We also took a photo of Silvana with her son and her mother. Unfortunately her sister, Maria Helena, had worked late into the night, so she was still asleep at this early hour.
|Any single gentlemen out there? Silvana is single and so is her sister! (not pictured here)|
Too soon the taxi arrived. A friend of Silvana, he spoke no English, but Silvana gave him complete instructions for taking us to each border crossing and on to the airport. First stop, Brazil border. Here, after a 10 minute wait in line, they issued an exit stamp in each passport and sent us on our way. Next stop the Argentina border, a drive thru, with the kiosk inexplicably on the passenger side of the car. The driver collected our passports and his license and passed them over. The border agent had a short discussion in Spanish, wanting something else, and I heard enough to know he wanted the reciprocity fee receipts again. I was right by his window, so I quickly handed them over. He issued us a new 90 day tourist visa to replace the border-area one, and we were on our way - though he did stop in the middle of the process to run to the other side of the kiosk, having been called by a co-worker to come help him ogle some chicas. ¡Bienvinido a Argentina!
The taxi driver quickly passed by the town of Puerto Iguazu and headed out through the jungle on a pretty good 2-lane road at a pretty good rate of speed, about 70 MPH, stopping occasionally to navigate over the topes, or speed bumps, every couple of miles. It must have been over 20 miles more to get to the airport, which was pretty clean and modern, albeit small. We were 2 hours early. The taxi fare was about US$46 (including a $5 tip), paid in Reais. We checked in with the LAN people, who spoke perfect English, and waited until the long security line waned before we joined it. Airport security for a domestic flight is like the USA was before 9/11 - bags on the x-ray belt and metal detector. My pants had some metal snaps, so I had a light pat down, showing that my container of vitamins for the day was plastic. No problem. K skated through quickly.
The x-ray guy pulled my larger bag aside. I was a bit surprised, since the new corkscrew was in the backpack. I unlocked it and opened it wide. He picked up the big canister of powdered greens, peered at it, shook it and listened to see it was not liquid. Odd, since they have no restrictions about liquids, and we both had liter bottles with water in them. He asked in Spanish if he could open it, and I nodded OK. Unfortunately when you shake this stuff, it puffs out in a green cloud, which smells of vanilla and plants. I told him "Por vida" (for health), and he smelled it and grimaced. He looked at the big bag of vitamins, and said "Medicina." I replied "Vitamina" and he nodded. Then he looked further. "Mas aqui" (more here) I told him, and showed him the extra cannister of greens and another of fiber. He paused and I said, "Hombre viejo." He glanced up and I hooked a thumb back, pointing at myself. He broke into a broad smile, and waved me on to continue. Hombre viejo means Old Man, and he was grinning because he was not old, and I was much younger than about one third of the passengers he had just seen.
The flight was pretty full, but Irish luck gave us an empty seat in our row, so K took the window and I took the aisle. The plane, like in Brazil, left 10 minutes early and arrived 5 minutes early. They gave us a snack box with some really tasty cheese crackers and two kinds of cookies. The usual drinks, but I had water while K had Sprite. Smooth and uneventful trip in a modern Airbus aircraft. We quickly disembarked in Buenos Aires at the Newberry Aeroparque, found the restrooms, then made our way to the ticket purchasing place. The Aerolinas Argentinas one was busy, but there was an open agent at the LAN one. I asked if it was possible to buy airline tickets with cash, specifically Argentine pesos. She told me this was no problem, and could be done at the airport or any LAN office around the city. She also went to the back and printed out a list of all the offices with their addresses and phone numbers. So helpful!
Being by the arrival area, we popped outside into the heat and humidity of the city, and saw taxis dropping off people. K caught the attention of the driver and he nodded, but seemed to ignore us as he assisted his passengers with their luggage. He then walked away to the driver's door. K caught his eye, and he jerked his head to say "get in" so we, along with our luggage, dove into the back seat. Yet another reason to pack light. With big bags this would have been impossible. The driver explained in Spanish that he was not allowed to pick up passengers at the airport (which I suspected), and that the airport taxis are a "Mafia." He showed us the fare placard and his name and credentials displayed on the back of the passenger seat. The initial fare to get in was about ARS $9, and he told us the airport taxis charge ARS $28 for the same. The per kilometer fares are also higher. He navigated straight to our B&B and the fare was around ARS $36. I gave him two twenties and said, "Esta bien" (It's good). He was quite happy with the small tip, and our airport trip was only US$6.15. Such a deal!
We had selected the Solar Soler B&B for our first two nights based on reviews in Trip Advisor, and it lived up to the billing. Older, quaint, and very clean, the hosts were welcoming and spoke good English. Our room was in order, and after some negotiation, we paid in US dollars, $196 for both nights, a stunning bargain in this area. We dropped our luggage, freshened up a bit, and headed to the nearby corner for an enormous lunch of bread, wine, chicken, risotto, steak, salad, and two bottles of water. Total bill with tip was about US$42.
We strolled around the neighborhood a bit, a barrio known as Palermo Hollywood. It was pretty nice, quiet, with big buildings mixed in with smaller, older ones, large trees lining the streets, and sidewalks mostly in good repair - especially when compared to Mexico. We stopped in several wine shops, and ultimately chose two bottles of Malbec, paying with US cash exactly $20 for both. Yet another outstanding bargain. I think I will really like Argentina.