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June 2016

Glorious Glastonbury: an ode.

There are few events that could have dragged me away from the adventures and hedonism of South American traveller life, but the infinitely higher levels of hedonism on offer at Glastonbury festival is the one that brought me back across the Atlantic.

Leagues above any other music festival, the collective strength of feeling amongst a crowd of three hundred thousand like-minded revellers is the perfect place to position oneself in a week of Brexit and division. United we stood, jumped and danced; the ultimate expression of solidarity.

Unfortunately, for the first time in my six-year-strong Glastonbury stint, I experienced some uncommon negative vibes: namely, someone emptied our wallets, whilst we were asleep in our tent. But, for every asshole who flouts the trusting Glastonbury family rules, there were fifty people offering me financial aid, from near and afar, and a hundred more people face down in the mud- so I concluded that perhaps I wasn’t so unlucky after all! Once you float around the sprawling site, following wherever the mud flows, I found myself crossing paths with friendly faces left, right and centre; strangers, friends and even a reunion with some relatives, all worked to reaffirm my faith in humanity almost instantly. (The shock of being robbed was also allayed by a morning of mindless laughter and a pint of milk pouring from my friend’s nose; less of a hippy loving message, but still ranks on the cheer up scale!)

Whilst the weather held out for the most part, the week of preceding rain made this the muddiest festival I have ever experienced. Having said that, I probably used the fewest wet wipes to date, as everyone embraced the filth, gave up the fight for cleanliness and became a hybrid of man and land. Negative aspects of the mud included severe delays and often entire closures of some areas: the late-night, South East Corner fields were more overcrowded and over-sludged than I have witnessed in years previous, often rendering them a no-go. Thus sadly I never got to experience Hot Chip’s tribute to Prince; a loss perhaps worse than the £80 from my tent!

The mud also provided the trials and tribulations of never being able to sit down, but, beyond that, it provided unlimited hilarity. One night we found our friends ‘at the comedy tent’: an area of mud so deep that it attracted a hundred-strong crowd of spectators, as people sunk and face planted to their demise. One might expect this level of entertainment to wane fast, but with an unending stream of flamboyantly dressed party-goers, the show went on and on. Survivors joined us as audience members and mud-pundits. The method we learnt: tight wellies, don’t stop moving and, if in doubt, dab.

Of course, in amongst the unrivalled people watching and one too many free meals from the Hare Krishnas, there was some music too!

‘James’ kicked off the weekend, with a lead singer who made me slightly worried for his mental wellbeing! They were shortly followed by some Mancunian indie tunes from ‘Blossoms’, who unfortunately lacked much stage presence or the ubiquitous humility of Glastonbury performers.

Some of the best singalong sessions came courtesy of ‘The Smyths’ and ‘Squeeze’, playing non-stop crowd pleasers. Meanwhile, ’MØ’ took crowd-pleasing a step further and spent almost half of her set down in the hustle bustle, busting some seriously fierce dance moves; she exudes the very essence of “cool”.

Unlike many previous festivals, where I had a determined schedule, I dedicated a lot of time to seeing bands who I had never heard before, other than by recommendation. This brought some great, and diverse, new music to my attention: ‘Unknown Mortal Orchestra’ had a few microphone issues, but ultimately put on an enjoyable, largely instrumental, show. ‘Hinds’ proved that girlbands don’t have to follow the mould and can jump and scream with the best of them. ‘Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ had gloriously upbeat Sunday afternoon vibes, combining a ‘Mumford and Sons’ folky-rock with swinging brass and a token tambourine man (the subdued Bez, if you will). And finally, ‘Kwabs’ provided some very chilled out, but still boppy sounds- almost like if ‘Jungle’ took a lot of sedatives.

Sadly, ‘New Order’, amidst a superb light show, started their set a little flat and a little off; they picked up, with some classic songs getting the crowd pumped, but weren’t at the top of their game. Similarly, whilst I only caught the end, ’Beck’ did some strange things with his time of stage, and the crowd weren’t exactly lapping it up.

‘Half Moon Run’ put enormous amounts of energy into their show, considering how sleepy their music can sound; but with a string of melodic surprises and slight alterations to an album I know like the back of my hand, they were a highlight on Friday afternoon. Similarly, I have seen ‘Muse’ four times, across the last ten year period, and their headline set was like nothing I have ever seen from them before: never slowing down for some of their older, low tempo numbers, and not wasting time chatting to the crowd, the entire set was heavy and hugely exciting from start to finish. Yet, attempting to match their level of intensity, I completely lost my voice; I guess I ought to leave it to the professionals!

Every time I see ‘Foals’, ‘Wolf Alice’ and ‘Catfish and the Bottlemen’, they don’t disappoint. They were all in their element, perfectly tuned to their surroundings, considering British indie rock bands are pretty much what festivalling is built upon. Other repeat viewings for me included ‘New York Brass Band’ and ‘Tame Impala’- both bouncy and upbeat, the latter graced the Pyramid stage, with some psychedelic backing visuals, whilst the former can be found performing almost perpetually across the five day festival; how they have such boundless energy, I can’t fathom!

‘The Last Shadow Puppets’ were an as-yet unseen band for me until now, but by combining two of my favourite groups into one, they were bound to please! It’s a joy to watch bandmates really appear to enjoy one another’s company; yet they are far from being caught up in themselves, as both are incredible showmen.

Finally, the most quintessentially Glasto vibes were delivered by ‘Coldplay’s closing set. The crowd was unanimously happy and the famous flashing wristbands showed just how far we sprawled in every direction- we were a part of something enormous. Despite a somewhat bizarre interlude from Barry Gibb, Chris Martin whipped the crowd into a frenzy with the set list alternating between the classic, subdued Coldplay of yore and the newer, far more poppy numbers. Almost every song had a trick up its sleeve, with glitter and confetti cannons, giant balloons, infinite lights and fireworks.

‘Muse’ similarly used all of these tricks, but in a less colourful, more aggressively rock-orientated fashion. I for one was delighted with this allocation of this year’s budget, because, as my wisely drunk friend said: “no pyro, no party!”

Other highlights included: being served ale, in a wooden shack pub, by the guy from the infamous ‘Gap Yah’ video; an encounter with a man dressed as a bumblebee, on stilts, by the oldest tree on site; and greeting sunrise, vigorously at the silent disco and more relaxedly, whilst reclining at the Stone Circle. The delights on offer span all genres!

In accordance with tradition amongst my friends, we spent the first night upon Glastonbury’s own Hollywood hill, watching the twinkles below and the fireworks above. We were joined by a man who classed this glorious festival amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. Whilst I questioned some of his other “wonders” (the Channel Tunnel, really?!) I can’t help but agree that there is something very special about Worthy Farm and the atmosphere it promotes. Until next year, my lover x

My Top Travel Tips (for what to pack)

Whilst I obviously don’t need to stress the importance of basics like a waterproof, windproof jacket, some comfortable shoes and plenty of clean knickers, I’ve also discovered a few less immediately obvious things that have (or could have) made my trip all the better.

This list is by no means all-encompassing. Sadly, try as I might, I couldn’t find a way to pack several key things I missed from home: my dressing gown, my dog and a substantial supply of salt and vinegar crisps. But, the following came a substantial way to satisfying my other needs. Whilst I don’t claim to be any sort of travel guru, here are some personal pearls of wisdom, should you care to peruse them:

Penknife- common amongst all Bear Grylls types, a penknife isn’t solely for the intrepid. Scissors are always useful, but beyond that, often hostel kitchens don’t provide tools such as a corkscrew or tin opener; hence, the ubiquitous Swiss multi-tool. Also useful for making avocado sandwiches on the go!

Water purifying torch (SteriPen)- ignoring its unfortunately phallic appearance, this gift from my Mum was a magical surprise. Stir the UV light into undrinkable tap water for about a minute and voila! Saves money, plastic and avoids the slightly off taste of water purifying tablets. (Of course, remember to check if the tap water is already drinkable first, because then you can save on batteries and hassle!)

Sleeping bag (for buses)- whether you’re planning to camp or not, a small, lightweight sleeping bag can be a godsend. Often night buses blast the air conditioning to Arctic levels and, whilst others struggled to get comfortable, I was smugly cocooned in my sleeping bag. Slug chic.

Rucksack that opens sideways- all the practicality of a backpack, teamed with the ease of living out of a suitcase. Whilst top-opening bags tend to be the norm, they leave people only wearing the top layer of their packing and neglecting all that lies beneath; with a side-opening bag however, almost everything is visible and easy to find, without sprawling across a dorm room floor.

(Alternatively, I’ve met many people who rave about their ‘packing cubes’- bags within bags that enable ease of finding, with minimal sprawl.)

Portable charger- not only for use on the go! Often hostel dorms don’t have enough plug sockets for the number of people they’ve crammed in there, thus having a separate portable charger enables you to charge your phone without hogging the power supply. Beyond that, you’ll probably feel more comfortable leaving a battery pack to recharge unattended than having your phone further than arms length at any time!

USB or spare SD card- something I didn’t have, but wish I did. Not only did my phone not have enough memory on it, but there’s always the fear of it being lost/broken/stolen and all your months of memories going with it. Whilst using the Cloud or Dropbox was commonplace, that relies on the assumption of decent wifi- which is rarely available. Thus a physical backup device would have been really useful for stashing my photos. Also, when doing excursions like diving, rafting etc, often the tour company will get snap happy and then want to give you the photos at the end of the day; I however had no means of taking this kind offering, thus left with an email address and a promise!

Small sachet of your favourite spices- whilst I wouldn’t recommend whipping it out and risking offence to any restauranteur, a small spice kit takes up little to no room in a bag but can make the difference between ‘yet another bowl of pasta’ and ‘ooh, what are we cooking tonight?!’

Small roll of sellotape- I stumbled upon this by accident, but necessity is after all the mother of invention! I bought a pocket-sized roll of tape when the pages started to fall out of my journal and then discovered it had so many more uses. Not least, for resealing the aforementioned spices! And for scrapbooking- if you are so inclined.

Vaseline- without meaning to be a total brand snob, basic lip balm simply won’t cut it. At high altitude, your lips inevitably become uncontrollably chapped; Vaseline will become your new best friend at times like these.

Needle and thread- yet another thing that I didn’t have but found myself in need of. If, like me, you attempt to be a prudent packer, then it can be devastating when you rip your only sensible pair of trousers. A needle and thread takes up a lot less room than the extra layers you may need to prevent draughts from your newly holey clothes.

Silicone ear plugs: having always hated the expanding sensation of foam earplugs (I can only imagine it’s akin to drowning) I didn’t pack any defence against snorers. They are everywhere: in dorms, on nightbuses; you can’t escape sleep-deprivation! That was until a lovely woman in Colombia gifted me a pair of (unused) silicone earplugs. They mould to your ear, are remarkably comfortable and block out almost all annoyances.
Teaming these with an eye mask to block out light, I may have looked ridiculous, but boy was I well-rested!

Padlock: I personally like to believe that everyone in a hostel is in the same boat, thus they won’t rob me if I don’t rob them. Adhering to this philosophy, I didn’t even own a padlock for the most part of my trip. But, if you do have valuables you want to ensure are safe, most hostels offer lockers, provided you bring your own lock. Thus a small padlock can provide some peace of mind, if you’re not yet quite ready to sign up to my hippy, hope-for-the-best ideology!

Optional: The Rough Guide- for me, it’s the Bible; yet I know other travellers prefer to follow Google, or simply word of mouth. Admittedly it’s an added weight to carry, but undoubtedly aids with planning on the go, local knowledge and, if nothing else, gives you something to read on buses! (Largely identical to its more established brother, Lonely Planet, I personally found Rough Guide to be a little more youthful. Lonely Planet tends to attempt to cover every single place, however briefly; whereas Rough Guide will streamline, so it can give more info on certain highlights.)

Pack several pens, for filling out piles of triplicate immigration forms; pack enough insect repellent to last a lifetime (deet doesn’t tend to exist anywhere I’ve searched!); and try to pack some handwash solution, for when the laundry pile gets unmanageably desperate!

Clothes, toiletries and which medicines to stash are of course your prerogative (but do bear in mind that toiletries are often cheaper at home than when you arrive, despite everything else trending the other way.)

Other than that, check you passport, tickets, money, and you’re good to go! Buen Viaje!

Week twenty two: the end of a Latino era

Knowing that I have to resume real life all too soon, I have been thoroughly enjoying taking a holiday from my own brain. You know how the story goes: Girl meets boy; girl makes friends; girl makes everyone make her decisions for her. Aptly, in a city named after a river, I’ve been blissfully floating wherever the flow takes me.

Having said that, for this final week of my adventure, I had some very specific things left to tick off my list. These mostly involved climbing up tall things and dancing in the street at any chance I got (so pretty much just a repeat of everything the last 21 blog posts have detailed!)

First off, no self-respecting human could visit Rio and not head up to see Christ the Redeemer. Rising proudly over the city, atop mount Corcovado, we (somewhat foolishly) thought it a great idea to make our way there by foot. The mansion house and landscaped gardens at the entrance to the basecamp, Parque Lage, did nothing to prepare us for what lay ahead! Thick forest took us entirely away from the surrounding city and up an incalculably steep hill. Think less hiking, more hoisting yourself up a muddy trail using tree roots as handlebars, or, even at times, a chain to pull yourself up a sheer rock face. Exhausting, exhilarating, sweaty, but ultimately very rewarding.

Reaching the summit, we were surrounded by far less sweaty tourists who had enjoyed a nice train journey up; but I felt as though they hadn’t earned this moment and thus couldn’t possibly be as enthralled as I was. I was torn between which way to look: at the impressive view, at the looming wonder of the world, or simply at the obscene number of people taking snogging selfies! One can’t help but feel small, and a little humbled, by such a universally famous (and physically enormous) monument. (Plus there are great cafes at the top, serving all the deep fried goodness our work out had earned!)

Forever in the hunt for my next viewing platform, we also scaled the heights of the Sugarloaf mountain (in a cable car this time around!) Monkey-filled trees populate the peak of this dramatically protruding rock. Yet, much less rustic than our climb up Corcovado, there are a multitude of predetermined pathways to circumnavigate, offering 360 degree views of the city and sea sprawl. As with our trip to Christ however, we became acutely aware of our altitude thanks to the shift in weather; despite our first day of glorious sunshine for a while, the chilly wind whips around endlessly (and lifts skirts aplenty, be warned!)

After all of the climbing, much of the rest of the week focused on the beach and/or eating:

Despite the ever fluctuating weather, Copacabana and Ipanema continued to offer the perfect chill out spot. However, for a truly glorious spot to sit and watch the waves, I can recommend heading downtown, to Praça Mauá. Dominated by the spaceship-style building that houses the Museum of Tomorrow, this spot was a perfect remedy to the otherwise eerily quiet weekend streets. Those who weren’t ogling the architecture could enjoy skating, a live band, a spectacular sunset and unrivalled people watching. The only thing to detract from the buzz and romance of this spot are the security guards doing rounds on a Segway; the approaching sound is enough to snap even the most star-crossed, sunset-gazing lovers back to reality!

Food-wise, I have sampled some truly gluttonous treats. A quick afternoon tea in the impossibly glamorous Confeitaria Colombo gave the famous Cafe Tortoni (Buenos Aires) a run for its sugary money. An all you can eat/drink/dance barbecue on a local rooftop combined my love for twinkly city lights, with my love for piles of charred meats! Market stalls lined with deep fried pastels and coxinhas filled my arteries and transported my tastebuds back to Colombia and the month when I solely ate beige. Best of all though, a three day craving that Leo and I shared for ice cream was satisfied by a litre of the city’s finest flavours, devoured in the street, at night, in the cold weather; suffice to say, people stared!

Said market stalls were to be found in just about every neighbourhood come Sunday afternoon. Our beloved Santa Teresa had a market with a heavy vintage clothes focus; down the hill, in neighbouring Gloria, stalls ranged from carefully curated and displayed fresh fruits, to stinky fish and flea market floor piles; but, the best spot to find yourself has to be Praça Sao Salvador. Another quaint and arty market lines the edge of the square, yet the main focus is on the central gazebo, full of musicians. Oldies with the full orchestral spectrum of instruments in hand treated us to a performance. Then, once they tired and packed up, a samba band took up the reigns and carried on the party. Locals, young and old, inspired our eclectic group of gringos to join in the fun. Multiple street caipirinhas fuelled the afternoon of dancing in the sunshine; on this Brasilian Valentine’s Day, the very streets of Rio itself (and an international hostel family) were my date.

Continuing on a similar vane, my final night in South America happened to fall on a Monday, which happened to play host to the Pedra do Sal street samba extravaganza! Despite being little more than a dead end street in the middle of nowhere, thanks to its natural amphitheatre shape and kooky street art, bunting-clad vibes, this party spot floods with people. A live band play samba music and, as ever, street vendors get creative with their drinks (n.b. Passion fruit caipirinhas are purely heaven-sent.) It seemed everyone and then some were present, as Leo and I weren’t shimmying alone for long and were reunited with friends from Rio and BA alike. The perfect roundup of my time in Rio, in a neatly packaged final night (admittedly minus a few keys faces who had headed to the airport mere moments before.)

Rio is the city that transforms from golden sands to verdant hills, from scorching sun to biblical rain and from entirely deserted streets to drunken crowds, all within a fraction of a second. Whilst I have somehow managed to leave much yet unexplored, I grew so comfortable here, enough even to walk the streets in a cape fashioned from a sleeping bag! I left my heart, some dignity and my favourite scarf in Rio.

Weighed down with a variety of now useless currencies and the onset of the holiday blues, I rushed to swap between airlines in Frankfurt and my trip officially came to an end. I’ve observed a lot, learnt even more and met some truly wonderful fellow citizens of the world. The only thing holding me together on this cross-Atlantic homeward journey is the thought of my next trip… Watch this space!

Week twenty one: clouds and caipirinhas

My first week in Rio has been exciting and full of delights, but I have been plagued by feeling utterly useless! After more than five months being an independent, semi-Spanish-speaking survivor, I have regressed to being a totally useless and helpless gringa. I didn’t realise quite how much basic Spanish I knew, until I realised that I didn’t know a single word in Portuguese and couldn’t handle the most basic tasks. Beyond that, any attempts to learn a few words has failed me, thanks to the entirely unexpected pronunciational surprises.

Luckily, I have accrued a great group: several girls who I’ve met across my travels so far and several Latino beaus to help with the translations! With locals (or at least ‘temporary residents’) in tow, Rio, and especially its nightlife, has been our oyster!

Living in the bohemian, hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, we are mere moments from the parties and insanity in the adjacent Lapa district. From our cobbled, impossibly winding roads, we descend to the square beneath the colonial aqueduct, where the crowds begin to gather. Multiple nights in a row spent in Lapa have proven as diverse as the city itself. Live music is abundant and ranges from traditional samba to old school rock classics. Bars range from casual, sit-down pizza joints, to the tiny Casa do Cachaca shack, decorated entirely with hanging bottles and serving a plethora of different flavours; we repeatedly set our lips on fire with this taste of local life!

On weekends, especially Friday nights, the crowds multiply tenfold. Any car or cab brave or stupid enough to hit the streets become trapped and entirely stationary, amongst the slow-moving, street-partying revellers. All parties spew out onto the pavements, where street vendors lap up the trade, offering impossibly cheap caipirinhas! When in Rome!

After so long feeling comfortably westernised in BA, Rio harks back to the crazy South American climes from earlier in my trip. I’m not sure whether it’s the humidity, the sunshine (which occasionally pushes through the clouds) or the general street-dwelling vibes, but I instantly felt ‘holiday-y’ again. Thus, despite the totally average weather, we headed to the world famous beaches.

With ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ spinning in our heads, we explored all the way to the other side of the city. Around every corner, it feels as though you’re in an entirely different city. Mountains and verdant hills spring from amidst packed-in skyscrapers; unexpectedly European, gold-clad, historical wonders appear downtown; and modern hotel blocks dominate the beachfront neighbourhoods.

The beach itself has the famous golden sands and aggressively powerful surf waves. Beach vendors populate the entire strip, branching out from the usual beers and sarongs on offer, instead peddling giant (seriously, enormous) fans, portable barbecues of mystery treats and an umbrella adorned with hundreds of bikinis. The people watching was top notch and the swimwear was so small to be practically nonexistent!

On even less sunny days, when rain repeatedly prevented us from climbing Christ the Redeemer, we hid inside various museums and galleries. The (questionable) highlight of which was an exhibition of unavoidably phallic monsters, made with real human hair, designed to question our preconceptions of beauty, evolution and some other unnecessarily deep thoughts.

My favourite art piece in the city (because I’m a tourist cliché) has to be the Selarón staircase. Stumbling upon it in the middle of the night, we had this usually crowded tourist hotspot entirely to ourselves. The vibrant colours and infinite variety accurately portray the ingrained Carioca vibes. My personal favourite tile, amongst all of the poetic tributes, inexplicably announced ‘Dog doo, snowcone in your eye’; riddle me that?!

As previously alluded to, my time in Rio has mostly been defined by the people I’ve surrounded myself with. Following my BA-buddy, Lexi, to her hostel, I dragged my newest friend Jenny all the way from Iguazu. Upon arrival, we were concerned and alarmed at the sheer number of triple bunks piled into our prison cell sized dorm! However, I’ve learnt that a hostel is heavily defined by the atmosphere, more than any of the facilities offered.

Some nights we have branched out to the local restaurants (which, bizarrely, often double up as clothes shops) to sample the Brasilian delicacies. Meat-heavy Feijoada, fish-based Moqueca and the ubiquitous farofa rice/sawdust concoction that comes with everything. However, some of my favourite meals have been cooked in the hostel, as a big family affair.

Somewhat less locally flavoured, one of my favourite nights was when my Argentinian pizza chef, Leo, came over and cooked up a storm for us all. We girls returned the favour on curry night and, if the homely vibes continue, I’ll be stuck here asking for ‘uno noche mas’ for even longer than I did in Buenos Aires! Throw in multiple live music jam sessions and I’m going to need a serious influx of motivation to catch my impending flight home!

Week Twenty: birthday, burgers, buses, boats and bye bye Buenos Aires

I began the week/ I turned 22 in the best way I know how: in the crowded, dimly lit, most happening hotspot in Palermo: Burger Joint. Aside from their distorted megaphone cruelly tricking you into thinking your name is being called, their burgers (and curry ketchup) are the stuff dreams are made of. Throw in a bargain beer and heaps of atmosphere and I’m sold.

Sales pitch over, and onto the rest of the big BA b’day bonanza. As May 25th marks the celebration of the 1810 revolution, we began with a mosey around the Plaza de Mayo, to see what was kicking. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people stood milling around; with nothing obviously organised in place (we had probably slept through some sort of parade knowing me) everyone just took to the streets, to watch, protest, wander and eat copiously.

Whilst clouds consumed the main Avenida de Mayo from all the choripan barbecues, my birthday date, Cass, and I retreated indoors for a glamorous birthday lunch at the famous Cafe Tortoni. We stepped back in time, to the world of hardwood pillars, stained glass ceilings, creepy mannequins and waiters in bow ties. Deeming lunch unnecessary, I ordered nothing more than cake, champagne and more cake; the ideal birthday trio!

As we walked off the sugar rush, I indulged in purchasing a present for myself from the glorious El Ateneo bookshop. We also attracted a few bemused stares as we sealed the date with a roadside tango session. Unfortunately, attempting to learn from an elaborate floor diagram didn’t prove all that easy; more like grown up, ungraceful hopscotch.

Arriving home, we were joined by our new hostel recruits for the partying to commence. I felt particularly lucky when Katy (who I thought had been having a siesta) walked in with an indulgent cake and a Disney princess balloon, to complete all my birthday dreams. On a trip populated almost entirely by brand new faces, it was a privilege to have my (relatively) long-term Aussie gal pals around to spoil me.

An evening in a trendy Palermo bar (rather than a burger place) and some late-night street hot dogs rounded off the day almost exactly the way it had began. I quietly congratulated myself on choosing the perfect city and a wonderful crowd to spend the day with; and I’d like to thank Argentina for throwing a country-wide bank holiday fiesta in my honour!

The next few days were, as expected, a little slow moving. Unfortunately, my treasure hunt for a birthday card waiting at the post office was somewhat fruitless, in that said office had been converted into a museum of all things postal. This journey did however bring me to the riverside Puerto Madero neighbourhood. Clearly once run down and industrial, the red brick warehouses along sided the yacht dock now house a plethora of restaurants and simply scream ‘gentrification!’ Throw in the art gallery housing the expansive private collection of Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat (someone rich and important I assume) and you’ve got yourself a very civilised spot to shelter from the blustery afternoon.

Tenuously in-keeping with the international art on display (Warhol, Dali and Turner to name drop but a few) I proceeded to explore some of the less classically Latino pursuits BA offered. A trip to Chinatown (or ‘Barrio Chino’) presented plenty of shops selling utter crap and satisfied my cravings for chow mien (that had been plaguing me for several months!) A brief hissy fit about hating all the clothes in my backpack led to an outing in the overpriced and super chic Alto Palermo shopping mall. And, the pièce de résistance of being a rubbish tourist, a desire to escape alcohol for the evening steered us towards watching the new X-Men film in our local cinema! The speakers were somewhat dampened as most of the audience were focused on the Spanish subtitles, but otherwise, I very briefly completely forgot I was in Argentina!

Having entirely moved in and clearly become too comfortable in this city, I finally designated a leaving date and Cass and I planned one last hurrah. Having heard about BA’s penchant for underground Speakeasy bars, we become consumed with the idea of getting into one. With a little help from Facebook (and a lot of help from my formerly-local friend Sophia) we garnered this week’s password and got ourselves all dolled up. This involved piecing together any basic forms of glamour to be found within my backpack; cue donning my new top and cutting holes in my tights, as sandals were my only remotely acceptable footwear, despite the monsoons!

We pulled up outside Frank’s bar, a dark doorway on an empty backstreet in Palermo. I sheepishly mumbled ‘Anne Frank’ to the bouncer who then nonchalantly ushered us in. If you’ve ever wondered what lies behind the back wall of a phone booth, I now know! Leaning against the cubicle’s edge opened up a sultry and glamorous haven of chandeliers, strong cocktails and sexy bar men (apparently that last being what they’re known for!) Admittedly it wasn’t all that complex to get in, being that we had some severely underdressed tagalongs join us without issue. But it still felt like we had been let in on a secret world, distinctly miles away from the grotty hostel lifestyle to which I am now so accustomed.

Unable to afford many of the mixologists’ finest concoctions, we directed a taxi towards the nearest ‘mejor fiesta’ and found ourselves, yet again, in Kika- a club that is always full, somewhat overpriced and overwhelmingly exudes pheromones! Back in the Latino swing of things, the Cumbia beats blared and, along with our new Guatemalan companions, I danced away my last night in my favourite city.

Three hours late for checkout, but awarded a grace period due to my long term hostel residency, it was leaving day! I just managed to squeeze in one last trip to Burger Joint and an all too brief reunion with my travel-buddy/ pen-pal Joseph (from many moons ago in Bogota) before rushing to the bus station. Entirely jealous that Cass was embarking on a month long ‘real life’ stay in Buenos Aires, sad to leave her behind and already missing this bustling city, I needed to get to Iguazu. I waved goodbye to the ubiquitous subway D-line keyboard playing busker and jumped on my first 18 hour bus in weeks.

Puerto Iguazu is a relatively quiet little town, yet still I arrived almost famous: ‘You must be Sacha?!’ Sadly, my newfound inability to plan ahead or stick to a schedule meant I missed catching up with Flora and Haydn (this was due to be a whole week of travel buddy reunions) but they had clearly left a good review of me on those hostel-dwellers I met.

A free welcome drink, an early night and I was ready to take on a natural wonder! Arriving in the national park, there was sprawling jungle, thieving coaties (essentially raccoons) and the odd capuchin monkey jumping between branches; what wasn’t immediately obviously however, was any sign of nearby water! Yet, this delayed gratification came to fruition about half way around our first trail through the undergrowth, as the awe inspiring waterfalls were revealed up ahead.

It’s a rare phenomenon, but words almost fail me. Hundreds of impressively tall, impossibly powerful waterfalls combine to form a rainbow-framed horseshoe around the river. Numerous, easily-navigated trails allow you to witness all of the falls from every angle imaginable. At times, the walks take you via some smaller, stand-alone falls, which, unfortunately, faded into insignificance by comparison. Other times, such as crossing the kilometre long bridge over the seemingly tranquil river, you forget the natural force that lies just moments away.

We explored the park from top to bottom, from a plinth hanging over the lip of ‘Garganta del Diablo’ (or ‘Devil’s Throat) to a slippery, rocky path at the foot of the entire panorama, this is a view that one could never tire of. (What can get a little tiring are the crowds that descent upon the park in the afternoons, so I can recommend striving for an early start and a smug feeling of having the entire paradise to yourself.)

Having got up close to one of the falls earlier in the day, the mist alone was plenty dampening. Yet the boat ride underneath the falls was an entirely different matter! I treated myself to an expensive, yet exhilarating speedboat trip into the crashing waves. As our captain battled the rapids, we were tossed around like rag dolls and entirely blinded by the spray. My trousers were soaked through to my knickers, yet I was remarkably safe and dry within my raincoat and walking boots; thank you Mr Peter Storm, may I suggest your next ad campaign includes ‘Iguazu-proof’

Not wanting to overdo it, I skipped the Brasilian side of the falls, having heard that they offer a much more tranquil, panoramic view from a distance. Instead I found a super cheap flight to Rio (cheaper than any of the 24 hour buses!) and crossed the border at last.

Not even having touched down amongst the “dangers” of Brasil and I have already experienced my first hostel theft! Missing: A bag containing half a bag of pasta, my prized spice collection and a single chewy sweet. I was distraught and my faith in humanity was shot. Luckily travelling tends to have a way of reaffirming that faith almost hourly. Bring on the joys that await in Rio- even if I won’t understand, because it’ll all be in Portuguese!

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