Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

It’s pretty hard to classify what makes the largest waterfall in the world. Widest? Most volume of water falling? Tallest? Largest sheet? The native Guarani people named this place Iguazu — big water. Good enough. Iguazu Falls is considered the largest waterfall system in the world. It’s big enough to render anyone momentarily speechless.

Straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, I decided to visit the falls from both sides on two consecutive days, staying in the city of Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side, then taking a day trip to Puerto Iguazú on the Argentinian side. More of the falls are on the Argentinian side than the Brazilian one: that means that Brazil has the better panoramic view, but Argentina has far more trails alongside the falls.
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Salta, Argentina

I had a wonderful final night in San Pedro just chatting away.  Making friends while travelling is very different – despite spending such a short time together, friendships become strong quickly.  People tend to be more open, and often talk frankly and honestly about topics usually never broached or cautiously sidestepped back home – dreams, faith, philosophy…  (Also, I learn interesting things, like that tiny owl hiding in the corner of the US $1 bill!  Never knew.)  But alas, I had to leave early the next morning for my 9:30 bus, and I said my goodbyes to Beto, Jimbo, Pamela, and Sofi.

Or so I thought.  My hostel was just outside of customs, and we were stuck at customs for a whole 3 hours.  Frustrated with that, I ran back to my hostel and hung out with them one last time while waiting for the several hundred people to pass.  More hugs, but also more goodbyes – those are always tough.  Well, at least I know now I definitely want to return to Chile someday, not just to see the places I’ve missed, but at the very least to visit some great friends! Continue reading

Pucón, Chile

One month on the road now!

It seems that I left Bariloche at a good time – by my last evening and the next morning, the volcano smoke returned and the view disappeared.

On my buses to Pucón via Osorno, I ran into Ofir and Shir, the two Israeli girls I met hiking Tierra del Fuego several weeks back.  We all had a rather comical bus ride – customs control entering Chile is very strict, and does not allow meat, vegetables, or dairy.  All of us had packed such things in our bags, intending to eat lunch on the bus – but we were due to cross the border before noon!  In order to not waste our food, we ate as much as we could before making it across the border.  The bus company also provided everyone with a light meal of pastries and a cheese sandwich – somehow we managed to not get that confiscated from us at the border!

The ride between Bariloche and Osorno was a bit surreal – volcanic ash covered trees and hills like snow.  If I didn’t know it was 25º outside, I’d think it’d have actually been snow.  The ride from Osorno to Pucón was clear but uneventful – our bus did pick up a ton of hitchhikers from the side of the highway though. Continue reading

Bariloche, Argentina

Immediately upon arrival at my hostel on Feb 6th, I made another impulsive splurge – I really need to stop doing that, eh?  I booked whitewater rafting for the following day, having never done it.

In my dorm room of eight people, I met Renzo, a porteño on holiday with his friends Alejandro and Eduardo – all three were just a smidgeon younger than me.  Renzo spoke the best English out of the three, though I really was trying with my Spanish.  As seems to be a common theme with the Latinos I’ve met, they were all shocked that I was travelling by myself at my age and without fluency in Spanish, but appreciated that I tried.  (I guess they haven’t really been talking to other foreign travellers then, cause there’s plenty of people like me around, and plenty more that don’t know any Spanish!)  Within one minute, Renzo offered me mate.

Mate (sounds like ma-tay) is a very common drink I’ve been seeing for the past few weeks, and it seems that it is inseparable from Argentinians.  People carry around a gourd (itself called mate) made of wood, a pack of yerba mate leaves, and a thermos or pot of hot water.  Everywhere.  I’ve always been curious to try it, and to be offered some without any sort of prompting was a pleasant surprise. Continue reading

Route 40, Argentina

It takes 25 hours to get from El Chaltén to Bariloche by bus. Almost 1500 km. I opted to split it into a two-day bus journey.

Two French girls (Anne and Louise) who were staying at my dorm in El Chaltén gave me the details, as they went the other way – the road is beautiful, but the scenery gets samey. Also, most of the road is unpaved.

They were certainly right. Route 40 is legendary for its barren nothingness. That is no understatement – there is barely anything around, not even little towns or gas stations. We couldn’t make rest stops for food just because there weren’t any places around. Given that I didn’t bring anything other than half a sandwich and an apple with me, that didn’t bode too well for me… Continue reading

El Chaltén, Argentina

Upon arriving at El Chaltén, Andrew and I had no hostel.  We made a little bet – I predicted being turned away from 4 hostels, he predicted 11.  Oddly enough, I was right – but we ended up at a pretty dingy place for the night.  We decided we would search for another hostel with openings for the next day, and buy some groceries for the hike tomorrow.

El Chaltén is a pretty small town, but it felt a little strange – nearly every single building was a hostel or something dedicated to tourism.  There were barely any houses, and barely any locals either – I could hear more Hebrew (and even see it – many signs, including official park trail signs, were in Hebrew) than Spanish!  The “super”mercados are something I would not call “super” either – every grocer was quite lacking, but that’s the case when you end up in an isolated town where you can’t even get cell phone reception with an Argentinian SIM card.  We find our next hostel, prep some chicken and avocado sandwiches for the next day, and have a wonderful Argentinian stew called locro (pumpkin, beans, meat, other yummy stuff) for dinner. Continue reading

El Calafate, Argentina

El Calafate is a touristy town, thriving on tourists to the nearby Glaciar Perito Moreno. But after the long Torres del Paine hike that left me quite sore from the day before, I just needed to relax.

After I checked into my hostel (best one yet, young couple Belén and Darío were super nice and basically operated out of their house), I took a supposedly easy walk to the nearby Laguna Nimez, a nature reserve located by the very turquoise and beautiful Lago Argentino. Well…given that this is Patagonia, the presence of the lake made it very very windy! It was almost hard to stand at times, and just comical to attempt to walk against the wind and make no progress. I ended up even more sore that evening. Continue reading

Ushuaia, Argentina

It’s been seven days. And I’ve had a wonderful time – in fact, I just got to the southernmost city (not quite settlement, but city) in the world! But I’ve just made a decision that leads me to have to say goodbye to Argentina, goodbye to South America, goodbye to my budget, and goodbye to my plans all so soon…

Well, temporarily. At least for some of those things.

I’m heading to Antarctica! Continue reading

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Oh, the trials of traveling solo.  I intended to head over to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, for a day trip, but found all the ferries booked.  Serves me right for trying the day before I wanted to go.  If I had a travel companion, I’d probably have been a little more responsible.

So, with extra time in Buenos Aires, I decided to take it a little easier.

Day 3, Amanda and I headed over to the Microcentral area (downtown), as it was finally a weekday.  Bustling with people, we walked down to the Presidential Palace and the Plaza de Mayo, then over to the shopping streets of Florida (pedestrian only) and Corrientes.  Though I didn’t buy anything as usual, it was just good to get a sense of the modernity of the city.  After passing by Teatro Colón and the giant Obelisco dominating the sprawling Av. 9 de Julio, we split up, and I headed to Puerto Madero on my own.  Puerto Madero is the newest barrio in town, a gentrified waterfront area with expensive property and shops.  After seeing the needle-like pedestrian-only suspension bridge, Puente de la Mujer, I headed home completely exhausted and joined a few others at the hostel for drinks on the rooftop terrace and dinner in the area. Continue reading

Buenos Aires, Argentina

¡Buen dia! You’ll have to excuse any typos, it’s tough to get used to a Spanish keyboard, and I’m still quite jet lagged…

My first impressions have been quite odd and take me back to my Christmas break in Vancouver. Upon flying in, the landscape looked like a game of Settlers of Catan severely lacking in bricks and rocks. Turns out that the city of Buenos Aires is quite far away from the airport, and the land around for miles and miles is farmland. And going around town, my interactions with others lead me to compare their currency situation with Monopoly Deal. Argentina does not seem to have enough small change – people hesitate or even outright refuse to give it! A Swedish girl at my hostel whom I met while checking in, Amanda, recounted her story of a store refusing to give her a quarter that was part of her change, instead giving her a piece of candy of similar value. Turns out that there’s even a black market for coins, which are required for the bus. If you don’t have the small change, you must overpay or just don’t take the bus…

It’s hot outside. Coming directly from winter, it’s quite a welcome change…but the locals, they all wear jeans! I really don’t know how they do it. Continue reading