Posts in "travel"

How to Visit the Igazu Falls Tips

Ok , so I have all these posts about South America written and in drafts but because of laziness and being busy I haven’t had the time to dedicate to them to post them.  But a friend of mine is making the trip to Igazu Falls and asked for some advice so I’m putting this one up.  For those looking for my Igazu pictures you can find them all here

View from the Upper Trail sunrise

View from the Upper Trail sunrise

Since I’ve already gushed about how much I love the Igazu Falls so I’ll try to refrain from too much fawning over the most amazing site I’ve ever seen and stick to the best way to enjoy the falls.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Take the 2nd bus from central bus terminal to the park, while you could take the first one the park is not open by the time you arrive so you’ll be standing at the gate waiting, might as well sleep in a little bit longer.
  • We skipped the overloaded train and walked the “Verde Trail” which takes you to the same place as the first train station but without the masses.  Be sure to pick up a free map of the falls from the entrance.
  • Now here is the key: Most of the crowd stays on the train and goes directly to the Garganta Del Diablo which is definitely amazing but if you skip the Devil’s Throat and walk to the upper trail from the first train station, you’ll be greeted by some of the most amazing panaoramic views you’ll ever see without hardly seeing a person.  I believe Scott and I saw 4 other people the whole time we walked the upper trail.  Not only that, but it is the perfect light for photographs if you’re into that thing like I am.
  • After a few hours on the upper trails, get on the train to the Garganta del Diablo (or walk the 2km trail) and check out the waterfall that everyone talks about.  It’s amazing and if you are lucky enough to dodge the Asian tour groups you’ll be able to get a good picture or two.  It’s pretty easy to stay ahead of them if you walk with a quicker pace.
  • Take the train back to the main station (where the Verde Trail lets out) and head on down to the lower trail.  From here you’ll be able to take the boat over to island and after a quick dip in the river, hit the 200 plus stairs up for some more amazing and even more up close views of the falls.
  • After that, you should be close to worn out and able to catch the last bus back to town which I think was around 4pm.
  • A few more quick tips.  Bring lunch and have a picnic overlooking the falls, you won’t regret it.
  • Wear sunscreen and comfortable shoes.
  • Bring WATER, it was hot as hell while we were there.
  • Plan on getting wet, especially at the Devil’s Throat and the Lower Trail.
  • If you have the time go to the restaurant named Color and order the Lomo in pepper sauce, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever tasted, too bad Scott ordered it!  Around 10pm it picks up and we were even lucky enough to have Los de Igazu playing some amazing live music for us.
  • Another surprisingly good meal was the chicken tenders from the bus station restaurant, they were actually some of the best I’ve ever had.  We liked them so much we went back a few times and the guy behind the counter would laugh as we’d order them again.
  • We stayed at the Marco Polo Inn room #1 it was a nice and friendly place with a good location near the bus terminal but we heard the Hostel Inn was a really good place to stay.  The location was well out of town but they arranged cheap transportation for the quick ride into town and also had a lot of cool sounding activities.
  • If you are flying in.  Book your minibus return trip to the airport in advance, it will be a good deal cheaper than a cab and its impossible to get the minibus if you don’t book before hand.
  • Also, we found out late that for the 5 days surrounding the Full Moon you can visit the Falls at night which should provide some amazing views and night photography.

Hope this is semi helpful for anyone planning on visiting Puerto Igazu and the Igazu Falls.

Have a great time Annie!

Argentina: Back to Buenos Aires

After a kickass time in Puerto Igazu we hopped a plane back to Buenos Aires for one more day of the big city before we head south to Patagonia. We knew we didn’t have much time in BA but looking back on it we definitely think another day or two there is in order. For no other reason other than the fact we feel like we missed something although we aren’t sure what exactly.

We used our last day in Buenos Aires to explore a few unseen areas, shop at some local markets and visit the famous Recoleta Cemetary. We got off the plane, jumped in a cab and asked to go to the cemetary, which must have been an odd request bc the old driver looked at us like we were crazy. The cemetary is unlike any other cemetery Ive ever seen. There are no rolling hills of green grass lined with small tombstones, but instead a few blocks of large sarcophagi (monuments) stuffed into every square inch of this place. And discounting the tourists in this place, it felt alive. Scott and I both felt a very odd vibe walking through this place and didn’t linger around very long.

We left and thought it would be easy to walk to the nearest subte (subway) station and catch it to our hostel which was yet another bad Buenos Aires decision as we ended up walking what must have been 55 blocks! At least we did our best to see the entire city.

Back at our hostel to do some planning for the next day’s trip and take a very Argentinian mid-day nap. During which Scott scouted out a classic tango show nearby that we figured we’d check out while in Argentina. So around 930pm we stumbled to the uncrowded show and paid yet another price that was at least twice as much as specified in our trusty lonely planet! We were told the show was delayed and we could head upstairs to the tango class to participate or watch. Since I couldn’t get Senor Scott to tango with me we just watched for a bit until we were told the show was canceled and given our money back. We left still ignorant of the tango and hit the streets in search of dessert and cerveza and when we found a place Scott got a bit over his head with his dulche de leche crepes and ice cream soda, but it was delicious!

Back at our hostel it didn’t take long for us to get ready for our early flight and pass out.

Buenos Aires highlights
– Markets
– recoletta cemetary
– 16 lane highway
– unreal cityscapes
– dinner with the girls
– Beef! (and other organs)
– buddy bears
-Bianca
– monster calzones
– converter searching
– painting with fire
– introduction to Quilmes
– sketchy taxis

Argentina: Puerto Igazu & Igazu Falls

This will be a short entry because nothing my feeble brain can write will do the Igazu Falls any kind of justice. I doubt even my pictures will but they will get their own post when I get home. The attached picture was taken from my lame iPhone camera with only a small portion of the falls visible.

 

Small portion of Igazu Falls taken with the iPhone

Simply put the Igazu Falls were the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen, I can not even imagine anything else taking my breath away like they did. Across every catwalk and around every bend my jaw would drop farther and farther. It’s a must see!

Puerto Igazu, the town that hosts the falls is a great little place a bit touristy but still full of charm. They have to be doing something right if it’s the top destination for Argentinians every year.

Puerto Igazu Highlights:
the Falls
– Scott’s clay face – some local made Scott´s face out of clay while we ate dinner, it was hilarious! 
– best steak ever @ Color… Too bad Scott ordered it and not me!
– Live music by Los de Igazu (bought the CDs)
– super chill hostel outside bar with new facebook friend Ignacio the bartender / DJ with great music.

More to come on the Igazu Falls as I have time.

Bienvenietos Argentina

Day 1 and 2 were officially the longest 48 hrs ever. Somehow on our overnight flight from Miami we got bumped from our exit row seats to middle isle seats on a 747, ugh! Thankfully there weren’t any large freakos next to us but it made sleeping nearly impossible. Thanks to Tylenol PM I got in a couple of hours using my bag as a pillow on the tray table and scotty got some thanks to his neck snuggie (patent pending!)

We stumbled through customs and bumbled our way to a bus to take us to our hostel….or so we thought. The bus lumbered through the slums of BA and eventually came to a stop at a mini estacition. “this can’t be it” Scott says to me, we are in the middle of the city with no landmarks in sight. We sit on the bus for a minute pondering where we are and what we are doing until we realized we were the only ones left on the bus, other than the Dutch woman who was as confused as we were. “this must be it” we said to each other, so we grabbed our bags and hopped off. We asked for directions to a landmark we knew of but had no clue what the guy was talking about. To make a long story short (and less boring) we wandered about 15 city blocks dodging traffic and pedestraians while the hot Sun beat down on us. Sweat covered and starving we finally found our hostel and made bee-line to the biggest steak we could find.

The rest of the day was filled with taking 334 wrong turns as we made our way through the city looking at the sites until we made it back to the hostel and collapsed for a bit.  Breanne had given us an email address of an old roommate who now lives in Argentina and to our surprise she was in Buenos Aires!  I had emailed her early in the day and she promptly replied and offered to drag us two gringos around with her and her friends to dinner and some drinks.  We were dead tired but hell we are only in BA once (ok twice but whatever) so we obliged and she gave us directions to meet her at her flat.  Scotty and I hopped the subway to meet up with Rachel and after a few drinks went out to a typical Argentine dinner at 10:30pm.  We ate at one of their typical favorite spots and it was delicious.  Scotty had an Salmon dish and I had a pasta dish while we shared some misc. dips and spreads that were delicious even though no one knew what they were.   I also found a red wine that I liked, which is  big for me since I am not a big red wine fan but the 2007 Trumpeter Malbec was delicious and right up my alley.  Rumors are abundant that we can ship cases of wine back to the US, which Ill be sure to do if the chance presents itself. 

I have no idea what time we got home but thanks to Rachel, Kelly and Molly for a good time and if by some chance they read this, dont worry we didnt get kidnapped and we dodged all the zombie dust attempts.

Next stop, Puerto Igazu for the Igazu Falls!

ps’ sorry for the lack of punctuation, these keyboards are ridiculous!

South America Bound

Well, I leave in less that 3 hours on another adventure to a place unknown and even though I never finished posting about last year in Thailand (and I will) I plan on journaling the 2009 adventure in South America in the same manner.

The major difference, other than destination, is this year I am taking one of my closest friends with me.  Scotty has never been anywhere and is the first one in his family to have a passport so I am stoked to bust his international cherry and explore new worlds.  I imagine his eyes will be wide and his senses over-whelmed which makes it all the more exciting for me.  After traveling through Thailand and Cambodia by myself, I realized that I’ll be happy to have someone there to share the expericences with.  I do think that everyone should do a solo trip somewhere, it is true that happiness is best when shared.

Scott and I have a rough itinerary which is a little more regimented than my SE Asia trip but mainly because we are covering such a huge amount of land in such a small time frame.

Roughly we will be going in this order
Buenos Aires, Argentina tonight ->
on to Igauzu Falls ->
Buenos Aires ->
Patagonia (El Calafate and the Glacier Parks) ->
Ushuaia (Southern Most City in the world!) ->
Santiago, Chile ->
Lima, Peru ->
Cusco, Peru -> where we are spending the next 4 days hiking the Inca Trail to Machu PIcchu

back to Lima and then home at the end of the month.

Personally, I’ve never been to South America or the Southern Hemisphere (new sets of stars!) and visiting Patagonia is something I’ve dreamed about.  Hiking the Inca Trail is one of last great adventures that is yet to be completely spoiled by tourism and I can wait.  I plan on eating lots of steak, hiking a lot, winning a speedo pullup contest, doing the stanky leg on a glacier, and starting an Argentine revolution if i have time!

Motto: If not now, When?
PS- Scott is attempting to Twitter our trip to hopefully help his mom’s anxiety but if you want to follow along look -> https://twitter.com/ScottK127

Amazing Race in Cambodia…I was there!

One of my favorite shows, The Amazing Race, rolled through one of my recent travel destinations, Cambodia, on the latest episode.  While its really cool to see such an obscure place on TV that I’ve been to, its more saddening to hear that 2 of the contestants didn’t even know that Cambodia is in Asia, let alone where it actually is located.  The teams visited Siem Reap which is the home to Angkor Wat and also one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in SE Asia.  Maybe its just a bit of sentimental attachment that I have to Cambodia but I’m not sure they showed a good representation of what Cambodia is actually like. 

They showed cars zipping around, gas stations, and a fancy airport rather than a dirt road packed full of mopeds with people or pigs piled on top, street markets and one of the most amazing structures I’ve ever seen.  Phil, the host, described Angkor Wat as the largest religious structures in the world which helps gives the viewer some perspective but I don’t think the footage to accompany the commentary was very flattering.

Ok enough pointless rambling, just had to put my 2 cents in on the topic

Delayed Thailand Post – Angkor Wat Video

If you have not seen the movie The Killing Fields I highly recommend you do so.  Although there are several gut-wrenching scenes it is a must watch movie.  The movie is mostly about a Cambodian journalist, Dith Pran’s escape from that country during the rule of the Khmer Rouge is heart-wrenching.  It’s widely considered the unknown holocaust but something people should be aware happened less than 30 years ago.

  I’ve had this web page open since before I left for Thailand and have just not posted about it because it was something I wanted to save until after I visited Angkor Wat  Its a video tribute to Dith Pran, whom you can read about here.

I imagine that when Pran made his treacherous journey, he never expected his homeland would become such a tourist destination but watch the video and you see why.

My Thailand Elephant Camp Experience in Video Form

Just in case I didn’t do that good of a job explaining the wonderful experience I had at the Patara Elephant Farm when I was in Thailand here and here, National Geographic has a video out today that almost exactly explains my experience and purpose of my time with the elephants in Thailand.

While its not the same elephant farm, and it looks a little more ‘resortish’ the point of the camp is extremely similar.  Its only a 2 minute video so check it out when you have a chance.

Thailand Journal: Off to the Islands

April 20th, 2008 – Pol dropped us off at the airport and we caught our flights to Bangkok. This was wear we split ways. I had a direct flight from BKK to the island of Koh Samui while Kat was going through a land-locked city of Surat Thani. Both of us were going to catch boats. My boat only took an hour and a half and I was in Koh Tao by 2. Kat was catching the night boat and wouldn’t arrive until 7am the next morning. ouch!

The boat ride was amazing. Passing the hundreds of small islands that look just like large rocks jetting out of the ocean was some beautiful scenery but one of the coolest things was passing the island of Koh Pah Ngan while reading the book “The Beach.” As I was reading the book on the top deck of the boat we were passing Koh Pah Ngan and in the book they were doing the exact same thing. On a boat, starring out on Koh Pah Ngan! It was a wicked cool moment that probably seems retarded to anyone else reading this.

I called my friend Will, who I was originally going to couchsurf with until he set me up with a certification class at his dive shop which included accommodations, and he came to pick me up in a “Taxi” which is just a local with a pickup truck.

A short ride later we arrived at the Dive Shop and will got me setup with a room and the paperwork for class.

I stayed in a little bungalow about 20m from the beach, it wasnt anything fancy but hell I wasnt going to be in the room much anyway. It was clean, had a fan and bathroom, although the bathroom was a Thai style toilet.

What exactly is a Thai-Style Toilet you say? It is a toilet w/o any running water. You do your business and you use the hose (usually!! with in reach of the can) to fill up a bucket, and then you pour that water into the toilet and it “flushes” itself. Very strange the first time you see one but it quickly turns itself into an entertaining game, at least after a few Tiger Beers!

Settled into my room I walked back to the Dive Shop to talk to Will and fill out some paperwork and watch the required video for dive class. While filling out the paperwork I met Karen. A Canadian girl living in Tokyo teaching and hopefully moving onto a new job there. We parted ways but decided to meet back up for dinner and drinks. I killed the rest of the afternoon reading my book, which I was unable to put down for 3 days. Those of you who know me probably wonder if I can even read since i do it so rarely but The Beach was awesome. It may have had something to do with the fact that I was living the book but whatever, I liked it. Thanks Kat!!!

Karen and I met back up and we went to a local bar where you sit on large pillows on this deck which is over the water. It was an awesome scene and we had a great conversation, just getting to know each other and talking about how we got to where we were today while drinking Chang beers and eating from the local BBQ for about $1.25 each!

It was getting late so I walked her back to her bungalow and headed back to my room to my surprise when I looked at my clock it was only 11pm. I passed out anyway…

Thailand Journal: Travel Planning Day

April 19th, 2008 – Opted not to do the Thai cooking course, I’ll pick up a Thai cook book instead. I didn’t want to take the whole day cooking and it was kind of expensive. Just wanted a day to rest and plan my next segment, Southern Thailand Islands!

I spent an hour or so after breakfast trying to find the best way to Koh Tao. Unlike last time, I didn’t plan to far ahead but this time I waited to long. Kat and I were going to take a train to the island but the trains are slim and book up weeks in advance. We ended up flying although taking different routes.

I guess you have to find that fine line between planning too early and planning too late. You live you learn I guess.

After travel planning I walked around some different parts of the city and hiked around the outskirts of Chiang Mai just to see the countryside.

Kat was having a miserable day travel planning because the flight I was on was too expensive for her budget and the buses and trains were not feasible options. her foot was also sore and she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to do her Scuba Certification. Stressful to try and plan for something you aren’t sure if you’ll be able to do.

I bought her a Tolberone when I saw them in the grocery store after my hike, she said it was her favorite during one of our convos the previous day. I was hoping it would pick up her spirits before we headed back to the Night Bazaar after realizing we missed a huge chunk of it. It seemed to work, you can’t ever go wrong with girls and chocolates.

We met up a little bit later and limped our way towards the market. I stopped at a couple of bookshops hoping to find a decent Thai cookbook but was unable to do so. While we were in one of the shops, we were talking about the book/movie The Beach. I told her I’ve heard of it but never read it, she was appalled. We searched the shop for it and she sneakily bought it behind my back and gave it to me. It was a very nice gesture, especially for someone who’s watching their budget closesly. I thanked her very much for it, especially since I just can’t get into the book I brought with me “ON the Road” by Jack Kerouac. I had no idea how long The Beach was, but when I saw it I thought there was no way I was getting through that especially with how slowly I read.

We walked through the red light district of Chiang Mai since it was on the way to the Market and it was quite dirty. Thai women and he-women lined the street with the farangs sliding behind closed doors looking behind them as the doors close to see if anyone noticed them ducking into “Happy Massage” parlor. You know the one thats dimly lit with the half naked “masseuse” standing out front in high heels. It was all very creepy. Thankfully, I didnt get half as many cat calls as the average farang probably since I was walking with a female.

The Night Bazaar was just as disappointing as the last time we thought we went. Too much touristy goods and touts trying to sell you everything and anything.

Oh well, worth a shot.