Monday 7th November
Mileage - 625kms 403 miles
Up at 7am for breakfast of couple of dodgey buns and coffee before the off.
Much better weather thank goodness. Although this place was a little rough round the edges,and didn't really have many redeeming features it did offer us rest and respite from some awful rain so we should be grateful for small mercies I guess.
It also gave us time to explore a little of the local way of life. Few shady characters around, but no different to home from that perspective. The evening seems tobe cruise time, everyone and their parent put around very slowly, like a evening stroll, but by car. One or two interesting ones, but generally complete sheds. I've not mentioned but the state of some of the vehickes here takes some believing, a whole wing missing doesn't make it unroadworthy, or the fact it therefore doesn't have a light on one side doesn't rule out night use. At least the road manners are generally pretty good.
Leaving for the day involved crossing lots and lots of fairly flat, OK almost completely flat, pampas. Crossed the dry pampas arears first, with corressponding strong side-winds (what will Patagonia be like in comparison then eh ?). As we flew along at about 110-120 you would see occassional things crossing the road, the most memorable being a spider husteling along that would easily have been the size of a childs hand....and it had a big round red body...didn't stop to look closer. Bit conserning these things are about on the pampas never mind jungle.
As we moved further up, and the road changed direction easing the wind, we were into much more flooded areas, very marshy. Saw our first pink flamingoes, seen them in Tanzania last year, but these were really bright pink, like in cartoons. Guessed we'd see more but in that strange way of the world they were a one off.
Another surreal moment occurred as we were blasting long a straight (OK, OK, there are no bends) there loomed out of the heat haze a strangley familiar sight....a bright red double decker London Routemaster bus ! Quite what that was about I have no idea, but he obviously woundered why two bikes gave him a friendly wave.
Although generally the rodas are very good you have to watch for hidden surprises. Today's stretches had a few, out of nowhere a section just a few metres long suddenly loomed that you'd guess had been dug up. From warp speed to no speed very quickly or else a very nasty surprise. We met two oncoming bikes at one point which are the first two 'real' bikes we've seen on the road (locals).
It warmed up through the day and by later we were up to 30 degs. We had our liners out of our trouser, but still in jackets. As we were moving along the breezemad it OK, but when you stopped it was well warm. Strangley we had hot chocolate and empanada (small pasties effectively) at first garage stop, even in heat, but a very sweet ice-creme by the time we got further up. They have very sweet toothes over here, mind, surprised they have teeth they're so sweet.
By afternoon we were into the slender thread of Argentina at top right of country, bordered on all sides it's a strange peice of land to be part of Argentina, but obviously there is some hisory there. Looking at the people there obviosly is too as again I was surprised to note how many were very pale and so obviously at least of eurpean descent. The area is called Misiones and there were a lot of Jesuits here 300 years ago, so mayb that's it, or maybe it's the fact this is a huge mate and other tea growing area. This is were most of it comes from and hence the scenery took a greta leap forward ... the hills are alive and well..at last some scenery. The earth was a bright orange to deep red, almost the colour range from oranges to blood, amazing. In fact, you'd swear you were in Africa, so much like Tanzania with the fertile soil and verdant green foliage.
This would have been an area worth saying in, but we wanted to push on to the falls for some down time Definately somewhere we'd return, though by Marxh or so I assume it will really be baking.
We are looking to return south with Nik for the Horizons Unlimited meeting so will need to take some strides southwards in a few days to make the for mid-December, thence Xmas and New Year at Ushuaia, about as south as you can get !
The road we took, a smaller one that followed the spine (though not a narrow) ridge of some hills was definately beautiful. Nik sought out some fuel before we took a small road back towards the main road up to Iguaz˙. There were loads of over-filled wagons piled high with mate leaves, and occassionally they passed with a confetti like cloud of escapee leaves following.
Petrol found we were onto, wait for it, a twisty road ! It took us from up on the hills back down to the main road. It had some good down hill spirals and we were right enjoying it until we got to some speed hunps and an unexpected raised section that wasn't marked and really thumped the bike and both our spines...that hurt ! Still, no damage done.
The temperature was well up now and it was hot and getting moe jungle like all around, the road was a very gentle rollercoaster that you could seestretching for miles ahead. anythime we stopped, just to stretch the legs, we'd come a long way today, you could here that typical jungle racket coming out of the undergrowth, we were obviously getting closer now.
Sounds of the forest
We got to Iguaz˙ town quite late, a bit dusty, and pretty sweaty. Lots of people willing to help us find a hotel and we tried a couple before Joe Bloggs on his scooter took us to some appartments that we settled on. 90 Arg
Peso's a night for a split level room with fridge, AC, and breakfast, three nights would work out about ú54 so ú6 each a night. A blessing after the heat and the long day, and a chance for two days to explore the falls.
A brief raid to a restuarant down the road ensured we knew we were in tourist central, everywhere were people eating, at this early hour, and even a band - oh no - to serenade us as we ate. Had a set prce meal that was a bit disappointing compared to recent findings, but hey, first time.. Very cold beer and bed, long but interesting day.
As an aside our biggest cost and expenditure is definately fuel, but three fill-ups cost about the same as one in UK, the mileages mean it's easily more than food or accommodation, just as well it's still cheaper than UK. The cold we've had for aboutv 4days looks like on way out at last, we'll all be pleased to stop sniffling.
Tuesday 8th November
Iguaz˙ Falls, Argentina.
Mileage - 135kms
Breakfast was self service in a breakfast room and consisted of some quite nice cake, Papaya, water melon, Pineapple and a 'coffee like drink', and 'orange juice like drink' too. Bought time they got on the ball here with coffee...too much mate drunk I guess.
Our ride out to the fals - they're not exactly on edge of any town in any adjoining country - was eventful as we tried picking up a small jungle road, but it turned out to go the opposite way. Not that that stopped us doing over 100kms all round off road just for the helll of it. It had a police station but when I enquired if we could go down it they said yes, and there was a sign with indications of settlements down it. No idea were they were though as we never came across any signs.
What we did however find was much more spectacular. Never seen so many butterflies in my life. Amazing. The road was compacted orange red earth with occassional stoney sections. It was intensly hot, and we had no water or food which was a little remiss. Still, we enjoyed it ver much.
The number, size, and colour of the butterflies was extraordinary. In places it was like it was snowing there were so many. I have seen so many naure programs showing the sort of things we were no experiencing first hand. Small puddles had hundreds of butterflies crowded around them andas we passed they flew up creating multicoloured clowds of flapping wings. There was yellow and orange, black and red, surreal blue and patterns on wings that varied from like home to huge swallow tails to dazzle patterns the like of which I have never experienced.
Stopping and taking shots at these gathering points was magical, just like the things you see on TV. You could get in close and just wonder at natures beauty and variety. We couldn't tire of the range and beauty on dislplay.
We were almost as impressed by the fantastic hues the bikes were taken covered in the dust of the road. Poor old Nik was taking on the same demeaner as he was riding behind us so much as he'd never been off-road before. The roads were god enough to be able to ride at up to 70kph. But you had to be careful. nik fell turning his bike around but no damage was done, hejust stepped off. But no place for an accident. Nik was also dissappointed to discover the 1200 is a bit 'plasticy' as several of the scrrews holding on his screen dissappeared never to be ssen again, he's lost some on thw handguards even on the road. Time for some lock-wire and that wel used look. So far we're fine, but you have to check.
Riding off road I can occassionally stand to ease the hammer onm the bike, but it's harder for Bev, we can do it, but her footrest mountings are also those for the panniers and I don't want to overload those.
Along the way we also came across a 1m lizard and saw some toucans in the trees. Some disturbing sounds in the undergrowth occassionally too led you not to want to linger at some points, should be fine in daylight hours though.
Riding in shirt and light trousers (helmets and gloves of course), very very hot. Never got to end of road and Niks GPS (handy thing as it turns out since he got some more detailed maps from Javir) showed it was a long way saw no sign of human life - except two cars on return, we'd been out 2 hrs. nota good thing to do on your own, but a fun little miniture adventure for us
Got out and went falls. Train not running to end point dssappointing. (next day we could see that the end point must have been out for 10s of years so creative advertising) Falls stunning.
Initially ou don't see much - except the clouds of spray in distance - looking more like smoke from fires. But when you get closer - along well constructed walkways - you realise their magnitude. It was Roosevelt's wife who said on seeing the falls for the first time "poor Niagara", and how so. They are immense, apparently 275 in total and with drops ranging from 10s tp 100s of feet. The water pours over the top toffee brown, in split seconds foams and frothes as into white as it plummets down and then crashes to the bottom and some returns as spray reaching out hundreds of metres. It truely is a specatular sight.
The whole vista gradually unfurles as you move further along the walkways. There are points were you bridge chasms that water plumes down right next to you, there are walkways and miardores that exxtend out above the top of the falls and there are those points were you almost feel you can walk into the falls themselves. It is not a place to go if you don't want to get wet....but in a sweaty jungle who wouldn't relise a soaking ? We certainly enjoyed it. It takes several hours to walk around the Argentinian side and to be honest I think it's the best side, though Brasil has the better overall views.
You can't escape the fact this is one of South America's main tourist points though and prices are premium which is a shock after out recent explorations.
I can't do the falls justice by word, only photo's can go some way to explaining the majesty and magnificence of the place, but otherwise nothing else.
Other exciting things apart from the Orchids and jungle fauna were the Racoons that have adapted pefectly to going through the bins (easily rectified, easier than stupid don't feed the animals signs) quite a few lizards like the ones we saw in jungle, a hyrax like thing, and lots of lavish birds you got but glimpses of.
It's a shame not to be able to lavish more words on sucha spectacle, but it just won't work
We had locked the bikes together by the entrance, and locked our lids on a cable. Theyalways atract quite a bit of attension, and here it was from people surprised to see fellow Eurpeans, but on their own transport....feels good I have to say....but prefer to be 'out there' rather than with the tourists. There is always somethiong new to see and experience here which is the treat. Feels great com,ing to these places and riding our dust bedecked bikes through it all.
It was also great to get back to accommodation and have showers and clean our clothes - theye certainly dry quick here!
Our simple tea of bread and a particularly poor cheese and tomatoes was fit for pupose and the cold beers slipped down great. Not before I had a small mishap when I cracked my head on a beam and nearly knocked meself out. I said "flip" a few times before realising I was bleeding profusely. Blody hell there's folk out there having epics in the Amazon and struggling on through and here's this idiot nearly hospoitalising himself in his swish accommodation ! Idiot Q
Needless to say Bev's first aid training came to the fore through I got a hint of dissappointment that it wasn't an injury that could be stiched. After a bit of a clean up I was relieved to find I hadn't scalped myself but just incurred a 2" slash. Ice eased the pain and the blood eventually stopped (scalps always bleed too much to my mind). Just a bit of a stain on the pillow caseby morning. No harm done, ajust need to keep the flies away from the injury, don't fancy any incursions.
The town here is a bit of a dump, poorest yet, but ironically very, very touristy place, guess most folk go to the falls and then their plush hotels.
Wednesday 9th November
Iguaz˙ Falls, Brazil.
Mileage - guess 45kms
I don't suppose those of you working will sypathise, but it's a real struggle to no what day it is here ! Keep getting my diary entries confused - take that in account please !
today we were off to Brasil (god that sounds good doesn't it...still can't take it in, even after however short we've been here) to see the falls from that side.
Being old hands at the illegal entry to Brasil we weren't expecting problems, and we weren't wrong. Straight through with bikes and off to the visitors centre. We had to pay for parking - ú5 for both, bit steep I thought as free on other side. Then US27$ for the three of us into falls as not enough local currency to hand. You have to get a bus for several kms before the start of the boradwarks and we were rewarded by a brief flypasy by a beautiful Toucan before climbing down the stairs for the views. as I've said I can't do the falls jsutice in words, but the only real difference from the Argentinian side - apart from the costs - is the walks are shorter and there is more scope for buying extra trips and add-ons. The views overall may be more spectacular, and you get nearerthe Garganta del Diablo, or the big central chasm and falls, but otherwise I perfer the other side. It wasn't as hot today, and we were glad we took our cagoules against the spray.
We couldn't even go for a walk without paying, so left after the tourist bit.
On return to town we finally found a place to buy some stickers for out panniers, it's been quite a quest, with littl sucess until today.
Off to mail this, return some empty beer bottles and get some new for tonight and see waht we can rustle up from the spuermarket for tea. Pay accommodation but save on food. Not keen on eating out here as bit tacky.
As Nik travels with a laptop we are able to see our pics which is brillaint. Taken a few hundred between Bev and I. Nik has offered to burn us a CD so we can post home and clear cards ready for some more.
Blimey, just realised we've been here two weeks....feels like ages...think we need to slow down a bit ?
Tomorrow it's into Brazil - will we ever get a passport stamp ? And thence to Paraguay for another mini aventure. Maybe spend a few days there and check out some Jesuit ruins. Hopefully we'll get some more offical 'temporary import' documents for bikes, not keen on just having then writen in passports, can forsee problems in 6 months if not retified - might just have time to resolve :-)
Posted by Simon McCarthy at November 21, 2005 11:21 PM GMT
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