Santiago, Buenos Aires, Iguazu falls and Montevideo.

22.12.14

Last night was somewhat surprising, in that I went out for a simple meal and came back in at 11.30. In fairness it was 21.00 or so by the time I had written and sent the previous update, but then I had planned to go for a quick bit at a Japanese that I had seen. I know what you are thinking, how many Japanese are there in Chile, but I just wanted something simple, and could not face another slab of meat with chips. However my plan way thwarted as I arrived to find then closed.

I wandered the streets for a bit looking at menus, before seeing a cosy little bar that did empanadas. After a discussion with the waiter, he convinced me to have Lomo which is basically a large bowl of meat, con pollo, so with an equal amount of chicken. It was however, very nice indeed.

The same waiter asked what I wanted to drink, and when I said “water” he asked me how long I had been in Chile. Upon hearing my response he then informed me that the water would upset my stomach and that I should only start drinking it after two weeks. I did not even know that I was not supposed to drink the water, and I had been cooling a big bottle of tap water in the fridge back at the flat, as today is supposed to be 31 degrees.

I also now think I know why people in Vietnam added salt to their fizzy drinks. Saturday night I could feel the beginnings of a cramp coming on, so yesterday I started adding a palm full of salt to every glass of Sprite  zero or water I had in cafes or restaurants. I will let you know if it works.

————-

It is 16.30 and I have returned from a long day doing nothing. I was up early at 08.00 so I decided to get up to St Lucia before the midday sun. So after showering, breakfast, emails and generally dicking about, it was 10.00 or so before I got out the door.

I got to St Lucia and spent a very quiet morning wandering around before deciding to get some money out, just in case I need to get a taxi off the street tomorrow.

I then wandered up into the market, where I sampled a empanadas pino, which is a thing here. I was lucky to get in just before the rush, because by the time that I got in, ordered, and picked up my empanada, the queue was out the door.

It is no surprise that women get large here, when they eat a couple of these for lunch, and then wash it down with a massive slice of cake, and I mean massive. I saw one woman just eating the cake for lunch on its own, it was that big, but then again, so was she.

You would hate the cafes here. Alot of them do not have seats, that is right, you stand, drink your tea or coffee, and people watch. Some of the cafes are beautifully decked out in chrome, and take up two shop fronts….but with absolutely no seats, inside or out.

I then spent the rest of the day at the Plaza de Armis, just sitting there people watching.

I am back now to shower and change my clothes before heading to W in about an hour and a half.

————–

All in all this evening has not been a great success.

Started heading out this evening, got to the top of the road and heard a scream. I turned around to see a young lad running with a girl’s handbag. Unfortunately for the guy, the girl was not alone and appeared to be with six university friends, who promptly ran down the thief and kicked the shit out of him.

They must have been rich kids, because they only beat him for a short period of time, and after the incident, the guy got up and walked away. Bystanders where taking pictures and cheering and shouting.

I say they were rich kids, because my friends would have started with breaking his nose, then, his jaw, then fingers etc. He would not have been walking anywhere.

Then I got to the W and after getting lost, I arrived only to be told that the roof top bar was closed. Not only were they closed, but they had been closed for at least two years. Not what they said on their website. So I stayed, had a drink, and left.

I wondered into a few restaurants but none had what I was looking for to eat, then before I knew it, it was 23.00 and everything was closing. No food for me this evening. Well, that is not true, as I could eat my eggs and salami for tomorrow’s breakfast, but now, I am oddly not hungry.

W is in the posh end of town, and it was interesting on the train watching the rich well groomed people going east to their posh homes, then on my way back, watching the workers heading west to the poorer suburbs.

I wrote to the hotel manager and owner this morning to arrange a late checkout and drop off to the airport, but I have not heard back as yet. Well, tomorrow should be interesting. Santiago to Buenos Aires at 17.00.

———-

23.12.14

Today i was woken at 09.00 by a buzzing sound, but thought nothing of it and went back to sleep. Then at 09.30 I heard a phone ringing, but thought that it was for next door. I got up at this point and made myself something to eat as well as checking mail etc. Then a 10.30 there was buzzing sound again, which I then realised was my front door bell. When i checked, there was the cleaning lady and her daughter waiting to clean my room.

This is when I realised just how bad my Spanish is as she rattled away with me having little to no understanding.

I explained to her that I had arranged a late check out, and from what i could tell, she then said that there was another booking. She called the manager on her mobile and it turned out that she was right, and I had an hour to get out.

I should have been better prepared for this, but I rallied and was out the door in half the time.

I wondered the streets homeless for two hours in which time I found a coffee shop and had tea and chocolate. The chocolate here is not great, understandable for a hot country I guess. I am not shure whether it is good chocolate in a hot country on bad hot country chocolate. Either way it tasted too much of sugar.

Anyway I got back to the hotel at 13.45 to pick up my bag, and was met by the manager who had arranged the owner to drop me to the airport.

We started heading to the airport and he tells me that he is not supposed to get paid to drop people at the airport, and that it the police ask, I am to say that I am his friend and that I was staying with him. He then made me repeat his name, just in case. For good measure, he also asked that I pay him in advance just incase the police saw the transaction in progress. For good measure, he the dropped me off at the car park instead of the arrivals door and I did the short walk to the terminal. Lucky I was 2 hour early.

Unfortunately my journey is not over yet, as we were all asked to disembark our 17.20 flight and I am now waiting for the rescheduled flight at 20.30.

There go my plans to go to the supermarket tonight and pick up food for xmas.

I have emailed the hotel to tell them I will be late in and that my driver should wait, but who knows whether they have received the message.

I am chalking this up tp travel in South America and rolling with the punches.

———

You have to be careful about rolling your Rs here. I was talking to someone about my parents are from Barbados, they said in Spanish “Is it a happy place?, I replied, “yes, there are two carnivals”. He looked at me in horror, and then knored on is arm. You really have to roll the R in what is pronounced caRRRRnibal, rather than carniBal, which has a whole different meaning.

I weas on the plane which was delayed by three hours and there were the same people sitting in the same seats.

I was surrounded by children and parents that seemed to no longer care how loud their children where or what they were doing. i was on the outside seat and I had a woman next to me with her child at the window seat talking to another child over the seat back. Naturally I assumed that she was with the parents in front. The hostess came along asking about headsets, and I pointedly said “YES, yes please!” almost taking the woman’s hand of in any attempt to drown out the noise of shouting children.

The flight commended and, in fairness, the child of the woman next to me was quiet enough. I was watching various American sitcoms that were on the main screen of the cabin and were surprisingly all in English.

After a couple of these, Noticed the woman next to me teaching her child English. I did not concede this unusual, and began to read my Lonely Planet. After only a few minutes, there was a tap on my arm.

“I am sorry to interrupt” she said in English “but I am a bit of an expert in tourism in Buenos Aires, I wrote a book on it, would you like me to give you some tips and trick?”

I was delighted, and we sat and talked for the rest of the journey, while I felt secretly guilty, as I was about to write this woman off. She reminded me of Ariane, not in looks, but in demeanor, outlook and generosity of spirit. And the child was an old soul, an adult in a four year old body.

I felt so bad, that, get this, I helped her of the plane, and into the terminal with her bags and buggy. She did not ask, but she was grateful for the help. Then when I asked if I could help her further she said “No thank you, it is important that I manage on my own”. Oh how I misjudged her.

I arrived into Buenos Aires at about 22.30. It took no time at all to get through customs and after only a short wait, my driver presented himself.

He was probably about ten years older than me but was very well kept. Despite being three hours late, he still waited around for me to get money out and did it all without the hint of grimus.

We got talking and her was a very nice chap. He is an ex nato peacekeeper (the blue helmets) and regaled me with stories of his time in NATO, the countries and sights he had seen, and his life after keeping the peace, which seemed to me like a lot of war. In the end, I have asked for him to be my driver for all my pickups and drop offs.

Buenos Aires is a fair walk, but I have covered the majority of it walking around today. I started at 12.45 today and had covered all but Evita’s grave, and where I am staying, which I will do tonight or tomorrow.

It takes 45 minutes to walk to the main six lane boulevard that intersects Santa Fe, then another 15 minutes to get to the first place of interest. I did not mind the walk, and was have to acknowledge that if I was staying further in, I probably would not appreciate Hollywood or Soho.

It was busy today with all the shops staying open to 17.00 but by that time the streets where emptying until now, where there are lots of people hailing taxis all dressed in their finery for the xmas night celebrations.

The women here, look and dress Italian, short but slender, as opposed to the Chilean women who were much shorter and rounder bottomed.

I was standing in the express line at a packed and busy Carffour getting xmas dinner, and this bent over frail old woman pushes infont of me with about nine bottles of wine and other smaller items. I figured that it was a thing that you do here, allowing the frail to push in so I let her. She was so frail, that she could barely lift the bottles onto the conveyor belt. Then the sucker punch. In swoops her not so frail,  but just as old husband, with the second basket backed with groceries. He starts handing the items to her, decanting them from his basket into hers, but she is too frail to get then back out at any speed, so we are standing there as she slowly take each item out of this now packed basket, one at a time,  the rest of the line thinking that she is going to drop a bottle or die. The husband goes and stands at the end while an assistant packs the bags for him. Then, in the final kick in the nuts, she gives me a cheeky wink, this is a play that they have clearly done before on more than one occasion.

The flat I am in is big a spacious, much better that Santiago. There is a ‘Rear Window’ situation where balconies and windows face each other or can be overlooked. There is a”balcony etiquette” that appears to be observed.

From the balcony I started to hear fireworks at 22.00. I became concerned that my clocks were wrong and was loured out into the night with the promise of what might become.

I wondered out and walked down Santa Fe (do you know the way) in search of this excitement. Instead the streets were deserted. The people having the fun wer high up on their balconies already at their destinations. Balconies of families and the sound of children, balconies of young people hoping to be noticed by those on other balconies. All the fun, all the promise, all out of reach. I walked back and saw the fire crackers being let off in the streets, because of course, fireworks are not illegal here, like most places in the world. In Australia, only in Australia are they illegal.

I slowly walk back through the empty streets and got back to the flat just in time to hear the crescendo of noise erupt around me. People were letting off fireworks in the street, like we did when we were kids, you know, from a milk bottle. The sounds ecco off the wall and still are as I write this update, some 30 minutes after the hour.

The people below me are having a very quiet family gathering in the warm night air and have already started to exchange gifts. I was warned that xmas eve was the big celebration.

Mumm is the standard sparkling wine here. I think they must own land here in Argentina because it is everywhere in the shops and dirt cheep at 50 for a half bottle and 130 for a full. To put that in perspective, a litre bottle of water cost me 55 pesos.

It is 01.00 am xmas day, and your calls did not go through. All the fireworks have died down although there are still a few in the background, but now the parties have moved from a simmer to a boil. The music had got louder and the voices more excited. I will leave this night for the young, and start this day again when the day breaks.

————

It is a new day, it is a new dawn, a xmas dawn. I woke and spoke to Lalah for and hour,  then made our attempts to talk to each other which failed, so I took the opportunity to go into the city.

I took the train this time as I wanted to go straight down to San Telmo, and walk back up, which I did. The streets were deserted with only a hand full of cafes open and a pharmacy, which had a huge line outside when I was walking to the station, and a barely dwindled line by the time I got back.

It was interesting to compare the deserted streets of today, with the bustling streets of yesterday afternoon, and I will compare them again when I get back from Iguazu.

Tonight I am going to walk into Palermo, in fact, when I get back, apart from going to La Boca and Uraguay, I will focus on this end of town.

———–

26.12.14

This morning I was woken by the sound of children crying anc screaming at 06.10. I dosed back to sleep but was woken every half hour by the voicetrous kids in the flat next door, or above me, until a Tardis woke me at 09.00.

I had prepared myself last night for a sharp exit, thanks to my Santiago experience but all went to plan and i was on the road by 11.30.

The flight to Iguazu was straight forward, after a bit of queuing and frowing and I arrived at about 16.30. I do not think that I have ever flown into a jungle airport before, it is quiet an experience. I was looking out the window over a canape of trees as the plane is descending, and I am wondering “where is the runway” then suddenly, just as we a clipping the tops of the trees, a clearing appears and we are down.

As you would expect in a jungle, it is hot and humid. I am sitting outside having a cocktail writing this with a view of the falls, and the tablet is steaming over.

You have to pay to get into the 700 square kilometer national park where the Sheraton is and this cost me AR215, however the woman in the booth charged me for two tickets and my taxi driver was quick to resolve the issue.

The view of the falls from the hotel is stunning, and after some complications with credit cards, I changed into shorts and hurried down to the pathways to get a closer view. It was 17.15 and I walked swiftly down the path to get to the series of upper falls. There were four official viewing points, each view more stunning than the last. I have a thing about waterfalls. It is something about the power and volume of the water that is hypnotizing. I could have stayed and watched then for longer but by now it was 18.00 and were being ushered out of the national park, and in my case, back to the hotel.

The room is a jungle view, but what is wrong with a jungle view, especially when you simply go into the foyer and get a great view. I think that if I had longer, I would go into the town, but I will see what happens tomorrow.

Early start tomorrow.

By the way, if a bede is for washing your arse, how comes it does not have a seat? You would expect to sit down and turn all knobs and switches, but instead you have to hover over it or bare your are on the cold poceline.  Surely if you are rich enough to have a bede, you would want one with a seat?

————-

27.12.14

Today I was up at 07.00, dressed and at breakfast by 08.00. The view of the falls was still good from the hotel, and you could hear the rumble of the cascading water in the distance. The guide collected us at about 09.00 and five of us from the hotel started out journey to the entrance of the national park. Of course, the hotel is in the national park and therefore we could have bypassed a lot of the formalities.

When we arrived at the gate, we joined at queue to take up by an old toy steam train up to a landing point where we then transferred onto another toy train to the upper falls. This first transfer took about two hours and could have been avoided, if we had simply walked the seven minutes to the train station from the hotel.

I was traveling with an enthusiastic couple called Guy and Michelle, a woman called Alison and her 75 year old mother, and our guide Carlos.

We got to the top of the falls on the Argentinian side and it looked spectacular 1750 cubic litres of water per second, and because it is the dry season, it was only at 70%  capacity. The Devils throat, which were were on, had only just been reopened after six month, from a burst damn at one of the upstream hydropower plans releasing all its water which destroyed the walkways. Everything in a nine kilometer radius had be be evacuated.

The dynamic of the group worked well, but I was always aware that I was the odd one out, and did my best to separate myself from the group where possible to give them space.

This part of our tour ended at 13.30 and our guide for the second tour was waiting for us for the crossing to Brazil, which started back at the Sheraton.

Alison and her mother left us at this point and the three of us picked up three other Spanish speaking couples and we headed to Brazil. We crossed the boarder into Brazil and could almost reach out and touch the trees of Paraguay.

The journey to the Brazilian national park took two hours, and were soon of our bus and into the system of transporting us up to the Brazilian view of the falls.

The view was glorious and the power of the water almost indescribable.

We had a leisurely trip around this side of the falls. The guide was a Croatian who moved to Argentina in 2001 after failing to get into Canada. I could tell the was not a native Spanish speaker as he was very deliberate in his speaking and I understood 90% of what he was saying when talking to other tourists in Spanish.

We headed back to the hotel and arrived at about 19.30. Unfortunately, because I went as part of a group, they did not stamp my passport, and I suspect this will be the same when travelling to Uruguay.

I showered, changed and went down stairs for dinner on the terrace, only to find Alison and her mother enjoying drinks. I joined them and conversed generally until Alison’s mother went to bed, and Alison and I were left to enjoy each others company. Alison is a delightful engineer who displays some of the characteristic quirks of an engineer that is focused on her work. We talked about politics, life in our respective countries, and what our futures may hold until 01.00 when we said goodnight.

———

28.12.14

I am writing this from the airport where I am amidst a two hour delay for my plane. I got up at 08.00, payed from my hotel room with all my pesos, then enjoyed a final breakfast on the terrace watching the waterfalls. There are 168 waterfalls, but only 20 have names. I booked a 09.30 taxi to get to the airport at 10.00 for and 11.30 flight that is now delayed two hour for a 13.30 departure. There is no lounge, which I guess I expected, so I am killing time for the next two hours.

29.12.14

Today I was up with the larks, I dressed and prepared myself for a day in Montevideo. I had done some research that on Montevideo the previous night and was ready for the day.

I got to the port at about 10.30 and asked about the timetable, only to find that the only morning ferry to Montevideo leaves at 07.30 and the only other one out is at 16.00. The ferry was expensive too, with the only seat out in business class. It is also a long day, with the only ferry out at 07.30 and the only ferry back at 20.30. I went away and thought about it, then asked myself when I would get another opportunity to go to Uruguay, so I booked the ticket for the ferry tomorrow morning.

The ferry terminal is new and big and just like an airport. The main trips are to Colon which I think is short for Colonial, and they seem to run about one every two hours. Colon appears to be the main get away for day trippers, but it sounds like a small country town aimed at tourists.

All was not lost for the day as I had a contingency plan. I was going to go down to La Boca to see the painted houses, then take the bus or train up to Palameo near where I am staying, look around.

Apart from having to walk the length of Buenos Aires, because you can not buy a ticket on the bus and I could not find a shop to sell me a travel pass, all went as expected.

La Boca was supposed to be the rough part of the neighbourhood, and the Lonely planet, my work colleague, my driver, and the woman that I met on the plane, all warned me to get in and get out. However, because I could not buy a bus ticket, I ended up walking right through La Boca to get to the painted houses. I saw nothing unusual, and the non tourist areas reminded me of the non tourist areas that I had roamed in Santiago. Once again people seemed to either hold onto their pages in my presence, or expect me to step into the street as the were initially not prepared to give any room on the pavement. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner…..

“Dumpster diving” is prevalent here with both young and older locals using a stick to hold up or prod around in the large industrial rubbish bins.

In Palermo, I came across a ice cream palour where I rested my weary feet. They would let you sample all the ice creams, and I sampled a red wine and milk ice cream. Yes, that is right, you read that correctly. It was good, but the chocolate with milk, and the milk with chocolate ice creams had my name on them. I also sample a very nice flavour that was apparently very popular in Argentina, but I have forgotten the combination. I think ice cream palour,  if I find one in Montevideo, will be my refuge tomorrow.

It is an early start tomorrow, as I have to leave the flat at about 06.15 to catch my train to the ferry, so no late night for me.

————–

30.12.14

So I made it all around Argentina, Chile and Brazil, and without being lifted, rolled, or conned, only to get to Montevideo and get mugged. How is it that could take the mighty Londoner, you ask? It was not a group in hoodies, it was a light fingered local, or even the quick slight of hand of a taxi driver. No I was rolled by a woman behind a counter armed with nothing more than the official exchange rate for Uruguay.

The official rates between Ar and Ur pesos in buying 1.30 (outrageous) selling 2.40(about right). What this means is that I handed the woman AR80 and she gave me UR102 or so, sound a lot, except that you can not buy four bottles of water with that. If I was to buy nothing and simply hand back the money to the same woman for exchange, she would have given me AR35.

I was talking to my driver about this today and was told that an ice cream in Argentina would cost AR45, that same ice cream would cost UR300.

My trip to Uruguay was probably the most expensive stamp on my passport. The ferry cost me AU400 and the city was different, but not unique. I read a review that said that one day was not enough and one had to stay overnight. I shall be checking whether this was written by the Uruguay tourist board.

The city is small and an easy walk for the day. I was tired after a 05.30 start and managed to have two sleeps in the park and still see all the sights. Probably two of the most expensive sleeps that I have ever taken.

Having said that, I did see more black people in Montevideo just going about there business in one day that my entire twelve day trip. Apparently Uruguay was created by Brazil as a buffer between Brazil and Argentina, before Uruguay fought for their independence. This might explain why in Montevideo, like in Brazil, there is a large and prominent black population.

By 17.30 I was looking for things to do and went to a grill house in a market. I asked for medium, and the cow came out, sat on my plate and offered me a knife and fork. Next time I will as for well done…it was nice though.

There is a tradition in Buenos Airs and Montevideo of ripping the pages out of your desk diary and throwing them out your office window on the last working day of the year. I saw this happening in Montevideo, and by the time I got back to Buenos Airs, the streets were littered with shredded and unshredded pages of peoples office lives.

Men kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting.

In the apartment block, I was introduced to a little old lady who was originally from Leeds. She was a professor at a Palermo university and had embraced the Buenos Aires lifestyle. When I met her, she was dolled up and off out at 23.30 to tango the night away as she does once a week.

And now, the flight back to Australia, and to listen to the whinging Australians sitting in the lounge behind me with their first world problems.

 

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~ by jeditopcat on 5 January, 2015.

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