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Many of South America’s top attractions get instant recognition. Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, and Patagonia are often traversed on the “gringo trail,” from Quito, Ecuador, to La Paz, Bolivia, down to the southern tip of the continent. These pathways were the initial roads of discovery that adventure travellers trod in the 60s and 70s. In fact, some of Goway’s earliest trips were along these roads in the early 70s, followed by overlanders (customized expedition trucks driving around South America) in the 80s and 90s and now, the more discerning and comfortable travel options of the 21st century.
As South America has ‘opened’ to the travelling public, a newer and now equally popular route departs Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, travelling via Iguassu Falls into Argentina, and then on to its cosmopolitan capital, Buenos Aires.
Rio came to prominence as a port of call for the early mariners on their travels around the world. Taken by the Portuguese from the French in 1565, gold, silver, and coffee were the backbone of the fledgling colony. The town quickly grew, becoming the official capital of the Brazilian republic in 1889, though this title was lost with the building of planned capital Brasilia in 1960. Today, Rio de Janeiro remains one of the world’s most beautiful port cities, with the majestic mountains dotting every angle, and Christ the Redeemer spreading his arms over the city to embrace visitors.
To the south is Buenos Aires. Another port town, it may not have the instant ‘wow factor’ of Rio’s geography, but once this culture-loving city sinks its hooks in, there’s no letting go. Located on the shores of the Río de la Plata, the city’s original name was Puerto Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Aire (Port Our Lady Saint Mary of the Good Wind). For over forty years after settlement, the town was ignored as the Spaniards focused their efforts on conquering the Incas in what is now Peru, and on the gold and silver reserves being pulled from Bolivia. Surrounded by other colonies battling for independence in the 1800s, Argentina jumped ahead of them all and declared independence from Spain in 1810. Now the economic and cultural centre of the country, Buenos Aires’ grew rapidly.
The Buenos Aires of today has grown well beyond its small port town origins. Economically prosperous and political stable, Buenos Aires offers travellers an amazing array of sites and cultural samplings. The city is more European than Latin, and its restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and Tango are unique in South America. Visitors can enjoy wine tours, visits to local Haciendas (farms) where they can sample the pastoral lifestyle of the Gauchos (Argentinean Cowboys). They can walk local street markets or partake in an afternoon coffee at one of the many cafés in La Boca. The choices are many in Buenos Aires.
Sitting almost halfway between these two vibrant cities, right on the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, are the world’s largest waterfalls, Iguassu Falls!
“Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.”
The mighty Iguass Falls are now one of the most sought after destinations for anyone travelling to South America. “Poor Niagara” were Eleanor Roosevelt’s now famous words upon catching her first glimpse of Iguassu.
With options to visit from either the Argentinian or Brazilian side, (or, as recommended, both), three full days should be dedicated to seeing this amazing spectacle of nature. Consider a helicopter ride over the falls, the high adrenalin journey to the base of the falls in high speed zodiacs, or simply walk the many footpaths in and around the waterfall network.
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