Brazil · 18 Days · 23 Moments · November 2017

Chile and Argentina

2 December 2017

21. The 3 of us slowly made our way back to the train and before we knew it were back at our hostel, picking up our bags, saying goodbye to Nico after what had been a brilliant day and heading back to the local bus station for the short trip across to Brazil. The border crossing was 100% the most relaxed I've ever been through, the border patrol lady literally not even looking up at me as I entered the country. Argentina had been great, even if we'd only seen 4 different locations. Buenos Aires was probably my new favourite city, I had grown to genuinely enjoy red wine and it's definitely left me wanting to see more of it. It's an expensive, completely developed country, unlike most that I've seen this year, but sometime in the distant future I'll be back with a bigger budget for Patagonia! Next stop though, Foz de Iguazu, aka the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. This time I'd booked the correct hostel and after a very long day, we both collapsed ready for a more relaxed time in Brazil!
20. The final walkway was my favourite as we were able to walk along the top of most of the falls and really appreciate the power of all the water around you. I could write about each and every one that we saw and how incredible the whole thing was, but words really won't do it any justice. It was one of those sights that you just had to see for yourself and something that I felt very lucky to experience. While I loved Machu Pichu and thought it was amazing, largely due to the mystery and incredible setting, this seemed more spectacular and almost overwhelming. We ate lunch surrounded by the resident Coati's and got the Peco train back up to the top of the largest waterfall. The afternoon sun seemed to have made the view even better, as a lot of the morning mist had cleared and a rainbow had formed halfway down the falls. If it wasn't for the fact we were getting very burnt and very wet, not to mention we still had to get a bus to Brazil that day I could have stayed up there for ages.
19. Despite a little hiccup checking in (due to me booking a hostel with the exact same name on the Brazilian side of the border) the long trip had been very smooth. We met a really nice German named Nicolas at the hostel, had dinner (shock, another great burger) and went to bed excited for the following day. The 3 of us were at the Iguazu Park entrance by 9am to find that it was built very much like a theme park. It was unbelievably touristy, but for good reason I suppose. First, we boarded the Pecorama like train up to the top of the falls, walked along the amazingly constructed walkways out into the huge river and tried to take in the spectacular view from the top of such a ginormous waterfall. It was just too much to take in! Truly spectacular, but impossible to get your head around after a 10 minute look. Next up was a walk around the bottom of the site, which was where you could start to appreciate the sheer size of the falls. Over 280 waterfalls all flowing into the same river!
18. I woke up very early on a final morning in BA as I wanted to go take in the last few sites I hadn't seen and we had a midday flight. I walked around for an hour, looking at La Casa Rosada (the government building) and the cathedral as well as the centre square (which was unfortunately another building site) and generally just soaked up the last of the city. Despite flying to the Argentina side of Iguazu Falls, it felt like our last day in Argentina and we had both absolutely loved the capital. There was so much to see, so much more to do and the whole place had such a great atmosphere. We met some great people and ate so many great meals! I appreciate that most days involved either steak or burgers, but they were so cheap in comparison to other food and well worth writing about! Even Dad could have found something to eat! A short flight later and we had landed in Iguazu, a tiny tourist-trap town on the border of Brazil, famous for the incredible Iguazu Falls.
17. It was a reasonably pretty area by the water, but it was also very touristy and felt very different to the other areas that we had seen in BA. We zipped across the city to our next stop, Recoleta which was the mor upscale area of BA, with designer shops, large hotels and a beautiful, grand park. It was also home to Recoleta Cemetery, one of the very touristy sites in the city as lots of celebrities are buried there with over the top monuments. While it was fascinating and on a scale all of its own, it also felt pretty weird walking around what was effectively a packed graveyard. We didn't stay too long anyway as we had to shoot back across town to Palermo for dinner at La Cabrera, a raved about steak restaurant that was 40% off from 6.30-8. For that reason it's queued out the door by 6.15, but me and Emily managed to get the last table of 2 and tucked into a huge amount of food! Massive steaks and a huge bowl of chips, my perfect meal and it was Emily's choice for a change!
8. Honestly, I haven’t included so many pictures!
16. .. for a beer with a view. It was a very nice treat and a great shout by Alex. Dinner was in a dark, sweaty jazz bar and once we'd said goodbye to the others, me and Emily had one more delicious pint of the local cider before bed. We woke up the next day already loving BA with plenty more planned for the remaining 2 full days there. First of all some sightseeing, then to Palermo to meet Alex and Annette, take in the really chilled neighbourhood and watch La Bomba de Tiempo that evening. It was a really cool outdoor percussion show, where 20 people basically smashed drums for 2 hours. We drank beer, made new friends and danced for hours in what felt like a really small festival. Afterwards we followed street drummers through BA to a club and continued the party. We had to say goodbye to Alex and Annette and with a slightly sore head the next morning, myself and Emily headed to Boca, home of street art, Boca Juniors football stadium and hundreds of Maradona look-a-likes.
15. While she was left to sort that, me and Emily met Alex (from the Mendoza wine tour) and his new friend Annette and then all of us went to the market as it was a Sunday. The market was brilliant, much nicer than any other we had seen in South America. We all ate empanadas, looked at all the stalls and stumbled upon a BBQ compete with tango dancers to keep us entertained. To be fair, we had already seen tango dancers all over the streets, they were everywhere! Another long story, but basically upon returning to the hostel to pick up our bags before moving to our really nice new one, we found out that the receptionist hadn't refunded anything. In fact we had been double charged what we had already paid. The new receptionist couldn't have cared less, so later we sent a shitty email to the owner demanding refunds. Unbelievably the next day we received an apology and everything from the stay was refunded! What a bonus. The night before we had all gone to a beautiful hotel rooftop bar...
14. We seriously enjoyed our late night lemon pie and coffee (that's right, South America has taught me to appreciate coffee!) and prepared ourselves for another long day to come. We were getting the afternoon bus to BA, so were up early to see some more of Córdoba. The 'beautiful' park was more of an overgrown dump and due to another national holiday everything was closed anyway. Córdoba was nice, but we weren't fussed about rushing onto BA and not seeing all of it. The bus to BA took an age though, much longer than advertised and we didn't get there until 12.30am. We went straight to the hostel which unfortunately, was horrible. The room stunk, the beds weren't made and the showers were mouldy, which was all odd considering the high ratings online. We asked to move rooms, but there was no space. By this point it was 1.30, so we slept and worried about it in the morning. Long story short, we agreed with the receptionist that she would refund the rest of our stay...
13. After all that excitement, we all met back up at the final stop, had an hour of free wine then went back to the hostel. It had been a brilliant day, despite Emily's incident of course! Our final half day in Mendoza was very chilled as we walked around the city, went to the park and then took the long bus to Córdoba, our one stop before Buenos Aires. We arrived in Córdoba after another dodgy nights sleep on the bus, but had just enough energy to walk around the city. It was a very religious city, with lots of churches built around the central cathedral. There were also several museums to look around, art museums, my favourite. I tried to promise Emily I wouldn't be too critical and I was genuinely enjoying the start of the first museum, but by the end of the second I was very ready to do anything else. Crayola scribbles on paper is not art!! That evening we stumbled into what looked a lot like a religious graduation in the church opposite our hostel. The place was packed!

30 November 2017

23. Just a few more to finish!
22. Lots more of Iguazu!

23 November 2017

12. Shortly after we had been shown the huge wine storage tanks, emily started sweating big time. Despite saying she started to feel a little faint, I simply ordered her to drink more water. She chugged down a litre, but still didn’t look great. Obviously I had thought it was a mix of wine and heat, so by the time we went outside I told her we would leave the tour and sit down in a moment. She was still talking when I turned round briefly, however by the time I turned back she was visibly wobbling on the spot. A moment later and she collapsed onto me! The tour group all spread round as we laid a now unconscious Emily down. Fortunately there was a Dr in the group who took charge and only seconds later Emily came back around, wandering where she was and how she got there. Except for being embarrassed she was absolutely fine! After a lot more water, it was like nothing ever happened. The wine company wouldn't let her leave until the paramedics came and checked her out none the less!
11. The 7 of us found the correct bus and hired our bikes before 11am. By 11.30, we had gently cycled to our first vineyard. I’m obviously not a great fan of wine, but trying the first 6 different types and then having a glass overlooking the vineyards and the snow capped Andes was pretty special, not to mention a lot of fun! I’d have been fairly content sitting there all day, but there were many other places to drink, so we hoped back on our bikes and were at the next one 5 minutes later. It was there we met up with Rebecca and Hagen, a really lovely couple from New Zealand that we had met in Sucre. Another 9 wines later and the newly formed group of us went to the vineyard opposite, to try a few more wines and have some lunch. By this point it was already nearly 3, at which time we had a tour booked at Trebache, the oldest and one of the classiest companies in the region. The tour started off ok, looking at the immaculately well maintained area and being shown the old equipment.
10. Therefore we were both delighted to have learnt that the hostel were putting in a bbq for anyone who wanted to take part. There was unlimited steak, salad and red wine, perfect! The steak was amazing and seven pieces later I was ready for bed! We had planned on being up early the next day in order to go on a cycling tour of the vineyards surrounding Mendoza, however the hangover effects from a night bus had hit us pretty hard and we opted for a lie in! I’ve never seen Emily sleep for so long, but she obviously needed it. It was a particularly lazy day, even by our standards as we walked around the city, had a delicious lunch (more red meat) and went to the supermarket to buy more steak! Back at the hostel we cooked up the eight steaks we’d bought, I had four more for dinner and made sandwiches with the rest, ready for attempt no.2 of cycling round the vineyards. It turns out it was a good move waiting a day though, as we got a group of 7 of us together, All from the hostel.
9. It was so early we figured what the hell, we may as well walk to our hostel. A 25 minute walk with our bags later and we had arrived at what was probably the nicest hostel I’d stayed in so far, not necessarily because of the hostel itself, but because of the owners. They were a 30-something year old couple who lived and breathed their business. The guy let us in and let us sleep on their sofas while we waited for our rooms to be ready. We both slept there for hours, only vaguely waking up when the other guests all pilled in for breakfast. Mendoza was known as the wine cellar of South America as well as all of Argentina being known for its steak, so we’d planned on spending a least a few nights in the city. Obviously we both tucked into a big steak for lunch, then we went for a walk around the huge park in the afternoon. One lap of the massive central lake was enough for us both and despite taking it very easy in the sun, we were both pretty tired following the last nights bus!
6. For me though, only having one day there was enough. It allowed me to see a huge proportion of the street art, but left me wanting a little more. I took the cable car up the steep slope, walked the winding streets, stopped in a cafe overlooking the town and at no point was I bored or tired of the art. If I had been there for longer the tonic may have worn off a little. Also, there were so many sushi joints, I may have had to have it one more time before getting the night bus, my weird new sushi craze hopefully being over by this point! We had flown through Chile, spending 6 days across 3 different cities, but it had been beautiful. A lot more expensive than both Peru and Bolivia, but so much more developed. We could easily have spent longer, but it had been short and sweet and we were into the last 3 weeks of our trip, so next stop Mendoza. First though, another all night bus trip including a 2am wake up to cross the border. The process took an hour and we arrived in Mendoza by 5am.
5. Santiago had been great, just what we needed, but we decided to take the short bus across to Valparaíso late that afternoon. We got there early evening, dumped our bags and went for dinner. Incredibly we settled on another sushi restaurant. Maybe it was because it was 9 by this point and I was hungry or maybe Emily was starting to have an effect on me, but either way I’m glad we went there. The chicken teriyaki was honestly one of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten (and yes I appreciate the irony of going for sushi and having the most delicious chicken). Valparaíso was already a firm favourite of mine. We only had one full day there before getting the night bus to Argentina, so the next day we walked what felt like every street in the city. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, a world heritage site due to the amount of street art. Everything was painted, all the buildings, walls, lampposts, storefronts and even pavements. It was a beautiful city, with so much to see in one day.
4. To say we had a couple of cheat days in Santiago would be an understatement. The shopping mall was ginormous and had everything you could think of. I had a Burger King while Emily ate McDonald’s, then we watched Justice League in a massive cinema. By the time we got to bed it had been a very long day! Following a very long lie in, it was Emily’s choice for lunch that day. She decided she wanted sushi and having never had it before, I tentatively gave it a go. It actually want too bad! Next, we ventured back to the mall, did some shopping, ate some more junk food, went back to the cinema to watch Thor this time (which was absolutely brilliant), then went to Johnny Rockets burger joint (my pick this time!) for more greasy food! What a day! Our final day in Santiago was a little more cultural as we walked to the central square, saw the parliamentary building and attempted to walk around the monster sized park. Despite a crappy burger for lunch, it was another great day in the big city.
3. The reason we were up so early was because we had a flight booked to Santiago at 8.30 from an airport just over an hour away. Unfortunately though, we hadn’t realised that we needed to book airport transport in advance and there were literally no taxis in the tiny desert town. After Emily’s ridiculous hitchhiking plan eventually fell through, we walked to the local bus station instead and got the 7 o’clock bus. Long story short, we were never getting to the airport on time and ended up missing our flight (the first flight I’ve ever missed!). All we could do was re-book one for later in the day, wait in the airport for 6 hours and try to laugh it off. What a cock up! Oh well, by the time we got to Santiago we were just very relieved to be there. We’d both been looking forward to arriving in a built up city and we were lucky that Santiago was just that. It was great, the metro was easy to use and our hostel was super centrally located. Next stop, an English cinema!
2. The following day started with a massive breakfast, all freshly prepared by Fanni. That afternoon her and Tyler joined me on a bike ride to Vale de la Luna, the most desolate place on Earth that had been compared to the surface of the moon. Emily was resting up as she was going to see the stars that night which is what San Pedro de Atacama is most famous for. Meanwhile, I was peddling away, uphill for 15km. The sights on the way we’re getting more and more incredible, baron rock formations for as far as the eye could see. We stopped to walk through the natural salt caves before eventually arriving at the viewpoint overlooking a huge amount of the site. We had about an hour there before the sunset and we had to start cycling home. Like many things we had already done in South America, it was all too much to take in and the pictures certainly don’t do it justice! By the time I got back at about 10 I was knackered! At 11 emily went off to see the stars then we were both up by 4.30am!

19 November 2017

7. There’s lots of pictures of Valparaíso!

14 November 2017

1. We had finished our salt flats tour and ended up at a crappy immigration building in the middle of the desert. Once we had queued half an hour to get our stamp out of the country we then found out that there was no room left on the bus we had already paid for. Myself, Emily and Tyler were put onto a different minibus, a Spanish tour groups and were on our way to the Chilean border, a 45 minute drive away. It genuinely took another hour to cross into Chile, Tyler’s cheese smuggling made the time pass quickly though. We found Cody and Fanni and walked in the heat to our hostel. It was amazing how the weather had changed in just an hour of driving. It had gone from windy and cold to seriously hot as we had descended 2000m over the course of the morning. The rest of the day was super chilled, catching up on rest we hadn’t got from the last 3 days. Tyler and Cody took charge at dinner and cooked us some really delicious Ramen to go with our cheap wine, the one cheap thing in Chile!!