Guide to Peru

Ok so firstly, I’ve written a few posts about Peru already: Cusco, Peru: The Navel of the WorldThe Orphanage (not the movie)Machu Picchu and final days in CuscoMachu Picchu: Part 2Final days in Cusco, and Lake Titicaca, although I wrote them more as blogs to update people on my progress rather than guides. I thought that because I’d spent quite a bit of time in Peru (just over 2 months) I am qualified to provide a bit of information on it, even if I haven’t travelled everywhere.   When people make the decision to ‘do’ South America, Peru, mainly because of that big town on the mountain, is generally top of their list. For this reason most places are pretty crowded with tourists young and old, long term and short term, which is fine. I’m not going to get all travel hipster on this, as you want to meet other tourists while travelling, although when we were volunteering in Cusco, living in a beat up area far away from all the tourist places, we did get a little snooty over them. Come to think of it however, most volunteers didn’t do anything touristy in there time there, and a few didn’t even do Machu Picchu! They took being a local a little too far. Anyway, every country in South America is diverse, but Peru is super diverse. From the amazon jungle surrounding northern Iquitos to the white beaches of Mancora through the vast, wealthy city of Lima down south to the desert oasis of Huacachina, Nazca lines, Colca Canyon, Incan Jewell of Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. It has everything, but can be taken slowly or quickly, depending on your time frame and what you want to do… So lets start with

The North:

Image   Now northern Peru is vast and seems overwhelming, but isn’t, it all depends on how long you want to take going down. Now I don’t actually know this area, so what I’m going to recommend is based on what friends have told me:

Mancora Mancora has made its name in Peru for specializing in three things, sun, surfing and soirées (just wanted an excuse to keep the alliteration going. I meant parties). Located right at the tip of Peru, 85 miles from the Ecuadorian border, it’s a tourist hub and is very aware of that. Expect some great nights out, time chilling on beaches and if you’re into surfing, some great waves. Stay at Loki.  

Stock beach photo that could be anywhere in the world. Trust me, google images said it was Mancora.

Los Organos Pretty similar to Mancora but a little less well known, it will doubtlessly provide the same experiences, although apparently is a better place for first time surfers to learn, as the water’s a bit more forgiving. It is also home to Pacifico Adventures Ecoturismo, a company that allows you to head out into the ocean and view humpback whales, dolphins and other marine life in their natural habitat. Trips last about three and a half hours and tickets cost S/. 120 for adults and S/. 100 for children.

Poser

Chicama I’m merely including this for surfers. Chicama is a tiny town that also happens to have a stretch of coast line that has created the longest wave in the world, at 1.6 miles. Pretty narly.

I’m sure someone has come up with some cool Chicama pick-up lines (“That wave’s actually not even the longest thing in town ;D”)

Huanchaco A little north of the city of Trujilo, this beach town is a bit more low key than Mancora, but still has some nice beaches.

You can get photos like this too if you come to Huanchaco

Trujilo- While I’m sure this is a really charming, nice city on its own, it is also close to Northern Peru’s best Pre-Colombian (pre-European influence) archaeological monuments, Chan Chan, the largest adobe (mud-brick) city in the world and Las Huacas del sol y de la Luna (temples of the sun and moon).

Chan Chan (no influence on the can can)

Huarez- Huarez is home to the less expensive and alternative (hipster) trek to the Machu Picchu Inca trail, the Santa Cruz trek. The pictures I’ve seen of it look really awesome, and I think I’d like to do it when I come back to Peru, but here’s an article by someone who did it without a guide. I’d recommend doing an organised trek though, and through this agency http://www.huascaran-peru.com/, it seems 3 days is the minimum. If you have the time and money it looks stunning. Iquitos The best way to visit the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, Iquitos is actually the largest city in the road inaccessible by road, although to be honest, getting there from other parts of Peru or Colombia would be a week long bus ride anyway. So you either have to fly in, or get a boat (fly, it’s relatively cheap). The attraction of the city is obvious, go there to take an Amazon tour, but while there, expect certain things. First, it’ll be hot and humid all year round, with humidity averaging at 90% (that’s very humid). Second, as there are no roads, the city is dominated by motorcycles and motorcarros/rickshaw, so watch out for that. Third, as there are no roads, it’s amenities are also very basic, so don’t expect luxury here. Apart from an Amazon tour, which you can book from your hostel (although this- http://www.dawnontheamazon.com/ looks the best), maybe also check out the Amazonian Manatee (sea cow) Orphanage, and the Monkey island (included in a Dawn on the Amazon tour), but Wikitravel has some useful info on ithttp://wikitravel.org/en/Iquitos, as will lonely planet.

The South:

Image  The South is more my area of Peru. The only bit I didn’t do was the Colca Canyon, but obviously do that if you get down here (I didn’t because I was being good and working so hard at my orphanage).

Lima If you want a bit more of an in depth review of Lima, I have one here. Effectively, while it is a vast, sprawling city, its best bits, and where most tourists go, is Miraflores. An upmarket neighborhood situated on the coastal cliffs that overlook the Pacific, most of the hostels surround Kennedy Park, a large and pleasant park that usually has local music and dancing going on in the evenings, and a large wild (but not feral) cat population. Stay at Flying Dog Hostel if you want to be beside the best sandwich place in Miraflores, or Parawana for a large, well-run party hostel. There’s also some decent paragliding off one of the cliffs, and surfing below on the beaches. Try out ceviche at La Mar on Avenida La Mar. Don’t stay more than a few days though, as there’s not a huge amount to do and it was cloudy all the time I was there. Pisco/Paracas Urgh, Pisco. This complete dive of a town is where I had my passport and camera stolen, so try to spend as little time as possible there. From the bus stop it’s a 15 minute taxi to Paracas, the coastal town which offers boat tours to what Peruvians call the ‘Little Galapagos’, some rock formations that have wildlife and similar geography to the Galapagos. I did the tour and it was pretty cool, but nothing to write home about. I got a cool picture of a sea lion doing an awesome pose, but then my camera got stolen, denying the world some great photography. Go if you’ve got some spare time, and stay at Kokopelli. Ica/Huacachina Ica is similar to Pisco in that it’s effectively a gateway to something more interesting, and what a place Huacachina is. It’s really the closest thing I’ve seen to an oasis, although upon closer inspection it’s a little… artificial. However it’s not the town that makes Huacachina interesting, it’s the desert. You can book a sandboarding/dune buggy tour from your hostel (I stayed at Bananas Hostel, pretty sweet), for about 35 soles, which is about 8 pounds, and it is pure awesomeness from start to finish. The buggies are driven by local guys who evidently get a little bored of what they do, so to spice things up generally seem to drive in a way that the ride feels like a rollercoaster- slowly ascending the dunes before dropping suddenly and careering downwards. Eventually he’ll stop and give you an opportunity to attempt some sandboarding. I’ve never snowboarded so was pretty terrible, but our group quickly worked out that belly-boarding was a lot more fun, although a little painful at times. Advice: Go for the later one, I think it was 4pm, as then you get a sunset at the end. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152261352773052&set=vb.710168051&type=3&theater Link to a video of it.

Bananas Hostel

Nazca– This depends on if you enjoy seeing far off shapes in the ground. I didn’t have the money to shelve out $80 for a plane ticket to see the lines, but a friend did and gave me the pictures, which is the equivalent of actually doing it.

Cusco At last we’re on to Cusco, the place I lived and worked in for 7 weeks and where the Incans started their vast civilization (no coincidence those two are connected). As well as being the place to visit Machu Picchu from, Cusco is also full of culture and fun. During my stay there for example, there was a festival held every Sunday for 4 weeks based on water fights. As in the entire city would have one massive water fight. Like it was urban warfare with water balloons. So. Much. Fun. Plus there’s some great museums located just off the Plaza de Armas. Check out the Inka Museum, which is in need of renovation but interesting nonetheless, but probably the two best are the Museo de Arte Pre-Colombino and the Centro de Textiles Traditionales del Cusco. The Chocolate and Pisco museums are a decent way to spend some time too. In terms of archaeology, something you’d hope to see when visiting the Incan capital, Cusco is a little weak. The Spanish managed to destroy pretty much everything when they sacked the city, meaning only a walled complex remains on one of the hills above the city named Saksaywaman, part of the attraction being the fact you’ve just been to see sexy woman. HA! Eating in Cusco: If you’re in the plaza and fancy a smoothie and quick sandwich, head to Yajuu! which is pretty cheap and very tasty, with loads of interesting combinations. Two great places for hungover (or otherwise) breakfasts are Jack’s Cafe, which is great but generally has a long queue outside, and Cicciolina, which is a block away. Both aren’t too pricey and serve up top quality food. Others- Chicha, MAP Cafe, Limo, Inka Grill, Greens Vegetarian Food. If you can try out some Cuy, or Guinea Pig. Loveable animals are so much tastier.   Anyway… Drinking: Cusco is a great, great place for nightlife. Did I mention it was great? It is. Pubs- Paddy’s and Norton’s. One’s Irish, one’s English, both were great places for the volunteers to start a night out, or just play some pool and shoot some darts. Bars- Ukuku’s. Wow, we discovered this off Tripadvisor and it immediately became our favorite bar. Decorated with some interesting murals and cool lighting, it begins by playing alternative and pop music in the early evening, before eventually hosting a local band or salsa night. The quality of these varied, but we definitely had some good times in there. There’s also the Muse, a good chill out bar and salsa club on fridays and saturdays, Km 0, El Pisquerito and London Town. If you’re English just go into London town for a laugh. In terms of clubbing, there’s Inka Team and Mama Africa for some Latin infused-pop (Inka Team also does free salsa lessons from 9-11pm) and Mushroom’s (below Mama Africa’s) for electronic. In terms of a rave, The Temple is the place to be. If you’re at Wild Rover, Loki or Milhouse, you should be taken here as part of a night out. If you’re a guy, watch out for over-zealous gringo-hunters. You’ll know when you see them. Booking Machu Picchu and other activities: For the best prices and loads of travel agents, head to Calle Plateros, just off the Plaza. If you’re going to do the Jungle Trek (the one I did, unreally awesome), don’t pay more than $250, for rafting included. I had a friend get everything- rafting, ziplining, biking etc for $170, and he said it was the same experience, so try to shop around a bit. Salkantay will probably be a bit more. From Cusco you can also visit other parts of the nearby Sacred Valley. From that same street you can probably book a general tour that covers most of the sites, but if you want to pick a couple, Ollantaytambo and Pisac are the best.   Cusco will always have a place in my heart for the times I spent at the orphanage there, it’s brilliant weather and the friends I met. If you are thinking of doing some volunteering in Cusco, you can’t go far wrong with Elim, sponsored by Original Volunteers, and run by Jeremy Cuba Escobar (his name on facebook). The work they do there is simply incredibly considering some of the stories of these kids.

Final photo from Cusco on Facebook had this caption: “My final day in Cusco with the boys of Elim, an organisation that takes in children from the street, broken homes, and orphans. It is hard to put into words the job that Jeremy and Nilda are doing, with the help of people like Yeicob, but the effect is evident as soon as you step through the door. These are some of the most happy, thoughtful, and inspiring children you can find, and it´s safe to say the effect they´ve had on me has been far greater than any material gift or entertainment I could bring to them in my 6 weeks. I would recommend anyone visiting Cusco to spend some time there if possible.”

Lake Titicaca The lake is actually split 60/40 with Bolivia, and although both sides are listed by Lonely Planet as essentials to do in South America, if you were to choose one, I’d recommend Isla Del Sol on the Bolivian side. Nevertheless, I had a great experience on my 2 day tour from Puno after a nightbus from Cusco. I think I paid about 180 soles, although you can probably get it for less. Lake Titicaca is a magical place, so serene and calming, and the different cultures on each island are really interesting. Don’t miss it.

So this was my guide to Peru. I know I’ve missed out Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, but I never went there and know everyone else has raved about it, so thought it would be a little excessive to say more. Peru can be a little bit of a shock to the system if you’ve come from the West, but its variation, beauty and people will not disappoint. Enjoy.

Cartagena

The city of Cartagena, where I flew to celebrate both my 22nd birthday and start of the Brazil World Cup, is in the Northern tip of Colombia, and is everything you’d imagine of a city that is both Caribbean and South American in flavor. White beaches, mostly Afro-Caribbean populated, and with year round temperatures that average 31 degrees and 75% humidity, the city was the perfect place to end my stay in South America.

A bit of Carta-techture. Get it? 😀

The whole reason I went to Colombia, elongating my trip by a month, was based on the recommendations of other travellers, and the reason I went to Carta was because a volunteer I had met in Cusco, an Aussie called Jade, was working there. I figured there was going to be sun, friends and it’d be a good place to party it up on my birthday, so I booked a ticket from Medellin (plane- darling I gave up using buses in Peru. So primitive) a couple of days before my birthday and set off for my final stop.

The days preceding it, and the start of the World Cup, were spent mostly finding the best bar to watch it and various items in preparation, such as an England shirt for me and 2 other English people I was with (vital importance) and some face paints. Those two English people were a couple, Nick and Eve from London (if you’re from London and travelling together that’s enough), and every morning Nick would wake up to ‘Football’s Coming Home’ by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel (Euro 96′ version). We’re talking serious supporter here. Eve secretly informed me that she was relieved she didn’t have to keep discussing football with him 24/7.

After much searching and asking around, we found a pretty good bar with air-con, lots of people (and a few Brazilians) and a big screen to watch the opening match of the World Cup in. The search for an England shirt was a lot harder however. We met one guy, who happened to speak perfect English as he used to be a dope dealer in New Orleans, called Josephus, who took us around pretty much every shirt seller in Cartagena Old Town, each one promising so much but delivering so little. Eventually Nick settled for a red one from 2013 for about 10 quid. He wasn’t happy, but as the Rolling Stones said, you can’t always get what you wa-unt.

The next day was my 22nd birthday. Hooray. In the morning we beached it up. I thought putting on factor 30 sunscreen on my arms and face would be enough, but I ended up looking like a bit of a lobster. A sexy lobster mind. I have a picture that I sent my brother that’s far too compromising to put on here, but shows much of the extent of the burn. We then had a huuuge sandwich of avocado, tuna, mayo, salad, and tomato and watched the epic Spain Netherlands game, where the Netherlands put 5 past the World Champions. After this was the Australia Chile game, and as Jade was on shift, we decided to stay at the hostel, and felt her paid as the Aussies fought bravely but fell to the impressive Chilean organisation and lost 3-1. Then came some prinking (pre-drinking) of some tasty rum and coke (o cola) while we waited for another friend from Cusco, a Belgian named Pierre (top guy) and some of his friends to arrive from Medellin. Out in the outdoors seating area of the hostel I was then given a birthday cupcake, completely unexpected, and sung happy birthday to. Maybe you don’t care about this but it’s the little things that make stuff like this, and even now, a week later, I’m still smiling while I remember it.

Great sandwich. This is the stuff you come to this blog for.

The night out consisted of a trip to a salsa bar, where I was offered coke (caine) by a dwarf, we saw some pretty unconvincing transvestites and split off. Most of the Belgians went off with another group, so we went into town to look for a club. After passing some dodgy looking places, we went into a completely empty place on the promise of some cheap drinks. There epicness ensued, as the lack of people meant we could control the playlist, meaning not only did a lot of old favourites get played, but so did Football’s Coming Home!!! 5 of us were English, and we belted it out at the top of our voices, while the others just sat back and laughed. As this was happening, various other drunk English people came in and joined in, so the club filled up for the 3 minute duration of the song. But what a 3 minutes.

The three Cusqueñan amigos, reunited.

“It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming!!!”

The next day, exhausted and hungover, we all dragged ourselves out of bed to be ready for the Colombia game that would begin at 11am. In the course of the evening I had been informed that there would be public televisions, so Nick and I did a reccie to go and find them. After being misdirected by 10 different people, including policemen (this is common in South America), we eventually found the perfect place, so ran back to get the others. At 11am, in front of a 40″ plasma, Colombia’s World Cup kicked off for about 300 people and 10 gringos. They won their first match against Greece 3-0, with each goal being celebrated wildly by all the supporters. Our group had newscasters and cameramen filming us, and at one point I was told to repeat the phrase ‘Viva Colombia’ about 5 times into a microphone. The atmosphere there was something else.

Vamos Colombia! Selfie had to be done.

For Nick, however, it was all build up to the big event, the England game at 5pm. After an afternoon’s rest, we and around 50 other England fans, and 1 Italian woman, crowded into a nearby bar with the best television in Cartagena, and an ITV feed! We were completely pumped, and when Raheem Sterling hit the side netting 3 minutes in the whole place erupted, beer in the air, chairs flying backwards, hugging and screaming, until someone pointed out that he’d missed, when everyone calmly sat back down pretending they hadn’t just kissed the person next to them. We did get an opportunity to celebrate, when Daniel Sturridge struck an equalizer, but the delirium couldn’t last, and we left completely deflated.

The disappointment in my eyes still cuts me to my core

Regardless, despite England’s defeat, I had an amazing time in Cartagena with some amazing people, and I will never forget it. The next day I was up early to board a plane to Miami, prepared for whatever cavity search they had in store for me for coming from Colombia.

 

Goodbye South America, Gracias por todo. it’s been fun. Pura Vida x

Argentine quirks

Obviously each country in Spanish South America is different to the next, but none is as different as Argentina and its people. Whether in language, personality, reputation, there are a many quirks to Argentina that you’ll experience when you visit. Here are a few:

Language- It’s a little confusing, but the people of South America effectively speak Castilian Spanish (castellano) rather than regular Spanish (some people will ask if you hablas castallano so watch out with that one). This is Spanish from central and northern Spain, but bastardized a little. The people of Rosario, Buenos Aires and Montevideo speak Rioplatense Spanish, a dialect from the Rio de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay. Each area has its own dialect within the dialect, but they’re all similar. This developed primarily from more recent immigration from Italy and Spain so if you meet a few Argentinians from this region you’ll see a lot of Italian surnames. Indeed the Italian National Football Team actually has a well known history of calling up Argentine players, linked through parents or grandparents. The most famous of these was World Cup Winner Mauro Camoronesi, who claimed “I feel Argentine but I have defended the colors of Italy, which is in my blood, with dignity. That is something nobody can take away.

Anyway, the Spanish of these region is as immediately recognizable as a Scottish or Irish accent is to an English speaker, and just as difficult to understand for foreigners.

– Voseo- (informal you singular) is replaced with vos, and usted (formal you singular) isn’t used. A few verb forms also change, but the most important is ser (one of the to be verbs), where the you singular form becomes sos, making you are, vos sos.

– Rehilamiento or sheísmo- This one is just pronunciation, and is the one most characteristic of this dialect. Effectively the ‘y’ and ‘ll’ in words becomes a sh sound (like in mission or measure). So Pollo (Chicken) is pronounced po-sh-o and playa (beach) becomes pla-sh-a. This one is a little confusing at first, but you quickly get used to listening out for it, and saying it. Bear in mind that if you ever go to Colombia, the Paisas, or people from Medellin, call their city Mede-sh-een, using this same principle.

– Speed- This is something that is immediately obvious when coming from somewhere like Bolivia. Argentinians all over the country speak fast, but working class people in this area, such as taxi drivers, are the worst at it, merging words they speak so fast. It’s really hard to get used to.

– There are a few others, and I found this site to be helpful. The ones above are the one’s I noticed most, but with a greater grip on the language I’m sure someone could notice even more intricate differences, and incur my jealousy. Something I didn’t actually notice that I thought I would was the use of ‘che‘, the nickname of Ernesto Guevara, that is used as ‘man’, ‘hey’, or ‘dude’.

Prices– The three most expensive countries in South America (outside of a World Cup) are Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. In Argentina I was paying twice as much for accommodation, food, and drink than in Bolivia. Obviously those two countries have vastly different HDI rankings, but still, expect to pay from a bit to a lot more -especially in eating out- in Argentina.

Development- Having just mentioned the HDI, it’s worth adding that Argentina is the second highest ranked South American country on the index at 45 in the world (Chile is at 40), and this is immediately evident entering the country. While it obviously still has many problems in dealing with it’s poor (all the big cities have their own Villa miseria, or shanty town, nearby), the infrastructure, transport, and feel of Buenos Aires impressed me (I can’t talk for much of the rest of the country). It feels very like a large European capitol, and has a subway, good buses, and is safer and a less chaotic than other South American cities- I’m looking at you La Paz. 

Reputation– Argentinians do carry a certain reputation among other South Americans. “Arrogant” and “Rude” were both words I heard before I came, especially directed at
Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) and to be honest I think both carry a bit of truth. Because it’s a big city, taxi drivers a little more curt, people are a little less friendly, and there’s less of a community feel, but this is true of my hometown London too. I also experienced real moments of kindess of people, so I think it really depends on the person and what kind of day they’re having, as living in a big city can be stressful. Saying that, there is a bit of a swagger, maybe arrogance, that people carry. They know they have a recent European history, and they flaunt it. Fashion is really big, as is looking good, and those that do know it. They’re also very very passionate about certain things. They like to talk, and talk at length. I once made the mistake of bringing up the Falklands to a Porteña friend who then gave me the riot act on why I was wrong (last time I’ll be doing that). I also witnessed an altercation in the street between a bus driver and motorcylist, which led to the bus driver stopping, getting out, pulling the guy off his bike and kicking him in the chest before calmly getting back on his bus and driving off.

 

So these are some things I picked up while I was there. After saying all this, I still maintain that Buenos Aires was my favorite city (partly due to the people I met there, some Argentine), and a place I will always have a soft spot for.

 

Something I can’t fit into another post: stupid stuff I did there…

– Spraying aftershave at pharmacies. Pharmacity, a big chain there, has stores large enough that you can wonder in, pretend to be checking out the aftershave section, and spray a bit on for a night out and leave. I find carrying aftershave around while travelling a bit of a hassle so this helped!

– Call Taxi drivers muchaho. They love it, will give you discounts and offer to pick you up when you need to go to the airport.*

– When you have to give your name at a restaurant, choose something stupid but easy for the waitress to understand. Maybe the name of the local football hero (Messi, Ronaldo, Radamel etc) or famous figures (Ernesto, Evita, Fransisco). Get creative, it’s fun seeing people in the restaurant look around when they hear the waitress call out “Messi!”

 

Random pics from BA:

Lovers in Recoleta

Long Exposure shot

Runners in Bosques de Palermo

Long exposure of a Tango show.

Area of Palermo near MALBA art gallery.

*This is a joke, do not do this.

Uruguay

I will never not remember Uruguay for this Simpson’s scene, but when a friend at a hostel said he was going for the day and asked me to come along, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.U R GAY. I love the simpsons. I guess we know where justine beiber was born.. Still fascinated with the Beeb, right?

To get to Uruguay from Buenos Aires requires a ferry either to Colonia or Montevideo (the capital), and costs about 40 pounds. We got ours at 12 midday and arrived there at 1, giving us about 6 hours before the return at 7pm. As we began to check out the town, we found that while I’m sure it would be beautiful in warmer weather, it was not only a little miserable in May, but also devoid of most of it’s citizens (I assume many people have summer houses there). The Old Town has a few decent restaurants, a church, bike and buggy rentals, some old colonial walls and a viewpoint from a lighthouse, but the lack of sun and people was rather depressing.

But anyway, we were hungry , so we decided to get some local Uruguan food. The Chivito (“little goat”) is a meaty sandwich filled with churrasco (grilled, thinly sliced beef), ham, bacon, lettuce and tomato, mozzarella cheese and a fried egg. Try beating that for protein. There are a few extra options, such as piccles, onions, fries and others, although the “fungi” type stuff we had with ours tasted like feces. You can also get it without bread, loaded onto a plate, as ours was. Although stuff is a bit more pricey in Uruguay than Argentina, which is pricey already, the Chivito is a relatively quick and cheap way to fill yourself up, plus it’s really tasty.

 

 

After this we still had about 4 hours left in the city, so decided to hire bikes for about $10 each for a few hours. We left the old town and cycled along the coast to the nearby town(ship) of Real de San Carlos, whose main attraction is a decrepit bull-fighting stadium named the Plaza de Toros. Although it’s forbidden to go in, we left a dog that had run the whole way with us (for no reason) to guard the bikes, and sneaked in through the unguarded fence to view the inside. You can really feel the history when you enter. Designed in Moorish style, it would once have been a vast, grand structure capable of containing 10,000 spectators. Opened in 1910, it hosted a mere 8 fights before bullfighting was banned in Uruguay in 1912, and since then has been abandoned. Parts of it are crumbling, and walking on the concrete seating feels a little bit dodgy. However it does seem that someone’s been keeping it from complete disrepair, as the grass is obviously mowed.

The coolest bit about being inside is that it feels very similar to a gladiator arena, so naturally we did some reenacting of scenes from Russel Crowe and Ridley Scott’s epic film Gladiator (“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”).

Afterwards we decided to enter the countryside a bit, and came across beautiful, vast fields of varying crops, which, with the sunset approaching, merely added to the dreamlike Gladiator quality of the place.

Long exposure of the sea and distant lights of Buenos Aires.

We arrived back to the bike rental place, and had enough time for a beer before getting on the coach and heading back to Buenos Aires for about 10pm.

Strangely, what started off as an average day had become something I’ll remember really fondly, but maybe it’s because I got on so well with the guy I went with, PJ from California (you can’t not get along with people from Northern Cali).

Iguazu Falls

After about 2 weeks in Buenos Aires, I at last made the decision to go to Iguazu Falls, realizing that I had to leave the city and do something. I booked a ticket through my hostel with Via Bariloche, probably Argentina’s best bus company, for the equivalent of about 60 pounds, pretty good considering it’s about an 18 hour journey.

The falls, which divide the Upper and Lower sections of the Iguazu river and runs along the border between Brazil and Argentina, although 80% of the water flows over the Argentine side.

For this reason, and if Visa’s are not too expensive, you can do 2 day trips, one to the Brazilian side, one to the Argentine. I timed my coach ride so that it would arrive at about 8:30am the next morning, meaning I would have a full day for the Brazilian side (despite its lack of water).

The bus I took was easily the best bus I’d had in South America. It was effectively a business class seat on a plane, with ample leg room, almost fully reclining chair, air con, blankets provided, and movies in English. After leaving Buenos Aires Retiro station at 2pm, we were given lunch, and at about 8pm given dinner, and breakfast before we got off the coach the next morning. Effectively plane food, it was still much preferred to the pringles and biscuits that made up most of my other bus journeys, plus it came with wine.

Once I arrived at my hostel in Puerto Iguazu (Timbo Posada- decent), the town nearest to the Falls in Argentina, I dropped off my things and got a bus through the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguaçu to their side of the falls. The walk they recommend takes about an hour, and takes you along a ridge beside some of the falls, but mostly looking down on the Argentine side, with people in boats having a good time. At the end of the walk you reach one of the larger waterfalls, and a wooden walkway takes you along to the edge of it. The whole experience is rather short, but has pretty amazing views and being able to walk so close to the drop off from one is special. You can really feel and hear the full force of their power as you get soaked by the spray.

I got back to my hostel at about 3pm, and caught up a bit on this, added some photos to facebook, and got an early night. The next morning I got up early and got a bus to the Argentine entrance to the falls. Due to the vastly higher percentage of the area that Argentina owns, there’s a lot more to do, with various walks, boat rides and even a train to take you round.

I’d recommend taking the Nautical Adventure ride into some Iguazu’s most ferocious falls (it’s safe), and if you have a go-pro or waterproof camera, as someone on my boat did, you’ll get some awesome footage. This is seriously one of the more awesome things I did on the whole trip in South America, as the spray reduces you’re visibility to near zero, and the boat brings to you to brink of the falling water.

Another great part of the Argentine side is the Devil’s Throat, La Garganta del Diablo in Spanish. I have to say, this is definitely in the top of 5 of things I did while away. It completely blew me away. I did a walk from the main restaurant area to the walkways which take you there instead of taking the train, so all in all it took half an hour or so to get there, but that felt like a build up to something special. The walkways are also pretty spectacular, giving you a view of the river pre-falls, and on my way back I actually saw an alligator resting on a rock. You can hear the Throat before you can see it, a cacophony the result of half of the river’s water falling in one narrow U-shaped chasm. It’s the purest expession of water’s power you can experience without being in a Tsunami, or an extra in the Film The Day After Tomorrow.

What I wrote shortly after going: “The Devil’s Throat. Quite simply one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. An expression of the pure power of water, and as if to display this, I watched a butterfly flutter calmly into the falls, attempting to help me realize man’s lack of power over nature, probably.” It was magical.

If you’re in Argentina or Southern Brazil, you have to go. It’ll blow you away.

Nightlife of Buenos Aires- Clubs

 

OK, so I did go to a few clubs in Buenos Aires while I was there, but this isn’t a definitive list of places to go, just my recommendations and a couple from friends. For a longer and more comprehensive list, check out http://www.gringoinbuenosaires.com/buenos-aires-boliches/

Clubs

Niceto ClubNiceto Vega 5510, Palermo Hollywood

I went here on a saturday when they were hosting DENGUE DENGUE DENGUE, a trance group from Lima, Peru, so the night was kind of themed around them (it was a great night). It’s electronic music most nights, although on Fridays indie-rock also makes its way in to the playlist.

What really makes Niceto special is ”Club 69”, a weekly party which combines transvestite strippers, b-boys and breakdancers, and techno music. It sounds pretty awesome, and something I’m definitely going to check out on my return.

Only arrive after 1am.

 

 

MOD Variete Club- Hip Hop Culture Club– Balcarce 563, San Telmo
MOD Variete Club hosts three regular nights. On Friday it’s house, on Saturday it’s rock, pop and indie, but on Thursday it’s Hip-Hop. The night starts with DJs playing a variety of artists from across the genre, with impromptu breakdancers occasionally showing off their moves in the crowd, then when I was there two rappers came on and spat some of their stuff for about an hour (that’s hip-hop lingo for those of you not brought up in the Hood). I went with two people who weren’t really into hip-hop, so they didn’t particularly enjoy it, especially because it’s filled with guys pretending they’re from Harlem (unlike those of us who really are). So go only if you’ve at least got some Jay-Z on your iPod.

Jamming Radio Fiesta Bar– Loyola 788, Palermo

Great reggae place. Really weird, you may remember my post on my trip to Uyuni from La Paz in Bolivia, and so may also remember that I spoke to a French guy for a while on the bus before I threw up my very essence in the toilet for the following 8 hours. At this club, in the club toilets while a drug dealer was trying to convince me to get some of his stuff, I met the very same French guy! Crazy coincidence, pretty pointless story.

So yeah, if you want to listen to reggae, don’t mind the strong smell of weed (or enjoy smoking it), and want to reconnect with lost travel companions, this is your place.

Also there are large cigarettes walking around, or maybe I was reeeeaaaaallllllly high (just joking grandpa).

 

Rosebar- Honduras 5445, Palermo Viejo

… Pending comments from the person who recommended it!

Update: ”Rosebar is a bit fancy, but the play cool music and the structure of the place is quite nice.” …. And that’s why I do the writing, and she does the lawyering. Just joking Laura. Go to this place for the structure, you’ll be blown away.

 

Club 74– Av Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 7486, Belgrano

club 74 -3

Disco Club that sounds awesome, recommended by Frances: http://buenosaireslocal.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/club-74-the-best-club-in-buenos-aires/. Incidently just in case you were wondering, she’s not the traditional and contemporary Irish Singer. Although sometimes I wonder…