South America Travel Tips

From Puerto Iguazú to Salta: 1500km & 24 hours I’ll never forget…

Hint: I thought it was going to be ok to be on a bus for 24 hours (after my previous 13 hours journey) – well, I was so wrong.

Wandering around Puerto Iguazú

After my incredible visit to the Falls across 2 days, I spent some time walking around Puerto Iguazú.

You think a little town that is beside one of the most visited locations in Argentina is beautiful, clean, wealthy, expensive and a recommended place to spend a few extra days in.

I’ll just confirm the expensive part of it, while the rest is definitely not there.

Puerto Iguazú is the first place in Argentina that reminds me that poverty exists (in this inflated nation as well as the third world countries). Buenos Aires must be of course where all the wealth concentrates (and even there, I only visited the best part of the city).

In Puerto Iguazú people have not much to do. Most of the population works at the Falls, in the hotels or transportation. Most of these people have only one goal: bringing food home for the whole family – or alternatively building some sort of bricks-only house.

Kids spend all the time outside the house, playing with dogs or fireworks. Roads are full of holes, footpaths are unfinished, houses half done. Paint is nowhere to be seen.

Roadside bins are funny. Maybe it’s to keep the dogs away.

It’s here that you can really sense the difference between rich and poor. Between luck and hopelessness. Between normal and outside the norm. We Europeans are not used to this, but now I am. I thought this was possible only in remote parts of Africa. It’s not.

And yet, people are happy. Or they seem happy anyway. They are grateful for what they have got (not much). They are proud of their handmade house, of their little town, of their motorcycle – the only cheap way to cover long distances if you don’t feel like waiting 2 hours for a bus.

Everyone owns motorcycles, and trust me – the majority would not pass the NCT just by looking at it. People can’t even afford to buy helmets, and sometimes you see the full family – mom, dad and 2 daughters – driving to the school in the morning. Yes, all on one motorbike. And no helmets.

The most common job in town is the car wash (“lavandero“), usually located beside a small river to source the water. They’re super busy all the time.

And taxi drivers are smart too. Their booths are smartly located beside the bus stops, and the drivers comes to talk to you while you’re waiting at the bus stop… Great marketing there!

Everything shuts down from 1 to 4pm no matter what. Siesta really exists. And everything shuts down on Sunday, no matter that you’re in one of the most visited areas of the subcontinent.

Supermarkets are very expensive when compared to the cost of living. I found them comparable to the ones in Ireland – an utter shock when you know these people work day and night to make sure they can have some food on the table and 4 walls made of bricks around them. Parts of the town are very touristy, but it’s impossible to hide the soul, the backbone.

On the other hand Puerto Iguazú is actually very interesting. It features a road that brings you to a panoramic view called Avenida Tres Fronteras. Indeed, here’s where 3 countries meet – in the middle of a river “junction” (the river Parana and the river Iguazú). On the left you’ve got Paraguay, North you have Brazil and South there is Argentina. Very interesting view to somehow feel this “separation” is only imaginary – yet it means the poor Paraguay, the huge Argentina and the richer Brazil are just a drop of water away:

From Puerto Iguazú to Salta: my 24hrs odissey

Right now, it’s 11.37pm of Tuesday 15th of November.

And so far I’ve been 13 hours and 37 minutes on a bus (well, actually this is the third bus. I left at 8am from Puerto Iguazu to change bus in Posadas and more recently in Resistencia).

I will arrive in Salta tomorrow morning, at 8am, if everything goes ok.

This is officially the longest single trip I’ve ever taken. In total, almost 1500 kilometres – and with airplane and train options not available, I’ve once again chosen the bus.

This time, I didn’t have 25 choices like from Buenos Aires, and I had to stick with a “Cama” class, which I’m now aware it’s basically nothing as compared to the “Cama Suite” class.

We were served some weird prepackaged cold sandwich for lunch, and Sprite was the only drink available.

I’m hoping not to need the toilet as the chemical ones at a rock festival are probably safer.

Seats are sticky from previous passengers and weird insects catch my eye every now and again while I type on this keyboard.

It’s freezing due to air conditioning and this bus service – stupid me for underestimating that – doesn’t provide you with a blanket. I don’t care about the pillow, but it’s so freaking cold. Thankfully I found a second t-shirt in my backpack that is now helping me a little.

Seats are not fully reclinable but that’s not a problem really. TV is far away and unlike my first trip I have no personal TV nor headphones. I tried plugging mine into a hole that seems an audio plug, but I could only hear BZBBZBZBBZBZZZ (try to translate that, Google!).

The air doesn’t smell good and I still have another 8 hours to survive. In total, if we arrive on time tomorrow morning, I’d have spent 24 hours on a bus. And I thought 13 hours were fun! 🙂

Needless to say, I’m so looking forward to a hot shower to wash all this nonsense away.

Oh – I almost forgot… today we were stopped (as usual) from the Police. They have a station at every county/province border and they systematically stop everybody if possible.

They hop in, they go upstairs and downstairs and check the bathroom too. They have the driver open the booth to take a look at the suitcases.

Of course, they were looking for the owner of a suitcase, but I couldn’t understand much. I stopped the policeman asking what ticket number he was referring to (Rodolfo, stop trying to make friends with EVERYONE!) and the policeman said “Great, do you mind if we inspect your suitcase?”. What an idiot I was. Anyway, I had to unlock my suitcase and the policeman went through all my clothes and stuff. All good. Nothing illegal. Weird, anyway.

Outside was pouring rain all day – thankfully the bus was waterproof… not! Now that I remember the second driver had to come every hour with a mop to dry the floor. I saved my backpack just on time.

Please, get me to Salta alive

Ok, I got there. And at 8am, after 24 hours, I was impossibly tired, cold and dirty.

But it was worth it.

Finally, I approach the mountains. After spending time in the city and in the rainforest, I now change altitude and begin my travel from North to South of all the Argentinian side of the Andes.

I’ve been told the people of Salta (the Salteños) are incredible. With Salta being basically beside Bolivia and Chile everything changes also, and not only in regard to the colour of the skin.

Salta is a popular destination for the Porteños (the people of Buenos Aires), who go there in the high season (December, January) when it’s actually summer here in Argentina, so they go there to breathe some fresh air.

Salta is where the climb begins. Is where air is fresh again, and hopefully where mosquitos are not. Is where I can reach new highs and heights, is where I can clear my mind, is where I can meet some new friends and get back talking some Spanish.

The place where work starts again, tomorrow. The place where I can learn new things, get in touch with different cultures, and eat some new stuff.

I hope you’re enjoying these diary – because I am. This is one of the best things I’ve ever done and you have no idea how much it helps. Once a week write something down – no matter if it is for the world to know (like in this case) or for yourself.

There is always something to put down on paper, or on your keyboard. If you write it, you don’t keep it inside. If you write it, you remember it also. If you write it, it’s then easier to talk about it.

So, dear friends, in this short update I just wanted to tell you my 24hrs adventure.

But I’m definitely looking forward to my next article, when I’ll share the first pictures and stories about Salta.

Actually, you know what? Let’s start with one right now:

They call it “Salta la Linda“, Salta the Beautiful.

Let’s hope for that 🙂

Hasta la próxima,