As we head towards the airport for the next leg of our gap year, here’s a selection of some of our favourite pictures from Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.
Our previous experience of South America in 2011 was a three weeks holiday in Venezuela. Honestly don’t even think of going there. All the time we felt on edge, and we were robbed twice, mugged once and held up by armed soldiers too. Now thankfully our views on this vast continent have been transformed. The last last eight weeks have been an amazing and inspiring time. We’ve been so lucky to experience unique places and everywhere (well apart from one evening walk in Salta) we have felt safe and welcomed.
Eights blocks south of the centre, the San Telmo area has Bohemian charm – mixing glittery antique shops with artist studios.
The elite of Buenos Aires lived here until the 1880s, then a series of epidemics drove them northways to Recoleta. Left behind was a grocer’s shop that also sold alcoholic drinks and it’s still here today.
Now called Bar Plaza Dorrego, the original espresso coffee maker is still on display, also the glass windowed cabinets that used to store bulk items such as mate-tea, corn, beans and noodles. The dark wood surroundings are covered in graffiti – words of love and football.
We took a window seat, enjoyed a light lunch and people-watched. Highly recommended.
The Recoleta Cemetery is where every wealthy citizen wanted to be buried. The dead are not equal.
Many of the residents have fascinating stories, but none more so than the tragic death of Rufina Cambaceres in 1902. She was beautiful, aged 19 and dressing up to go to the Teatro Colon. Her parents were waiting downstairs. After two hours they discovered her, apparently dead in her bedroom. She was given a hurried burial, only to discover some days later that her coffin had moved within the mausoleum due to her frantic efforts to get out. She had suffered a cataleptic attack and been buried alive.
Of course, Eva Peron is the most famous resident. As the young, glamorous wife of the President she became massively popular with the poor people but was hated by the rich. When she died at the tragically young age of 33, there was much dissent as to what to do with her body. It is a long and sorry tale of embalming, hiding, moving, burying and exhuming. She is at rest in La Recoleta now, but we heard she will be moved (again) in two years time, to finally be buried alongside her husband.
Hot. Busy. Polluted. Claustrophobic. Noisy. But for sure the most sophisticated place we have seen in South America so far.
Stylish beautiful women caught the eye. Men met to talk in cafes. Queues of commuters stood in line for buses. And public sector workers went on strike to protest against the new austerity drive.
We focused on a few areas of Buenos Aires. The Microcentro with its European styled buildings and shopping streets. Touristy Recoleta with its famous cemetery. SanTelmo the tango, antiques and artistic quarter. And the renovated docklands area Puerto Madero.
It was overload for the senses. But even with their problems aren’t cities incredible social achievements.
We’re on another all-night bus, this time from Posadas (across the river from Paraguay) to Buenos Aires. And for the first time we booked full cama which means our seats recline to nearly 180 degrees, we get airline quality food and a choice of free drinks including ‘Argentinian champagne’.
Since we landed at Santiago on January 4th, we’re travelled some 5500 miles through Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil and the vast majority of this mileage has been on eight all-night bus journeys. This latest is 14 hours but our longest was 25 hours.
Hilary tends to curl up and sleep well but Roger finds himself listening to podcasts until the early hours – eventually the sweet tones of Melvyn Bragg and his academics on InOurTime gets him to sleep.
In the absence of any rail systems, it’s this network of privately run luxury buses that keep these countries moving. For eight weeks they have become part of our lives – checking our bags into the back and getting security tickets for them, getting annoyed by the violent videos they often show, taking exercise and stretching wherever we can despite the glares of the conductors who want you to stay on their bus.
If you plan to do this – always book up your next journey as soon as you arrive at a new destination; on many routes – particularly in the Patagonia region – buses were booked up days in advance. Also this way you can reserve a better seat – stay away from the loos, whilst the seats upstairs by the stairwell have extra leg room.
International Tripoints are points where three country borders meet. There are 176 across the globe (according to Wikipedia) and this picture shows one of them.
In the cool of the morning light, it was a lovely place for Roger to visit whilst Hilary was reading in bed.
In the foreground is Argentina, to the back left Paraguay, and to the back right Brazil. Below is the convergence of the Rivers Parana and Iguacu. On the skyline – in the far distance – you can just see the skyscrapers of Cuidad del Este.
We’re glad we took a second day to see more of the Iguacu Falls – the Argentine side offers different perspectives and experiences.
We did all three designated trails. The star moment is definitely looking down into the Devil’sThroat from its rim, but we also simply enjoyed walking amongst the trees, crossing rivers on boardwalks, discovering smaller waterfalls, glimpsing views through the jungle, and having a cooling shower under one of the falls. We also saw more wildlife here – monkeys and caimans.
In our opinion, if you have just half a day to see the Falls then go the Brazil side. You get the big views quicker and the Brazilians have invested in a better visitor experience. On the Argentinian side you need a full day and lots of energy for long walks – whilst you miss out on the overview panorama.
So how did you spend Valentine’s evening? Cosy evening in. Dinner out. Or dancing all night?
We were on the overnight bus journey from Salta to Formosa. We loved the views from the front seats but not the temperatures when the air conditioning broke down and we all had to switch to another bus.
Somehow we managed to get some sleep, and after 15 hours travelling across the north of Argentina we arrived in Formosa at 7am today – see main image.
This is the seventh overnighter we’ve had so far on South American buses. Although starting to wear us out, travelling by night is essential to cover long distances effectively.
Due to a four hour border crossing we arrived in Salta very late, but thankfully we had already booked our Airbnb.
Five minutes from the main square – the most attractive we have seen so far in Argentina – the flat made a welcome space for us to cook healthy meals and wash some clothes. Not since we left Santiago have we enjoyed our own kitchen.
The star attractions in town are the amazingly preserved 500 year old Inca children who were drugged by their parents and left to die in a sacrificial ritual at the top of nearby Llullailloco Volcano. The three are displayed in rotation at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology and we saw TheLightningGirl; so called because after her burial a bolt of lightning burnt part of her face. She is still perfectly preserved in a special chamber at -20 degrees.