South America | Argentina – Vacation part 2:Mendoza and Iguazu
Trisha and I were off to Mendoza! Mendoza is wine country, almost 1000 estates in the province, and where several of my friends had gone to white water raft on the Rio Mendoza.
Busses in Argentina are two stories. We picked two seats on the second story, all the way in front. It was like having a giant windshield in front of you. We also had very wide, comfortable seats, and were served dinner, wine, and got to watch movies. The attendent even led us in a game of BINGO to kill sometime on the 12 hour ride. So we played BINGO and Trisha won! She won a bottle of wine. We watched to sunset, and then it was dark, so we didnt have much of a view. I slept pretty comfortably that night. We awoke and were served breakfast, just like on a plane, and in the early morning, rolled into Mendoza, and I got my first views of the beautiful Andes mountain range!
We already had reservations at Hostel Independencia, a nice hostel. We rested and did errands that morning, and went on a wine tour in the afternoon. We toured two estates, Bandron and Weinert.
The next day, Tuesday, we went rafting on the Rio Mendoza. It was fun, very cold, and class III rapids, so no really scary stuff, just fun. I was happy to run into friends I had rafted with in Colorado, Gabriel and Silvio.
At the Hostel, a German girl was telling us how she had visited a town four hours from Mendoza. She said it was way up, it really felt like you were in the Andes, as opposed to Mendoza, which is really at the base of the foothills. We decided on an impulse to do it, and left the next morning.
The bus strained for four hours to climb into the mountains, and finally dropped us off at Puente del Inca at 9000 feet (cold!). It means Incan Bridge, and is named after the natural geographic formation of a giant arch over a raging river below. The rock is bright yellow, the mountains are close and grey, the sky bright blue. It was a beautiful sight. We checked into the only hostel in town, Refugio, where 2 nice couples from France and David, from San Fransisco were staying.
Besides the incredible scenery, Puente del Inca is known for its hot springs, which were unfortunately closed when we arrived. Not to fear, the hostel owner offered to sneak us over at night, just as the German girl said he did for thier group. It got dark, and freezing cold. There was snow here! What were we doing? Trisha and I are Panamanian, tropical girls! We were dying of the cold, altho David, who had been living in Patagonia, thought it wasnt so bad. When the owner appeared, we mustered our strength, and trekked to the hot springs. Since we were sneaking in, we couldn’t use flashlights. We crawled over a locked fence and crossed the natural rock bridge over the river far below. The we circled around and descended a long series of steps, here we were actually stepping in slushy snow in our flip flops. But we made it to the hot springs, and once in was wonderful. They were actually enclosed now in a old room that is part of a mining building. So we enjoyed ourselves there for a while, before practically running the whole cold way back to the hostel. There were not many people in the hostel, so I slept under as many blankets as I could get my hands on.
Trisha woke me up Thursday morning, altho I wanted to keep sleeping. She was right, tho. We were a 2 km hike from viewing Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, the highest point outside of the Himalayas, at 6962 m, also a mountain my brother climbed a few years back. It was an easy walk up the highway, where we came within 13 km of Chile. Then we caught the bus back to Mendoza. Two young parents were sitting on the bus behind us, with a baby girl. They were teaching her to say “chao montanas!” Goodbye mountains! Trisha and I were also leaving the mountains. We were on our way to the jungle, to Igazu Falls, huge waterfalls bigger than Niagra, on the border of Brazil and Argentina. Chao Montanas!
Back in Mendoza, the wonderful Hostel Independencia let us hang out there all day before we got on the bus for Iguazu. We boarded at 9pm Thursday evening the 10th, again sitting up front on the second story. This was to be the bad bus ride, 36 hours. It probably could have gotten there much quicker, only it stopped in every town along the way, making it hard to sleep. That, and the seats werent at comfortable. But we were served all meals, and there were tons of movies. We stretched when we could, made it thru the second night, altho Trisha got a little sick, we were finally in Puerto de Iguazu, Argentina on Saturday morning.
It was a cute little town, altho touristy. We made a classic mistake of not going to the nice hostel we had heard about, but went with some guy advertising his hostel, Camino Correos, at the bus station. We ended up staying there, but I would recommend going elsewhere. Sunday, Trisha and I toured the Argentinian side of the falls. The views were spectacular. Every great thing said about the falls is true. We did the Senderos Superior and Inferior, the upper and lower walkways. Other sections were closed that day due to high water. And we took a motor boat ride that takes you right up to waterfalls, where you are getting drenched by water and spray. We also did the Sendero Macuco, a trail to a small waterfall with pool at the bottom to swim in. On the trail we saw blue morpho butterflies, coatis, monkeys, even tucans! Trisha and I had our last dinner in Argentina that night. Chao Argentina!
We crossed to the Brazilian side to Foz do Iguazu, Brazil, with an Isreali guy, and on Monday, toured the Brazilian side of the waterfalls. Again, everything says you have to see both sides, and you have to spend a day on each to do them justice, and again, they are absolutely right. The Brazilian side blew us away as well. The walkways on this side go over the falls, and so close you are getting soaked with water. The Garganta del Diabo is a certain waterfall with more water plummeting off than can be believed. There was toursity things to do, like raft or take a jeep ride or rappel. Oh well, I’m a tourist, I thought, and did the rappeling down into the canyon. I was thinking it was fun, lovely views, but a pretty short ride and probably not worth the money. But then this Orlando Bloom lookalike caught me at the bottom, and changed my mind about it.
We got on the bus for the last time that night, we had a 24 hour bus ride to Rio de Janiero. 24 hours seemed like nothing after the 36 from Mendoza to here. After this bus ride, we had a whole week in Rio!