Iguazu and Argentina Overall

Iguazu

Iguazu is a border town from where we could see Brazil and Paraguay at the same time. My cell provider was so confused to where I was, that they welcomed me into all three counties (third is Argentina). Besides bordering each other, these counties also share the largest waterfall system in the world, called Iguazu falls.

 Small part of Iguazu falls.

Small part of Iguazu falls.

To be fair, the Paraguayan side doesn’t have access to the falling water mass but share dam with Brazil. Brazil is good for the large scheme view and Argentina, which hosts the longest chain of falls, is better for the feel of the thundering water as you can get close up and personal.

Devil’s Throat, the U-shaped cluster of falls, invaded my bubble the most. So much that eventually I had a hard time seeing! The strong wind carried the splashes across the air. The drops then densely settled on me and my glasses. Definitely a rain coat worthy spot if you happen to have one, but not harming enough to buy a plastic one sold on sight.

 Me trying to take a picture of Devil's Throat, but can't see what I'm doing.

Me trying to take a picture of Devil's Throat, but can't see what I'm doing.

Besides listening to the intimidating roar of Devil’s Throat from right above, we also walked around the vast park to look at lonely cascades. Many enjoyable hours were spent here strolling and even sighting wild coati. The only problem with the Argentinean side is that we didn’t get the epiphany of the size of this massive chain of falls, only snippets. If this view is desired, one must go to the Brazilian side. Not worth the park fee for us to go to both. If you want to go to only one side, contemplate on if you want to get the big picture or the individual feel. I was happy with what I witnessed, but others have stated that Brazil is slightly better for understanding purposes. You decide. Oh, and on an unrelated side note: We bought oranges for five cents!


Argentina Overall

Argentina has a lot of pretty things to show off, great nature, amazing architecture variety in Buenos Aires, culture, etc. Unfortunately, we caught the country at a bad time. Massive inflation plus extraordinary bus ticket prices pushed our wallet limit. The south had public transportation to attractions shut down due to the low season, hence requiring tour options instead, which pushed the sum charge over our budget and past the rate we considered reasonable for the activity. So we skipped a lot. This is shown in the map track. We only visited three destinations in Argentina. Much of the center and north was ignored by us because the long distance busses were crazy expensive in our view too (keep in mind we shoot for an average budget of $30 a day).

If the transportation fee is a hurdle for you, I would recommend to stick to Buenos Aires and stopping by Iguazu on your way in/out. The glacier in Calafate was stunning and I’m sure Mt. Fitz Roy is also, but we paid $200 for transportation from Calafate to Buenos Aires; the bus and plane cost the same.

 Perito Moreno Glacier in Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier in Calafate

During our trip we have met other backpackers who had the same disgust of the pricing and just wanted to get the heck out of Argentina. Personally I wish I would have visited before the inflation hit. I would have loved to discover more of this beautiful country. The positive is that we did get better quality overall than in the Ecuador, Peru, or Chile, but I’d rather get the lower quality for the more reasonable fee. Overall I loved what I saw, but maybe I’ll come back when I have more spending money.


Cost breakdown of Iguazu (2 days with total cost of $139.14. Average daily cost is $69.57.)

  • Hostel: $20 (2 nights which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $80.67 (Busses. $72 for initial transportation to the city)
  • Food: $16.47
    • Meals: $15.87 (3 meals)
    • Groceries: $0.60
  • Activity: $22 (Iguazu Falls Park Entry Fee)

Buenos Aires (July 12- 28, 2016)

Stepping foot into Argentina, we quickly realized that the prices were much higher than anticipated. Our flight to Africa was already booked and we had to figure out how to stall time cheaply. In Calafate, the previous town, we desperately searched for a WorkAway opportunity. Found one last minute.

What’s WorkAway? On the website we browse for employers at desired locations. The jobs can be anything imaginable, like gardening, language teaching, construction, etc. Often times work hours are 4 to 5 hours a day for 5 days a week. In exchange the worker doesn’t get paid money. No. Compensation is free accommodation and sometimes meals. Conditions can vary by employer, which is hopefully clearly stated on their profile. With this agreement, the worker doesn’t have to worry about obtaining a work visa. If a desired position is found, the interested individuals can email the employer over the website and keep their fingers crossed for a positive reply. Jobs tend to be more long-term, 2 weeks to 3 months.

We were gutsy. Not only did we request for only 1 week, but also contacted few employers a week before arrival. Very short notice. Of course most turned us down, but one person accepted and we could even start early, meaning as soon as we arrive in Buenos Aires. In the end we even extended our time to 2 weeks.

Our job was located on an island in Tigre. Typically, the home was run as a bed and breakfast, but the owners wanted a break. Instead we got various tasks to do. The house needed of some TLC, since the humidity creates the perfect conditions for mold. First we started washing down the walls and then I painted. My travel buddy hates painting. So instead he tackled outside yard work. We worked with another WorkAway couple, Ian and Anna.

 Me painting. No taping, only pure skills.

Me painting. No taping, only pure skills.

The work wasn’t too exciting, but the accumulation of pecans was. The boys picked up buckets of pecans every day and we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted. In the evening we would sit in front of the fire place, crack nuts, and then roast them. The pecans were great to throw in with our cooking to provide extra flavor. Soup with pecans. Bread with pecans. Dessert with pecans.

On our day off, we headed to downtown Buenos Aires. First we went to La Boca. The area is known for the colorful buildings. The walls had great murals. We came here at the wrong time. At 9am there is barely anybody else out and no shops are open yet. Ian had raved how great the place was with the hustle and bustle during the afternoon. Colorful homes aren’t that special to us since we had seen whole towns with color. Hence a few streets didn’t strike us much.

Up next, the historic Plaza de Mayo, the political center. If the people have an issue, they will gather here to strike. I saw one forming. There are plenty of police and barricades stationed to guide the public (some times more than others). The shifted government has lifted or extremely lowered the exporting tariff and in country price cap of multiple goods, such as meat, gas, oil, cigarettes. Doing an immediate lift, instead of incremental over months, prices of goods shot up overnight. Average raise was 400 percent, but propane rose 5,000% within a month! I was shocked about the high costs here, but obviously the residents are affected much harder. I wonder how their economic situation will play out.

 Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo

A lot of tourist attractions are free. So at least we could still sightsee on foot without breaking the bank. To use busses, you MUST have a SUBE card, which costs P.40 ($2.70) just for the card. With the card, train use will be at half price. SUBE can be purchased in the train station, be ready for a crazy goose chase since one store will send you to another store which “sells the card” only to be denied. The actual spot has a SUBE sticker and is across from the Tigre train gate entry. In my opinion, as long as you don’t want to go to La Boca, the colorful place, buying the card is not worth the cost during short visits (the area surrounding La Boca isn’t safe on foot). Walking is possible. Just takes more time. We saw everything we wanted in one day while walking, but had already booked a hostel night because we thought sightseeing would take longer. Our legs were tired at the end of the day though. Crazy high platform shoes are popular for females in Buenos Aires, avoid those and your feet will thank you.

The benefit of walking is that we were able to admire the architecture. Buenos Aires has a fantastic mix of the old and the new. Even their tomb stones in their famous cemetery are astounding. We took a while strolling through the maze. From the dead, we ventured to the Japanese garden. This garden is one of the largest Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Entry fee for foreigners is R.70 ($4.70), if I recall correctly. The garden is astonishing and surely will provide great photo spots, but I already toured a Japanese garden before. In our shoes, the fee encouraged us to skip the entry and instead peak in from the outside over a bare, nearby fence. Go take a peak and see if you want to go in or not. I was tempted.

 View of the Japanese Garden from the fence.

View of the Japanese Garden from the fence.

Overall I loved exploring Buenos Aires. The architecture gives the city such flavor and beauty. Just be careful of the AC mounted on tons of windows above. AC water likes to attack non expecting pedestrians below. I got hit few times until I finally learned. Don’t let a few drops or the cost discourage you from visiting. This place has a lot to offer.


Cost breakdown of Buenos Aires (16 days with total cost of $308.69. Average daily cost is $19.29.)

  • Hostel: $9 (1 night which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $257.56
    • Airplane: $234.40 (initial flight to the city)
    • Bus: $3.53
    • Train: $1.60
    • Boat: $14.33 (to get to/from WorkAway home)
    • Metro: $0.80
    • Taxi: $2.90
  • Food: $42.13
    • Meals: $20.90 (5 meals)
    • Groceries: $19.50
    • Snacks: $1.73

Calafate (July 7 - 12, 2016)

On my last location post, I explained how we quickly skedaddled out of Chile. That maybe wasn’t so smart. The border town in Argentina felt like a ghost town. There were people, but all the stores were practically closed. The tiny town had an awkward amount of baby item stores. We found a frozen yoghurt place and the gas station restaurant to be the only places serving food. No method of accommodation even exists in this town. We asked several locals who couldn’t come up with a single option. And that was the biggest dilemma.

The bus agency was open, being afternoon, the next bus to our destination, Calafate, didn’t leave until late evening. With a layover, the schedule had us arriving at 12:30am. With no internet available and having done no research on Calafate yet, we didn’t even know what to expect! Will they have available accommodation? If yes, will we even be let in at 1am? We had no choice. We bought the crazy expensive ticket. $32 dollars for a few hours costed more than Chile! Unbelievable. During the bus ride, I was worried.

 Found Calafate map during the bus layover. Took photo in case it's accurate and could provide help at destination. Useless.

Found Calafate map during the bus layover. Took photo in case it's accurate and could provide help at destination. Useless.

Arriving in Calafate, the town was much bigger than expected. This is a good sign that we have more options with accommodation and one of them must let us in, no? Our battle plan comprised of relying on a bus station staff to know the best bet to find hostels. We weren’t the only ones. Our friends had the same idea.

Our friends were people we ran into at the bordering town. They desperately needed a money exchange (banks were closed as well) and while inside the bus agency asked us where we exchanged ours. They came in on the same bus to Argentina and apparently took the same bus to Calafate with us as well. The couple spoke decent English, and to our benefit they were Spanish speakers. Obviously they had the same issue as us. So we decided to team up on our search for a hostel.

Streets were dead. Barely any street lights. Knocked at 4 hostels already and no sign of life. Desperation kicked in. Finally, a lady opened up. $6 a night is not bad. A cheap, shitty hostel. Literally. On the first morning, during the early hours, I went for a shower and realized too late that this bathroom is where their two dogs and one cat do their business overnight. Later I learned the lady cleans the floor in the morning, but I beat her to the punch. My friend held post outside because none of the bathrooms locked or had shower curtains. Risky situation. I’m not relying on the vacant/occupied sign users manually have to turn.

 Beautiful Perito Moreno Glacier

Beautiful Perito Moreno Glacier

Laziness, the cheap price, and bad cleanliness reviews of other hostels kept us there. Our friends stayed as well and turned out to be good resources. All of us planned on going to the Perito Moreno Glacier. They negotiated a taxi fare which was cheaper split in four than paying for the bus ($21.67 per person). The personal driver was awesome and provided us with great information about the glacier and the town during our ride.

At the glacier, we strolled along the boardwalk to view the ice structure from every angle. The huge hunk of nature has an average height of 60 meters above water and stretches another 120 meters below. We constantly heard the thunder and crackling from the glacier. Pieces of the structure would fall, some of them were big, creating a reaching splash. Spending 3 hours staring at the ice, I was amazed by its presence. Didn’t think I could stare at frozen water mass for that long and be entertained.

 Panoramic photo of the glacier by my Colombian friend, Juliana.

Panoramic photo of the glacier by my Colombian friend, Juliana.

Returned from our excursion, my travel buddy and I had few days to kill before our flight to Buenos Aires. Taking the bus would have been just as expensive. The travel cost had us removing couple other destinations out of our plan. Questioning if there was a bus at all for our route underlined the cost factor. We just wanted to get out of Argentina, but still see the capital. Our hostel friends flew out a day prior, but forgot their microfiber towel in the kitchen, where they had hung it to dry. We were going to deliver it to them, but our flight got postponed to the next day due to bad weather. Yay for spending another night at the poopy hostel. My first WorkAway experience in Buenos Aires was awaiting.


Cost breakdown of Calafate (5 days with total cost of $171. Average daily cost is $34.20.)

  • Hostel: $33.33 (5 nights)
  • Transportation: $93.13
    • Busses: $50.13 (initial transportation to the city. 3 busses)
    • Taxis: $43
  • Food: $22.54
    • Meals: $17.97 (6 meals)
      • Groceries: $4.57
  • Activity: $22 (Glacier Park Entry Fee)