Friday, June 21, 2002


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June 21, 2006
Finally arrived in Mendoza after a mammoth bus trip from Arequipa. The last leg, across the Andes from Santiago to Mendoza saw yet another missed bus. I didn't realize that I had to change to another bus company, but at least they put me on another bus an hour later. The conductor announced that he would make a “collection” for the bag checker at customs, which is presumably why he only checked a handful of bags. No corruption there then. The hostel here is nice, though the telly is impossibly loud. I found a cafĂ© to watch the Brazil v England quarter-final. All the Argies here are supporting Brazil, which I suppose shows how much they dislike England.
Mendoza seems like a nice city, I strolled around today and inquired at a few places about skiing. It's fairly cheap, so I'll probably go for it. Today I had possibly the worst pizza I've ever had the misfortune to eat. Which is especially disappointing as the food here is generally very good.

June 22, 2006
I dossed around a bit today, didn't do much apart from make a reservation for the skiing. The friendly girl, Cecilia, at the travel agency offered to take me out with her friends and show me around town. They picked me up around eight and we went for an (average) pizza, then to a nice bar for a Fernet (Italian alcohol) and coke. It's a strange one at first, but nice. It was great to meet some locals, hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up with them when I get back from Penitentes, the ski resort.

June 23
Not much on today, it's Sunday so most places are closed. I discovered an all you can eat restaurant called Las Tinajas on Lavalle Street. Definitely the best feed I've had since San Antonio.

June 24
Skiing! Well, in fact I decided to snowboard instead. In my wisdom, I was sure it would actually be easier than skiing. It's not. I took a pounding. Like the rest of the continent, the people here are not too quick to volunteer information. I took the chair lift to the top of the slope. It seemed a bit dangerous without a safety bar. When I was about 10m off the ground another car passed on the way down. They do have safety bars, after all. I nearly fell out reaching up to pull it down. I did fall out at the top, but no harm. Then I realised that I was on the black slope. No way I was snowboarding down there, so I had to trudge all the way across to the far side to the beginners' slope. After failing a few times I decided to pay for a lesson. Not sure I learned much, but better than nothing. It's the first week of the season, so there are not many people around, and not much to do at the hotel. Hopefully I'll make a better go of the snowboarding tomorrow.

June 26
The end of three days trying to snowboard. Today I crashed into a Mexican guy on the slope. No harm done, we sat there and had a chat for a while. Next time I'll try skiing. It's so quiet here at the resort, but in any case I'm wrecked. At least I've got my mate to drink.

July 03
A nice few days relaxing after Penitentes. The guys at the hostel organised an excellent barbecue on Thursday. Argentinians love barbecues, and the more beef the better. On Saturday I joined the crowed from the hostel on a trip to the mountains. The highlight was the Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge), supposedly the southernmost point reached by the Incas. There is an abandoned hot springs resort, and the copper deposits cause bizarre colours in the soil and snow. We passed by Aconcagua, the highest mountain peak outside the Himalayas and close by the scene where the plane carrying an Uruguayan rugby team crashed in 1972.
Sunday morning everyone was up early to watch the world cup final, with most of us, even the Argies, supporting Brazil. Later that evening I took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires, the “Paris of the South”.
I walked around the La Boca area. It was quiet, today at least. The highlight was La Bombonera, the home of Boca Juniors. It's good to see that in this city at least, El Diego is still the king. Also there was a tour of “la Casa Rosada”, The Presidential Palace, near the Plaza de Mayo. The weather is poor and it's raining a lot.

July 10
Thursday night we went to a club called “Clube 69”, nice atmosphere and plenty of “alternative” types. On Sunday I went to San Telmo, with a German couple from the hostel, and Roque, who seems to live in the hostel. It was nice on the Sunday, with the open air market. I decided to head on to Corrientes on Tuesday.
The bus was the best ever. The seats were so luxurious that there were only three across – one single and one double. I arrived in Corrientes town at midday. Then another 3 hour trip to the village of Mercedes, with the final destination being the Esteros de Ibarra. The only bus leaves Mercedes at 0800, so I stayed one night in the village. The mini-bus to Colonia Pellegrini was a fun trip. The driver told me to sit at the front, and asked if I knew how to make mate.
“Of course I do”.
 “Great, here you go”.
I spent half the trip pouring mate. We picked up some gauchos on the way, they played guitars and sang. Something about life on the pampas I'm sure. The bus arrived at around 1500, but the only tour of the laguna starts at 1100, so of course I have to stay overnight. Since the bus heads to Mercedes at 0600, I'll have to stay tomorrow night too. If it was better organised, it would be possible to come from Mercedes, do the tour and go back. Mind you, if that was the case there would be no need to have a hotel in Colonia Pellegrini :-)

July 11, 2006, day 96
Today I took the tour to the laguna. The Esteros is basically a swamp, similar to the Pantanal in Brazil, but on a smaller scale. It was an excellent trip, we got close up to a few mean looking caymans (a type of alligator), deer and the legendary capaybara (carpincha), the world's biggest rodent – a kind of wild boar crossed with a giant rat. The guy at the guest house made a cock-up, and I had to move to an hospedaje. It's very basic to say the least, but no way I was paying 60 pesos for the hotel. I did use the hotel services for dinner mind you. Last night's meal wasn't great, but neither is starving. Tomorrow I'll have to take that early bus back to Mercedes and then I'll try to head for Resistencia, “the city of Sculptures”.

July 14
On Friday I went to Resistencia. It's a lovely town, decorated with many sculptures and follies. Today I came here, to Posadas. It's quiet but has a nice atmosphere. It's incredible how much mate the people drink here. In kiosks, shops, strolling around the town. I even saw one guy drinking whilst wheeling his trolley around shopping in the supermarket.

July 16
Yesterday I took the bus north from Posadas to San Ignacio. It's a small village by the ruins of a Jesuit missionary. The Lonely Loser guide book is really getting on my nerves.
“It's an easy day trip from Posadas, but staying overnight will give you time to explore the ruins properly” What a load of crap! It took me just two hours. The buildings are so ruined that there's just not much left to see. The Jesuit missions I saw back in San Antonio were much better. Today I carried on to Puerto Iguazu. Only a few more days left in Argentina, so I'll have to make the most of the last few steaks and stock up on mate before I head on to Brazil. Tomorrow should be one of the highlights of the trip, the famous Iguazu Falls.

July 19
The Falls were as spectacular as I expected. The first day I went to the Argentinian side, where you can get close to the Falls, but don't see them so well. I did a safari trip in the jungle, nice but nothing spectacular, though we did see a puma paw print. The boat trip down the river (upstream from the Falls) was better value. Yesterday I went across to the Brazilian side. You don't get as close to the Falls, but the panoramic views assure that it's quite different from the Argentinan side, and well worth seeing it from both viewpoints. The biggest fall, the Devil's Throat, is spectacular from either side. The Guarani Indians used to bury their dead by sending them over the edge on a boat. No wonder, they would be smashed to bits by the time the hit the bottom. Of course the settlers drove the Guarani out and now there are no more living in the jungles. In the afternoon I'll take the bus across the border to Foz do Iguazu, and then take a connection to Curitiba.