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Clearing the backblog

After the three semi-timely posts we turned out in Bolivia, things got complicated. I should really go back to paper–this isn’t the first time I’ve just fallen behind unaccountably. It’s interesting to think about why I’ve been so successful in the act of blogging (with no comments on the results, please) on some trips in the past, and less so on others (including most of the present).

Here, then, I’ll recap the rest of the trip, more or less, in a miles-long post at length to which only the occasional unlucky e-correspondent is normally subject:

Colonial towns in Minas were really worthwhile. No pictures from most of the churches, but the mental images remain, and Ouro Preto in particular is so damned cute to just walk around. A bit pricey in the touristy way, sadly. São João del Rei, near Tiradentes, has some lovely churches and is a bit cheaper and less touristy–more importantly, it has an overnight bus to Rio leaving at 23:59. We saw it almost by accident, thanks to a friend of a friend’s generosity, but were glad we did. Chilly weather in the mountains: our showers were, in rose-colored hindsight, brief and supremely invigorating.

Booked a week in advance or so, one can get super-cheap airfare (to rival the not so cheap fixed fare buses) for the super-quick flight from Rio to Belo Horizonte, where it’s easy to get a bus on to Ouro Preto or any of the other colonial towns.

Rio was lovely as usual.

The tropical jungle colonial beach paradise of Paraty was good to us — we took a boat to island beaches (surprisingly decent pasteles for lunch and excellent fruit chasing) and later a free roller coaster / cheap public bus to the beautiful beaches at Trindade. The water was chilly from the Brazilian winter, but not unbearable–even frigid cave lakes in the Philippines never felt too cold to me after ducking under. We had good food in Paraty, too, from fancy flambé specialists to kilo buffets. I also got to experience the delegacia (police station) where I had to report the unfortunate rerouting of my wallet from my pocket somewhere between getting on the bus from Rio and arriving in Paraty.

We took a night bus to São Paulo and spent a few hours there amid our double overnight bus run — exactly as bad an idea as it sounds, by the way. The view from atop the Banespa tower: ~19 mil. people and skyscrapers in all directions to the smog-choked horizon: positively gobsmacking, post-apocalyptic, distopic, Biblically-awesome, you name it.

Not so many sights, exactly, but tons of museums/culture which we were too tired to see. We did, though, go to the Municipal Market. It’s phenomenal and shames anything I’ve seen. The fruit–crates of mangosteens! The meats–lamb to alligator! The spices! The traditional 400 gram mortadella sandwiches! (Get the dried tomatoes too.)

Iguaçu is a world class sight. I may have to try to collect waterfalls, though I suspect most will be ruined for me now. There’s a good racket going there: tourists, including yours truly, will pay more money than one’d think to get slammed in the face by part of one of the most voluminous sets of cataracts in the world.

Local buses seem happy to breeze right through immigration on the Brazilian side if one’s not careful.

Less than thrilled about waiting for the next bus after getting off and going through immigration, we used a taxi to go back to the .br side to sightsee (we stayed on the .ar side at a place called Los Troncos, whose 105/105 positive reviews on tripadvisor presumably need no elaboration here). The .ar side is closer to the falls but the .br side lets one fully appreciate the scale and what one’s actually looking at.

Bird park on the .br side (right near park entrance) was stunning although mostly unheralded. Aviaries full of fantastic toucans (we saw a few in the wild in the .ar falls park, delightfully) coming right up to you,
hummingbirds darting between your legs, etc.

Buenos Aires was accompanied by the most miserable cold rain ever for our entire stay there. Nonetheless, (some of) the food is amazing, despite our disappointing experiences with most of the cafe/confiterias. A place called Cumaná had silly cheap prices and a fantastic cazuela with pumpkin and lomo and Mondongo Argentino (yes, tripe
included, but only a tripe eater could tell). Skip, say reviews, the pasta and pizza. Desserts were great, and wine was as cheap as the rest of the menu.

More expensive (but still silly cheap for what you get) is La Cabrera, for the stereotypical meat fix. One steak is enough — it comes with approx. 15 million sides including a killer creamed spinach. Unfortunately, my steak wasn’t actually that good. Dana’s pork was excellent, as was the champagne thoughtfully provided during our half hour wait for a table.

Our splurge hotel (chosen for location and online booking availability the night before) was the Ibis Obelisco, about 38 USD per person per night with double occupancy. It has a killer location in the middle of the city next to a Subte stop and the budget, spotless, shiny modern conveniences that are the best of soulless international chain hotel life.

At this point, our trip split, Dana going back to the US and the Doisys heading for El Calafate and jealousy-inducing electric-blue glaciers. I forged intrepidly on to Montevideo, Uruguay, where I found…


more miserable cold rainy gray. And some good empanadas, an interesting carnival museum, and an interesting few old buildings. The highlight of Uruguay, then, for me, was the chivito: a beef-and-everything sandwich worth at least a daytrip from Bs. As.

Getting the bus to Colonia was easy enough, but its historic colonial center (roughly like Paraty’s–neither nearly as extensive or, I think, as interesting as the colonial towns in Minas) was still rainy and cold. The weather broke in the afternoon, with beautiful sun and blue skies arriving a few minutes after I’d crossed outbound immigration at the ferry port for my return to Bs. As.

Both Uruguay and Argentina had one more limited-time modern marvel I’ve almost forgotten: a Cadbury almond McFlurry, taunting me from advertizements. If I remember the ad copy correctly, it combined pieces of almond chocolate, “smooth” dulce de leche ice cream, and dulce de leche sauce. Capital idea.

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