Cataratas de Iguazu/do Iguaçu

20190126_132257

It was a long drive from Pomerode to the famous waterfalls. Brazil has more frequent speed limits than Chile, Argentina and Uruguay and is covered by radar cameras to enforce them. Hence, it took us 7h for 400km. Also the section from Curitiba to Foz do Iguaçu is quite pricey: We paid a little less than $R 100 in tolls (!) for 650 km.

dsc09951

The Waterfalls of Iguazu are located in between Brazil and Argentina and are part of the Iguazu National Park. In terms of height and width they are considered to be the greatest waterfalls of world beating their famous counterparts Niagara and Victoria Falls. The name Iguazu stems from the Guaranis (native inhabitants) and means Big Water.

dsc09878

We dedicated two full days for the visit of each side which we felt was adequate. Since we were in Brazil anyway we started off with the Brazilian side. We stayed at a AirBnB in the city of Foz do Iguazu. From there it was a 20min drive to the park entrance.

The park entrance was $R 67 per adult plus $R 10 for Leo and $R 24 for parking. There are shuttle buses which leave every 15min. We experienced quite a long queue so we would recommend to be either the first ones in (8am) or among the last ones in (after 3pm, park closes at 5pm). There are couple of stops for extra activities (jeep safari, trekking, boat ride) on the way to the main area which we skipped. We went the 12km straight by bus to the final stop.

We started a beautiful walk way which leads to different viewing balconies of the uncountable amount of waterfalls. Supposedly, the number varies between 190 and 275 depending on the water level. We were very impressed how large the entire area is.

20190126_120021

Due to the massive amount of water tiny water drops elevate and help to build rainbows from time to time which is super-beautiful.

20190126_124933

At a couple of viewing points it’s unavoidable to escape from the herds of visitors.

80% of the waterfalls lie on the Argentinian side such that the Brazilian side offers the better panoramic views. In proximity to the park restaurants lots of Coatis can be found who try to chase all food they can find – so better watch your sandwiches 😉

20190126_141035

After spending two hours at the walk way we visited the adjacent Bird Park “Parque das Aves” ($R 45 per adult). It offers a huge variety of mostly Brazilian but as well some other South American species such as various types of parrots, big eagles, guaras (red small flamingos), flamingos and many more. Very interesting – particularly for kids – and definitely worthwhile as it is so close to the waterfalls.

We crossed the border in the evening which was straight forward and stayed at a AirBnB in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Of course, the Argentinian side also charges their entrance fee (ARS 700 per adult, kids under 5 free, plus ARS 170 parking). As opposed to what’s said in guide books everything can be paid by credit card. Since Argentina is one hour behind Brazil the park hours are also shifted by one hour: 9am to 6pm.

dsc09955

Unfortunately, we did not figure out that the majority of visitors usually heads straight to the train to “Garganta del Diablo”, the main attraction of the park and consequently there a huge queues for the train which just leaves every 30min. The better idea would have been to follow the trail :”Sendero Verde” to the waterfall trails “Sendero Superior Cataratas” and “Sendero Inferior Cataratas” and then head in the afternoon for the “Garganta del Diablo”.

There are much more trails on the Argentinian side leading through the trees of Parque Iguazu which gives a wilder impression to the visitor. Consequently, there’s also a bit more walking involved than on the Brazilian side.

20190127_124927.jpg

The Garganta del Diablo itself is very impressive: The amount of water which drops up to 65m deep is unbelievable. Due to wind and elevating water foam wet hair and clothes are guaranteed 🙂 This also makes video recording and taking pictures not straight forward. On the way back we saw big cat fish and turtles in the Rio Iguazu.

After an half hour wait for the train back we walked the “Sendero Superior Cataratas” which offered superb views of hidden waterfalls we did not see from the Brazilian side. The falls were very “green” as the water was flowing in between grasses and plants. The biggest one was the Salto San Martin. In the past, it could be best seen from the Ilha do San Martin which cannot be accessed anymore these days. We also attempted to take a boat ride to approach the falls but we opted out as the minimum age was 12.

20190127_144009

The last trail of the day led us along “Sendero Macuco” and ended after 3.5km at a refreshing waterfall. We dipped our heads under the heavy drops of the waterfalls and swam a little bit in the waterfalls‘ pool. There were maybe another 20 people with us who had the same idea. Swimming in the Iguazu waterfalls – checked 🙂 The trail itself is pretty, but unspectacular. The only wild life we encountered were huge spiders which made us watch our heads while walking.

20190127_170403

We completed the day with a nice Malbec and yummy Lomo and Bife de Chorizo to say Goodbye to Argentina in a proper way 🙂 Gracias Argentina – pasamos un muy buen tiempo 🙂

Before heading back to the Atlantic coast, we returned to Foz do Iguaçu the next morning and participated in the Panoramic Tour of the Itaipu dam. The dam is a bi-national project of Paraguay and Brazil and was developed and built over 5 years and completed in 1982. It is currently the largest hydroelectric plant of the world in terms of produced energy – the second superlative after the Iguazu falls. The Three Gorges dam in China has a larger capacity but a lower GW output.

dsc09968

At peak times 40,000 workers were working at the dam and had to be fed in the installed restaurants. Even today, the dam employs more than 3000 people. The amount of concrete used would be sufficient to build 210 football stadiums like Maracana. The rock volume extracted was 8.5 times higher than in the Eurotunnel between France and the UK.

The hydroelectric plant possesses 20 generators and produces 90 TWh p.a. The produced energy is split equally between the two countries but Brazil buys back the majority of Paraguay’s share such that Paraguay finally only consumes 10% of the produced energy. Nevertheless, this is sufficient to cover 90% of Paraguay’s energy needs (!). The water reservoir itself has a size of 1300 km^2.

dsc09981

The tour itself ($R 45 per adult) offers three stops from different perspectives and shows a 15 min documentary (English subtitles) at the beginning. We enjoyed the tour and highly recommend it.

dsc00004

Buenos Aires (BA)

DSC09409
It was a day long drive from Reta to Argentina’s capital. To our surprise, accessing the city was completely hassle free without any traffic jams: The paid highway (ca. 100 ARS/50km) led us easily to our hotel in Balvanera. Also it is worthwhile mentioning that the Porteños (citizens of Buenos Aires) are also quite normal drivers compared to other capitals in Latin America 🙂

It’s been a while that we stayed in a hotel and the rates were very comparable to apartments (50EUR/night including parking and breakfast for the four of us) so we decided at Hotel Lyon which was conveniently located a few blocks away from the blue and the red metro line.
20181229_140155
Day one we dedicated to the Microcentro, Puerto Madryn, La Boca and San Telmo. We’ve used the super-cheap (government subsidized) metro to move around: One ride was 14ARS per adult, kids under four are free. The first sight was the Obelisco, a huge column (67m) on Avenida 9 de Julio which was built in 1936 for the 400th anniversary of Spanish settlement at Rio de la Plata.


A great view over the skyline (and by the way totally free) offers the balcony on the 23rd floor of Hotel Panamerica, a block away from the Obelisco. We were first denied the access when we kindly ask for it but if you just walk to straight to the elevators and press button number 23 no one will bother you. You just have to quickly cross through the indoor pool room 🙂

A couple of blocks away from the Obelisco is the famous Plaza de Mayo, one of the most important squares in BA as in 1810 the Argentinian independence of Spain was announced here. A couple of well-known buildings are scattered around Plaza de Mayo: Casa Rosada (president’s office) where Eva Peron held her famous speech, the museum Cabildo and the Catedral Metropolitana. In the latter one, we were lucky enough to catch the change of guards who protect the mausoleum of General St Martin, one of the prime leaders for South American independence.

In Puerto Madryn the warehouses and the waterway with its boats reminded us a lot of Hamburg’s Hafencity. Skyscrapers and office space also dominate the picture of the area and hence we could observe a lot of porteños enjoying lunch in the ample restaurants along the waterway. Of particular interest were the ancient harbor cranes:

Then we escaped a little bit the noise and hectic of the city and wandered through the huge green park Costanera Sur.
DSC09369
Unfortunately, there were huge colonies of mosquitos such that we could not fully enjoy the beauty of the park as cyclists and joggers did.

In Parque de Lezama in La Boca we tried to view a tango show (recommended by a German columnist who has been living in BA for 20y) but there was unfortunately none. At least the kids got a playing break at a playground there.

In San Telmo on the Plaza Dorrego we got more lucky and got to see a short (and quite touristy) but still entertaining tango show:

San Telmo is beautiful quarter with cobblestone streets and a lot of bars, restaurants, cafes and local shops – and market where they still stuff the sausages in front of you 🙂 Great first day!

On day two we started off with a tour of the Congress. From outside it resembles quite well its idol in Washington DC. It’s interior is super-posh as a lot of marble was shipped from Italy, France and Spain during the last two centuries. The tour was held in Spanish and bit too technical for us to understand major details (and the kids crying did not help either 😉 ). It was still worthwhile seeing the architecture of the two houses.

Afterwards, we intended to spend a couple of hours at Proyecto EcoParque Interactivo but unfortunately the park was still undergoing major constructions (or as the officials claim “improvements”) – we were told at least for another year. A small section was still open such that we could see huge rabbits, gooses and peacocks.


Fortunately, the botanical gardens were just around the corner. They offered a good break from the hotness of that day (which we were of course thankful for).
DSC09460
The remainder of the day we spent strolling through Palermo Viejo and Palermo Hollywood. These neighborhoods are quite trendy and covered by cool craft beer bars, ice cream shops and again cobblestones. Would be a great area to live for a couple of years!
20181228_180618
Our personal highlight however was dinner at Don Julian, one of the best parrilla restaurants of BA.

We were already prepared for a wait when we arrived at 6:55pm to get a table but the line was already huge. Reservations were taken just taken for the period after January 20 and hence we put our name on the waiting list. Most people waited but a couple left (particularly Germans – well I guess we’re not well-known for our patience, are we 😉 after being told that the wait is at least two hours. The first hour we bridged with Champagne on the house 🙂 We’ve never seen a restaurant doing this (though with this occupancy it’s just peanuts for them!). We got our table (even outside as desired) after 1:30h and it was definitely worthwhile the long wait. Irina had a juicy piece of Lomo (Tenderloin) and Lothar enjoyed with Leo a yummy Entrecote – of course accompanied with a nice bottle of Malbec!
20181228_210156
That was the best beef we had in Argentina!

Day 3 Lothar got together with Diego, the brother of Lothar’s soccer buddy Beto from Texas. Diego used to live in Los Angelos for many years but decided to move back to Argentina for family reasons. He runs a nice Pizzeria in Villa Crespo (The Cousin’s restaurant) completely decorated with great futbol pictures. It was great meeting him and having a beer on the house 🙂 Muchas gracias, Diego!


In the afternoon, we visited the famous cemetery of Ricoleta. We’ve never seen such huge graveyards / grave temples some even greater than one room apartments in Hong Kong 😉 In fact, the size of most of the graves dwarfed easily the ones we had seen in Punta Arenas (Chile) before. The most famous grave belongs to Eva Peron and her family but also famous politicians, war heroes and business men come short here.

A good break for the kids was the interactive children museum which was just around the corner from the cemetery. They host a lot of games and experiments about nature and physics and kept Leo entertained for nearly two hours.

That concluded our stay in BA and we really fell in love with the city. It’s definitely our favorite capital so far in Latin America and we could see us living there one day for while.

Apart from Iguazu (will visit via Brazil) this basically concluded our journey through Argentina and we truly enjoyed this beautiful country! The only thing we missed out upon was a futbol game but the league was already over by the time we visited.

DSC09345
We wish all of our readers, friends and family a happy, prosperous, entertaining and joyful start into 2019! For us personally, 2018 was awesome and thrilling and we’ll be excited to see how the next year’s gonna go! Feliz año nuevo!

Las Grutas and Reta

Again it was a long drive once we left Mendoza. 1600Km to reach Puerto Madryn. However, we changed plans in the middle of the route (isn’t that the beauty of this kind of travels? 🙂 ) and decided to skip the Peninsula Valdes as we had already seen Magellan penguins, sea lions and guanacos in Chile (also it was the end of the whale season). At least, we found a nice dinosaur museum an hour before the first overnight destination 🙂

20181219_175147Well, the hour had its price: Minutes before our first overnight stop, Santa Rosa, in the province of La Pampa, the sky suddenly turned deep gray and heavy winds started to blow. Further, tornado-like cones started to build which looked scary and brought even stronger winds. And then out of the blue the temperature started to drop from 32 C to 12 C (!) and it began to hail. This combination made us immediately stop since we could not see anything anymore. The hail (marble size) kept drumming against Oscar’s windows and we were hoping that they would make it. At one point we tried to escape the hail but since big branches also began to fly through the air (a smaller one hit Oscar on the hood – just another tattoo 😉 ) we immediately stopped again. After 15 min the drama was over and we could see the sky and a rainbow 🙂 That was the heaviest hail storm all the four of us been through and the kids were actually the calmest ones 🙂

After this experience we did not feel like going out for dinner anymore and also left early the next morning to reach the Atlantic beach town of Las Grutas, the second day.‘

For the next two days we became lazy beach bums and enjoyed it a lot. Our AirBnB apartment was just a couple of 100 meters away 🙂 The tides were very strong and the water escaped within three hours over 200m (!) which formed some small pools where the kids had a lot of fun.

The beach is famous for its rocky formations which are inhabited by different kind of parrots. The water temperature was very decent at 20C with the outside temperature at 30C. A stroll through the nice pedestrian precinct with Christmas decorated shops and restaurants completed our day.

20181221_214716

For Christmas we were heading to a small beach village on the Argentinian coast called Reta. We stocked up with food, cash and gasoline in Bahia Blanca since apart from some . Ideal to spend a couple of festive days 🙂

DSC09292

As opposed to Las Grutas the beach of Reta is much quieter and there are hardly any people there. On the first night we caught a beautiful sunset which we dedicate to our family and friends: We wish everyone a joyful, relaxed and merry Christmas 🙂

DSC09303