Hot on the heels of his HUGE Brazilian adventure, Dave now hits Argentina and makes the inevitable comparison between countries and provides us with general travel tips around the area.
After reading this post myself, I must admit to being seduced by Iguazu Falls. I remember Niagra from a previous trip and I am quite curious how Iguazu compares.
I am not sure I can keep up with party Dave’s hectic schedule however. Ah, young people today..
Argentina Iguazu to Buenos Aires – March 2008
My next destination was Iguazu falls, the Argentinian side. You can actually view the falls from both Brazil and Argentina, but I had decided to do the more popular southern side of the falls. I travelled down there on a rather packed Brazilian bus; a couple of English friends were with me from Florianopolis.
My first dilemma was at Customs Control – when you land in Brazil you are given a receipt that you must keep on you at all times, it’s necessary for when exiting the country. I had lost this receipt; it was really a green slip of paper which I believe I may have put through the wash, nothing very formal looking. I think it was an easy way to fine people on leaving the country. However after plenty of smiles and confusion, Customs let me through, no fine.
On the bus I sat next to an English-speaking Brazilian guy who was interested in talking about travel so discussed several things, including tattoo parlours in Buenos Aires. I was most impressed with this idea and was thinking about getting one (more on this later).
When I arrived at the hostel, I was most impressed with the set up: it was apparently an old converted resort with a large swimming pool. The resort was in good order and the beds were very comfortable for a hostel. The room I was in also included air-conditioning which was also a godsend; this was something much appreciated which I had not experienced in a very humid Brazil.
As I no real plan, I decided to book in four for days. The first night was pretty cool, chilled out by the pool drinking cocktails and chatted with some backpackers I’d met previously in Rio, I termed them the Irish crew. There were a few other guys from Carnaval, as well as the English that had travelled with me from Florianopolis.
I was starting to get to know a few people who was good fun and kind of comforting.
The next day I headed down to Iguazu Falls. It’s the most spectacular national park I have been to; maybe not as epic in size as the Grand Canyon but I could get down into it and I loved the amount of water in the humid conditions.
The waterfalls absolutely dwarfed any other waterfalls I’ve seen, including Niagra. You could feel the spray from the falls and hear them from virtually anywhere in the park. The sensation is like walking through mist but with clear air.
The park ticket includes a free train ride to the head of the falls where you can see Brazil as well as appreciate the sheer power of the water flow. I took the train back and then walked along the top ridge of the falls which are quite spectacular. The top part are all linked together by interconnecting walkways.
Finally I walked to the bottom of the falls and crossed by boat to an island, again a different perspective. After staring at the falls for what seemed like hours, I decided to take a swim in the cold water, took some snapshots of butterflies and then headed back to the hostel.
I was in the park all up 7 hours or so and enjoyed every moment of it.
That night (actually every night) I paid for a meal that was provided by the hostel (which was relatively cheap). It’s all you can eat traditional food of tacos’s and so forth. The town of Iguazu is not big and not within walking distance of where I was staying. I chatted with several backpackers, dabbled in a little “romancing” and the place had a very chilled out vibe. I could have stayed there a lot longer and it kind of reminded me of my time in rural Australia, isolated and natural. The days involved relaxing by the pool, working on the tan and drinking cocktails.
The only exception to this routine was the Saturday night when the hostel put on a Samba party.
After stuffing my face on various assorted meats from the all you can eat dinner, we all sat around to watch Samba dancing, your truly was dragged up by the Samba dancer who I suspect took a liking to me from the amounts of hugs and kisses she gave me in particular, as there were a group of guys up there with me. The only negative about this was I wasn’t too sure of the dancer’s sex; she was androgynous and I seriously debated doing a “Croc Dundee” on her. I had a go at Samba which to be honest I don’t find that difficult, which also attracted her attention.
“The Samba strikes me as a variation on the “running man” dance, just quicken your step and shorten your stride, stay on your toes and wave your arms about, hey presto, Samba.“
I’ve now started to get back into the flow of backpacking now and I was really enjoying it. The USA was different as there was no real backpacking route and so you don’t run across the same people. And there was too many different directions you can head.
Carnaval was different also as there is so much going on that there was no time to catch my breath, and Florianopolis was mainly about recovering from Carnaval.
Iguazu was really good, met some great people, whom were all heading in the same direction as I was.
I started to form some good friendships, which I believe is what backpacking is all about.
..besides waterfalls, spectacular sunsets, drunkenness and hangovers.
Next stop Buenos Aires.
The Bus Service, English language and the high prices
I arrived at my hostel after a 14 hour bus ride, the Argentinian bus service was excellent, much better than the bus from Brazil (though again could not book over the internet). I had purchased a first class ticket which included free alcohol, food, movies and a lay down seat as you would expect in a first class airline, even received a pillow and blanket. I’d say it’s probably the best bus I’ve ever been on. The Argentinians really know about quality service.
Upon arriving at the hostel, I collapsed into bed and had a nice sleep. That night I started off in the hostel bar, caught up with some mates Aussie mates from Florianopolis and hit a night club that was featuring a French evening. The locals were friendly enough and the ones I spoke to were fluent in English, very unlike Brazil where apart from the hostel, nobody spoke English.
I also noticed that unlike Brazil, Buenos Aires (BA) was expensive to drink in bars, or at least the bars I was in so I did watch my drinking outside the hostel. I ended up packing it in at around 3 in the morning as I was still a little buggered (i.e. tired) from the bus ride (this is considered early).
Evita, France and Dance
I walked around and went to the local grave yard to check out Evita’s grave and took a stroll around many of the local historic and government buildings dotted around the place.
I grabbed a steak lunch (steaks locally called carne, are everywhere, taste great and are cheap to eat) in one of the Parisian style cafe’s.
I appreciated the local buildings, most of the architecture reminded me of Paris.
I then headed to Bond Street where the tattoo parlours are located as I was debating whether or not to do this (and I didn’t get it…yet).
That night was spent in the hostel bar and then we headed down to a night club in Palermo at about 2 in the morning (Palermo is the main party district). As indicated earlier, BA gets going really late at night which really can mess with your sleep cycle. I found it too expensive to drink so I found it to be a sobering experience.
The club was playing progressive house music which I was very impressed with, very European and much better than the clubs in the USA and Brazil. I stayed there till about 5 in the morning and got back to bed at around 6.
Give me the NIGHT and The Drag Show
Day 3 was almost halfway over before I rolled out of bed, I got up, had a steak for lunch and then collapsed back to sleep for another few hours. BA is truly for the night owl and I was seriously enjoying it.
I went out to a cinema and took in a movie late in the evening (just for some normalcy) and then headed back to the hostel in time for the evening’s festivities. This involved one of the worst curries (should stick to carne) I’ve ever had and then a dance party within the common room.
It was two-for-one cocktail and before you could say “carefully considered judgement” I was off to another night club at about 3 in the morning. The place I went to was one of the odder club nights I’ve attended. I was told that the venue had a drag queen show and being from Sydney I was well versed in such things and thought I’d know what to expect, I didn’t…
The drag queens consisted of 11 people dressed up as the band “KISS”, the women were dressed as men and then men were also men (very not drag queen). The music started off with KISS, and then reverted to progressive house music for the next few hours and consisted of moving a podium though the crowd with various members of KISS simulating various sex acts (incidentally the place was called Club 69).
At the end of the evening, one of the KISS crew took off all her clothes and did a podium dance, I was not familiar with drag queens acting this way previously.
I got back to the hostel at about 7am, chatted with the Irish crew as I was still buzzing and eventually went to sleep around 9am.
My first tattoo
After having a rather refreshing sleep, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get a tattoo; I’d been contemplating a tattoo on and off for years. As I wasn’t hung over and my judgement didn’t seem to be too impaired, I headed off to Bond street. Bond Street is quite a famous place apparently in the world of tattoos and figured this was as good as place as any to get it done.
I had decided on a symbol of St Christopher “Patron Saint of Travellers” (I am by no means religious, I just liked the idea) and had spent a lot of time pondering and working on the details over the last few years.
I selected a parlour, had the design drawn up and then spent around 90 minutes under the needle, with various degrees of pain, though I can’t say it was too bad. The whole experience was very professional, I signed forms indicating I had no diseases and they showed me the fresh needle they would be using. After the artist finished up, I purchased myself some salve, my arm was wrapped in plastic and I headed back to the hostel, whilst profusely bleeding, this did stop after an hour or so.
And even more partying
After showing off my new travel tattoo to some mates, I went back to bed for a nap. Saturday night is the biggest clubbing night and I had to be prepared.
Preparations for the evening involved going to a quality restaurant with the Aussie backpackers I’d befriended, the restaurant was on the water with a great view and the food was excellent. I ordered carne, it was the best one I’d had so far and it was nice to be in a sophisticated restaurant and moderately priced. It was then back to the hostel, downed a few cocktails and then off to Pacha nightclub.
The club set up was excellent, located on the water; the music was great and again a mix of progressive and hard house. I danced around yet again (much better exercise than the gym) chatted with several people and then back to bed at around 6 in the morning, I figured I’d have an early one as was off to the football the next day.
[Editors Note: How Dave could keep up this pace is anyone’s guess]
The Local Soccer game
I was really looking forward to the football (futball) today; Boca Juniors were playing against Argentinos (Maradonna’s first team) in a local derby game. We headed down to Boca, a rundown area of BA, and had a few pints before the game was due to start. I purchased myself a Boca replica shirt and then we headed through the streets with local supporters to the game.
I must say I wasn’t overly impressed with the stadium..actually, it was terrible; we had a fairly restricted view of the game and were well up inside the stadium behind the goals.
The quality of the game from what I could see was most impressive, I didn’t have high expectations after seeing the football in Brazil which I considered fairly poor, so it was a pleasant surprise. The atmosphere was pretty hectic and a notable highlight was watching Requilme play, he managed a goal, controlled the game and was excellent, the game finished up 3 0 to Boca and it was great to be supporting the winning team.
I went to the toilet and noticed policeman urinating on the toilet door, he quickly stopped upon noticing me, did up his fly and rushed out again, this was very random and I thought.
After the game finished we were locked in the overcrowded stadium for another hour, apparently the away fans have a habit of urinating on the people seated below them which is why we were kept inside, for their safety.
Maybe the policeman was supporting Argentinos and expressing his frustration in this strange way. I then headed back, had a couple of beers, had a steak dinner and had a very early one at 2am.
St Patrick’s Day
It was St Patrick’s Day, apparently BA is the best place in South America to celebrate and the Kilkenny bar is the best place to drink in, so I headed there promptly at 1pm.
Upon finding out they didn’t sell cider (ridiculous) I started downing GT’s, I had not acquired a taste for Brazilian or Argentinian beer, I did not like it and it all tasted the same so when in bars I was drinking spirits. My Irish friends piled into the bar and everything became slightly hazy after that. I spoke to several million people and then I and a Scottish girl decided to hit the street at around 7 or so.
The streets were absolutely rammed and it was very difficult to move about, I vaguely remember being in front of a TV camera and then I started to climb a light pole as this seemed the thing to do. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I was not feeling coordinated and I didn’t get very far..
The Scott and myself then went to a restaurant where I accidentally ordered pasta with nothing to accompany it, Went back to the hostel, said goodbye to the Scott and promptly crashed at around 3 in the morning. I think I enjoyed myself, but hey who remembers what goes on during St Patrick’s Day.
Rio, Buenos Aires, Sydney and Melbourne – A Comparison
Didn’t have much to do as it was time to leave, I was going through too much money and the liver was having a bit of trouble coping.
BA is fantastic place and I think I could even see myself living there; it’s very clean and modern. I was not expecting this kind of environment after Rio and I truly loved it.
The best way to compare it I suppose is Rio is Sydney and Melbourne is BA. Rio relies on its beaches, Carnaval and its identity to bring in the tourists while BA strikes me as more cultural, quality restaurants, easy to get around and friendlier people like in Melbourne (Sydney is however much safer than Rio).
The restaurants and food are first class, the alcohol is more expensive than Sydney bars and the nightclubs are probably twice as much to enter. Nevertheless, if you’re a night owl and love to party, this is the place to be.
I was time to be off to the countryside to do some hiking …
[yep, we will pick this up in our next post]
The Travel Bug
The Travel Bug is a collaboration project that goes through Dave’s travel journals around the world. We started this series a while back and finished in Brazil in our last post. We will continue this series when he returns down under.
He is on another trip at present (Vancouver, USA, Copenhagen, Paris, around the UK, Spain and South Africa).
PC likes getting the job done by day and writes, designs and codes during his spare time. He also enjoys having a drink with Dave and hearing his tall travel tales.
We hope to entertain you through this collection of stories.