LATAM 2019,  Travel

Buenos Aires, Iguazú and Colonia in week five (LATAM 2019)

Week five of my travels is starting and although I am really excited, I also feel a little apprehensive. I only have two more weeks left on my trip and the large majority of my travels have already been completed.

This week is also the last week that I will be spending with Ashley. She’ll be leaving in a few days and then I’ll be flying solo once again. I can be a very independent person, but I do enjoy company. That being said, there are some great adventures coming up this week, so it’s time to focus on the present instead of living in the future already!

 

Day 29 – Visiting the Iguazú Falls

This morning starts out dark and early. The last minute flights Ashley and I booked last night require us to wake up at 4:30am!!! We’ve got a day trip to the Iguazú Falls planned, so we’re taking the first flight out and the last flight back.

Our flight goes out from a tiny little airport in Buenos Aires called the Jorge Newbery Airfield (AEP). It’s literally two rooms and that’s it. There’s a taco truck outside for food and only a waiting room inside. Once we head through security we also find one little cafe with slim pickings for breakfast, since it seems everybody in the world wants to fly out this morning!

Arriving at Puerto Iguazú around 10am, Ashley and I find out that the only way to get to the Iguazú Falls is via taxi or shuttle bus. The taxi isn’t too expensive though, so we decide on that to save some time. Our taxi driver is also super nice and helps us get some tickets at the entrance to the park as well.

We’ve decided to take the full package tour for the day to pack in as much as we can. That means we get to ride a train up to the falls, a safari tour through the jungle, lunch at a buffet restaurant and a boat trip up to the actual falls. At 2,500 Argentine pesos, it’s not cheap but also not super duper expensive (Around 37.50 Euros).

We’re told there is also a trail you can take through the park, but it seems we may be a little short on time, so we’ll have to see if we have time for that.

 

Jungle trail magic

As we enter the park, I already feel like I’m in a trance. The park is just so beautifully maintained. The paths are rounded, the signs are clear, you can hear birds chirping happily and the warm temperatures are lovely.

Whilst Buenos Aires was cold and grey, Iguazú feels warm and welcoming. I also love the coati’s running around everywhere – they are just too cute!

Ashley and I take a short look through a souvenir shop at the entrance before heading for the train. We’re on a little bit of a time crunch, so we can’t dawdle too much.

Heading to the train, we are met with a charming little station, which reminds me a lot of Disney actually. There’s a huge queue waiting, but no person supervising the ticket desk where you apparently need to get tickets to board.

That said, I walk up to one of the park guys and ask him where I can get some tickets. He asks me how many people are in my group and I say two. Next thing you know Ashley and I get to jump the queue and enter the platform – is that a win or what? 😀

The train ride itself is really charming. We’re in proper jungle territory, so the sights and smells are magnificent. Lots of greenery, a musky type smell and the sounds – I just love the sounds!

Memories…

 

Landing on top of the world

Arriving at the end of the train ride, we find out we have to follow a trail to the falls. We’re not quite sure where it is, or how long it will take, but we decide to follow the crowds. It’s really a beautiful journey.

I am completely mesmerised by the landscape, which boasts so much tropical greenery, but also lots of water. Marsh type water to the waterfalls! I have always been a great fan of water (I am a cancer sign after all!). It’s such a peaceful and yet powerful element and as I walk towards the falls, I feel so calm, free and happy.

I know Machu Picchu was meant to be the highlight of the trip. At this moment though, I have the distinct feeling the Iguazú Falls are going to top it. Everything about this park fills me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. I love it!

It takes us about 15-20 minutes to get to the waterfalls. As we draw closer, the serenity is replaced by a steady thundering of the water. There are so many people here too, which adds a hustle and bustle to this part of the journey.

After taking a few selfies on the very long bridge (10-15 mins walk), Ashley and I finally make it to the viewing platform. Not long after our arrival a viewing spot opens up too – score!

For what seems like the longest time, we just look out at the falls. Mesmerised by the thundering water, the birds flying beneath us and the pure power the falls embody. As I stand there, I think to myself how amazing this world is.

That water could engulf you in a heartbeat. If you were ever to fall in you’d be a goner for sure. Standing there distinctly reminds me of my vulnerability as a human being. Yet somehow, it also fills me with a feeling of wonderment, gratitude and energy at the same time.

Memories…

 

The don’t mind if I do buffet

After visiting the falls we decide to head for lunch. We only have about an hour before we have to be at the safari station, so it’s a bit of a rushed affair. However, I must say the food is really great for a buffet restaurant!

The restaurant we head to is called the ‘El Fortin’ restaurant. There is a long buffet style area and also a parrilla section, with freshly grilled meat options.

I end up taking a little bit of everything from the buffet. Some rice, some beans, some meat, some pasta, some potatoes etc. Then I enjoy some flan for dessert… and then I go for seconds again on the rice and some amazing meat with sauce. I really can’t help myself, it’s just that good!

The drinks aren’t included, so we head to the cashier to pay on the way out. Then it’s time to go find the safari station!

 

Bumble through the jungle

Once we find the safari station, we pile on to a big jungle jeep. There is a tour guide who lets us know all about the different animals and fauna that exist in this area.

He accidentally forgets the english language part towards the end though, so it’s time to once again whip out my (now obviously amazing 😉 ) translation skills.

At the end of our journey, we arrive at a place where we are given safety jackets and wet bags to put our stuff into. Then we need to complete a trek of about 10 minutes to reach the water.

Apparently Brazil is on the opposite side of the water, which gets me kind of excited. It feels like I’m getting a bonus treat for the day ahaha!

Memories…

 

Welcome to the Iguazú Falls

As Ashley and I get on to the boat, we’re super excited. There’s something about being in a place this beautiful, and so close to one of nature’s most amazing creations, that gets your blood flowing.

The boat we get on is a speedboat of some sort and once we boat up the river its apparent why it’s needed. The water starts off flowing serenely. Within not too long, however, it starts to get wild and choppy as we near the falls.

Initially we go up the falls on the right hand side and we see another boat as we arrive. Next thing you know we see that boat rush into the falls and I laugh at Ashley saying, “I wonder what adventure package they chose – poor buggers!”

You know how life likes to play tricks on you sometimes though?

Well, not so soon after that statement our captain makes an announcement to make sure our dry bags are tightly wrapped and we’re ready to get a little wet. Uh oh – it seems that cold shower wasn’t an optional extra!

One, two, three – brrmmmmmmmm!! Our boat starts speeding towards one of the falls! Not once, twice, but three times we speed in and we end up totally soaked but laughing.

Then we take a turn to head towards the area of the main waterfalls, once again passing by some smaller falls. Oh oh oh and there we go again! I’m ready this time though – waterfall showers come get me!!!

It’s really hard to describe the sense of elation you feel when this happens. Ashley and I are laughing the entire time.

I really wasn’t expecting this part of the adventure, but I’ll tell you what – it was a great surprise!

Memories…

 

Homeward bound

By the time we end up at base camp, it’s almost time to go. Ashley unfortunately decided to keep her coat on during the boat trip, so she’s soaked to the bone with nothing to dry off with.

I fare a little better as I put my little hiking jacket in the dry bag before the trip started. Gotta love those instincts!

On the way out of the park, most of the shops are closed or closing already so we simply trundle by and enjoy the scenery. We stop by the little souvenir shop at the entrance to buy some postcards before our taxi driver picks us up and returns us to the airport.

I lend Ashley my jacket as we get on the plane. I’m a little scared she may catch a cold, as soaked as she is.

We did try to find a jumper for her at the airport, but unfortunately Iguazú isn’t super well equipped for drowned passengers!

We arrive back home just past midnight, each take a hot shower and then head to bed. The feeling of satisfaction after that long day… priceless.

 

Day 30 – Tango night in Buenos Aires

After our long day at Iguazú, Ashley and I opt for a lie in and a short stroll today. Nothing too wild.

As it is Ashley’s last night in Buenos Aires, we booked something special for this evening. A dinner and tango show at the Tango Porteño!

The cost is about 95 USD and is meant to include premium seating to view the tango show, a three course dinner, transport to and from the hotel and a one hour tango lesson.

In the end, we get everything except the one hour tango lesson. I’m not sure what happened to that part of the offering, but having said that – the show itself was a delight. Worth every single penny!

The dancers were beautiful, the food was delicious and the music and singing was great fun! There was even a super cool part of the show, where two men were creating magical scenes with big, heavy ropes with weights on the end.

They would slam the ropes to the ground in a very primal rhythm, which really gets your heart drumming. Ashley fell in love a little too – she told me so! 😉 All in all, I don’t think we could have asked for a better final night together.

It’s been such a blessing having my bestie with me for almost two weeks. It’s a luxury that doesn’t happen all too often, so I’m very grateful we were able to plan not one, but two great escapes together this year.

Memories…

 

Day 31 – Tales of San Telmo and the tattoo queen

 

One of the things I’ve really wanted to explore in Buenos Aires are the markets. Back when I used to live in the UK, one of my favourite activities was exploring the numerous charity shops and visiting the local markets and boot sales on the weekends.

It’s not a glamorous or especially different activity, but it’s something that excites me nonetheless. There is just something about the hustle and bustle of a market. The array of colours, foods, smells and the movement of people back and forth.

I find there is such life in markets and they tend to be different everywhere you go too. As such, when I heard that there was a massive Sunday market to be explored in Buenos Aires, I had to go see what it had to offer.

Getting up at a reasonable hour, Ashley and I make our way to the Fería de San Telmo. It’s a market that was started back in 1970, by an architect named José María Peña and attracts an awesome 10,000+ people every Sunday. We couldn’t miss out on that!

I have to say, the market didn’t disappoint either. Even though we didn’t manage to get through all of it. There are literally hundreds of stands!

Starting off next to the Plaza de Mayo (which is very pretty by the way!), we walked our way down a couple of the side streets as you could already see the stands starting from there.

The stands hold everything from jewellery, to leather bags, antique books and dolls, lots and lots of hand crafted items like mate pots and straws. Street artists playing music, standing still and playing tricks provide entertainment on street corners too.

 

Buenos Aires tattoo parlour tales

As we cross one street, Ashley catches sight of a tattoo parlour. She’s had an obsession with the chakana  (inka cross) symbol ever since we left Machu Picchu.

Less than 5 minutes after the sighting, she’s sitting on a chair prepping her tattoo adventure. That girl has spirit!

The place is called Didi Tattoo and the men looking after us provide a laid back and professional service I could only recommend.

They look up the chakana and print out a number of sizes to try. Ashley opts for a medium sized symbol around the ankle, in line with the tattooists recommendations.

As the tattooing starts, I sit by her and keep talking about random stuff. I’m really a world class talker when I need to be!

It’s only after the tattooing session that I think about the fact that Ashley needs to fly tonight. Is it even safe to fly with a fresh wound like that?

She assures me she’ll take good care of it and clean it during the journey, though we’re fresh out of luck trying to find cling film to help with that!

Memories…

 

An unexpected detour to France and Italy

Heading home after the tattoo parlour, it’s almost time to say goodbye. Ashley packs the remainder of her things, I laze around on the bed talking and booking her taxi.

Then she’s off after a big hug goodbye and I settle in to decide on what to do on my lonesome for the first time in weeks.

Not 20 minutes later I get a call from Ashley.

“Claudia, I think I’ve missed my flight!”

Say, what now? As I can tell we’re experiencing a moment of panic on the phone, I go into problem solving mode. What happened? How did it happen? What can we do?

It turns out that Ashley’s flight had been at 11am and not at 11pm as we thought. Oh dear. Ok, well she needs to get home somehow, so I look up whether there are any more flights going this evening. There aren’t.

There is, however, another flight going in the morning. It’s not horrendously expensive, so I suggest to book that. Another 20 minutes later and Ashley is back at the hotel with me. I suppose we better get dinner now, hadn’t we?

Despite the mishap, I have to say we’re both pretty happy it happened. Not because it’s going to cost more to get home (that really is a pain in the butt).

However, if it hadn’t happened, we would never have ended up in San Telmo, getting a tattoo and now going out for dinner.

And believe me… dinner was totally worth it. We’re sending you a “Bon Appétit!” from Aldo’s Vinoteca right now. If you’re ever in Buenos Aires make sure to check it out!

 

Day 32 – Change of scenery in Buenos Aires

After sending Ashley off to the airport again, packing and checking out, it’s time for a change of location. Since I’m by myself for the rest of the trip, I decided to treat myself to an awesome new place, perfect for one.

It’s super close to the old location, but to me it’s quite the upgrade with it’s stunning rooftop, balcony, fully equipped kitchen and a washing machine too!

At first I have some issues getting in touch with the owner as my phone doesn’t work and she’s apparently not at the apartment at the time we arranged. Luckily, I meet a lady on the way into the building who graciously allows me to steal her phone’s wifi for a moment.

As I get into the apartment it’s everything I expected. After settling in, I decide to explore the neighbourhood a little. I need some food…

As I check out what is in the barrio (neighbourhood), I happen to discover there are a couple of Asian stores not too far away.

I head over in that direction, as I’m sure they’ll have some well priced items I can take home to cook. As expected, I come home with a bag full off goodies.

Fruit, vegetables, fresh bread and some spices. Not bad if I do say so myself!

On a sidenote…

I’ve been trying to get myself to eat more healthily for about 12 years now. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this endeavour, I ate my very first salad when I was around 21. I was just completely convinced I hated vegetables.

Now I’m older, I actually know I like vegetables when cooked in the right way… figuring out how to actually cook and integrate them into my daily life has been quite an adjustment though!

 

Day 33 – On lazy days and healthy food

I don’t know about you, but the one thing I notice when I’m by myself is that it takes me a long time to do anything. It’s not that I’m lazy per se, it’s more that I get distracted quite easily with indoor-sy things.

I love to read and write, watch series and cook. Forgetting there is a world around me and instead enjoying the creature comforts of home. That being the case, it’s no surprise that my first day solo is spent focussing on that.

I do pop out to wonder around the neighbourhood and pick up an ice-cream at the parlour next door at one point. That’s a decision I most certainly won’t regret. The vanilla was delicious!

I also stick to the promise I made myself to eat more healthily by making a delicious dish of scrambled eggs and mixed vegetables on toasted bread. The crispness of the bread combined with the suppleness of the freshly made eggs… pure bliss I tell you!

 

Day 34 – Productivity in the city

Image by Marco Verch / CC by 2.0

Today it somehow hit me that my trip is almost over. This is significant as it also means that my career break is technically almost over too. I promised myself that following my trip, I would start looking for some work.

As I’m sitting in my slice of heaven of an apartment though, I am somehow reluctant to leave it. It feels so cozy and it’s just too pretty. As such, I decide to enjoy the terrace and make a head start on getting back into work mode again.

I take a look at my CV that hasn’t been updated in quite some time. My LinkedIn profile looks like it could do with some sprucing up as well.

Then I start browsing the internet to see what positions are open and before you know it it’s almost dinner time again. Where on earth does the time fly?

I head out for a bit to get an Argentinian SIM card and some dinner. Since I do plan to be wondering around the city a little while I’m here and my Spanish one has horrendous roaming charges.

Once I get home again, I promise myself that I will make the most of what is left of my trip. As a result, I take the decision to hop over to Uruguay tomorrow.

A quick internet search shows me I can get there and back for 60USD. Not bad, I think. Ok, let’s go for it!

 

Day 35 – Hello Uruguay!

Waking up early, I need to catch a ferry to get to Uruguay today. Originally I was planning to go to Montevideo, but instead decided on Colonia as it’s a lot closer and far more appropriate for a day trip.

Funnily enough, despite being super well travelled I’m not a big fan of travelling itself. To me it feels a lot like dead time.

Sure I love being in a new place, and seeing new things, but getting there whether by train, plane, bus or via any other mode of transport isn’t too much of an adventure. I know for sure there will be people who disagree with this assessment though!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been on a ferry, so I have to say it does feel quite novel to be on one again. I kind of enjoy the cinema style seats where there’s a tv playing in front of you, a cafeteria and some shops on the side.

I spend my time people watching as I cross from one country to another. The trip doesn’t take too long either at around 1.5 hours.

Landing in Uruguay I make sure to catch the bus taking me to Colonia town centre. It’s completely empty when I arrive, but then eventually fills up with about 10 other guests.

I decide to head to lunch first. After all, it would be a shame to miss it when it’s included in my trip!

 

Lunch at El Viejo Tunnel

Strolling into the restaurant El Viejo Tunnel, the first thing I notice is that it’s again completely empty, save for a couple of other people.

This can mean one of two things. Either it’s not a popular day to visit, or the restaurant isn’t very good. At this point I’m hoping it’s the former – I’m hungry!

As I sit down a waiter comes to say hello and take my voucher from me. He explains the food system (it’s a buffet) and then takes my order for a fresh orange juice.

I don’t have too much time before there is a walking tour of the town, so I make my way across the small restaurant to see what’s on offer. I’m pleasantly surprised by the offering. I had read mixed reviews about it beforehand.

There were some freshly grilled meats available. Steak, sausages, medallions and such. Some rice, pasta and potatoes as side dishes too. A little salad bar and also a desserts section looks tempting too. All in all very little to complain about!

Checking out the bathroom, I also very much enjoyed the decorations hanging up on the walls and explaining a little about the history of the place. I find it gives a place such character when you learn more about it!

 

A walk back in time

Arriving at the walking tour, I find out it is all in Spanish. Apparently there are some English headsets available elsewhere to do your own walking tour. However, I much prefer experiencing a place with other people, so I decide to continue with the group.

We’re a small group of four people, which makes it easy for me to ask questions. The leader of the tour is a jovial woman with a witty sense of humour. That makes such a difference in keeping things interesting.

It’s quite a short tour, taking no more than 30 minutes. However, we do get to check out the old town’s borders, brothel district, lighthouse and church in the centre.

At this point I decide that while Colonia de Sacramento is certainly a pleasant day trip, it’s not necessarily somewhere I would recommend.

It’s a pretty town, but seems to have a pretty ordinary story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I guess just not something I would usually travel 6,000 miles to see.

Having said that, for someone looking for some peace, quiet and pretty landscape, it certainly hits the spot!

 

The sunset tour across Colonia

Upon completion of the walking tour, I decide to take the bus tour around town too. This proves to be a good idea as it shows me a completely different side of the place.

As the bus makes its rounds, we pass a series of ex-military base housing landscapes, which remind me a lot of Korea. I used to spend quite some time with military folk back then and it’s a fond memory for me.

I also learn that Colonia is well known for its Polo games as we pass an area filled with horses and a race course. We also pass a big bull ring, which very much makes me think of Spain.

Finally, we take the road back around the circuit and I get to see the beautiful sea. Glistening and sparkling in the sunshine and palm trees lining the road.

I see some BBQ stations by the water and think that would make an awesome place to spend a day or have a birthday party.

Inspired by this last part of the journey I then decide to take a stroll through town and down to the water. With a little time to spare I then head back to the ferry terminal on foot.

It’s been a nice day. I’m happy that I came, but I have to say I’ll also be happy once I get home. I guess Colonia is just that little bit too quiet for me. But hey – at guess I can add another country to my visited list!

 


Explore the rest of the trip!

 

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