Sunday, September 6, 2009

Arriving in Iguazú

August 5, 2009

We arrived in Iguazú around noon and I spent most of the morning reading The 19th Wife, which Tammy lent me.

HostelInnIguazuiguazu-falls-moonlight When we arrived at the resort-like Hostel Inn Iguazú, our best plan of action seemed to be waiting for nightfall and doing the Full Moon tour, then seeing the falls in daylight the next day.

So, we lounged by the pool, read,drank beer, and napped (in that order). We’d finally arrived at the winter-warmth I had hoped for during majority of our trip.

Getting some caffeine before the Iguazu moonlight tour.

The Full Moon Tour cost 80 pesos ($28) and involved a bit of waiting and gathering before getting started. During this time, the night cooled off considerably.

We visited the highlight of the falls, La Garganta del Diablo(The Devil’s Throat), by moonlight, and the sight of the foaming, frothing falls was spellbinding, immediately erasing all other thoughts and worries from my head.


Garganta del Diablo

After the visit, they handed out complimentary caipirinhas (or sodas) and Tammy and I were off to find dinner.

Enjoying caiprhinas after the full moon tour of Iguazu.

For convenience, we dined at a restaurant across the street from the bus station, which was nice enough, except for the pushy harp player who solicited us throughout the meal to buy his CD.

We were then taken home by a taxista who, in addition to probably overcharging us, tried to convince us a strike was occurring the following day and only him or his son could gain us entry to the falls. The story was fairly plausible, but upon consulting with the hostel, turned out to be false, and quite desperate (not to mention the outrageous sums he was asking for his “service” and the fact that he would have been found out at some point the next day when the busloads of tourists did indeed arrive).

We had another full day approaching, so off to bed we went.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Busing it to Iguazu

August 4, 2009

Tuesday we relaxed in La Plata, having lunch at Thionis until 4 p.m. when we had to head back to Buenos Aires to catch our 19-hour bus ride to Iguazu.

The bus company grabbed me a “vegetarian meal” at the last second. (Yay, El Rapido!) Interestingly, the bus was nearly empty. In addition to the two of us, there were 3 other passengers, two of which left during a stop in the night.

My meal was a large green salad with tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and a hard boiled egg on top. Quite basic compared to the typical bus meal with bread and cheese and meats, side dish and main course, but very sufficient. And either incredibly filling or else my stomach was still messed up, because I was uncomfortably full after eating. I slept early.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Visiting home.

August 3, 2009

quilmesMonday was a travel day, and so thankfully uneventful. We got back to La Plata and picked up beer and empanadas for dinner. Martín came over for a bit, and we shared tales and brews.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One Day in Santa Cruz

August 2, 2009

Our cab driver caught us off-guard and probably made double his typical fare, but we made it to our hostel and checked in without a problem. We had brunch at a giant, bright mega-restaurant/ice-cream store (Café Bonaparte?) as we couldn’t find anything that was listed in our guidebook. It was pricey, but the food was decent and the portions were huge.

Being a Sunday, there wasn’t a whole lot open, but Santa Cruz has an interesting zoo with an amazing toucan, sloths hanging about in the open (we got some adorable photos) and an escaped monkey who was trying desperately to get back to the safety of his cage. It was a great, relaxing way to bring the Bolivia portion of our trip to a close.

DSC01748 sloth
toucan DSC01756

Later in the afternoon we returned to the city center and checked out Manzana Uno (english), a cultural center with a great sculpture exhibit and an artisan’s market. The entire city is shockingly “western” with almost no one in traditional dress, and a very moneyed appearance, the SUVs outnumbering sedans by quite a bit.

We dined at La Bella Napoli, an expensive recommendation by our guidebook’s shoestring standards, but it was our last night in Bolivia. We split a pricier bottle of Bolivian wine, as well (Campos de Solana Cabernet Sauvignon), which was drinkable but definitely not worth of its $12 price tag. We genuinely wanted to find the beauty in Bolivian wine. My stomach has been jacked, so after dinner we shimmied up the fancy rooftop bar on the plaza for a bottle of water, before calling it a night.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Amazing Museums in La Paz

August 1, 2009

We got a late start on Saturday, mostly because we could—our check-out was late and we had to catch another overnight bus in the evening, but I also had a cold and was feeling run-down.

Around 11:30 we went to the Museo Nacional del Arte, which had a nice collection with great write-ups on each piece, drawing attention to the piece’s significant features or trends. Unfortunately, I had trouble focusing due to a runny nose, congestion-headache, and passing waves of nausea.

Catholic?  Indigenous? A typical mestizo painting.

We finished and sat outside in the plaza, watching hordes of kids feed the pigeons until I’d recovered enough to attempt the uphill walk for lunch. At 3,500 meters above sea level and a city with more hills than San Francisco, even being in great shape the walk can feel like a challenge.


I ordered a coca tea, thinking it would help with any of my altitude-induced symptoms and a vegetarian sandwich.

My sandwich was the size of a football, cut in half and served open-faced. It appeared they’d used an entire avocado to top a thin layer of lettuce, then sprinkled on fine layer of chopped celery.

The sandwich sat like a rock in my stomach but the tea seemed to help a bit. I felt like I might make it through the day, after all.

n2The Museo de Etnografia y Folklore was the other highly recommended museum which had a great photo exhibit on Peru (?!), an interesting display on ceramics, and an all-exhaustive exhibit on money. The notable part of the money exhibit is that it occupied the bottom floor and the museum named the floors after the indigenous peoples world—making the bottom floor the underworld.

There were also great exhibits on feathers and masks, however the “mood lighting” was too dark to read the descriptions or even see the pieces very well.

p2 and-maligno

t3Then there was the incredible room on textiles, where the top half of the walls featured various weavings and the bottom half was lined with skinny drawers, each containing more extensive examples.

Tammy, who seemed to have caught my morning issues wanted some coca tea after the second museum, so we went to a cafe full of tourists. Everywhere we went seemed to be full of tourists, with locals eating squatted on the sidewalks in front of food/drink stalls.

At the cafe we ordered a couple veggie sandwiches for the bus, which took an amazing 45 minutes to arrive (10 of which we spent waiting by the door, pushing to leave). The sandwiches were cold, and since we hadn’t ordered during a mealtime, it was never clear why they took so long.

Overnight bus ride, with driver's stash of coca leaves.The bus was good, aside from my cold medicine (non-drowsy relief!) keeping me up until 4 a.m. We arrived in Santa Cruz at the incredibly sane hour of 10:30.

Bus driver’s best friend—coca leaves for a 16-hour drive to stay alert.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ruins and shopping

July 31, 2009

Friday we’d lined up a visit to the Tiahuanaco ruins. We began at the museum with a very proficient guide who lead us through both the museum and the ruins.


TiahuanacoWall Ruins of Tiahuanaco

Lunch was interesting, as our end of the table had two North Americans, two Brazilians, a Swiss, a Japanese, and an Argentine. Up until lunch the Japanese had expressed a solitary interest in taking pictures, but at lunch he opened up and made an effort to talk to everyone, including everyone in the conversation.

We stopped briefly by some smaller ruins after lunch and over an amazing lookout as we entered La Paz.


As our Bolivia time is coming to an end, we went shopping for souveniers when we got back to La Paz. I bought Martín and Kevin silly hats and a Paceña beer t-shirt for Kevin as well. Then, a colorful bag for Martín.

Our hostel, Adventure Brew Hostel offers a free beer each night from the on-site brewery, so we went back to drop off our purchases and take advantage. The beer was great, but we managed to stick to just a couple pints each, and actually leave the hostel for dinner.

We ate at Angelo Colonia, this tiny two-room restaurant with less than 20 tables and loads of iron weaponry and decor. It was a little pricey, with small portions which turned out to be just the right size for me. I had a lasagna loaded with about 10 different vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, corn, carrots, spinach…)

We then attempted to find some nightlife, however I was pretty zonked and had left the map in our room.

Paceño nightlife isn’t female oriented, so we couldn’t just venture anywhere. We opted to go back to the hostel pub…which didn’t last long. We called it a night around midnight.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Hiking La Paz

July 30, 3009

As all mornings following an overnight bus, Thursday started super-early with our 5:30 a.m. arrival in La Paz. We dropped our luggage off at the hostel and went to a 24-hour cafe (Cafe Ciudad) to wait for the city to awaken.

As we entered the quiet restaurant, a woman in a corner table yelled, “Hello, Ladies!” We looked, she waved, and we dismissed her as drunk. I went to the bathroom, and came out of the stall just as a man entered.

He looked slightly disoriented, and I wondered if he could really be lost enough to have missed the men’s room right next door. He started talking to me, and it appeared he’d followed me into the restroom. He held out a folded paper, which I presumed contained his number or a message, and said “Bienvenido a Bolivia,” I accepted it, assessing him to be around 50. “Es muy buena,” he said. Odd.

He finally left and I opened the paper. It contained a fine white powder. Scenes from a dozen different movies where tourists are set up on drug charges passed through my mind, and I quickly deposited the packet on the sink.

I made it back to the table and noted he was seated at the table with the woman who’d yelled to us when we entered. A minute later, he came over and introduced himself. He was a congressman. “How was it?” he asked. “I don’t know yet,” I answered carefully, not wanting to risk any problems.

Luckily, just then the waiter ushered him away. He receded to the back of the large restaurant, by the bathrooms and I regretted not throwing his “gift” away. Surely he’d enter and see the abandoned gift. I avoided the bathrooms as we killed time in the restaurant, but Tammy was so unnerved we didn’t stay long.

At one moment, he sat at the table next to us to make a phone call, and she was done.

El Pardo (The main strip)

We started the Lonely Planet walking tour (which is really more an exercise in map reading), praying the sites of interest would be open by the time we walked to them.


Iglesia de San Francisco, La PazWe visited another Iglesia de San Francisco, with a very detailed mestizo facade and an interesting altar with random, indigenous faces popping out. Angels?

Next, we headed through the artisan alley (which was mostly closed) to the Mercado de Hechicería (Witches Market), a couple blocks of stores selling traditional medicines, charms, and lucky llama fetuses.

Mercado de Hechicería, charms and offerings.

Apparently, the dried membranes are considered a sacrifice, and buried for good luck. (Fotos available.)

Our visit then took us to the “black market” which we never really lcated, but also didn’t feel compelled to invest much energy or time on.

We found the Mercado Lanza, which was like a drugstore cosmetics counter, set under market tents, and then visited the Museo Tambo Quirquincho, which mostly displayed prints of their featured artist’s work. However, the building was nice and for one boliviano (15 cents), the price was right.

Next, we wandered over to the Plaza Murillo and enjoyed ice cream cones and people watching. The plaza was full of pigeons and the kids alternated between chasing them, and feeding them seeds sold by vendors in the plaza. We were too bus-lagged to realize we were surrounded by the presidential and legislative houses until hours later.

Winter Vacay

Once noon hit, we made a beeline for lunch at Yussef’s, a Lebanese restaurant where we shared the sampler platter: hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, dolmas, rice pilaf, tabbouli, pita bread, and a cucumber tzatziki salad. After a year without, the food was fabulous!

CocaMuseumIn the afternoon we stopped by the Coca Museum, which was interesting and informative though not put together in a very coherent/objective manner.

TammyJournals Finally, it was time to clean up and chill out. We both enjoyed hot, uninterrupted showers and some quiet time. Then, it was beer time!

We headed upstairs to our hostel’s brewpub, where a pint turned into a pitcher turned into their Mexican buffet. Excellent, but way more than I needed! Diet, tomorrow!

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