The Last Leg
Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
17Trip End Apr 27, 2008
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We took a taxi ride out to Palermo later that night to sample Lonely Planetīs most highly recommended steakhouse (no small honour in a city brimming with them) and we werenīt disappointed. We were presented with two steaks weighing a few kilograms each, and accompanied by dozens of pots of every possible condiment.
The next day we visited the poshest suburb of Buenos Aires called Recoleta, where the rich and famous reside. In the centre is a large and elaborate cemetary where all of Argentinaīs biggest stars are buried, including Evita. Surrounding this are large parks and green spaces full of trees and fountains and Avenida Alvear is the main street, lined with Hermes, Armani and very expensive hotels. Feeling very out of place wearing our now worn and dirty clothes we headed back into the centre of town and back to Avenida Florida where we took advantage of the cheap prices in Argentina to buy a few more clothes.
That evening we took a walk down to the bright pink presidential palace in the centre of the city which features the balcony from where Evita made her famous speech, and then we strolled around the nearby marina which has recently been extensively redeveloped and the waterside which houses hundreds of luxury yachts was lined with swanky restaurants and bars.
We followed this up with a visit to a tango show in the Buenos Aires instution Café Tortoni where three couples and a live band performed great tango dancing in the basement of a lively restaurant.
Although we were only in Buenos Aires for two days, we could have stayed for much longer. Itīs a beautiful city and everybody there was very friendly. It had an almost European feel and felt very out of place from the rest of South America that weīve visited.
The next morning we awoke to a strange site - all of the city was covered in a thick smog which reduced visibility down to around 20m. We jumped in a taxi to the airport to find that all flights had been suspended until it cleared and the airport soon filled up with people waiting to fly out. It turned out that the cause was angry farmers lighting bush fires in the city which had filled it with thick smoke - in the airport you couldnīt seen from one end to the other for all the smoke. Eventually our flight took off a few hours later than scheduled and we touched down two hours later in the town of Puerto Iguazu.
The next day we woke up early to visit the Iguazu Falls before the masses arrived. Although it was raining we jumped in a taxi and headed to the national park at 9am for opening time and then boarded a train which takes you through the park to the main attraction - Garganta del Diablo (Devilīs Throat). Once the fifteen minute journey through the jungle was over we took the 600m walk over a series of metal catwalks which traverse the Iguazu River and take you right into the heart at the action. The rain cleared and the view from the edge of the catwalk was stunning, jetting right out over the edge at the top of the raging Iguazu Falls as they fell 80m down below.
We spent a few hours walking around the National Park, including taking a boat trip out to an island in the middle of the falls to get a great perspective of all of the horse-shoe shaped falls from the middle. Iguazu Falls are undoubtedly the most spectacular waterfalls that weīve seen on the whole trip (and weīve seen a lot!)
They say that given the opportunity, you should try to visit the Brazilian side of the falls to get a full perspective of their power. I tried, but the attempt ended in disaster. I took a public bus across the Argentinian border and was stamped out of the country without a problem, but the bus driver didnīt stop at the Brazilian border and so I was never officially in Brazil (apparently this was because it was a Brazilian bus company and so they assume everyone onboard has the right to be there). When I arrived in Foz (the Brazilian town associated with the Falls), I couldnīt find anywhere to withdraw cash. Eventually after flapping my arms and trying to communicate with a friendly Brazilian lady I tracked down a cashpoint (nobody in the town spoke any English and Portugese wasnīt as similar to Spanish as Iīd hoped). A nearby supermarket had a room full with eight cashpoints. I was in luck.
Unfortunately, the first machine didnīt accept Visa - nor did the second or third. I eventually found out that the only machine that did accept Visa in Puerto Iguazu was out of order. I was stuck in Brazil illegally, with only 6 pesos in Argentinian money (just under a pound). I jumped back on the next bus to Argentina, as soon as Iīd worked out where they left from.
That afternoon we found out that as it was a full moon, the park allowed a handful of lucky visitors the chance to visit the falls at midnight to see the Devilīs throat. We were able to purchase tickets and so after an all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner laid on by the hostel, we took another bus back to the national park where a spooky fog was starting to settle.
The clouds had cleared leaving the full moon visible and we boarded the train again, after being warned about jaguars and snakes that could be around. The train trudged through the fog and we reached the catwalks again, which we slowly walked over back to the edge of the falls. It was eerie being in the park so late and with so few people around. The view from the edge of the viewpoint was spectacular with the moon casting a silver light over the water surface which plunged right down into the total blackness below. We felt lucky to be able to see the falls in such a different way.
The following day we took our last long bus journey (16 hours) across the border into Brazil (which this time stopped to stamp us in) and arrived in Sao Paulo this morning. We had been due to carry onto Rio but an outbreak of Dengue Fever meant we couldnīt head all the way there.
Tomorrow, after 98 days of unforgettable travelling, weīll be jumping on a flight back home to Harpenden...