Iguazu Falls

**As the time grows that we are at home, so does the time between blogs.  Sorry for this, but we are adjusting back to “real life,” which is quite not as thrilling as traveling. **

Our last adventure in Argentina, and in all of South America, was to the world-famous Iguazu Falls.  We had heard great things about these falls, and we hoped that the 25 hour bus ride would be worth it.

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu mid-afternoon and we were greeted by they typical tourist hustle, “Where are you staying; stay here for cheaper; eat at my restaurant;” and many other ploys to get in to our wallets. Ah, the joys of a tourist town.

The big thing to do here is visiting the falls, so we arranged the transportation and decided to see the whole park the following day.

At the park, Kristen and Bridget could not stop themselves from making numerous comparisons to Disneyland, and even Joe reluctantly agreed. It was expensive to get in, there were long lines, well-marked and clean paths, and tourists were EVERYWHERE all jockeying for the best position.

The park is easy to do in one long day, and with the price of admission being so high, we were glad we didn’t have to fork out the cash for a second day.  (Travel planning note: We only visited the Argentinian side of the falls because Kristen and Bridget did not have Brazilian visas, and they would have cost $140 each. If we had more time to visit Brazil, we would have splurged on the visas and spent a second day exploring the Brazilian side of Iguazu. Not all countries need visas to enter Brazil, so make sure you have this figured out if you are planning to travel in Brazil.)

The park is well-organized and easy to hike around.  The many sights are enough to leave you spellbound, so we will let the pictures do most of the talking.

Our first stop was to the Garganta del Diablo (The Throat of the Devil), and it is arguably one of the most amazing sights in the park and on this trip.

Staring down the Devil’s Throat

Pictures do not do this spot justice.  The amount of water passing through this “throat” leaves you slightly deaf, memorized, and most likely, soaked.  Bring a rain jacket or poncho and try to wait out the constant onslaught of water and tourists. When the wind shifts in just the right way, you can stand on the platform and remain totally dry.

The following pictures are from the raised walkways that take you right up to the edge of this hungry beast.

Bridget jumping for joy at the shear sight of the falls.

Joe, Kristen and Bridget trying to stay dry.

The Garganta del Diablo

The falls from afar.

We read a story about a row-boat that went over the falls in the 30’s, taking all that were aboard to the bottomless pit.  Just a word of warning, if anyone offers a row-boat trips, turn around and RUN!

We were very surprised to see a variety of wildlife.  You would think with the 10 million daily visitors (okay, that number is a bit of an exaggeration), the animals would take to the hills.

Armadillo.

Some type of Amazonian swimming ferret. Also can be confused as a rock.

Where can I get some eyebrows like those?

The most notorious animals that roam the park are the coatis. These animals look like a foreign cousin of our raccoons, and they have gotten a little too used to the attention (and food) they receive from tourists.

Crazy Coati. Yes, he is ON a table at the snack bar area.

These Coati rule the park and they have associated the sound of any plastic bag with their lunch.  You really had to be on guard with these furry friends as they would attempt to steal anything you took your eyes off of for a nano second. If you want to spot these crazy animals, just head to the nearest restaurant or snack bar, but hold on tightly to your food.

The main attraction at the park is the Garganta del Diablo lookout, but as you walk around the park, it seems that every turn there was another beautiful waterfall to take a picture of, and we aren’t ones to say no to a gorgeous picture.

Row of waterfalls.

Top of another waterfall.

Guess what… More waterfalls.

Joe and Kris getting hosed.

One activity that Joe and Bridget could not resist was a jet boat ride up the rapids to get nice and close to some of the falls, but Kristen opted out of this one.  We boarded this high horsepower skiff and took to the high rapids.

Joe and Bee going for a ride.

We got some great shots of the falls up close and personal.

Falls from the river.

Another shot from the boat.

For the first bit of the trip, we just drove around to get some good pictures and Bridget and Joe were starting to wonder if this activity was overhyped.  Then the guides on the boat put all the cameras away and donned every piece of waterproof clothing they had, and we knew things were going to get more interesting.

The Captain kicked it into high gear, and our high adrenaline trip started.  We zigzagged up the river, dodging boulders, and getting splashed by some falls.  Then, we pulled up to this fall, where Joe was able to snap one more picture.

The rest was a blur.  They maneuvered us right under the falls which seemed to turn our boat ride into a submarine ride.  Joe had the bright idea to sit up front, and they took the full force of this fall.  It was an absolute blast as Bridget and Joe couldn’t stop laughing for ten minutes.  This is a good activity to do the end of the day, as even your insides get wet.

Two drowned rats. FYI: all the rain gear in the world couldn’t keep you dry on this wild ride. Don’t even bother.

We finished our day by checking out a few more areas of the park as we tried to dry off before the bus ride back to town.

Top of the waterfall we drove into.

Looking up towards the Devils Throat, Brazil to the left.

One last South American air guitar from Joe.

The two sisters at Dos Hermanas Falls.

Iguazu Falls was a perfect last stop on our South American trip.  Even with the big crowds, we had a great time and even found a few secluded spots.

If you are heading this direction we compiled a small list to maybe make your time better:

-Bring dry clothes and shoes.

-Take the cheap pubic bus from town, there is no need to purchase a tour of this park.

-Get to the park first thing in the morning, and hustle to the Garganta del Diablo to be among the first there.

-Take the free boat to Isla San Martin before the jet boat ride, not many people do it and it feels like you have the small island to yourself.

-Bring snacks, water, and food as the park tries to compete with what lunch on the moon would cost.

-Waterproof everything.

We were in shock that our seemingly never-ending South American trip was coming to a close. The day after we saw the park, we boarded our final bus overnight to Buenos Aires to catch our flight home. Boo Hoo.

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Salta and Our Great Road Trip

*** Okay, you caught us. We have returned from the big trip, but we have been very busy trying to get back into the swing of things.  These last few posts are a little (ok, a lot) late, but we still want to share the great time that we had.***

Arriving in Salta, we immediately saw the difference between Northern and Southern Argentina. The North began to remind us more and more of Bolivia, a country we loved very much, and it was a little less like Europe. It is not that we do not like Europe, but certain parts of Argentina are missing that special Latin flair that we had come to enjoy so much over the last few months.

Our first stop in Salta was to the gondola which whisked us to the top of San Bernardo Mountain for great views of the surrounding area.

Riding the Gondola.

The views were bountiful, and we could see that we had a lot to explore. Salta is chockfull of colorful churches, interesting museums, and busy plazas.

Salta.

If the views alone are not enough for you, they have created their own little Iguazu Falls to explore. It seems a little out-of-place to have these concrete waterfalls on this mountain top, but we still enjoyed them. At this point, we hadn’t been to Iguazu Falls yet, but we hoped they were going to be a little better than this. (Hint of what’s to come: Iguazu was AMAZING.)

Raging Waterfalls.

We visited two very bright churches while in Salta.

Catedral Basilica de Salta

San Francisco Church.

There are tons of museums to visit, so we carefully selected two in order to broaden our knowledge in pre-Colombian history. Unfortunately, we were not permitted to take pictures in these two places, so you will have to be content with our descriptions.

The Pajcha (Museo de Arte Etnico Americano) is a small private museum located in a converted house. The exhibits were okay, but the curator made the long walk and expensive entrance fee worth it.

He was a funny little guy who buzzed around the small museum and gave each tourist some interesting facts “to think about until I return.” Just something about his mannerism and way he spoke, made it difficult not to giggle each time he left us to “ponder”. Still to this day, we find ourselves quoting his random lines cracking up each time, especially when we recall the many times he told Joe to “shut up,” even when Joe had said nothing.

The MAAM museum (El Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña) was much more professional and impressive. It houses three mummies of Incan children who were sacrificed.

In short, they gathered up three children, marched them up a 16,000 foot mountain, got them drunk, and interned them in a tomb with artifacts for the afterlife. With the weather being so cold on the top of the mountain, the mummies are very well-preserved (some even claim that they are the best preserved mummies in the world). The artifacts are beautiful, but seeing the perfectly preserved child mummy is somewhat haunting.

Interesting side note: The museum claims the mountain was first summited in the 50’s by a team of Chilean mountain climbers, hooray Chile. We kind of think that the five, six and thirteen year old found on the summit deserve that recognition…. just a thought.

We have heard from many travelers that this area is best for renting a car to explore some of the smaller towns in the Salta area. With our own wheels, we were able to see some beautiful landscapes, similar to the American Southwest or Tupiza, Bolivia.

We found this little known car rental shop called Hertz, and we picked out the fanciest car. After 10 months without driving, Kristen was quite nervous to hit the road on their own, but luckily Joe handled it all like a pro.

Our “fancy” rental car

This bad boy has manual transmission, manual windows, well, manual everything, but it did the job perfectly during our five-day, 1,400 kilometer road trip.

Parrots along the drive.

Our first destination was Cafayate, a nice little wine town a few hours south of Salta. The town is interesting enough, but the drive there was one of our highlights from the whole road trip. We drove from Salta to Cafayate through the Valles Calchaquíes. The constantly changing views caused us to pull over just about every hundred feet for pictures.

Luckily, our road was paved.

Red Rocks.

Along the way, we stopped at the Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat), a narrow canyon which has been deeply carved over time and then another canyon which has formed a natural amphitheater.

Inside the Devil’s Throat.

It is amazing what erosion can do.

One of the most memorable stops was not for the view, but to visit llamas and a few other animals. If you know anything about Bridget, it is that she is CRAZY about animals, and these being her first llamas of the trip, we had to pull over and give her some time to make new friends. (The homemade bread they were selling was a definite plus!)

Bee with her new best friend.

A llama giving their classic “look.”

We are sure all the animals of Argentina will sorely miss Bridget, especially all the dogs that she showed a little love to. I bet all those Argentinian animals are probably hitting the streets and taking up a collection to get her a one-way ticket back in to their country.

After the many gorgeous sights along the way, we were afraid that Cafayate would disappoint, but it is a peaceful small town built mostly out of adobe bricks. We loved the laid back square and beautiful church. Not too much happens here except for wine tasting, hiking, and cruising the streets. Not a bad way to spend a few days.

Cafayate church.

We stayed two nights in Cayafate, and during that time we hung around the town square and visited Quilmes, ruins that even predate the Incans. The ruins were impressive and we learned that this site is believed to once have held about 5,000 people.

Just one small part of the ruins.

Bee jumping at the ruins.

The cacti in these parts are plentiful and quite striking. If you don’t believe us, we have about 1,000 pictures to prove it. Just let us know when you have the time for a little slideshow.

Kris and Bee thinking about hugging a cactus.

After enjoying all of Cafayate, we headed north toward the Jujuy area. We had to pass through the Calchaquíes Valley again, and we took more pictures. Would you expect anything else?

Joe lost his flip-flop during this jump. If you look very closely, you might be able to find it in the picture.

We stayed the night in the small town of Humamarca. It, like Cafayate, is made mostly out of adobe bricks and had surprisingly local feel despite a strong tourism presence. The people are more indigenous, and they seem to hang on to their customs and traditions a bit more than the city folk have.

Humamarca

Along the drive to Humamarca we passed the Tropic of Capricorn, which indicated the lowest latitude the sun passes through.

Tropic of Capricorn.

There is a huge sun-dial on the line, but it looks like it has seen better days.

Joe trying to tell the time at the giant sun-dial.

From Humamarca we made a quick stop in Tilcara to see where all the tourists were before heading off to Purmamarca.

Purmamarca has some amazing colored hills and is also a good jumping point for the Salinas Grandes, Argentina’s largest salt flat.

Along the drive.

This salar is similar to the one in Bolivia, just smaller. We caught it during the dry period and had a good time walking around on the salt, Bridget even grabbed a softball size hunk of salt to take home. Wonder what the US customs official thought about that.

Salt flats lap pool.

The road to the salar was crazy, and passed over 14,000 feet. Near the summit we stopped to take a picture with a baby goat. Bridget just about jumped out of the car to get when she saw the chance to bond with a baby animal.

Bee and her baby. Yes, you have to give it back!

We visited this area during the Argentinean Independence Day and almost ran into a problem. Seems like with all the additional people out driving the roads, they were running out of gas. The salar was a bit out-of-the-way, but Joe kept guaranteeing Kris that we would not run out of gas, even if he had some doubts himself. Lucky for us, and especially Joe, we made it there and back just fine, largely due to the fact that we coasted 30 kilometers downhill on the way home.

Roller coaster road. Barf bags not included in the rental.

With the salt flats being dry, it is a good opportunity to take some interesting prospective shots. Joe spent a lot of time laying on the salt, trying to get just the right angle, while the girls played around.

Kris holding up Bridget.

Bee going for a dip.

To finish off our time in Purmamarca, we took a short hike around the hills of varying hues. The colors were particularly incredible as we walked around just before sunset.

Red Hills.

More red hills.

This road trip turned out to be one of the highlights while traveling with Bridget, and also while in South America. It was nice to have the flexibility to go where we wanted to, and whenever we wanted to. If you are ever in Argentina, make a trip up north. The people in this area are so friendly and the scenery is not to be missed.

Okay, we couldn’t resist, just one more picture of an animal.  This cute, but smelly, dog found Bridget, and nudged her for about 3 seconds before climbing onto her lap.

Bridget’s new puppy.

Just one of many adorable pups that left a spot in our hearts.

Coming Up: Our last stop in our South American journey, Iguazu Falls!

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Hanging out in and around Córdoba

After a great time in Buenos Aires, the three of us headed east to Córdoba. Córdoba is your typical colonial city with many interesting churches, museums, and pedestrian walkways to explore.  If you are at all in to shopping, you should head on out, as Argentinian window shopping is practically an Olympic sport here.

We spent our time here people watching in the park, visiting churches, and going to a few museums.

Church in Córdoba

Another beautiful church lit up at night.

We visited the Museo de la Memoria, which is a museum set up to remember the missing family members from the 70s and 80s who disappeared during the “Dirty War“.  The museum occupies a space that was once used for the detention and torture of political activists. The museum was informative and was a stark reminder of the atrocities suffered here not so long ago.

Just like the seeing the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in action, this was moving to witness and an important part of history to learn about.

Entrance to the Museo de la Memoria: photos of the missing.

We also did a quick tour of the city museum, which luckily only cost two pesos each.  They had a few interesting artifacts to check out, and it was worth the quick visit.

Kris and Bee in the city museum.

From Córdoba we took a day trip to the small village of Alta Gracia, which is really only famous for two things: being Che Guevara‘s childhood town and its large Jesuit ruins. The town was a short bus ride away, and it was a quite pleasant small town to wander around.

While none of us are super Che disciples, we felt we would pay homage to him and visit his childhood home, which has now been turned into a small museum. According to our Lonely Planet, the museum entrance was 5 pesos (just over 1 dollar), so it was a price we were all ready to part with to visit this small museum.

Turns out this museum has figured that some tourists travel a great distance to retrace Che’s footsteps, and they have greedily increased the entrance price by 1400%.  We were not ready to pay to “foreigner fee” of 75 pesos (about $18), just to see a small museum we were only half-heartedly interested in, while Argentinians only needed to pay 10 pesos. (Note to Argentina: it’s moves like this that is going to turn off a large portion of future travelers. We don’t mind paying a bit more, but sticking it to us every time does not make you leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling.) We declined the tour and all wondered what Che would think about this price hike.

The Che Museum, a little too rich for our blood. Luckily, they didn’t charge us for this picture of the outside.

After this little incident, we were a little hesitant to go to the Jesuit ruins, as we feared what the entrance price would be for this city’s other large tourist attraction. Luckily, we were in town on a Wednesday, which just happened to be the free entrance day. Score!

Ruins from afar.

The ruins had great displays and even descriptions in English, which Kristen and Bridget didn’t even need with their Spanish reading skills. The architecture was amazing, and there were many opportunities for pictures.

Jesuit church.

Inside the mission.

Also from Cordoba, we took a two night getaway to La Cumbre, which is world-famous for its amazing paragliding. Now you should have learned by now that if something is supposedly world-famous, we are going to visit it. (Look out giant ball of yarn, you are next.)

La Cumbre is a great little town, and has a few more things to do than just paragliding.

We hiked up to the statue of Jesus prior to our flight, just in case. This statue was only 10 meters tall, so it wasn’t quite as big as the one in Cochabamba.

Enjoying the view over La Cumbre.

Sunset over the town.

We hit La Cumbre in low season and often had a hard time finding any restaurants open. We did luckily find Kasbah and enjoyed the best curry on the trip.

Curry at Kasbah

It was so good, we decided to visit two nights in a row. The owner chuckled a little when he saw us return.

The busy streets of La Cumbre.

Now on to the main reason we visited this area, paragliding!!!!! We called Toti Lopez, a world-famous paragliding pilot, and set up our rides. He picked us up and we all headed to the hill for our flight.

Pre-flight smiles.

The wind was not right for the flight, so we had to wait a bit, but we knew when the birds started soaring we soon would be next. We had about two hours to sit and ponder our fate (with a fantastic view), while we waited for the winds to pick up.

Condors showing us how it’s done.

Then it was go time. Paragliders came in droves and started filling the launch pad and prepping their gear. Our pilots also prepped the gear and we readied ourselves for the flight.

Things started happening really fast and Bridget even asked at one point, “Do you think they are going to tell us what we need to do?” “Of course they will,” Joe responded, even though he was concerned about the same thing.

Toti called us all over and gave us our 30 second “briefing” which went a little something like this:

“For take off, put your head down and run until your pilot says stop, then adjust your seat.”

Well if that didn’t sum it up, I don’t know what would. No problem, just run as fast as possible with someone strapped to our backs off a cliff. What could go wrong?

Kristen and Joe decided it would be best send Bridget first, seeing how she is the youngest. It makes sense if you really think about it.

Bridget all suited up ready to go.

Bridget handled it great, head down, ran like crazy, and presto she was soaring like a condor.

Flying Bee.

The winds picked up a little more and this is when Joe and his pilot decided to get airborne, except it was not as graceful as Bridget’s takeoff. It went a little like this: head down, tried to run, got pulled backwards, tripped over pilot, stopped, tried running harder, ran down the mountain, took off a little, landed again, continued running like crazy, and finally took off. Joe’s takeoff looks pretty impressive in still photos, but if we had video, it would have looked a lot like one of those National Geographic films of a young albatross trying to learn how to fly.

Joe and his pilot ready to impress.

Soaring Joe.

Kris was the last to launch and claims to have had a graceful takeoff, but unfortunately, she was the last one of us to go, so no one could capture her supposed amazing start to her paragliding career. If you know her, you might doubt that her takeoff was really that spectacular. Guess we’ll just have to take her word.

Joe took this picture of Kris in flight.

The flights lasted about 30 minutes, and was truly amazing. If you ever want to know what it is like to fly like a bird, we honestly think this is as close as you can get. We would zoom by the cliff faces, make tight turns, and climb in thermals, just like the condors in the area.

Busy launch site.

Bridget was having so much fun that she thought that she could extend her flight time by lightening the load. About five minutes before landing, she started to get “that feeling” in her stomach, the kind of feeling that makes you yearn for stable ground. Her world-famous pilot must have known things were getting iffy and directed her head to the side just in time. She might not have had the biggest smile on her face during the landing, but she swears she had a great time, even if poor Toti was in the line of fire.

With our feet firmly on the ground and our heads still in the clouds, it was time to board an overnight bus bound for Salta.

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Uruguay: Final Thoughts.

Traveled for:  20 days (Our shortest country stay, but also the smallest country we have visited.)

Cost per day of travel: about $100 per day

Places visited: Colonia del Sacramento, Salto, Tacuarembo, Montevideo, and Punta del Diablo.

Favorite Stop(s): Punta del Diablo was a perfect place to relax and enjoy (especially with our own little beach apartment), but we really loved the whole country.

New Phrase Pronunciation Learned:

The Spanish double L sound changed from a “y” to more of a “j.” This doesn’t sound so complicated, but that “ll” combination is used quite frequently, and it took us quite awhile to adapt.

Moments We Remember:

– Watching the sun set at Punta del Diablo.

– Taking pictures of EVERYTHING in Colonia.

– Awesome Italian dinner made by an actual Italian in Salto.

– Making new friends in Montevideo.

– Seeing actual gauchos in Tacaurembo.

– Attempting to sing along at a crazy futbol match in Montevideo

Quotes:

“Want to join us for a parrilla tonight?” Uruguayans know how to grill meat, and they were more than happy to share their skills with us. Just be warned, they tend to not get started until after 10 pm, and you normally don’t eat until around midnight. Fun nights of food and conversation, but you better hope you can sleep in the next day.

Biggest Surprise:

Not wanting to leave Punta del Diablo. We just couldn’t force ourselves to keep moving.

Items We Packed That We Couldn’t Have Lived Without:

Joe’s nice camera for taking pictures of all the beautiful scenery.

Total Time Spent Apart From Spouse: 

Maybe an hour. It’s amazing that we still enjoy spending time together!

Would We Do Anything Differently: 

We might have planned things differently so we could have seen Uruguay’s beaches when it was a bit warmer. If it had been a little cheaper (or we wanted to spend a little more), this would have been a fun country to rent a car in.

Would We Return:

Yes! We both agree that Uruguay’s relaxed and friendly vibe would make this the easiest country to live in.

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These are a few of our favorite things… Buenos Aires Edition

Travelers have long raved about Buenos Aires. Beautiful. Great parks. Amazing food. History. And the list went on and on. The only thing people ever seemed to complain about was all the dog poop on the sidewalks. And yes, there is quite a bit of it around. (We managed to avoid these little sidewalk bombs until Joe hit one square on in Córdoba. Ew.)

We ended up spending more time in Buenos Aires than any other city on this trip. We rented an apartment and just hung out for two weeks. It was nice to relax a bit after nine months of constant traveling and we really enjoyed having all the facilities of home in our apartment.

Kristen’s youngest sister, Bridget, met up with us after one week there, and it was a good introduction for Bridget about the ways of Argentina.

Here are some of our favorite things from our time in Buenos Aires:

Renting an apartment.

We found our apartment through BYT (www.bytargentina.com), and stayed in the Palermo neighborhood.  We scored a two bedroom place for about $420 per week.

Not the greatest picture, but here we are hanging out in our apartment.

Insane sunset view from our living room.

We loved the neighborhood as well. It was not touristy at all, and it had great amenities nearby.

Güemes: Our street.

We loved being able to cook our own meals, and we made daily trips to the small market across the street and, of course, to the fruit stand.

Bridget buying fruit from our favorite stand.

The riverfront (Puerto Madryn):

We enjoyed walking along the old port which has now been turned in to a great place for a stroll.

Enjoying the sunset.

They have kept the historical look to this place, but the buildings now serve very different purposes than originally intended. The storehouses are used as restaurants and shops, and the nonfunctioning cranes act more like large sculptures.

No more ships…. just lots of walkers.

We liked the ultramodern structure of this bridge mixed in with all the old history.

Puente de la Mujer

Permanently parked along the riverfront, there is an old navy training ship that is now a museum. Of course we couldn’t resist the chance to check it out, and it actually ended up being only 50 cents to enter… the cheapest entrance fee we have paid in all of Argentina!

Fragata Sarmiento

The ship was full of historical pictures and information from its training voyages in the early 1900’s.

With Joe at the helm, no one needs to worry!

Museums:

In addition to the naval museum visited in Puerto Madryn, BA has heaps of museums to explore. Although we aren’t normally museum people, we checked out a few.

– Modern Art in San Telmo: Luckily this was another 50 cent entrance fee, because we just don’t “get” modern art.

– Museo Histórico Dr Arturo Jáuretche: This is an interesting museum about the financial history in Argentina, which seems to have always been quite turbulent. It was a free visit and is located in a “Wall Street-like” neighborhood. They have revalued their currency several times in recent history, and it was fun to look over all the displays.

Wish we had this bill right about now.

Our favorite sign showing all the different money transitions over the years.

Sidenote: We decided to visit this museum because money is such a funny joke in this country. Their bills are seriously falling apart and almost always ripped and torn, but if you give them an American bill with even the slightest bit of writing on it, they will not accept it. Also, good luck finding coins in this country. Everyone always asks you for exact change, but NO ONE ever has it!

– El Zanjón: Here we got a tour of a historial mansion and the tunnels that were discovered underneath it. It is beautifully reconstructed, but we might be fuzzy on most of the details because we were too cheap to shell out the extra money for the tour in English.

The restored mansion.

The underground tunnels.

The Architecture:

BA has a bit of everything when it comes to buildings. It makes it very fun just to wander the streets in awe.

Casa Rosada: The “Don’t Cry for me, Argentina” building.

One of the many churches.

Torre Monumental

Another Church

A touch of modern.

The many colors of Boca. (SUPER touristy neighborhood, but the buildings are pretty and unique.)

Just another street in Buenos Aires.

A little new and old intertwined.

The Parks: 

Open green spaces abound in this large city, and sitting in a park, people watching, while soaking up the sun was one of our favorite ways to pass the time.

Bridget enjoying the changing leaves.

An afternoon in the park.

Floralis Generica (or the “Big Metal Flower”): It is supposed to open and close with the sun, but it is currently broken.

The Music:

It seems that you can’t be an Argentinian unless you can play some sort of musical instrument. Often you find yourself caught up in one musical performance or another.

Listening to La Urraka perform in a park with instruments they created. An insanely good act.

A drumming group face off/ impromptu parade.

The Markets: 

BA really seems to be at its best during the weekends, when the parks and streets fill with people, vendors, and music. We (much to Joe’s excitement) planned our schedule to fit in as much market time as possible. You can buy just about everything from these places, from the usual souvenirs, to hand crafted goods, to antiques.

Sunday Market in San Telmo.

Enjoying some fresh squeezed orange juice… not quite as cheap as in Bolivia, but still delicious.

Recoleta Cemetery: 

When we were told over and over to make sure to visit the cemetery, we always agreed but wondered what all the fuss was about. Cemeteries usually aren’t on our list of must sees, but this one is different.

Started in the early 1800s, this cemetery was “the place” for the BA elite to be buried. Most of the mausoleums are in pretty good shape, and the area is a peaceful and beautiful walk. There are also quite a few famous Argentinians buried here.

One of the cemetery’s many resident cats “guarding” an entrance.

The “streets” of Recoleta.

A peaceful place despite the fact that it is a huge tourist attraction.

Eva Perón’s grave. Argentinians still love her after all these years.

The Living History:

Although I’m sure that Argentina would like to forget it’s dark past, there is a group of women (and others) that won’t let the loss of their loved ones be forgotten.

During the late 70’s and early 80’s, Argentina’s government tried to crack down on dissenters. During this “Dirty War,” thousands of people were kidnapped and tortured, simply for speaking out against the government. Many never returned and are presumed dead.

In 1977, a group of mothers banded together and marched on the Plaza del Mayo in front of the presidential palace to demand answers as to where their children were. Since then, this group has met every Thursday on the Plaza to march in hopes of finally getting answers, and so that people never forget what happened.

We happened upon the plaza one Thursday afternoon, and it was heartbreaking to see these women, many of whom are now quite elderly, march around the plaza wearing their  traditional white scarves and holding pictures of their missing loved ones.

A mother’s march.

It is hard to imagine that these women have been here every week for over thirty years.

The other group of mothers. (Not sure how the Malvinas/Falklands fit in.)

Buenos Aires is a great city. Just like all big cities, it is hard to truly get a feel for it unless you are there for a long time. Although we spent two weeks there, we feel like we barely scratched the surface.

Maybe that means that we’ll just have to return one day.

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Uruguay: Part 2

From the sleepy gaucho town of Tacuarembo, we headed to the polar opposite, the capital city of Montevideo.  Montevideo is a modern city full of fun events, good restaurants, lots of people, and several fútbol teams.  Uruguay boasts an overall population of 3.5 million, and about half of these mate-toting Uruguayans live in this city.

While in the city, we visited a great street market that seemed to cover about 20 square miles.  You could buy anything from street food to used toilets (hopefully not in the same trip).  We had a good time wondering the stalls and checking out the unique items, or as Joe calls it, “junk.”

We restrained ourselves from buying anything too strange, but we did go a bit crazy with the street food. It was cheap, varied, and delicious.

Chips on a stick! Why didn’t we think of this sooner?!

While Catholicism is listed as the country’s official religion, fútbol is a close second.  Montevideo has over nine teams, each with an insane fan following.  We were lucky enough to be in town during a match, and we jumped at the opportunity to join in on the insanity at the historic Estadio Certenario, home to the first World Cup in 1930.

Joe with the Penarol fans.

These fans did not stop singing once during the match, and fireworks in the stands were not out of the question.  The passion for this sport (and their team) is INSANE. We tried to blend, but seeing as we didn’t know any of the words to the 15 or so chants that were constantly being sung, I am pretty sure we failed.

This game was by far the best one we have seen in South America. One of the guys from the other team scored with an incredible bicycle kick and we had to suppress our amazement as our whole side of the stadium groaned.  The match was pretty dramatic, and the opposing team ended up tying the game (2-2) in the closing minutes.

Montevideo is a great place to hang out and we did return after a beach vacation (stay tuned).  The coast of Uruguay is famous for its gorgeous beaches which are overrun by Argentinean tourists during the summer.  We luckily missed the mad rush of people and had the city of Punta del Diablo pretty much to ourselves.

The beach was a little chilly, but we scored with our own apartment which had an ocean view and a hammock.

Joe swinging in the breeze.

View from our apartment. With this view, why would we ever want to leave?

We had a great time in the apartment, and the amenities even made us feel a little like we were home.  We were able to make our own meals, Joe was able to do our dishes, take out the garbage, and clean our bathroom.  For some strange reason, Joe is wondering why we want to go home in June?

We originally were only going to spend three nights in Punta del Diablo, but we were having such a great time relaxing that we stayed for seven.  Asking for one more night became a running joke with the owner each morning when he came over with our breakfast.  After a few times of asking “una noche más,” he just started asking it for us.

Punta del Diablo has a huge beach.  We didn’t have any “bathing suit weather,” and the water was a little too cool for a dip.  We did enjoy walking down the beach, but we were bummed when we spotted two other people on our beach about one mile away. Who do those people think they are?

Kris playing lifeguard on the busy beach.

The water was so cold that it launched Joe into the air.

You could tell that this town must have a few more tourists during the summer.  There were dozens of restaurants on the streets, but not one of them was open.  Our apartment owner told us that most of the restaurants are only open for two or three months a year.  Joe just thinks he might have found a new job.

Busy streets of Punta del Diablo. We actually waited for a car to be in the picture.

The whole coastline is so beautiful, so we, of course, took just a few pictures.

Fishing boat.

Crashing waves.

Joe even got a chance to take some evening long-exposure pictures, his new favorite hobby.

Lighthouse

While there were not that many people in this town, it did have its fair share of dogs.  Our apartment owner had three dogs which would visit us from time to time.  The big dog was a little bit of a trickster and would hop on three legs, acting like he was in pain.  We knew he was “acting” because sometimes he would change legs, and when were watching him from a distance, he had no problem using all four.  Guess he just figured out how to work the gringos.

Joe and the gang of dogs. The big one is so embarrassed from being caught that he couldn’t even look at the camera.

We could have easily stayed for a month, but we needed to start making our way back to Buenos Aires to meet Kristen’s youngest sister, Bridget.  We figured it was a good idea to meet her at the airport and not leave a note that said “At the beach.”

On our way south we stopped in Montevideo, for one more visit.  While there we stayed at one on the most amazing hostels ever.  Hostel Ukelele is a converted 1920’s mansion, and it could have easily been a museum and not a hostel.  It is by far one of the most beautiful homes we have ever stayed in.

Sitting room.

Second floor.

Pictures really do not do this home justice. From the 20 foot ceilings, to the amazing details at every corner, this place is unique.

Stairs to the second floor.

The young owners of the hostel are extremely friendly and invited us to a Parrilla (Uruguayan BBQ) the first night we were here. They cooked a plethora of meats, and in true Uruguayan fashion the meal was not over until 1:30am.

Parrilla in full force.

For our final day in Uruguay, we rented bikes and hit the Rambla, a road skirting the waterfront around Montevideo.  It seems like the entire city had the same idea and the Rambla was full of people enjoying the weather.

Kris, of course, dazzled the crowd by dodging all pedestrians and miraculously avoiding all collisions.

Kris passing some competition.

We enjoyed taking in the scenery and the beautiful weather.

Montevideo buildings.

Montevideo beach

We had a relaxing time in Uruguay.  It is a great country to visit to get lost in the culture and their easygoing life style.  We have met so many nice people there, that it was hard to leave, but it was time to enjoy Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina.

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Uruguay: Part One

After a short overnight bus to Buenos Aires, we took a ferry across the Rio Plata to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.  Colonia is an old fort city whose ownership has been passed between Spain and Portugal more times than we can count.  This town is well situated to keep a close eye on the Rio Plata, and it is simply stunning.

Canons no longer boom in this city, but the collective sound of the cameras is just about as loud.  This is one of the most photogenic cities we had ever encountered.  It seems that at every turn there was yet another amazing picture.

One of Colonia’s many picturesque doors.

This town has it fair share of shady (not the bad kind) plazas and streets to sit in and pass the time.

Beautiful tree in the plaza.

Not sure what the name of this tree is, but we want one.

Colonia draws a huge amount of weekenders from Buenos Aires are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.  We luckily planned our trip during the week and were able to have the town almost to ourselves.

We spent the time wandering, relaxing, eating, and taking endless pictures.

Empty streets of Colonia.

Joe and our rental car. The tree counted as a third passenger.

We climbed the lighthouse to take in the views from above.  The city is beautiful from all angles, but the brown river leaves something to be desired.

Colonia from the lighthouse.

Lighthouse and ruins.

There is not too much to do in Colonia except walk around and enjoy the views, which was just fine with us.

One night, we hit the streets to take a few pictures of this beautiful town in the dark.

Rio Plata and Buenos Aires in the background.

Lighthouse.

Candlelit tables… this picture doesn’t do it justice.

From Colonia, we bused to Salto where we were looked forward to visiting the dam, drinking fresh orange juice, and sitting in thermal baths.  Seems like our travel aspirations have gone down a little bit, if we have seriously put a dam tour on our list of “to-dos.”

Salto is an eight-hour bus ride from Colonia and it also sits along the Rio Plata.  As said before, this area is famous for its dam which supplies Uruguay with 60% of it power.  Yet even more exhilarating than the tour itself, is the fact that the tour was free, including the bus to get there from town.  We jumped at the opportunity to take a dam tour, and we were pretty sure we were going to have a damn good time.

I am sure you can guess which one of us was more excited to learn about the inner workings of this dam. (Hint: It’s the one of us who can watch hours of The Discovery Channel at a time.)

Damn that is a cool turbine model.

Damn big turbines working.

We had a great time on the free dam tour, and would recommend this dam activity for any tourist in the dam area.

If stopping a river and turning it into power is not enough for you, Salto has a few other things to offer.

Like many of the cities we visited on this trip, this town has many plazas, tree-lined streets, and old buildings to admire.

Kris in front of a church.

Joe and a statue.

The happening downtown of Salto.

At sunset, it seems like the entire town grabs their fishing poles and mate  (a tea like drink that is a near obsession in Uruguay), and heads down to the river.  We tried to blend in: we hung out on the pier and tried to blend with the locals and enjoy the sunset. The only thing that gave us away was the fact that we didn’t have a mate to share.

Rio de Plata.

Pier and sunset.

To round off our time in Salto, we went to one of the many thermal baths to soak our bones.  We went with some others from our hostel, and we were quite the little United Nations. Our group consisted of us (the American component), a Frenchman, a German, an Italian, a Thai, and a Dutch girl.

These were not your typical natural “spa-like” thermal baths, because these ones have lazy rivers, wave pools, and many slides.

Lazy river.

Joe riding the slides.

Kris getting a massage.

After having all the damn fun we could have (tired of that joke yet?!), we set off for Gaucho country, and a place most tourists do not visit, Tacuarembo.

Tacuarembo is in the middle of Uruguay and the gauchos are still alive and well.  This is a great place to sit back, take in the slow-paced lifestyle, and play spot the cowboy.

We did just about everything there is to do in Tacuarembo, including visiting the very famous one room Gaucho museum.

Kris trying to brand Joe.

The other “touristy” thing to do in Tacurembo is a visit the Valle Eden for its natural beauty and the museum dedicated to Carlos Gardel (a famous tango singer).

Valle Eden train station sign.

Old train. Don’t worry, we took the bus here.

The Carlos Gardel museum is solely in existence to prove that this famous tango singer was born in Uruguay.  He has been claimed by Uruguay, Argentina, and even France, but only Uruguay can come up with a birth certificate (which they have blown up and prominently displayed).

We left as believers that Carlos is from Uruguay.

He reminded us of someone from The Rat Pack, and tragically, he met his end in a plane crash in Colombia.

Kris with Carlos.

We enjoyed our time in this area, even with a five-hour wait at a bus station. (It turns out that buses are pretty rare in these parts.)

Kris crossing a bridge in the Valle Eden.

Our taste of Uruguay has been great.  We love the laid back attitude of the people and the peaceful landscape.  Plus, the food here has been quite the improvement. Uruguayans can actually make a delicious pizza! (Take note Argentina!)

Uruguay might not have many major attractions, except for the dam, but immersing yourself in their culture makes for a nice (and relaxing) trip in itself.

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