Following our epic Patagonian adventures, we flipped the switch and headed to Buenos Aires for a bit of city slicking. Buenos Aires has the facade of a beautiful European-esque city. With its cosmopolitan shopping, funky restaurants and growing trend of hip cafes combined with the more old-world cafes and colonial architecture. Though digging a little deeper past the designer boutiques and well manicured ladies, the city has equally downtrodden areas and a definite ragged edge. Quite the repellent for us was the constant game of dodging the omnipresent piles of dog poo that is on the sidewalks no matter how exclusive the area – a leisurely stroll quickly becomes rather unpleasant. We found ourselves living in the trendy neighbourhood of Palermo Hollywood – getting its ‘Hollywood’ name from the fact that the area is home to several radio and TV stations and well known faces are often spotted in the neighbourhood. Sadly this was wasted on us, having no idea who these celebrities are walking the streets and frequenting the cafes.
Something we miss from London Town, is visits to galleries and museums to see exhibitions. So we did a fair bit of that kind of tourism whilst in Buenos Aires, especially after firm warnings of gunpoint muggings we received about visiting certain neighbourhoods like the colourful Italian barrio of La Boca. We decided we’d be prime targets with a flashy camera and, despite the fact that we are adventurous, this isn’t the type of adventure we subscribe to. The MALBA – Buenos Aires’ Museum of Latin American Art – is a fantastically large and dynamic space that was showing an equally exceptional Mario Testino exhibit whilst we were there. Well worth the visit! We were intrigued to learn more about Eva Perón or ‘Evita’ whose presence and influence seems to remain in the city, so we visited the official Evita museum. The actual mansion that now houses the museum was bought, under Evita’s direction, by the Argentine state in 1947 and turned into a shelter for single women. The museum showcases her lavish wardrobe and reviews the life of Eva Duarte, from her childhood through to her life as the First Lady. It very much includes and emphasises her struggle for female civil rights and the social work she developed in her foundation. We walked away feeling far more knowledgable about her role in Argentine history and understood the people’s adoration for her. Only to dig a little deeper and realise that there are always two sides to every story – but let’s not get political!
Our favourite place in Buenos Aires was Recoleta Cemetary. This mesmerising city for the dead is 14 acres and contains 4691 vaults – we’ve never seen anything like it before. It is set out like a small city, with city-like blocks, main walkways and running off them, narrow alleyways. It all sounds very organised but once inside it is easy to get lost in this labyrinth of densely packed tombs, where the great and powerful of Argentina’s history lay at rest. Evita’s family tomb can also be found here and is abundant with flowers and notes – more proof of how she remains in the people’s hearts. Walking through the maze feels like walking through a silent and incredibly dramatic theatre piece. Mini-chapels, gothic vaults and art nouveau tombs all rub shoulders with each other and tell a different story of dedication, family importance and wealth. Once in a while, next to these incredibly well maintained mausoleums, one finds others that have been abandoned, left to fall into disrepair. We were captivated by Recoleta Cemetery, it certainly does lend itself to opening up your imagination – didn’t hurt that very near by we discovered the best gelato in town . Next stop was one of the most impressive natural beauties on Earth – Iguazu Falls.
Our time there was extra special in that 2 weeks earlier the area had an unexpected flooding phenomenon where, over a 48hr period, the measurement of water grew to 33 times more than usual. Walkways and viewpoints were submerged in water and torn away, prompting them to close the park. Thankfully it had reopened when we went, minus access to the well known Devil’s Throat, though the water was rather murky and brown. Taller and four times the width of Niagara, sweeping in a horseshoe shape, there are 275 cascades spread over 3km of the Iguazu River. There is no question that the sheer power and size as well as the constant thunderous flow of water (even more so for our visit) is astonishing. This beauty, combined with the tropical location where Toucans and other unique birds fly backwards and forwards across the river from Brazil, apparently led Eleonor Roosevelt to say, ‘Poor Niagara.’
The weather at Iguazu is renowned for being rainy so we stayed for 5 days just to be safe, yet miraculously we didn’t have a drop of rain. Though you have no choice but to get wet walking around, with continual spray from the falls. The sunshine meant that we were constantly surrounded with rainbows and butterflies – it felt very Disney-like.
The magical world of Iguazu Falls can be experienced from both Brazil and Argentina. At the Argentinian side, one is immersed right in the falls and apparently from Brazil the views are more panoramic. Sadly I didn’t get to experience this because of a silly visa requirement that is had between the Australians and Brazilians. So for one of our days Michael and I went our separate ways – he went helicopter riding, panoramic scening and bird spotting in Brazil whilst I had an equally fun adventure taking an extended boat ride on the Argentinian side.
Truthfully the boat ride wasn’t Michael’s thing though it was mine! We rode through the rapids of the Iguazu River and were taken right under two of the falls resulting in getting completely drenched. It was a very exciting and awesome experience to be right in and amongst all that water – unforgettable!
Currently it’s time for some serious Spanish lessons and studying in Ecuador whilst planning our next adventurous trip to The Galapagos…