A Travellerspoint blog

Journey to Iguazú and The Iguazú falls (Introduction)

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We left the Estancia knowing we had a long drive to San Ignacio Mini. We thought the drive would take around 15hrs. The going was VERY slow in the morning due to traffic weight, fog and police checks. We covered the first 400km in 6 1/2 hrs. We still had 700km left to travel at 2pm.

At 8pm we headed towards a "town" for some food but the town was basically a logging community and not only was there no food, we managed to get Carmen stuck in mud - twice. The second time was pretty bad and the two crew/drivers had to get down under Carmen in the mud to dig a gap big enough to get the sand mats to the wheels to help with traction.

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More photos can be viewed by following this link - Stuck in the mud

At this point the poor guys had been driving for 12 hrs. With two failed attempts of getting Carmen out with sand mats and us all pushing we decided we needed mechanical help. Luckily one of the girls on Carmen speaks better than restaurant Spanish and found a guy with a truck. It took him a few attempts, but eventually, at around 9pm, Carmen was out of the mud. After all this the crew/drivers put the idea to us that we skip the over night camp and to drive straight through the night to the next stop at Cataratas del Iguazú. So, off we went for a night on the road. We drove for 24hrs, the drivers taking it in turns to sleep and drive. Chris and I got a little bit of sleep, but not much and are now a little moody and tired. The drivers seem to have thrived on it! They like a bit of adventure and break from the norm.

We covered 1500km in the 24hrs and are now at Cataratas del Iguazú close to the Iguazu falls and Brazil.

Tomorrow (Friday) we spend the day at the Argentinian side of the Iguazú falls.

The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 1.67 miles of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 metres in height, though the majority are about 64 metres. The Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat in English), a U-shaped 150-metre-wide and 700-metre-long cliff, is supposed to be the most impressive of all, and marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. Two thirds of the falls are within Argentine territory.

Iguazú is rivalled only by Southern Africa's Victoria Falls which separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. Iguazu is wider because it is split into about 270 discrete falls and large islands, Victoria has the largest curtain of water in the world, at over 1600m wide and over 100m in height.

Posted by The Pratts 11:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Estancia Los Potreros

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Our 3 nights at the Estancia were heaven. It was even better then I had imagined!

Estancia Los Potreros is a 6,000-acre working cattle farm on the top of the "Sierras Chicas". It has remained in the same Anglo-Argentine family for four generations. When we met Kevin we all thought he was joking around with his very proper english accent, but he wasn't. Kevin was educated and then lived in the UK for most of his "professional" career. In 2001 he moved back to the family ranch and started a business with tourists.

When we first arrived we were greeted by several people, including Kevin, wearing berets! We thought we had arrived in France by accident. However gauchos in Argentina wear berets or Boina as they call them. After the introductions we were served tea and biscuits, so very Argentinian!

The first night we had a wine tasting session. We had 4 wines to try and each tasting was a full glass. After the wine tasting Kevin left us a few boxes of wine to help the evening go by. I slept very well in the tent that night, but didn't feel so great in the morning.

The next morning we were introduced to our horses and the beginners were taught the basics (walk, turn, stop!). My horse was a Paso Peruanos and was called Chocolate. He was wonderful, but I did get a little bored because he was so perfectly behaved! Chris's horse was a classic looking polo pony and she had a whole heap of hormonal issues. I have never seen a horse flatten her ears so close to her head. However mean she was to the other horses, she looked after Chris and they had a lot of fun. The day's ride was along very, very rugged terrain to a waterfall. The views along the way were stunning and the sun was out. We had a picnic lunch at the water fall and then rode home. In the evening we had some locals come and perform some traditional Argentinian music. Kevin also very kindly dropped off a few more boxes of wine for us. I stayed alcohol free that night!

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The next day was more riding. I had requested a slightly more lively horse and was given Barry. Barry was Chocolate's brother and it was quite shocking to find out that Chocolate was the farm stallion for a few years before he was cut. Nothing stallion like about him now! Barry was a cheeky chap, not naughty just like to challenge now and then. We had an amazing ride, I would have taken him home if I could. Chris stayed on the same horse. She was in a slightly better mood, possibly. The terrain was even more challanging in places and it really was amazing what the horses went across without even a trip. We rode to the top of the Sierras Chicas and had an amazing view of the Estancia and Cordoba town.

The final afternoon and evening consisted of a lassoing competition and an Asado cooked by the Gauchos. Chris won the lassoing competition - showing himself as a natural gaucho. The Asado was truly amazing. The beef was so tasty and Kevin had given us a few more boxes of wine. There wasn't a huge amount of moderation that evening.

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We had an early start on Wednesday, leaving as soon as it got light at 7.40am. The road to the Estancia was long and winding and the crew didn't fancy negotiating Carmen down the road in the dark and the passengers were very happy with this decision.

It was very sad to leave the Estancia. I would have liked another couple of days or weeks.

We are having an uploading issue on this site at the moment, so photos can be viewed following this link - Estancia photos

Posted by The Pratts 10:32 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Córdoba

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After a long day of driving yesterday (700km), we are now in Córdoba.

Apparently, Córdoba has been Argentina's third most important city since the end of the 16th century, and the second industrial centre in the country. It is at the foot hills of the Sierra Chicas Mountains.

We camped at a municipal campsite last night. It was a large, well equiped (apart from the cold showers) camping facility in the centre of Córdoba. It is much warmer now and the layers of thermals and Alpaca jumpers have been shed. We are now walking around in t-shirts. This makes camping so much more enjoyable. It is only going to get warmer as we continue to head Northwards.

Today is a Sunday and Córdoba is very quiet with nearly every shop shut! We have managed to see where a friend from Dallas was baptised (she is Argentinian) and are hoping to eat lunch at a resturant she recomended. A little later we head to the Estancia for wine tasting, horse riding and Asado (BBQ).

I am very proud to say I got up early this morning and went for a run with two other Dragoman passengers. It felt great to be out on the road again and to start the long journey of burning off some of the steak and Dulche de Leche I have eaten over the past few weeks. We plan on making the run a daily thing, where possible.

Posted by The Pratts 08:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Life on Carmen

Overlanding

-17 °C

I thought I'd take a little time to explain how life on Carmen works as we will be spending the next 13 days living off Carmen!

Carmen is a purpose built truck (she runs on Q plates). She has everything we need locked away in one of her many compartments. There are tents, cooking equipment, utensils, places for food (including a fridge), locker for our backpacks, water tank for drinking water etc. All this is accessed away from the sitting, travelling part of the truck.

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There are several tasks distributed amongst the passangers to make sure Carmen stays functioning well (the drivers do the mechanics). Jobs consist of cleaning inside, cleaning windows, keeping bins tidy (we recycle cans and plastic bottles), keeping fridge tidy, putting bags on and off the truck (AKA back locker) etc.

On a morning that we are leaving a place we wll be given a leaving time and a back locker time. Our bags have to be at the back locker (where bags go) by the back locker time. 3 people who have been allocated the job of back locker, then load the bags on to the truck. Often back locker time is very early and it is still dark. Tomorrow it is 6.45am, but we are leaving from a hotel so it isn't too bad. The real killer is a camp day when you have to be up, tent down and had breakfast by 6.45, when it is dark and cold outside.

If we have long drive days we have lunch on the side of the road. We pull into a layby or park and cook group sets up lunch. Sandwiches, salad, scrambled eggs, for example.

If we are camping, we cook dinner at the campsite.

Cooking (breakfast, lunch, dinner) is done by cook groups. There are 4-5 people in a cook group and there are 4 cook groups. The drivers/crew work out a roster so we know when we are cooking. Cook groups are responsible for deciding what to cook, shopping and cooking. In Argentina, there is a per person budget (in US$) of 50 cents for breakfast, $2 for lunch and $2.50 for dinner. There are 20 people to cook for. It has been a great experience, working in a group of strangers (they split couples and friends up for cook groups), shopping for 20 people with a strict budget in a strange country and then cooking over a 4 ring gas stove in the desert, woods etc. So far there have been no disasters and everything has been edible.

Everyone is responsible for their own washing up, but the passangers all work together on this.

The tents on Carmen are simple 2 man dome tents. They are easy to put up and no frills. Chris and I have our Therm-a-rests, warm sleepng bags (Dad: Chris loves the bag he borrowed from you) and a fleece blanket we purchased in La Paz. Sleeping in thermals we haven't been cold yet.

If we are lucky we will camp at a proper camp site and it will have warm showers. But sometimes there are no campgrounds and we just make a clearing/beach/ side of the road -somewhere to call home for the night.

I love the camping and cook group part of the trip. It adds to the adventure and allows us to get to parts most tourists don't.

Posted by The Pratts 09:48 Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

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From Puerto Madryn, we travelled for 2 days to Buenos Aires. We spent a night bush camping as there isn't a whole lot between Puerto Madryn and Buenos Aires. I was on cook group (see post Life on Carmen) that night and we managed to cook up what I think is the best meal yet. We had a sausage and pumpkin stew and meringues, Dulce de Leche and whipped cream. It was yummy.

So, Buenos Aires. This is a very vibrant, energetic city, very well developed and first world. The city is the capital of Argentina and is divided into 48 Barrios (neighbourhoods). We are staying in the Central Barrios (Microcentro) on Ave. Mayo near plaza de Mayo.

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We got here on Tuesday night and after dropping off our bags we headed out for some food. What else can you eat in Buenos Aires but steak? A group of us ended up at a restaurant in San Telmo (just South of the Microcentro). The steak was amazing and the red wine was ok.

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Wednesday we got up early and had breakfast at a famous cafe called "Cafe Tortoni".

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The cafe is 100 years old and claims to be the oldest cafe in Argentina. It has very high ceilings and amazing paintings on glass in the ceilings. The house special breakfast is Hot Chocolate with 3 Churros (long thin doughnuts!). We thought this was a little indulgent so we opted for coffee, toast, dulche de leche and one Churros for a taste. Churros are yummy.

The rest of the day was spent walking around. Our main focus was around San Telmo, one of the oldest and best preserved Barrios in Buenos Aires. The area is full of antiques, arts and crafts on cobbled, tree-lined streets.

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We grabbed a take away lunch of steak sandwich from the same place we dined at the night before.

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Late afternoon we headed to the North of the Microcentro for some shopping. I purchased some running stuff as I am rapidly getting wider from all the steak and Dulce de Leche. I also got an Alpaca Poncho and Chris got a lovely fleece as his other warm top shrunk at the laundry!

Thursday we got up, had breakfast at Cafe Tortoni again (with just one Churros each, this time) and headed off to Recoleta. This area has a French architecture-style and is known for its squares, parks, cafés, galleries and the Recoleta Cemetery. The Cemetery includes graves of some of the most influential and important people of Argentina, including several presidents, scientists, and wealthy characters. Internationally, Eva Perón's grave is the most famous and the biggest tourist draw. When I say grave, I don´t mean grave like we have back home. Chris and I were very shocked by the opulance and grandure of the graves or mausoleums in the Recoleta Cemetery. I think the photos explain why.

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After the Cemetery we went for a walk around the neighbourhood. We saw professional dog walkers walking 12+ dogs at one time. We saw the Engineering and Law schools and the Floralis Genérica, located in United Nations Park. The metallic petals open and close based on the brightness of the sun.

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We also had a coffee at La Biela, a to-be-seen in cafe apparently!

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In the evening we went to a Tango show at Cafe Tortoni (I now have the t-shirt!). The show lasted 1.5 hours and was a good cultural experience. We understood very little of what was said and sung and compared it to going to see opera in Italian. The dancing was amazing. I have no idea how they dance like that - all hips and legs!

I have loved Buenos Aires and that has sealed my adoration for Argentina. This country is by far the best place I have vistied in a long time. I say I, not we, as although Chris really likes it here, the clincher for me is the horse culture. What other country can you buy saddles, bridles, saddle cloths, etc. in the middle of the capital city?
Steak, wine, Dulche de Leche and horses.... dreamy.

Today is our last day in Buenos Aires before heading to Cordoba and 3 days at an Estancia (http://www.ride-americas.com/) for wine tasting, horse riding and ranch skills, like lassoing.

From now till we get to Rio we have a lot of camping. In fact our itinerary shows every day as a camping day for the 13 nights before getting to Rio!! From the Estancia we head to the Iguazu falls and cross into Brazil from there. We are not sure if we will have any access to the internet during this time, so if you don´t hear from us for 14 days we probably haven't been eaten by Puma, Indians or Condor, or fallen into the Iguazu falls, we are just enjoying the outdoor life!

Posted by The Pratts 08:52 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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