK so thought better of it, anyway the darn thing was huge when in it's case so we ended up with a lovely Minolta one with a little zoom, something i have wanted for ages. We then went and posted some postcards and bought some empanadas before heading back to collect our bags and to catch the train to Tigre and some countryside. It is a small town on the Rio Del Parana set amongst all the many rivers and islands of that area. We found the info office and found a place to stay that took our fancy but couldn't get through to them to come and pick us up by boat. The taxi man did try to help by letting us use his phone but to no avail so we just got the taxi down to the river on the off chance of getting a lift across with someone else. He dropped us off and we waited for a water taxi but the only boat that turned up wouldn't take us over for some reason so Toby went and phoned again finally getting through but not understanding a word the bloke was saying on the other end, but within 5 mins of phoning a little boat made it's way over to us and then took us back to the hostel on the other side of the river. The blokey (Julio) who ran the place turned out to be a real sweety and even though we couldn't understand a word he said he would just laugh and smile. The hostle turned out to be set amongst the grass and trees and surrounded by water which seemed like paradise to us coming from the city. He showed us a double room which was too expencive and the dorm was horrible so we opted for camping which was great for me as it was just nice to be sitting outside with the birds and trees again. I found a huge ant trail that led to an old tree trunk, the track was formed on the grass but had been so well used it had worn all the grass away ( they were big ants) when you looked closer you could see many trails leading off of the one trail all busy with huge ants carrying numerous amounts of things, all of which were very important to them. The tree trunk which was the nest, was huge and had all different parts to it with different ants doing different jobs, some were taking in all the leaves they had collected and others at the bottem of the trunk were taking out all the rubbish - completely fastinated me but probably boring the pants of you............

Julio took me over to a little shop on the water to get some provisions as there was nothing on the island so bought loads of goodies. when i got back i opened up my backpack to find that once again a whole bottle of shampoo had exploded and had gone over everything. I had to wash and rewash the lot but ended up throwing away my mosquito net - it was a gonna, why don't they make shampoo bottles with screw lids anymore......

Anyway we spent our evening reading outside until it was too dark to see, then went indoors to the resturant part where Julio cooked us some dinner of chips and a beef snitzel sandwich and then we went to bed. I woke up to hear the biggest clap of thunder so woke Toby up and we ran around collecting my washing and anything else we could find before the storm came our way, and came it did!

Tuesday 23rd September 2003 Hotel Gardel, Tigre

Woke up to find the tent a bit damp and the surrounding grounds covered in water. Luckily we got off with it OK as our second choice camp site was now a huge puddle. The storm had finished by morning but it was still pretty overcast. We spent the morning sorting out our backpacks and drying the tent off. The real owner of the Hostel arrived later in the day, Carlos, and gave us lots of helpful hints about places to visit in Brazil and where we should go here in the Delta. By midday I decided (or Carlos convinced me) to take a canoe out for a paddle around the delta. Sarena declined which ended up being the better decision. It was pretty hard work paddling the big canoe up the delta, which was pretty much just islands with houses on. Some where pretty impressive but most where tiny little shacks with rusty old boats moored in front. After about an hour of solid rowing I came to a large intersection of Waterways. Varlos had recommended that I take a left towards a small tribuatry where there should be more wildlife. On this section of the river though there was a lot more traffic and several times I was close to being tipped out in the wake of passing river taxis. I paddled for another 30 minutes but the wind and rain had picked up which made the going really hard. So I gave up and turned around. Getting back to the hostel was even harder as I had the wind and rain head on which kept blowing my canoe around in all the wrong directions.

I did make it back though, exhausted. Sarena made me a nice hot cup of coffee and gave me a bit of cake and we packed the rest of our stuff up as we decided to spend the night on the main island. As soon as we made this descison though, the sky cleared and it warmed up. Carlos was very kind and took us back to the mainland then drove us to a Hotel. Pretty good service. The hotel was great too. a massive room about 10 minutes walk from the centre of town.

In the evening we booked tickets on a boat to Uruguay for the morning and then tried in vain for a decent place to eat. In the end I had to settle with a 20pence hot dog.

The storm was HUGE, just our luck to decide on camping for the first time in ages and we had a thunder storm with torrential rain....... the lighting was blinding and the thunder hurt your ears, it went on for a couple of hours then the rain came and flooded the whole area we happened to be camping, now i know why the hostel was on stilts. The floor of the tent was soaking in the morning which really bloody anoyed me, as it was an expensive tent but seems to soak up all the water through the ground sheet leaving everything damp or wet. Our old cheapy tent never let in the water! We spent the morning drying everything off then Toby thought it would be a good idea to go canoeing whilst i declined as i didn't have a dry towel and just didn't want to get cold and wet again. I spent the afternoon reading and packing up the tent. Toby got back 2hrs later looking very cold and wet as it had been raining again and not looking like he had had fun, glad i didn't go.

Toby got chatting to a man called Carlos who had turned up earlier in the day and turned out to be the owner of the hostel. He spoke really good English and said we could catch a lift back over with him and he would drive us to a hostel back in Tigre which was kind. He also offered us his boat in Brazil to stay on when we were in the area which was even kinder! he was good to his word, after catching the boat back he packed us and our bags into his little car then picked up his daughter. He then drove us to the info center again to find a the cheapest place to stay then dropped us off,.lovely bloke.

We ended up staying in a sort of hotel place which was a bit run down but had a great double with our own bathroom and TV which was great. Went and bought our tickets down at the riverside for a passage to Uraguay for the following morning, the stroll down there was lovely and reminded me so much of Surrey, walking down by the river whilst the rowers passed by and all the beautiful houses, some of which were huge but were empty and run down - what a waste.

Wednesday 24th September 2003 El Espanol, Colonia, Uruguay

Had an early start but not too early to miss the hotels breakfast. At the ferry terminal everyone was scurrying to get through the passport control. There was actually very little security though and we could of probably just jumped onto the boat.

We then had a 3 and half hour boat ride though the delta and across the rio de la plato to a small town called Carmelo. The weather was great and everything seemed crystal clear as we passed by all the tiny green islands that make up the delta and the gateway to Uruguay...

Got up at 6.30 and had some b'fast then headed down to catch the ferry for 8.30 but it took quite a while to get through passport control etc so had to get there early. Got ourselves a seat on the boat and then had a very pleasant journey along the river for most of the way, passing some amazing houses on the river banks, huge mansions some of which again were empty, really could buy a place out this way and make a mint.

 

Thursday 25th - Monday 19th September 2003 URUGUAY >
Monday 29th September 2003 Casamate Hostel, Colon

Arrived back into Argentina via a bus across the Rio Uruguay from Paysandu. It was only a 30 minute ride and very scenic. The difference between to two towns of Paysandu and Colon is pretty amazing too. The Argentine style is a lot more social and clean. Colon has a great feel to it.

I still couldn't find a night bus further north, but we where both quite happy to stay in this little town for a night. We checked into the local Hostel. We where the only ones there and it was very clean and Tidy. Marro the owner then arranged a night bus to Iguazu falls for tomorrow night. Great. We spent the evening in a tiny cafe drinking a much needed bottle of wine (we had both got a little wound up in the buses) and then grabbed a bite to eat before returning to the hostel.

Only a 40min bus ride and we were across the border and back into Argentina and the little town of Colon which turned out to be a beautiful town and much different from the Uruguay settlements. Much more money over these parts so obviously better looking towns and villages.

We trapesed around town with our backpacks trying to find the International hostel for the night and finally found the place just as my shoulders were going to collapse. The place was really nice and so much different to what we had been staying in, clean and had all the modern facilities. We enquired about catching the bus on Tuesday to Iguazu falls and it seems we can catch the night bus, excellent. We dump our bags in the dorm room and then go to find our first meal of the day but can't seem to find a little cozy restaurant which is what we fancied. We did however find a cozy little cafe so went in there and had a bottle of wine in REAL wine glasses! fantastic. We the just went and had a pasta/ pizza meal at a local restaurant which wasn't very good before going back to the hostel and having a wonderful long overdue shower and bed.

Tuesday 30th September 2003 On a Bus to Iguazu

Spent the morning exploring the great town of Colon. Well after we had breakfast and checked our emails we only had about an hour to walk around the town. There isn't too much to see though just clean, colourful and leafy streets. By 1 we where back at the Bus Terminal and waiting for a bus to El Palmara national park. Marro had advised us to go there as we can catch a night bus from the nearby service station all the way north to Iguazu falls.

Well we got off the bus at the service station at about 3 and discovered that it was a good 20 km still to get to the park. We only had another 3 hours to wait for our overnight coach so we decided to stick it out at the service station. We are definitely back on the tourist trail now as coach loads of travelers stopped in every 10 minutes for a feed. Our coach didn't end up arriving till 7. We jumped straight on to find very luxurious seats. and that was it I settled myself down for the 12 hour bus ride to the brazilian border. Sarena wasn't quite so settled though and I don't think she got any sleep.

Ordered a lovely b'fast from the little cafe from last night, sitting out in the sun and enjoying the goings on whilst Toby went to change some money. He then came back and ate all my b'fast claiming not to be hungry.

After my coffee we spent the rest of the morning walking around Colon around all the little cobbled streets and brightly coloured villas, all very Mediterranean. We then checked our emails and i sent some over due ones, especially to my friend Ian Scorer who his also traveling and seems to have disappeared somewhere. I took loads of photos before going back to to the hostel where we collected our bags and caught a taxi to the bus terminal. Bus picked us up at 1.30 and deposited us an hour later outside a gas station 5ks away from the national park we were hoping to have a look at. It was then a big trail to get to the entrance of the park so decided to stay put in the cafe at the station and just have some lunch and drink coffee. I went and sorted out the tickets for our other bus that was coming to collect us at the gas station and take us to Iguazu Falls then bought a really cheap bottle of wine to help me sleep on the 12 hr journey on the night bus.

Wednesday 1st October 2003 Puerto Iguazu

The Bus arrived in Puerto Iguazu dead on 12 hours since we got on (7 am). It didn't take us too long before we found a cheap hostel. We even had a chance of getting a double room if someone checks out.

The first job was to get some coffee in us. Sarena was pretty off the wall as she got no sleep on the bus. After coffee I had the great task of doing some much needed laundry. By 10 that was all done and hung out in the hot tropical sun to dry. We decided to wait until 12 to see if a double room came up... It Did, but wouldn't be ready for a while so we took a walk around some the the streets of Puerto Iguazu. The cobbled streets soon turn into dusty tracks and the back roads where lined with jungle full a new birds for us to gawp at. There where definitely some that I have never seen before and unfortunately we don't have a bird book so couldn't identify them. It was just great to be back surrounded by wildlife again, it seems of taken us ages to get back to this.

Sarena was desperate for a sleep by the afternoon so we moved into our double room and I caught up on some reading of some books which have been lying around in the bottom of my backpack for far too long. I'm very keen to get out and see the falls but we will make a day of it tomorrow.

Stayed awake all night................ mmmmm maybe i should try whiskey.

Quote from Toby as he just lets rip a big fart whilst i'm typing ' it was the heat, made all me organs swell up' ........... sorry had to write as i thought it very funny.'

Feeling very tired and gritty so headed for the hostel near the bus station and thought i should get some shut eye but still couldn't settle so went out for some B'fast then a quick walk around the very hot and tropical town then went back and sat out in the open area and read my book until 12midday to find out if a double room was vacant as it was really cheap. Luckily it was but not for another couple of hours so went back out for a walk and to take some photos - very impressive little place, completely different scenery to what we have seen so far, well we are on the Brazil border so very very green with lots of noisy insects and tropical birds flying all over with amazing colours and long tails - just what i needed, some wildlife at last.

We went and stopped off for a quick cold drink and went back to the hostel so i could have a lay down. We moved into our new room which was situated in another building across the road, bit dark and no air but better that the dorm.

Did get an hour of sleep but Toby kept wandering around the room doing things and making noise so didn't get a lot We just sort of lazed around for the rest of the afternoon and then i had a shower only to find the water stopped half way through so had to go back to the other building. When i got back to our room i realised just how hot it was, no air what so ever and not a fan to be seen. We decided to go out for something to eat but no make it a late one as we were getting up early to go to see the Falls - very exciting.

Thursday 2nd October 2003 Puerto Iguazu

I have been looking forward to this day for a long time... Visiting Iguazu Falls. Very sensibly we caught the first bus to the entrance of the park. We arrived at 7:50 with all the staff and very few other tourists. We where also convinced to buy an explorer ticket which allows us to travel to the falls by truck and boat. We decided to use this ticket straight away whilst it was still quiet. The first ride didn't go until 9 though so we walked for a bit through the park. Straight away we came across some Monkeys, Ant Eaters and Toucans. What a perfect start.

The truck ride took us for 8 km through the jungle. We where joined with a few other people but there was probably only about 10 of us. The ride was on a pretty well maintained track and we saw very little wildlife except some more anteaters which I think are the South American answer to the Possum and have evolved from eating ants to whatever the tourist may have in there day packs. Consequently they are pretty tame now. The track ended 6 km down stream from the falls so we then took a motor boat and tackled some minor rapids to get to the base of the amazing Iguazu Falls. They where massive and blew me away. After a few minutes of Photo Opportunities we where told to secure our cameras and then the boat took a mad dash at the foot of San Martin falls. We all got totally soaked and it was amazing to get so close. Just as I recovered from the powerful spray the boat turned and took another run this time going further into the wall of water. Pretty dam cool. We where then dropped off at the shore just as the sun was starting to burn up the morning clouds and perfect timing for drying us off.

Our first walk of the day took us around San Martin Island where we met loads of lizards (some pretty big) and Vultures. We got eye level views at a vast section of the falls. I even have to admit to getting a bit emotional at the sight of it all. Then we took a walk up the side of the falls to the top where we grabbed a much needed coffee and some sugary substances. My assumptions about the ant eaters where confirmed when we found them surrounding the cafe tables in the hunt for tit bits. I took a few more impressive walks around the top of the falls and then Sarena and I took a train ride to the start of the walk to the main fall, The Devils Throat. Where the train track ended a long walk across bridges stretching across the top of the river began. We managed to spot an alligator lazing in the sun which everyone else just walked by. Then we where totally blown away. We got to the lookout over the top of the Devils Throat and I witnessed one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen. It was just totally breath taking. I had to walk away and then walk back up just to get that feeling again. The sight can't really be explained or justified in a photo so everyone will have to come here to experience it. There where massive sprays causing huge rainbows with thousands of birds flying around.

By the time we had enough of this awesome sight we both felt exhausted so took a relaxed dinghy ride back down the river. And then a short 10 minute walk back to the bus stop. My anticipation of this day was totally fulfilled.

Back at the hostel I booked us a bus ticket to Rio de Janeiro for the morning (22 hours). Then checked my emails to find I had actually received quite a few which is rare. Most of them where updates of going on's in other peoples lives which is really good to read as sometimes I feel pretty lonely and detached from everyone even though we are doing all these cool things. Sarena bought some supplies for our journey tomorrow and we went out for a bite to eat.

Got up early and caught the 7.30am bus which took us to the Falls Park where we had to wait for 10mins before it opened. Seems all the coach loads of people turn up at around 11am and it goes down hill from there on, hence we were early.

We had bought a all in one ticket which let us go on a truck ride through the jungle then onto a boat, we had all day to do this but i thought it wise to get wet first then have all day to dry off. So we walked through some of the subterranean jungle to get to the truck meeting point, stopping on the way to see monkeys and anteaters, all of which we got very excited about. We bought a quick b'fast of muslie bars and then got on the huge open truck taking a load of us through the most wonderful scenery, my first sight was of a Toucan flying through the tree tops. Now that made my day even before i had seen the waterfall! We got dropped off about 20mins later to the beginning of a steep walk down to the rivers edge then onto a boat. I had been told that we get very very wet so had taken precaution by bringing my water proof trousers and jacket which i then donned. Toby had neither and was even wearing his boots which i had told him was a bad idea..............

It was a steady boat ride down river and over a couple of rapids which were fun and made the dutch lasses in the boat scream.......... what girlies.

We were soon floating around the bottom of San Martin falls one of the Iguazu family and had a chance to take a few of the many photos of the day. The falls were breathtaking and so so so so so big! The boat driver told us to put our cameras away as we were now going to get wet, and very wet we got...... he took us right near the base of a huge fall so all the spray just covered us completely soaking everyone and everything's, including backpacks which we were desperately trying to cover with what ever we could find. The dutchies were screaming to high heaven which encouraged the driver to take anther spin at the huge wall of water - fantastic fun.

We were then dropped off a little way down the river where a dripping Toby with squelchy feet and a bone dry me stepped onto the rocks to dry off our bags and my jumper which i had used to protect my bag. A little boat took us over to another part of the Falls where we could see some more of the fantastic views and take pictures of flocks of black vultures and huge lizards that walked on the path in front of you as you walked. A few more paths led us to some pretty amazing viewing spots where we could witness the shear power and beauty of the falls, Toby even got a little teary!

We seemed to walk around for ages taking photos of hundreds of different butterfly's and birds and anything else we could catch on camera before catching a little train which took us to the beginning of the bridge walk to Devils Throat. The walk took us across the huge expanse of river where we saw an alligator laying in the mud before coming to the end of the walk to the sightseeing platform - it completely an absolutely took took my breath away, i have never seen anything so awesome in all my days. These Falls were colossal and were just everywhere as far as you see, all different bodies of water cascading down the huge cliff - couldn't even see the bottom. There were hundreds of swifts flying everywhere making nests amongst the lush greenery which grew amongst the water. After a long stay taking in every inch of the Falls and loads of photos we walked back to the beginning of the walk and caught another boat back to the train station, but this time we floated down which was a lovely ending to the day in the peace and quiet of the jungle.

Caught the 4.15 bus back to our hostel and saw another Toucan just as we were leaving - fab. We were both knackered as all the walking in very humid and hot conditions had just drained us. Toby booked up a bus to get to Rio - 22hrs - oh joy. I went out and bought loads of rice crackers for our journey then had a very cold shower and went out for some dinner and a long cold drink.

Friday 3rd October 2003 On a Bus through Brazil

Had a bit of a messy border crossing in the morning. Caught a standard bus to the river border where we got our argentina exit stamp. The bus waited and then took us over the river to the brazil immigration. It is quite weird as we actually had the choice if we wanted to get off the bus or not. deciding that getting an official entry stamp was the more sensible option we jumped off. But this time the bus didn't wait. 20 minutes later another bus came along and we took this one on to the centre of Foz do Iguacu, Brazil...

Caught the normal bus at 9.50am from the terminal and got chatting to an Ozzy couple of girls going our way. We caught the bus to the border then had to get out to get through passport control, all the time hoping the bus would wait for us the other side as we heard it generally doesn't..... luckily this one did and as usual Toby Jones was the last one to board. The bus took us over the bridge where only a few of us travely types had to get off to go through the Brazil passport control, this time the bus just drove off so had to wait for another one to come past. Luckily we didn't have to wait long and hopped on another one which then took us to the centre of town........ now in Brazil!!!

< CHILE AUG/SEP 2003

BRAZIL OCT 2003 >
ENGLAND - RUSSIA - MONGOLIA - CHINA - NEPAL/TIBET - INDIA - SINGAPORE - AUSTRALIA - NEW ZEALAND - FIJI - FRENCH POLYNESIA - EASTER ISLAND - CHILE - ARGENTINA - URUGUAY - BRAZIL - PERU - ECUADOR - U.S.A - SPAIN - ENGLAND
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