A Travellerspoint blog

Taking a shower

Iguazu

rain 24 °C

I don’t think I have had a shower quite like this one. It was with a whole lot of other people, young, old, male and females. Kind of like a group shower, with everyone having a good time, making funny noises, taking pictures and getting really, really wet. And everything happened in a boat. I think when we were told to enjoy our shower, we all did just that.

The rain was gently drizzling down through the cloudy skies with a hopeful sun behind the overcast sky. It didn’t seem to deter the sheer mass of people that were already queuing up behind the counter and passing through the gates at the park. I think that’s the only reason people would be here in Puerto Iguazu in the first place. There was hardly anything in town worth visiting and the only thing that stood out the most were the streets covered in mud that did not seem to go away no matter how much rain tried to wash it away. The vehicles on the street were no different, covered with the same red dust and mud that tainted the town. It looked like the sort of jungle town one would expect from a place so far out and that had a gigantic waterfall about half an hour away.

The rain cleared up by the time we got to the park but the sun was still overshadowed by the grey clouds. We paid for the additional park attractions on top of the already costly entrance fee that would take us for a raft ride down the river, a jungle lorry ride and the main attraction which is the speedboat to the bottom of the waterfalls. After getting the information we needed we made our way to what many would say the main attraction of the falls, the Devils Throat or the Garganta del Diablo. We walked along the rusty metal walkways, across the many rivers and jungles on either side stopping only to catch a glimpse of any wildlife we encountered.
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We could already hear the thundering roar of the Devil’s throat before we reached the viewing area. Water vapour spewed up from the gigantic waterfall, speckling us with misty wisps of water as if it were a geyser. The crashing sound of the waterfall echoed torrents of water being poured into the river below. You could not see the water below as the force of the water crashing down enveloped the entire area with water mist. We marvelled at nature’s beauty and fury until we had to head back to start our Gran Adventura package.

Instead of taking the small train we took to get to the Devil’s Throat, we had a raft ride arranged for us at the entrance to the Devil’s throat. The life jackets we were given to put on smelled like damp sweat and water. I could barely put up with the smell throughout the cruise along the river which took us and 6 other people, through the nooks and crannies of the river while the guide would go on in Spanish about the wildlife and many other things I did not understand. It was not the most exciting river cruise but we could see the edge of the falls at the Devil’s Throat from a short distance away while on the raft.

We finally arrived at a clearing in the river bank, where a buggy would take us to the next area to wait for our adventure through the jungle. We were early and killed some time checking out the small kiosks and souvenir shops around the area. When the time came, we got on to the kind of trucks that you could imagine carrying refugees or militia across the borders. We packed ourselves in with a large number of other people and headed off into the jungle. The guide on the truck was again feeding us with information about the jungle but this time we had and English version as well. The ride was again, not spectacular. I mean, how amazing could a drive through a muddy road in a jungle be? We quickly passed trees, more trees and even more trees which had HUGE spider webs which sparkled in the sun light. That was the only thing we were able to see, spiders and webs. Although we were quite lucky as when the journey kicked off, we were able to see a toucan fly overhead and it is a rare sight as they are hard to spot and even harder to be seen flying around at that time through the heavily used path.

We alighted off at the highlight of the tour which is the speedboat. I think this is what most people were here to see anyway. You really could not take pictures of anything else, there was really nothing worth taking on the tour so far. We were given waterproof bags and life jackets as everyone scrambled into the speedboat. The engine roared and we were blitzing along the river, towering cliffs and jungles on both sides. Small waterfalls and flocks of condors could be seen flying above the cliff face on some parts as the boat kept course towards the center of the waterfalls. After a speedy ride we were ready for our shower. The driver and the cameraman donned their ponchos as the boat edged closer to the falls. Pellets of water shot in on my face and body as we were beside the falls. The boat rocked back and forth with the water being churned by the falls. People were cheering as the boat made a second round. Justin was filming with my Ixus camera but after that, my camera died for good. I’ll have to ask him to compensate for that soon. Even so, he managed to film the falls up close and it was a pretty cool video. The boat then headed for the other waterfall behind it and did the same thing. It was a good shower.
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After being dropped off on dry land again, we continued around the park to the other lookouts to check out more of the amazing views and to see the waterfall from different perspectives while also taking more pictures. While we were finishing up all the different viewing platforms, on the final lookout, we saw the most extraordinary event take place, a small snake had caught a frog in its fangs and was trying to finish off the frog. It was like watching real time national geographic, as hordes of people were crowding around to observe the spectacle. A torrential rain had started pouring down but the people still gathered. The snake was pulling the frog upwards towards the tree while the frog was clinging on to the branches for its dear life, its lower body almost ripped off by the snake. It let out cries of help and agony as the snake gave a tug upwards and as his grip was slowly slipping but no one came to his rescue. I suppose you must leave nature along its path.

The raindrops struck my bare skin as we hurried back to the entrance. There was no shelter and we had a long walk in the heavy rain. I was lucky to have thought of bringing a plastic bag for such an occasion to cover my backpack. Justin was not so lucky. By the time the rain stopped and we arrived at the entrance, his bag was soaked and his phone did not survive the rain. I think I had one too many showers that day.

Posted by dmak 09.03.2011 06:50 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

So many things, So little time

Its been awhile

rain

Maintaining a blog is really not easy, especially when you have things to write but so little time. Its been awhile since I have been able to update in real time at the place I am currently at. I feel like I would be missing out so much details trying to remember all the experiences i have seen and the friends that I have sat down and had a couple of beers with.

Today I am in Rio already and have done so much here but I have not even written down the stories in Puerto Iguasu where I was blown away by the sheer grandeur and power of the mighty waterfall or getting bitten by bugs and mosquitos on the long bus ride to Sao Paulo and seeing Sao Paulo get drenched in rain and flood while enjoying the hospitality of my couchsurf host. And now, after staying in a favela in Rio, it seems that I will never get everything down before the next adventure as I write this post in the dark at my hostel while everyone is asleep. Bom noite

Posted by dmak 02.03.2011 20:40 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rush Hour

The wheels of the bus go round and round

overcast

I checked my watch and looked up at the line in the airport in front of me. The entire airport at El Calafate was basically a queue waiting to check in. I was tempted to quietly ninja my way into the queue to quickly check in as I was worried my flight back to Buenos Aires would have left by the time I checked in. My flight was scheduled to take off at 1220hrs and it was already 1130hrs.

When I reached the check in counter I was greeted with the most worrisome news. The flight was ‘overbooked’. That’s what the airline would tell you if they have already given your seat away to someone who has already checked in before you. I tried to ask for a change of flight at about the same time but EVERY flight was full. Justin’s flight had already been delayed but he managed to get his ticket. He was supposed to leave earlier at 1130hrs but got delayed till 1300hrs. I just had to wait to see if there was a seat available on the flight. A couple of other people were also waiting for a seat on the flight as well. I HAD to catch this flight because any later, and I would miss the bus to Puerto Iguazu which was already booked for later that evening at 1900hrs. This was really playing it close to the chest.

I loitered around the check in counter as to be seen and was getting nervous as it was already 1215hrs. I was about to give up hope when the lady at the counter called my name. What a sense of relief!! I quickly got my tickets and rushed to the gate. When I got into the plane I realized I got upgraded to a business class seat of sorts. No special perks, just a bigger seat, but it felt good.

The plane departed late, typical of most Aerolineas services. I arrived at Buenos Aires an hour before Justin. I anxiously waited at the baggage claim for my bag because my bag had not arrived when I went to El Calafate and I was worried it would happen again. The wait felt like forever and it made me appreciate the Malaysian airports efficiency compared to here. As soon as I got my bag, I looked around for a taxi to the city center to take our bus from the station. When Justin arrived, he wanted to buy an English-Spanish dictionary for his long bus trips and also for the Spanish classes he will be continuing next week. We took the taxi to a bookstore in the city, bought the book and took the subway to the bus station at Retiro.

The station was packed with people waiting to board their buses or queuing up to buy tickets. The ticket counters stretched endlessly, more than a 100 ticket counters from different companies. After buying our tickets, so began another anxious wait for the bus to arrive as the information given to us to wait from platforms 37 to 55 seemed a little bit vague. We kept walking up and down the platforms and Justin was already getting antsy because we were meant to depart in a few minutes but still no sign of the bus, or we had already missed the bus. Eventually the bus arrived, late, and we were finally able to put our feet up and get a good night’s rest on the comfortable seats while we headed off for another adventure.

Posted by dmak 02.03.2011 20:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Adventures on Ice

Ice climbers!

semi-overcast

It was good to be able to talk rubbish to Justin again as we both recounted the tales that we had while I was in Torres del Paine and he was back in Buenos Aires. I cannot imagine yet what it would be travelling without a buddy when we go our own ways next week.
We had 2 days of glacier adventures in El Calafate. The first glacier we were going to visit was the Perito Moreno glacier, which was about an hour away from the town. The tour guide was explaining the glacier to us on the bus ride there but i could not recall the information that she was explaining. Basically a glacier is formed by compacted ice that flows down the mountain. It is constantly melting but as it snows, gravity pushes the snow towards the lake and that’s where it compacts again.

We national park entrance was ridiculously expensive, 100 pesos for the entry. We stopped at the pier to take a boat to see the glacier from the lake. It was quite a spectacular sight. The sheer mass of the glacier was overwhelming. It didn’t look that big from our perspective, but in fact it stretches upwards to the mountains. From our perspective, it looks like a wall of ice on a lake. Perito Moreno had 3 sides of the glacier. One was the view from the boat on one side of the lake, the other 2 views could be seen from the parks viewing platforms which is where the tour would take us.

If you are lucky, you could see ice falling off the glacier into the lake. While on the boat, we saw a huge ice block fall off the top of the glacier into the lake, the vibrations rocking the boat as the waves reached us. Bits of ice from the glacier could be seen floating around the lake.
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After the boat ride, we continued on towards the viewing area. The park is made up of walkways spanning the other 2 sides of the glacier on the adjacent hill. From here, you could see different angles of the glacier and could see it running down from the mountain above. The top of the glacier was mostly jagged edges that looked like spikes. It was possible to trek on the Perito Moreno glacier but you would have to pay a hefty fee of 650 pesos. We didn’t do it because we will be going to do another glacier hike the day after on a different glacier.
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We walked around the walkways trying to get the best angle or the best spot to catch some ice falling action. We finally settled on one area that looked to promise a lot of ice splitting action. Apparently in 2008, an ice bridge that connected the Perito Moreno glacier to the peninsula collapsed. We saw the television replays of the bridge collapsing in the café. We stood at the spot where remnants of the bridge were hoping to catch some action there. Every crack and splash made us whip out our cameras and get to our feet hoping to see a block of ice falling. It was really frustrating when you hear a crash and it wasn’t where you are standing to capture it. The ice was teasing us. We waited there for about an hour and caught some smaller ice blocks falling off the bottom of the glacier. As we decided to leave, we heard a huge crash and we turned back to only catch the ice floating in the water. It didn’t happen once but every time we turned around, we heard more cracks and crashes and we just decided to head back and not feel like complete idiots who kept sighing at each splash we didn’t catch.

Back in El Calafate, we went to a Parilla which was a grill, to eat more asado. The parilla had their lamb being slow cooked and roasted over a wood fire displayed in the window. I was pretty much their marketing gimmick to get people in. The beef Justin had was not as good as the one we had in Buenos Aires but the slow cooked lamb was pretty awesome. It was good to feel pampered with good food once in a while.
The next day we were up early to head for another glacier further up north. The Viedma glacier was not as beautiful to look at as Perito Moreno but we were here to hike up the glacier. We took a boat out to the lake and floated around the glacier to allow for some pictures and just to view the magnificent ice structure from the lake. The boat soon docked in a narrow pass between the rocks which I thought was quite skilful and scary at the same time.

We then traversed up the side of the hill through the rocky cliff side. We were told the stone there was formed by the glacier and that it was different from most stones as they were smoother and had lines made by other stones cutting and rubbing against them. I couldn’t really tell the difference from the rock only that it seemed to be shinier and glowed a faint tint of green unlike just grey and black rock.

We worked our way up the cliff till we saw ice marking the starting point for our glacier hike. We put on our crampons and clambered up on the massive ice. We finally started our walk on ice which brought us up and around the glacier. It was uphill for most of the trek but the crampons made sure we had a good grip on the ice. We saw towering ice pinnacles and walls that formed the landscape and gaped down deep chasms that stretched for miles. The ice was covered with dirt and dust from the adjacent mountains, unlike Perito Moreno where the ice looked relatively clear because the mountains were further apart. Still, it did not dull any of the glacier’s grandeur as we walked under ice bridges and alongside towering walls of ice. It was a shame as the brochure promised a walk through ice caves but we were told that the caves have collapsed already. We also saw other groups of people climbing up the ice walls with picks and ropes. It looks pretty fun but it wasn’t part of our package.
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We ended the hike with a glass of Baileys on the rocks with the ice from the glacier and started our hike down. Even if we didn’t trek up Perito Moreno, apparently the Viedma trek was much better as a Swiss couple told us that the Perito Moreno trek was more controlled and you had less freedom to move about other than your single file line you are supposed to follow. At the end of the day I wasn’t disappointed with the adventure of walking on ice. It truly was quite spectacular to just admire the beauty and the feel the glacier beneath my feet.

Posted by dmak 24.02.2011 13:44 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

The Adventurer Chronicles 4

Day 4

sunny 28 °C

20/2
I blindly groped around for my gear and clothes. Florien, a German guy that I met yesterday was also up and getting ready for our hike to the torres to catch the sunrise. It was good to have a buddy accompany me on this hike as it would be dangerous to go alone in the dark through the forest and up the mountain.

I finally got to use my headlamp which Justin had bought for me. It proved to be very useful in navigating through the darkness and keeping us on the trail. The hike would take about 2 and a half hours uphill. We could not see any of our surroundings only for the spot of light in front of me. We crossed a few bridges followed the winding trail through the forest up the mountain. There were many other hikers going up that morning as well to catch the sunrise. We were pretty fast as we realized we passed most of the groups going up. We wanted to be the first at the lookout.

Almost to the top of the mountain, we realized that we had gone off the trail. We were climbing up what seemed to be the mountain but I was questioning the difficulty of climbing up because there was no actual trail on it and it was mostly fine sand and rock. It was difficult to even get up the mountain because of the sand. Every step forward and you would slide down 3 steps backward. We finally realized we were on the wrong side when we saw the lights of the other groups going up another hill. We traversed the side of the hill, and through a small patch of woods till we finally saw a marker. What a relief! However because of that, we were not able to be the first ones at the lookout as we planned.

The end of the trail stopped at the bottom of the torres next to a lake. It was still pitch dark when we arrived. We decided to climb abit higher to get a better view of the sunrise. We clambered on a big boulder that faced the torres and could see the sunrise through the valley. It was a truly a magical sight, seeing the sun illuminate the 3 peaks with a red glow. The moon was still visible in the morning sky as the rays slowly extended down the side of the peaks. We all just stood there admiring the magic and the beauty, taking pictures and just soaking in the beginning of the brand new day. This was what I came here to see.

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After the climb back down the mountain, I bid Florian farewell as he had a long day ahead of him and wanted to start off immediately when we arrived at camp. I packed my stuff and was ready to head back down to Laguna Armaga for my bus back to El Calafate. It felt like I have been in the wilderness for a long time even though it only has been 3 nights. I took my time to reflect on my hike through the mountains and the people I have met on the lonely hike back. The day was even hotter than yesterday and the walk on the dusty road was like walking on an oven. My feet were sore and blistered after only 4 days of walking. I was thinking to myself, if I were to do this for a week, would I last? After arriving at Laguna Armaga and put down my backpack, I think I could and would do this for a week. The adventure is only as fun as the people you meet. The people I have met and talked to during the hike have been interesting and helpful, offering me food and company that I wouldn’t have lasted without them. After a final chat with a few people waiting for the bus there, my bus arrived and I departed for El Calafate with an invigorated spirit. It was good to see Justin back at the hostel when I arrived.

Posted by dmak 24.02.2011 13:15 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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