It took a few months on the road for us to really understand the benefit of long term vs short term travelling. For me, three weeks every year felt a bit artificial and was never going to satisfy the urge to go and do something more. Even a three week drive 2500 miles across India in a tuk tuk didn’t quite hit the spot.
Luckily for both of us, we were in a position where we could kiss everything goodbye for a while and return with enough in the piggy bank to get us started again. It takes a while of being on the road before you forget about the daily grind of work and really start to enjoy yourself. It’s then that you realise how easy it is to coast along in a comfy 9 to 5 without ever really stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Jumping on buses, boats and planes with little idea of where you are going, let alone if you might actually get there, gives you an incredible sense of independence, adventure and energy. It’s a feeling you can’t get from completing that ‘pain in the backside project’ or getting that nice fancy job title to put at the bottom of your emails. Plus it’s an incredible amount of fun, most of the time.
Off topic, we’ve both just had a massive twiglet craving. Maybe it’s the marmite were missing again, the jar my brother brought out for me was licked clean a week or two ago.
Anyway, back to travelling. So, we decided it would be great to settle in one place and just soak it up for a while. We also needed to kill a few months, we need to land in Central America mid-December at the earliest, otherwise we hit the end of the rainy season.
We chose Buenos Aires for a number of reasons: it’s an easy hub for friends visiting, there is a whole lot to do without spending money, and it’s a great place to kick back and relax before we head onto far less comfortable environments. Oh – and fast internet, I had to be somewhere I could watch the new episodes of Falling Skies.
So what have we been up to?
We have eaten a lot of meat. Argentina is famous for its outrageous steak, you won’t taste a better steak than a bife de chorizo at a parrilla (indoor BBQ) in Argentina. We slowly continue to make our way round the city’s attractions and have fallen in love with Palermo, where we are staying, it’s cosmopolitan as hell but has an incredible atmosphere and everything is on our doorstop – including, strangely, a number 22 London bus (to Putney) that parks outside a few days a week! Weird.
We have made one trip out of Buenos Aires so far to Puerto Iguazu, which has been one of our highlights of the whole trip so far. I’ve never heard of this place until we started researching South America. It’s a huge collection of 270 huge waterfalls that put Niagara to shame. We met up with my brother and girlfriend there and spent a few days making our way round the area. It can be seen from both the Brazilian and Argentinean borders, the Brazilian side offering a better panoramic, whilst the Argentina side provides kilometres of walkways above, below and almost into the waterfalls themselves. We also took a boat ride under a few of the waterfalls, getting unsurprisingly soaked. The fact that a few Americans died a couple of months back as their boat hit rocks morbidly added a little to the excitement.
We have been told by many a fellow traveller about how incredible the falls are but I approached a bit sceptical only to be genuinely blown away by the place. I could bang on for hours about how amazing it is but it would not do it justice and to be honest – I’m not that good a writer!
Advice? Get the bus there, it’s only 18 hours and so much cheaper than the planes. There is a law in Argentina that allows companies to charge twice as much to foreigners for goods and services and the airlines take full advantage of it. It seems unfair and I’m not going to support it. You will need 2-3 days there. Half a day on the Brazilian side ( we caught the 10:00 bus and were back by 3) and a full day for the Argentinean side ( go EARLY, try and get the first train to the Devil’s Throat – tour buses arrive around 10:30 and leave around 3:30 and it gets busy). The biggest piece of advice though: don’t even think about missing this from your itinerary and make sure you do both sides. If you have time you can even pop across into Paraguay for a few hours just for the heck of it. The area sits on a confluence of two rivers with all three banks being in a different country.
Here is a little video we shot whist there and on the boat trip, the lens is held in place with masking tape so quality not so good. Check out the photo gallery for more pics!
In the few weeks after Iguazu we have joined the gym in an attempt to get fit(ter) for the upcoming Inca Trail, Leah being more successful than me as I caught an evil cold and wimped out massively. We continue to work our way round the attractions, including the creepy Recoleta cemetery where Madonna* is buried as well as various weekend markets and more.
We have also decided that we are going to devote at least a month to some volunteer projects, probably in per or Ecuador and probably in the middle of the jungle. We’ve discovered that the whole gap year volunteering programs are an incredible rip off and basically just a money making mechanism –we really don’t get the whole pay £1000 a month to volunteer thing. I’m guessing its disappointed parents realising their kids are going to be around the house for a whole year before going university so pay to have them vanish abroad for a year no matter what the cost!
We have found a great resource for REAL volunteer programs –paying only £50 a week for food and lodging costs. Generally we would be building stuff, working on farms and caring for fluffy things etc. But I’m not going to share the details until we secure our places! More on this before we leave Argentina.
We hear back in in the UK everybody is being treated to typical British weather, which will surely mean an “Indian summer” headline is imminent. We also hear the News of the World is no more, turns out Rupert Murdoch actually IS the devil and the villagers want a lynching. I still cherish my special ‘The Saturdays’ photo edition. Nothing can take that away from me.