Horse riding in the hills of Argentina

DSC02408We managed to get to the airport nice and early for Joanna’s sake and luckily she was booked on the flight – worry over. We landed in Salta, took a taxi to the hostel and later visited an archaeological museum which contains Incan mummies that date back thousands of years. It was really interesting and also our first taste of Incan culture in South America so far. We had fajitas for dinner (cooked by Joanna) which were absolutely delicious (I did not eat nearly as well when travelling in Australia and New Zealand). After dinner, Dan and I played ping pong in the hostel and I just managed to win – great fun. More hostels should have table tennis!
DSC02388Throughout the following day I did not let Dan forget about my glorious table tennis victory. He can’t wait for a revenge match later on. After persuasion from Joanna we decided to go western horseback riding as it was a highly recommended activity in this part of the country. The most stereotypical Argentinian cowboy picked us up and drove us to the ranch with an Irish couple. The stereotype was ruined however when he started playing songs like ‘barbie girl’ and saying he was a fan of one direction. In the car William (our guide) somehow thought Dan’s name was John and so all day he called him John. We all did as well to save the embarrassment – it was hilarious.

DSC02394We arrived at the ranch which was in the middle of nowhere and saddled up. We trekked up the hill on horseback for half a day which was absolutely stunning and so much funner than I had anticipated. We galloped at one point which was near fatal as you are only allowed one hand on the horse and the other holds the whip or lasso. We arrived back at the ranch and Joanna noticed her camera was missing. So William (our riding instructor) went out on horseback to search for it whilst we all enjoyed a delicious barbecue. He returned but to no avail so, after lunch, all 6 of us went hunting for this elusive camera slowly tracing our steps backwards. None of us expected to find it but miraculously the Irish man spotted it in some grass! So so lucky. We got back to the hostel and Dan was keen to have another table tennis match. It was tough but I just managed to beat him with my pride still intact. Tomorrow we cross the border into Chile!! Can´t wait.

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Backpacking in Buenos Aires, Argentina

DSC02373[1]So the people in our room turned out to be quite nice albeit very messy. (Two crazy Californian girls and two English guys).
We went out with people from the hostel last night to a huge nightclub which was really good fun. The nightclubs here start to get busy around 4am which sounds absurd. They also have after parties which go on from 8am and finish at 11am (we didn’t quite make it to that). The nightlife in buenos aires is a large part of the city’s attraction. We didn’t realise how orientated the city was towards it and were a bit disappointed during the day as there is not that much to do.
DSC02330We did go to the Sunday market which was fun although we were all shattered from the night before and so were lumbering down the cobbled road half asleep. For about one kilometre, the road is lined with stalls selling clothes, jewellery, food etc and there are lots of buskers singing and playing music. One old busker asked Joanna to dance and she did. Dan and I were in hysterics watching the old man tango whilst Joanna desperately attempted to follow along.

DSC02344[1]In Argentina, strangely, there is a lack of coins and few notes below 100 pesos. The buses also only accept coins so if you don’t have any, then you can’t take the bus – super annoying. Sometimes if they don’t have the change they give you sweets as compensation which we found very amusing. We did however take the bus (which is very cheap) to a district in buenos aires called La Boca which is the poorest neighbourhood within the city. there is one famous street called Caminito and also the famous football stadium where the Boca juniors play. We ambled down Caminito street with our wits about us admiring the beautiful colourful buildings. We arrived at the end of the street to the stadium and took a brief tour. What we found out was that Boca fans are crazy; real football hooligans. There was a game the day before and so the stands were still littered with torn shirts and remains of deceased away fans.
DSC02366[1]We arrived back at the hostel in good spirits, connected with wifi and an email unexpectedly popped up saying our flight (which was the next day) had been cancelled!!! This was NOT what we wanted to hear. Fortunately we received the email at 6pm which was precisely the time the call centre closes. Just our luck. Dan and I later received an email saying we were on the next flight but Joanna hasn’t. We decided we would go to the airport early the next morning and talk to the airline.

After eating out regularly in buenos aires (which is not cheap) we bought some spaghetti to cook in the hostel. Annoyingly the hostel kitchen was under refurbishment so we walked to the sister hostel 5 minutes away. It was nearing10pm now and we were starting to get hungry. We joked about this hostels’ kitchen being closed as well and to our astonishment it was. Two hostels with a total of 1000 guests had no cooking facilities. Unbelievable.
It was now getting quite late and we were getting more frustrated by the second. We decided our best bet was to walk to our former hostel about 15 minutes away and pray they would let us cook in their kitchen. After an enjoyable night-walk with our spaghetti, we arrived and begged the staff to let us in, they considered it and thankfully said yes. What a relief! We also bumped into our German friend Stefan who we had met in
Brazil and had dinner and drinks with him. Hopefully 
tomorrowwill go smoothly and we will make our flight!

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Steak and Wine in Buenos Aires

DSC02338Today was another flying day and fortunately, we were in the correct country and district to be able to catch the flight. We left at 8 am, arrived at the airport 15 minutes later and had gone through security 5 minutes after that. Our flight was delayed by an hour and a half but we didn’t mind as long as we were on our flight when it took off.

We made the flight and landed in Buenos Aires a couple of hours later!! Dan and I confidently stepped off the plane wearing shorts and flip-flops to be confronted with a fresh gust of what felt like English wind. It was freezing compared to the north. Jeans and a jacket weather (not a warm welcome at all, if you’ll pardon the pun). We found our way to the hostel and in our dorm room was a German man who was cycling across South America and who had cycled across most of the world. We had a long chat with this incredible guy listening to his travel stories and anecdotes.

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The Argentine peso is a very volatile currency and so Argentinians like to have US dollars. What most backpackers do when they come to Buenos Aires is exchange their dollars for pesos on the black market on a street called Floria street. We each had 150 dollars to exchange and so walked to the infamous street where unlawful, dodgy looking men and women line the streets shouting ‘cambio, cambio’. We bartered with a few people before settling on a fair exchange rate from a young Peruvian man. He led us to a tall building which was conveniently next to the police station which made us think he was an undercover policeman waiting to bust us. We walked through a narrow corridor and up three flights of stairs before being buzzed into a secure room with nothing but a small window and a woman behind it eager to take our dollars. The room was completely bare with only a water machine in the corner and the fidgety Peruvian man sitting down waiting. The whole experience was quite nerve-racking and we were all thinking we were either going to be robbed or worse. We exchanged the money, and luckily the door buzzed open. We scurried out relieved that we had not been harmed. After the whole saga, we felt quite rich with thousands of pesos in our wallets. We pranced around town feeling as if we had just survived a near robbery. We later went out for a celebratory steak dinner with our friend Alec who we met in Brazil.

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The following day we visited the city cemetery (which wasn’t very live-ly). It sounds like a depressing thing to do on an overcast day however it is one of the city’s main attractions. The tombstones are huge and very impressive. We visited the main plaza and went out for another steak dinner which was disappointing. We have yet to find the perfect Argentinian steak.

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We had to check out this morning as the hostel was full and so walked 15 minutes with our huge backpacks very inconspicuously to our new hostel which seems to be a big party place. We are in an 8 bed dorm with people who have been living in the hostel for over a month. It is as if we are staying at their house but they don’t want us there. We have yet to meet them and from the looks of the room they are dread locked, meditating, free-spirited Rastafarians but we may be completely wrong. They may be posh English Oxford students although I highly doubt it. We should find out later when they stumble in the room at 6 am singing bob Marley. We had another steak for lunch today which was the best we’ve had, but we are still searching for perfection. 

Entering Argentina and the Incredible Iguaçu Falls

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After a brief 16 hours on the bus we arrived at Foz do Iguazu – the local town near the waterfalls. We stumbled off the coach and fell into a taxi which took us to our accommodation which was a bizarre mix between a hostel, hotel and motel. We dumped our bags in the room and took the bus to the Brazilian side of Iguazu falls (the waterfalls are split between Brazil and Argentina by the Iguazu river). We had also spotted a leaflet in the hostel that advertised ab sailing and zip lining in the trees so we rashly bought a voucher from the hostel to do those two activities. We arrived at the waterfalls and had our first glimpse of the tremendous sight. It was absolutely spectacular!! Our eyes were glued to this immense beautiful natural wonder. I have never seen something so breathtaking in my life.

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After gazing at the falls in awe for rather a long time, we did the zip lining in the trees and ab sailed 55m down the rock face with a view over the waterfalls. This was absolutely incredible although I couldn’t help thinking my white shorts were being ruined by the rope as I slid down. I tried not to let this petty thought ruin my ab sail.DSC02192[1]DSC02186[1]We watched the sunset over the waterfalls and I took some necessary photos for the blog. Social media first, real life experience second.

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The next day we left Brazil and crossed the border into Argentina!! Border control was virtually non existent with no bribing necessary. We were sad to be leaving Brazil as we had spent such a great time there, 2 weeks really isn’t enough! We visited an animal sanctuary in the afternoon which was quite fun but just a time filler as we were visiting the Argentinian side of the falls the following day.
DSC02261[1]We woke up at 7am the next day to get to the falls by 8 and avoid the numerous swarms of retired American tourist groups. This was also our first hostel breakfast with scrambled eggs!! A great start to the morning. We ran to the bus stop as getting up proved harder than we thought. We got to the falls and started off with a 7 km trek to a rather underwhelming little waterfall. I don’t quite understand why we did this as Iguazu falls were a lot closer and more impressive. By the time we returned from our trek the retired American tourists were in full swing roaming the national park. Bad timing on our part. We later took a speed boat underneath the falls which was absolutely hilarious as we all got completely soaked. We had also brought a bag with us containing swimming trunks, flip flops and a towel but due to pure laziness we decided not to change as we had convinced ourselves we would emerge dry (even having been told the night before that you get soaked). I walked all day with a stupid plastic bag that I didn’t touch once.

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Once again the Argentinian side of the waterfalls did not disappoint. They were breathtaking. The shear power and quantity of water that flows over the cliffs is inconceivable. This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.DSC02275[1]

We arrived back into town around 6 and went to pick our washing up from a dodgy little launderette. Unexpectedly, as we stepped in, the man started rambling on about how we had paid with fake bank notes which we had just taken out from the bank atm. Luckily, I spoke good enough Spanish to return back a convincing argument. 10 minutes later after a decent debate, the man caved and gave us back our washing. His clever scam had failed and our washing was clean. 1 to the tourists, 0 to the launderette. 

Tomorrow we fly to buenos aires, this flight we have to catch!