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  • Day149

    Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

    January 30, 2016 in Argentina ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    After a long, delayed journey, we finally arrived in Salta. Our first port of call was to exchange our money. Our research had told us that the best way was on the 'Black Market' to get a better exchange rate. The lady at the information desk in the bus terminal directed us to the guy at the luggage desk. All a bit jubious about the whole thing, we exchanged a little bit of money to start us off before we went to find out more information about the situation from our hostel, 7 Duendes.
    Next day was a day of errands. First was the laundrette where we had an argument with the girl regarding the amount of space Edel's clothes took up despite only having half a basket amount. After some discussion we realised there was no convincing her so we grabbed all our stuff and left to find another laundrette. The guy in this laundrette gave us a better deal where the five of us filled two large baskets for a cheaper price. Next stop was Plaza 9 de Julio where men stood on the corner, outside the national bank, calling out 'cambio' looking for US dollars, Euro or Sterling. We got out the currency converter app and managed to haggle for the best rates. After sorting out bus tickets we headed for a lovely dinner in the El Charrua restaurant.
    Next day, to burn off our dinner, we walked up to Cerro San Bernardo viewpoint passing the 14 Stations of the Cross statues on our ascend. At the top we were treated to amazing views of Salta and the surrounding areas. We availed of the small outdoor gym at the top doing a light core session in the sunshine!
    The following day, we hired a car to go to the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven Coloured Hills) in Purmamarca, two hours north of Salta. The mountains were formed from various different layers of minerals and compounds, over millions of years, each giving off a different colour which can be seen as the sun shines on them.
    That evening we got a 19 hour bus with AndesMar to Mendoza, where we stayed in the lovely Lagares Hostel. We walked to the Parque Generale San Martin, where we sat by the lake under the shade of the trees watching people running, cycling and rowing in the lake. It reminded me a little like Central Park, New York.
    The next day we did a wine tour of the famous Mendoza wineries. We took the public transport bus to Mr. Hugo bikes where we were given bikes and a map of the local wineyards. We first cycled to the Tempus Alba vineyard for a self guided tour where over four million litres of wine are produced annually. We sat on the terrace with amazing views of the vineyard while the girls tasted various wines. Next we went to Vino El Cerno vineyard where we got a tour by Anna, who told us about her philosophical view on the parallels between the maturing of wine and maturing as a person. Our final stop was the Museo del Vino La Rural, before we dropped our bikes back. We got on the bus to town, however due to the one way system, we lost track of where we were and where we had to get off. Before we knew it, we were nearly back to where we started. We quickly got off the bus and took another bus back to town.
    Next day we took a 24 hour bus to Puerto Madryn with Andesmar. This was our longest bus journey of the trip. The bus was two hours late which was not a great start however we got to play a game of bingo on the bus so that made up for it a little. Unfortunately none of us won, despite some local lads helping us when we had difficulty with our 60's and 70's numbers.
    We arrived at the Chepatagonia Hostel just one block from the beach in Puerto Madryn. We settled in for the day and organised our trip to Puerto Piramides. The hostel advised us that it was best to hire a car so they sent a lady over to us that evening. She arrived with her paperwork in a leather folder (old school style) and took our details, before giving us a vague map of the route we'd be driving (not a SatNav in sight!). Next up Nina and I inspected the car. To say the Renault Clio had seen better days was an understatement! There were multiple large marks and scraps on the bodywork, chips in the windscreen and part of the back bumper coming off. Nina double checked that the car actually started before we agreed to take the car for the 24 hours.
    We got up early the next day and headed on our way. We soon found out why the car was in such a state, as when we entered the National Park, the road was made of gravel and stones. The maximum speed limit was 60kph and even at that speed the car tended to slide around the road. Our first stop was La Loberta where hundreds of sea lions were sat on the cliff barking loudly. We sat watching them get in and out of the sea. Next we headed north to Puerto Norte where there were armadillos roaming around the car park and sea lions mating on the beach. We then drove to Caleta Valdes where we saw penguins on the beach and elephant seals in distance. It was such a lovely day out and great to see more animals in their natural habitat. We drove back to Puerto Madryn where the lady came to collect the car. I had parked it into facing the kerb for convenience sake but she informed me that it was actually illegal to park this way. She got in the car and turned it around before we finished our business with sorting payments of the car. All an unusual experience!
    We then travelled to Bariloche on the Don Otto night bus and stayed in the Hostel Inn with amazing views overlooking Lago Nahuel Huapi. Edel and I decided to go to the view point at Cerro Campanario. We walked up the steep 40 minute gravel path through the woods, with no sign posts or directions in sight. We found our way up the top and had amazing panoramic views of the surrounding areas. On our way down we got completely lost and off the beaten track and had to climb over and under tree trunks and branches before coming out on a private road about 1km from where we had started. Despite being really dirty and dusty from our adventure, we stopped in a little restaurant on the way back where we treated ourselves to a lovely steak dinner.
    The following day we were collected at 9am for a two hour drive along Route 40 to a ranch where we were starting our horseriding. We were met by Sebastian who brought us to his grandmother's house where we were treated to breakfast in her cottage before meeting the horses. We rode through the woods alongside and through the Rio Manzo, where the horses stopped for a well earned drink in the hot temperatures. We were treated to some amazing views of the Andes and such a peaceful experience. We stopped for lunch in a campsite where we had a traditional Argentine BBQ (Asado). In the afternoon, Edel and I continued with more horseriding while the girls chilled by the lake. Sebastian led the way with a machete clearing the low lying and overgrown branches along our route through the steep woody mountains. We arrived back at the ranch, were picked up by the others and headed back to the hostel after another lovely day.
    The final activity in Bariloche was paddleboarding on Lago Gurtierrez. Our instructor Chris introduced us to different boards and paddles used for various conditions and purposes. After about two hours of paddling, we managed to conquer the task of standing and turning on the different boards. My favourite was definitely the racer board, despite being the most unsteady but the thrill of the speed was brilliant.
    Bariloche is also famous for its chocolate so Edel and I went to a few of the shops to get a few samples. We entered del Turista and were overwhelmed by the amount of different types, flavours and shapes of chocolates on display. There was also a chocolatier making various batches of chocolate. On the opposite side of the shop was a large counter of ice cream with whatever flavour you wanted!
    Next day we flew with LAN to Buenos Aires where we stayed in Rayuela Boutique Hostel and were met by Sophie, who had flown over from Lancaster. Buenos Aires was very hot and humid but we still managed to fit in plenty of activities. We went to the Sunday afternoon San Telmo markets on Defensa. There were about 10 blocks of stalls selling various merchandise and foods. That evening we went for dinner at the recommended Cafe Tortoni, which was a Bewleys style restaurant with beautiful interior design and lovely food.
    Next day we did the first half of the city bus tour and got to view the many boroughs and sights of the city. We then returned to Cafe Tortoni where we watched an amazing Tango Show.
    The following day we finished off the second half of the bus tour before going for a walk along the waterfront. Inspired by last night's show, we had a tango lesson at La Cathedral Club. Situated an authentic room with antique furniture we learned how to follow and lead some 'serious' moves.
    For our final day in Buenos Aires we went for a lovely lunch in The Gibraltar pub before saying goodbye to Rebecca who was off to Bangkok. We then got a very comfortable night bus with Via Bariloche to Puerto Iguazu where we stayed in Bambu Hostel. Here we got the local bus to Iguazu Falls for an amazing experience. We did the Great Adventure tour of the Falls, where we drove along the Yacaratia Trail through the Atlantic rainforest. There is only 7% area of the rainforest left due to deforestation. Next we put our life jackets on and got a boat up the Lower Iguasu River, under the spray of the Falls and got absolutely soaked! Next we walked around the various trails to get different perspective on the Falls. We got the train to Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) which was my favourite part. The sound of the water falling and the sheer volume of water was incredible and it added to the unbelievable time at the Falls.
    The day at Iguazu Falls was one of my highlights of the trip so far, an incredible end to an incredible time in Argentina.
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