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Two for the price of one

Having a great time at the Iguazu Falls. See the Argentina photos for more.

We´ve just uploaded the photos from our second spell in Argentina, covering our amazing time at the Iguazu Falls, our trip to the Jesuit ruins at San Ignacio Mini and the lovely few days we spent in Salta. To give you even more to look at, we´ve also added a Bolivia album which includes our photos of the Uyuni salt flats and a few of Sucre. It was a beautiful city but we were too busy learning Spanish to be out and about with the camera. We´ll get chance to take some more when we return to Bolivia to visit the Amazon.

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Gee up horsey

Lou and our cowboy Eduardo

For the past few days we´ve been enjoying a little bit of luxury in a boutique B&B, La Casa Hernandez, (but amazingly at hostel prices) close to Salta in the north-west of Argentina. It´s been great to chill out and relax with some warmer days before we head to the salt flats in Bolivia which are a lot higher and colder. We had a warm welcome from the Dutch owners Alex and Rijkje, and we enjoyed spending our evenings chatting with our fellow guests: a pair of Aussie´s called Kerryn and Ben, and a Dutch couple, Ruud and Anna. We all went out for a cena, an argentine evening dinner with live folk music, and last night cooked an asado (barbecue). 

Staying out of town in the small village of San Lorenzo has really worked out for us. We´ve slept like babies every night due to the peace, quiet and comfortable beds. The fresh air might have helped too as we´ve been out and about, exploring the local canyon with great views over Salta, and we joined a gaucho for a few hours of horse riding. It was appropriately sedate for our experience level. We loved the beautiful views over the estate. They primarily raise cattle and have about six hundred cows dotted over their eleven thousand hectares which encompased all the mountains within view!

Thankfully today we´re not too saddle-sore and had a sightseeing and shopping day in Salta. The MAAM museum displayed one of the bodies of the three Inca children discovered at the top of one of the nearby volcanoes. Due to the altitude and sub-zero temperatures, they´re perfectly preserved along with clothing they were buried in. We´ve never seen anything quite like it.

All warm and cosy in my alpaca wrap

Our shopping focused on warm clothing with Lou picking up a woollen shawl, mitts and knee-high aztec socks complete with llama design. Jon picked up an alpaca wool jumper but having subjected it to the burn test we suspect it´s largely synthetic. Next time we´ll take our lighter along with us.

We haven´t been able to add photos from the B&B but will update the past few posts with photos when we can.


On the road again

San Ignacio Mini, the Jesuit ruins in north-east Argentina

We´re on the move from the Iguazu falls at Peurto de Iguazu in Argentina, via San Ignacio Mini where we saw the Jesuit ruins yesterday and now we´re in Posadas waiting for the overnight bus to take us to Salta in the northeast.

We´ve done more than our fair share of bus travel recently; getting to Peurto Iguazu from Asuncion in Paraguay took 12 hours and involved two border crossings into and out of Brazil. Yesterday we were back on the bus to get to San Ignacio (6 hours) and the bus to Salta will take 18 hours. We´ve got fully reclining seats though so we should get some sleep. We´re also hoping for some movies and edible food! We´ve sampled some strange concoctions recently such as the lunch renamed by Jon as `ham and cheese three ways´ – in a sandwich, in a croissant and layered as a hot dish with bechamel sauce.

San Ignacio Mini, the ruins of a 17th century Jesuit community housing Spanish priests and local tribes, was given a good write-up in our guidebook (an ancient Lonely Planet) but we were slightly disappointed. The only decorative part that remains is the facade of the church and everything else is rebuilt plain brick walls. We found the history and information on how the communities lived, including the transfer of Spanish and Guarani culture of most interest. In the small museum there were two really nice recordings comparing local Guarani music and traditional baroque-style Spanish choral music. The crossover between cultures inspired a renaissance of art during the period of the mission. The success of the missionaries was due to the priests incoporating the local language and traditions including translations of the Bible into Guarani. In addition to religious teaching, the local people also received protection against slave traders and had the advantages of good diet and hygiene practices. Nowadays, Guarani is the official language of Paraguay and is spoken by about five million people in South America.


The Iguazu falls, up close and personal

Us at the Iguazu falls

Today we’ve had an amazing jam-packed day at the Iguazu falls in Argentina, our best since being in South America. It didn’t begin particulary well as we missed our early bus as the ATM wouldn’t give us any money. Jon’s credit card has been stopped for some reason so we had to trek back to the hostel to get mine. Luckily that worked, once I’d remembered my pin, and we were solvent once again. After paying our way in to the park, we decided to start with a serene nature walk as early mornings are the best time for wildlife spotting. We did get slightly nervous when the guy at the information kiosk gave us a leaflet on what to do if we encountered a large cat. For the record, keep calm, don’t run and maintain eye contact while backing away slowly. If things take a turn for the worst and they attack, the advice was to keep calm and push it away forcefully. Right. We did hear one growl but after a nervous second and a quick look around, we decided it was probably Jon’s tummy. With both of us on slight tenderhooks, it was a lovely walk through forest to a small waterfall and pool at the end. We didn’t spot much wildlife but on the way back we nearly stepped on some! There was a very venomous snake curled up in the path. Our Spanish is still basic so whereas I understoood ‘it’s dead’, Jon understood ‘if it bites you, you’re dead’. Needless to say we gave it a wide berth (after taking a photo).

What have we let ourselves in for?

After all this excitement, it was on to the falls. We started with the lower path along the foot of some of the falls, giving a great panoramic view. We were amazed by how expansive the falls are. Even the smallest of the waterfalls here would be an attraction in its own right in any other place. The pounding, the rush of water with rainbows formed in the spray and the view to neighbouring falls make it all breathtaking. Watching the water wasn’t enough, we wanted to be in it and luckily there were boats to take us there! We strapped on our life jackets, bagged all our belongings into a dry sack and boarded a jet boat to get a closer view of one of the biggest falls, San Martin and a glimpse at the Devil’s Throat (the most famous fall). We got much more than we bargained for, rather than a polite viewing it really was up close and personal. Our boat disappeared in the churning spray and we all got a thorough soaking. Not content with one pass, our pilot dunked us again before zipping to a smaller waterfall, just to make sure we really were wet through.

Two toucans

Refreshed, we continued our tour with the upper falls walkway. There’s a cute little train to take you towards the pinnacle of Iguazu, the Devil’s Throat which forms the centre of the horseshoe-shape of the falls. The walkway in alive with beautiful butterflies and at the end you can stand in awe right at the edge. We spent a long time taking in the view, following the river as it cascaded over the edge and watching the spray. Rather than walk back, we had paid for a second boat ride, this time a safe and dry paddle boat, downriver to spot some more wildlife. Thanks to our guide, we saw a cayman and baby. We’d watched out for toucans all day since we’d seen them on the postcards at the giftshop. As we approached the exit turnstile, a man told us to look and we saw a pair! They were perched at the top of a tree, with their big orange beaks glowing in the sun. Our 20mm lens wasn’t going to cut it but as luck would have it, the nice man stood next to us also has a Lumix with a zoom lens which he lent us! What are the chances of that? It was the perfect end to a wonderful day. To cap it all, we were the last two people to squeeze on to the bus back to town. Luck definitely comes in threes although we owe an apology to the family of six we sneaked in front of. They wouldn’t have fit anyway.

Just one part of the falls


Happy birthday dad

A birthday shout out to my dad, Brian. I hope you have a great birthday with cake, presents and cards. Unfortunately you´ll have to wait a little bit of time for ours which will make it all the more exciting. We are thinking of you and will try and call to wish you happy birthday in person. Lots of love, Jon and Lou xxx