Sparky Travels

May 14, 2011

Buenos Aires to Edinburgh

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Arriving at Retiro bus station in Buenos Aires on the 9th of May, I caught a taxi straight to Pax hostel and settled into the familiar surroundings. Alicia (who had been a guest at the same time as me but was now a member of staff), David and the rest of the crew were familiar and friendly faces and I instantly felt at home.

It being a Monday meant that there was only one plan for the evening, La Bomba de Tiempo, Buenos Aires’ favourite drumming ensemble. This time they had a dj as special guest and as always they rocked the place. A dozen of us from a couple of hostels headed back to Pax bar to get some drinks and around 4am I headed to bed.

2 hours later I was in hospital.

Apparently, I’d had enough fun so called it a night, made it into my top bunk and all was quiet. Suddenly I shifted about a bit and then fell out of bed hitting a table and then the floor. I lay there unconscious with blood pouring out the back of my head. One of the guys in the room fainted 3 times while trying to stem the bleeding and help me come round. David, was called up from the bar and took control and I was soon in good spirits, making jokes and generally proving to be quite lucid.

Nevertheless the ambulance was on its way, though the police were mistakenly called first, and I was whisked off to get stitches. Within an hour or two my head had been sewn up, a couple of prescriptions written and I was pointed in the direction of the taxi rank to find my way home. When I got there I’d been moved to a bottom bunk, probably for the best!DSC03767

Most of the rest of my time in BA was spent recovering and taking it easy. The antibiotics I’d been prescribed meant I couldn’t drink alcohol which was probably a good thing, but no fun seeing everyone else heading out. I was a lot more active on my last day in town when I went shopping for presents and had a last Argentinean steak lunch.

In the evening I packed my bag for the last time EVER and got a few hours sleep before my 7:40am shuttle bus to the airport. Air Europa to Madrid, a couple of hour wait and then the connecting flight to Gatwick all went without a hitch and soon I’d entered the UK again. It was 9am and my flight to Edinburgh was at 5pm so the day was spent hanging around the airport sampling some home delights: beans on toast, irn-bru and a newspaper.

At 6:30pm I arrived back in Scotland to finish my travels, ending where I began, with my mum at the airport.

May 8, 2011

Puerto Iguazu

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Around 8pm on the 7th of May I returned to Argentina. Instead of a bus I had taken a taxi from Brazil. It was a nice way to cross the border, a personalised experience which took very little time though it was ten times the cost of a bus across ($2 vs $20). The taxi dropped me off at Marco Polo hostel, right beside the bus station in the small border town of Puerto Iguazu. The hostel was pretty quiet so I went into town - where a biker convention was just winding down - and grabbed some dinner.

The next day, after breakfast, I crossed the road and caught a bus to the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls.

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While Brazil gives you an overall view of the falls, Argentina gets in about the guts and has some spectacular views of its own. A small tourist train takes you between the main points but it was infuriatingly slow, infrequent and crowded. Unfortunately to get most of the walking circuits you had to catch the train at some point.

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In contrast to the limited options in Brazil, there were many options of walks to do here so I had to put some planning in to get to as much as possible. First I walked the Superior Circuit which leads along the top of the semi-circular wall of waterfalls.

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Next was a long wooden walkway which crossed the Rio Iguazu at the top of the falls, ending in a platform which looked down into the Devil’s Throat. On the train back from there a nice Argentinean couple shared their maté ( an argentinian obsession, hot herbal tea sucked through a straw and shared between friends) with me as we trundled along.

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Next, I traversed the Inferior Circuit which gets its name from it being lower down than Superior Circuit rather than being ‘worse’’. I’d hoped to have time to take the shuttle across to Isla San Martin but that would be pushing it a bit time wise. This circuit passed close to a number of pretty falls and gave a perfect view of the main body of Iguazu.

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My camera battery died just as I finished this Circuit which was not too bad since it was almost time to go. I walked back to the entrance rather than take the train and then caught a bus back into town.

A few hours later I boarded a bus for my first and last South American destination, Buenos Aires. Iguazu was a great final ‘sight’ for my trip and I’m happy that I got to see it from Brazil and Argentina. I can’t believe that there is a more impressive and beautiful collection of waterfalls anywhere in the world.

May 7, 2011

Brazil

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I flew into Brazil on the 6th of May, 22 months since I’d left home and a week before the end of my travels. I’d chosen my hostel partly for the free airport pickup which saved hassle in a country where my minor grasp of Spanish was unhelpful. The second I arrived at the hostel I joined the dinner they laid on, a pasta-heavy chicken lasagne. Klein Hostel, my home for the night had a cosy atmosphere and a Playstation 3. I spent the evening challenging other guests to various games and drinking Skol beer.

I checked out the next day, left my bags there and made my way to the Foz do Iguazu’s ‘raison d’etre’ Iguazu Falls. This world famous attraction straddles the border between Brazil and Argentina and I began with a trip to the Brazilian side. Getting there wasn’t too difficult, catching a local bus (the first I’ve seen with a turnstile onboard) to the central bus station and then another to the Falls. The entry fee was pretty expensive (37 Reals) but the sight of the huge semi circular wall with countless waterfalls pouring over it was worth every penny.

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A bus shuttle ran up through the park taking us from the visitor’s centre to the various viewpoints and excursions on offer. The first viewpoint was, unsurprisingly, very busy with tourists clamouring for their first snap of the falls. It was also populated by raccoon type creatures (Coati) hoping to steal food from the tourists. These Coati followed the flow of people down and along the wooden walkways snaking their way between numerous viewpoints. These paths all gave a good panoramic view of the Falls, the majority which are on the Argentinean side of the river.

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The next sector of platforms I reached led out over the river in front of the Devil’s Throat, the largest and most violent of the waterfalls. The spray of water caused by the 80m drop was immense, with many tourists dressed in ponchos jostling for position in front of it.

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An elevator up to a viewing platform gave one more view before the obligatory restaurant and shops. I’d expected there to be a little more to it than there was, though I could have done a wee trek or an paid extra for an excursion if I’d had the time and inclination.

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My various buses back to the hostel were out of synch and less frequent due to it being a Saturday so I missed the last bus across the border. Instead, after weighing up my options, I called a taxi, to take me to Argentina.

My very short time in Brazil made me realise that it was probably a good idea to give it a miss this time. Culturally and linguistically it is very different from the rest of S.America that I saw and really deserves a trip of its own.

May 6, 2011

Mancora

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I Arrived in Mancora at 10am on the 29th of April and by 11am I was drinking beer with a group of English and Danish lads in the hostel. A good start. just as the sun was reaching full strength we decided to have a game of beach football: UK v Denmark. The orginal plan was to have a swimming break at halftime but soon it was at regular intervals as the game hotted up. The Danes had taken a 3-1 lead and had the wind in their favour but our experience (i.e. age) finally told as we won 6-4. We celebrated by diving into the ocean as the losers slumped in the sand.

That night we left our hostel, The Point, and went to Loki Hostel. The Point has a relaxed atmosphere and secluded beach while Loki is ‘’the’ party hostel of Mancora. It lived up to its name until 1:30am when inexplicably the bar shut! The party moved out into town and onto the beach until after the sun had come up. It turns out that Mancora is a popular spot on the gringo trail as I met almost a dozen people from my earlier travels there, including Jake and some lads from Buenos Aires.

The last day in April was a hangover day which is much more enjoyable with a pool, beach, sea and hammocks to enjoy.

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The next day was not so good, I was in bed for most of it with a fever and aches. I managed to join the newly arrived Mia and Marie for a Thai dinner but that was about it. Bronwyn, Lisa and Jacob arrived on the 2nd. They’d been my roommates in Lima and we joined them in the evening for card games. My penultimate day in Mancora ended with dinner at the Beef house where I had an absolutely perfect slab of swordfish followed inevitably by drinking on the beach and Charlie Brown’s bar.

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After breakfast on the 4th and saying goodbye to Jake, I managed to sneak a last bit of beach time. Soon I was saying a sad goodbye to Marie and Mia too and sitting on a bus back to Lima.

Mancora was a much needed change of scenery and pace from the rest of my South American trip. The water was warm, the weather great and the mosquitoes well fed. It was nice to be ferried around in tuk-tuks again. I’m also glad we stayed at the Point where we could relax if we wanted or head into town for a bit of nightlife.

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Back in the capital, I went present shopping and dinner with guys from the hostel (Langoustine risotto)  before packing my bags for my first plane journey in South America. Rather than a 72 hour bus followed by a 20 hour bus, I decided to fly direct from Lima to Foz do Iguazu on the Brazil, Argentina border. I did this on the 6th of May and with a 3 hour flight time, it was definitely the correct choice.

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