Elizabeth here! To pick up where Alli left off…
We took the boat back from Uruguay and arrived back to Buenos Aires on Ash Wednesday. The plan was to find mass before our flight to Iguazú that evening. Alli and I were blessed (thank you Lord!) to stumble upon a gorgeous church that had Ash Wednesday mass that began just 20 minutes after we arrived! We were able to pray and experience Ash Wednesday in a new culture! Instead of marking with the cross on the forehead, interestingly, they just grab a handful of ashes and throw it on top of your head! We both enjoyed being able to experience that. Our first day of giving up sweets and desserts (which is usually our main food source while traveling) was a success. It was a good beginning of Lent!
We made our way to Iguazu with no real flaws… Until we arrived at the airport. When we got in touch with Claire and Kyle (who had arrived in Iguazu just a few hours before us), they informed us that every hostel in Iguazu was full for that night…
NOT AGAIN!!! After miserably sleeping in the bus station in Montevideo, we were determined to never have that happen again. Claire and Kyle were able to book the last available room at a hostel for themselves. They informed us that it was a private room for 3 and we would probably be able to sneak in if we were careful.
Alli and I had no other safe choice than to sneak into the room with Claire and Kyle and share the last twin bed available. (Hostels never allow more than the number of alloted people per bed into a room.) As Claire and Kyle waited for us on the porch, they created their master plan. As they saw us approaching, Kyle gives us a severe look to stay put. Claire acts as the distraction and masterfully asks the receptionist at the hostel to show her how to turn on the stove (despite having cooked just an hour prior). As the receptionist turns her back, Kyle motions for us fervently– it was go time!! Alli and I shuffle past the desk into the private room with no issues! We simply whispered all night, showered one by one, and had to hide every time the door was opened. In the morning we created another distraction and we successfully walked out! First night in Iguazú was a success! Being stowaways was actually slightly thrilling!
We arrived in Iguazu park early the next morning. Iguazu is a very interesting destination because you find a mixture of backpackers as well as wealthy travelers who are spending hundreds of dollars a day on food and lodging. However, everyone comes because it’s an incredible experience. Walking up to the falls you can just barely hear the roar of the water crashing into the rocks below, but once we turned that corner and were given full on views of the entire falls, the marvel settles in.
Iguazu is truly a wonder. If I could chose any place in the world to ponder and pray, I’d chose Iguazu as my #1 spot. There are curtains upon curtains of water, stretching as far as the eye can see (from our first vantage point), endless water gracefully tumbling into the depths below.
I was struck with how utterly amazing it is to experience it. One stands there truly amazed at the beauty of it all!
We started off walking on the lower circuit, where we were able experience the falls crashing down in front of us. After, we did the boat tour, where you’re taken into and under the falls and we got “doused”! It was 90 degrees and 90% humidity all day so getting soaking wet was a welcome relief from the unbearable heat! We ended the day with a panoramic view of the falls from the superior circuit.
We head back to the town, soaking wet with sweat and water, but very happy! Claire and Kyle find their way to a cheaper hostel, while Alli and I set out to find a place to camp. We were both determined to use our tent and camping gear, despite the 90 degree weather and unbearable humidity.
We are both stupidly stubborn at times, and despite knowing we would be miserable and sleep horribly… We both still wanted to camp. (I’m telling ya, I couldn’t have found a better travel buddy for myself!) We find a small place just outside the city, that turns out to be a jungle in some old guy’s backyard.
We walk up to the gate plastered with “Beware of dog” signs everywhere. (Turns out there is a pitbull guarding the place.) We find the owner, a hilarious Argentinian man, shirtless 100% of the time, cigarette in one hand and beer in the other. He shows us around his backyard “jungle”, takes 15 minutes to explain the common-sense rules of the place, and says “good luck” finding a spot. There was no open space or patches of grass as I had expected, but just small clearings between the jungle trees. Alli and I find a place to call our home, and agree that if we’re too miserable in the heat we’ll find a hostel for the next night.
We set up camp, then set off to find dinner. We go to an air conditioned restaurant, realizing it was our only chance of respite all night. Afterward, we return to camp to attempt to sleep.
In the morning, we agreed it was one of the most miserably hot nights of our lives…. Yet somehow it was “not that bad”. We decided to stay just one more night.
Our second day, we met up with Claire and Kyle again and went back to Iguazu national park for round two, as your second day is half-price! We were able to see the center of the falls, where the majority of the waterfalls come together to form a massive, terrifying loud and strong waterfall at what is called “Devils throat”. It’s truly an awe-provoking and wonder-filled experience to stand at the mouth of such a large confluence of water, crashing together. The water crashing down stirs up a mist all the way to the look out deck (at least 150 feet above). From here we can see the Brazilian side of the falls.
We then did the Macuco hike to a small and private waterfall where we were able to swim and be pelted by the waterfall crashing down from above. Alli, Claire, Kyle and I enjoyed our picnic lunch and the usual round of laughs here.
Our second night in Iguazu… Alli and I both agreed it was the absolute worst night of sleep ever due to the humidity and a few other unforeseen complications… but we survived! And we were off to Buenos Aires!
We arrived early to Buenos Aires and were so blessed to be meeting our friend Bruno at his home. We had met Bruno the very first week of our trip in a hostel in Cuzco. It’s funny, because we chatted and laughed together, but never ended up exchanging names/numbers at this time. Alli and I were forced to switch hostels in Cuzco, but nevertheless we ran into these 3 guys THREE different times in Peru! Finally, we ran into them hiking the same remote small island 3 hours away from any civilization in Bolivia… We were so amazed that we were seeing them yet again, that we finally exchanged numbers, then we hung out for a few days on our next destination! That being said- it was clear that God wanted us to be friends with Bruno and Gonza, and to see them again in Buenos Aires.
Bruno was also incredibly kind and asked his friend, Sara, if my sister Claire, and her husband Kyle could stay at her house during their time in Buenos Aires. She graciously accepted! (Such a DARLING!)
On Sunday, Alli and I arrived to Bruno’s house and got settled in. The three of us met Claire, Kyle, and the most gracious and kind and lovely host Sara, at a popular Sunday market. Gonza, another friend, got together with us later that evening. The 7 of us quickly realized how well we got along together, and how much we all laughed together!
To summarize our week in Buenos Aires, it was one of the best weeks of our 4 months of travel. Bruno and his friend Gonza (who we met at a later time in Bolivia) were the most spectacular hosts anyone could ask for. It was nonstop laughs and incredible cultural experiences every second of our time together. Bruno gave up his bed and air conditioning (it was HOT and HUMID in BA), handed us keys, and gave us great tourist advice. Bruno even bent over backwards to get Alli and I tickets to a River Plate soccer game! WHAT AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!! Here’s a rundown of our week in BA:
Sunday: San Telmo market, La Boca, typical choripan for lunch at a tiny hole in the wall, ice cream (Lenten break for Sunday!), tango dance lessons with the 7 of us 🙂
Monday: Bomba del Tiempo (percussion concert). After, we stupidly were demanding Mexican food, so our kind hosts brought us to an amazing Mexican restaurant at 12:30am, despite having to work the next morning.
Tuesday: accidentally run into Claire and Kyle just before we were supposed to meet up, at La Rey (our favorite cheap eats in Buenos Aires!)
– walking tour of Buenos Aires
– made dinner for our hosts
– experience Argentinian fernet and Coke (yum!)
– Gonza teaches the rest of us how to dance salsa
– 1am ice cream run (again, despite the boys having to work at 7am)
– meet Claire and Kyle at La Recoletta cementary (Kyle manages to scare Alli GOOD!)
– las cañitas and amazing steak lunch!
– Palermo lakes, Japanese garden
– official salsa lessons with Bruno and Gonza!
– craft beer afterward at Antares bar
– bed at 1:30am (again, despite the boys having to work at 7am)
– Alli and I do Pope Francis tour through his old neighborhood and visiting his childhood church and home!
– River Plate soccer game with Bruno!
– Alli and I go shooooooooopping! Epic fail. We both forgot for a bit that we both despise shopping.
– go to Gonzas house after work
– Gonza takes us out to the “locals only” bar Emily Daniels until 5am! Celebrating our last night in BA!!
– wake up after 2 hours sleep, Gonza drives Alli and I to airport, parks, and waits with us while we check in! What a sweetheart!
When Bruno went out of town our last day, Gonza invited us to his house. Gonza continued the kindness and gave us his bed (despite us fighting that we could sleep on the floor!), took us out until 5am, then he woke up with us 2 hours later to drive us to the airport (which is absurdly a 1 hour drive from the city!)
Bruno and Gonza were incredible examples of kindness, selflessness, and amazing hosts. Alli and I are still touched by their kindness, and the four of us had soooo much fun together! We hope we can be as good of hosts to others when they visit us in the US. We have learned so much about how to be good hostesses while down here in South America!!
Up next: The Breaking of the Fellowship…