Argentina: A Note of Caution

I was going to bring a couple of slightly negative things about Argentina into last post but thought I’d save them for a separate post which might be helpful for visitors.

Bus Station Scam

The first of these is a long running Buenos Aires scam, commonly found near the main Retiro bus station, typically situated in a rather downtrodden area.

Backpackers are often targeted by people who will squirt a foul smelling liquid on them and their belongings. This is rumoured to include sewage, vinegar, chemicals, rotten eggs and other nasty delights. Once hit, people will offer to clean you and your bags and while distracted these will be stolen.

This happened to us but we ignored some shouting outside the bus station only to notice the foul smell inside. This was probably for the best. Though sitting next to Katrina’s hair for the next 6 hours wasn’t pleasant.

Since this happened to us, I’ve heard stories of tourists being mugged and even a rumour of a French tourist being killed. I’m not sure it’s true but given the police aren’t prepared to stop this scam in the area I don’t recommend fighting back.

If it happens to you, just keep walking and clean up later.

Where are you from?

This is more of an irritation to British tourists in Argentina. The Falkland Islands or to the locals, Las Malvinas.

These islands have become a bigger issue in the last year or so due to the 30th anniversary of the conflict and the desire of President Cristina to distract attention away from some of the national economic problems.

Personally, it’s an issue for the islands residents, not centralised governments of whom one has little in common while another is located thousands of miles away. Oh well.

Many curious Argentinians, like most Latin American people, will ask where you are from. Upon saying “Inglaterra” or “Reino Unido” we would be met with the response of “Las Malvinas son de Argentina”. Despite a friendly smile back trying to deflect the issue the conversation would end or be elaborated on the issue.

This happened more than we expected and was a little unfortunate. In the end, we discovered it pretty useful to say we were Scottish. Seemingly Scotland isn’t associated with the conflict!

So there we are, that’s my little warning done. I’ll finish with some nicer stuff about Argentina and Iguazu Falls later.

Happy travels!

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Capture the Colour

Following my my last blog post I received an email from someone about a photo blog competition by Travel Supermarket called Capture the Colour. The idea is you post 5 pictures, each focusing on a particular colour – Blue, Green, Red, Yellow and White.

Here’s my selection from a variety of my travels.

Green – Lizard in Costa Rica.

This cute little fella was seen while canoeing in the waters around Tortuguero and featured in my my recent blog post. These lizards are known locally as Jesus Christ Lizards for their ability to run across the water. After taking this photo he made a speedy getaway across the plants!

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Blue – Love is in the Air in England.

Possibly my favourite photo taken in the UK during a ‘Staycation’ in 2010. While working for BAE Systems I scored some tickets to the Royal Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. This incredible display by French version of the Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France, took my breath away. Taken on a (sometimes rare 😛 ) clear summers day!

Love is in the Air

Red – Bruce Lee Warriors at the Shanghai Expo.

On a dull, grey, wet and smoggy Shanghai day during the 2010 World Expo these artistic statues depicting Bruce Lee as the Terracotta Warriors supporting iconic Chinese buildings brightening the gloom. I love art that mimics or references things. And after all, Red is the colour of China.

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Yellow – Belizean Sunset.

Another photo from my current Central and South America trip is this stunning sunset that welcomed my arrival in Dangriga, Belize. After a long and sweaty afternoon on buses it was a welcome relief to chill out with a cool Belikin Beer (“drink but don’t get drunk man”, said passing Belizeans on bycycles) and watch the light fade. A little stereotypical for Yellow, but sunsets are the best!

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White – Mini Romanian Snowman.

We all love making snowmen in the Winter right? I spotted this cute wee snowman on a short trip to Bucharest a couple of years ago. As I was walking down the avenue a little boy was killing time to make this on a bench while waiting for his mum in a shop. I snapped the photo just after he was dragged away home.

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As part of the contest I now need to nominate 5 other people to take part. So here goes.

Dollface Travel – Myself and Katrina get quite competitive about photography!

Hazell Eyes – I’m sure Hazell can come cup with some good ones of SE Asia.

The Adventures of a Dr – There’s been some amazing Latin American photos on his blog lately.

Chasing Horizons – I just love the photo on their home page.

Heather on her Travels – I’m sure Heather has a ton of cool photos and she gave one of my posts a nice mention here.

A Quick Blast Through Mexico

Mexico was never really a big part of the travel plan, the reason for coming here was Cancun was the easiest and cheapest place for myself and my girlfriend to meet coming from Canada and Europe. We didn’t intend on doing anything here really.

This changed when I found the Cancun Underwater Museum which looked incredible to someone like me who’s addicted to scuba diving!

It wasn’t possible to dive the museum on day 1 so that fell to going to the beach. And wow what a beach, crystal clear blue sea and white powdery sand.

Sadly, the many hotels that are on the beach try to deny access to non guests and there are limited public access points.Luckily for us, once you are on the beach it can be easy to use some facilities at hotels. Thank you very much Ritz-Carlton, you make a tasty margarita and have a luxurious pool! As silly as it sounds, I’d actually be tempted to book one of their hotels one day now as I know how good they can be while the Melia that denied access I might avoid. Funny how little things like that can influence your opinion!

As for the museum, it felt a bit like a wreck dive with many different cement sculptures. The idea of the museum is that is will eventually become the home to a new coral reef on top of the artwork and help reduce to the pressure on Cancun’s other coral reefs, a very nice idea I think.

Immediately after a short descent to 10 meters we came to an inspired replica of the terracotta warriors. Some of which you can put your regulator up to and purge bubbles through the sculpture so it looks like they are exhaling underwater! The sculptures are already developing plant life on them which perhaps takes away a bit of the drama but is good for the longer term plan.

Later in the first dive we came to a sculpture of a VW Beetle (a car formerly made and still loved in Mexico) as well as a cube of bricks. Both were already becoming home to small fish.

My favourite part of the experience came in the second dive. I didn’t realise the museum was spread over such a large area so when we came to a sculpture of a man at a bar, writing something with a tankard near his hand and a dog asleep by his feet I was really taken aback. It’s nice that for someone who grew up in Lancashire and Yorkshire there is a little part of home sat at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea!

Photo from Brits at their Best

On the way to the border with Belize where this trip was really planned to begin we stopped off at the town of Tulum – known for its Mayan ruins by the sea. However it wasn’t these that we enjoyed the most (especially after a visit to Tikal in Guatemala, but more on that in a later post).

All around the coast in this area are features known as cenotes. This is where the limestone rock collapses due to the vegetation above and to form a hole down into water running below. Near Tulum is the Grand Cenote where you can swim down into the caves with tropical freshwater fish (like you may have in an aquarium at home) as well as with terrapins. It really was a refreshing and well needed experience after the cycle from town in sweltering temperatures.

Cenote

Although a bit touristy, Tulum was a fairly relaxed place with one of my favourite treats of the tropics – sugar cane! And I’m not sure you’ll see a better sugar cane juice vending stand than a converted VW Beetle! It was an especially good addition to a mojito!

Sugar Cane Beetle

P.S. If you’re reading this before you leave Mexico to enter Belize and are using the Lonely Planet guidebook for Central America. There might be a couple of things I can clarify.

1. For a bus to Belize from Chetumal you need to go from the new market, not the bus station in an old American style school bus.

2. When leaving Mexico you may be charged 200 Pesos to leave via land. If you arrived via air be persistent as this tax should be included in the cost of your air ticket and therefore not be valid. If you are reluctant to get your wallet out they should just wave you through.