Previous Trip: La Paz to Santiago - October 2012

5th November - Buenos Aires

Enough of the bus journeys, time for a flight. Up out of Santiago and across The Andes to Argentina and Buenos Aires. The flight over The Andes was spectacular, it's a huge range topped with plenty of snow but it then quite suddenly falls away and Argentina looks pretty flat.

Santiago was a beautiful, grand city and the centre looked great. My first impressions of Buenos Aires are that it is bigger, glitzier (loads of neon signs) and dirtier. But that's just an impression from the bit around the hostel, at night. Anyway first things first, in the room I notice the bin in the bathroom is quite a way from the toilet, so I head down to reception to ask the all important question 'Can we throw toilet paper into the toilet bowl?' and we can! After 5 weeks or so of throwing toilet paper into the bin, I can now flush it.

6th November - Buenos Aires

To get myself orientated I joined the 'Free' Walking Tour this morning. Not the best I've been on (that was in Sofia). She liked the sound of her own voice too much and we didn't cover enough ground but it did its job. Buenos Aires was definitely big and grand in its day. The guide book says that people used to say 'as rich as an Argentian' and there's definitely been money spent here. Boom time was between the wars when lots of Europeans fled here and brought their money with them. It's said that 50% of Portenos (Buenos Aireans) have Italian ancestry. Of course to create a grand city you need two things, money and a dictator (saves so much time with public enquiries and the like) and Argentina's had its fair share of those.

This photo captures Buenos Aires perfectly. Some lovely old buildings, palm trees, beautiful trees with purple blossom. But also a pile of rubbish to be collected and on the right a protest of some sort or other. Anyway taken from the right angles there are opportunities to take some great photos. The big difference for me between Buenos Aires and Santiago and in fact the rest of the trip so far is that it's quite humid here. Until now the whole trip has been in some of the driest air I've ever experienced. Air which sucks moisture from your mouth as you breath and cracks your lips if you go half an hour without reapplying the lip balm. But here it's high 20s degrees and 40% or so humidity, so going to need lots more showers.

7th November - Buenos Aires

Another hot and humid day in Buenos Aires. Actually it's getting hotter. They forecast 35 degrees tomorrow and then a big thunderstorm. But mad dogs and all that so I headed out to explore some more. More big boulavards and more parks. I passed the Falklands War Memorial on the way to the Cementerio de la Recoleta. This is the cemetry where all the rich and famous of Argentinian society are buried, or actually housed in huge tombs and it looks like it's the bigger the better. The most important 'tourist tomb' is the tomb of Eva Peron's family. Compared to the others it is actually quite ordinary.

From here I walked over to the Palermo area for the Jardin Japones which was rather unimpressive and then the Eva Peron Museum. Learnt a bit about her life, watched some video footage and saw a few of her dresses and handbags!

After 5 hours out walking around in the blazing sun I was ready to collapse, so I decided to go to the cinema and enjoy a few hours of air-conditioning. I also wanted to see the new Bond movie and it's good. I'd heard the rave reviews but after the last two which were very ordinary I was skeptical. But it's great, a proper Bond movie. Although I can't review the ending. About 2 hours in the film was building to a dramatic conclusion and suddenly the film shut off. We sat there for a while then a guy came in and said something in Spanish. I heard someone mention refund so I got up and left. It turns out there was a power cut in the whole area. So I've seen most of the film for free, my dilemma is should I pay to see it again so that I can see the last 10 minutes? I mean, I guess it all works out fine in the end!

In the evening I decided it was time to try a traditional Argentina Parrilla (grill restaurant) and went for the full mixed grill for one. But when it came out it was huge. A big quarter of chicken and a steak bigger than I would expect if I'd just ordered a steak. But it was all the other stuff, some kidneys, chorizo and blood sausages. I managed to eat a kidney and a few mouthfuls of sausage. Next I tried the sweetbread (not sweet and not bread), that almost did for me. But it was the udder which I thought was going to mean that a second time a steakhouse was going to floor me! Next time I think I just order a steak or some ribs.

8th November - Buenos Aires

Quiet day, decided to stay out of the mid-day sun. I did head out for a bit of afternoon sophistication. Went to the Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires. It's said the place hasn't changed its style in living memory and looks amazing. The great and the good have met here in the past and the there are photos, busts and even wax work models of past clientele. I had a lovely strawberry desert thing and a 'submarino'. A submarino is a cup of hot milk served with a chocolate bar in the shape of a submarine. The idea is to melt the chocolate bar in the hot milk, marvelous!

In the evening I headed down to the common area of the hotel and they had the TV on showing a massive protest and it was taking place 5 minutes up the road. So of course I had to pop out and take a look. It was a bloody big protest filling the massive Avendia 9 de Julio around the Obelisco and it was marching down towards the Presidential Palace (Pink House). Not sure what they were protesting about but it had something to do with corruption, democracy and I think not re-electing Christina Kirchner. But it was the saucepan lids I felt sorry for. Lots of people were carrying then and banging on them with spoons. Poor things were taking one hell of a beating.

BBC news report    BBC video report

Guardian report


Buenos Aires to Rio November 2012

10th November - Buenos Aires

Decided to see a different side of Buenos Aires today and headed down to San Telmo and The Boca. This was a very poor area and was the birthplace of Tango. It is now becoming more fashionable and there are lots of antique shops and flea markets. I really liked the area it felt more real than the faded glory of the city centre. Whist in the area I popped into the Boca Juniors stadium, it's a bit off a concrete bowl but I bet it rocks on match days.

Tucan trip from Buenos Aires to Rio

11th November - Colonia de Sacrimento

Left Buenos Aires we headed across the River Plate to Colonia de Sacrimento in southwestern Uruguay. I'm sure Colonia is nice but the weather has definitely changed after a big storm on Friday and in the overcast conditions it looked more old than historic. The old city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site but I think it's more to do with its history (first settlement in Uruguay) than its current condition.

12th November - Montevideo

Couple of hour bus journey and we're in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Montevideo is a blend of many cities and architectural styles with an international port and seaside at either end of the interesting old city. Montevideo is another beautiful colonial city with some added 1930s Art Deco buildings thrown in. The sun came out after lunch and I enjoyed a day just wandering.

For lunch we went to the old railway station which now houses loads of BBQ restaurants. Huge slabs of beef being cooked on giant BBQs which had been turned up to 11. So when in Uruguay ... I had to have a big steak. I was glad someone in the group order the full mixed grill and they pulled the sort of faces I did when they tried the bits of offal :-)

14th November - Salto

15th November - San Ignacio

After about 12 hours travelling overnight we make it to San Ignacio. San Ignacio's main attraction are the Jesuit ruins, which were featured in the film "The Mission". Built in 1696, they are some of the best kept Jesuit ruins in the region. They cover quite a large area and were impressive. They are definitely ruins but there is quite a lot still standing so it's easy to how it must have looked.

In the afternoon we headed down towards the Paraguay River. We did a walk through the forest and up to top of a hill to get a great view across the river to Paraguay on the other side. It's spectacular scenery and along the way we saw insects and birds, lots of lizards of various sizes and a rat like mammal which was about a foot long. We also saw a house that the Nazi Martin Bowman lived in for some time whilst hiding out. From here we headed down to a beach club on the river which wrapped up a really good day.

16th November - Estancia Las Mercedes

A two hour journey to Eldarado took 4 hours this morning after the bus broke down half way. This meant that instead of arriving at Estancia Las Mercedes at 12 we got there at about 2pm. The Estancia is an authentic working ranch. So it was meat, meat and more meat for lunch. Chicken, chorizo and beef ribs. They kept the ribs to eat and all the steaks etc are sent for export. After lunch some went horse riding and others kayaking. I'd like to have kayaked but my right hand is still pretty busted up from The Steakhouse incident so I decided to skip it. Instead a few of us just headed down to the river for a swim and a bit of a laze in the sun. We then headed back to the ranch to sit around the pool. It's a hard life.


17th November - Puerto Iguazú (Argentina)

If you're not a fan of waterfalls then I suggest you skip the next 2 days because I'm at Iguazú Falls 'the most magnificent waterfalls in the world'. Unlike most other waterfalls that have just one or two cataracts, at Iguazú there are 275 cataracts in a 3 kilometre long U shape that we will visit from both the Brazil and Argentinean sides. First up we jumped into a truck for a drive through the jungle down to the river. From there it was a power boat up the river to the falls. About 6km up through a fast flowing river and through a few areas of rapids. We did a little tour around far enough from the falls not to get wet so that everyone could take photos. We then went in for a more 'in depth' view of the falls. First we passed underneath one of the small falls then drove straight at a big section, the water crashed down right over the boat saturating everybody.

Video of our boat going into a waterfall.


After the boat trip around the bottom of the falls we climbed up to the top for a different view of the falls and then to look down on them from the side of the river above. Iguazú Falls is very different to Victoria Falls (see the bottom of this page). It is split into so many separate falls rather than being one big waterfall. Also the river level is quite low, completely different to Vic Falls which I saw at the end of the rainy season. All of this means that although it hasn't got the same immense power it is far better to look at. Also with the falls covering a wide area and falling from the forest above into the canyon below it makes for so many different views from so many angles.

Finally we took the mini train around to the famous "Devil's Throat" where the falls are at their strongest, enough to throw up a lot of spray. From here we could also look down the canyon and across to the Brazilian side. All in all rounded off a great day

In the evening I skipped the dinner and dance show which most of the others did and just headed out for a bite to eat. I saw the Rodizio restaurant next door to the hotel and after a full day at the falls with little food it was just what I wanted. Rodizio is the traditional way to eat in Brazil. For a fixed price it is all-you-can-eat. There's a big salad bar (which I made no use of) and then meat and meat and meat. Guys walk around with big swords full of meat, they offer meat and more often then not you say 'Sim Por Favor'. There's roast beef joints, beef steak cubes, plain chicken, marinated chicken, smoked chicken, pork, smoked ham, there's also guys with trays of rolled stuffed pork and beef ribs. Now and again it's pot luck what you're getting (looks like chicken I'll give it a go) but it invariably tastes good. I did turn down anything which resembled offal! It was definitely the best meat I've had so far on the trip.


18th November - Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil)

First up today a visit to the bird park. Basically an exotic bird zoo, but the birds have been either reared or rescued from poachers. Lots of parrots and macaws, eagles, owls, storks and ibises. They even had a butterfly house which also included some humming birds (they really are small and fast). But of course the highlight was the toucans. And they were in an area you could walk through. They are real posers they fly down and pose for the photo then turn the other way so you can get their other side. They sit on the rail beside you then when they think you've taken enough photos they walk down the rail to give someone else a chance. Amazing.


Then it was off to the falls again but this time from the Brazilian side. Most of the river at the top of the falls is on the Argentinian side, so yesterday we were up close. Today it was more of a view across at the falls so we really got a feeling for how wide an area they cover.

After 2 days of photographing the falls I decided to start playing around with the settings on my camera. The photo below was taken with a setting called 'dramatic'. I think it came out great and is definitely dramatic.

19th November - Curitiba

My last overnight bus of the trip and I'm in Curitiba. Seems nice enough, colonial buildings, open spaces, some pedestrianised shopping streets, quite relaxing. Just what I needed after the busy last few days. Brazil seems richer and more modern than anywhere else on the trip. Food better, some great bakeries and generally more 'home comforts'. There are far more recognisable branded goods and everything looks cleaner. I'm looking forward to finding some more interesting food. Anything but pizza, pasta and meat. Some sauces, some spices, I need some food that'll fight back.

20th November - Sâo Paulo

The world's fastest growing city, 19 million+ people; skyscrapers sprawling upwards and avenues spreading outwards. Sâo Paulo is big, but like anywhere if you're in the centre you don't know if there are 19,000 or 19,000,000 other people. It was dry when we arrived but then a tropical storm came through and it rained, proper run for cover rain. If this keeps up it'll make for an interesting Grand Prix at the weekend. In the evening we went out for Japanese, about £12 for all-you-can-eat sushi, dumplings, teriyaki, teppanyaki and yakitori (sate). A real nice change which woke my taste buds up.

In the evening we went out for Japanese, about £12 for all-you-can-eat sushi, dumplings, tempura and some sashimi. A real nice change which woke my taste buds up.

21st November - Sâo Paulo

Free day to wander around Sao Paulo and thankfully no storms today so it's back to the hot and sunny weather to which I've become accustomed. The centre is a mixture of colonial buildings and skyscrapers with the odd square to break it all up. Sao Paulo has a dangerous image but they seem to be trying to change that and reassure tourists, maybe it's to do with the upcoming World Cup and Olympics.

I headed down to the Mercado Municipal which is a typical produce market but it's in a beautiful building and has been tidied up into a tourist attraction as well as being a fully functioning market. Amazing fruit and veg, meat and fish, wines and loads of food outlets. Like the rest of South America the Brazilians love their food and serve big portions. See the sandwiches below, they definitely don't scrimp on the fillings.

I said yesterday that you wouldn't know if Sao Paulo had 19,000 or 19,000,000 population, well that only works if you stay at street level. This afternoon I headed to the Circolo Italiano building which is a 168 metre tall 46 story skyscraper. What a view. 360° skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. The city is huge it just goes on for ever. I have never seen so many tall buildings. London, New York etc have small areas of skyscrapers but nothing like this.

22nd November - Parati

Another long (7 hour) bus journey, only one more to go. This time it was along the coast which kept things interesting. Early afternoon we arrived in colonial Parati, an old pirate town with streets made of stone slabs designed to let the tide wash over and clean them. It's now a lazy tourist town with nicely painted buildings and plenty of restaurants and bars. I'm not usually a fan of tourist towns but this one is aimed well above the back-packer market and is a nice break between the big cities of Sao Paulo and Rio.

23rd November - Parati

Another perfect day in paradise, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and we booked onto a boat the spend the day sailing around the islands off Parity. So 14 of us and 4 locals headed out of Parity for a lazy day.

We sailed a bit and then stopped a bit so we could jump into the water for a swim and a cool down. The water was clear and there was quite a lot of fish swimming around with us. At the first stop we swam to shore for a walk on the beach which was lined with coconut trees. At the next stop we snorkeled for a bit and had lunch. In between times we just lay around on deck and soaked up the sun. After 2 months with pretty much non-stop sun I've now got one hell of a tan. Not looking forward to heading back to cold wet Devon in a few days time.

24th November - Rio City Tour

The forecast for the next few days in Rio isn't great so we left Parity early so that we hit Rio in time to squeeze in a city tour whilst the sun is still shining. So glad we did. First up the statue of Christ the Redeemer located at the top of Corcovado Mountain. The entire monument of statue of Christ the Redeemer is 38m high with the statue accounting for 30m and overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro is one of the tallest statues in the world; the span from finger tip to fingertip is 28m and there is a small chapel housed in the base. The Corcovado Mountain is set in the Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world. This really adds to the setting and the view. I thought the statue itself is pretty unremarkable but the view over Rio spectacular. All the beaches from Flamengo, though Copacabana to Ipanema and right in the middle of these Sugarloaf Mountain.


From Corcovado we headed down through the forest and a few arty neighborhoods to the old historic centre. Here we saw the Carioca Aqueduct an impressive structure comprising two levels of arches, close by we went into the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. This is a modern cathedral built in the shape of a cone and we were told it has a standing room capacity of 20,000. From here it was on to the Escadaria Selarón is a set of world-famous steps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claims it as "my tribute to the Brazilian people". This piece of 'living' art is a set of steps covered in tiles from all over the world. It's become an unlikely tourist attraction and has featured in things as diverse as Coca-Cola ads, U2 videos and Playboy photoshoots.

Lastly it was over to Sugarloaf Mountain and just in time as the cloud had started to roll in. Two cables cars and we were up to the top at 396m. More great views of Rio. Again we could see all the beaches and various neighborhoods. It also gave a view of the Tijuca Forest which runs through the city. Unfortunately the cloud had almost totally covered the Christ statue the photo below was the best I could get.


25th November - Rio - Copacabana

Weather not great, but time to hit Copacabana anyway. It's a pity the sun isn't shining and the beautiful bodies aren't out in force but there are still loads of games of football, beach volleyball and a hybrid football volleyball thing. The beach itself is right in the city centre and is quite long but it isn't all that wide. I'm sure it looks more impressive when it's full of people.

One of the most impressive bits of Copacabana is the pavement that runs its full length. The wavy mosaic looks great running off into the distance. The design is one of the famous sights of Rio and is quite hypnotic. Along the beach road are palm trees, little bars and street vendors. Being Sunday one of the carriageways was closed giving far more room for people to cycle, jog, pose; such a pity the sun isn't shining.

I've decided I couldn't live in Rio. Not because it is reportedly dangerous or because they speak Portuguese which is bloody annoying after spending the last 8 weeks getting reasonably proficient at getting by in Spanish. It's because of the restaurants, they are great but invariably they work on either a 'per kilo' or 'eat-as-much-as-you-can' basis. Any semblance of a diet would be impossible. A couple of months here and none of my clothes would fit. 'Per kilo' restaurants are great. You go up to the buffet, load up your plate, get it weighed and pay on your way out. This works for meat restaurants, Japanese, pizza/pasta and quite a few which offer all three and more. My favorite was an ice cream place. Scoop out your own ice cream (which was really tasty), pour on some sauce and then add sprinkles. I had scoops of lemon, banana and ginger ice cream topped with smarties and chopped nuts, lovely.

26th November - Rio - Ipanema

Still overcast but pretty much dry today. Headed up to a street market for some souviner shopping then took the metro down to Ipanema. Apart from a different tile pattern on the pavement it looks very like Copacabana. Again not many people around but it's nice enough. The most spectacular thing is the backdrop of lumpy granite hills and forest. From there I wandered for a while. Rio feels pretty safe, the very visible police presence really makes a difference to a place.

27th November - Rio

My last day in Rio, my last day in South America. Packed up my bags and headed out for just one more Rodizio all you can eat BBQ buffet. Went to a restaurant which is a bit more expensive than others but it looked full so I gambled on it being good. It was. I was sat near to the exit from the kitchen so I got first go at all the fresh meat as it came out. It was the best meat of the whole trip, a great way for it all to end.