A Travellerspoint blog

Paraguay

sunny 39 °C

So we came into Paraguay via Ciuadad del Este, the most hectic town I have ever been to. The bus driver managed to drive us half a mile past the border (where we needed to get our entry stamps) without stopping, so we had to get off and walk through the town to get back there. I cant get over how much shitty tat there is in that town, we were constantly fighting our way through people shouting at us and waving socks and usb sticks in our face. It was so hot as well, much hotter than Puerto Iguazu, and only 45 mins away! So after getting our stamp (apparently theyre supposed to be clamping down on drug smuggling at this border, but the guy at passport control completely ignored our packs, and didnt even look at our passport photos- nice one Paraguay!) we checked into a hotel and went to get some food. Sadie ended up puking during our search for food, probably because of the heat- but anyway she ended up with no dinner. On our second day we decided that amongst the hordes of shitty electrical goods that the town is full of, there must be a half decent camera for a half decent price. After fighting our way through the streets (you could hardly see the sky for the amount of market stands selling socks and fake watches- Paraguayans must really love socks) we found just that. Had a bit of a shock when I looked at my bank statement and saw that the money had come out of my account several times- but called the bank and the money had come straight back in again- it seems that most South Americans are useless at card readers and can´t complete the transactions.

After getting pretty stressed out by Ciudad del Este (we missed Itaipu dam, but its a big corrupt structure that caused loads of environmental damage or something, so we werent that fussed), we headed to Encarnation, which was a bit more chilled. Went to see the old Jesuit ruins at Trinidad nearby, which was alright, quite interesting, but I think Lonely Planet had bigged it up a bit. We tried to get to another Jesuit thing called ´Jesus´ (origional name) but after waiting a couple of hours for a bus in the ridiculous heat, we gave up and went back.

The next day we were going to go to Ayolas, which had been recomended by a girl we met from Encarnacion, but the bus station was very hectic. Its full of people shouting city names at you and trying to usher you onto their busses. After being told there was a bus to Ayolas, and then being told there wasnt, we ended up on a bus to Asuncion- where we stayed for a couple of nights. Not much to see there though, so we headed to the ´popular´ national park of Ybycui. It was anything but popular, we waited for a bus to the park in Ybycui village for an hour or so, and then someone told us there was no bus. Then someone said there was a bus, but we had to get off and walk for 5km. This is what we did. The walk was so unbelievable hot- full packs on, no shade, the tarmac road was actually burning our feet through our flip flops. We arrived at the park having lost a couple of pints of sweat, to find that the campsite was a further 2km. Awesome! All in the name of adventure though! So we got to the campsite and found that we were the only ones there except for the frogs that kept jumping on our tent. Had a wash in the stream-waterfall by our tent and stayed up until it went dark. Which was 8 o clock. Early night for us then... there were loads of stars, and a crazy amount of fireflies which was pretty awesome- didnt need a torch to get the the toilets.

The next day we went on a few walks through the rainforest to get to a waterfall, and then another to and from the park museum. Lonely Planet talks about the lush trails full of huge colourful butterflies. Which was true- although they neglected to mention the huge- hand sized spiders that got their kicks from building their web right at face height! We had to walk really slowly, waving sticks around in front of our faces so that we didnt get them all over us. Unfortunately this didnt work every time, and Sadie ended up with a huge spider in her hair. Which she loved! She couldnt stop squealing with delight! If anyone had seen us, we would have looked like such numpties, bent over with tshirts on our heads, waving sticks around in circles in front of our faces. Cool cats.

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So although not the most pleasant adventure, it was exactly that- an adventure, and it was great fun doing a little rainforest trek with no-one around for miles. When we got back we jumped straight in the creek and had our dinner of corned beef and crackers by the waterfall. We could only afford corned beef and crackers because we had foolishly forgotten to withdraw money before leaving Asuncion. There are no ATMs in the jungle. Mental note.

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Posted by St Martins 09:26 Archived in Paraguay Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Iguazu Falls

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So we arrived in Puerto Iguazu, got off the air conditioned bus and was hit by the heat and humidity! It is very warm here as its surrounded by the jungle. We found our way to the hostel and relaxed for the afternoon, there was a swimming pool at the hostel which was great and they have 5 gorgeous dogs that run around the place all the time. The next day we decided to go and see the falls from the Brazilain side first so after a few buses and a couple of passport stamps we got there and it was awesome. We were so shocked at how huge and amazing the falls are. On the brazilian side you get to look at the falls from a distance and take it all in.

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There are butterflys everywhere at the falls!!

No one photo can capture how amazing it is because its so massive. We were walking along the platforms thinking ´surley this is the end´ but then round the next corner there was more water! We found out that its about 275 waterfalls all together. Theres loads of wildlife around there too, they have these things called Coatis which are like racoons with long noses that wander round everywhere trying to steal your food.

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There were also these really cool lizards that look like small monitor lizards. On the Brazilian side we also got to go on a platform to the edge of one of the falls which was great and got us really wet which was welcomed in the heat!

The next day we went to the Argentinian side and it was even more amazing that the Brazilian side. You´re really in the falls... it was noisey and wet and you could get really close to a part of the falls call ´The Devils Throat´ which is huge and has so much water flowing down it.

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I can`t really explain how exciting it was to be there. Its like the closer you get to the falls the happier and more excited you get. I think its because theres so much noise and water everywhere. Also it feels really cheesy because there are rainbows everywhere! Because of all the humidity everywhere you looks pretty much theres a rainbow or 2.

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Its also so green and lush round there it looks like a scene from Jurassic Park! It was awesome. We took a boat along the top of the falls and then at the bottom we took a speed boat which was crazy!! They drive really fast round all the falls and pretty much put you right in them.... its quite scary but fun at the same time and you get absolutley soaked.

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At the end of the ride some guy tipped the captin so the he would take us in once more but this time the guy wanted to sit right at the end of the boat while he drive us right in to the falls. it was mental as soon as we hit the falling water the boat went a bit crazy and filled up with water!! It was great! I know i keep saying how amazing it was but seriously everyone should go! I think its probably been our best day so far! We saw wild mokeys there to which was brilliant!! They were really cute!

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That night after all the excitment we went for a classic aregentinian meal... a Parilla, lots of meat,salad and chips. And the even throw in the kindeys and intestines too!! (Intestines are actually pretty good) So its goodbye to argentine and off to the unknown.... Paraguay! Argentina has been great! I didnt expect it to be as good as it has been weve had a great time here!!!

Posted by St Martins 12:03 Archived in Argentina Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

More Buenos Aires

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Well we´ve been in BA for over a week now, leaving tomorrow for Iguazu falls- but we´ve had a really great time here. Its a pretty nice city, theres loads to do, and the huge mix of european, latin american, and carribean cultures makes it a really interesting place to be. Weve done so much, I think Im going to bullet point everything

1. San Telmo Antique Fair

On Sunday theres a big market in the San Telmo neighborhood of BA. They sell shedloads of antiques. Its mental, most of the stuff there is either really weird, really naff or really expensive. Often all three. But its interesting to walk around. Most of the people walking round were tourists so I didnt really get how the salesmen make any money- what tourist is gonna lug back a huge grammarphone back home? What I liked more were the streets around the market, which was chock a block full of street performers, musicians, artists and the like. There was a really good puppeteer, and some guy with two parrots in a wooden cabinet who charged money if you wanted to take a photo of them. Erm.. no thanks.

2. Tierra Santa

Translation: Holy Land. The worlds first religious theme park, a huge replica of New Testament era Jerusalem, complete with lifesize models depicting Jesus´life. Theres even a replica of Ghandi in there, not quite sure how he fits in. Theres a load of animatronic shows showing the creation story, the nativity etc, and even some live shows. I was pretty amused by this show that featured some dancers in arabic dress, dancing with canes, and pretty much moshing their heads in full circles. Then, this guy in sunglasses played a ridiculously loud and inappropriate synthesizer solo over the top of some arabic music. The place is hard to describe, but its crazy. It was really windy that day though, and we missed what is apparently a 30ft high statue of Jesus rising out of a big fake mountain, and blessing all the park visitors. Gutted.

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3. Palermo

Palermo is another neighborhood of BA, and its full of loads of huge parks and stuff. Sadie had a Spanish lesson here, and walked around the old town (which is full of expensive restuarants, boutiques and old buildings) and learned stuff about the history of the place, while I went to the zoo. Which was great- it had loads of animals that Id never seen in a zoo before, like a specacled bear, and a giant anteater, as well as a whole load of things Id never even heard of. One of which was something like a cross between a badger and an anteater, and another was a cross between a badger, a skunk, and a monkey. It was good.

4. Tango

Tango is huge in Buenos Aires, although you dont actually see much. There are loads of people in the center of town who look like theyre gonna dance, but actually just pose for photos for cash. Which is a bit annoying. I get the impression that Tango survives mainly as a tourist attraction here- the most common way to see it is to pay $200 pesos each for dinner and tickets to a show. We didnt do this, instead we spent one evening eating at a restaurant that had some dancers and a live singer in there- it was cool- it felt a little more authentic than the glitzy stuff you see in the adverts for the big shows. We had a huge Parilla (BBQ), bottle of wine, champagne, and saw this show going on all around the tables for about $150 pesos between us- which is loads cheaper than the big tourist shows. The next night we went to the theatre and saw another tango thing- that was a mix of 3 different styles of tango, and contemporary dance. Im not big on watching dance at all, but it was actually quite interesting to see the entire evolution process of an art-form in just over an hour. The dancers were really good as well- they were going crazy, doing flips and shit. The tickets were $25 pesos each- so $200 pesos in total over two nights for both of us- half the price of the tourist shows. Were such good spendthrifts. 16 quid each.

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5. Bomba del Tiempo

I missed one out- Bomba del Tiempo is like a big nightclub, only its in what feels like a multistorey carpark, and the music is played by 15 or so live drummers and a conductor playing awesome afro-spanish grooves and stuff. Theres also a guitarist who comes in and theres half an hour or so of really funky stuff, and then things get mental when a guy whacks out his trumpet and starts playing like hes on ´Bitches Brew´ or something. Its awesome- the music is sooo good, and the crowd is mental- I think a lot of them were taking these 2 peso pills that some ridiculously dodgy rasta was selling outside the club- but it was funny watching them go completely mental and completely pissing sweat out of their pores. Beer is cheap as well- about 2.50 for a litre of beer. Imagine that back in England! It was so good in fact that we booked an extra night in our hostel so we could go again tonight. Exciting.

6. Caminito

Caminito is another area of BA, in the La Boca neighborhood. The neighborhood itself is working class and a bit dodgy, but Caminito is now a pretty touristy area. Apparently the people living there were really poor, and couldnt afford paint for their houses, and so they just used whatever paint was lying around. The result is a really colourful hodgepodge of houses, and a really lively atmosphere- lots of music, tango dancing, performers and the like. Although bordering on too touristy- someone decided it would be a good idea to stick fibreglass statues of famous Argentinans such as Che Guevarra and Maradona on a load of the balconies of these houses. Still its all good, and makes a nice couple of photos.

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So thats about it. Theres so much to do here, and a lot of it is free. Our favourite city so far! Off to Puerto Iguazu (Iguazu falls) on Saturday, which Im very excited about.

Posted by St Martins 13:25 Archived in Argentina Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

Back in the city

overcast -30 °C

After arriving back in Buenos Aires, we promptly managed to lose each other for 45 minutes somewhere in the subway under the city. Nice one. After getting hot and flustered we eventually found each other and checked in at our new hostel. We had a wander round the streets nearby, saw some cool buildings and spent hours looking for a bookshop.

The next day we went to Recoletta, which is the rich district of BA. Its also where they bury rich dead people. Recoletta cemetary is huge, its like a village- and all the tombs are like mini houses, no wonder the price of a grave here is the same price as a house. Some tombs are really old and smashed in with the coffins falling about all over the place inside, and some are ridiculously ornate with statues decorating the crypt. Its crazy.

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So after the cemetary we walked around Buenos Aires' art museum, which had stuff by Van Gough, Picasso, Monet, Rodin- etc. Best of all- it was free to get in, which is always good. Then we went and saw a huge metal sculpture of a flower that apparently closes up at night like a real flower. Good stuff.

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And then yesterday we explored the center of town. Had a look at the Casa Rosa, where some bird called Evita did a load of speeches, saw a Cathedral, and then got soaked with rain when the skies opened. We dashed from shop to shop until we got to some big shopping mall that also houses a load of art (look at us, culture vultures!), with painted ceilings and stuff. It was proper posh in there though so we didnt buy anything, just looked round for ages in hope the rain would stop. It didnt. In the end we had to leg it to the subway, only to find that it wasnt working. What a bummer. We had to walk all the way to our hostel, and got soaked to the skin. When we got in, BA was on the news, and Palamero down the road was so flooded that people were up to their chests in water. Crazy, it was fine outside our hostel. Anyway, thats that- today were off to see Tierra Santa (holy land), which is apparently a huge fibreglass recreation of Jerusalem, and it sounds hilarious.

Posted by St Martins 08:25 Archived in Argentina Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Wine tasting in Mendoza!

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So we´ve been relaxing in Medoza, a city in Argentina, relaxing for a while. The city had a bad earthquake a long time ago which ruined the city so when they re-built it they made loads of big open grassy plazas (as evacuation points) and wide tree lined streets (for the rubble) which makes it a really nice city. The hostel we stayed at was really chilled out with a pool which was nice, so we decided to stay a while as it was cheap!
70% of Argentinas wine is produced around Mendoza and there are wines tasting tours you can do. James isn´t a massive fan of wine but luckily there was a aussie girl at the hostel who liked wine so we hired some bikes from Mr Hugo and set of on a bike tour round the winerys trying lots of wine, olives, chocolate, cheese and Champagne.

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It was a really good day, we got followed home by a policeman .... possible because we were the last people left trying wine and he wanted to make sure we got back safe. The wine is really good and so was all the food. Although it was all very rich and i haven´t eaten rich food for a good few months now and it did result with an unpleasant trip to the toilet (i puked..... alot). But it was still a great day! The rest of the time in Mendoza we wandered round the plazas, sat by the pool and got to know the owners of the hostel.

Posted by St Martins 08:16 Archived in Argentina Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

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