Friday, January 29, 2010
Okay. There are miles of protected semi-tropical bush in all directions around Iguazu Falls. But there's one very clean little restaurant area. This critter is the Argentinian version of a raccoon. He waltzed right out of the bush. On that trail to the swimming hole I showed you last post Daniel and I passed a family of ten. In the wild, masses of these things can be a bit unnerving, but they're very safe.
Here are a few other marvels you'll see in the bush, including a swath of the kind of yellow butterflies that absolutely SWARM across the road to town, figs, and a flowering tree out of Avatar.
Let's leave Iguazu Falls with a few spectacular views that never made it into my first post here. Let's start with a view looking down from above on that swimming hole I took you to last time:
Next post it's off to the colonial capital of Salta in Argentina's north-west, and a trip through pre-Incan ruins, salt flats, cactus deserts, multi-coloured mountains and much, much more with our hilarious, young driver and guide Pablo "Look Ma, No Hands!" Perez Sancho (just kidding) who joined us for four days of mountain touring.
Monday, January 25, 2010
It's one thing to SEE Iguazu Falls. It's another thing to be in it.
Well... there's a trail that leads several miles into the semi-tropical bush at the end of which is are a pair of falls that land in a natural pool. It's the one place in the whole area where swimming is allowed. Just make sure you bring lots of mosquito repellent!
Owing to the hike and the bugs, very few make this side trip, so you have the falls to yourself. But first, here are a few of the things you'll see in the jungle along the way.
Just kidding. Our friend, above, was at a nature reserve next to the Falls Park, along with this amazing owl who was roosting inside a rotten tree branch.
But you will see --
And then you're there at the falls! It's just like Blue Lagoon, minus Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins.
The water's so cold, as my grampa would say, "it'd freeze the balls off a brass monkey!" But hey, Daniel and I are Canadian, so in we went. I mean how many chances do you get to swim at a wonder of the world?
Owing to the privacy -- there was no one else around (see hike through jungle and bugs above) -- I decided to put my grampa's expression to the test and do a little skinny dipping. (SHHH!!!) Daniel was horrified. As he pointed out, there was a mirador (lookout point) up above. However, as I pointed out, what tourist, confronted with a panoramic wonder of nature, is going to notice a middle-aged bum? As for the rest -- in ice water, seen from 25 meters (80 feet) above, voyeurs would need the Hubble. :)
Ah... the best part of the trip so far!
Next post other woodland creatures and a return to Devil's Throat -- then more wonders in the north-west province of Salta with colonial towns like up like wedding cakes, hairpin turns at 4,500 meters, and mountains the color of the rainbow! See you there.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I was gobsmacked by the Falls when I saw The Mission and Indiana Jones. But seeing them in person is like nothing else in the world. Let's get me and Daniel out of the way so you can get a better look.
Iguazu Falls is Niagara Falls on steroids. In fact, Niagara Falls is actually a bit a joke after Iguazu. For one thing, the area for miles around Iguazu is protected semi-tropical bush, so you don't have to deal with fast food joints, Madame Tussauds and casinos. And unlike the other great falls Victoria Falls -- which is also amazing -- it's more than one long sheet of water. In fact, the Falls are made of of hundreds of different falls along the river which makes for an endless succession of astonishing panoramas. Like this one.
And this one.
The town of Iguazu is about a twenty minute drive away and is pretty unappetizing. There's a funky, damp smell coming out of the grates by some of the restaurants -- more like a septic tank smell, actually. Which may explain little friends like this one I found on the sidewalk.
Big as a cat, I tell you. Well, maybe not. But certainly a kitten. Anyway, that's why I suggest you stay at a B&B. Ours was La Boutique Hotel de la Fonte. We loved it. Despite appearances, it's EXTREMELY reasonable. Just a small step up from backpacking. Here's the entrance:
It's owned by an Italian couple who also have an on site restaurant with a friendly Swiss waitress you half expect to burst out yodeling. And each "cabin" looks like ours:
Those things that have leaves like trees are actually bamboo --
But back to the Falls. There's lots of ways to see them. You can take a little toy train out to see the BIG falls (Devil's Throat). After walking a mile along a bridge you get to see it up close. (Note that the previous bridge washed away; you can see the cement moorings.) Hope you aren't afraid of heights -- or bridges.
Or check out the little boat going into the mist, below. Daniel and I were on the one just before it. For thrills and chills, it sure beats the Maid of the Mist. :)
Along the river, there's an upper falls and a lower falls path. The lower falls path lets you walk out of a bridge to catch some spray.
The upper falls path takes you over little bridges with views like this.
But the best way to experience the Falls is to swim in one of them. Yes, there's actually a falls deep in the bush where you can swim (or skinny dip, shhh) in a natural pool under a waterfall. For that trip, tune in to the next post!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Apart from the fantastic ice cream chains (Freddo's, Volares, etcetera), the rubber trees, La Boca, and the amazing art galleries -- the second floor of the National Museum of Art featuring Argentinian art is awe-inspiring -- Recoleta Cemetery, aka the Buenos Aires Boneyard is one of the most interesting places in the city. It's minutes away from our hotel. Above is the church by the entrance.
And here is a street scene from the City of the Dead. As you can see, everyone here is in a family mausoleum.
The cemetery is filled with rich people and dignitaries: a plot here is literally the most expensive real estate in the world. But the main reason tourists flock here is to see the mausoleum of Evita. (Peron is buried in a military cemetery, not here.) The flowers you see below are real. They change every day. She is truly beloved by the poor to this day, despite her taste in shoes and accessories.
Aside from the dead, the cemetery is home to cats. Here is the mayor, and an assistant on siesta:
But there's a darker side to the cemetery. Many of the mausoleums are collapsed or broken into -- great for grave robbers, necrophiles and the homeless who live in the tombs after dark. The thing is, it's up to families to pay for upkeep and pay a tax of 30 pesos for each dead person in the family tomb going back several hundred years -- so some people just say forget it. After 40 years the city takes back the plot and the bodies are dumped somewhere else.
Meanwhile you can see coffins -- and touch them where the doors are broken in or the glass smashed -- and also see violated mausoleums with stairs leading down to where the coffins from a century ago are stored. (Mausoleums can hold nine coffins, plus a great many more reliquaries. I gather when the tombs are full, it's the in-laws who are first to get the old heave-ho.
Anyway, it's all quite spooky and fun -- if you´re not the corpse.
We'll be coming back to Buenos Aires. But when I post next, I'll be taking you to the fabulous IGUAZU FALLS!!! Get your wetsuits on!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Yup, this is me outside the Casa Rosada -- aka the Presidential Palace in Argentina -- the place where Madonna sang that big song in the movie. Er, I mean where Eva "Evita" Peron gave her big speech. Argentina is the first country I've visited in South America, and to get there Daniel and I flew via Chile, i.e. over the Andes. Here's the view from the plane window.
Whenever I think of the Andes I think of that soccer team in the sixties or seventies whose plane crashed and the survivors had to eat their dead teammates to survive. Surveying the plane, I remember thinking I'd throw up if it happened to us. Tourists are very unappetizing. On the other hand, most are well-marinated.
This is our hotel in Buenos Aires. It's in the Recoleta area, which is pretty trendy with lots of artists and ice cream shops, not to mention the Recoleta Cemetery which has the most expensive real estate in the world. (True.) People are literally DYING to get in. Our hotel is a Melia boutique hotel. I love the Melia chain -- and owing to the downturn prices here are at 30% regular! It's tacky to mention, but honestly there's no other way we could afford a hotel that comes with a Pillow Menu. That's right. A Pillow Menu. It's like a food menu only for pillows. We chose a Lavender for soothing dreams. There's also a "Jasmine Pillow" and a "Roll Pillow" -- which the menu says is popular with honeymooners. Oh, and there's an "Orthopedic Pillow" too -- presumably for recovery from the "Roll Pillow".
Truly cool fact: Our hotel is where Peron 'kept' Eva before they were married.
Above is the cutlery chandelier at a terrific restaurant called Fervor, just a few doors down from the hotel. People eat like pigs here. A pound of steak for $15 at a 5*. I ordered the steak, and Daniel the vegetables -- everything's à la carte -- and we shared. But most people eat EVERYTHING!!! Maybe because restaurants only open at 8 p.m. and people are starving when they enter.
Also near our hotel is a little parkette with the most AMAZING rubber trees. If you look closely you'll see me among the roots of one of them.
I don't want to bore you with standard guide book pictures -- as you may have guessed -- so here are a couple of shots from a poor area known as La Boca. It's in the old port district where the houses are made of wood and painted hugely garish colours. It's been like this for centuries. A poor area, people painted their houses using the leftover paint from the old ship building places. The area used to be flooded a few times a year, so anyone who could afford to got the hell out. It's great by day but knife robberies by night. I loved it.
And here's a street puppeteer from the weekly Sunday flea market on San Telmo.
Mainly the flea market is lined with tourist-trap "crafts". See Daniel below at beginning of the gauntlet:
But there are also great antique stores, street shows like the one that puppeteer put on, and also people who just turn on a boom box and start to tango; or who walk around trying to sell odd stuff like feather dusters:
Well, I'm tuckered out. Next time out I'll take you to the cemetery. Oooooooooh! Scary stuff! :)
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
"Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo...”
Mom left Dad when I was a baby and we went to live on my grandparents' farm. But aside from a spell there, and visiting my Uncle Reg's farm, I haven't had much to do with moocows. And even less with James Joyce.
I always did like to read though, and the picture above is the one Mom likes of me more than any other. Here's another intellectual pose:
In this case, I am reading to my lifelong friend Vickie (Milne) Stewart. And on the other side of Vickie is Topsy Turvy, a cockapoo so named because she was always all over the place. She lived to be twenty-two. Whenever her hair was clipped she'd hide under the table for weeks as if she was ashamed of being naked. Vickie's Mom and my Mom met when my grandparents moved from the farm to Kincardine. Mom taught school there. Vickie's dad was our doctor, and her mother my
Mom's best friend. (Later Dr. and Mrs. Milne lived in the Queen Charlotte Islands, Saudi Arabia -- everywhere -- and now are retired back in Kincardine.)
In this photo Topsy Turvy and I are joined by Buttercup, an orange tabby I got when I was two. I've always loved orange tabbies. (See our new one, P2, in the January 1 post.) Without exception they are thick as bricks, but absolute, total purr machines.
Here I am spreading my germs at a birthday party, about age 6. The kid behind the cake is another lifelong friend, Graham Mahood. And to his right, Vickie's brother Michael. All my life I've been blessed with friends I've managed to keep in touch with.
Anyway, Mom always made me fancy birthday cakes. In addition to the clown, there was a cake that looked like a pumpkin with a stalk made out of a banana and covered in green icing. And I also remember a carousel cake with the rides being made of Arrowroot cookies shaped like animals. (There were pennies and nickels wrapped in wax paper backed in the cakes as surprises.)
Mom has always been unconditional love. I could be an ax murderer and she'd forgive me. She raised me at a time when being a single parents simply wasn't done. And she held a job, becoming an inspector of schools, and an assistant to the deputy minister of education in the province -- the first female educational ADM outside girls phys ed! And she was the government rep on Laura Sabia's Council for the Status of Women in the 1970s. She is amazing.
This "Mutual Admiration Society" photo was taken when I was in grade 9. Note the "down" brush cut. It was the sixties. I sure didn't look like a hippie. Then. Made up for it a few years later. The "down" brush cut, BTW, is a brush cut where the hair that stands up at the front gets cut off too. I had that because my hair was "fine" and it was either that or have it caked with crap to make the front stand up. I looked like a peanut.
The New Year makes some people look forward. Me, I like to look back. If the Internet isn't working on my island writing retreat (Cayo Largo), my next posts will be from Argentina! Truly an amazing experience!