Having arrived in Buenos Aires awaiting the arrival of our truck/motorhome Our 3 year South America adventure has started. Time flies and after 7 years of travel Covering Africa/South East Asia/Russia Middle East and Stan Countries we left Egypt in Nov 2016 and are now ready for a 3 year South America adventure.
A country situated in South America covering most of the southern portion of the continent. It’s the world’s eighth largest country.
The 70’s was a period of military dictatorship during which thousands of alleged dissidents disappeared, or were murdered. After this period they went through the disastrous Falklands Islands War of 1982, when Argentina invaded the South Atlantic islands and claimed it as its own but was defeated by British forces in a short bloody campaign. This led to the fall of the military dictatorship and democratic rule was re-introduced.
Due to Argentina’s production of livestock and cereals, it was once ranked among the world’s wealthiest nations. Much of this agricultural activity is set in the Pampas rich grasslands that were once the domain of nomadic Native Americans, followed by rough-riding gauchos.
Argentina is a largely urban country. Buenos Aires, the national capital, has sprawled across the eastern Pampas with its ring of modern, bustling suburbs. It is among South America’s most cosmopolitan and crowded cities.
Our ship is a few days delayed but we are enjoying the city. Buenos Aires also known as the Paris of the South did not disappoint, the night life is superb, day time markets are lively and interesting, steaks are huge and 500g is considered small. Old worlds blend with new in Buenos Aires, our favourite suburbs so far are Palermo, San Telmo and La Boca. We love the cobblestoned streets lined with adorable cafés and boutiques. The Argentine capital’s French buildings and Spanish nightlife also tell the story of a city with one foot in Latin America and the other in Europe.
Must do sightseeing in Buenos Aires:
The Recoleta Cemetery: This is the cemetery of the rich and famous in Buenos Aires, almost a city unto itself, with rows upon rows of impressive tombs and statues. At this cemetery, you will find the graves of Eva Peron and of many other famous people, including numerous presidents. There are 4591 vaults in this cemetery, all above the ground. Ninety-four of these vaults are National Historical Monuments and are under state protection.
The plaza de Mayo during our visit was heavily fenced. Many buildings representing city landmarks and seats of government are located around Plaza de Mayo. One of the reasons for our visit to the Plaza de Mayo was to see the Madres de La Plaza or Mothers of May Square. These are women whose children have ‘disappeared’ during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. The mothers demanded to know where their children were and began to march around the May Pyramid in the middle of the square wearing white handkerchiefs with their children’s names embroidered on them. The weekly marches started in 1977 and continue every Thursday afternoon. Not many Mothers who started this movement have survived and many of those who are alive face constant health issues because of their age. With their white headscarves, the group has, over the years, become known around the world. We were told more than 30,000 people were kidnapped and murdered during this time by extremist right-wing groups or the military government that seized power in a coup in 1976.
La Boca, quite possibly the biggest mainstream tourist hotspot in Buenos Aires. The colorful Caminito street in the otherwise run down barrio of La Boca has a reputation of being commercial, touristy, tacky, tango rubbish by locals and travel guides alike. Caminito is often translated: little walkway and it is little! At less than 100 meters long it is never going to win any awards. But Buenos Aires claims them already in other areas: The Avenida 9 de Julio for world’s widest street and Avenida Rivadavia for the world’s longest. However, Caminito in my book won the award for the greatest concentration of Japanese tourists per square meter.
TANGO, we loved the many dancers around Buenos Aires in the form of street performers, tango dancers and musicians, tango music coming from bars and restaurants and squares, most memorable at the San Telmo markets. Our visit was during the soccer superclassical at the Stadium La Bombonera where on the day the clash of enemies Boca Juniors and River Plate took place. 85000 people inside the stadium and I think 100000 outside the stadium, River Plata won 3-1.
San Telmo: We preferred this suburb above all others. It has history, beauty, ugliness, life, decay, great food, tango, great restaurants, bars, and live music. It’s not as smart as Palermo, or as plush as Recoleta, but for us it was the best.
We picked up our truck from Zarate. (many thanks Weber Agencies). It supposed to take 2 days for customs clearance, however Francesco organized all in 1 day. (I may add 13 hours all up and 3 trips between Zarate and Campana to different offices). Great company, great service. I should also mention Belgaco shipping and Steven Van Buynderen for following up and ensuring all went well from the European site.
BUENOS AIRES TO BORDER BRASIL (The Long Way Round)
Our first stop was Andean Motorhomes in Ricardo Rojas. Very friendly and helpful owners who are in the business of renting out motorhomes. We found a spot next to the workshop and got our truck ready for our next stage of our around the world trip. I may add his mechanic must be the world’s most expensive at 150USD per hour just for labour only. He did a good job though and when we had some further issues the following day 45km out of Zarate he came out to fix it (he forgot a few things……)
After we left Buenos Aires our first stop was Rosario.
Rosario is famous for being the birthplace of Che Guevara, Lionel Messi and the nation’s flag. The apartment where Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was born in the central district of the city is now privately owned, so we could not visit his house. In Rosario, a law has passed preventing parents from naming their children after the famous Football star.
Overnight we stayed in Santo Tome just south of Santa Fe in a small park/reserve in a very nice neighbourhood. we visited Santa Fe which lies on the Parana River in the North East of Argentina. (The Parana River and the Uruguay river are besides the Amazon River the 2 most important rivers on the American continent). Its port, modernized for oceangoing vessels, is one of the most inland seaports in the world nearly 400 km from the Atlantic Ocean (Rio de la Plata). The port looks after the import/Export of Bolivia, Paraguay as well as Argentina.
As we travelled further North the landscape became more subtropical with marshes, tall savannas and woodland. Once we arrived in Corrientes we entered a region known as Argentine Mesopotamia, a low-lying subtropical province of plains, channels, lakes, and marshes ascending to slightly higher elevations in the east. A real feature is the expansive Iberá wetlands area (Esteros del Iberá) in the north-central part of the province. The Esteros del Iberia was not in our plan for this trip but due to a collapsed bridge we had to make a 400km detour and crossed this area. Covering 13000sq km, they are the most important wetlands in Argentina and are temporarily or permanently flooded, depending on the location. The Iberá Wetlands are just as rich as the better-known Pantanal in Brazil. About 300 bird species, 85 species of mammals, 45 species of amphibians and 35 species of reptiles are living here, which account for almost one third of the biodiversity of the country. Among the species are the swamp deer, the capybara, the biggest rodent of the world, adults measure 47 inches and weigh 110 pounds; the caiman, the black howler monkey (you can hear him 3 km away who lives in trees), the maned wolf, the pampa deer, the giant anteaters, the yellow anaconda or curiyú (the biggest snake in Argentina) and another snake the yarará, a very venomous and dangerous viper whose size can reach 67 inches. And last but not the least the piranha. This is also the land of the Gaucho’s; they look after the cattle in vast pastures, moving the herds between the ponds and the lagoons seeking for dried lands. We planned to meet up with Atte and Marijke (also world travelers). We spend a great night chatting with them before they drove to Uruguay. The last 2 weeks we spent driving between 3 great rivers: The Parana river, the second longest river after the Amazon River, the Uruguay River and the Upper Parana river. Our final stop in Argentina this trip were the Iguazu Falls. The Iguazu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River located on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. This system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 kilometers (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 meters in height, though the majority are about 64 meters.
The Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish) are a U-shaped, 82-meter-high, 150-meter-wide and 700-meter-long cataract, for us the most impressive of all. Iguazu currently has the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world. The water falling over Iguazu in peak flow has a surface area of about 40 Hectares. It is taller than the Niagara Falls and twice as wide. It is considered the most beautiful waterfall in the world, and is mentioned as one of the seven wonders of nature. It is the sixth largest waterfall in the world by mean annual flow rate. (Niagara Falls in North America is fifth on the list). It marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. Two thirds of the falls are within Argentine territory. The other third is in Brazil which we will explore next week when we enter Brazil.