Saturday, 28 September 2013

South America – Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay back to Argentina

The trip has been going well so far. It been a nice enough journey and I’ve met a few nice people on the way. But I’m still waiting for something to really wow me.

I enjoyed my two couch-surfing experiences in Uruguay. The first was with a really nice Yoga instructor, Fabiana. I was certainly surprised at my first couch-surfing accommodation. My own room with a double bed and ensuite bathroom, was not what I was expecting. Still we do have to rough it sometimes.
The weather wasn’t great at the start, but we were able to stay in and chat, and we took a little run down town and got some food together and had a quick look at the centre. The day after was much nicer and Fabiana was able to borrow a car and she drove us out to the beach where I got to try surfing for the first time. I even managed to stand up on the board on the second attempt. It’s something I will have to try again. The day after that I borrowed her bicycle and went a ride along the water front. It was a nice day and a good little ride.

Montevideo is a very nice city. The beaches run all the way along the front and I could imagine it would be a nice place to live. I did look into doing work with international house and I could have got a job there, but it would have been by the hour, which sounded a bit too similar to what I was doing in Argentina and I really hated the spit shifts and the lack of security.
After Montevideo I made my way along to coast to my next couch-surfing destination. I was in a small town called Punta Bellan, but it wasn’t from Maldonado and Punta del Este. Here I was staying with Luciana and her two kids.
This time I had my own room again and mattress on the floor, which was nice. The house was great. It was in village next to a forest park about 20km from the town. For heating there was a log fire. There was a dog and a cat (that kind of acted like a dog) that were really nice. Despite the dog being shy we bonded really quickly. She had really nice eyes, one blue one brown. The cat would often sneak into the house and come and sit on my lap and purr.
I arrived late after noon a Luciana picked me up from the station and we went for a walk in the park. Again we got on well and she was very interested in eastern mysticism, so it was nice to hear a lot about that, and I was surprised to find that there was a little ashram near by.
The next day Luciana took me along with the kinds on a drive along the coast and we stopped a few little towns and seen various sites. It was nice trip. The kids were also nice, although they argued from time to time. I got on really well with the younger one and she liked to play games where she climbed and jumped about. The older girl was more stand-offish but still friendly enough.

Sadly on the second day the youngest girl got a little sick and so Luciana had to stay at home with her. I walked down to Punta del Este which is a holiday town that the Argentinians like to go to. The weather was a bit rough again and it was quite a cold wind. I had thought about going to Roacha – my first host had practically demanded that I go. But the expensive of Uruguay and the thought of freezing on the beach put me off.
So the day after I decided to head back the way and then North. It took a long time. I took a bus back to Montevideo and then another bus up to the border city of Salto. In Salto I crossed the border into Argentina and from there I got a bus up to Foz de Igauzu. On the way I was lucky enough to me another traveller who was heading the same way. A Uruguayan guy called Daniel. He’s studying in Iguazu and was heading back. It really helped for getting the bus up to Igazu as navigating all the different bus companies can be a bit of a challenge.
About twenty seven hours after leaving Punta del Este I arrived in Iguazu. It had been a long journey and here I made a small mistake. I had seen a hostel, home sweet hostel, in the guide book (I couldn’t find somewhere to couch surf there). To get to the hostel I passed a few other nice looking places, but when I got to the place I had planned to enter there was a building works out the front. For some reason I checked in anyway with the rather unfriendly staff and paid for two nights. I was show to the room – a place with a broken door and easy access from the front gate that was never locked. When I went for a shower the water ran brown for five minutes first. I’m still not sure why I checked in there. But at least it was a little cheaper than the other places.
After checking in, I got on a bus to the waterfall park. It’s a really impressive sight and walking along the gangway across the river to get to falls themselves is also nice. I was luck here and met a couple of friend, one from Malaysia and one from Singapore. We went around the park together and then had dinner late. It was nice to have some company.

The next day I was off again. I left the hostel without a word (I didn’t see the point in fighting over a day’s rent and I doubt I would have got it back anyway.) I had thought of saying on another day, but the only thing to really do in Iguazu was the park. So I got on a bus and crossed the border into Paraguay. I think I was even in Brazil for a little time as well.
Here there was another mistake. On entering Paraguay the bus didn’t stop at immigration. So I’m here without a stamp and it might cost me a little to get out.
I stopped in Ciudad del Este for a few hours. I really liked this city. I was a rough market town. It reminded me of a Chinese market it a way. Lots of hustle and bustle and people selling real, but sometimes random, things. I got some socks, because I hadn’t been able to wash mine, and a cap because I burnt my nose in Montevideo. Another thing I liked here were the performers that came onto the road every time the lights turned red. At each stop sign the were be random things like jugglers and a troupe with hullahoops – some of them were very good. They’d perform for the cars then try and get a little money before the lights changed. Nice city but I felt that a couple of hours were enough and the same day I was off to Asunción.
We arrived a little late at the terminal in Asunción. I had heard there were hostels there, but guide book didn’t have any listed so I asked at tourist information on found one that sounded nice. It was called circus hostel. It’s next to an old railway station near Plaza Uruguay. I got there a little late and the place was dark. I pressed the buzzer and young guy came out to meet me and took me into the place. It was very quite. I was the only guest. Still it meant I got a dorm room to myself. At the time I couldn’t figure out why it was so quite, because it’s a really nice hostel, with nice staff.
20130926_114859I had a good time in Asunción I walked about, took some pictures and went to the cemetery. It’s a nice place. Very chilled out. It also turned out there was going to be an event on just outside the hostel in the old train yard. It was run by an English/South African girl and her Paraguayan husband. So I decided to break the bank and little and a have a party night. I met up with an English girl from couch-surfing who was volunteering there and we had a drink then went to the event. It was really nice, great people and good food and I generally had a nice time. However, near the end I started to feel like more of an outside. I thinks it’s normal as they are all living there and I’m just passing through. So when they all went for a smoke I declined and went out to have a look at the rest of the city. It was a nice night and I had fun. But the next day I was up early (I don’t know how) and ready to hit the road.
I’m on my way to Salta now. I before I mentioned why the place was so quite? Well buses might be the reason. I’ve having to go south quite a bit to be able to travel North again. It’s also going to mean a change of buses. So I guess that dead end puts off a lot of people.
So the trip had been fine. A lot of nice things. The falls were probably the most impressive sight, but I’m not overly impressed by South America. I think I just expected it to be more different, in the same way as when I went to China for the first time. Also things are much more expensive here than I thought they would be. Buses are not cheap and the distances from place to place is more than I really realised. It often seems like a lot of time sitting on buses for a small reward.
That said I’m hopeful about going North. Peru and its ruins is really attracting me. I’ve also heard that it’s a good deal cheaper than here. I can only hope.
PS: It cost me $50 to get out of Paraguay with no stamp.

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