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CURITIBA : BOTANICAL GARDENS

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The Jardim Botânico de Curitiba was just a quick 5 minute walk away from my hostel so after the rain had stopped and the sky had cleared, I took the time to have a wander around. I can say for certain that it was definitely worth it.

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The glass structure stands strong in the gardens, an eye-catching focal point with a great view over the city and the flowers.

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I was told of many things to do in Curitiba but with the weather against me, I was glad I at least got to see the botanical gardens. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking for me.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into Curitiba and I’m looking forward to get writing again to share all the other amazing things, people and places I’ve had the opportunity to experience on this trip!

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EN ROUTE TO IGUAZU – IGUAZU FALLS

Our last full day of the trip. We woke up early and after a quick dip in the hostel pool and some breakfast, we set off to see the Argentine side of the Iguazu falls. After a short bus ride we had arrived at the entrance and after seeing the Brazilian side the day before we were a little underwhelmed with the set up as it all seem a bit dated and in need of repair. It seemed a little sleepy too but then we realised that we had come quite early as we wanted time to explore everything.DSCN0700DSCN0692DSCN0703

There are two main walking trails to see the falls. One focuses on the panoramic views and being close to the falls and the other walks along the top of the falls. We obviously did both and had a great time walking the trails and wildlife spotting, we even saw a crocodile resting in the water!

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We were a little unlucky though as the Devil’s Throat viewing point was closed and it is apparently the best part of the falls, however we still had a great day.DSCN0764DSCN0793

There are lots of extra paid tours that you can do and after hearing reports from people at the hostel that the boat tour was fantastic, I was really eager to have a go and whe she saw how close they went to the falls, Josephina happily agreed to go too. We saw people walking up from the dock looking absolutely soaked so when it started to rain, we knew that we were going to get wet whatever we chose to do.DSCN0812

So we donned our life jackets and we were off on the boat which took us literally RIGHT under the falls. The force was so strong I thought one of my contact lenses had fallen out even though I had my eyes clenched shut! The boat trip might have been a little bit expensive, it was more or less the same price as the entrance to the park, but it was 100% worth it! We were completely drenched afterwards but it was still raining so it didn’t really matter. We were lucky to have had a bright day the previous day on the Brazilian side.DSCN0805

There was one last trail on the map, a 3,5km walk through the rainforest to an isolated waterfall. Although we were tired it was the best part of the day, apart from the mosquitos. We met some Dutch travellers who were turning around as they didn’t have any insect repellent but after sharing some of ours (Josephinas really) we all set off together. As we were all speaking quite loudly I think we scared off all the wildlife so we didn’t get to see many animals, until later!

We made our way down the trail through the rainforest passing only a handful of others which was lovely after the hustle and bustle of all the other tourists of the main trails. We finally made it to the waterfall after passing a whole groups of locals who told us we had to go for a swim so swim we did. We even managed to clamber up onto the rocks and get a massage from the water!DSCN0817DSCN0818

It was such a fantastic way to spend the afternoon and when we had finished we went to the lookout at the top of the waterfall to admire the view. We were looking out across the forest, the river and Brazil in the not so far distance when we finally saw the wildlife that we have been longing to see! Monkeys! They were quite far away but we could see them swinging from tree to tree and it was so peaceful and removed from civilisation. Just a perfect moment observing the monkeys undisturbed.DSCN0821

On the trail back which I walked barefoot I even got to see a tiny little rainforest frog and a colourful wild parrot! The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the long journey back to Goya. We went via Corrientes and after travelling for more than 15 hours after such a jam-packed trip I couldn’t wait for bed!DSCN0781

EN ROUTE TO IGUAZU – CATARATAS DO IGUASSU

Puerto Iguazu! We arrived at our destination after enjoying a lovely view of the stars from the top of the double decker bus and armed with a few addresses and a guidebook we set off to find a hostel. Luck wasn’t on our side in the beginning but we eventually found somewhere after the fifth hostel! After dipping our toes in the water of the pool we thought we would have an early night but we got invited over to a table with a whole mix of different people. It was really nice meeting lots of people and finding our their reasons for travelling, just gives me even more of the travel bug.

The next day bright and early we set off to the bus station to catch a bus to the Brazilian side of the falls and how lucky we were with the weather, it was a bright clear day, perfect for all the following pictures! One thing not to worry too much about is passing through Brazilian immigration, the bus driver will come and collect your passports and then bring them back to you stamped! It was a little strange though when he brought them back though and didn’t even check if it was your passport you were taking. Turned out ok though, I still have my passport and now it just has an extra stamp!

As you may or may not know, it has always been my ultimate goal to go to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro specifically but Brazil in general so I cannot explain in words just how excited I was to be crossing the border. I honestly was so happy that I thought I would cry. This happiness continued throughout the day as the sights we were about to see were absolutely spectacular!

The bus then delivered us straight to the entrance of the falls, we bought our tickets together and before we knew it we were on an open top double decker bus bringing us through the rainforest. After disembarking and following a little trail, we were presented with our first views of the falls!

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Then we were presented with our first encounter with a coatimundi! Shocked would not be a good enough description as it dug it’s teeth into Josephina’s bag presumably looking for food. Some squawking and swatting later, we had learned our lesson to not leave any bags on the ground!!! They are pretty cute when not attacking you though.

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There are no words to describe just how amazing the Iguazu falls are in person. I’ve been to Niagra falls before but there’s no comparison, the Iguazu falls are on a different level. The Spanish”Iguazu” or the Portuguese “Iguassu” or “Iguaçu” comes from the Guarani meaning “big water”.

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The Brazilian side of the falls offer spectacular views across all the waterfalls, of which there are over 270 which mostly belong to Argentina. Some of the trail even allowed us to get closer to the falls as well as a higher viewing point offering a panoramic view of everything.

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After spending a few hours meandering along the designated trail, we left the national park to discover the bird park next door, the Parque das Aves.
DSCN0670My camera battery died quite soon after entering the park but I still managed to get some shots of a few parrots. Although these photos show the railings of a cage, there were a lot of walk through open aviaries with birds flying overhead.

DSCN0670We even got to see a spectacular humming bird in the butterfly enclosure. The Parque das Aves is well worth the visit and definitely a great way to spend the afternoon. You even get to hold a parrot at the end. DSCN0675 DSCN0682

This guy was maybe a little too friendly….

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Josephina seemed to be able to connect with him on a different level.

IMG_20141124_163751After walking around all day, we decided to head into Foz do Iguaçu to see what the Brazilian border town had to offer and rest our feet. Foz has much more of a city vibe than Puerto Iguazu with a main shopping street and not many restaurants or cafés to be found. We eventually found one and relaxed in the warmth of the late afternoon sun and decided we would head back to the Argentine side for dinner as we both preferred the small town atmosphere in Puerto Iguazu.

We managed to find the bus, or actually the bus found us and stopped by the side of the road to let us on, and we made our way to the border. The bus drops you off at the immigration centre and they can either wait for you or they tell you to get the next one. We were told the later so decided to forgo waiting and walk across the river to the Argentine immigration. The sun was setting and it was probably a little reckless but there’s no fun in life if you always play it safe. I think it was around a 4km walk and it was still pretty warm so we power walked across the border. A nice way to end the day!

EN ROUTE TO IGUAZU – PARAGUAY

Last week I had one of the greatest weeks of my life and it wasn’t even a whole week, it was four days filled with buses, border-crossings and buckets of fun. Josephina and I decided we wanted to head to Puerto Iguazu to see the Iguazu falls and because it’s a little far from Goya, Corrientes, we thought we would make a little pit stop on the way. We ended up going to an extra country than initially planned and had so much fun being the ultimate tourists, waking up at 6:30am to make the most of our days and wearing our invisible tourist signs with pride.

I think a chronological account is going to be the easiest way to write about everything so as not to go off on any tangents when I get overexcited about everything. We started our journey on Friday the 21st of November and we got a night bus from Goya to Posadas in the Misiones province. We were headed to see the Jesuit mission ruins and reading up about them the night before, I discovered that there were also some in Paraguay which is only a stone’s throw away from Posadas across the river Paraná. So arriving in Posadas around 6 in the morning, we boarded a bus and off we went to Encarnación in Paraguay. Not having been in the initial itinerary we had no idea about the exchange rate or the currency but luckily I had some euros that we managed to exchange, there was no shortage of currency exchangers and before we knew it we were being ushered on to a bus heading to La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná.  The currency is Guarani which is the name of the indigenous people of the region and their language.DSCN0255

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The Jesuit missions were first set up across South America during the 17th and 18th centuries and were perceived as types of settlements for the indigenous people. European Jesuit priests were sent over to preach Christianity under what now can be described as an early communist system. The priests did not attempt to dramatically change the values or lifestyle of the indigenous people, the main change they implemented was the abolition of polygamy. However, they learnt the native languages, provided safe and secure housing and adapted to their cultures.

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Before researching this area, I had no idea that there were ruins or of the different types of colonisation that took place but I definitely learnt a lot. The missions in Paraguay were some of the first founded and were full of history. When we arrived at the Trinidad missions, after getting off the local bus and walking around 1km down a red dirt road (the colour of the soil changed dramatically as we went further north), we joined a tour guide around the site. Trinidad is so well maintained and reconstructed in such detail, it was lovely to wander around the ruins taking in the sheer scale of the settlement.

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Afterwards, we wanted to go to the Jesuit Mission of Jesús de Tavarangüe and asked for some directions as it was at 12km off the main road. We were told by one person that there was a bus and there would be one in half an hour, another person said we had to take a taxi, another said there would be a bus in two hours so we decided to wait in the hot midday sun which isn’t the best idea in the world until we saw some locals hitchhiking and after a little hesitating we decided to join suit. I was a little worried after hearing so many horror stories but it was honestly the best decision. We met some Paraguayan farm workers who took us to their soya farm and we shared some watermelon. After chatting and learning about their way of life they took us to the Jesús Jesuit mission.

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As it’s a bit out of the way and we were there during siesta time, it was pretty quiet and we got to wander around peacefully. There was a great view across the countryside which looked so much like Luxembourg or Germany, the only things out of place were the red roads, the palm trees and the heat. But otherwise it felt just like home!

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We then started to head back to the main road until we managed to get another lift, this time with a third generation German man who’s family all still spoke German. It was really interesting as he told us there is a large market for German products here in the German communities. Didn’t expect that in Paraguay! We then got a bus back to Encarnación where we finally got some food, relaxed in the shade and thought we could see a bit of the city before we headed back to Posadas.

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We were given directions to the coast and honestly wasn’t expecting the river beach that we encountered. It was just perfect to lay back, relax and reflect on our day! After a little siesta (Josephina!) we wandered back to the terminal and got another bus back over to Argentina whilst watching the sun set against the city of Posadas.

BUENOS AIRES – DAY 2

So day two in Buenos Aires started when I met the son of my soon-to-be boss who came to collect me at my hostel and took the time to show me around the city. He couldn’t have been any more helpful and I was so lucky to be guided around by someone who knew so much about the city and its history.

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We covered quite a big distance on foot and by bus with my favourite part being the Recoleta Cemetary. As the name suggests, it is a cemetery in the middle of the Recoleta area of Buenos Aires and it is surprisingly big. It mainly consists of family tombs with little buildings protecting them and is the final resting place of many of Argentina’s political leaders as well as the infamous Eva Péron. I could honestly spend hours there exploring and would have done if we didn’t still have so much to see.

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Eva Péron's (née Duarte) family tomb

Eva Péron’s (née Duarte) family tomb

I think these pictures speak a thousand words for this place so I won’t write too much about it. I was also told that up until a few years ago homeless children used to live in the cemetery, scrambling across the rooftops.

The Casa Rosada is Argentina’s equivalent to the White House and is a really lovely building. Perhaps on my next trip to the city I will take one of the guided tours.

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This photo was taken at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral on the main square, Plazo de Mayo. It is the view into the dome above the mausoleum of General José de San Martín who was a main figure fighting for independence in the 19th Century.

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We also went to visit the rose gardens however by this point it had gotten a bit chilly and we decided this would be the last place on our tour.

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So Buenos Aires, you’re big and a little daunting but I love your architecture, your history and your gardens. I don’t think I could live in you but I definitely want to come back and explore more. I didn’t have the chance to give tango a try so that will be first on my list for my next visit.

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BUENOS AIRES AT A GLANCE

Arriving in Buenos Aires after travelling for over 27 hours, I was just happy to be breathing fresh air. I started my mammoth journey in Dublin, as it was considerably cheaper, so after a few days spent with my sister and visiting family, I was off.

On the first flight, I was sat with a lovely American lady and with no in-flight entertainment we proceeded to idle away the time completing her crossword. We were then interrupted by the pilot telling us to look out the window and we could see a spectacularly clear aerial view of Greenland.

Landing in Philadephia International Airport with free wifi and a whole host of shops and food options was a great excuse to stretch my legs. Then there was a short haul flight to Miami International with no free wifi but free mobile charging stations. Finally my last flight for 8 hours straight to Buenos Aires and luckily this one had individual in-flight entertainment although I was too tired to make much use of it.

Armed with my conversational Spanish and guide books, I managed to buy a ticket for the shuttle bus to the city but was met with something I thought I had left behind, the rain. 40 minutes later I got off in a small bus/taxi terminal in the city centre and was then informed I had bought a ticket that would transfer me straight to my hostel. Fantastic news as I was exhausted by this point.

I arrived at my hostel around 2pm and the people were really lovely, giving me lots of information and making me feel welcome but don’t think I would stay there again. It was a little bit too grotty and dirty but fine for the two nights I had already booked and paid for.

So with the rest of the day ahead of me I went off to discover my first bit of Argentina. Buenos Aires is a strange city in that it doesn’t really feel like you are in South America. Its European influence is everywhere and you could almost be in an Italian city although on a much larger scale. The city is simply enormous. The colonial architecture is breath-taking and as I wandered down one of the main streets in the Palermo neighbourhood, Scalabrini Ortiz, I took in the sights and sounds. The streets are so big that I think I counted almost 10 lanes of traffic and as most of the streets are one way, they were all going in the same direction. Drivers are a little lax about traffic rules here and it was a bit daunting crossing these massive streets.

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Upon recommendation from one of the hostel staff, I made my way towards the Japanese gardens and for 32 AR$ I strolled around enjoying the relaxing atmosphere. I took time to read my book and take some photos. It was a great way to unwind after all the travelling, it also helped that the rain has stopped and the sun was out in full force.

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I initially thought that I would make it to the centre of town by foot but by this point my feet were killing me and I realised I had been walking for over 5 hours so I started to make my way back. I then stumbled across an area called Recoleta and had a hot chocolate whilst observing locals hailing taxis. Then I made my own attempt and successfully told the driver the hostel’s address.

Making my way around in Spanish has been an adventure as I still have the basics from school but Argentinian Spanish has some significant differences. The main being that “tu” is replaced with “vos”. Also the pronunciation of words with “ll” or “y” are replaced with a “ch” sound. So the word for street is “calle” and the Spanish pronunciation would be “ca-ye” whereas Argentinians would say “ca-che”. The same goes for the word I which become “ch-o” as opposed to “yo”. Pretty complicated at the start but think I’ve got it now.

So there you have it, my first day in Argentina and my initial thoughts on the city of Buenos Aires.