"Poor Niagara..."

Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
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Trip End Mar 30, 2006


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Saturday, June 11, 2005

After a long bus ride from Chile we arrived in Salta, Argentina around 2 a.m. and crashed in sort of a dump of a hostel (not too picky at that hour). That early-morning hour officially marked Allison's birthday, so, once daylight arrived, we moved into a nice hotel for the night and spent the day in style. It was the perfect day and place to be introduced to Argentina. Salta is a beautiful, chic city with no limit of good restaurants. We were immediately enraptured by the sudden availability of pasta and inexpensive wine... White rice be gone!

Following a few relaxing days in Salta we headed south to the little town of Cafayate, located in one of Argentina's wine producing regions. It could have been in Northern California - beautiful weather, laid-back people, little boutique-y wine stores and lots of wineries to visit (you have to come here someday, Bill!). The hostel we stayed at included free transport to three wineries the day we arrived (including one excellent organic one), and the next day we rented bikes and visited a larger, well-known winery in the countryside just outside of town. We had an exciting morning before the bike ride when Jeff woke up and the left side of his face had puffed up to twice its size. A sinus infection was suspected, but the face swelling was new, so we spent a few hours checking out the Cafayate hospital... Luckily, nothing serious, as demonstrated by the two head x-rays. And the dexamethasone shot brought his face back to near-normal size with enough time to still rent the bikes. After the shot, though, he was a little worried about being able to sit on a bike and then take our planned overnight bus ride that evening...

From Cafayate we had to take three different buses over the course of about 16 hours to get to Cordoba, the second largest city in Argentina. We stayed there three full days, arriving in the morning the first day and leaving late at night the last. Another very nice city to visit (we love Argentina!). A huge portion of the center of the city is devoted to packed pedestrian malls, and the large number of university students make the city seem young and vibrant despite its industrial history.

After Cordoba we headed to the highly anticipated Buenos Aires (all over South America people kept telling us: wait till you get to Buenos Aires - you won't want to leave...) We arrived on a pretty miserable day. It is winter here, and it was pouring most of the day. Our first day was devoted to business. We had been waiting to get to Buenos Aires to book tickets out of South America and had a few destinations and types of flights in mind. Sort of ended up on a wild goose chase that day that didn't end up producing what we wanted. But we now (writing this two weeks later) have big news (for us, at least) - we are flying to South Africa on Wednesday the 22nd!

There is a lot to say about Buenos Aires, but we are going to save that for another entry... We picked that time to be in the city, though, because our good friend Darcy flew into Buenos Aires to spend nine days with us! After a few days enjoying the city (Thanks for bringing the good weather, Darcy! And thanks for sending along the good midwestern beer, Jill and John!) we took a 17 hour bus ride north to Iguazu Falls, at the border between Brazil and Argentina. Bus rides normally aren't worth detailing, but we'll make an exception for these Argentinian buses. The seats are better than first-class airplane seats (not that we have much experience to back up this claim) and are sort of like Lazy-Boys. This particular bus served wine with dinner (and they could even accomodate vegetarians...) and they served champagne and whiskey during the movie after dinner. And no more Steven Segal movies dubbed in Spanish - during this ride we saw The Bourne Supremacy, Open Water (much to Allison's consternation - not a fan of horror/suspense - see photo) and Ocean's 12. (As a side note, though, we took a different bus line back from Iguazu to Buenos Aires and were shown a movie from the mid-nineties that was called Satanic Sacrifice... We see that not all Argentinian bus companies are created equal.)

Iguazu Falls is almost impossible to describe and the photos only give you an idea of how spectular and diverse the area is (and due to a memory card snafu, we lost some of the best photos...). But, basically, imagine a jungly river basin around 2.5 miles wide plummeting over a series of curving cliffs its entire width. Some areas are unbelievably powerful and create huge clouds of mist (and beautiful rainbows), while other areas are mossy and islands have created numerous individual narrow falls. The falls cover such a wide area and are so diverse that you need at least two days to appreciate them (one from the Brazil side for a panoramic view and one from the Argentina side to see them up close - and we spent an additional day on the Argentina side, too...). It is hard to imagine spending three days looking at one set of waterfalls, but the infrastructure in the parks is top notch - there are catwalks that put you above them, below them, far away, close up... The highlight was a catwalk on the Argentinian side that put us basically right in front of the most powerful part of the falls - Garganta del Diablo (devil's throat). Out of all of the incredible natural areas we have seen in South America, it is hard to pick one more impressive than Iguazu Falls.

And FYI regarding the title of this entry. "Poor Niagara" is what Eleanor Roosevelt is reported to have said when she visited Iguazu Falls...
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