Back to Argentina we go!
The flight from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina was quick and easy. We arrived at 7pm on March 18th, 2013 and grabbed a taxi to our pre-booked Hostel Suites Palermo. There are so many wonderful regions of Buenos Aires to stay in. But after a lot of research, we determined Palermo, the very artsy, full of nightlife suburb was the best for us! Our hostel was really nice, safe, full of amenities, and within walking distance to all Palermo had to offer. We paid $59.24 US for a double private room. We dropped our luggage, grabbed a quick bite to eat and jumped in bed. The next day we explored Palermo, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our best friend Mikey from Santa Barbara and his friend Ernie, who had never traveled outside the United States before.
Instantly, we realized Buenos Aires was a lot more like Italy than we ever imagined. Pasta and pizza were on every corner. Even the mannerisms and dialect of the locals were similar. I minored in Italian at University and spent 3 months in Italy when I was 20/21, so Italy has always had a place in my heart. I instantly felt at home here. That night we took the subway from Palermo to the center of Buenos Aires to meet the boys at their hotel. For their first few nights, they chose a very fancy hotel to stay in. If we we’re only traveling for two weeks, we would be living it up as well! As soon as they got out of the taxi, we spotted them, snuck up behind them and gave them a big surprising hug.
We lounged in their massive Presidential suite, while the boys showered and unpacked. By the time the boys were ready it was midnight. Luckily most places are open 24 hours in this fabulous city, so picking the best one for dinner and drinks was our only difficulty. Soon enough we decided on pizza and beer! I ordered a La Penguina vino blanco. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but it was only $5, so I went for it. They brought the boys their liter beers and brought me a large porcelain carafe of white wine in the shape of a penguin. We all had a good laugh. By the end of dinner, it was around 2am and we we’re all exhausted. The boys retreated to their room and Abe and I waited for a bus back to Palermo since the subway system had already closed. The once bustling city was now empty leaving Abe and I only hoping that a bus would come by. Eventually, we were in luck and made it to bed just after 3am.
We spent the next day exploring the city with the boys. Then looking into renting a car to drive the 17 hours north to Iguazu Falls, which is located in the northeastern corner of Argentina boarding Brazil. After a couple hours of walking, the rain began to fall and finding the car rental company posed a little tricky even with our google maps app. After walking around the block a few times, we realized we had already walked past it. We were all a little flustered and very wet so we darted into the office as quickly as we could. All they had left was a little compact car, which is a tight squeeze for the big boys and all our luggage. But we made it work! The next morning we hit the road for our first driving experience in Argentina. We didn’t know where we would end up the first night, but that was part of the adventure.
Since we were all tired and ready for dinner, we decided on the small Brazil bordered town of Paso de los Libres. After driving in circles and asking for directions we eventually found the Lonely Planet recommendation, Hotel Vegas. Since it was only for one night, we all decided to share a room, which included one queen bed and 2 twins, for $80/night. After dropping our luggage and refreshing ourselves, we drove down to the city center for a simple dinner and beers. Sharing a room that night became a huge mistake. Bless his heart, but Ernie snored louder than any person I have ever met. Abe and I tried to sleep with our headphones and music turned up, but nothing could cover up the sound. I had to keep waking him up gently, so we would have a chance to fall asleep. But even easy going Abe hit his limit and smacked him. Poor guy. None of us slept much that night.
A little cranky, but excited for the waterfalls, we got back on the road. The very happening hostel on the main street was all booked out, so we found a spot a few blocks away and booked in for 3 nights. This time we got our own rooms at $60/night, but could still hear our lovely friend through the wall. Doh! We all had a good laugh.
The next morning we piled back in the car and drove to the beautiful Iguazu Falls. The park is lined with multiple walk-ways to see the falls from different angles. The Iguazu river mostly flows through Brazil, however 80% of the Iguazu falls lies on the Argentinian side. Numerous Islands along the 1.7 mile long edge divides the falls into many separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 200-270 feet high. About half of the river’s flow falls into a long and narrow chasm called the Devils Throat.
When we arrived we analyzed the map and decided we would walk as much of the park as possible. So rather than taking the trolley, we walked along the dirt road to the falls. Along this road, we waved hello to all the people riding the trolley. But once silence fell upon us we were surrounded by butterflies the entire way. It was magical. We explored the different pathways enjoying a lunch overlooking the falls. But we had to be quick as there were many pesky monkeys ready and waiting to steal anything they could get their paws on. Once we got to the Devil’s Throat we could see many tourists admiring the opposite view from Brazil. So we kind of feel like we got to see Brazil as well! We all took turns getting soaked by the back spray of the spectacular Garganta del Diablo and took in the spiritual presence of this epic natural wonder. The long drive was well worth it!
That night and the next day we explored this touristy town before heading back to Buenos Aires. We were all feeling happy and full-filled by our Iguazu Falls experience until we took a wrong turn on the road back to BA. Due to this misfortune, we found ourselves driving through a random checkpoint. We handed them all the paperwork the rental company had given us, but for some reason it wasn’t enough. There was an insurance page we were still missing. They made us pull over to the side and refused to let us drive anywhere until we produced this document. Of course the only pay phone in the vicinity was disconnected and they wouldn’t let us use their cell phones to call the rental agency. After over an hour of Mikey and Abe trying to convince them to let us go and Ernie and I searching the car and all our bags, we discovered that in our very flustered state when we picked up the car we didn’t ask for the rental receipt. We were devastated as the officers told us the only way we could leave was if we paid them an obscene amount of money. We soon realized this was a shady shake down. Luckily, Abe is fluent in Spanish so he was able to negotiate them down to a few hundred dollars. When Abe and Mikey asked for a receipt the officer became angry, shuffled around some papers in his desk drawer and eventually handed them one. But after looking at it, the vehicle mentioned on the receipt was for a large truck. Yep, that $200 went straight into the guys pocket. Another travel lesson learned!
After that experience, we were all a little mad and discouraged so we decided to just drive straight back to Buenos Aires without stopping. We still had another week of adventure in Buenos Aires and couldn’t wait to get back.
Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls Argentina