Road To The Falls

Trip Start Aug 08, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2009

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Flag of Argentina  , Litoral,
Monday, May 12, 2008

Back in Buenos Aires I was starting to get a lot more familiar with my surroundings so of I went to explore another area and I picked Palermo which had a definite Italian influence about it.  After taking an easy subway ride, I spent the afternoon in the huge park area there.  Lovely place with a big lake, pedal boats, lots of joggers and skaters and about 400 statues including one of William Shakespeare (does our number one play-writer have Argentinian heritage??).  On the way back to central, the subway train I was on broke down and I had to get out and leave the subway station in the middle of absolutely no-where.  I recognised a bus number from a previous day and got on that and jumped off where I thought was near my hostel.  I was wrong it was about 2km away so walked the rest rather try to work out the bus routes - I was beginning to think Buenos Aires didn´t like me.

That evening, having been to a Boca Juniors game on Sunday, I went to see their arch rivals River Plate in the second round of the Copa Libertadores.  They were playing local rivals San Lorenzo and were 2-1 down from the first leg so this was a massive game for them, the extent of which could be felt as the players came out as there was a huge firework display (with the fireworks being let of from the stands), and lots of flares and singing.  The atmosphere was electric and for me matched what I had seen the previous Sunday in the Bombonera.  Unlike in the Bombonera this game was actually good and River Plate had managed to go 2-0 up, much to the pleasure of their ecstatic fans.  San Lorenzo had had 2 players sent off so it was looking like being a good night for River.  Not so.  San Lorenzo clawed 2 goals back, and even though now needing 2 goals to win River stuck to a rigid 4-4-2 formation against 9 men.  It was very poor play and they deserved to get knocked out.  And what happens over here when the away team wins a high profile game?  The home crowd gets kept behind for 40 minutes until the away end clears.  Back home the away fans would get kept behind but it works in the opposite direction here and so I took part in the very strange experience of 60,000 fans being locked in, while the San Lorenzo fans made their way out chanting and jeering at the River Plate fans and even riping up and throwing seats at them.

On the Friday morning I was up early and heading 80km north to an estancia called 'Los Dos Hermanos'.  An Estancia is Spanish for a ranch and this was one was highly recommended on a web site as one of the top attractions in the whole of South America.  On arrival we met Alejandro and Don Juan the resident Gauchos who would be looking after us.  The only other people their that day was Mike and Illana a couple from the US, so with only 4 of us we´d get good attention.  After a breakfast of coffee, croissants and pastries, I put on my chaps and headed to meet my horse for the day who was called ´il abogado´ which translated to ´The Lawyer´.  I don´t know any lawyers to compare him to but this one didn´t want to do what I wanted it to do.  I could steer it left and right easy enough but couldn´t make it accelerate or brake, (nor could I find the clutch for that matter).  After 2 hours riding around the inside of the ranch, I headed for lunch unsuccessfully trying not to look like John Wayne - I´d never ridden a horse before but it helped me find muscles I didn´t know I had.

Lunch consisted of the greatest steak empanandas ever and beer which we all stocked up on only to realise that this was just the start.  We then had various cuts of meat from the parilla including some fantastic ribs and chorizo and some lomo which is without a doubt the tastiest steak I´ve ever had.  I was completely stuffed when I´d finished and had a lie down in a hammock for half an hour before heading back on to the horses again for another 2 and half hours riding outside of the ranch.  We got the horses doing some galloping in this session and I have to say I´ve never been so out of control of where I was going and I´m surprised I didn´t fall off (not to mention the family jewels getting a bit of a battering during this).  All good fun but I´m not so sure I´m cut out for horse riding, especially when I saw Don Juan the head gaucho rounding up about 20 horses with consummate ease.  In the evening, the beer and wine flowed as we chilled out with Alejandro, Illana and Mike and had a nice evening and more great food, a stew of gnocchi and steak and a mouth watering dessert.  We stayed over night on the ranch and for the first time in months I got a room all to myself - no dorms, no bunk beds, no noise, it was bliss.  In the morning we left the ranch but I could quite easily have stayed another few days - I´d definitely recommend this place if you´re in Buenos Aires.

After another 18 hours on a bus we were in Puerto Iguazu, a small town right on the tri-border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay and famous for its access to the Iguazu Falls.  The first task of the day was to watch Man Utd beat Wigan to retain the premiership trophy (get in!!).  I love the commentary out here for football, the commentators really go wild and shout Goooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllll!!  for every goal and make up songs for the goalscorers.  What particularly amused me was the constant nicknaming of Edwin Van De Saar as Pinocchio, not just once but every time he touched the ball as if it was his natural surname.  The rest of that first day I just spent looking around the small town centre and walking the 5km back to the hostel from there.  In the evening we met up with Nick and Emma, a couple we'd met previously in Bariloche, and a couple of English girls we'd met in Buenos Aires.

The next morning we went to the Iguazu national park, where it was 40 Argentinian pesos to get in (about 8 quid) but included all access to the park, a train ride to the 'devils throat' section of the falls and a free ferry trip to Isla San Martin (granted this was only a 2 minute ferry ride).  There were loads of tourists here even though it was not high season but the falls were magnificent - its regularly quoted that when Eleanor Roosevelt saw the falls she exclaimed "Poor Niagara" with reference to her own countries falls.  It took about 5 hours to cover all the trails at the falls, the highlight of which was definitely the 'Devils Throat' which really takes you aback when you see the amount of water gushing down it.

The next day we took the morning bus across the border to Brazil.  It took 2 hours in total but only because the bus drops you off at Brazilian emigration and then you have to wait for the next bus to come along.  Foz Da Iguazu is the the main town on the Brazilian side of the falls and its a complete contrast to Puerto Iguazu as its a much bigger and busy city.  We stayed at hostel further out into the countryside just because it was closer to the falls which was the reason we were here.  The Brazilian side was similar price to the Argentinian side but there wasn't as much to do and we covered it in just a couple of hours.  The falls do look much grander on this side though and makes for better pictures especially when the sun shines and creates the rainbows through the falls, so its well worth seeing both sides I reckon.  We had a quiet night at the hostel that night before getting on another mammoth bus ride to Sao Paulo and a taste of the real Brazil.
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