Sunday, December 29, 2013

Beautiful Argentina

Argentina... what a beautiful country... We only stayed 10 days, and regret not spending more time here.

We arrived Wednesday night the 4th of December at the airport and took a cab to our airbnb hosts Monica and Marcelo. They have a beautiful house in the middle of the city, which is rare as you mainly see apartments everywhere. It was pretty late when we arrived, 2.30h in the morning, but Monica and Marcelo were there to great us! They were really kind and made us feel at home immediately. With  got a big, clean and comfortable room and we were so happy! We just came from Santa Cruz where we had a bad hotel room, and were afraid to see some cockroaches at times ;-). So this was definitely an upgrade. There was also a cute cat there, Planch - we called him Planchie - who loved to be caressed and greeted us every time we came home, so adorable :) :). The neighbourhood we were staying in was called Las Canitas. The area is packed with good restaurants, bars, pubs, gelaterias (called heladerias). So at night is was easy to go out and find some good food, including a good Argentinian steak. We ate so much food while we were in Argentina, I gained like 2 kilo's! But the food was just too good :)

Argentinian steak
Breakfast at Monica and Marcelo's

The first day we went to Avenida Florida to exchange our money on the black market. You get 50% more Argentinian pesos there ( 1 USD = 9 ARS instead of 6 ARS). Holding foreign currency is not allowed in Argentina, in an attempt to stabilize the national currency. However, inflation is high (30% per year), so there is high demand for foreign currencies, mainly USD. As a result, you have a huge black market. Pretty awesome for us, this meant a discount on everything you buy!
We walked around a lot in the city center, and in one day we saw two demonstrations. We asked about it, and Marcelo told us that you have demonstrations every week against the government, large companies, poverty, .... We saw many other protests in the 8 days we were in Buenos Aires, so I think it might even be a daily occasion ;-). The protests were always with lots of music and dancing, very different from manifestations I have seen in Belgium. As a result of the many protests, roads are also often blocked, to the frustration of many people driving the car. Another reason to travel with the metro or just walk! In general, we always prefer to walk. On a normal day visiting a city we walk 5 to 10 km`s: you see more of the city, it's cheap, it's good for the environment, and you burn some extra calories! It is the same as in our daily life in Antwerp. In the weekend we barely use the car and prefer to walk to the center. It is  great way to explore and get to know new places in the city.

So in Buenos Aires we saw many beautiful places. We saw the city center, which is really modern and the roads are designed in blocks (American style), so it is very easy to orientate yourself. There are big skyscrapers and many houses in a European architectural style. I seems a bit of a mix between Paris and New York. The streets are huge and usually have at least 5 many or 6 lanes, all in one direction.
We also visited the rich area of La Recoleta, with beautiful houses, cute cafe's, and trees everywhere. In this area, there is also a famous cemetery located, where you find tombs that seem like little houses, that's how big they are! I believe Evita is also buried here. I did not really like to be there. Cemeteries always give me a bad vibe. First of all, I am not religious, and secondly, I would prefer to be cremated instead of being locked up under the ground somewhere. The thought alone freaks me out brrrr. But, the cemetery is very special, and it must be seen.
Another area that we walked hours and hours in was Palermo and the parks below Las Canitas. The parks were huge! You also have fitness equipment installed in every park, which everybody can use for free. It is so warm in Buenos Aires that it can be used all year around. In general, it amazed us that you have so many parks and trees everywhere in Buenos Aires. The city has an estimated 15 million people living in it, but still you have space everywhere, big streets, and lots of green. You never feel claustrophobic in this city, which is quite impressive.
That day, we also went to the Museo de Arte Latino Americano. Very impressive and beautiful work of various Latin American artists.

In the park
Beautiful buildings
Huge streets everywhere

The last day before heading to Iguazu, I felt ill. It was 32 degrees that day, which did not help, and after lunch I felt light in my head and I felt that a fever was coming up. I went to bed and slept all afternoon. Claudio went out and saw La Boca and El Caminito, and also Puerto Madero. At night, I was better again, thank god!

So, the next day we left to the airport to catch our flight to Puerto Iguazu, with the main purpose to visit the Iguazu waterfalls! I checked the forecast, and they predicted 32 degrees again, but rain in the afternoon. How to dress for that occasion  :-) ? Other people staying at the hostel advised us to wear slippers, and dress lightly, so we did. I also took an extra t-shirt and our raincoats. I wore a bikini under my clothes and Claudio his long swim shorts. Ready to go! We left early, so by 9h we were at the park. The park is designed as a fun park, with different routes and facilities such as restaurants and toilets everywhere.
We got some advice from Marcelo in BA on which routes to take. He was actually a director of the natural park for a couple of years (he is a biologist). What a small world!! So, we did the lower route first, where you walk a trail which brings you really close to the falls, where the water pours down. This was probably the best moment of the day... You are literally face to face with the falls and get water all over you. It's truly an amazing experience. After that we did the higher route, and after lunch we went to the Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo). You have to take a little train to get there for about 10 minutes. After that, you walk the trail of 1 km, and at the end you have an amazing view over the mighty waterfalls. After a while we were there, the clouds started looking dark... And not much later it started raining like crazy. The rain was not cold though, it was still at least 30 degrees and the water did not feel cold. So we just put our raincoats on and continued our exploration of the park. Luckily, the rain stopped after a while and we went all the way down to the river to go for a boat trip. We got on this big motorboat with 15 other people. The captain brought us under the waterfalls, it was so cool! We got completely soaked though... After this, the rain also became really heavy again... And we had to walk all the way back to the entrance. Several roads were closed in the park due to the heavy rain, because they become too dangerous, so it took us an hour to get there. But we just did it, and when we got out of the park a bus was arriving. No time to change into dry clothes, so we just got on the bus and went to the hostel. It took half an hour, and the bus was air-conditioned, so we were afraid to get sick, but miraculously we were fine the day after!

The next day we left again and flew back to Buenos Aires. This time we were not staying with Monica and Marcelo because they were fully booked :(, so we stayed in a cheap hostel. Ieuw that sucked. It was a crazy party hostel and the average age was probably 20. We were on the fourth floor but could here the loud music from the bar till 3AM. Anyway, we were back in Buenos Aires and decided not to let it ruin our fun! In the end, we are usually out from the morning till the evening, and then go out to eat, so you basically only shower and sleep there. In the evening we went out for dinner with a traveler we met in Bolivia, Geraldine, as she was also in BA! It was nice to see a familiar face and catch up.
The next day we went to Puerto Madero, comparable to a (lot) bigger version of the Eilandje in Antwerp. Behind the port, heading towards the sea, you have an ecological park between the city and the sea. As a result, the city has no beach. But we were determined to see the sea, so we hiked in the burning sun through the park towards the sea. We arrived and chilled there on the benches for a while... the sea is always so calming. This area of BA is just magnificent. You have the port, huge skyscrapers, nature, park, and then sea. Wow, what a beautiful city.

Puerto Madero
The sea

The next day, it was time to say goodbye :( We both did not want to leave! We regret not spending more time in Argentina in general. For sure we want to go back here, and travel to other cities as well, maybe even go to Patagonia.
For me personally, BA is really the most beautiful city I have ever seen. Better then New York, better then Paris or Rome. We could see ourselves living there. So I advise everybody to go there if you get the chance!

Ciao and talk to you soon,

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