Facts and Figures
Nov 22nd - Dec 2nd 2010
Argentina, Brazil & Paraguay
Puerto Iguazu (Hostal Guembe)
22/11/2010 - Woken up early to the sound of breakfast being prepared in the kitchen right next to our room. Breakfast isn't supposed to start until 07:30, but as our bus was picking us up at that time we were allowed to have ours early. We joined a few others on the bus already and set out to pick up a few more. The last lot were an Argentinean family, about half a dozen of them who were completely unprepared, we waited 20 minutes for them to individually goo back to their rooms for passports, then bags, cameras etc. A few grumblings around the coach!! Eventually we got going, the driver not sparing the horses as we were behind schedule! At the Argentine exit the driver collected all the passports and went to get us all stamped out. 45 minutes later he returned with a couple of customs officers, one of the family that caused us to be running late didn’t have proper I.D., she had a photo copy which the customs weren't happy with. Another 20 minutes and they agree to let her through, more grumblings throughout the coach!
At the park entrance we are ushered off the coach and allocated a guide who gave us the spiel about what we had to do to get into the park. Paid our entrance fee and shoved onto another bus to drop us at the start of the falls trail. The trail was narrow and packed with tourists all jostling and elbowing their way through the crowds to try and get the best position at the view points, I hate tourists!
A bit of a different experience to Vic Falls in Zambia, Iguazu has a higher drop than vic and more flow but it is spread over a larger area with many falls so you don't get the same crash and thunder as at Vic Falls.
2 hours later time to get back on the bus, after waiting for the “problem family” who obviously didn’t have a watch between them and were late getting to the pick up point. Not a bad day apart from it being very crowded. The falls were as spectacular as expected and we got to see some of the wildlife. Next stop is for lunch, a Brazilian Asado (Churrascaria) which was worth the price of the whole tour itself. An amazing spread with as much beef, lamb, chicken and pork that you wanted cooked on the grill and then a salad bar and hot Chinese, Italian, local dishes and deserts. All as much as you could eat …. We pigged out!
Waiting for the “Family” again.
Sleeping off the lunch we missed the crossing into Paraguay, no border controls, (same as entering Bbrazil from Argentina) so no need for passports which meant we didn’t get stamps in them. We got dropped off in the middle of town for 45 minutes shopping, supposed to be cheap for electrical stuff but nothing we really wanted. We did buy a flask though, at least we would be able to have coffee on the 22 hour bus ride back to Tucuman!
Next was a bit of a disappointing visit to the Itaipu Hydroelectric dam. We were expecting to get a tour around the plant but all we got was a video presentation on the working of the dam, in Spanish, and a drive around the perimeter with a stop to take photo’s.
On the way back the “Family” wanted to stop off at the shopping area again so we had another wait while they went and bought stuff they could have got the first time, more grumbling on the coach! Next they wanted to stop at a supermarket so yet another wait, people on the coach were starting to get a bit P***** Off with them now, especially when they got back on with a load of beers and didn’t even offer them around!
We got back through Argentinean customs quickly and the “Family” were the first drop off. Having been always late back and the last to get on the coach they were now taking ages to get off the coach for some reason, not even getting out of their seats, some of the other passengers started to give them some well deserved abuse and they eventually got off the coach to a round of applause and some comments in Spanish that we didn’t understand, must have been sad farewell wishes!!
No need for food tonight after the huge lunch so we just had a couple of beers and a quiet evening.
23/11/2010 - Up early again for breakfast and to get packed up and vacate the room ready for the bus back tonight. The hostel is storing our gear while we go to the Argentine side of the Falls today. Down to the bus station and get our tickets for the 30 minute collectivo ride to the falls. There is a better feel this side than we had at the Brazilian side, probably as many people but a lot more options on which way to wander around spreading the people out making it feel a lot quieter. It is also not an organized tour so we could spend the day as we wanted. We took one trail that led over the tops of the falls then another around the bottom, no queues, no pushing and shoving, nice. We took a train ride to the “Devils Throat”, the biggest drop, where we had walk out over 2KM’s of walkway to get there, passing the old walkway that was destroyed by a flood back in 1992 … some flood!
We missed out on the nature trail part of the park where there are supposed to be a lot of monkeys, as time was getting on and the legs were starting to give in we headed back to the entrance, need a beer.
We thought the Argentine side of the falls was the better, although you do get more of a panoramic view of them from Brazil the crowds and lack of freedom to wander spoilt it. There seemed to be a lot more wildlife on the Argentine side too, especially butterflies, little ones and ones the size of dinner plates.
Had some scoff on the way back to the hostel, picked up the bags (and got the flask filled) then off for the bus. We left on time this time so hopefully we will get back to Tucuman not to late to get the bike and get back to the campsite.
Iguazu (on the coach) - El Cadillal (Camping SuterH)
24/11/2010 - An uneventful drive back on the coach, plenty of coffee’s thanks to the flask! Not sure that choosing the front seats up top was a good idea, a bit more leg room but extremely hot during the day with the sun blazing through the glass, even with the curtains drawn, which meant we couldn't see anything either. We arrived back in Tucuman at 18:30, only half an hour late, should have plenty of time to get the bike back and up to the campsite at El Cadillal.
The bike was ready when we arrived at BMW, no problems found, though we had problems when we tried to pay the bill. Neither of our cards were being accepted ….. Here we go again, bloody banks cancelled them again! However, after a couple of phone calls it turns out that it is their machine that is the problem … relief!!! We finally left BMW at 21:00 after chatting with the staff and a few customers that were there. Very friendly and helpful people at Berlin Moto’s.
We stopped for supplies on the way back to the site and arrived to an empty site. Tent up, fire up the asado then bed around midnight.
25/11/2010 - We had planned to stop here for two nights so no need to get up early. 07:30 wide awake! Munged around the campsite most of the day then went into town in search of a launderette. After trying a few that couldn't do our stuff until tomorrow we found one that would have it ready for later on tonight, even though he closed at 20:30 he told us he would do it and we could pick it up at 22:30 … ah clean clothes!
Start Mileage - 29706
Miles - 207
El Cadillal (Camping SuterH) - Yala (El Refugio)
Long pack today as we had split everything for the trip to Iguazu. On the road for 12:30 in the heat after dropping the bike in front of a crowd. While taking it off the center stand the front wheel dug in and threw the bike sideways ...wasn't expecting that!!
Had to do some repairs to the tent, it is starting to get a bit tired and fragile now the material is very brittle and the poles go through it too easily! Should be ok soon though as it will just be a patchwork of repairs.
Yala (El Refugio)
27/11/2010 - Very hot today, munged around the site until the afternoon then got a bus into town when it had cooled down.
28/11/2010 - Raining all day today so we decided to stay put. The locals all came out for their Sunday asado and dip in the pool regardless of the weather.
Start Mileage - 29913
Miles - 42
Yala (El Refugio) - Tilcara (El Jardin)
Not going far today so we weren't in a rush to pack down. It is dry at least now and not too hot, just right for a long ride. On the road at 12:30 and soon climbing in altitude up through the mountains and getting colder. Only an hours ride and we are in Tilcara and it is hot again, stopping at the YPF fuel station for coffee before hunting the tourist office down. Into town and found the tourist office, not too difficult as it isn't that big a place. Lorraine goes in to find out about campsites, two pretty close to the center. While we are deciding which one to go for a guy walks up to us and starts chatting. Not recognising him at first, turns out to be the Belgian guy (Hubert) that we met in Tucuman on the municipal campsite, he and his girlfriend (Leticia) are staying at El Jardin and recommended it to us so we head for there. A clean and tidy site but not a lot of shade but we found a spot under some trees that should be ok. We didn’t count on the wind though, when it blew it whipped up a sand storm filling the tent and everything in it with sand, time to build a wall!! I managed to block most of it with a log on the inside of the tent and some bricks that were laying around the site piled around the outside. Job done.
Into town for meat and alcohol, very dusty in the wind. Back at the site, as soon as the sun went down so did the temperature, I couldn't get enough layers on to get warm. Gave up on cooking outside the tent and went up to the quincho to cook on the huge asado’s they had there. We had to wait for the quincho to clear, there is a school group here on holiday for the end of school, typical Argentine kids, we’re getting used to it now.
Tilcara (El Jardin)
30/11/2010 - We didn’t have as much shade as we thought … the sun managed to find it’s way through the trees and we were cooking by 08:00!
In the afternoon we had a walk up to the Pukara, a pre Hispanic fortress overlooking Tilcara. We left it until today because the Rough Guide said it was free on Tuesdays, we really ought to know better by now … entrance is free on Mondays not Tuesdays and the entrance fee is AR$10 per person not AR$5 any other time. Seeing as we had to pay we walked around the cactus garden before climbing up to the Pukara …. Hmmmm cactus and a volcanic stone that rings like a bell when hit with another stone.
We walked up the 70Mtrs (230ft) to the Pukara, heavily rebuilt since it’s discovery in the 1930’s. Gave us a bit of an insight into the way the people lived back then. It is rare as a fortress as it has no strategical defensives but due to it’s high position and commanding views of the valley from all sides none were needed. The fortress is believed to have been inhabited from around 1,100BC up to 600BC before the Inca conquering and eventually abandoned some time during the Colonial period.
Back into town to wait for the shops to open after siesta. Got stuff for the asado then back to the campsite. Put on a few more layers to combat the cold and then cook up.
01/12/2010 - One of the side guy ropes was ripped off the tent when we got up this morning, could have been one of the kids when they wandering around in the dark looking for wood for their fire or one of the site dogs when they were chasing each other around.
42KM’s into Humahuaca this afternoon, we had thought about getting a bus as it was stinking hot again but it would take a couple of hours to get there so stuck with the bike. Passing through some nice villages and crossing the Tropic of Capricorn on the way (photo on the way back) we arrived in Humahuaca, a very touristy place, more so than most, a town that is just restaurants and gift shops. A disappointing day out.
Start Mileage - 30,010
Miles - 169
Tilcara (El Jardin) - Jama (ACA Motel)
Slow pack today. A long ride to get to San Pedro de Atacama and take in the border crossing so we will look at stopping at Susques, not too far down the road but leaving us a good run to San Pedro in the morning. We said goodbye to Hubert and Leticia, might run into them again sometime, and on the road for 12:00. Leaving tilcara and turning onto the road to Paso de Jama, we started to climb rapidly to 4,300 mtrs, then levelled out at that for a while. We stopped at Susques but only for lunch and not the intended overnight, the hotels were extremely overpriced. It’s only 66KM’s to the border and an ACA motel so we decided to push it on to there. The wind picked up a bit and it got very cold riding through the open salt flats.
We were flagged down by a local biker in the middle of nowhere, he said he was out of petrol and asked if we could spare any. No problem, I have enough in the tank and a couple of litres in the jerry can. I should have been suspicious when he pulled out a length of hose and a container, is this a regular scam for him??? After taking all the fuel out of my jerry can, about 3 Ltrs, he offered to pay but I said it was ok, no charge. Next he ushered us to the front of the pile rocks that his wife was standing by which had been conveniently covered by a blanket when we were flagged down. Displaying her wares she told us to take a look, not wanting to be greedy we asked how much a small piece of slate with a Llama painted on it was, expecting it to be free in exchange for the fuel, wrong, AR$4 she said, and she took it, cheeky pair of b*******.
Even though we got bumped it was another great ride through the mountains.
We arrived at Jama and thought it would be better to stop now at the ACA rather than push on to San Pedro, a bit pricey but right at the border for an easy start in the morning. Very cold and windy and no heating in the room but lots of blankets supplied.
Feeling a bit sad as this is our last night in Argentina and we are stuck in the middle of nowhere. We have really enjoyed our time here, we will definitely return in the future to do the bits we missed this time.