Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Buenos Aires the ‘City that Never Sleeps’ & Iguazu Falls

Sunday 12th to Tuesday 21st February

Well we made it to BA with 10 days to go before the ship bringing us home is due to sail, this should be plenty of time!! (more on this later).
Being a Sunday the antiques fair & artisan market takes place along Defensia to Plaza Dorrego with a mixture of quality goods & tourist tat for sale to the hordes of visitors.

Street entertainers also perform their acts with some good & other no talents who can’t sing or play looking for an easy buck, this guy was very good.

Someone I guess must collect beer cans with the local football team Boca Juniors adding value to some limited edition specials? Personally both myself & Bob think canned beer should be banned.

BA is also ‘Tango’ Town and at the Plaza both amateurs & professionals dance to the famous latin music from the early 20th century, it’s pretty good & shows are on all over the city with the dance now declared a Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Mate is drunk all over Argentina & the city is no different, the tea like hot drink is sipped from a wood or bone bowl through a metal straw squashed at one end to stop the grouts. The ‘cups’ must be the No.1 souvenir.

For our evening meal we head for the Puerto Madero district & get a night view of the new buildings and 'The Womans' swing bridge, like most towns with old ports the riverside has become prime real estate.

During a walking tour we find out about the city’s main influences from Spain, France & Britain although most of the construction work was carried out by Italians, this lavish private church was built from all imported materials in just 14 years with a 2000 pipe French organ, the woman who built it was one of the richest in South America.

There is a lot of money here with many pampered pooches, these hired dog walkers don’t seem to be doing much walking however. Evidently from a survey every BA resident can expect to step in dog mess on average 4 times a year!

Another evidence of the wealth is the famous ‘Cementerio de la Recoleta’ where the rich family members are laid to rest, the mausoleums can cost millions plus there are hefty on-going costs for the up-keep.

Not many cemeteries are tourist attractions but when Evita is involved people queue to have their picture taken.

Across the park outside the cemetery we find something far more interesting, a ‘brew pub’ with a sample rack of all their standard beers, we like the IPA & Oktoberfest although the Dry Stout was also very good.

Getting through BA by road is pretty easy for a large city as right through the middle is a 12 lane highway with two smaller 3 lane roads on each side for local traffic, not much chance of something like this in London.

This is the old dock area that has now been developed with the usual restaurants & bars, you can also see that the weather here has been very hot, when you walk through the old town all the external air conditioning units drip their condensation onto the streets.

After checking with the shipping agent regarding the arrival of our ship home I decide to take a 4 day excursion to Iguazu Falls by coach, the bus station is huge with over 75 platforms and thousands of passengers.
Coach is the main method of long distance travel in South America, the ‘Full Cama’ coaches are very well equipped with seats that recline flat & airline type food & drink service.

The tour of Iguasu starts with a visit to the Brazil side of the falls where the views are more panoramic, some facts about this place:

The Falls are 2.7km in length with 2.1km in Argentina & .6km inside Brazil
There are around 275 individual cascades
The highest falls are 82m tall
On average 1,746 cubic meters of water passes over the falls every second
In 2011 Iguazu falls were declaired one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’

Coati are a bit of  nuisance in the national park stealing food & raiding the bins, they are pretty cute though.
This short video gives you a reasonable impression of the falls & the well positioned viewing platforms that allow you to get up close to this spectacular natural wonder.

On the second day it’s the Argentine side where you ‘feel the falls’ this picture shows how close you can get to the ‘Devils Throat’ which is the largest single cascade.

It’s also the Jungle setting that makes the falls look so spectacular, imaging being the Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca who was the first European to come across them in 1541.

The boat trip takes you right into the cascades & you get very wet, well worth it however.

Back at the Hotel it’s ‘Happy Hour’ so I have a couple of Caipirinha (two for one), everything is good until I read a text from Dave, the bikes have to pass through customs tomorrow as there is a 3 day public holiday for Mardi Gras with customs closed & the ship is a day early!!


It’s too late for me to get back to BA in time as it’s a 17 hour coach journey, all I can do is hope a solution can be found to avoid another 15 days in BA until the next available ship, Bob & Dave get their bikes through so will be leaving on the 22nd.
All I can do is visit the town at Puerto Iguazu & stand at the junction of 3 countries, I’m in Argentina, Brazil is across the river on the right & Paraguay on the left.

If this is the last Blog entry for the next 30 days you know we all made the ship & will be back in the UK around the 25th March, I’ve also just heard that the vessel is delayed by a few hours so I may get on tomorrow, fingers crossed!!

The schedule of the Grande San Paolo is here: http://www.b2b.grimaldi.co.uk/webdata/sched_sa.htm
and you can
Track the ships progress here: http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/shipdetails.aspx?MMSI=247091500

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