Friday, 27 March 2015

An afternoon in Brazil

"Don't go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to" sang Lisa Lopez in their hit single. Well, too late TLC, we have arrived at Iguazu Falls on 16th March, and if you thought "I've seen one waterfall, so I've seen them all" you'd be wrong.

We landed in Puerto Iguazu (on the Argentinan side) about 2pm and our taxi driver offered to take us to Brazil for the afternoon! Why not, we thought?! 

We crossed the Iguazu River, aptly named after the indigenous term for “great water” which marks the international border between Argentina and Brazil. 

In Brazil we took a helicopter ride over the falls, the view was exhilarating! Wow, Weezer! The Iguazu falls have tremendous striking natural beauty. It's taken us hours to cut our photos down to the few (ahem) below.....every shot was stunning. 

Our carriage awaits...


Hola Capitain!!


The river does a complete u-bend Argentina straight ahead and Brazil below




Time for a closer look


I am holding the camera straight it's the horizon that's at the wrong angle!


Looking down into the Devil's throat, the most impressive section of the falls


The footpath to the top left comes from the Argentinian side




The Rio Iguazu stretches away to the south in its deep cutting






Safely back to solid ground


Once back on land we took a short walk alongside the falls to get a panoramic view. From walkways and a long jetty viewers can count about 270 waterfalls which drop vertically some 100 metres and are spread in a horseshoe shape over two miles of the Iguazu River (that's higher than Niagara Falls and twice as wide). 

We were there at the end of the rainy season (November - March) and were informed the rate of flow of water going over the falls may reach 450,000 cubic feet (12,750 cubic m) per second. The pounding water created a fine mist which covered us and the surrounding forest. 


A Coati, native to South America, normally shy and found in small groups these cheeky chaps are so used to people around Iguazu that they hang around in large gangs, raid the rubbish bins and will happily steal the lunch from your plate and anything from your bag if you leave it lying around!


A cheeky capuchin enjoys the views too








There's a better view around every corner











Wednesday, 25 March 2015

"God's Acre"

Framed by high walls like a secret garden is the City's elites’ mausoleum - Cementerio de la Recoleta. Terraces of crypts and tomb denote the last resting place of the great and good (and rich of course). Heroes, politicians, inventors and other rich folks of their day. There are over 6,400 beautifully ornate (some once) mausoleums in “God's Acre”, in what is considered prime real estate for the deceased. 

I did a little on line snooping and apparently the cemetery was created in the former Franciscan monastery’s gardens around 1820.  Only people whose families own a vault, crypt or mausoleum can be laid to rest here now, there is no space left for new families' residences in this necropolis of the dead. Unfortunately for some of the deceased, some families seem not to be so wealthy anymore, or the linage has died out. Many of the sepulchers were uncared for, in poor states of repair and open to the elements. Through the broken windows you could see the dusty caskets. The more recent to “pass” where on the top level, with others being moved down a shelf, then downstairs. Apparently the rooms have an underground depth of up to 8 metres. 

Right angled streets of the cemetery form a warren of house-like tombs


Argentina's famous Eva Peron who is buried in the Familia Duarte Tomb

A mixture of european and neoclassical styles with a touch of the S American love of skulls thrown in for good measure

A competition amongst the deceased's families for grandness even in the afterlife

Many can no longer afford to maintain them or have long been forgotten

Bustling Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a vast, busy city. When our plane descended the vista reminded me of the opening shots of some futuristic sci-fi film. A sprawling conurbation of grey skyscrapers on a flat dusty plain stretched out to the horizon and molded around the curvature of the earth. The buildings glinted as they baked in the sun. According to our trusty Lonely Planet, the population of Buenos Aires (BA) is about 13 million in the metropolitan area. The total population of Argentina is citied at 42 million. 

Reaching Buenos Aires we found ourselves immersed in a new exotic culture. It had been some 4 months since we were last in a non-English speaking country and we found the bustle of Buenos Aires very different to the tranquilly of New Zealand. The city had an energetic pulse, and we had to be much more aware of our surroundings. Taking advice we stayed in one of the nicer areas called Palermo which is slightly out of the CBD to the west. 

Neither of us favour cities and we spent the first few days leisurely sightseeing. Across the city there are many early European-styled colonial buildings, but what was immediately noticeable to our eye was the omnipresent graffiti. Not the artistic murals that brightened up Christchurch’s battered buildings, but the mindless tags of bored teenagers and local gangs. The pavements were terrible to negotiate; haphazard levels, badly broken tiles, covered in rubbish, full of pot holes and dog poo! 

But we did manage to beat the heat, see some sights, eat plenty of amazing beef steaks (less than £5 a pop) and attempt to master some basic Spanish. 

Obelisco on Av 9 de Julio - the widest thoroughfare in the world at 8 lanes each way plus a pedestrianised central promenade!

The image of Eva Peron adorns the television studios on Av 9 de Julio

Baroque frontage of the Catedral Metropoliana


Walking towards the Casa Rosada - presidents offices and where Evita Peron preached from balcony 

A pleasent promenade along the Old Port, redeveloped in the 1990s and home to ARA Presidente Sarmiento. A museum ship, originally built as a training ship for the Argentine Navy and named after Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the seventh President of Argentina. She is considered to be the last intact cruising training ship from the 1890s and built in good old blighty!

Some things are still best made in the North West



Portenos (the locals) love tango.. So we also took some lessons! The tango was very easy to learn and we both found the lessons really enjoyable. From complete beginners we learnt how to master some set moves and dance tango on our own. In the end we felt good enough to join a Melonga (open public tango dance space) session in a square in San Telmo. We were also lucky enough to see a show, put on for tips in a cafe. 

BA is a vibrant city, plenty to see, plenty to do and worth having eyes in the back of your head just in case. But we found no trouble and had a blast.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Christchurch

Christchurch is set on the expansive Canterbury Plains. To the east is the Pacific Ocean and to the west is the snow capped Southern Alps.

Our highlight was seeing Harriet, Dave and Amelia again, who we had met in Waipatiki - our hitchhike heroes. We received really warm welcome and loved catching up with them. Amelia had had a real growth spurt since we first met! They kindly put us up for the night and made us feel truly at home, thank you.

We were treated to a personal guided tour around Christchurch town centre. Following the significant seismic events (and subsequent fires) in 2010 and 2011 the city looked like a recent warzone. Rebuilding is going on and reconstruction of key cultural heritage buildings. Cranes pierce the skyline and many creative projects have been developed to bring new life to the city.

We were especially drawn to the street art - often large commissions in public spaces to brighten up blank spaces. 




Thankfully the trams are still running

The old Cathedral was severely damaged and is currently a contentious subject amongst citizens and government about whether it can and should be salvaged.




Re:START Mall where retail shops and caf├ęs are housed in shipping containers. 







Containers are also used to stabilise old building facias which will be salvaged and used to front new buildings constructed on the old footprints


The 'Transitional Cardboard Cathedral' is a fantastic example of emergency architecture - built from 96 cardboard tubes and pine framing. 







Going walkabout amongst Christchurch's street art



Harriett's gorgeous (but rather rich) lollipop cake - couldn't sleep for a few days after that!

Thanks Harriett, Dave and Amelia for looking after us!


 Enjoying a final New Zealand beer in Christchurch's ReSTART Mall

To us it was the ending point for our NZ adventure. It is an insanely beautiful country and we can see what attracts so many British trippers and immigrants. Obviously spending time with family and friends has created some fantastic memories for us. The scenic highlights for us were Doubtful Sounds and Tonagario (although choosing just two favourites took us a long while to agree upon!)


Our route through the north and south islands



We now embark on a journey to a new continent - Argentina here we come! We hope you'll join us :)