The Iguazu Falls

So I caught the bus with Via Bariloche to Puerto Iguazu which was about £30. The bus was very comfortable; much more so than buses in England. After dinner they played a Disney movie called Game Plan about American football (and ballet) which was quite bad but still fairly entertaining; it contained the worlds most mature eight year old it was worse than Gossip Girl’s 17 year olds who act like 21 year olds in maturity. It also contained the worlds most predictable love plot (it hasn’t actually happened yet as I’m writing this but it’s sure to — in the end they went on a date.).

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu at 1.30 pm which was 2 hours late so I didn’t have much time at the waterfall yesterday. I went up to see the Gran Diablo falls at the top of the Iguazu system. You had to go on a walkway a long way (1100m) to get to the waterfall. First you were tempted by a haze of spray from above the trees and then once you did you got the most amazing view of a waterfall that I’ve ever seen. You can’t even see the bottom due to the spray and there is a permanent almost circular rainbow in the spray. After spending 15 minutes at the waterfall and taking lots of photos (sometimes a bunch of spray came up from the waterfall so I carefully protected my camera from that.)

After that I then got a boat back downriver to the centre of the complex. This went on quiet waterways and let you see birds flying overhead as we went which was a relaxing end to the day.

After that I went back to my room and cooked myself some dinner as I have a stove there. I had bought food in the supermarket to do so, it was great fun afterwards washing the stuff up with a cloth and cold water. I also didn’t get food poisoning as of 8am as I write this. Then after dinner I watched some TV, they had some American TV with subtitles in Spanish so I could actually understand it!

Then this morning I got up really early at 6.30am so that I’d have lots of time at the waterfall. I left just 7am and had to run to get the bus as I was given the wrong time, I had to do this past the bus station attendent with a whisle yeah when running for a bus I’m really not going the bus way and it’s totally safe anyway (they’ve literally done this when the bus station is empty.). After I got on the bus after passing through immigration I was told where to get off for the waterfall which was very kind of them (unlike the attendents the bus drivers are all really nice). By 8am I was at the park in Brazil. Unfortunately even though I am here really early unlike the Argentinian park the damn place didn’t open until 9am! The other problem with Puerto Iguazu itself is that they don’t have any obvious foreign exchanges fortunately it wasn’t a big issue though I had to get some Brazilian currency from an ATM making my bank very rich; guys I hope you’re happy, you’re the only ones who are with the cash issues here.

After that I went and had a look at the paroramas of the waterfall from the Brazillian side of the falls and they were absolutely awesome. Even though I’d seen the Gran Diablo the day before they were still incredible. There were several viewpoints and by quick-marching off the bus I managed to have several of them to myself. There were a few other people around though so I got some shots of me in front of the waterfall (which my friend Jamie will love :p). As usual you will need to have a Flickr account and be on my Flickr friends list to see those pictures though my others will be generally viewable.

From there we got a bus to the border and then a taxi to the falls on the Argentinian side with some other English people for $7.50 each which for a 50 minute ride wasn’t bad at all.

Then after I got back to the Argentinian side I had lunch and drowned a wasp which got in my drink (they were everywhere). I then went on the upper trail which was only OK though the view at the end was really good.

After that I headed down the lower trail to get up close and personal with the waterfalls which was also well worth seeing there was a lot of climbing to keep me fit too. I also went on a boat ride into the heart of 2 waterfalls which was fun but very wet! Pictures will come from back in Buenos Aires.

PS I hope everyone back in the UK (and elsewhere) has had a good summer so far, let me know in the comments what you’ve been up to.

PPS there’ll be no more posts until I’m back in Buenos Aires as i’m heading into the jungle and there is no internet there.

I’ve lost my phone

Today I lost my UK mobile phone so you won’t be able to contact me on it. O2 are letting me keep my number (which is nice of them) so I’ll be able to call you when I return to the UK next March.

Buenos Aires

After arriving in Buenos Aires on Saturday I headed down on the subte to Plaza de Mayo where I had a bit of a wander the trains are still in their original 1913 form and were surprisngly quiet and comfortable though they didn’t even have automatic doors (and the stations even have wifi!) Unfortunately it seems they are going to be replaced soon but for now they are fun.

The other thing to note is the language unlike most of the world everyone here assumes you speak Spanish so for products of the English education system it makes life more challenging to say the least. Maybe I should get some lessons.

The city centre at least seems to be very European and is very beautiful; though there is a fair bit of graffiti around. There is also a lot of litter around it’s not exactly a clean city by any means. It also seems to be a pretty safe city at least in the centre. The only issue with safety is the driving, especially by taxi drivers. If your taxi driver isn’t clearing the junction when the lights change from red to red Amber he isn’t getting you to your destination quickly enough!

On Saturday evening I had a very delicious steak for only £5 at a steakhouse it was the best steak I’ve ever eaten and was delicious!

Then on Sunday afternoon after staying out very late on Saturday (Argentina’s clubs barely open by 1am!) I headed down to San Teno and the Feria de San Telmo which is an antiques Market that takes place every Sunday. After that I headed to the national history museum which wasn’t that great to be honest and took about 5 minutes to have a good look around.

This morning I had some chores to do including getting cash out. You are limited to withdrawing £100 here (even the Sheraton where I went as I was desperate, had this limit and many machines are further limited to £50) which even given it is cheap here it is annoyingly low as you pay by cash for everything. This is something I’ve never experienced before, even in Vietnam.

This afternoon I headed to buy my bus ticket to Puerto Iguazu and then went to the recoleta cementry where Evita is buried and it was very moving.

Argentina and Flying

Due to the fact that I’m flying in and out of BA (Buenos Aires) I’ll be spending quite a bit of time there. I also have a visa to apply for here which may restrict my movement a bit. Anyway this is also the first city I’m going to where I don’t know anyone and the first time I’ve been to South America.

I have until Monday evening in BA when I head up to Puerto Iguazu one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world (it’s beautiful enough that Ellanor Roosevelt said “poor Niagra” when she saw it) and then into the jungle away from civilization for a few days.

Now although American doesn’t know how to fly a plane on time they do know how to (not) fill one. I’ve had two seats to myself for the whole flight which has been great and I’ve slept fairly well. Due to my direction of travel going anticlockwise around the world when I get to a new country I generally just “stay up late” so this means the next time I’m going to need to sleep on a flight is on my flight to Singapore from India at Chinese New Year.

Even before landing I can see that Argentina looks very barren and that a lot of farmers are burning their land.

The trip in from the airport was interesting the buildigs seemed very European and there was a lot of cross between rich and poor. On the bus I think I got a return by accident and then got the subte to the hostel which was very busy but otherwise fine.

Anyway I’m now off to get some lunch and have a wander around.

Chicago airport

Guess what? American Airlines were so happy about their 100% delay record that they kindly delayed my flight to Argentina as well! And by 80 minutes too! Thanks guys, I love spending hours at the airport, its so much fun!

Update: credit where it’s due, they moved me so I get noone sitting next to me.

Thoughts on the Smart Home

I said I’d discuss in more detail about why I didn’t like the Chicago Smart home. I don’t really want to be too political/critical in my blog but the environment is a really important issue at the moment and it really affected me that it really wasn’t very good. The building itself was designed to be a high technology sustainably built and run building for the future.

My main objection was their inability to provide any serious figures on things, and where figures were given they weren’t in units that could be used to compare to other data. I remember that CAT (the Centre for Alternative Technology) in Wales gave figures when solar panels cost less to make than the electricity they produce which was really important. In the Eco/smart home an example they were able to say how much the home cost to construct ($450,000 to $500,000) but although those figures excluded the price of the land they were unable to provide figures for a standard house with the same 2400 sq ft of space inside. One of my friends in Chicago suggested around $250,000 which is a lot less. They also didn’t give figures of the efficiency of there appliances something that has been required since the beginning of 1994 under EU law for white goods purchases.

When touring the home in the child’s bedroom they had an OLPC. They were describing the project as a success when in fact it has been an abject failure. I wonder how many other times they did that in the house…

Let me explain the OLPC in more detail; it is a project set up by MIT to distribute laptops for $100 to developing countries like Nigeria and Vietnam. In theory it sounds like a great idea to improve access to technology so that rather than having to use an Internet cafe people have their own machines. Unfortunately the laptops now actually cost $188. . To complete the problems they’ve also lost a huge number of senior staff from the project some of whom have come out and described the issues in the organization first hand.

Then there are the homes credentials: the home itself is designed to reduce emissions by 50% over a standard new US home; now that is fairly impressive but in fact the British government has already defined a law to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050 (source). Though to be fair CAT’s suggestions for an eco-house also produce a 50% improvement over current UK building regulations. The problem with that comparison is that a 1930’s US house only uses 130% of the energy of a current building regulations US house whereas in the UK a 1930’s UK house uses 270% of the energy of a UK building regulations house. Furthermore if you take the windows in the smart home they are double glazed with low-E coating and argon centre which follows CAT’s recommendations but their own house is quadruple glazed.

I was also unable to get any serious figures on how long the building would last. It was due to last 25 years without maintenance but how significant the maintenance would be was also unknown. Surely a less Ecologically built building could be better for the environment if it lasted considerably longer.

They do also get some things right the technology for controlling the home mostly works well though the media features need further work and the active cooling system using shafts to the roof to allow air circulation is recommended by CAT.

Anyway that sums up my dissatisfaction with the Smart Home.

The rest of my time in Chicago

Yesterday evening I went out to Plymouth bar in downtown Chicago; this bar had a roof terrace which was popular though it had a great view overlooking a car park and the “L” tracks. I also had burger 4 of my time in Chicago there (I had 2 on Sunday and 1 more on Monday evening) Then the next morning I headed back to Oak park and took a look around Frank Lloyd Wrights house and studio (this was very interesting) as well as unity temple which he also designed (that is a really inclusive church, which was great to see!) the building was pretty good too. After lunch I headed back to the Hemmingway museum which had a lot of interesting information on the author, maybe I should read some of his books! Afterwards I headed back into Chicago. If you’re in Chicago head to oak park it’s on the green train and is well worth a visit.

After that I headed up to Boystown and Wrigleyville, Boystown is the gay district in Chicago and they had rainbows attached to phalli along the road which was interesting. After that I had a look around Wrigleyville, as a Cubs baseball game had literally just finished I didn’t manage to take a look at the stadium itself. Then I headed back into town to pick up my laundary. I fortunately walked slowly enough that I avoided the total crush on the train and eventually got a seat (can you tell from the excessive detail that I’m writing this as it happened :p).

I think tomorrow I’m just going to see the theatre and relax before my flight to Argentina.

Museums in Chicago

Yesterday I had some chores to complete including uploading some more photos; due to Vista having problems remembering how to drag files from my camera there may be some strange immissions but there should be still a good selection.

After completing my chores for the day I headed to the museum of contemporary art as it’s free on Tuesdays. They currently have a major exhibition by Jeff Koons this was OK but it made me thing about myself differently which was interesting.

After seeing that I headed to Chinatown and had some excellent food. Unfortunately I felt a bit rough so went back home to bed afterwards.

Then today I headed to the museum of science and industry. Unfortunately it was really aimed at children rather than adults so I didn’t spend that long there.

They also had a smart/eco home there which I strongly disliked primarily due to the lack of figures given; as the environment is important I’ll be writing about that in a separate post.

After that I headed out to Oak park where Ernest Hemmingway was born and Frank Lloyd Wright grew up I was there quite late so only saw a few buildings and the tour of Hemmingway’s house before it closed.

Misc stuff

Just a reminder that you can view my photos from the links to “Matthew’s photos” links at the top and left of each page.

So you can see all the pictures feel free to add me as a Flickr contact more information is available in the welcome post and this post. As I don’t always have re ability to upload photos they may appear at different times from the posts here (and if I’m bored of the Internet after uploading them they may appear without a blog post)

Finally if i’ve given you my website to contact you you can add me on Facebook by following the Facebook link on the about/contact page.

PS When I have access to a real computer rather than my iPod I’ll be turning this into a help page.

Chicago

After arriving yesterday in Chicago I went out in the evening with some friends and we went to a Chicago pizza restaurant called gramaldies then we headed to a bar with live music called the Hideout which was hidden away in an industrial district in northern Chicago.

Then the next day I went to watch the chicago air show with one of my friends we then headed down to millenium park and saw the bean sculpture and the Chicago Tribune building which contains parts of many other buildings in its construction. The day was fun but I managed to get subcream in my eye after buying own brand suncream which even though it cost $8 it was actually rubbish!

Then we went to a bar called Moody’s in northern Chicago which served Chicagos best burgers so I of course had one and it was pretty damn good.

We also had a chat about the US, my friend was telling me about his trip west of the Missisippi in the US. He went on the train ad was shocked at the standard of housing there and said that they essentially lived in shacks, he was surprised if they have running water! He also said that the houses in Flint Michigan in Michael Moores film fahenheit 9/11 are good by comparison; as Flint looks like an Aftican state after a war you can’t imagine what it’s like there.

Then this morning I completed a few chores before heading to the Aquarium, it seems pretty good though it is expensive at $25 also the cages seem much smaller than at aquariums in Europe. They do serve lunch for less than $10 though which is a miracle in itself.