Tips & Tricks to help you plan your next adventure
Landing in La Paz... by bus.
After our amazing Salar de Uyuni trip we headed to La Paz, Bolivia’s capital and largest city. And being set in a valley at around 3800m, it is one of the highest capital cities in the world.
After hearing mixed reviews about La Paz, some people saying they hated it, and didn’t want to go out after dark (chicks) and other saying they loved it and wanted more time, we had no idea what to expect upon arriving in this crazy city.
Our first day in La Paz started with a little bump (very little)…. We arrived at 5am, and it was dark.
Now obviously we know this is only a VERY little bump, but we have always tried to avoid arriving anywhere when it’s dark, and after the stories we’d heard La Paz was not somewhere where darkness appeared to be our friend. And as our bus was meant to arrive at 7:30 am we were surprised. Surprised about arriving in the dark and also about arriving somewhere EARLY in Latin America for once. I guess it was bittersweet.
We waited in the bus station for day light and headed off on foot to find our hostel, Loki.
Upon arriving at our hostel around 7:30 we were told we couldn’t check in until 2pm… Fantastic. We lurked around the hostel for a bit, caught up on wifi matters and then headed out for some breaky, lunch and an explore around the streets with a few different people we had met on our bus from Uyuni.
That night we were all exhausted. Bed at 9pm? Yes please.
Tomorrow we're planning on doing a city tour. We'll fill you in.
Our 3 day, 2 night journey to Uyuni took off from San Pedro de Atacama. We were picked up promptly at 730am from our hostel and hustled the Chilean Immigration (one dude with a stamp).
From here we hustled onwards to the Bolivian border and Immigration control. This was legitimately one single building and a large Bolivian flag above it. It was awesome. Noone’s bags were checked because well.. it’s Bolivia.
From here we were split into our respective groups for the next 3 days and given our driver. We were with the tour company Lithium, that we booked through our hostel. It cost us $95000 Chilean peso’s. We could have done it cheaper but the company was safe and after hearing tonnes of bad reviews involving car crashes and drunk drivers we were happy to fork out the extra $30AUDish.
We boarded our Land Cruiser. There were 6 of us in our car; myself, Sean and Sammy, a couple (American and Scottish) and a girl from Germany. Quite a mix, and we could all speak english!
Majority of the places we visited are named because of how they look (as you will see in the coming photographs), and the reason they look the way they do is hugely in part due to the different minerals that are found in the soil and water of the surrounding area. Resultantly I’m going to let the pictures do the talking for majority of this post, as otherwise I could type for days.
Also the info I would be relaying to you was told to us in Spanish, and although we’re beginning to grasp the language, we haven’t yet got to the chemistry and physics lessons. Thus our info could be wrong or at least a little misunderstood.
Here is a play by play of our journey.
Day 1 begun with entering the national park Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. The entrance cost $150 Bolivanos, and went towards park maintenance.
The first stop of Day 1 was Laguna Blanca, or “White Lagoon” in Spanish.
Due to the clarity of the water there was a perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains and clouds on the lagoons surface, it was really, really beautiful.
The next stop was Laguna Verde, or “Green Lagoon” in Spanish.
On the way to Laguna Verde we saw a cute little native fox, who had developed a keen liking for ham and cheese rolls
We then passed by Desierto Dali before heading to some thermal hot springs, that were 36 degrees! Absolutely delicious!
From here we headed to our hostel for the night where we ate lunch, at 4:30pm.
After lunch we headed out to Laguna Colorado. A huge red lake filled with thousands and thousands of Flamingoes. Very cool! Apparently the flamingoes get their pink or red colouring due to the colour of the tiny shrimp they eat!
We headed back to the hostel for coca tea and cookies. Coca tea is popular amongst all those in Peru and Bolivia at altitude. The tea, or leaves alone (when sucked) are said to help ease altitude sickness. And as we had been above 5000m A LOT that day our driver thought it was probably a good idea. Luckily though none in our group was feeling sick…. yet.
That night after dinner our group headed out to see the stars.
There were lots! But not quite as many as we had all expected because the moon was huge, and resultantly outshone the stars, However it was still amazing, it’s not every day you get to stand out in the desert surrounded by almost nothing.
However…. it was BLOODY FREEZING and even with thermals, a singlet, a polar fleece jacket and a down jacket I was ice cold. Sean and I headed in a little earlier than the others (because I was way too cold) and went to bed.
We wake at around 6:30 the next morning, and for sleeping at an altitude above 4200m, I had had an alright sleep.
We ate breakfast, packed our things into the land cruiser and headed off.
Our first stop was Arbol de Piedra, or in english The Rock Tree. Named so because….. yep you guessed it, it is a rock that looks like a tree.
The surrounding area was sand and rocks as far as the eye could see, with large red cliffs. It was beautiful and an amazing contrast with the lagoons from day 1.
Onwards we travelled. To our next destination’s, various altiplanic Lagoons. These were all again beautiful, so Ill let the pictures do the talking.
Unfortunately by this point in the day Sean had begun to feel really quite unwell, he had developed a cold and wasn’t dealing well with the altitude, he was getting dizzy and had an upset stomach. Resultantly he needed to take the day super slow, which was okay, but no fun for him.
After the lakes we headed onwards to Uyuni via a small town called San Cristobal. We were meant to stay ythe night on the salt flats in the Salt Hotel however due to the rain it was inaccessible, so resultantly we were spending the night in Uyuni town.
San Cristobal town was tiny and didn’t have too much besides a large church, that was closed. However as this was my first time buying anything in Bolivia I was BLOWN AWAY by the price difference to Chile, Argentina and Brazil…. For only $8 Bolivianos (Roughly $1.20 AUD) we bought, 2 icy poles, 2 bags of popcorn, 2 bags of banana chips and 8 werthers original lollies…… Yes I know, amazing right.
After our quick stop in San Cristobal we headed for Uyuni, stopping at the Train Graveyard.
That evening we all had warm showers (so bloody good) and headed out for dinner with our group leaders. We went to bed early as we had a 4am wake up to see the sunrise over Salar de Uyuni.
We awoke, as promised, early and headed off for the Salar. When we arrived there was a little more water than our drivers expected, however as we were in Land Cruisers, they continued on anyway.
We reached the point for the sunrise and parked the cars.
It’s important for me to note here that from the end of Jan through Feb is Bolivia’s rainy season and resultantly there is a very unique pooling of water on the surface of the flats, causing a perfect reflection of the sky and surroundings. It basically becomes the worlds largest mirror and looks amazing.
Once our cars were parked we got out into about 3 cm of water. Sean and I had removed our shows so that they wouldn’t be wet for the whole day however after only 5 or so minutes our feet were completely frozen and stinging from the salt, so we had to put our shoes back on.
We watched the sunrise and headed to a different part of the Salar for breakfast and lots and lots of photos.
Picture’s will do all talking here.
After all the photos had been taken we headed onward to visit the salt hostel we would have stayed at if it wasn't for the weather, and stopped to have lunch on the flats.
From Lunch we headed to the local Artesan Markets before being dropped off back in Uyuni to book a bus to head onwards to La Paz.
And here I am. In Uyuni, freezing, my clothes and shoes from this morning are soaked and salty but I have a ridiculous grin on my face because the last 3 days were incredible. When you come to Bolivia (not if, when) you should definitely visit these locations. They are amazing and the landscape is absolutely breathtaking.
We’re off for dinner now.
Next stop, La Paz.. Another overnight bus. Fantastic.
The tour company picked us up at 4pm after our morning thermal pools quest for our trip to Valle de La Luna. The trip to the valley national park took only 10 minutes from town. We stopped to pay our entrance fees and jumped back on the bus to head into the park. The first thing that came to mind was “I can see why they call this place Valle de la Luna”, which means Moon Valley in Spanish.
We drove 15 minutes into the park past some seriously freaky and barren landscape before first stopping at some ancient eerie looking rock formations surrounded by sand. Around the time we got off the bus the wind started absolutely howling so it was pretty interesting taking photos of each other whilst trying not to be blown over, oh and as well laughing at people chasing their hats in the wind.
We jumped back on the bus and stopped again at the bottom of a sand dune pushed up against a cliff. Here we got to walk up and around this huge dune and across the top of a ridge that had the most amazing lookout over more lunar landscape and the huge Chilean Salt flats in the background. Basically trying to describe what the views were like here and how amazing these places are is well beyond the stretch of my vocabulary, so I’m just going to let the pictures talk for themselves. On the way back down though the wind really whipped up and I think we all lost about 3 layers of skin due to all the sand and small rocks flying around.
Back relatively safely on the bus and down the road towards “Valle de la Muerte” or "Death Valley" for the gringos. All of these scary, inhospitable and amazing places in the Atacama Desert are largely due to this being one of the driest regions in the entire world. On average, San Pedro de Atacama rains only 3 days a year. The last time it rained was in June 2014, a storm that lasted only 2 hours, however several roads were washed away as a result, cutting the town off from the rest of Chile for an entire week!
Anyway, as we headed to Death Valley, it started raining. It wasn’t super heavy, but the lightening storm accompanied was absolutely amazing and our tour guide lost a $20 bet. This storm luckily enough wasn’t long lasting and that wind I mentioned before managed to blow the clouds away in about 15 minutes. Still, absolutely amazing. Our guide told us that “Valle de la Muerte” (Valley of Death) was actually originally meant to be named “Valle de la Marte” (Valley of Mars), however because the guy who found and named it was French the spanish speakers misunderstood Marte for Muerte. I guess either could be accurate due to the dry red rocks and clay everywhere. We also saw a road that had been washed away in that same short storm in June 2014.
Back on the bus and on to the edge of a canyon looking over valleys and distant mountains for an amazing sunset. So many amazing sights here, again I’m just going to let the photos speak for themselves.
Next stop is a 3 day, 2 night tour to Bolivia and Salar de Uyuni, as long as it isn't cancelled due to the rain!
We awoke Sunday morning at 4am for our Geyser tour and dressed in warm clothes (we were warned it could be chilly at the geysers) and waited for our tour bus. Upon pick up it was an hour and a half drive to the geysers so we all slept on the bus.
We arrived at the Geysers and unloaded from the tour bus. It was F@%$ing FREEZING! I’m not talking "freezing” meaning a mere 10 degrees for us Sydney siders, I’m talking much, much closer to 0!
We explored the geysers for close to an hour, had a quick coffee and cake breakfast and then headed to some thermal pools nearby.
Upon reaching the pools we stripped off and chucked on our swimmers and got in as quick as we could. The water was warm, however nowhere near hot… so for me it was a very quick 2 minutes in and out. Nonetheless it was an amazing backdrop, sitting in a thermal pool looking out at the Andes.
Next stop on the tour was to a local village, Machuca, home to only 10 families.
In the village we had a wander around, visited the local church and took some pictures. We even bought a couple of llama meat skewers! The boys loved the meat, however I was not a fan… But I’m still glad I gave it a try.
After the tour we headed home for some much needed rest before setting out again that afternoon for our next tour, Valle de la Luna.
Crossing the border at 4320m!
Our trip to San Pedro begun with a 10 hour bus from Salta, in which we had to stop at the border to get the appropriate stamps from both Argentinean and Chilean officials.
The border crossing was located at Paso de Jama, at an altitude of 4320 metres. This was the highest we had gone BY FAR on our entire trip thus far. We were expecting to feel really crappy as we had heard bad, bad things about altitude sickness, especially when ascending quickly, however we all felt fine, besides some slight initial dizziness and tingling in our fingertips we were all good!
The location of this crossing was awesome, and far different to some of the dodgy and dismal border crossings we’ve done in the past. Sean even skated between Argentina and Chile.
Upon arrival in San Pedro de Atacama it was almost 40 degrees. All of us carrying our bags and wearing long pants for warmth in the bus were sweltering and could not wait to find our hostel. After wandering around for a little bit we finally found it, and put down our bags. It felt fantastic.
That arvo we booked 2 tours for the next day, Tatio Geysers for the morning and Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) for the afternoon/evening. We also had a walk around the small town, a super early dinner and attempted to go to bed early (very difficult in a hostel).
Salta and the Great Gringauchos!
Our time in Salta was mostly spend exploring the city and the surrounds. Including a trip to the top of Cerro San Berndardo, a large hill overlooking the town.
The highlight of Salta for us was definitely our trip to Sayta Cabalgatas, where we went horse riding.
We were picked up at 9am from our hostel and driven roughly an hour to Cafayate, where the ranch was located. Upon arrival we were given breakfast, a bumbag for our possessions, an awesome hat and leg protectors (unsure of real name..).
We were each given a horse (mine was the biggest of course) and we set off. I was feeling a little (lots) nervous as it has been at least 10 years since I’ve ridden a horse and on that occasion the horse bolted with me on it, needless to say I was a tad scared.
We set off on our 3 hour trail ride and right away upon leaving the ranch we quickly discovered that my horse was a tad peckish, stopping every 3 minutes or so for a quick snack along the road side.
A few minutes after that we discovered that Samuel, the great gringo gaucho was allergic to horses… and couldn’t stop sneezing…. for the entire 3 hours. On the trail we navigated dirt roads, tobacco plantations, creek beds and various farm lands. We even galloped for a bit!
The ride was really fun, made even better by the wine and BBQ lunch upon completion. (And the cessation of sneezing and itching for Sammy)
When we arrived back at the stables we were greeted with wine, wine and more wine. With the staff not letting your glass dip below 3/4 full everyone was sufficiently giggly come lunch. The wine was local, red, slightly sweet, cool and delicious. The BBQ was fantastic, with pork, beef, salads, potatoes, legumes, more meat, more salad, more sides and the list goes on.
The owner of the ranch, Enrique is super funny, charismatic and cheeky. He continuously made fun of all of us, especially one english girl who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. He seemed to only speak naughty words in english but we’re pretty sure he understood everything that we said.
After the meal we were all incredibly satisfied and sleepy. Most of the other maniac guests at the ranch went for another ride, but we were taken back to our hostel where a nap was not only wanted, but needed.
Next stop…. San Pedro de Atacama, smack in the middle of the Atacama desert in northern Chile. Can’t wait.
More pictures are on the way! The internet is surprisingly temperamental in Latin America... Who would've thought?
Rio Mendoza Rafting
On our last day in Mendoza we set off to go rafting. Sean had heard the rapids were a class 3 or 4, and thus he was excited.
We booked for a full day at our hostel and were picked up at 930am…ish (Latin American time). The drive took roughly 2 hours as we had to pick other people up from their hostels. However once we got to the river we were in the water in no time, once gathering our life vests, helmets and “neoprene”.
I found it strange they referred to wetsuits as neoprene. It would be like me referring to a t-shirt as wearing my cotton. Nonetheless the water was said to be or 10 degrees so I was happy to have it whatever the name was.
We drove up stream 23km and walked down to the river. We were given a safety lecture and a quick guide on how to raft. “When I say paddle forward, paddle forward. If I say back paddle, then paddle backwards”. We got it.
Our guide was a guy called Nick from Canada, and although the majority of instructions we got throughout the day were quite simple, he was extremely happy to have a group of fluent english speakers on board for the more technical parts of the river.
After a few more instructions on how to rescue each other/ how to get a lift from our rescue kayaker, we were off. Our rafting guides were super excited today as this was the highest the river had been in the last 12 months. This was due to the recent hot weather increasing the melt run-off of the glaciers on upstream Aconcagua - The tallest mountain in the Americas. However, although the water was nearly double the average level, we were constantly reassured that the Rio Mendoza was a river with some tricky sections but very very few dangerous consequences.
We ended up spending about 3 hours on the water with a break at the half way point for some water and fruit. The rafting was so much fun and amazingly no one fell out despite our raft getting half eaten by a “hole” at one point, and Nick trying to yank out our new Danish friend Anne at a safe spot on the river. The 3 hours felt like less than 1 as we raced along an amazing valley filled with Condors, Vicuñas and a creepy old wrecked train line.
We got back to the base and were welcomed with a tasty pizza lunch, and got to lounge around by a pool next to the river for a while waiting for the other groups to finish up so we could jump on the bus back to the hostel. Despite the muddy shoes and our awkward sunburnt thighs, rafting the Rio Mendoza was an awesome day out!
Next stop - Salta!
Upon booking 4 nights accommodation at our hostel in Mendoza we receive a deal in which we were able to hire bikes for FREE! All we had to do was catch a bus to Maipu and find "Mr Hugo"
Mr Hugo is a super friendly, spanish speaking man with a smile that could brighten even the worst of days. We arrived at Mr Hugo's around 11, got our bikes and set off for the day. The bikes were all well worn but also well maintained and certainly got the job done. We were also given a Mr Hugo made map that was a tad confusing a times, but had all the important vineyards and other tasty stops marked out along the 10 km strip.
Our first stop was Vinoteca Botella, a very new (less than one year old) wine tasting studio run by Christian, a cheery chap and for only $35 AR peso's each we got an empanada, to taste 3 local wines and a massive 2 litre bottle of vino for us to share.
We hopped back on our bikes and headed to the next stop, Domiciano de Barrancas. Here we caught the end of a tour of the factory showing the american and french oak barrels the wine is matured in and got another 3 gasses of wine.
The wine here was FANTASTIC.
After this stop we had all had close to 6 or 7 glasses of wine and were really starting to enjoy ourselves. The day we chose to do this self run tour was nice and sunny, but ended up reaching about 35 degrees. Luckily the area around Maipú is extremely flat otherwise I don’t think we would have made it home.
3rd stop was a place that made olive oil, olive spreads, jams, chocolates and liquors. Highlights were a delicious olive/garlic tapenade, a jam made of chardonnay grapes, a home made creme de menthe liquor and some spiced/mulled wines served very cold.
The distance between stops 3 and 4 should have been about 8km as we went from one end of the strip to the other, but as the local produce caught up with us, here we got a little lost. Eventually a group of local fellas pointed us in the right direction and we managed to find stop number 4, a local Cervezeria or artesenal brewery.
They had a good little mix of nice cold beers and delicious pizzas which after the long hot ride was just what the doctor ordered. The pale ale, red ale and even the porter all went down extremely well in the beautiful little beer garden filled with fruit trees.
Whilst we all could have happily fallen asleep and stayed here until the resident horse started chewing on our hair, there was still work to be done. Back on the bikes and onto the next vineyard - Mevi.
By the time we got here, it was getting a little late in the afternoon. We paid $35 for a pick of 3 glasses of any 6 varieties including a Malbec Rosé, and a Bonarda, 2 styles we were yet to see on the trip. Much less information was given here and the lady who served the wines seemed to be more tired even than us, but by this stage we didn’t really care and were happy to relax in the air-con comfort, sipping some wine and taking in the beautiful view over the vines with the Andes in the background.
We left Mevi at about 5:30 and as most bodegas close at 6, we had time for one final stop on the way back to Mr Hugo’s to drop off the bikes. For something different on the final stop we chose the local distillery. We tried some awesome grappas, brandies, anise liquors and citrus based liquors.
We cruised back to Mr Hugo’s to be greeted with that familiar warm smile and a nice cold glass of lemon cordial, and relaxed for a while before we jumped back on the bus to the hostel in Mendoza.
We all had so much fun despite the heat, and found the hardest thing about the day was the fact we have such limited bag space that it wasn’t possible to bring enough of the delicious wares this region has along with us.
Mendoza Madness - Day 1
Our first 2 days in Mendoza were full of wine, wine, a colourful bus, wine, a couple of bikes and more wine.
We arrived early Thursday morning fresh off yet another 15 hour bus and headed for our hostel, Lagares. This hostel is great, so when you are in Mendoza... stay here.
That afternoon we headed off on a half day wine tour where we visited 2 bodegas (vineyards) and an olive oil factory.
The vineyards were Vistandes and Don Arturo, and the olive oil factory was Pasrai.
At the first vineyard, Vistandes we got a tour of their modern factory, complete with huge stainless steel drums to hold the wine during the first and main stage of fermentation - or in other words until it gets to that sweet groggy spot. We also got 2 glasses of wine here, both of which were okay but not our favourite.. To be honest the girl giving the tour seemed more excited to tell us about the electronic music at the night club she worked at on the weekends than the wine, however we learnt all the tricks to looking professional when tasting wine.
LOOKING PRO, QUICK TIPS:
- Hold your wine glass by the stem with 3 fingers around, and 2 underneath the glass.
- Smell wine
- Swirl wine around in a circle (you can do this on the table if it's too hard to evenly swirl in your hand)
- Smell wine AGAIN
- Smell AGAIN
- Repeat with multiple products until satisfied/drunk
Our second stop was the olive oil factory, Pasrai. We learnt that it can take 6-8kg of olives to make just one litre of extra virgin olive oil - no wonder it's not cheap. They had some super tasty olive oils including a garlic one and a rosemary flavoured one. At this point we began to suspect that the hardest thing about Mendoza would be that we have really no space left in our bags to stock up on all the delicious goodies this area has to offer.
At the last stop and second vineyard, Don Arturo we got 4 glasses of wine and a tour of their traditional style wine production. We loved the wine here, and it was cool to see wine being made in the same way it has been for almost one hundred years.
The next post follows a full day biking around Maipu, a town full of many bodegas, distilleries, olive oil and liquor producers.
7 Days in Buenos Aires Baby!
We arrived in Buenos Aires after an 18 hour bus trip. On the bus we decided to purchase "Cama Ejecutivo” seats and thus our seats looked like recliners and were for the most part, super comfortable. Nonetheless it was still a bus, and buses suck so getting out was fantastic.
We made our way to our hostel, Milhouse Avenue and settled in. The hostel is really well known amongst travellers of the area and anyone who has looked at BA on hostel world, and we liked it.
In the afternoon we we met up with one of our friends from Uni (Hi Ness) who also happened to be in BA. After searching the streets until 10pm for a feed we found El Remanso. We got great steak (chicken for me), pasta and all you can eat salad for only $135 (more than our standard meal but not too bad... And for all you can eat salad… I was sold).
The next day we went on an afternoon Buenos Aires Free Walking Tour. This tour was similar to the ones we did in Chile, such that you pay whatever you think the tour is worth (they make their money off tips).
The tour visited some of the local historical sites around Plaza de Mayo. It was good however it was stinking hot, and thus we were all happy when it ended and we could seek some shelter from the sun. After the tour we raced back to the hostel, grabbed some money and hopped on the subtle (subway) to Palermo to meet a couple we met at Iguazu Falls for dinner.
In Palermo we went to La Cabrera, a boutique restaurant well known for it’s huge steaks. Between 7 and 8 you get 40% off your meal and thus Sean ordered the largest steak there was, 800g whilst myself, Sammy and Rach all got 400g steaks. I of course couldn’t finish mine (I’m not mad about meat) and so Sean helped, meaning he ate AT LEAST 1kg of steak that evening.
After the meal we went and had a couple of bottles of red wine at a bar/restaurant in Palermo Soho.
The next day we did another walking tour, this time in the morning. The tour again took us around some of the well known areas in the city’s north. After the tour Sean, Sammy and I headed back to our hostel (about a 3km walk) and managed to get lost. HOWEVER upon getting lost we found a delicious and cheap bakery, and we did eventually find our way back.
That night we had drinks at our hostel (snuck a bottle of red wine in) and headed over to the other Milhouse hostel where there was happy hour and a party. From the other hostel we hopped on a minibus and got taken to a big club in the area, Terrazes.
We headed home around 4, it was fun but nothing to write home about.
Sunday we headed to the markets of San Telmo. We again met up with Ness and explored for a few hours. The markets were full of cute little trinkets and other touristy stuff. We didn’t buy much however Sean got a new (much needed as he had been using a ziplock bag) wallet for AR$40.
On the way home from the markets we visited Cafe Tortoni, BA’s oldest cafe. Established in 1858 the cafe has been maintained in its original condition. It was beautiful inside (and very old school). That evening we met Ness and co for a last dinner. We went to Rico’s Tacos in Palermo.
Monday morning Rach flew home, and thus the pack became 3. That day we adventured around town, got a buffet lunch and visited an amazing ice creamery (Argentineans brag that their ice cream is better than anywhere in the world).
Tuesday we were meant to do a walking tour in La Boca, however it was pouring so this was cancelled… Instead we did a “Cook & Booze” class where we got to drink wine and make our own empanadas!
The class turned out to be lots of fun! We made 3 empanadas each, 2 traditional ones and one we designed ourselves (I won a t-shirt for my wine bottle design) as well as making a pastille, a sweet pastry filled with quince paste.
On our last day we visited La Boca. Here there are many colourful houses and stores and of course the Boca Jnr Stadium. We got all the standard tourist photos in the town and headed to the stadium for a short self guided tour.
From La Boca we returned to the hostel, had lunch, gathered our things and headed for the Bus station.
Next stop Mendoza, I can already taste the Malbec!
We ended up taking a taxi across the border in the afternoon after seeing the Brazilian side of the falls. We had planned on getting a bus across but heard that one that morning had been held up at gunpoint. Needless to say, change of plans.
The cab was insanely easy and literally took us from the front door of our hostel in Brazil to our one in Argentina. We only had to get out of the car once to get our passports stamped out of Brazil, and when we entered Argentina all we had to do was hand our passports into a little booth and take our sunnies off without getting out of the car.
In Puerto Iguazu - the Argentinian town - we stayed in Garden Stone Hostel, which had clean rooms and a bright open outside kitchen right next to a pool. We cooled off in the pool on the first arvo and got an early dinner and nights sleep before heading to the falls again on the next day.
The Argentinian side of the falls was reachable by a private bus company - $100 Pesos for a return trip - and buses ran every 20 minutes or so. The park entry cost $260 pesos for international visitors. We got to the park and walked towards the first of 3 mini railway stations which were used to ferry people towards the Argentine side of “The Devils Throat.” We missed the first train because the line was too long, but found out we could walk to the second station anyway. Our impatient little crew walked to the second station and despite being caught behind a big crowd of people and a pack of those dastardly coatis, managed to beat the train.
At the second station we had to wait for a solid 40 minutes to head up to the 3rd and last station at the devil’s throat, and walking was not an option here as the road was closed for safety. Once arriving we walked for a good 500m or so along some amazing manmade catwalks stretched out across the little islands on the Iguazu river above the falls. We ended up at the Devil’s Throat lookout and stood in awe for the 2nd time in as many days.
From here we headed back via train to the lower trails. Again these were amazing and had 100's of view points from above, below and the middle of the falls. After lunch and 1 million photos we went on a fast boat trip. For $270 Argentinean Pesos (Roughly $40 AUD) we got into a quick boat and were taken UNDERNEATH the falls. The water was moving so fast and everyone was screaming, it was insane!
Again, words don’t really do it justice, so look at some pictures and videos. Any questions... Just ask!
P.s. We're headed to Buenos Aires next, another 18 hour bus ride. Joy!
Monday morning we woke up, packed our things and ate breaky at the hostel. After leaving our belongings with front desk we headed for the local bus to the falls.
The bus is the 120 and costs R$2.90 and takes around 40 minutes. and the ticket into the falls costs R$52.50 (unless you're from Argentina, Brazil or Paraguay).
Once you arrive at the park you hop on a bus that takes you to various stops (adventure tours, boat trips, jeep safari rides etc). We just hopped off at the beginning of the trail (only 1-2km long) and walked around the cliff face.
The trail overlooks the falls from afar (majority of falls on Argentinian side) and gives you a spectacular view of how enormous they are and how much power they have.
At the end of the trail there is a walk way that goes out into “The Devils Throat”. It takes you out and into the middle of the falls and gives you a great up close view.
Theres not much I can say to explain how beautiful and amazing this place is… So instead I’ll post lots of pictures.
This arvo we’re off to Argentina. We’ll be doing the Argentinian side of the falls tomorrow. I’m sure it will be just as amazing.
We arrived in Foz do Iguazu after an 18 hour bus trip… Needless to say everyone was in great spirits.
After finally finding our hostel via their cryptic clues “Get on the centro bus, get off across the road from the gaucho building, the hostel is right there” we found the hostel..
Its important for me to note here that there are multiple buses to centro (all taking different routes) and there are multiple gaucho buildings AND when we did indeed find The Gaucho hostel it was NOT “just across the road”.
We dropped our stuff at the hostel and went and got lunch. Again were staying at a Che Lagarto, this one was a 9 story “high rise” (comparatively to other hostels) and had an roof top deck with a spa and pool and an amazing view of the city.
That night we went to a Brazilian all you can eat Churrasco BBQ, Buffalo Branco. For $60 Reals (Just under $30 AUD) each we had access to a huge salad, vegetable, rice, pasta, chips and dessert buffet as well as being brought meat skewer after rack of ribs after chicken wrapped in bacon after… you get the picture. This place was awesome, the food was fantastic and the device was great. Although the price is almost 3 times of what you’d normally spend on a meal in Brazil it was totally worth it for a little bit of a splurge on our last night.
After dinner we headed back to our hostel rooftop for Free Caiprinia hour. This took place between 7:30 and 8:30 and in this hour you can have as many free caipirinhas as you’d like. It also happens that this hour coincides with a stunning sunset over the city.
Not bad Foz do Iguazu.
Tomorrow we’re going to the Falls!
1 Week in Florianopolis
We left Paraty on Boxing Day around lunch time and got a 6 hour bus to Sao Paulo - the biggest bus depot in the southern hemisphere. Whilst being made notably less mobile by all of our stuff, we had to kill another 6 hours or so inside the depot. We spent most of the time getting dinner, looking at the switchblades for sale and breaking the all time record of the basketball free throw arcade game.
We jumped on a bus to Florianopolis at 11:30pm for the first of what I’m sure will be many uncomfortable nights “sleeping” on a long distance bus during this trip.
Anyway, we got to the Florianopolis bus depot at about 11am the next day, and as no one could be bothered working out the local bus system after a pretty average nights sleep, we jumped in a cab that cost about $35 AUD to our home for the next week - Barra Surf Hostel.
Our stay in Barra da Lagoa was for the week over New Years Eve, one of the busiest times of the year. Naturally this came with the associated crowds and traffic, but more about that later.
We were warmly checked into Barra Surf Hostel by Rodrigo and Mariane, the husband-wife team of owners who wasted no time in recommending an awesome pay for weight lunch place and some nice places to swim after. We had a big feed and went for a shortish walk to explore the neighbourhood, as well as check out some local natural pools around the headland from Barra beach.
The pools were pretty crowded, but we found a nice spot to swim off the rocks in a little cove about 5 minutes walk farther down a trail. Sammy also made friends with a 4 legged local who chased him around in and out of the water for about 10 minutes, and made it exceedingly difficult to scramble back out onto the barnacle covered rocks. He didn’t think it was as funny as I did at the time, but definitely saw the lighter side when the dog repeated the process with a Brazilian guy about 5 minutes later.
The next day we took a bus to Lagoa da Conceicao, and then jumped on a ferry up the lake to Costa da Lagoa in the search of some more little waterfalls as described by our host Rodrigo. We ended up walking the wrong way for about half an hour, but still managed to have some fun in the sun walking around the lake and stumbling across a private little beach for a swim. Some locals pointed us in the right direction eventually through broken portuguese-english and we eventually found the waterfalls. These weren’t as big as the ones we saw in Paraty, but it was still a nice place to have a splash.
The we started the next day by going to the local Tartaruga - or sea turtle sanctuary, which was just around the corner from our hostel. All the guides were in portuguese, but there was plenty of written information everywhere in english so we could get a gist of what the place was about, and also learnt a bit about some other local sea life. We saw some sad, sick old fellas who had been rescued and appeared set to live out their days in the enclosures, but also some cute young ones who looked like they might be fit for release in the hopefully not too distant future. I always have mixed feelings about critters in cages or tanks, but due to the language barrier I can’t really make judgement on this particular spot.
We had fun spending the rest of the day at the beach mucking around on some soft boards that were free to borrow from the hostel, and sampling all of the tasty corn and other treats being sold on the sand. That night we had a few drinks and tried to go out to a “Green-Go” party, where every time a green light behind the bar went on you got 2 for 1 drinks. But, when we got to the club we were met with a line a mile long that wasn’t moving, so we walked around for a bit and then got a bus back home to bed.
Now is probably a good time to mention that Florianopolis as an island is absolutely huge. Although the bus system around the island seemed to be quite thorough, due to the ridiculous traffic from the holiday crowds (turning 10 minute drives into 2+ hour drives), we more or less stayed around the central/east side of the island during our stay, and thus didn’t get to see a huge amount of what the area had to offer.
On new years eve we started the day by hiring some sand boards on some nearby dunes. Sand boarding is so much harder than it sounds, kinda like trying to snowboard on really icy snow, but it was still lots of fun laughing at each other getting axed trying to make it down the hill.
That night we had an absolute feast for dinner put on by the team from Barra Surf Hostel. $R35 (about $17AUD) got us all you could eat Brazilian BBQ meats and salads, cooked on a coal fire in drums on the hostel rooftop. We also got a delicious home made dessert by Mariane and a cheeky glass of bubbles to wash it all down. After the feast we all stumbled down to the beach, which was packed with tourists and locals alike to welcome in 2015. There was plenty of fireworks, cheap capirinhas and people in white clothes (for good luck).
The next day everyone was dead. Not legit dead, but close enough. We slothed around moving only to go to the beach, lay on the sand and lay in the shade at the hostel.
The next day we again lurked at the beach, packed our stuff (we were leaving the next day) and went for a little surf. We booked tickets to see David Guetta that night, which was quite a memorable evening, and not necessarily for all the right reasons. We booked our tickets and transfers and were told to meet the bus down at the beach at 9:30 pm to get a bus to the concert. Now I’m pretty sure we’ve mentioned this before, but people like to do things pretty late in Brazil, and that is especially so with partying. We didn’t know how well this would eventually turn out in our favour.
We met the bus at 9:30 at the beach, and the driver eventually let us on to get out of the rain at about 9:45. The bus didn’t end up leaving until about 10:30, but this was ok because there was a convenience store and some public bathrooms across the road so we could all stock up on beers for the trip into the concert, and then let them out the other end.
About an hour into the trip and 14km or so from the concert, the bus hit a complete standstill in traffic. Naturally by then everyone on board had a few beverages under their belts, and Brazilians and gringos alike were peering out of the rainy bus windows for dark corners we could possibly duck behind to take a leak. However, despite the bus being completely stationary for 5-10 minutes at a time and no end to the traffic in sight, our driver would not open the doors for us to relieve ourselves. Eventually afraid of someone making a mess on board, he relented and pulled over onto the side of the road. Everyone rushed out and found the nearest bush to duck behind and the driver even stepped out of the bus for a durrie.
After answering natures call we went back over to the bus and found the driver still standing out on the street looking pretty wired. We also found a bloke we had met earlier in the night, lets call him “Jim” was still sitting on the bus, shotgun up next to the drivers seat. “Jim” was about 40 from an undisclosed location in Australia, and had bragging about how much coke he was going to ingest tonight. By the looks of it he had shared a fair bit of his stash with our driver. Anyway, whilst everyone was off the bus, driver included, Jim thought it would be funny to hop behind the wheel and drive the bus a little in the traffic. He made it about a metre in total before the coked up driver and his mate rushed on board, dragged Jim out onto the footpath and threatened to belt him over the head with a tyre iron. Shit hit the proverbial fan after this, and combined with the gridlock on the road, we abandoned our transport and started looking at other ways to get to the concert.
We tried to hail down other buses which refused to stop, but basically ended up walking the remaining 12km or so to the concert along the shoulder of the gridlocked highway. Eventually we got there, tired and muddy but safe, and just in time for Guetta’s set at 2am. Thank God for Brazilians and their late starts!
Although Guetta’s music isn’t normally my cup of tea and despite the fact getting there was an absolute debacle, we all still had heaps of fun at the concert and it was definitely worthwhile. The abandoned bus was meant to take us home after too, so we ended up having to get a $40 cab back to the hostel.
We managed about an hour sleep before getting up for breakkie and a local bus to the depot for our 18 hour trip to Iguazu Falls!
Next stop.... Foz do Iguaçu!
An Aussie who loves travelling, hiking, trail running and pretty much any activity you can do outdoors.