A Travellerspoint blog

Final stages of Argentina

Córdoba and Mendoza

sunny 31 °C

We eventually arrived in Córdoba (travelling west over Argentina) after a 21 hour journey from Puerto Iguazu. The bus company we used was called PlusUltra, so we were a little apprehesive as it reminded us of "first price" or "nice price" products (in norway and the UK). However we were met with leather reclinable seats (to 180 degrees!), wine and dinner as we set off. Apart from the crazily long straight road at 1am, that shook the whole bus for about an hour, the journey wasn't so bad! Once we got to the Tango Hostel in Cordoba, we met some people whom had travelled 40 hours to get there from Patagonia in the south, so needless to say we didn't get to moan too much about our 21 hour trip! Met a few more Dutch people. Dutch is winning on the most common nationality so far haha. Yes, we did have bets! Kathrin won...

Tango hostel had a great atmosphere. Really helpful staff that were clearly there to help you with everything and enjoyed giving all their advice about the city. Once out of Buenos Aires we've noticed Argentines are really nice! So many random people have come up to me and shaken my hand regardless of whether you say you´re from Ireland, Scotland or Norway haha.

The main thing in Córdoba (for us) was the hiking possibilities in the hills around the city. We took a bus out to a little town about 1.5 hours away from cordoba (yes 1.5 hours away is still considered in and around cordoba here) where we began a hike up a river towards the hills. It was a really beautiful trek, hopping on the stones to get up the stream.There were lots of argentines there as it is their summer holiday right now, so we kept walking past them and climbed up a water fall. We were told to get beyond the waterfall if we wanted to get away from the tourists. So we hiked for another hour or so until there was almost no one around and the river was beginning to become a very small stream. It was really lovely to just get out of the city and be on our own, lying in the sun on the top of a mountain. We felt like we really could be anywhere - almost felt like we were back home in Norway on a summers day!

We spent a day wandering around the city centre and just felt completely at home there. Cordoba boasts the oldest standing Cathedral in Argentina and a beautiful gothic church. Although compared to European standards, 400 years ain't that old, but they're pretty proud of it here! It's also home to a university with 250,000 students, so it's got a great vibe! The hostel we were staying at was really something else - the atmosphere, the people, the living area - so we decided to stay 2 extra nights than originally planned :) Still on track though for crossing the Andes into Chile on Valentine's Day. We met even more dutch people at the hostel and ended up going to a lovely evening market where Katty and I got our potraits done. We also got some good tips about studying in Holland!

I think it should be mentioned that although kathrin has been continuously eaten by everything that flies here, I have yet to encounter one bite :) I feel pretty chuffed every morning while she spends about 10 mins soaking herself in mosquito repellent. I think perhaps they're waiting to ambush me in the Amazon. Will be interesting to see! The beard is getting longer and the sun is not helping. I think it is getting more ginger everyday. Still, like one of our dutch friends said, thank god I´ve already got the girl! Skyped my mum the other day for the first time since leaving (actually the first time ever!) and one of the first things she said was "well your beard is very ginger". Thanks mum! :)

Another thing that amazes me about Argentina is that no matter how classy the place is, the bathroom will ALWAYS be lacking in at LEAST one of the follwing; soap, toilet paper, toilet seat, door lock or running water. I have yet to experience one with all. It´s a well known fact among Argentinians themselves!

We had such an amazing time in Cordoba, and it was a real shame to leave. If we hadn´t booked our bus ticket to Mendoza we would have stayed longer. It was like we lived in a dream world for 4 nights - no hostel will beat Tango Hostel!

The over night bus to Mendoza was terrible. We chose the cheapest seats which only reclined less than half way, and the 10 hour journey was the worst we've had so far. Little to no sleep, not enough food and water combined with leaving amazing Córdoba meant a grumpy and slightly depressed TomKat arrived in the grey skied Mendoza at about 8am. After another lunatic taxi ride (no surprise here, we were used to it) we arrived at our new hostel. Although it did not meet the standards of tango hostel, we WERE greeted with crepes and the famous dulce de leche, which i think is literally translated as cream of milk. Tastes nicer than it sounds! Kind of like a caramel spread. Think hapå (for all the Norwegians reading). And as the sun came out in the afternoon and we sat out under the hostel grape vine eating one of my homemade Milanesas (typical are Argentinian food), things perked up as we decided on the activities we'd be doing in Mendoza.

Mendoza is all about the wine. The next day we met a couple and two other people on the bus out to the suburbs and hired bicycles to visit the vineyards or "bodegas" in the area. Me and Katty braved it and went for a tandem! Well, I say we both braved it, but it was more like a "c´mon katty it would be so fun!" etc etc for a while before she decided to brave it too. Now, begin to imagine that we went for a lovely cycle down winding country roads and passing quaint vineyards whilst sipping wine, our hair blowing in the breeze. This situation did not occur. First of all we couldn't see the vineyards we were passing because we were desperately trying to dodge all the potholes and trying not to get run over by the many lorries and trucks whizzing past at 100kmph. Secondly it was one insanely long road so not as pretty as one might think. And thirdly, being on a tandem for the first time was pretty weird so we had that to concentrate and co-ordinate on as well. So after a sweaty 7km cycle, we stopped at the first vineyard, a family run and small establishment called Familia di Tomasso. Had a quick tour of the vines outside before heading in to look at the old wine vats that were used before more modern technologies were used. After that we tasted some of their lovely wines including the infamous Malbec (my favourite red wine so far) and a sweet dessert wine. Then we set off on the road towards the next vineyard. We had another tasting there at the second one before heading back and stopping for lunch at a hostel/restaurant on the side of the road. We really needed it at this point as we'd had 2 wine tastings and they're pretty generous with the servings! We then set off with the rest of the gang towards the final vineyard which was back along the insanely long road we'd just come down.

Being on the front on the tandem, I could feel every time Kathrin moved her head slightly, let alone if she leaned out. It got to a stage where the steering felt a little wobbly so I shouted back "quit moving!". She said she wasn't and we continued on for another minute or so. Then as we crossed a railway track and picked up some speed going slightly downhill, the steering suddenly went completely loose and I could not turn the wheel either way. Tandem bikes are pretty heavy and it didn't take long for us to hit the tarmac, and hard. Luckily there were no cars coming (traffic had died down after lunch) and we landed on the other side of the road. As we were the last bike in our group, they didn't see us fall and cycled off into the distance, oblivious to our shouts. After a lengthy discussion with this hysterical Spanish woman whom we did not understand, we eventually managed to get the bike company to come and collect us and get us patched up. The cycle back was actually quite nice up until that point. There weren't many cars on the road, we'd filled our bellies with wine and food and we'd gotten used to the whole "tandem working together" thing. So we enjoyed the view of the vineyards as we cycled with the wind in our hair as we had imagined before we left haha. We didn't visit the final vineyard unfortunately and we got our money back for the bike rental, so we ended saving a bit of money if you want to look at it like that.

When we arrived back in Mendoza centre we had to change hostel to a cheaper place because the other one randomly put up their prices at the weekends, surpassing our budget. So with cut knees and elbows we lugged our bags round the corner to the new place before finally crashing, relaxing and showering after a long day!

Just to give you an idea of the size of the area, there are almost over 950 vineyards in the place we visited and we would have only visited 3. Mendoza is the hub for wine in Argentina and has 2 other areas of vineyards also in the suburbs called Lujan de Cuyo. We had planned to visit them the following day, however after the accident, we didn´t feel particularly enthusiastic about cycling anywhere for a while! We also ditched plans to go to a hot spring park because we didn´t want to risk gettin infections in our battle wounds haha. Instead we spent the following day walking through the huge park in Mendoza with our wine buddies we met the day before. The next day we had planned the other vineyard trips but we just stayed at the hostel and sorted out the next 3-4 weeks in Chile. We are unsure about how we´re going to do it, but either way it will make up most of the coastal part of our trip, so hopefully plenty of fun in the sun before heading North in the Bolivian jungle-side hehe.

No day has been the same so far for us here in south america. It has been an amazing experience already, and not as relaxing as one might think. It´s been so full on up until these two days now and I think we are ready to just get to Chile and relax on a beach for a week! On Saturday 15th of February (tomorrow) we've booked a day bus for the 6 hour trip across the Andes to Santiago, Chile, so hopefully we will get in some great views. So as our journey ends in Argentina I think we'd like to say that it has been a wonderful place of crazy backwards prices, delicious steak and wine, and luckily we have made it through with only being robbed by the little forest possums!

Posted by TomAndKat 17:17 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Puerto Iguazu

One of the new seven wonders of the world

sunny 34 °C

Our first big bus trip was the 18 hour journey from BA to Puerto Iguazu. The bus journey itself was surprisingly decent, the seats were more comfortable than a lot of the couches we've ever sat in and reclined back into a semi or "half" bed :) We traveled during the night so this was very helpful as it allowed us to sleep for most of the night. Not much can be said for the food on board though. The bread in Argentina is really terrible... often rock hard. We've been told, by other travellers, that Argentinian bread is one of the best in South America. So, pretty sure it's down hill from here on the bread front 😕 All in all we were quite happy with the long bus journey, as long as you have something to do you'll be fine, we felt like we could easily have sat a few extra hours on the bus.

We arrived a little behind schedule in Puerto Iguazu, a small town close to the border of Brazil and Paraguay. It's a lovely little place with red dirt roads, intense green trees and bushes and tons of stray dogs and cats. We were starving when we got off the bus and headed straight for the buffet (pay by the kilo) cafe at the station and after a decent meal headed towards our hostel (or so we thought..). Google maps which is normally quite reliable, messed up and sent us 15 minutes in the wrong direction, in 34 degrees, and with super heavy bags on our back...thanks Google!

We stayed in a 4 bed dorm (with air conditioning thank jebus!). At the hostel we met lots of lovely people, amongst them a great Dutch couple from whom we syphoned lots of useful information over two bottles of wine. They had been to many of the places we are going and had lots of useful tips! Everytime we speak to someone they recommend somewhere to go - we want to do everything! But of course we have to choose certain things. One thing we have been doing a lot of is eating meat and drinking wiiiiine!! And it's such good quality too! I think we've had more wine and meat in the past week and a half than we've had all summer in Norway haha. We can't get our heads round the pricing here. Everything is back to front.

But on to the best part of this destination, and the reason for our visit, which of course was the falls - one of the new seven wonders of the world. We got up nice and early and after downing some porridge, got the bus to the national park. Inside we headed straight to the parks train which took us to the top of the park and the biggest and most spectacular falls called, the Devils Throat. It was truly amazing and beyond breathtaking. It was difficult to really understand just how friggin' huge these falls were! You're standing there looking at several big waterfalls where gallons upon gallons of water are rushing over the edge and disappearing, as you cannot see the bottom through the mist created by the falls! It's really quite mystical. Onwards and down to more beautiful waterfalls and views from different angles and perspectives, a truly beautiful place. I dare say the most beautiful place I have ever been. Not only are the falls stunning, but the nature and wildlife surrounding it are exceptional as well! We stumbled upon creatures such as alligators, huge butterflies, hawks, and turtles. But I think we were most excited about seeing the monkeys who emerged at the end of the day, coming up to the people on the road and using their cute little faces to gain free biscuits. They were so adorable sitting in the trees swinging their feet like children while eating their biscuits. However we also met some sneaky little bastards, little possum-like things (Coatis I think they're called) who nicked our bag of grapes and ran off into the bushes. Lol, at least we fed their whole family. It was kind of ironic actually because we were just after laughing at this other family who got their sandwiches taken. Oh well! Tom burnt his right arm more than any other area which we couldn't figure out until we realised the next day that he'd been holding the video camera with that arm. He looked pretty ridiculous for a couple of days after that!

It was an amazing amazing day and would recommend it to all; I would do it all over again every week! And as if Iguazu Falls wasn't amazing enough, the next day we visited this little garden where tons of hummingbirds would come from the forest to drink sugar water. And wow were these birds amazing! They are so small and delicate and you can't see their wings when they fly! Their body and head is completely still, but the wings move so fast you can hear them buzzing. They were so beautiful, most of them a metallic green or purple colour whizzing around you like you don't even exist. It was a truly wonderful 3 day stay in Puerto Iguazu.

Devils Throat Iguazu Falls

Devils Throat Iguazu Falls

Devils Throat Mist

Devils Throat Mist

The Falls

The Falls

The Falls

The Falls

coatis eating our grapes

coatis eating our grapes

Monkey eating biscuits

Monkey eating biscuits

Hummingbird garden

Hummingbird garden

Posted by TomAndKat 19:25 Archived in Argentina Tagged iguazu_falls Comments (5)

Buenos Aires - Argentina

Survived our first week!

sunny 30 °C

Getting to Buenos Aires was a nearly 30 hour ordeal, with 2 planes, an 11 hour layover and copious amounts of coffee. In all fairness, it was a smooth journey apart from the quite turbulent 14 hour flight, which included a viewing of "Into the Wild" (to get us into the mood haha). After travelling for 24 years Kathrin finally purchased a neck pillow and regrets not having done so before as they are, "amazeballs". Anyway, we made it to Buenos Aires in one safe piece. Made our first mistake at the airport exchanging our dollars for argentine pesos with a lousy exchange rate. Oh well, but more on that later.

We used the company AirBnB to rent a room in a local's apartment for the week. Our expectations (according to the site) were an Italian girl (student), wifi and a 15% supermarket discount card, however, in reality we ended up in an apartment with an old italian couple, no sign of a discount card and by no means can they call it wifi. Having "wifi" here apparently means, "we have a computer that connects to the Internet via a duct-taped cable, but good luck getting it to do anything". It's connectivity varies daily.

Yes, so the first day or so, we felt a little uncomfortable, but in all fairness after we came to terms with what we had, we have done pretty well since! Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, VERY CHEAP to get around (by bus or taxi), but that's about the only thing that's cheap! We thought Norway was expensive. Well, we can tell you now - there ain't no First Price tuna here for 10kr! However, on the upside, a tin of sweetcorn is more expensive than a decent sized steak, or 2! So, it's not all doom and gloom. (Kathrin would also like to add at this point in the blog that there is no point in buying under wear in Buenos Aires, as it's more expensive than a meal out!) A tip for the short-on-underwear travellers in South America.

Now onto the exchanging of dollars. In Buenos Aires you do NOT change your money at the airport! You change it on the street for a better rate, or if you know somebody in BA then exchange it with them for the best rate. Dollars are highly sought after in Argentina. We were luckily enough to be introduced to a few friends of the woman of the house we are staying at. This experience was quite curious. We took a taxi to the nicer borough of Recoleta (beautiful place in BA) and entered a fancy (for argentine standards) apartment building. Here, we were greeted by granny number one, a small, grey haired, lovely little woman without a word of English. After a kiss on each cheek and an offer of coffee and homemade treats, we were handed a humungus wad of cash in exchange for our dollars. We could not leave, however, without getting a full introduction to her family photo album as well as the recipe for one of her treats - which are now currently in our oven! Next on the agenda was granny number two, one floor up from granny number one. Again, we were greeted with a kiss, coffee, biscuits and a printed copy of her impressive CV (a doctor, orthodontic specialist, professor and a whole bunch of other things that we didn't quite get). This lady was so fond of us that she was quite disappointed to hear that we could not return for a second visit to speak with her using her voice activated translator on her computer. We felt bad, but promised to return next time we visited South America. All in all, if you want to exchange dollars in Buenos Aires, do it with the locals. Instead of the crappy rate of 8.9 pesos per 1 dollar, we got 13.2 pesos per 1 dollar. That's almost 50% more money than the offical exchange rate.

While the center of BA is bustling with tourists and main attractions, the outer-buroughs of Recoleta and Palermo present a more trendy and more visually interesting area to explore. Packed with loads of individual and quirky shops and restaurants/bars, you can easily spend a day browsing and drinking. We ended up in a rustic burger joint (Jorge Luis Borges 1766) where we were handed a sharpie to record our visit on the walls, tables and chairs! Well priced and really tasty burgers :) Yesterday, we also made it out to Tigre, a small town on the outskirts of Buenos Aires - a must see for all visiting the city. Best. Market. Ever. Obviously we could not buy things so we had to suffer and window-shop for the afternoon. We came away being massively inspired for our future home, at least!

We have GOT to learn some Spanish. No doubt about it. Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and hardly anyone speaks English so I can't imagine what it's going to be like when we venture west out of the city towards Chile. That being said, "grassy arse" is just as effective as "gracias". So, we're not completely done for! Haha. Good news for all those who fear the spanish-english language barrier. Also, movies are not dubbed - American Sniper was awesome.

Today, on our final day in Buenos Aires, we trolled the street of Santa Fe enjoying coffee, ice-cream, a beautfiul theatre-turned-bookshop and ending in a "weird-ass gallery" (Kathrin's words) and two spontaneous piercings - see picture in the photo gallery - coming soon to a place near you! (Kathrin is cracking up at her own joke. Classic Katty.) Tomorrow we hope to hit the infamous Recoleta Cemetery, home to the grave of Evita and other famous people, which is rated one of the most beautiful cemetaries in the world. In the evening we will begin our 18 hour bus journey North to Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Although our expectations were different from reality, we have truly enjoyed our stay in BA, had plenty of help and tips from the lovely couple we're staying with and we say "Great Success!" to our first week in South America.

Ps. We have not been robbed, nor sold as sex slaves. Yet. (knock wood)

Posted by TomAndKat 21:26 Archived in Argentina Tagged argentina buenos_aires tips advice Comments (0)

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