Sunday, May 27, 2012

Iguazu and Esteros Del Ibera- end of April 2008

When I finally got to Iguazu, after the 24-hour bus, I went to the hostel I had booked. Yeah, I know I've said I never book hostels, but this was a special case. Everybody talks about the amazing Iguazu HI, and I was told it was the only hostel in town and that you have to book in advance. All three claims turned out to be either wrong or semi-true. It's a huge and pretty impressive hostel, probably the biggest I've been in, with a capacity for 220 people, a big pool, ping pong and pool tables, and buffet and BBQ nights. Quite good, but not really my cup of tea. I prefer the smaller places, where you actually get to meet people, instead of kinda swirling around in the general confusion. And it was a bit outside the town, so it was a little difficult to get food, which makes most people take their famous all-you-can-eat meals. Which were not bad, but relatively expensive. 
Anyway, I went to Iguazu for the falls and not the hostel, so... the falls were spectacular. I was expecting spectacular, so it kind of took the edge out of it, but it was still great- the force of it is just... it's hard to describe.

Friday, May 25, 2012

FTTN: Salta and Jujuy- culture and tradition as tourist attractions

You see it in a lot of places, but I guess it was most obvious to me in Salta and Jujuy: the attempt to package and sell the local culture and past to tourists. Whether it's the handcrafts (artesanias), whether native or pseudo-native, in museums, in hostel and restaurant names, in local (or "local") music and dance, etc. I always ask myself how much of it is honest and real, and if it actually conserves the culture or does the exact opposite.
I think that it's generally positive, and I have learnt a lot about the area and the people that live and used to live there, both before and after the Europeans came. But you can't avoid a certain feeling of fakeness, especially when you have all those colourful and highly designed brochures and posters printed on chromo paper and exalting the "real people" or the "autenthic tradition".

FTTN: San Juan-La Rioja- tourism vs. traveling

I assume that if I wrote about this subject right after the visit to Valle de la luna, it would have come out quite different. Lots of negativity about the whole guided tour thing, trying to distance myself and what I usually do from that kind of tourism, etc. But after the tour in Talampaya, only one day later, in which I enjoyed myself quite a bit, I changed my mind. It goes to show how much strong opinions are sometimes fluid and quick to change.
Does the distinction between a tourist and a traveler really exist? Is there even such a thing as a “traveler”? And if there is, which one am I?

Salta & Jujuy- mid-April 2008

Salta, to my, my sister's and probably my dad's surprise, is more than a city full of Bolivian Argentinians (by the way, it's apparently legitimate to say that, since I've heard salteños joke about it themselves). It's quite a big and busy city - which surprised me - and a pretty one too. In fact, the nickname for the city is Salta La Linda, which means Pretty Salta, more or less. It has a big colonial architecture thing going, and they even have a law there that says that in some streets in the center buildings must have colonial facades (similar to the Jerusalem stone law, I guess). Most impressive, as is often the case, are the churches. It seems it's quite popular in Salta to paint the churches in strange combinations of pastel colours, usually using two main colours. There is also a nice pub & nightclub area a bit outside the center, although it's a designated night life area, so there's nothing there besides the clubs and bars. I find that a bit strange, and much prefer places to be interspersed into the "daylife" city. Other notable features are a great succession of plazas (my favorite one had a small lake with ducks and pedal boats), two pedestrian streets which are the commercial center of the town, some good museums and a nice handcraft market on Sunday.