Hand of God

Trip Start May 27, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Legares Hostel, Mendoza
Hosteling Salta, Salta

Flag of Argentina  ,
Saturday, August 6, 2011

The first thing that I noticed in Argentina was a Shell garage. Now this may seem weird, but after 2 months of literally no familiar shops or even shops being shops really, this garage looked like a giant modern mirage.

We got into Salta in the north of Argentina at the practical time of 4.30am. The next day we wandered around the beautiful colonial Salta and got reacquainted with things we knew - Cadburys! Overpriced coffee! etc Its true that Argentina is more 'European' but then compared to Bolivia, most places are. It also means that the price shoots up between 50% (food, lodgings etc) to 500% (travel).

We had the good fortune to meet some lovely people from Ireland who were also en route to the Rugby in New Zealand so mainly hung out with them in Salta, and did a touch of Karaoke... there are no videos or photos of me singing 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' & 'Easy Lover'... and there never will be.

We then decided to head over to the Iguazu Falls (24 hours on a bus!), which is in the north east of Argentina, bordering Brazil and Paraguay. We had to reign in our urge to 'pop' over to Rio as time was not our friend. Budget isn't our friend either, and he's a nagging sod too.

At Iguazu we wandered around the park taking photos of the cute raccoons, who seemed very tame, probably because people feed them. And you know how they say don't feed wild animals as they become dependent even pushy about being fed from humans. Well, I was sat eating a sandwich with a small bag on food on my lap when one raccoon came up to me on the left and gently put his paw on my lap as if to say, hey lady, that sandwich looks nice? I looked at the cute raccoon to my left and smiled. As I did another raccoon (or his accomplice) jumped at my lap from the right and grabbed the entire bag and ran off into the undergrowth followed by the raccoon to my left. There they ate 2 packets of Oreos and laughed at foolish soppy humans. Utter utter *swearwords*

The falls themselves were incredible, better than Niagara Trevor thought, (oooo, get him and his wealth of waterfall experience). We got a jet boat out into the waterfall to experience the coldest power shower of our lives!

After Iguazu, we headed south for the capital, Buenos Aires. It was our first reintroduction to mass marketing....Maccy D's and Starbucks that means you. Its a cool city, but it could be anywhere in western Europe really. But, that said the highlights were the Recoleta Cemetery where there are streets of HUGE mausoleums (you've probably seen it on a travel programme at some point) occupied by the rich and famous of BA. They were mainly in the traditional catholic church style, with visible coffins inside. Other mausoleums were ultra-modern and put you in mind of a bank with sleek black marble facades... maybe the unfortunate residents were bank CEO's and wanted to rest in eternity somewhere familiar?

The other highlight was the area of Boca. It had something for me - street tango. The tango was awesome to watch, especially as its not the type I'm used to.... ie. a minor soap celebrity dancing in front of Bruce Forthsyth. It was two bona fide Argentines, dancing in the birthplace of tango. Its enough to make me want to try it (eh Tony?). Trev was not so keen, but then he gets the football.

Boca Juniors are the most famous team in BA (Maradona played for them in his early days) and to say their fans are passionate is underplaying it somewhat. After a lot of searching we managed to get some tickets for the Boca vs Union Santa Fe... tickets are only sold to Boca Socio's (members) so you have to go through 'unofficial' channels. The tickets included a chaperon (basically a bodyguard) who was a HUGE local Boca mad guy with a massive Maradona tattoo (see photo) whose only English was... "You English... remember Hand of God?" We don't think he liked us much (don't mention the Falklands). The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing, especially in the stands with the nutter fans who never stopped singing. The place erupted after every Boca goal (they won 4-0) and the stand shook as the fans bounced on the terrace... I don't think their passion could be matched anywhere in the world.

After the Cap city, we travelled east again to the region of Mendoza, which is famous for its wine production (get in!) We arranged a bike tour with friends and then spent the day learning and sampling everything from a Malbec (an Argentine specialty) to a Tempranillo - a new grape on me, and delicious the both of them. The bikes themselves were free from the hostel, and no where was this more in evidence than when our friend Sarah's bike broke clean in half!

We didn't stay long as we were starting to get border fear. The border to Chile (which requires crossing the Andes) only opened periodically as the snow was so heavy around that region (it could be closed for up to a week), and if we weren't careful we'd miss our flight to Australia the following week. But we got lucky and made it through the stunning Andes to Valparaiso in our forth country, Chile.
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