There have been several places that I have had trouble describing in my time in South America so far, Iguazu Falls definitely fits on that list. We were up early to get the bus to the falls, to start with, on the Brazilian side. The plan was to see both sides in one day which is not really recommended but with the same issue of time, we didn’t really have a choice.
We arrived at the falls and set off on the standard tourist route which is inevitable with the amount of people visiting the attraction. We were ushered around on set trails, trying to avoid the large tour groups who I have come to detest. They were soon forgotten as we got our first sight of the falls, jaw-dropping, powerful, beautiful are just a few of the words that could be used.
As we knew time was very much restricted we dodged the tour groups, overtook the oldies and squeezed through the crowds to get back on the bus. We made our way back to Foz do Iguacu, took the next bus we could to the border, went through the normal procedures there and then arrived into Puerto Iguazu. This was a typical travelling moment where we hadn’t been able to find out what our options were in advance. We knew there may be buses leaving that night, but not what time; we knew there were buses to the falls all day, but not how long it would take us to get there and back; we knew we had to see the Argentine side as it was famous to be the best. So we set about getting all of this information as quickly as possible to then make a decision. I actually love this part of travelling, especially when the worst thing that happens is you’re forced to stay in a new place you’ve never been to before, meet new people and then just continue the next day…and that was exactly what happened. We were told it was impossible to get to the falls and to return and catch a 6pm bus that night. I still have to question that information but as I say, it really didn’t matter. We found a lovely hostel, met some more lovely people, had a very, very interesting night that simply can’t and won’t be published on here and took the falls in less of a rush. The only disadvantage was that the train which takes you up to the closest point closed just 15 minutes before we got there. Still, the photos again should give you a good impression of our day.
The following morning we took the bus at midday which meant we would arrive into Buenos Aires around 8am on Monday morning, not the ideal time to travel across Argentina’s capital. After spending an hour in a taxi queue which hadn’t moved, I managed to spot a group of taxi drivers sitting around drinking mate, the famous Argentine/Uruguayan drink. After a quick chat, one of them jumped up and was happy to take us. I don’t understand why they weren’t picking up any of the passengers but it worked for us and very quickly other people in our line started trying the same. An hour or so later and we arrived at Kemi’s, who Ed knew from Leeds University and I have met several times in Birmingham previously. Also there to greet us was Pat, who had arrived just 10 minutes earlier. For Ed and I, it was amazing that after several weeks of trying to work out whether we could make it to Buenos Aires in time to meet them, it had all come down to just 10 minutes! The first night was a quiet one as we each recovered from hours in transit and we waited for Al to arrive. I say a quiet night but the storm we watched from the roof of the apartment building was incredible. Al arrived the following morning and we had a relaxing day before enjoying an asado, or I’m told, a mix between a barbecue and an asado. Apparently an asado has more meat and less bread/salad than a barbecue.
We finally got around to exploring some of Buenos Aires, visiting the Presidential Palace, various monuments, the riverside and admiring some of the impressive architecture. We spent a couple of days wandering the city before taking a ferry over to Uruguay. As we were so close and we had heard a lot of positive things about this little country, we took advantage of the easy access. Also, Argentina has a black market economy caused from similar economic reforms to Venezuela, only the effects are significantly less detrimental. Many people get US dollars from Uruguay, bring them back to Argentina and trade them for a higher value than they would get if they withdrew money directly in Argentina. Of course, this is illegal and I wouldn’t dream of doing this…
The ferry arrived into Colonia where we jumped on a bus straight to the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo. We had heard from several people that Montevideo is a grey, ugly city and Uruguay in general is boring. I have to say this was mostly from Argentines and I understand there is some sort of rivalry there. In my opinion, Montevideo was great and we enjoyed our time there. One of the highlights was the hostel we stayed in and the environment there. Each night was spent on a roof terrace with several talented musicians and obviously Ed leading the way amazing the crowds. One of the days, whilst walking around the city, we decided to go to a museum or two. This has almost been unheard of from my travels with Ed but it was an educational experience for us all.
Uruguay has a good reputation for its beaches, in fact, even some of the Argentines said its beaches were better than theirs. We made the decision to go and visit one, despite it being the wrong time of year. A reasonably nearby and popular location from Montevideo is Punta del Este so we took a bus there although we could only spend the one night. What a night it turned out to be. By early evening torrential rain had set in and I don’t recall it stopping for a long time. We at least we had lucked out with our hostel, it had nice relaxing areas (these soon become drenched from the rain), a swimming pool (useless with the weather) and a pool table (undercover but water dripped through the ceiling). Well at least we had a nice room for the five of us complete with a balcony (this leaked water in) and comfortable beds (these weren’t really comfortable). The highlight of the hostel turned out to be bed bugs. After months of hearing about these they finally showed their head. We were moved to another room which was slightly less leaky and as far as we could tell, bed bug free. Unfortunately, the night’s adventures combined with a beach town that was without people meant it doesn’t sit high on the list of ‘places to return to’. Nonetheless we had a walk and got our feet wet in the ocean although it felt more like Norfolk in October than South America.
Our final day was spent on buses making our way back to Montevideo and on to Colonia. We spent the last evening there before an early start to get back on the boat to Buenos Aires. Our last Uruguayan pennies were spent and we finished the evening taking advantage of the different laws Uruguay has recently implemented.