BA was so incredible to me for 2 reasons: first, the city itself; second, the people I met there.
The city is beautiful. It’s Paris and New York City combined, with classic mid-rise buildings on tree-lined streets, shops and cafes along the ground level, and sculptures, fountains and parks around every corner. Graffiti is also around every corner, but in an artful not harmful way. Every neighborhood has its own feel and just walking the streets is an activity worthy of your time. People are active everywhere, from rollerblading in the park to running along Puerto Madero. And the food – incredible. Not just the delicious steaks but I had great salads, crepes, pulled pork and cheesesteak sandwiches, tacos (actually spicy ones!), and desserts. Then there’s the nightlife. Everything you’ve heard about BA nightlife is true and it still doesn’t prepare you for it. Live performances, DJ dance clubs, or chill local bars, it has something for everyone every night of the week.
BA has an energy and it is addictive. It’s not surprising that so many people visit and don’t leave. It has everything you could want in a city, but it’s more than what it can offer that makes it so special, it’s just the atmosphere. The kind of thing you have to experience to get. So go, experience it, and you’ll see what I mean.
The people I met in BA. Where to start? After being on the road for 3 months I was missing some normalcy in my interactions – having conversations that went beyond where you’re from and where you’re going, being able to message a friend to see what they’re up to today and create a spur of the moment plan, and just generally having people around who you’re comfortable with, who you can actually do nothing but sit on a couch with and still have a good time. I found these people in BA.
This group of solo travelers had all met at different points in their journies and I was lucky enough to be welcomed into their family. Travel times ranged from a few weeks to over a year, so somehow the timing just worked out that everyone was in BA staying at America del Sur. I haven’t ever so quickly felt so at home with a group of people before. We spent hours lounging together in the basement, cooked dinners together, had some crazy fun nights out, hung out in parks, explored the city, and experienced BA with each other.
My first night in BA I had one of the hardest moments of my trip so far: I was missing a close friend’s wedding. My friends and I came up with a plan to FaceTime the night of the rehearsal dinner so I could say hi to all of them together. I was at Alex’s apartment and these people I had just met made sure I had the wifi password, enough time before we went out, and a quiet place to talk. They saw it was important to me and helped me make it work. And then they helped cheer me up since of course I was sad I was missing this big event. I couldn’t have been in a better place for that weekend. That set the stage for the next 2 weeks of good times. When I left for Uruguay I was sad to go, but when I got back it was like I’d never left. I was greeted with big hugs and my plans for the weekend. That was the first night I had to go back to my hostel in Palermo instead of staying at America del Sur. When it was time to leave I said I had to go home. Tom responded, “You are home.” That’s how I felt. For 10 days, I had a home in this year of homelessness.
Goodbyes can be hard, and leaving BA was my hardest goodbye so far. Could it possibly have been even harder than leaving the US? 10 days in this amazing city felt as important to me as a year. When I left, I felt satisfied as a tourist, like I had seen and done all I wanted to, but sad just in life. Couldn’t that perfect combination of city and people last forever? My only comfort was that everyone had either left or was planning on leaving 3 days later. It was over for all of us. But these people will forever mean a lot to me. Thank you for being such a big part of making BA as special as it was.
I probably waited too long to write about Buenos Aires, but I never knew where to start. Do I start with what I did there, describing my actual visit to the city, or do I start with my answer to the question, “Why did you like Buenos Aires so much?”
These are two separate posts but one doesn’t make sense without the other, so I’ll start with what I did, in running list form. It might not be eloquent but I don’t know if I ever could get it to be. I’ll try to summarize.
Day 1 I arrived early in the morning from an overnight bus and 2 hours later I was on a walking tour of the city, arranged by my hostel America del Sur. I learned some BA history, saw the main tourist sites, and watched some tango. I was even coaxed into doing a tango move on stage for a photo opportunity. I changed money on Florida Street; my first experience with the Blue Market of BA (where you get almost double the normal exchange rate). I had asado dinner at the hostel, and while I was waiting sat with a group of incredibly welcoming travelers mostly from the UK and Australia. I ended up at a housewarming party with them – Alex’s Palermo apartment. My first night in BA, a Friday, and I was at someone’s apartment getting to know a great group of people. A welcomed night of normalcy in a stream of hostels and bars. Out till almost 4 am.
Day 2 I went to the La Boca neighborhood with three new friends I’d met the day before – Jessica, Juan and Tom. We wandered and took pictures of the Boca stadium and the colorful buildings and graffiti around Caminito. I had my first choripan sandwich: the Argentinian version of a German favorite, chorizo sausage on a roll with chimichurri sauce. That night I went to Fuerza Bruta with Jess and Tom; I’d gotten lucky when Kye needed to sell his ticket that morning and jumped on board last minute. Incredible, a must do for anyone in BA. When we got home we cooked dinner and joined the rest of the group to watch the fight on the big comfy couch in the basement. I was convinced to go to a birthday party in Palermo for one of the girls who works at the hostel. Unexpectedly chill bar, still got home at 4 am.
Day 3 was rainy but we braved the San Telmo Sunday Market anyway. I had lunch with a friend of a friend, Sam. It’s amazing how friend networks extend all over the world. I returned to the hostel, to the couch downstairs where inevitably I would find my new friends, the people I would come to call my BA family. You know what sounds nice? A good beer. Just a casual beer at a pub. Not Quilmes. Alex, Tom, Brendan, and I chilled at Gibralter for a while. We got back and Ana convinced us all to go to Club One. Minds blown. This club was nuts. Was it really Sunday?
Day 4 I wandered the city alone: Puerto Madero (another choripan); the Obeslik; Teatro Colón; El Alteneo, an old theater converted into a bookstore; the Congress building; back to Florida Street; home to San Telmo. I collapsed on the couch. Brendan, Tom, Will, and I made a delicious dinner and I had my first Fernet and Cola night. Thanks Andy for helping me adjust to this taste before BA. I’ve had enough Fernet to last me a lifetime now. Everyone went out together for La Bamba del Tiempo – a 20 person drum ensemble on stage. Amazing music, 1L drinks, lots of dancing. The show ended and the drummers led us on a street party parade. Cheap street beers along the way. We were all having the time of our lives. The party ended at a club; more drinks, lots more dancing, even more pictures. Could this night get any better? 5 am we got home, my wallet was gone. Shit. There goes my license. We got panchos (gross cheese-covered hot dogs).
The next day I woke up too soon after going to sleep with a miserable hangover. Off to Uruguay.
I returned two days later and had to go to my new hostel in Palermo. I missed America del Sur, so I went back to visit. Hung out with and unfortunately say bye to Tom, the first of the BA group to move on.
Friday. Productivity day. Blog posts to write, 401k funds to move, US dollars acquired in Uruguay to exchange. That night I met up with another friend of that same home friend for the Palermo pub crawl. New fun in a new neighborhood. Does any night ever end before 4:00 am?
Saturday. Is this Day 5 or 6? I don’t think Thursday really counts, so let’s call it 5. I slept well past hostel breakfast and treated myself to brunch outside in Palermo. It’s what you do there anyway. Ana came over and we played in Palermo park: we tried to join some group choreographed dancing (we were so lost) and attempted some rollerblading/skating. We didn’t fall! Victory wine and cheese for dinner, had back at America del Sur of course. Louise and Katrina from Mendoza were there now – what?! They had made friends with the same people I had now made friends with before they went to Mendoza. Of course. It was a special La Bamba del Tiempo night. Our traveler group and the hostel girls all went together. Too many drinks, one big blur.
Sunday it was back to America del Sur for everyone’s favorite sandwich shop, El Banco Rojo, and nursing our hangovers in Recoleta park. We wandered briefly through the Recoleta Sunday Market, and I got my Argentina bracelets with Ana’s help. Back to the hostel. Movies and take-out Chinese food for dinner. Bus back to Palermo with Alex; no Club One for us this time.
Monday it was time to be a tourist again. I met two nice Dutch girls at the hostel and we explored Recoleta cemetery together followed by empanadas. I wandered back to the hostel through the Recoleta and Palermo neighborhoods, soaking in the city. Met up with Alex to explore Palermo more. We were somehow matching exactly: tan alpaca sweater, blue shorts, slip on shoes. The point was to just walk the streets, window shop, dream about what it would be like to be in Palermo with money to spend. We ended up in the park, said hi to some ducklings, it was a beautiful day. Dinner at Burger Joint, which has just as fantastic burgers as everyone said it did. Back to America del Sur. It was Raj’s last night so we all went to Club Severino. More dancing, more pictures, even more fun. I love these people. Home at sunrise.
Tuesday it rained. I took advantage to hibernate, blog, get a great salad at a local organic vegetarian restaurant (my body thanked me). Got a text: Brendan was leaving sooner than I expected, so it’s back to America del Sur. I arrived just in time to say bye to Will. This was happening already? Lounging with everyone on the couches, Brendan finally went to catch his bus. We were all so sad. Alex, Ana and I made dinner, then we went back to the basement to watch a movie but were relegated to the bean bags on the floor. Who were these new people on our couches? I said bye to Louise before I left, and on my way out I said bye to America del Sur.
Wednesday it was just Alex, Ana and me left, and we were all in Palermo now. Alex and I had another Palermo day, taking advantage of the Wednesday deals. We picked up some insanely delicious ice cream for lunch on the way to the MALBA, which is only AR$25 on Wednesdays. Great museum, incredible light exhibit. Alex imagined the whole thing as a DJ set. Dinner at La Cabrera. This fantastic Argentinian steak house has a happy hour deal on Wednesday from 7-8: 40% off the entire menu. We ate like we were not backpackers – half a filet minion for me, a whole one for Alex, tons of side sauces (plus free fries from our generous waiter, despite honestly saying we had no money), and we shared a bottle of Malbec. One of the best meals of our lives. After dinner I met up with Ana, who had moved into my hostel, and we were surprised to see Kye from America del Sur was our new roommate too. House party at Alex’s. It’s almost over.
Thursday was my last day. Ana and I were slow to start but eventually made it to my friend’s recommended place for open-faced empanadas before doing some shopping and getting drenched in a downpour. Ana said BA was crying for my last day like it did on Brendan’s. Around 4:00 Alex came over, and he, Ana, Kye, and I had tea with sweets. How British (Alex and Kye are Brits, Ana is Ecuadorian). It was my last night in BA so Ana, Alex and I went out in Palermo. Ridiculous night. I can’t even describe it. Out till sunrise, we were still hanging out in the hostel common area when they were setting up breakfast. I couldn’t believe I had a flight in a few hours.
Friday I got in a cab and went to the airport. It was all over. Time to change continents. In the BA airport I was just sad to leave, messaging friends and instagramming pictures of BA. I used my layover in Santiago to transition; I tried to move into a mindset that was looking forward to the next part of my trip in New Zealand.
So there’s the answer to what I did in BA. I’m sure you can guess why it meant so much, but I’ll save that for another post. I need some time to figure out how to write that one too.
I am going to start posting about Buenos Aires like I started my posts about the Amazon: I don’t even know how to start writing about the fantastic time I had in this place, so bear with me as I try to figure it out. I’ll probably start and stop half a dozen different posts on everything from the city itself to the temporary family I met there, and I have no idea how many of these thoughts will ever see the light of published internet. So just in case I am actually unable to accurately put into words the love affair I had with this amazing city, the least I can say is that Buenos Aires will forever be one of my favorite memories from this trip. And one day, BA, I promise I will be back. You can hold me to that.
Córdoba is a hit or miss city. For me, it was a miss. For lots of other people, it’s one of their favorites. The city itself isn’t all that bad, it just doesn’t have a lot to offer, so I think it depends more on how you’re experiencing it than the city itself.
I had two days and one night in Córdoba. It’s a small city but nice for pedestrians. I mainly just wandered around, stopping at a few cultural sites; I’d say my highlights were the Paseo del Bueno Pastor cultural center and the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón. The Paseo was a good free option to get my art fix. It is a small exhibition hall with local contemporary art. I liked the photography exhibit that was on display; it was from a music festival that had been held in Córdoba, and the artist sometimes fused two shots together into one, creating some intriguing images. The Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón is one of the more unique churches I’ve ever been in. It is colorful but the colors are muted, almost like they’re under a sepia filter. It was possible to ascend a staircase by the altar and see the naive and aisles from above. This is a perspective I’ve never gotten before and I found it fascinating.
I think what I enjoyed most though was my time in parks. First a small park, Paseo del Bicentenario, near the modern art museum had a public art installation commemorating the bicentennial of Córdoba, with rings of varying sizes and colors for each year. Of course I had to take a picture with the 1987 ring. From here it was an easy walk to the main big park in Córdoba, Parque Sarmiento. It was a sunny day so I sat by the lake for a while reading up on Buenos Aires, then moseyed around, taking a break to swing on a swing set (because as an adult how often do you just play on a swing set for a bit?), then read my book for a while near a fountain. It was quite lovely really.
Outside of these highlights, I just walked around a lot, had lunch outside (where I reflected on my time in South America), and wrote a handful of blog posts on my hostel roof. What I didn’t experience was the apparently awesome nightlife of this university town. My hostel was pretty quiet the one night I was there, and after the abundance of wine in Mendoza and the upcoming insanity of Buenos Aires nightlife I wasn’t exactly in a rush to find something to do.
In all honesty, my “miss” rating of Córdoba can be attributed to unfair timing. I’d been jumping around so much since Rio that I was just anxious to get to Buenos Aires and stay put for two weeks. Unfortunately this made Córdoba more of an obstacle than an enjoyable stop. But looking back at my visit there, it wasn’t all bad. It was a calm midpoint that broke up two overnight bus rides, and in that way it served its purpose for me.
Leaving Córdoba I took my last overnight bus. I finally treated myself and sprung for cama, meaning larger seats with more leg room and recline (and again in the front row of the top). I settled into my big seat, excited to finally experience the luxury of cama. It was one of the worst rides, I was so disappointed. I could barely sleep, it was freezing, there was a weird humming noise, and even though the seat next to me was empty I couldn’t move the arm rests so laying across both like I had the previous ride wasn’t possible. I suppose you could say it was fitting that my last night bus was not great, but at least I could say that I was done with overnight bus rides in South America.
My three days in Mendoza I think perfectly hit the highlights of what it has to offer: outdoor activity, wine and relaxation.
Day 1 I went whitewater rafting on the Rio Mendoza. It was only Class 1 and 2 rapids, so it was an easy drift really, but for a first timer like me it was still an enjoyable hour. It was a perfectly sunny day as we floated down the river with the snow-capped Andes mountain range behind us. I was on the English raft – two Americans, a Portuguese guy and a girl from Singapore – with a nice English-speaking guide who told us some anecdotes along the way. After our trip we had a few hours to hang out at the restaurant deck overlooking the river and enjoy a cold beer. For just US$35 you really couldn’t get a better deal.
Day 2 was devoted to wine tasting, because let’s be honest, this is the reason I came to Mendoza. We had a good group: I was joined by Kasey from the US, who I met while rafting the day before, Louise and Katrina from England and Thea from Norway, all of who were also staying at my hostel. We had all heard good things about Mr. Hugo’s so we rented bikes there. The bikes were good, no problems, but at ARS100 and without the rumored return time flexibility and free bottle at the end, I’m not sure it’s worth all the praise it gets.
For a day that was devoted to wine tasting, it took us a surprisingly long time to actually have some wine. Our first stop was the olive oil and chocolate tasting place, or as it should be called, the get tipsy off vodka shots disguised as liqueurs place. The spreads and oils and chocolate were all delicious, but it was the liqueur made with vodka that stole the show. We each got to taste two; the other girls went with the more normal choices of chocolate, dulce de leche, or mint, but I chose pepper and beer. The pepper was great, it had a nice spicy kick that would be great in cockatils; the beer not so much. Since we were the only ones there, they nicely let us taste a few extras, including absinthe and absinthe mixed with pepper. We biked away a little wobbly after stop one.
After a failed attempt to go to Trapiche (they only do tours every couple of hours) it was already lunch time so we stopped at the brewery. As enjoyable as the outdoor seating, pizza and beer were, we needed to get to some wine! So we nixed the Trapiche tour idea and decided to bike down to where there were 3 wineries on one road. Maximum wine in minimum distance. At least minimum when we got there; the map they gave us at Mr. Hugo’s was grossly out of scale and the ride took us a half an hour.
It was almost 3 by the time we finally got to taste some wine. But it was some damn good wine. At the first winery we split a 5 glass tasting so we could try a variety of Malbecs and Cabernets, each picking our favorite to finish. The second we did our tasting outside, a few of us opting for our own 3 glass tasting this round. The view over the vineyards with the mountains in the background was just beautiful. This was definitely the most enjoyable location. We made it to a third and final place, where we just split a bottle of wine on another outdoor balcony. The ride back went much faster than it did to get out there.
Even though it took us a while to get to the wine, it was still a fun day and we got to sample some delicious Argentinian wines. I will admit though, I have become a bit of a Northern California snob. It’s nice out by Mendoza but it doesn’t come close to wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa. The main road you bike down is not exactly scenic, and the tastings aren’t as plentiful or informative. And as a Cabernet lover, I didn’t find the wine as good. But for under $15 for the whole day, it’s a steal.
Day 3 Kasey and I just wandered around Mendoza. We had a nice leisurely lunch, walked to a few different parks, and discovered that there really isn’t much to discover in Mendoza. It’s a quiet town and most of the draw is the surrounding area. I had heard good things about a horseback ride or nearby hike but had already spent my activity budget on rafting. So we just had a relaxed day, which was good for me because I was getting on a night bus to Cordoba. My second to last night bus.
I had again purposefully booked the front window seat, but I got lucky with an empty seat next to me. I actually got to lay down! Curled up across both seats, I dreamt that the bumpy bus ride was the major earthquake in California and it was going to separate us from the rest of the US. I think I should stop taking Melatonin on bus rides, it leads to some weird dreams. I also was so sound asleep that I didn’t even realize we had arrived in Cordoba, the driver had to wake me up.
September 11, 2014. “As I finish my deluxe jamon y queso sandwich (con tomate y lechuga!), sip my Stella (tastes so good after so much South American beer), and enjoy the brisk spring air at an outside table in Cordoba, I think: ‘I am ready for Buenos Aires.’
For me, BA means a few things. It is a big city, and I have lived in big cities for the past 5 years. I find comfort in them. I like them. More than the city, BA is finally my time to stay put. I will be in the city for 2 weeks, my longest time since Rio. Ok I messed this up a bit with booking 2 different hostels (to get to know different parts of town) separated by 2 days in Uruguay, but at least I don’t feel rushed to see and do everything so quickly. I have time. I will get to know BA – its barrios, its public transportation system, its energy.
It feels like I’ve been moving towards Buenos Aires. ‘Just keep going, you can slow down in BA.’
BA symbolizes the end to my South America portion. It is my final destination before I go to a new continent. It is Part 1 completed.
By the time I leave BA, I will have been traveling for over 3 months. It’s hard to reflect on that. It flew, yet Saõ Paulo feels like ages ago. These months in South America were and weren’t what I thought they would be. For starters, I didn’t mean to land cross every border, but I did. Plans I set out with changed along the way, and in some cases (Ecuador) changed back to original plans. In the end, I think I actually did the South America that I meant to back when I started planning this RTW trip over a year ago. It’s funny how that worked out.
I have been to incredible places, and added even more to a mental list of next trips. I have met incredible people, ones who I hope I don’t lose from my life. I have survived in a language I don’t know in places where they don’t speak English. I have slept in bunk beds, real beds, hammocks, buses, airplanes, airports, and one tent. I have eaten all manner of meat from Brazilian BBQ to alpaca to a termite (does that count as meat?) and celebrated any time I got vegetables. I have tried the local spirits from Caipirinhas to Aguardiente to Piscolas and had memorable (and occasionally forgettable) nights with them all. I have encountered the cultures of 7 different countries across this content. And all of this still feels like just scratching the surface of South America.
But it is almost time to experience all new things in an all new continent, and I guess I’m ready. So with Buenos Aires I will say goodbye to South America. Thank you for the best start to this adventure that I could have but also never could have asked for.”
Iguazu Falls is just as amazing as everyone says it is. There is really no way to describe it; it is awe inspiring. However, my experience was a little different than the postcard pictures you see.
Most people get to walk out on bridges over the falls, surrounded by perfectly blue water and picturesque cascades. I saw latte-colored rushing water from just the walkways that were still left open. Iguazu Falls was overflowing.
This didn’t ruin my experience, it just made it a little different. If anything, due to the sheer amount of water the power of the falls was even more impressive. Yes it would have been nice to get to go out onto the water like I was imagining, but I am still happy I made the trip.
I started out on the Argentina side on Thursday (6/26) before doing the Brazilian side on Saturday (6/28). The two sides are known for having different experiences: the Brazilian side is the overview, while the Argentinian side takes you down into the falls. Generally, the Argentina side is thought to be better and worth more time so I had planned for two days there exploring Parque Nacional Iguazu. I ended up only really needing one due to the floods. A lot of the park was closed, most notably the infamous Devil’s Throat, aka what everyone says is the best part. The walkway was actually washed away and will take months to repair. 2/3 of the Upper Circuit is also closed. (Two days after I went they closed the boat ride too, as well as one of the platforms I had been on that was right underneath one of the falls. Rumors were spreading that the entire Argentina side might close in the next day or two.)
The park has two main routes: the Upper Circuit, like the name suggests, is at the top of the falls; and the Lower Circuit takes you into the jungle, weaving around smaller falls to a walkway at mid-level with one of the big drops, and eventually winding down to the bottom river level with a view back up at the falls towering above you. I was initially planning on just walking the Upper and Lower Circuits, but after hearing just how much of the park was closed I decided to do the 12 minute Nautical Adventure boat ride too.
I started on the Upper Circuit with my hostelmate Kelly and a new friend from the bus station Steve. That’s the thing about visiting sites like this alone – you’re never really alone. There’s always someone else who is also there solo and if I’ve learned anything already it’s that solo travelers love to be solo together. As soon as we got our first glimpse of the falls we were all immediately in awe. There’s no way to even describe the amazing first impression of the beauty and power of nature that you get standing next to them. After taking every possible picture we tore ourselves away from the view to continue exploring.
At this point Steve and I split off from Kelly, who had to meet friends, and ventured into the jungle route of the Lower Circuit. It is helpful for solo travelers to pair up if for no other reason than having someone to take pictures of you. We alternated running out to the platform under a big cascade and taking pictures of each other. Then I got to experiment with my GoPro for the first time; I carried it out with me and got a video from underneath the fall.
We wandered our way down to where the boat took off and waited till it was our turn. This boat ride is short but was everyone’s highlight, and after doing it I can see why. First they do a quick little ride around just so you can see the falls from below. Then they pause and tell you to put everything into a drybag that they provide. And then they soak you. I swear the boat drivers get a kick out of soaking all the tourists. They take you up as close to the falls as they can to the point that you can’t even see anything anymore because there is so much water flying in your face, all you know is that you’re in pretty much the most powerful shower you’ve ever taken. (I wore my GoPro on my head the whole time so I could actually see what happened when I got home. Video to come.) And then you’re wet for the rest of the day, or the rest of your trip if you have weather like I did.
When people warned me that visiting the Argetina side of the falls was “the wettest I’ve ever been,” I admit I was a bit skeptical. How could this wetness be any different than any other time you get caught in a torrential downpour? It just is. Even if it wasn’t raining the entire time I was in Puerto Iguazu, the trip to the falls would still have been the wettest I’ve ever been. I was soaked to the bone. But if it wasn’t raining, maybe my stuff would have had a chance to dry. I lived with damp clothes and shoes for too long, and was just excited to get to Rio so everything could be dry again.
But of course, Iguazu Falls was worth it.
Friday in Puerto Iguazu wasn’t much to talk about. It rained all day, and not just a sprinkle but real you-will-stay-wet rain. It gave me a chance to do some email and blog catching up, and talk to some very interesting people in the hostel. One guy hasn’t been home to Scotland since 2004, and a German girl Tony was in her last week of 10 months. Our trips were opposite – she started in Southeast Asia, then Australasia to South America. It was great to hear her travel tips and experiences, especially as a solo blonde girl (we get lots of warnings).
Tony and I ventured out of the hostel twice: once to see Guira Oga, an animal rehabilitation center, and later the Triple Frontier, where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina all come together. Guira Oga was a great way to see local animals that I’ve never seen before because it was created to save them and help them get better before releasing them back to the wild. You have to go with a tour guide, so we heard why all the animals were there and how they were helping them. Triple Frontier was honestly meh and nothing really to write home about – it was just a pillar on each country in its flag’s colors. Everything was still wet, so we called it a night early and I got ready to go to Brazil in the morning.
One more thing to note – the hostel Mango Chill was awesome. Incredibly friendly, helpful with what to do in the falls and in town, and they had this amazing BBQ dinner every night for a moderate price. The dinner was a great way to meet people who were staying in the hostel; I ate there two nights (your second night is cheaper!). Nothing like fantastic food and a bottle of wine shared with other travelers.
I’m in Argentina!
I had a few days to kill between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and instead of visiting one of the beach towns between the two cities I decided to give nature a few days and go to one of my top locations right away – Iguazu Falls. And man was it a full day of transportation to get here.
This morning I left my hostel in SP at 10 am and got on the Metro. Took the green line, switched to the yellow line, then to the red line. Got out and got on a bus to the airport. 1:45 travel time so far. R$7.50
Then I flew from Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguassu, Brasil. 1:30 flight.
I landed in Foz and jumped on the bus #120 into the center of town, got off and immediately got on the first bus I saw marked ARGENTINA. I got lucky – this bus left immediately after I got on. I would’ve had to wait a while for the next one. 45 min, R$2.85.
Then the ARGENTINA bus took us to the border of Brazil and dropped us off. And drove away. The driver gave us a little receipt saying we had already paid, and we were on our own to go get our passports stamped for exit from Brazil. 20 min, R$4.
The tiny little immigration office was probably the most informal border crossing I’ve ever been through, but no less official. Good thing the immigration officer in the Sao Paulo airport told me to hold onto that customs form; they asked for it when they stamped my passport here to exit. As soon as I got my exit stamp, it was back to the bus stop to wait for the next bus to come pick us up on its way to Argentina.
It came and the 5 of us who had gotten off the previous bus and were now in this crazy border crossing adventure together jumped on. 5 minutes later and we were at the Argentina border. Back off the bus, into immigration, which ran like a quick service ticket counter, and 30 seconds later I have a stamp to get into Argentina. Through the shoddiest security screening I’ve ever seen, and I’m back on the bus. At least this bus waited for all of us. No extra cost.
After a winding tour through Puerto Iguazu, we made it to the main bus station in the center of town. 15 minutes.
Just a short half a block walk and I’m at my hostel Mango Chill. And boy is it chill. There’s a BBQ dinner every night (for extra), and the chef is a bit of a DJ so it sounds like a club out where he’s cooking. There’s a small pool in the backyard and tomorrow at 4 there’s a yoga class, included in the price of the room. I even got a free welcome beer (Budweiser, he knew I’m from the US).
What a crazy day of travel. I’ve never done a border crossing like this before. It took a lot of blind trust and a little comfort in other people with backpacks doing the same thing. The email confirming my hostel had directions so I wrote those down and just set off, assuming I’d know what TTU was when I saw it and that the bus labeled ARGENTINA would actually be that obvious. In the end, it worked out.
The funny thing about doing a crossing like this is that there were 4 other people doing the same thing, but we weren’t all traveling together. It ended up being me, a Brit, two Belgians, and an Argentinian. We didn’t talk while doing it, but we would all look around once in a while to make sure that everyone was still doing the same thing. If one of us had strayed, the rest would have questioned what we were doing. Even without speaking, we knew we were all in this together.
So tonight I enjoy Argentinian BBQ at the hostel, and tomorrow it’s off to explore the falls. 100% chance of thunderstorms. Oh joy.