Saturday, 29 September 2007

Day Trip to Uruguay

A short hop across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires is beautiful old Uruguan town called Colonia. I say short hop across the river, but the river is about 40 miles wide !! You can just see the other side from the top of sky scrapers, but otherwise, you´d think it was open sea.

We got there in the early afternoon, so spent a couple of hours wondering around the cobbled streets amongst lovely old buildings. Very pretty and no Doncaster over here. Possibly the nicest aspect of the place was that there was virtually no traffic, so it had a peaceful air to it compared to the noise and bustle of Buenos Aires. What cars there were, tended to be very old classic ones, so this kept Mariano pleased..

The photo above is of us stuffing our faces again. Have a look at the two old cars. The closest one to the camera has a large shrubbery growing in it, and the one next to the restaurant has been fitted with a table and chairs for special romantic back seat dining.

Buenos Aires

Well, Buenos Aires turned out to be a very impressive city. So much, that due to some ´local difficulties´ sorting out a trip to the Galapagos, we decided to extend our time in Argentina..... Also, we were lucky to have an excellent local guide in Mariano. Mariano is my ( Alan ) old boss from Honda, who is spending a bit of time back at home doing his gardening.....

Anyway, Mariano conducted an excellent walking tour of the city centre. It´s built on a very grand scale, with wide boulevards and many large old buildings. The pretty architecture is interspersed with swathes of ´Doncaster North Bus Station`too, but Mariano managed to pick out the best for us. Very impressive. We also met up with Mariano´s brother Ignacio and his wife Maria-Julio, who treated us to a fantastic slap up steak tea. Big guts......
The next day we had a lovely trip up the Rio de la Plata to a delta area outside of the main city. Reminded me alot of the pretty parts of Stockholm, with lots of pretty river inlets with folk canoeing and enjoying the water. Later that night we went along to a Tango show. I didn´t understand a word of the songs, and I struggled to follow the complex music, but it was a great experience. I was desperate to get up on stage, but Athena thought my Gibbon-Pogo dancing might not quite cut the mustard. Philistine.
The photo above is of me in front of the Presidential Palace, which you will note, is painted pink. Nice touch.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Iguazu / Iguacu

A couple of hours flight from Rio, on the Paraguay / Brazil / Argentinian border are the Iguazu Falls ( I think the other spelling is Portuguese as is spoken in Brazil ). The River Iguazu, which up until this point was minding its own business flowing gently over a plateau in the jungle, suddenly finds a huge hole to fall down. The resulting falls stretch over several kilometres and are absolutely amazing. Apparently Theodore Roosevelt´s missus came to see them and just said " Poor Niagra ! ".

The falls themselves are in a huge jungle National Park. Very well organised for us tourists. Supposedly there are all kinds of wildlife lurking within it, from Pumas to Butterflies. I´m afraid we didn´t spot any Pumas, but this butterfly did decide to alight on my boot.

Talking of flavour, we cruised into the local town ( Puerto Iguazu ) for a spot of tea in the evening. I had a pork chop spectactular, but Athena won hands down with a huge steak ( think large fillet mignon ) for the exorbitant price of $5 US. Me like Argentina !

This spot of video features a bit of the falls just out of shot of the photo above. Might help to give some idea of the scale of this place.

And this clip might help you to appreciate how an innocuous strech of river suddenly drops off the face of the Earth. I couldn´t help thinking about canoeing along the Cherwell in Oxford !

Rio Part 2

I think I mentioned visiting the Sugar Loaf mountain in the previous entry. I only mention it because I wanted to include this additional photo of it ( top left ). Imagine having this a stone´s throw from the city centre ! Spectacular doesn´t even start to describe it.

We polished off Rio by visiting the Centro. Surprisingly pleasant city centre. I had imagined something a bit more squalid and downtrodden, but it was very fancy. Lots of grand buildings and plazas etc . It does seem to be a bit of a binary city - There are very affluent pleasant areas and there are also the Favelas. The two just don´t seem to clash (but it may be because we have a cloistered tourist view of things)

Athena talked me into a bit of culture ( Culture ? I´ve been to Leeds . .. .. etc etc ). A Chilean artist has taken to decorating an old staircase in the St Terasa area with tiles. He collects them from all over the world and also paints many of his own. Sounds a bit crap but it was really nice. The picture is of us with the great Seleron on his staircase.

In case you were worried that we might be over doing it a bit, we´ve also managed to find time to indulge in a bit of Ipanema beach action . Jeez, those waves are powerful. It´s like being in a washing machine...

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Rio de Janeiro

Well Rio has proved to be a cracking place to start our trip. It was a bit of an easy start because we met up with Una and Paul ( Athena's big sis and her husband ) and John and Allie ( Allie is an ex collegue of Athena ), so we were lowered into Rio life without a bump.
The weather has been great for cruising around ( mid twenties °C ) so we've already seen alot. The view from the Sugarloaf mountain and the ( slightly cloudy view ) from Christ the Redeemer were spectacular. The city has been built in the most ridiculous place - it nestles down amongst huge moutain peaks. The beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana have both been great, but the waves are quite punishing. I was knackered after about 5 minutes.
Food has been very good. It's a real carnivore's paradise, but the prices are not quite a cheap as I ( Alan ) had hoped. Beer has been Euro style - Bah.
Highlight of the tour so far, has to be a trip to see a local Rio football derby. Vasco de Gama played Flamengo in the Maracana stadium. The stadium was built for the 1950 World Cup and is the home of Brazilian football. The atmosphere was truly 'loco' before kick off as the rival fans vied to out perform each other. The game itself was pretty much irrelevant compared to the entertainment going on around us. Have a look at the video clip below !

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Time to leave jolly old Oxford....

Right folks, that us off then. First stop Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Thanks alot for coming along to the knees-up in the Parks last weekend. It was great to see everybody and we both appreciated the effort.
Keep in touch via e-mail ( links at the bottom of the screen ) and we'll leave you to deal with winter......

Friday, 7 September 2007

The Lake District

Just back from the Lakes. Ambleside was a cracking place to base ourselves, with a great selection of beers in every pub we visited. I hate the South. . . .

We were dead jammy with fantastic weather to go with the awesome scenery. Athena went up Helvellyn with no worries, but was a bit nervous about Striding Edge ( see video below ). Her right knee was a bit sore after the decent though, so we do need to keep an eye on that. Bring on the Andes !