Salta

Trip Start Sep 20, 2006
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Trip End Nov 20, 2006


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, October 8, 2006

The Iguazu Falls are located on the border of Brazil and Argentina. Due to our enforced separation, the plan was for Dee to fly from Rio to the Brazilian side of the falls and see the falls for a few hours whilst Pete flew from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinean side of the falls and checked into the hostel. All went well and we both met up at the border as planned after being apart for the previous three days. We spent the whole of the next day visiting the many catwalks and viewpoints on the Argentinean side of the falls. The falls are about 4km wide and are absolutely spectacular from every view point (check out our pics). We did the low walk, the high walk, visited the island lookout and took the train to the Devil's throat. Along the way we came across the local coati animals that looked a bit like a racoon and were quite curious and looking for anything to munch on. The Devil's throat was the highlight, with thousands of litres of water funnelling down it every second. It was absolutely mesmerising as it is just a continuous flow of white water before it plummets about 80 metres, throwing up lots of back-spray as it does so - another great day out!

Pete had already spent three days in Buenos Aires but he saw very little of the city as he was dealing with embassies, changing flights around and finally creating this blog site. After Iguazu Falls, Pete returned to Buenos Aires with Dee to enjoy the city and pick up his passport and Brazilian visa, which eventually took 6 days to process - efficiency at its best! We stayed in a brand new hostel near the obelisco in the centre of town so it was quite convenient. On the first day we walked around the southern part of the city and saw the colourful sights of San Telmo and La Boca, including the on-street Tango displays. The next day we hired bikes for 4 hours and rode around the city's northern highlights. Unfortunately we didn't see as much as we would have liked as we were busy dodgy traffic and avoiding the wayward buses. However, we saw the waterfront, several monuments, Evita's grave and a few other sights so it was worthwhile. We then went out to the Michelango Tango show in San Telmo. It was a really lively theatre production with good food and free champagne and wine. The tango dancing was superb and we thoroughly enjoyed the night. We also ate at a local's restaurant in San Telmo, where we had to wait for a table and were jammed in elbow to elbow with heaps of locals - great food and an excellent atmosphere.

From Buenos Aires, we jumped on the plane to El Calafate, which is near the bottom of Argentina, close to the Chilean border. El Calafate was our base for two days of glacier visits. We caught the bus into the Parque Nacional Los Glaciers and boarded our boat for a tour of four glaciers and Lago Onelli. On the way we cruised on Lago Argentina and saw our first icebergs - way cool! We managed to avoid running into any of the icebergs and arrived at the dock safely. We went for a beautiful walk through an artic forest up to Lake Onelli. This lake is simply breathtaking. It is fed by several glaciers and is completely filled with small icebergs and surrounded by beautiful mountains. Upsala Glacier was more than 2km wide and over 30km long - very impressive too.

The next day we visited Moreno Glacier. This is the big daddy. Some 4km wide and up to 60m high, with ice calving off it at regular intervals, it is one of the most active ice flows in the world and you can get real close to the action. Just sitting at the viewpoints and listening to the glacier groaning, the ice cracking and seeing big chunks calving off and splashing into the water was surreal. A fantastic natural wonder not to be missed!

After making our way nearly to the bottom of Argentina, it was time to head back up to the Lakes District and stop off at Bariloche. We would have liked to have taken a 3 day cruise up the Chilean coast but it wasn't leaving for several days so we explored other options. Route 40 follows the border with Chile through the Andean Mountains but that road was still closed for the winter, so we were forced to catch some buses and go the long way round. The bus went through Rio Gallegos (which was south-east from us), then north to San Julian and north-west to Bariloche. Anyway, the bus left El Calafate at 4am and it took 32 hours all up so we were very happy to finally get off in Bariloche, although the buses were very comfy.

Bariloche is a beautiful town surrounded by snow-capped mountains on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi. We spent a day snowboarding at Cerro Catedral, the largest ski resort in the South America. The snow was pretty good and the views of the mountains and the lakes were incredible. The next day Pete wanted to go kayaking. Dee agreed before realising we were kayaking on a nearly frozen lake that was fed by the recent snow melt. Pete had a great time and enjoyed paddling around the scenic lake. Dee was so cold her that hands had no feeling and her lips were blue, alas Pete was in the doghouse again.

Due to time constraints, we decided to skip Chile and instead head towards Bolivia, so it was back on another overnight bus to Mendoza. We arrived in the morning at Mendoza bus terminal and whilst we were checking the Lonely Planet to decide whether to stay there or push on northwards, some local guy started asking us for some help. Anyway he was trying to scam us as his partner snuck up behind us and tried to grab Dee's daypack. Dee noticed what was happening, yelled out and gave the guy a good slap. The thief hurried off empty handed and the other guy followed him. Dee and Pete 1 vs thieves 0. We were kinda angry but also relived that we didn't lose anything. The incident left a sour taste in our mouths about Mendoza so we decided to skip the town and jumped on the next bus to San Juan. At San Juan we had a 3 hour stop-over so we went into town for some exploring and a Chinese buffet lunch, plenty of food on offer but not much of it was Chinese.

On to another bus and we finally made it to San Augustin de Valle Fertil after another 20 odd hours on buses. We had met the only other 2 tourists in town, so between us booked our tour to Parque Provincial Ischigulasto and Parque Nacional Talampaya for the next day and headed out to the only restaurant in town. Dee ordered pesto spaghetti and got some boiled pasta with some parsley on the top - pretty funny, but the bottle of red made it easier to bear.

Up early the next day, with four of us were cramped into a small car with a local driver, who was telling us jokes in Spanish all day. After an 80km drive we joined a tour at Talampaya and jumped in a 4WD that was nick-named the 'pope-mobile'. Talampaya was absolutely awesome! There were heaps of native rock carvings, dating back thousands of years and spectacular rock formations that had been eroded by the wind. The cathedral part had huge semi-circular vertical grooves cut down the side of the rock faces that were excellent for echoes. Breathtaking scenery with various coloured rocks littering the landscape and giant condors flying overhead. After that it was back in the sardine-can car and after 100km we reached Ischigualasto, where we did the three-hour tourist circuit with a guide and a few other cars. We saw distinctive carved rock shapes, red sandstone, volcanic ash and various lunar-like rock formations, hence the nickname of 'the valley of the moon'. They have discovered dinosaur bones at this park and though we didn't get to see them, we did get to see fossilised plants in the rocks. It was great and very different scenery to what we had seen anywhere else in Argentina. We were going to visit the museum on-site but our driver said that if we skipped the museum there was a chance we might be able to catch the 5pm bus rather than the 9pm one. So we thought, stuff the museum, let's go. Unfortunately we arrived at the bus stop (aka, a shack by the side of the road) 10 minutes after it had left so we had to wait another 3 hours; but they had a pool table, good food and cold beer so all was not lost.

After another overnight bus ride heading north we arrived in the beautiful town of Salta, tired and ready for a good night's sleep. We went to a fabulous restaurant and had the world's best empanadas and went exploring the town. The next day we went horse riding to make up for taking Dee on the freezing Kayak trip in Bariloche. Much to Dee's surprise, Pete had a great time (it must have had something to do with having a good horse). We both enjoyed ourselves immensely on the horses and soaked up the fresh air and the mountain scenery. A great way to spend our last day in Argentina. We caught the overnight bus north to the Bolivian border at La Quiaca where we dealt with the formalities, changed our money and literally journeyed back in time to the third world.
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