Niagara Falls

So On Thursday I made my way to Toronto bus station for a day trip to Niagara falls with Coach Canada (Stagecoach). This was uneventful until we actually arrived where sadly unlike at Iguazu and the Terracotta Warriors they didn’t explain where to go when we got off the public bus – even though they earn more here, there are more tourists on the bus and they speak English natively its sad when they can’t meet the standards set by the developing world.

Now the bad news. Lady Roosevelt was right when she saw the Iguazu falls to say “Poor Niagara” – it is better.

However Niagara falls is still pretty damn good and actually you seem to get wetter than Iguazu anyway as you get closer to the bottom. It also generates huge amounts of spray. So much so that at times you feel you’re experiencing “Shanghai mist” :p. Anyhow I paid C$40 for the whole attraction which included going behind the falls on the boat up to the falls on the river, walking along a set of rapids and an attraction that explained the tour. That wasn’t particularly good though the former three attractions were all great.

One amusing thing I saw in the main vistors centre was a Beijing 2008 photo of the Great (really it should be translated as Long) Wall and an unlabelled photo from above of Iguazu.

After that I got the bus back up toward the falls and headed across to the US to see the falls from that side. Sadly that cost US$6 which is essentially a visa charge but otherwise the border staff seemed to be nice.

On the other side I just wandered along the shore and the view was pretty damn good from the American side as well and there was less spray. The attractions also looked better on that side though fairly similar to the Canadian ones.

Summary of the trip: Americas

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. Firstly the Americas, then Oceania and Japan, and finally mainland Eurasia. Then finally I’ll sum up the whole thing.

Best site

Iguazu, Argentina and Brazil, although Machu Picchu was pretty special out didn’t quite take my breath away in the same way.

Honourable mention

Machu Picchu, well that much is obvious. It is an epic site.

Best museum

The Holocaust Museum, Washington DC, it tried so hard to just give the facts. I learnt a lot about the recent history of the Jews and that reflects heavily on the middle east today. Well worth a visit.

Best tour company

Layana, San Pedro as they gave detailed explanations in English of the sites we were seeing. They also weren’t too pricy.

I have to admit in general I haven’t been too impressed and was going to give it to the Sinh Cafe from my last trip to Vietnam.

Best city

New York for it’s incredible range of stuff to do in the day. having half decent nightlife as well and also having excellent transportation.

Honourable mention

Santiago, a hidden gem that I didn’t expect to be great. But aside from all it’s attractions seemingly shutting on Sunday and Monday every week it is actually a pretty nice place. Though its worth noting that even in Providencia it does have a sinister feel sometimes, especially after dark (though nothing personally happened to me or anyone I know in Santiago).

Best non-family accommodation

I’m not ranking my family/free accommodation as you all looked after me well so I’m picking the best accommodation I paid for.

Sunny Days, Arica Chile provided all you can eat breakfasts, excellent rooms and good advice on the city as well as a kitchen and lounge area with good cable TV.

Best food for under US$25 (excluding service)

Just in case I get taken to the local equivalent if La Manior I’ve stuck a price limit on this but the winner is Steak in Buenos Aires at a small restaurant at Defensa and Independencia which was above and beyond anything I’d had before.

Honourable mention

Pacha Papa, Cusco for it’s excellent food and exquisite service.

Best nightlife

Chicago, Buenos Aires is close but frankly it’s too late for me to start clubbing at 2am.

Friendliest People

El Soberio. After falling ill I was looked after really well by the people of El Soberio. And I improved my terrible Spanish a bit too.

Best transportation company

Via Barriloche, Argentina for providing good food, drink and comfortable seats for only a little more than the competition.

Most useful material possession

iPod Touch for letting me write these blog posts when on buses and public transport and having lots of other useful information on it.

Best bargain

Plastic playing cards in Cusco for US$0.67 that are fully plastic so should last well.

Biggest rip-off

Postada la bonita for accommodation worth a generous US$10/night costing US$100/night.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

And the winner is SHOOTER which was an excellent and clever movie about a presidential assasination. I really want to see the end of it as we arrived in Tacna so I missed it.

Honourable Mention

Don’t mess with the Zohan I quite enjoyed this movie about the Israeli superspy Zohan but my friends I was with thought it wasn’t that great.

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.