South America Tour – Iguazu Falls, Argentina – Day 27

Day 27 – Iguazu – the Centrepiece Highlight of our trip!

We started our Wednesday with breakfast at the hotel and then were only slightly delayed waiting for 2 of our tour group (Carmella and Carlos from Spain) who slept in – but no problems. The only other 2 people were a mother/daughter from Puerto Rico – Carmen & Pidgeon(?). The mother ended up passing on the tour as it involved lots of hiking and she was not up to it. Our tour guide Jorge (George) switched from Spanish to English throughout which was fine.

We started with the hike out to the Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat), then followed the Top Trail. After lunch the other 3 took the optional boat tour into the falls, but Mike & I opted for the Low Trail hike with Jorge guiding us (and glad we did!).

Words fail me to portray my senses at seeing and hearing Iguazu Falls. I have visited mountain ranges, glaciers, buttes and mesas, deserts and fjords, waterfalls and coral reefs; been on safari in the Serengeti, catamaran sailing in the Great Barrier Reef, and climbed Kilimanjaro – but I think Iguazu has impressed me the most of anything. I can’t imagine being the first European to witness the site – and the native locals must have been just as awed even if accustomed to them.

Some random facts that I picked up from Jorge:
– 2.7 kilometers of continuous waterfalls
– Argentinian park created in 1934 as the 2nd National park in Argentina
– in 1984 Iguazu Falls were declared a Unesco Heritage Site
– over 270 cascades (falls) make up Iguazu Falls
– highly variable water flow depending upon the season and amount of rainfall – fully fed by rainfall, no lakes upstream
– Devils Throat is over 100 feet higher than Niagara

Even the technology to make them accessible is remarkable – the effort and construction skill needed to build the walkways is exceptional!

The butterflies and other wildlife were also memorable – So many butterflies landing on you and on everything around – all sizes and colours. Jorge showed us one which was blue/grey mottled and the male makes a loud ticking sound to attract the female. We also came across many Argentinian raccoons, alligators, turtles along with birds, hanging birds nests, and many spiders with huge nests. But sadly we spotted no monos (monkeys) – which is apparently not usual.

While Mike was photoing on our afternoon tour, Jorge and I talked orchids, which are unfortunately not in flowering season right now but the forest is full of them. He showed me photos of his at home – some on his trees, some in pots, some cultivated from wild and others bought – including the strawberry orchid which smells of …. yup, strawberry.

In the evening we joined our nuevo amigos (Carlos, Carmella and Pidgon) at La Rueda again for a fantastic dinner and had a wonderful time late into the evening. We’ve exchanged email addresses and will share some photos with them – they shot all video so really want some of Mike’s photos.

Michael was in photographers glory with such spectacular views. Weaning down to a reasonable number was impossible, so below are some of Michaels photos, followed by 3 of his videos – be sure to watch with the sound on to get the full effect! I took many GoPro videos also, but editing is more complicated and they will follow at a future date. Tomorrow we head to the Brazilian side for even more views – can’t wait!

South American Tour – Buenos Aires & Iguazu Falls, Argentina – Day 24 & 25

Day 24 & 25 – Buenos Aires / Travel / Iguazu

Monday March 5 was likely our longest travel day this trip – pushing the edge for our aging bodies! It should not have been so long though! We arrived early at the bus station and managed to catch a 1/2 hr earlier bus from PdE to Montevideo. We had time in MV to catch a bite to eat and spend the remnants of our Uruguay pesos before departing. And then the delays started…

The bus from MV to the ferry were very late. But that enabled us to meet some interesting people in line πŸ™‚ We met 2 Argentinians, an Israeli guy, and a girl from London. She was Romanian and an engineer taking a year off to travel – just starting. She reminded me of Patrick; great skill and capability but still more keen on self fulfillment than corporate success. Eventually 3 busses showed up and took us to the ferry. The ferry crossing was on a much smaller boat this time (no cars on board), and it was a rough crossing. Many on the ferry suffered – one woman clenched white knuckles the whole ride, another guy laid out on the floor, several people fanning themselves or their travel mates. No one could walk around without falling over. But the worst was when we arrived in Buenos Aires…

With only 30 pesos of Argentinian money, we expected to arrive at the ferry terminal, take out cash at the ATM and take a taxi to our hotel. But no ATM, the taxis would not take US dollars, and the terminal was in the middle of nowhere! After searching endlessly for an ATM, the local police aided us on how to take a bus. But you need a SUBE card. We found a very helpful friend – Charles -who used his card to pay for us and he even ensured that we got to the right stop with the driver. A very nice man! We finally arrived and it was nice to have a hotel (Loi Suites Arenales) rather than BnB this time to simplify arrival. The location and price were actually very good – worth considering if we ever return to Buenos Aires!

In the morning we rearranged our bag contents to limit the weight in our checked bags – but alas, we needed to pay for every bag! But to our advantage, Andes Linea airlines were ridiculously unorganized. After a super long check in line, we needed to go to another line to pay for our bags. As our flight time came and went, many of us in line were stressed to the max. We were in line to pay for our bags along with anyone buying a ticket to anywhere. And credit card processing wasn’t working. Finally, they just let everyone in line waiting to pay for baggage on our flight to board without payment. So we saved 600 pesos but were delayed a 1/2 hour – guess it’s a good deal!

So finally late Tuesday afternoon we arrived in Iguazu and found our hotel no problem. The organized tour to town was skipped due to timing of other tour member arrivals (which was fine), so we ventured ourselves in to town – first on foot then catching a bus due to the muddy shoulder. We wanted to eat at La Rueda and as it didn’t open till later, we walked to the 3 frontiers to check out the Brazil / Paraguay view from Argentina. Back at La Rueda we had a fantastic meal of local Riverfish and then taxied back to the hotel for an early morning tour departure.

South American Tour – Punta del Este Uruguay – Day 23

Day 23 – Punta del Este

Sunday March 4 was our last full day in Uruguay. We were 1/2 way done our trip – but 6 weeks is a long time, so we were not feeling cheated.

We rose early to catch the sunrise, which was nice and Michael managed to optimize, but was not as spectacular as we had hoped for. After returning for breakfast at our apartment, we then headed off the check out the ‘tip’ of Este with it’s old church, and lighthouse. We also discovered several abandoned buildings. We suspect they were dance club type buildings and perhaps with the gentrification of the area they are no longer attracting the right demographics – or perhaps the bylaws are stricter? At any rate, they likely won’t last long – there seems to be money here, so surely someone will scoop them up and update / replace them. But for now at least, they provide great fodder for Michaels lens.

After lunch we headed to sit on the beach under an umbrella (still feeling the sun from our lengthy walk). We finally hit a nice restaurant where Michael had ‘baby beef’ – which was huge – and I had seafood spaghetti. Both were very yummy and even with wine and water our bill was about $80 – which is cheap for Punta del Este. The swank restaurant we thought about was that much per person for the meal alone – so we made a good find with this restaurant!

We sauntered around the marina a bit more, and checked out the local artisan market. It was mostly disappointing, but Michael did like the ‘cutout coins’ which involved an incredible amount of work – just not sure what you would do with one…

Then back to pack and ready ourselves for a full day of travel by bus and by ferry to Buenos Aires enroute to Iguazu!

South American Tour – Punta del Este, Uruguay – Day 22

Day 22 – Punta del Este

By Saturday March 3, Roberto finally came through. I had sent messages complaining about the missing necessities. He explained that his usual support person, Raoul, was off and apologized for the breakdown. The daily maid service is nice though – and she brought us the missing supplies (although redundant now). Returning to an apartment with dishes done and having the bed made for you is a nice perk though and helps make up for the bumpy start.

And the ice cream still is fantastic – we’ve eaten it out twice and in the apt twice already – no wonder I can’t lose weight! So time for a llllloooonnnggg walk. We decided to check out the Barra Bridge which is the entry point to Punta del Este along the east coast. It’s a very cool looking bridge, but I can’t imagine it’s very practical for vehicles. We greatly underestimated the heat and strength of the sun to be taking a 12 km walk each way in the heat of the day. But the walk was interesting, starting with the race track setup for the E1 race (formula 1 race for electric cars) and passing many beautiful homes and condos including the under construction Trump Tower. As we crossed away from the ocean side, the scenery shifted to old cars and old horses – this is where the workers who sustain the lifestyles for the rich and famous live. Finally at the bridge we were unable to find transportation back – no busses here on a Saturday, and no taxis either.

Once back closer to home, we picked up some beer and empanadas from a market on the street – so good! So good in fact, that we decided to save some money by not eating out for dinner and went back and purchased some quiche like tuna/olives and cheese/tomato pies. We had enough sun from the long morning walk, so spent the afternoon indoors reading, napping and doing more research on Iguazu Falls.

South American Tour – Punta del Este Uruguay – Day 21

Day 21 – Punta del Este

I’m skipping March 1 for now as Mike had no regular photos. There are some Go-Pro videos, but more serious editing is needed, so hopefully will loop back later to get them posted. As for diary of the day; well it was another wonderful lazy beach day at Punta del Diablo with not much more to say!

So on Friday March 2, we had to rise before dawn to catch our bus to Punta del Este. Juan was again overly helpful and picked us up at the cabin for 5:30am as he didn’t trust the taxi driver to show up that early! At least the early bus meant that we arrived in Punta del Este at a good time. We are now better versed at the travel routine and picked up our tickets for our next travel leg when we arrived. So ready to head back to Buenos Aires on Monday. We grabbed a taxi and then headed off for some groceries. This was the first airBnB where the host provided zero orientation, no dish soap, no cork screw, not a single map or tourist info pamphlet… and NO toilet paper!!! It was a bit of a challenge to get the wifi hooked but finally got the info from the door clerk. So after some additional shopping – and more shopping to get matches to light the gas stove, it was time for a nap.

We finally managed to get out to explore Punta del Este after our refresh – such a dramatic change from Punta del Diablo! The tip of Punta del Este is a long narrowish peninsula that is isolated from the rest of Uruguay as a pseudo gated community – primarily the wealthier folks here. Lots of high end apartments, condos and homes all along the water front. There is a lovely boardwalk / walkway that wraps all around the entire horseshoe. We walked around much of it that evening, discovering the Imagen de Nuestra Senora de la Candeleria with the many dedicated plaques, the famous La Mano ‘hand’ sculpture on Brava beach, we checked out the local marina with its many yachts and resident “performing” seal, and finally caught sunset at the beach.