|En route to SdlV|
|Cerro de la Ventana|
A new day fully-dawned, we set off up the side of the cerro. Not a particularly difficult climb and in no way technical, but tough enough to feel like we'd worked for the wonderful vistas along the way - down over the flatlands below; reminiscent of the Peak District on an unseasonably hot summer day. Our early start also allowed us to be first on top, taking in the view through the window(or ventana)-shaped hole at the summit, with only a handful of curious llamas for company.
With a little more than a week left in what was fast becoming one of my favourite countries, we had little time to lose and set our sights on Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. I'd been exposed to the hype about this 'amazing' city as far back as Central America and hadn't yet met anyone who'd failed to be at least partly seduced by it's charms. It was high time to find out what all the fuss is about....
There's no doubt that Buenos Aires is the most striking and characterful capital city I've visited on this trip. The European influence that I mentioned in the first part of this Argentina blog really comes to the fore here; at first glance the confident porteno residents, with their designer clothes and astonishing excess of silicone enhancements, look like they'd be more at home in Madrid or Milan. But then you notice the shiny, modern, fashion-filled shopping malls, the unnecessarily large number of high-quality restaurants serving up the 'world's best' steaks accompanied by faultless, homegrown red wines, grand buildings sporting impressive colonial and neoclassical architecture, wide green open spaces filled with canoodling couples and sculpted bodies flying past on roller blades. Even the 'neglected' areas - working class neighbourhoods and dockland areas - have undergone recent renovations and hold just as much to attract the tourists. This is when you start to realise that residents of Milan and Madrid might actually aspire to live here, in Buenos Aires.
|Time to buy some new shades?|
Whatever the reason, Argentina is the only country I've visited in Latin America where it's preferable to be mistaken for an American, as bad feeling towards the Brits far outweighs that towards the Yanks (the only other place I've experienced anything like this is in the old British colony of Belize).
My rather splendid week of fun and frolics in Buenos Aires was enjoyed in the company of a great cast of characters; old faces and new. Obviously, Davy Brown and the 'Gorditas' were still with me, but we were also reunited with a full contingent of Irish lasses - Ness & Sam again, but also Zoe returning from the wilderness with a strange man in tow (apparently her long term boyfriend, but he looked very much like a local escort to the rest of us...). As if this wasn't sufficient, Remo (the Swiss Stud who joined me for Machu Picchu and Arequipa Canyon exploration in Peru - see this blog) was also in town, and somewhere along the way we picked up a charmingly mouthy Swindon girl called Sophie, and were unable to shake her off for the remainder of the week....
|Steak!!! (photo courtesy of here)|
As we neared the fifth hour of sitting and stuffing our faces like disgusting, starved pigs, the waiter (who had already made two unsuccessful attempts to slyly remove my plate from the table - "No! I'm not finished yet!") had become increasingly cold with our over-familiar party, but it was the desperate pleading look in his eyes that eventually prompted us to say, "OK, maybe it's time to leave.... we're quite full now anyway". So, out we waddled, taking extra care not to be sick on the pavement outside, feeling slightly ashamed, dirty and gluttonous, but also sated and satisfied that we'd really made the most of the famous BA steak scene.
The pumping, incessant buzz of BA's clubbing nightlife is another legendary, must-experience activity in the part of the world. It takes a couple of days to get used to going out at 2am and being called a lightweight if you return home before 9am - we were the only people in a club for two hours on our first night out because we misjudged just how late the party actually starts - and even longer is required to recover from such excursions. But, we got into the swing of things eventually. To be honest, I got into it a little too much on one night in particular, which resulted in the following two days spent sobbing in the corner of the hostel and vowing not to spend any more money for a week after realising I'd thrown $100 in one night (definitely not in line with my budget!). It was fun, though....
Nearby Palermo is another plush neighbourhood, boasting an abundance of greenery; where you'll find loved-up couples wandering hand-in-hand through the botanical gardens, along tree-lined park pathways and around the central lake, where they're joined by firm-bodied runners, cyclists and roller-bladers. This part of town became our 'hungover hangout'; somewhere we could lounge in the shade and appreciate the aforementioned firm bodies (I've learnt that it's not 'perving' if you claim to be 'people-watching').
|Palacio del Congreso|
Our final night in town was spent strolling alongside the waterside in the recently-renovated docklands area of Puerto Madera. Lined with posh restaurants, upmarket clubs and pricey apartments, somewhat reminiscent of walking along London's South Bank on a late summer evening. The perfect ending to our extended nine day stay in this unique capital city; we could easily have stayed for nine weeks.
|Under the Falls...|
We splashed out a little extra cash for a boat trip that allowed an even closer look at proceedings. Much closer than expected, in fact, as the skipper took us right under the falling water.... three times in quick succession. If we hadn't yet fully appreciated the almighty forces involved here, we certainly did after spending a few seconds pummeled by nature.
Soaked to the bone, but gurning like little kids on a rollercoaster, it was only a short skip and a jump across the border into what will be, quite unfathomably, my final country of this trip: Brazil. The depressing thought that it's all nearly over was trumped by the excitement of everything that Brazil promises to offer; especially a little something called 'Carnival', that the organisers were kind enough to schedule in synchronisation with my 25th birthday - very thoughtful of them! The final blog should be 'revealing', if nothing else....
Even more pretty pictures below! (click any photo to enlarge):
|Sierra de la Ventana lookout|
|The gang on top of a hill - SdlV|
|Early morning at the foot of Cerro de la Ventana|
|Sunrise at the foot of Cerro de la Ventana|
|Climbing Cerro de la Ventana|
|At the 'Window in the Rock'|
|Time stopped.... In Buenos Aires|
|Silhouettes at Iguazu Falls|
|The Gang at Iguazu|
|About to go under Iguazu Falls|
|Sprayback! at Iguazu Falls|
|The Power of Iguazu|
|Iguazu Falls Rainbow|
|Iguazu Falls Rainbow|