A Travellerspoint blog

Mendoza

Bikes, wine, more wine and Mr Hugo

sunny 19 °C

The overnight journey to Mendoza wasn’t too bad. We arrived really early and had no idea where to stay so stopped into a little café for breakfast and some free Wi-Fi. Found a cheap hostel on Hostelbookers.com called Áll in Mendoza monkey hostel’ and decided to book it for two nights. We got the map out and after about 20 minutes of walking, found the hostel, which was in a great location near the main plaza. The guy checking us in showed us to a dorm, which stank! We promptly referred him to our booking which was for a private room for two but he said we were only paying the dorm rate. We got a bit annoyed at this as it was a promotion on the net, but the owner of the hostel, Luca, was quickly there, telling us we could have the private room, and apologizing for the new guy! The room turned out to be tiny, but at least it smelt clean! We had a little nap then decided to explore town as it was a really sunny day. Mendoza isn’t a big place but there are some nice plazas and plenty of shops to look around. We stopped for a set menu lunch (which was huge) in a little restaurant, which had a great outdoor seating area. In the evening, we hung out at the hostel, played scrabble and drank in the hostel bar (the owner had been given a load of lime flavored beer which he decided to give out for free as he didn’t like it – it tasted a bit like the Desperado beers in France).

The next day we got up early and had our free hostel breakfast, more bread and jam, then headed out to do the famous wine tour of the area. Lots of people had told us to go with a tour company, as there had been rumours of muggings on the trail, but we decided to go it alone to save money. We also both hate organized tours and being herded around! It took a while to get a bus, as although we found it quickly, we then had to buy a scanner card for it (like an oyster card), as they only accept pre-paid cards or change… coins aren’t easy to come by in Argentina! The bus takes around 30 minutes to get out to the vineyard area; you have to jump off when you see all the rental shops. We had been recommended a place called ‘Mr. Hugo’s’ which is run, unsurprisingly, by Mr Hugo. It was about £5 for the whole day, including a bottle of water each. Mr Hugo is so sweet and very chilled out, he said we had to take helmets for legal reasons, but not to worry about wearing them! He gave us a little map of the region and we were on our way. The bike made us both laugh so much, as they were very old school with huge seats and wide handle bars with little baskets on the front.

We had got a few tips on places to stop and headed up to the Museo del Vino first. It’s a sweet little place with lots of old wine making equipment. We had a wander round and our first free taster of the day (although the tasters are more like full sized glasses of wine!). We then cycled a little further up the same road to Entre Olives, which is a little family run place that makes their own tapenades, oils and chutneys. We had a tour of the gardens (I didn’t know black/purple olives were green olives left to ripen). We then learnt how to make olive oil and got to try all the yummy foods they make on-site. We even finished the tour with a few shots of home-made schnapps and absinthe! It was really interesting and good to eat something with all the alcohol. We bought a jar of green olive and garlic tapenade and started our long cycle to the furthest vineyard. We decided it was best to ‘go long’ before we got too sozzeled. We also thought it would be safer to work our way back to Mr Hugo…

The cycle to Florio’s took about 40 minutes, and it was such a pretty ride. The first part was through town, but once you clear that it’s all beautiful tree lined country roads, surrounded by grape and olive trees. It’s a little scary when vehicles pass as the roads are tiny, but we made it there in one piece. Florio’s is a family run vineyard that only opened to the public 2 or 3 years ago. We had a tour of the factory, where they still hand bottle and cork their wine, then got onto the tasting! We tried four of the wines they make, two of which were fizzy (they also ‘fizz’ by hand), but they were a little sweet for me, kinda like dessert wines. After this, we cycled back up to Familia Di Tomaso which is yet another family run place, but the oldest in the region. We didn’t do any tours here, but instead stopped for lunch in a beautiful spot surrounded by their vineyards. The sun was shining too and we enjoyed the menu del dia with a glass of white wine made from the grapes that were growing around us. We had a little explore of the property then carried on our wobbly way and up to Tempus Alba, which is quite a modern, posh vineyard. Here, it was a self guided tour of the grounds, which we were pleased about as we knew enough about grape squeezing by now and just wanted the samples! At all the vineyards, you pay around £3- £4 for the tour and samples, so here, you just pay for a selection that they let you pick. We picked six wines between us and settled down on the terrace overlooking the vineyards to try them all. It was such a gorgeous spot, and by now, then sun was setting, which made it even more stunning. Our favourite was the Merlot, so yummy! We were tempted to stay for another round, but it was getting late, so we carried on up to Trapiche, which is another quite famous and old winery, but it was unfortunately closed for the day, so we trundled up to the infamous Beer Garden. The Beer Garden was funny, it’s down a little dirt track and is just a little building with an outdoor area with tonnes of sofas and bean bags. We shared a pint of their home brewed ale, which is served with home made crisps to absorb some of the alcohol! It was so yummy we stayed for another round, whilst having a fierce discussion on whether or not the bar tender was a man or a woman (I think lady boy!). It was 5.30pm by the time we left, and we decided we could squeeze in one more tour before the sun set. We stopped in at Historias y Sabores, which was another place that made all its own tapenades and chutneys. It was good to have another feed and the setting there is lush as all the seating is surrounded and covered by grapes vines, orange trees, lime trees and flowers. The final shot of absinthe definitely finished us off and we rolled back into Mr Hugo’s feeling the effects of the day. He poured us a jug of orange juice, followed by more crisps and we relaxed for a while in the courtyard. The whole trip is about 25km of cycling but I’m so glad we did it independently. We covered so much more of the area, had such a good laugh, and saved about half the money of the organised trip! There are tourist police on motorcycles that drive around the area too, so I never felt unsafe at any point, I think some travellers just set themselves up for a fall sometimes and attract the wrong sort of attention. We grabbed a bus back to town and made some dinner at the hostel but ended up having quite an early night, too much wine!

The next day, we booked a bus for the evening to cross the border into Chile, so ended up just hanging out most of the day at the hostel. It all ended up being a bit of a nightmare though, as we walked to the bus station with all our stuff for the 10pm bus, only to be told bad weather had shut the border and we would not be able to leave until 7.30am the next day! Luckily, an enterprising hostel owner was waiting to scoop up all the lost looking people, and did us a good rate on a double room near the station for the night. It turned out the hostel was plush, with a big flat screen TV in our room! We watched a movie and got some sleep. The next morning, we trudged back to the bus station and were relieved when the bus finally turned up 45 minutes late. We were on our way to Chile…

Lulu xxx

Posted by Lulu-Bug 18:51 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

Our little apartment, Tru Blood, world renound steaks and crazy football fans

sunny

The bus from Rio to Buenos turned out to be a lot more enjoyable than we thought. For the first 7 or so hours, we had the whole top floor to ourselves. People got on in dribs and drabs along the way but there was never over a dozen people on the bus, so it was really relaxed. We had made a slight communication error, reading that the whole trip included meals. This turned out to only be true once you had crossed into Argentina. We had over 20 hours before the border and only crisps and chocolate to keep us going, so we were relieved when the driver pulled into a McDonalds on the first night! The journey passed by in a haze of movies, naps and more movies. We had a little bit of time to stretch our legs at the border, when we had to get stamps and customs checks etc, but we didn't stop many times after that. On the second night, we finally got some bus food and it was worth the wait! An ice whiskey, followed by a really nice meal (a bit like posh plane food), wine, beer and champagne for dessert! It's a strange order they serve the drinks in here. As the bus was quite empty, the guy gave everyone extra booze and the rest of the evening was spent getting sozzeled and sleeping! We arrived the next morning, 4 hours later than schelduled, after 42 hours of basically sitting and doing nothing. I wouldn't change a thing though, the scenery on the drive was stunning.

We arrived in Buenos Aires quite early and had to wait til 12pm to get the keys for the apartment we had rented. I would recommend renting, as it's only about 50p a night more than a hostel and so much better! We had a bit of a panic as the rent was supposed to be paid in US dollars and we only had a mix of $ and pesos. Luckily, the girl from the agency was super chilled out and didn't care. The flat was really nice, but there had been a mix up and it hadn't been cleaned yet, so we went out to explore and grab lunch whilst it was sorted. We got back, and it was so nice to be abe to unpack and have our own space. It was so cool, with an open plan kitchen/living room then a spiral staircase to a mezzanine floor with a mini double bed. The bathroom also had a bath, which was such a treat after weeks of skanky hostel showers! We both could have easily chilled out for the rest of the day, but had had a recommendation to check out San Telmo's Sunday market. It was a short tube ride away to Cathedral and well worth the effort. It's a Bohemian area with tonnes of indoor and outdoor stalls seling everything from vintage clothes to cane swords to leather bags and bric-a-brac. We wandered round for ages and it was just streets and streets of never ending goodies for sale. You can still check this area out in the week, but a lot of the market stalls are only there on Sundays. We decided we needed some excercise after the bus and walked back to Palermo, the area where we were staying.

The next day the bus ride seemed to catch up on us so we decided to have a chilled day of lounging around the flat, eating and watching Tru Blood! The internet was super fast too which was another treat, so we got a lot of pictures uploaded aswell.

By Tuesday, we had our energy back and hit the streets again for more exploring. We got the tube again to Cathedral and walked to La Boca and Caminetto. La Boca is the area with the football stadium, which is huge, although a little rough (do not take valubles). You then walk through here and end up in Caminetto. This area is famous for it's colourful streets, tango dancing and BBQ's. We really enjoyed waking around here, as it had such a cool vibe and the colours are all so vibrant. It also felt like such a safe and friendly neighbourhood. We stopped at a really nice BBQ place for lunch. It wasn't on the main road, but just off the train tracks and it opened into a gorgeous little courtyard, which was a massive sun trap. The food was amazing and the portions gigantic! After this, both feeling massively stuffed and sleepy, we walked along the docks all the way to Recoletta. This took about two hours, but it was good to walk off lunch and enjoy the sunshine. It's also more interesting to walk, as you get to see so much more of the city. They have some really cool pirate ships in the docks. Once in Recoletta, we navigated our way to the famous cemetary there. It's where all of Argentina's elite classes are buried, in huge, elaborate tombs. It's really serene and peaceful once you are inside the high walls that surround all the crypts and tombs. Some are beautiful, with ornate carvings and such detail. Some are quite creepy and very gothic and some have been left to rot and ruin, with smashed bricks and broken windows. It's strange looking into them as you can see all the coffins inside. Some have even been chained and whelded shut from the outside to stops spirits escaping, but as we had been watching a lot of Tru Blood the previous day, I was convinced this had something to do with Vampires insted! We spent about an hour wandering around, then came across the tomb where Evita is buried. There were mountains of flowers outside it and for the rest of the day and week, I had that song from the movie stuck in my head... 'don't cry for me Argentina, the truth is I never left you...' We arrived home in the late afternoon, walked out and ready for bed! But insted, we headed over to Dounia and Mehdi's apartment that they had rented, for takeway pizza and drinks. We hadn't seen them since Cusco, so it was really nice to catch up and trade travelling stories.

Waking up a little hungover the next day, we decided we absolutely had to spend another whole day watching Tru Blood - It's so addictive!
On Thursday, we headed over to Casa de Gobierno. This is a huge, palace like house on one of the plazas. It's famous as it's where Evita addressed the masses from one of the balconies. I really wanted to go in, but it was shut. It was nice to visit anyway, but I would recommend trying it on the weekend insted! After this, we wandered around some shops and had our first taste of a 'per kilo' buffet. This is dangerous as everything looks yummy, especially the heavy stuff! We then had another long walk over to Plaza Naciones Unidas, where there is a giant metal flower in a lake. I must admit, i'm not the biggest fan of strange art like this, and I thought it was a bit of an eyesore in a really pretty surrounding! A little disappointed, we then walked up to the Jardin Japones. Again, not amazing but just plain little gardens and mini lakes with pedalos! We had planned to hit the zoo aswel but all the walking had taken longer than we had planned so we postponed until the next day.

We got up early and headed straight to the zoo on Friday. It's actually a lot bigger than it looks from the outside. There are a lot more animals too than we had expected! We bought some animal feed and it was so much fun going round feeding zebras out of our hands and throwing food into a grizzly bears mouth! They sit right up on thier hind legs and even wave back at you when you wave at them! My favourite place was the aquarium, the pengiuns were sooooo cute! Loz's favourite was the baby cheetah, or maybe it a leopard, we couldn't tell! But it was basically a spotty, cute ball of fluff with huge eyes. We made a bit of an error as the camera hadn't been charged, so we have just one picture of every animal! We walked through the botanical Gardens on the way back, I think we were supposed to pay, but we sneaked in while the guy was on the phone. I wouldn't recommend paying though, not much to see that you can't see at the park!

On Saturday, we decided to arrange tickets to go to the football the next day. This turned into quite a mission, as we had to book an extra night in the flat, and Loz had to go over to La Boca and find some tickets (which were mostly sold out already). Within a few hours we had it sorted. We had also hoped to go to Cabrera, the most famous steakhouse in Argentina, that my dad had been to a few years ago and insited we try. But us being us, we hadn't thought to book, and on calling for a reservation were told they were fully booked til Monday. Our luck was in though, and after calling back a few more times, hoping for a cancellation, they told us about a deal they had from 7-8pm. You only have an hour to eat, but you get 50% off the food! I think they want to keep this quite, so not too many people turned up! We got suited and booted and realised it was within walking distance, so left early to arrive at 6pm! The people in the restuarant wouldn't let us in, so we lapped the block a few times then queued up outside. Glad we did too, as around 6.45pm the queue got bigger, and the restuarant was full by 7.01pm! The service was really quick and we actually had plenty of time to eat, and man was it worth it! Loz had steak and it really was the best meat I have ever tasted! I chose pork chops, thinking it would be one, but three came out, still sizzling on a metal hot plate. They were delicious and I ate all three! Dad had told us not to order side dishes either, as the meats come out with all these little ramikins full of yummy side dishes, like roasted garlic, taboleh salad and chutneys. All this washed down with a bottle of red, was one of the best meals of my life! It was obviously quite early still when we finished, so we wanted to find a bar or pub. This, however, does not really exsist is Buenos Aires! It's all cafes or restaurants. We eventually found a little bar, a bit like an enclosed alleyway with sofas, but it served nice red wine. We tried to go to a club after this, but I don't think they wanted us to come in, as they wanted us to pay a crazy entrance fee. We decided to call it a night, content and happy after such a lovely meal (and three bottle of wine!).

On Sunday, we got packed up ready to leave the next morning and caught the tube over to La Boca. Loz had arranged to pick the tickets up at 4pm and we were running late so we caught a taxi from the tube station rather than walking, but it turned out we didn't need to rush. We paid and were told to come back at 5pm, so wandered around Caminetto again and ate 'Choripans', which are like hotdogs but with BBQ chorizo sausage insted - Yum! We also decided to get cheap football t-shirts so we fitted in a bit more in the stands! We were told it can be quite dangerous too, so only had the camera and put our money in our shoes!At 5pm, there was a group of around 20 foreigners who had got tickets from the same company. We were walked over nearer the stadium, then had to wait for another 45mins while all the locals went in. We kept moving 100m then having to wait, this went on for a good hour! Eventually, the guy got everyone's tickets sorted and handed them out. Turns out they were local season passes, belonging to people that had been sent to prison! They rent the passes out while they're on the inside to make money - classic Argentina! So, I was Pablo for the night! Boys and girls are separated for a quick pat down search. We then re-grouped and headed into the local stands in the stadium. We got a really good spot in the middle. The pitch is huge and the fans are nuts! They love the game so much and sang and chanted from beginning to end, it was a really fun atmosphere and not a bit imtimidating or scary like we had been led to believe it would be! The game itself wasn't great as the referee hated our team and was making terrible calls. At one point, the stands erupted in chants of 'Hijo de Puta' which translates to 'son of a bitch or whore', it was hilarious! They take half time entertainment to a new level here and a huge marching band comes out onto the pitch, followed by some very scantily clad cheerleaders. The guys all love it! When the game finshes, they locked our stand in the stadium for over an hour, so everyone in the posh seats can leave in safety, then they let us loose. Another classic situation, with people starting to chant and bang on the walls! We were really lucky on the way home, and jumped straight on the bus then tube back to Palermo. We grabbed a pizza and a beer, a perfect end to a crazy day and week in the capital.

Finally, after 8 days in Buenos Aires and our beautiful little apartment, it was time to head off. We checked out and got our deposit back and caught the tube to the bus station. It was time for our next adventure and another overnight bus, to Mendoza...

Lulu xxx

Posted by Lulu-Bug 13:01 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Rio de Janerio

A brief stop in Sao Paulo, monkeys and the big man

The bus to Sao Paulo was non eventfull, but the bus station at Sao Paulo is massive. It's spread over two floors with different sections for the local and international buses and then for the tube and bookings, its a little like a labyrinth! Not so much fun when you've been deprived of sleep the night before by a phantom snorer..... we ended up getting a taxi to the hostel but i strongely advise using the tube as its alot cheaper and probably faster! We stayed in dorms at Lime Time hostel. The hostel is really nice but basic. We spent the rest of the day looking around the city and visited some of the parks and the big markets, FYI the food one is awsome!!! Loads of cheese and salami. We got massively lost on the way back for about 3 hours but eventually got home, quite a good way to see the city to be fair. The next day, realising that to us Sao Paulo is just another city, we headed straight for Rio, using the tube this time to get to the station.

After hitting MEGA traffic on the way to Rio, we arrived 3 hours later than expected, in the dark and a little dis-orientated. We headed for the local bus station which the guide book advises to avoid at night and we found out why. The station has become a bit of a beacon for the homeless and even put me on edge. Not safe as you become the centre of attention as soon as you go in. We jumped the first bus that looked remotely like it was going where we wanted to go and headed down to the Copacabana district of Rio. It was a really nice area to stay and close to all of the main sights and its got an amazing beach!!! Its quite a touristy area of rio but there is still loads of local night life to see. We made the massive mistake of not realising that it was a nation half term or something because everything was booked out and we ended up trapsing around the whole area with our packs until a random lady took pitty on us and guided us to a hostel close by, El Misti House. The hostel was booming with life because of the holiday so we had a few drinks and got our heads down. Because the hostel was so busy we ended up in separate dorms for the first night but managed to get the same dorm for the rest of the stay. The dorms are triple layered bunk beds for 12 people. Could not help feeling sorry for the people on top as one wrong move when they were asleep and they would wake to the sound of themselves hitting the floor.

We awoke to a thunderstorm!!! Not wanting to waste a day though we headed out to see what Rio had to offer, avoiding the main sights as it was a bit of a shitty day. We headed over to the Ipanema, Botanico and Lagoa districts. We walked to them from the hostel as Rio is a bit like London in the sense that nothing is actually that far apart or so we thought...... the maps are just a little out of scale. The Botanico gardens are huge and worth going to see if you have the time but are quite far from anything else. Rio has a bike rental thingy where you pay online and then pick the bikes up at one of the points closest, would have been really usefull!! The Ipanema beach is huge a lot like the one at Copacabana but it attracts a lot of really good kite surfers. Worth checking out on a windy day, its like watching a competiton or something, huge jumps and even better wipe outs. The town itself is very western though and at times could be anywhere in the world, apart from the fact they have loads of haviannas everywhere. Not wanting to skip anything, we decided to walk home, stopping only to take on beer and food... Took around seven hours in total to do the round trip.

The next day we headed to see Christ the Redeemer, the statue that looks over Rio. Don't bother taking the tours as they are massively over priced and its really easy to do on your own. There are buses that run straight to it and it saves about £50!! Not only that but you're not rushed around it either. You can either get the funicular, a train thingy or a mini bus up there. The mini bus is cheaper but only run when they are full so we took the train. When you buy your ticket you get given a time for the next available train going up so get there early or you can end up waiting about an hour for a space. It's only aout £20 and includes your entry to the statue. The views are stunning, you can see the whole of Rio and the surrounding areas, its really impressive but its weird though actually seeing the statue as it looks a little like a back drop after seeing it in so many movies and pictures, surreal to be there! We spent about 2 hours up there taking in the views and enjoying pengiun beer then headed down to try and fit Sugar Loaf mountain in. We jumped the bus back towards the hostel, jumping off about half way so that we could walk down to Sugar Loaf. Basically we just asked the driver to kick us off at the closest point. Sugar Loaf has two gondelar stations, one at the bottom and another at mid station. If you're tight and are starting to actually enjoy walking everywhere, like us, you can save some money by walking up to the mid station. The entrance is off to the right hand side of the army base at the bottom. The walk is really worth it as its littered with little monkeys that screech at you and other wild life and it only takes about thirty minutes. Just make sure you turn left as soon as you get the chance onto the mud path otherwise you end up at the town inbetween the two mountains. Then just take every left turn after, going right just brings you to other view points. Once there, we bought our ticket for the second gondelar to the top. The views from mid station are breath-taking enough but the top gives you just that little bit more. Looking back towards the JC statue, it gives you a real prospective of the city and is so peaceful, made me feel like a kid looking at an ants nest. Big tip is to charge your camera the night before though, I learnt the hard way running out after about 5 minutes at the top, turning the camera on taking a quick photo and then turning it off to save battery. I lost the game quickly! We stayed at the top until we lost the feeling in the tips of our fingers then headed back down to mid station. We figured that by buying the ticket to the top at mid station we would be able to get it down to the bottom from there, we were wrong, and set off walking down with just a mini light to guide us, sketchy!!! That night we found a local Salsa and Samba night at one of the clubs, with free beer until 12 and Salsa dancing til you couldn't stand any more. Turns out some of our friends, Nico and Claudia, were also in Rio at the same time so we met them there and spent the rest of the night trying to convince the bar girls to give us more than one free beer at a time and laughing the night away. Lucy had her very own 'Dirty Dancing' moment when a local started to dance with her and span her off when he realised she couldn't dance!! Well and truly sozzled, we headed back to the hostel... Rio nights AMAZING!!!

Waking ever so slighty hanging I decided it would be a good idea to go handgliding over Rio, probably one of the best decisions I've made traveling. Its not cheap at about £100 but one of the most exhilarating and scariest things I've ever done. You can book it out of the hostel and you get taken to the landing beach first. From there you meet the pilot and get driven up to the launch sight. After a quick familiarisation with the hand glider they go over launching and landing with you, basically don't look down and run as hard and fast as fast as you can! With the landing, just lift your feet when you feel the ground and start to run......... I was bricking it by now!!! They get you into the harness and let you get a feel for hanging from the glider then take you to the launch platform. This constists of a wooden platform about 4 metres long with a sheer drop of the end. Not giving you time to think about it they clip you in and tell you to run!!! The take off is a bit of a blur as it happens so quick but when your feet leave that platform it's like being set free! You drop into your harness and glide off towards the horizon over the national park and then the favelas and Rio. The flight lasts about 15 to 20 minutes and took me into a thermal, which is an experience in itself, like stepping into an air tunnel. The pilot let me have a go at controlling the glider as well, I don't think I stopped smiling the whole time! When you're coming in for the landing he unclips your right leg so you can put your feet down, leaving you hanging by just your harness, then flys you over the sea and back towards the beach for touch down. I'm not going to lie, I was gutted when we landed... I could have stayed up there all day !!!! Definately the best way to see Rio, forget helicopter and bus trips, this smashes them to bits and there is no other feeling like it.

When I got back, still bubbling with excitment, Lucy suprised me with a picnic to have up at Sugar Loaf, could the day get any better?! We decided to walk again because we're tight and the walk is really worth it. We decided to go up and hit the sunset this time as some of the other people we had met in the hostel had said was stunning, they weren't lying!! There are massive benches and loungers up there that make you feel tiny, you can fit about 6 or 7 people on them! We seemed to be the envy of everyone up there too, recieving scowls and evil looks as they went by our picnic, as the sun went down with Rio as the back drop. Of course, the monkey's joined us aswel. The views are just as impressive at night if not more, the whole city comes to life and it's like watching a scene out of a movie as the sun goes down and all the street lights start to flicker on. We met a couple of other travellers who had also walked up there who told us that the path down was closed after dark and that we either had to pay to get down or wait til the last gondelar at 7pm to go down for free........ we waited and enjoyed the scenery then walked back to Copacabna with the people we had just met.

The next day we checked out the hostel and I went to go and see the Favelas up close before the bus. Again, not worth getting a guided tour as it's a lot cheaper to just get the bus there. Just don't take anything of value with you, I even took off my watch as when I went to leave one of the hostel workers said "you're not wearing that there are you???" so I quickly ran up stares to stash it. The police have just started going into the favelas themselves and have made them a lot safer but its still better to go in a group. There are loads of different ones you can visit, just ask your hostel where the closest and safest one is to go and see. There is a real sense of community there, all the bulidings painted different colours and there's some really good graffiti on them. Not tagging but actual murals and stuff. I spent about an hour looking around and at no point felt unsafe apart from when I got the train to the top and felt a little exposed but was then ushered by one of the local childern to the right path to take down.

Before we got to Rio we had decided that we were going to take a bus from Rio to Buenos Airies, LONG, but it was a lot cheaper then flying. After doing a bit of research we found that there was only one company that did the bus journey, Cruzero Del Norte. We had already reserved our ticket when we arrived to make sure we got good seats and we figured it would book up quick. We bagged two at the front in full Cama, like first class on a plane. Turns out our fears of not getting a ticket were unfounded as no one else was stupid enough to get the bus and we had the whole of the top floor to ourselves. Bring on Buenos Aires !!!!!!

Loz x x x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 13:05 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Florianopolis

Beaches, surf, rain and praying for sun

semi-overcast

Getting the bus out of Iguazu was a lot harder than we thought, we figured that we could just get a bus straight from Iguazu to Florianopolis as our previous invesigations had suggested however this wasn't the case....... turns out you have to cross the boarder on a public bus get all your bags off and hold the bus up and then the same again at the Brazilian boarder. On top of this it will only take you to the public bus terminal and they only speak Portugese. Then you get another bus to the international terminal or pay a small fortune for a taxi. We decided to try to walk as we had no Real (the local currency) and couldnt speak a word of portugease. Running out of time fast however we then had to convice a taxi driver to take payment in pesos. At the bus station we then found that they had no tickets left til the morning........ screw spending a night in the bus station right ...... so we jumped a bus to a city on route to flori and then another from there to flori..... MISSION but only took 2 hours extra and worked out to actually be cheaper and well worth it.

We stayed at a hostel called Bannana beach just across the bridge from where the bus dropps you off. Managed to get an offer off hostel bookers for half price rooms as well, double with a shared bathroom for £8 each a night, steal! It is right on the beach and the town itself is really nice. Theres a constant wave from mid to high tide on the local beach and a few other beaches close by with some really good surf. This hostel also has 6 surf boards and kayaks you can use for free, would have been rude not to right.

The first day was overcast so we decided to walk to one of the secret beaches on the other side of the island, its huge and no one ever tends to go there, it is also a 2 and a half hour walk away and not too easy on the feet, made just that little harder with a surf board! The break was about 4 to 5 ft and the waves are really powerfull on this beach but its the second best surf on the island, i got mulched!!!!!! But the waves i did catch were worth the fight to get out through the break. There are a couple of other paths that lead off the beach as well so we decided to take one of those to get home, figured it had to be easier than the way there. Turns out you can get a bus to the end of town and then walk these other paths which are a lot easier under foot but the path over the top is worth it for the views as you can see the whole of Flori from up there, Stunning at sunset!!!.

We spent the next few overcast days surfing and looking around the towns around the area, there is another town about a 35 min bus ride where you can kite surf, wind surf and sand board, it's also got some really good grafiti if you look around. There are loads of really cheap supermarkets there and i was also introduced to Bob's shakes, AMAZING!!!! Dont walk back though as it takes about 2 and half hours and gives you blisters!!!! Go to the local veg markets for fruit and veg though, avocados the size of your face! Needless to say we had alot of guacamole that week, the hostel has a pretty good kitchen as well.

The hostel has a bar with a pool table and PS3 and over the non-peak season takes on workers, stay for free and work 4 to 5 hours a day. We befriended a couple of the workers and drank the nights away with them as we pretty much had the hostel to ourselves. Theres not much of a night life there, everywhere seems to close really early (about 1 ish), unless you can get into the samba nights which go on for hours We spent most nights in the hostel with our friends, 2 litres of wine for £3 and a bottle of vodka £7. Just around from the hostel, about 10 mins, there are some natural pools and some really good bouldering, we spent around half a day climbing and swimming and jumping off the rocks over there, the views aren't half bad as well.

Finally getting a sunny day we hit the beach up for some sun and even ended up extending our stay there for an extra night or two just to spend some time on the beach, the sand there is like flour!!! One of the nicest beaches i've been on. If you get a chance aswell walk round to the point, it's beautiful. Easliy could have become one of the workers there and just watch time go by, dangerous place!!! On to Sao Paulo........
loz x x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 13:23 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

The Igauzu Falls

Leaving Bolivia and the most amazing waterfalls on Earth

all seasons in one day

P4220040.jpgSo the escape from Bolivia was not as easy as we had hoped! The first bus was supposed to be 15 hours from Sucre to the border, a little town called Villazon. The bus was a typical Bolivian bus, ie; no toilet and uncomfy seats! We were glad to arrive early after 12 hours, as the driver had been gunning it the whole way! The border was due to open at 8am, so we had to queue for a litttle while with a bunch of pushy Bolivians, who for some reason had tonnes of tiger blankets?! After an hour or so, we got through customs quite easliy. The Argentinian guards idea of searching your bag was to open it up, search the top 4 inches of the bag then wave you through! We had no Argentinian money so had to walk to the bus terminal! We got there only to discover we would have to wait 3 hours for an onward bus to Saltar. Luckily, we had found an atm by now and could get some breakfast. The bus to Saltar took around 7 hours, and was a real treat compared to Bolivia! Free coffee, comfy reclinable seats and toilets onboard! We arrived in Saltar around 6.30pm only to find that the bus to Iguazu had left at 6pm and only runs once a day... We were stuck! Luckily, we managed to book into a nice hostel called 'Exxces' for the night, after reserving our tickets for the bus for the next day. We went out for dinner and soon started to realise Argentina was going to be a lot more expensive than Peru and Bolivia!

The next day we spent killing time til the bus and went for a wander round Saltar. Not much to see but a nice enough town. We stocked up on snacks and drinks for the journey too, then headed back to the bus terminal. The bus was really comfy and we had booked top floor, front seats so had a good view! After 24 hours on the road, 3 bus changes, 2 'bus' meals, 1 very nice bottle of red wine and 5 movies, we finally arrived in Puerto Iguazu.

The weather on arrival was a bit dismal, and as usual, we had no idea where to stay! We ended up in a little B&B at the top of town after about an hour of looking around and generally being shocked by how much more hostels are in Aregentina! The B&B was nice though, and had a nice kitchen to cook in. It felt good to be in a proper bed after such a long bus trip.

The next morning we awoke to torrential rain and decided to stay another day. We decided to move to a hostel down the road, called 'Pop Hostel' as it was cheaper and a bit more social. We spent the rest of the day uploading pictures, exploring the local town, and attempting a swim in the hostel pool in the rain! In the evening, we met a couple of French guys who had done the Iguauzu falls that day and said it was awful in the rain so we were glad we were waiting! They also had a hard drive packed with movies and series, of which we took a lot for our laptop.

We really hoped the weather would be better the next day but again, it was really chucking it down when we woke up and the forecast was looking up for the day after, so again, we had a rainy day. This mainly consisted of a walk to the supermarket, eating and watching 8 episodes of 'Game of Thrones' (stolen the previous night).

Finally, on the third morning, the sun was blazing when we woke up! We quickly checked out the hostel, left our bags in reception, packed the picnic and headed to the Falls. You can get a local bus there of around £1.50. It's kind of like arriving at Alton Towers when you get there, with big turnstiles and tourist desks. We got our tickets and maps and waited for the mini train to the Diablo Falls (the largest ones there). The stupid thing is, after 2 minutes on the little train, you have to get off and queue up again at a different station! We were bored of waiting by now, so deicided to walk insted, which actually only takes about 25 mins. Theres like 30 waterfalls at the Diablo Falls that all merge into the river below. To get to the falls, you have to walk out over all the huge rivers on metal gangways. We saw loads of big cat fish on the way. As you approach the falls, you can hear them before you see anything, then you can see the mist rising into the sky and your heart starts to pound! When they come into full view, the force of the water and the sheer size of the drops, just takes your breath away. It was so beautiful, even though I've seen pictures before, there's nothing like standing and looking down into the abyss of foam and spray as all that water tumbles over the edge. After taking about 100 pictures, we headed back down the gangway to explore the rest of the waterfalls. We headed out along the top path, which takes you out along another gangway over half a dozen huge waterfalls. We stopped here for a sandwich, such a good picnic spot! There were so many pretty rainbows along the way from all the mist and spray rising, it was really magical.We then headed to the lower path, not as impressive, but this leads to the boat docks. We bought a ticket for the boat ride and didn't have to queue for long as it was lunchtime. The boat ride is SO much fun! They sit about 30 people in a big boat called a 'rib', then drive you out to the Diablo falls to take photos (not too close though!). Then they drive you into loads of spray, so you get soaked!After you go round the other side of the river, and drive into the Salto San Martin falls. The whole boat totally disappears into the spray, its so much fun... They also give you dry bags, which are well worth using! My trainers were soggy all day! After this adrenaline rush, we caught another little boat over to San Martin island. This island is right in the middle of the falls and offers great views and vantage points of all the main waterfalls. We got some great pictures from here and stopped for the second half of our picnic, and to dry off! We had a little time left before we had to head off, so we decided to go to the furthest waterfall, Salto Arrechea, as we had heard you could swim there. We found the entrance path, but the gate was shut and said it was closed. We really wanted that swim, so broke in anyway and made our way along the trail. It was cool, as it was really jungly and we kept seeing these crazy big rat like creatures running into the bushes. We were a little on edge as we weren't supposed to be there, but we saw some other tourists coming the other way and relaxed a little. After about a 40 min walk, we found the old rickety steps down to the waterfall, it looked like it hadn't been open to the public in years!! The actual waterfall was gorgeous, but the 'natural' pools where quite muddy from all the rain water of the previous few days. It was worth the walk though, as it was like a little secret paradise with no-one else there. We climbed round to the waterfall and stood under it, and man does it sting! The power of even a small waterall like this one nearly knocks you over! After we'd pretended to be Peter Andre in Mysterious girl for a bit, we dried off and headed back to the entrance to get a bus back to town, and onto Brazil. It was such an amazing and memorable day, a must on any trip to South America!

Lucy xxx

Posted by Lulu-Bug 13:20 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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