I choose to stay in Mendoza for New Year's Eve. Since Mendoza is the Argentinian Malbec wine capital I had to do a bike tour to several bodegas to taste the locally produced wines. The hostel I stayed (Square Independencia) offered free wine every evening between 7 and 9! This was perfect to meet the other backpackers in the hostel backyard.
The city itself hosts some spacious plazas. I met up with the Germans Ras and Samuel at the central Plaza de Independencia. I knew them from Punta del Diablo (Uruguay) and it was good fun getting drunk on beers in a wine capital with these guys.
On New Year's Eve we had a party at another hostel. There was no shortage on meat (asado) and wine. To be honest I hardly remember how I got back to the hostel. So it was a good party for sure!
Two days later, still hungover, me and some other backpackers from the hostel walked up to the top of the Cerro de la Gloria in San Martin park. We were rewarded with a good view. However, the biggest reward was the water we could buy on the top of the hill.
Mendoza was my last stop in Argentina. From here I took a bus across the Andes to Santiago, Chile.
Tracking back from the east of the continent to the west, I stayed in Cordoba for a few days. Cordoba is the second city in Argentina and has a huge student population. It is vibrant and the nightlife is booming. I stayed in the family-run Muzike hostel. The friendly family took me and the other guests a night out for some drinks in a funky club. We ended the night early morning "Cordoba-style" by eating some panchos (hot-dogs) before going back to the hostel.
I crossed the river Rio de la Plata from Colonia del Sacremento (Uruguay) to arrive in Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. I got a room for a week in the Rock hostel, centrally located at the Plaza de Congreso.
In the days before Christmas I visited some tourist highlights of the city; the San Telmo Sunday market (too crowded for me), La Recoleta cemetery (with the grave of Evita Peron), and the La Boca neighbourhood. In La Boca I had to visit La Bombonere, the stadium of Boca juniors. Due to mid-summer holidays, there was no match to attend. Thou I imagined how the stadium would be filled up with a cheering crowd.
My personal highlight was the graffiti tour I did in Palermo area. International street artists did some amazing jobs on houses and buildings the last couple of years.
On Christmas Eve there was an asado (BBQ) at the hostel rooftop. I was surprised by the countdown and the fireworks at midnight (In Holland we only do this on NYE). It turned out to be the sign for Santa Claus to bring us more beers :-)! On Christmas day the streets were empty and I met up with Niels, a former neighbour from Holland who was living in BsAs. Drinking a cold beer on a sunny and warm Christmas day was quite special to me as a European who is used to cold and rainy Christmas celebrations.
On my way to Uruguay I stopped in Santa Fe as well. The city is not much of a tourist magnet and I didn't do much sight-seeing. After being in the Andes mountains and the tropical north of Argentina for over two months I was in need of some time at the beach. My main reason to stay here was to get my stitches removed at the hospital. Despite the crowd in the hospital I managed to find a doctor to complete that task. That same night l took a bus to Montevideo (Uruguay).
Due to my headwound I took it easy and made Posadas (just a few hours south from Iguazu) my next stop. With Paraguay across the river, I spend some days walking around the city in the morning and in the evening. The tropical climate forced me to enjoy the airco in the hostel in the afternoons. There I had to practise my Spanish because no other English speaking backpackers were around.
A big storm was a problem for the airplane to land properly on the airport in Puerto Iguazú, home of the famous Iguazú waterfalls. After several attempts we touched down with a delay of 45 minutes and I took a shuttle to the hostel. I went to the falls by bus and admired the impressive waterfalls in the National Park. On a small boat we went into the falls to feel the water plunge on our heads. It was amazing to see so much water falling down and to feel the power of the massive falls.
That evening, when I was still a bit dreaming about the great water-spectacle, I didn't notice the fan in the hostel kitchen and it banged my head. It caused a bloody mess and I had to go to the local hospital to get my head stitched. My head wound wouldn't stop me from travelling and next day I did a trip to the Brazilian side of the falls. Though I thought it would be wise to change my travel plans a bit and I decided to skip Paraguay and work my way through Argentina in the direction of the Uruguay beaches.
I crossed the Andes mountains from San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) to Salta in Argentina. This lovely city has a relaxed vibe. I enjoyed some days hanging around the city watching the people on the central square (Plaza de 9 Julio) and having a view on the city from San Bernardo hill. As a real gaucho I did some horseback riding in the surrounding hills. It was great to enjoy the scenery that way, but the horseback riding caused some sitting problems the day after...
I was told about the blue-dollar-market in Argentina, so I stocked up on US dollars in Bolivia. In all Argentinian cities it was possible to change US Dollars for Argentinian pesos at a great exchange rate (I got 1.5 times more then I would have gotten at the bank). It felt a little awkward the first time to exchange money on the street, but with so many people screaming 'cambio' it seemed that the police was ok with it.