Tuesday, 11 March 2014

South American Adventure - Day Twenty, Tuesday 11th March

A really easy start to the day today – nothing to be on time for this morning.  We had a voucher for a “Welcome Coffee” when we arrived, so decided to have that whilst looking at the map and deciding what to do.  The Sheraton is right at the back of Salta, built into the San Bernadino hill.  There is a cable car that takes you up to the top of the hill for a view over the whole of Salta.  It is a really cloudy morning, so not much point.  There is a swimming pool on the second floor, which gives a fairly good view over the city, so that is good enough.  It is about eleven blocks to walk to the main square, along very Spanish looking roads and houses.  The graffiti on the walls is very artistic – albeit a bit weird.  About half way there, there is a puff of red smoke up ahead, and a lot of car horns.  It seems there is a protest of some sort – no idea what.  There are marshals, and all of the protestors are in cars with stickers on the side.  It gridlocks the whole place.  One of the cars conked out and had to be pushed.  All very peaceful and well behaved, as far as I could see.

We could see the main square in the distance by the large pink dome of the cathedral.  It wasn’t far to walk at all.  The main square was beautiful.  The buildings all around were all old, with pavement cafes most of the way round.  The middle had a large statue and waterfall and grassy area.  There were hundreds of birds – some chap was selling bird food, just like Trafalgar Square used to have.  Children were running about, and it had a really good feel.

We went into a museum just off the main square (just after I lost Paul, after I stopped to take pictures and he followed a policeman who was showing him where the museum was).  It was the MAAM – we had heard about this as in 1999 three mummified children were found at the top of a volcano.  They were here in this museum.  It was a really important Inca find.  They used to drug the children and bury them alive – to cut a long story short – and these three were found in fairly good shape.  But not alive of course!  It is amazing that we are still finding things from hundreds of years ago, and horrific to find out what is done in the name of religion.  Archaeology is still a good business to be in.

After a short walk around the main part of the town, we sat at one of the pavement cafes to have lunch.  This is where we realised that we had come out with only a handful of pesos, a few dollars and no credit card.  Not used to having to pay for things!  We did a deal with the waiter – who gave us somewhere in the middle of the official rate and the black market rate for our dollars.  Ha!  Seasoned travellers or plonkers!  It was a very pleasant way to spend lunch, although the food wasn’t.  Oh well – ambiance is king.

We slowly made our way back to the hotel, and spent an hour or so reading by the pool before having to get a taxi to the airport for our flight to Iguazu.  It was again a really old battered taxi that took us the thirty or so minutes to the airpot – 80 pesos, about £7.  We passed the bus station – I could see Paul thinking “Why don’t we go by bus” – not!  Driving into the airport was like driving into a country estate – lovely green grass and trees all along the perimeter.  Lovely little airport – very kind check in man that yet again did not give us any excess luggage charges.  And a good cup of coffee at the café.  Can recommend departing from this airport.  Let’s just hope the bags depart as well!

The flight has actually had a slight schedule change, and is leaving ten minutes earlier than originally planned at 1905.  And it leaves bang on time.  As we take off and go through the clouds, the tops of the Andes are still standing proud as we come through the top of them.  Magical – seeing the tops through a mass of white cotton wool.  The one and a half hour flight goes very smoothly and quickly – we have another box containing biscuit snacks, a lemon biscuit and a chocolate biscuit.  Last time on Aerolinas Argentinas, so last box!

We arrive, and the bags do too.  Unfortunately, the transfer didn’t.  Everyone on the flight got their transfers – we were the only ones left in the airport.  And the only ones that spoke English.  The telephone number of the hotel didn’t work from my mobile – a bit of déjà vu here!  Someone came that spoke English, and we organised a taxi that would take US dollars – didn’t have enough Argentinean for the trip to the Brazil side where we are staying.  But saying that, it was only $50 so not enough to break the bank.

We load the cases, and start the trip.  We quickly pass the turn off for the falls on the Argentinean side, and then pass a whole row of hotels with neon signs advertising their wares.  After about half an hour, we come to the border point.  They have been taking notes from Macdonalds – this one is a drive through.  Our passports are stamped to leave Argentina, and we go over the no mans land – the Iguazu River.  One side it is Argentina, the other is Brazil.  Once over the other side, no-one seems bothered to stamp our passports, we could have driven straight over.  Not sure how that would work when we come to leave!  The taxi driver takes our passports and parks and takes them in to get them stamped.

Another ten minutes or so down the road (he is a bit of a speedy Gonzales, who knows where the speed cameras are!) we are at the entrance to the National Park where the hotel is situated.  This is as far as the taxi can go – we then have to transfer to a National Park vehicle for the last twenty minutes to the Hotel Das Cataratas.  On the way, a skunk crosses the road in front of us.  The driver informs us that there are many animals in the park, including Jaguar and Puma.  Paul’s eyes light up.  Chances of seeing either of them – nada!!

The receptionist checks us in like a robot, and doesn’t seem too bothered that the transfer didn’t arrive (the one that they had arranged).  She blames someone else and quickly goes on to something else.  Not impressed so far!  But, this hotel is in the place you want to be.  They can perhaps not offer the service one expects for a hotel of this standard as they have the monopoly on the location.  The room was nothing special – but the views……….  And the noise of the falls thundering right in front of the hotel, and the fact that you are right there.  That is what you pay for here – hopefully my impression of the hotel will improve.  But you can’t get away from location, location, location!  And sitting having a campari and Brazil Nuts and being bitten by horrible little insects is second to none!

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