I fall in love with Argentina

Brixham KiwiStarred Page By Brixham Kiwi, 28th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/y1jcofwk/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>South America>Argentina>Buenos Aires & Around

I am intrigued to be asked to go to Argentina and find a wonderfully exciting country that I would love to visit again.

I arrive in Buenos Aires

“He wants me to go to Argentina with him!”, “what's in Argentina?”, “um, Polo?”; “He wants me to go to Argentina with him!”, “what's in Argentina?”, “um, Cattle?”; “He wants me to go to Argentina with him!”, “what's in Argentina?”, “um, Gauchos?”; “He wants me to go to Argentina with him!”, “Will you go to Iguazu Falls?”; I Google Iguazu Falls and want, desperately to go to Argentina.

My Dear Chap is going for one month, it is decided that I shall join him for the middle two weeks of his stay. “Would I like to join him on the trip to Patagonia, Tierra Del Fuego and Beagle Sound, or would I prefer Iguazu Falls?” “Iguazu Falls” I smile.

Just for the record Iguazu is spelt differently depending on the country – I use Iguazu but you will also find Iguaçu and Iguassu

I fly to Madrid to pick up the 13 hour Iberia flight to Buenos Aires. I join a queue, is it the right queue? I feel out of my depth and ask the smartly dressed man in front of me “Is this the flight for Bwaynoss Airs?”, “Bwonnoss Ahrees!”, I have to repeat, “Bwonnoss Ahrees”, “Yes, this is the flight for Bwonnoss Ahrees”. We board, I am sitting next to a young Spanish man who falls asleep on my shoulder, halitosis breath fanning my cheek. I am too embarrassed to push him away.

We arrive at “Bwonnoss Ahrees” and I follow my instructions - “don't go to a taxi firm inside the airport building, go outside and use the ones with yellow cabs. The driving is insane! There seem to be about 6 lanes of traffic all heading in the same direction. Rules of the road as I know them don't seem to exist, however, there is a certain acceptance in that if you want to switch lanes from right or left and you can get your nose just in front of the vehicle, they must let you in, and, amazingly, it seems to happen. I spend the journey gazing in wonder at the wide avenues, the architecture, the sheer madness of it all. We get close to the apartment MDC has rented for the month. Unfortunately there is an eight lane highway, with underpass between us and him. I make an astronomically expensive mobile phone call and MDC appears on “our” balcony. I point him out to the taxi driver who nods his understanding and we shoot off again, arriving at the apartment a few minutes later. The bags are unloaded, the taxi driver paid and the very nice concierge leads me proudly to the “new” lift. Oh no, it is one of those claustrophobic steel boxes – I begin to panic and then I spot the “old” lift with steel mesh doors that you pull across – I can cope with that, not well, but enough to get me up to our fifth floor apartment.

We take a walk around the area. I look at menus in restaurant windows – so cheap! Fillet steak for around £2, my mouth is watering. We find a market full of wonderful arts and crafts. I buy a beautiful drawing of horses and a hand blown glass soap dish. We find a little stall with a Bolivian man making families of tiny glass animals and lizards. I buy 5 families; it costs about £5.

That evening we meet a friend and stroll around the “Belgravia” of “Bwonnos Ahrees” followed by street urchins entreating both MDC and friend to buy a wooden rose for “the pretty lady” – I am flattered (of course!!!) but neither man seems impressed and I get no rose and the urchins find another “pretty lady” to appeal to. We dine at a beautiful restaurant where I get my steak along with empanadas (like tiny Cornish pasties), fritas and wonderful full bodied Argentinean wine all served beautifully by waiters for whom it is more than a job – more of a calling. The total bill is around £30 for the three of us – expensive by Argentinean standards.

Iguazu Falls

The next day we fly to Iguazu Falls. We fly First Class – not as exciting as it first seems – all “tourists” have to travel (pay!) First Class, all Argentineans can travel at the cheaper fare – all seats are the same.... The flight takes a couple of hours over hundreds of miles of Pampas; gauchos and herds of cattle are tiny figures below us. Suddenly there are the falls – the pilot describes a lazy figure of eight so all passengers are able to see the River Iguazu disappear into the gigantic plughole that is the wonder of Iguazu Falls - and of which Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of Franklin) apparently said “poor little Niagara” when she found herself amongst the waterfalls. Iguazu Falls, in the Iguazu River, is a system of 275 falls along almost five kilometres on the Brazil-Argentina border. The highest fall is around 64 metres high and there are others of 30 to 40 metres high. Just downstream the River Iguazu converges with the River Paraná (paran ya) – one of the largest rivers in the world.

The hotel is adequate, the weather, unfortunately, unseasonably cold with a stiff Southerly breeze meaning that the swimming pool will probably not be used during our two night stay. The first evening we dine in the hotel – we have an early start in the morning.

We climb aboard the coach that will take us into Brazil to see their side of Iguazu. I am disappointed that our passports are not stamped by Brazilian Immigration. However I am intrigued that Brazil is so very different to Argentina; a different language of course but noisier, busier, more colourful, more chaotic. We have to board a different bus to take us to the falls. A group of young school children get on at the next stop and we look at each other in dismay knowing what this would be like in the U.K. But no, they sit quietly taking in the scenes around them, listening to what the teachers have to say. No shouting, no swearing, no standing up, no fighting – it is a revelation!

The sun is shining and the river is sparkling - the roar of the falls assails our ears as we tramp along the boardwalk aside the river taking in the views. The falls are seemingly all around us. Ahead of us are the big horseshoe falls (Garganta do Diabo, or Devil’s Throat) that we flew over yesterday, to our right is a whole wall of separate waterfalls on the Argentinean side. There are people kayaking on the river and others taking a speedboat which appears to take them almost under the falls - I want to do that!

Persistent Coati

We enjoy a full day of seeing the falls from all angles and try to ignore the persistent attentions of the Ring-Tailed Coati – these animals have learned that people are not to be feared and that plastic bags often contain something good to eat. I am thrilled to see an Armadillo making its way purposefully through the bush. I don’t see a Jaguar nor do I see monkeys, and, as yet, no Toucan.

After being driven back to the hotel we decide to walk into town to a small restaurant. We push the boat out when it comes to choosing the wine, MDC is invited down to the cellar to select coming back with a bottle of full bodied Malbec which the waiter skilfully pours into a large wide-necked decanter to breathe. Our empanadas arrive, our steaks arrive, perfectly cooked, the wine is superb – another bottle please!

The Argentinean Side of the Falls

The next day we are visiting the Argentinean side of the falls. We have to take a little train through a jungle of enormous bamboo until we get closer to the falls and find it a quite different experience to yesterday. Brazil has boardwalks and beautifully kept pathways; Argentina is more life-in-the-raw. The walkways are metal grids – to dissuade animals from becoming too used to people – no Coati’s investigating our bags here! We are allocated a guide, Wilson – a Crocodile Dundee character who explains things in great detail and points out things we may well have missed – including some black howler monkeys. The falls are amazing; the pathway extends over the top of a huge fall and we all feel drawn towards the cascade as it powers down to the rocks below.

Wilson is the magnet for lots of questions including one from an Australian lady – “are the falls seawater?”....... (???!!!) This almost rendered Wilson speechless but I suppose he gets used to inane questions!

Again we have a full day around the falls and I get my trip on the boat that goes under the falls. We are able to buy cheap plastic macs before the trip but we get absolutely soaked and as the weather is still unseasonably cold I wonder whether it was the right decision – wet clothes and (even worse!) wet shoes for the rest of the day – especially as the coach that takes us back to the hotel is open sided.

The following morning we have a few hours in the little township before being taken to the airport by taxi and, joy of joys we see two Toucan in a tree. The taxi driver stops to allow us to take photos and the birds seem to know they are the centre of attention and pose accordingly – and several more join the pair in the tree – it was a wonderful finish to our Iguazu trip.

A trip to an Estancia

The remainder of my time in Argentina flies by – trips in Buenos Aires, a beautiful city, fantastic shops, amazingly cheap leather goods, amazingly expensive designer clothes; dog walkers abound being towed along by their charges, sometimes up to 8 large dogs all straining at the leash. And that brings me to another point... dog mess, everywhere, we have to be very careful where we step – obviously poop scooping had not caught on over there... We visit the large cemetery where the perfectly preserved, embalmed, Eva Peron is buried many many metres down in a mausoleum to deter grave robbers. We go to Tigre on the local train at a cost of around 17p each (we came back on the “tourist” coastal train which cost us around £3 each). Tigre lies on the Parana delta – a beautiful old town, wonderful buildings and very enjoyable boat trip around the delta.

We also have a trip to an Estancia – (a large rural estate, ranch, farm) where we are surprised to be two of only a handful of tourists – the rest being local Argentineans out for the day. Those that would like to are allowed a little ride on the estancia horses – a case of push, push, push to get them to the end of our “ride” and a much faster trip back to the corral! We then watch as the self-same horses are put through their paces by the gauchos – wiry men with bow-legs who leap onto their steeds, holding a long stick and gallop full tilt towards a tiny ring that has been suspended between two buildings; the idea being to get the stick through the ring. It is not a 100% success rate but pretty close – very impressive. Then it is time for the barbecue and what a meal. Nobody barbecues meat like the Argentineans. The beef is perfect, rare without being “blue”, the fat crispy and entirely delicious (OK, and very fattening...); the lamb is wonderfully tender and cooked to a turn in huge barbecue pits. The entertainment is entertaining! Lots of stamping of feet, guitars and imperious looks between the dancers. We have a fantastic day and Jeremy dozes on the way back to BA in the coach. I sit by the window and wonder for one brief moment why they have planted so much Pampas Grass everywhere; luckily it only takes a second or two for me to appreciate that this IS the pampas....

The days fly by

The days fly by – more shopping – back to the market and the Bolivian man making families of glass animals, more sightseeing around Buenos Aires including of course the Peron’s Pink Palace. Wherever we go we are impressed with the level of service even if only having a cup of coffee – the cafe logo always at “midday”, the handle of the cup always at the correct angle for picking up (for us right-handed folk anyway), the napkin spread across your knees, the chair pulled out for us ladies, the complimentary little cakes or empanadas. We are also impressed with the standard of toilets in the eating establishments, huge rooms tiled in marble, fresh flowers, spotlessly clean – MDC takes photographs.....

The trip would not have been complete for MDC without a visit to Itaipu Dam on the Brazil/Paraguay border – this has one of the largest operational hydroelectric power plant output of any dam in the world and supplies huge amounts of electricity to both Brazil and Paraguay. It was enormous, it was magnificent but my day was made by a visit to a little museum with preserved examples of the huge spiders/cockroaches and large insects generally that are in that part of the world but luckily not seen alive by me...

We also had to visit Teatro Colon – where it is said the acoustics are the best in the world (although Scala may not agree...). No opera on whilst we are there but we book for the ballet Sleeping Beauty and buy seats in the best part of the auditorium for the equivalent of around £16 each. The theatre is packed and we have a wonderful evening. The next day we toured backstage which was quite an education – including learning that the seamstresses make costumes for theatres all over the world. We also enjoy a Tango Evening in an old theatre – what a marvellous night. We are greeted at the door and our photographs taken with two of the dancers – we look rather worried and awkward in the resulting print! However the meal is wonderful – steak again but it is always delicious and as much glorious Argentinean wine as we care to drink. The stage show is absolutely fantastic with the band playing above the stage and above the dancers, unlike at home where you would always find the band/orchestra below.

Home time

It is time for me to go home and we have one last meal at our favourite local restaurant - Johannes. We are greeted like old friends and when, after a superb meal, we tell them it is my last night a bottle of champagne is brought out and opened with a great flourish with many a toast to our return.

And then I’m on the flight home, sitting next to a big chap wearing a thick leather jacket which he keeps on for the whole of the journey to Madrid – and just to put my mind at rest as we rocket down the runway he makes the sign of a cross and mutters a prayer....

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Comments

author avatar Songbird B
28th Jul 2011 (#)

What a wonderful page! I love following your journeys and this is no exception! Wonderful images too..A great page and a great share..

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
29th Jul 2011 (#)

Fantastic look at Argentina, your pictures are great.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
29th Jul 2011 (#)

Fantastic look at Argentina, your pictures are great.

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author avatar Denise O
29th Jul 2011 (#)

What a trip, I am so glad you were finally able to see a few toucan. I now see why you would fall in love with Argentina. Just a wonderful account of a great journey. Thank you for taking us with you. I just love the photos. Congrats on the star page, it is well deserved. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Rose*
16th Dec 2013 (#)

Those falls look truly magnificent!

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